For all the intelligence strides that Google has made in recent years, content optimization is still more about the proper selection and use of keywords than anything else.
In this series, we will review and discuss how Albany’s small business owners can make any content SEO friendly by carefully choosing what terms, forms, and subjects align with their target audience’s online behavior.
Choosing Appropriate SEO Keywords
A keyword is a word or phrase that a person might (realistically) input as a query into a search engine, and for which you would like to see your page served in the results for that query.
How do you know what keywords will be right for your page?
First, figure out what your page is about.
This is the single most important thing to do.
Determine the substance and the tone of your page the way you already know how:
By doing the required research, and then harnessing the unique combination of knowledge and passion that you can bring to bear on the subject.
That is and should be the true basis of your content and that is where you must begin.
Do not try to choose your keywords first, based on some assessment of their popularity.
Popularity is a secondary consideration here.
Relevancy Is King
For writers or marketers tasked with writing an entire site, there is one SEO-oriented consideration to make room for at the very start, and that is to minimize content overlap.
This means ensuring that you don’t have any two pages so alike in subject matter that they risk competing with one another for visibility on the same keyword(s).
As you undertake the process described below for each page individually, make a note if you end up with two or more pages that seem to be inclined toward the same keywords.
You’re going to want to diversify one or both to put some topical distance between them (or just delete one of them outright, if that seems better).
Entertain the same consideration when writing a new page; is it essentially a duplicate of a topic you already have?
If so, it might make more sense to write your new page as a substitute for the old one rather than a supplement.
How Do Search Engines Determine Which Results Are Served for Which Keywords?
In the early days of search, Albany’s small business owners saw results that were served on string-matching alone.
The entire mechanism consisted of crawling and indexing every page on the accessible web, rifling through each one looking for strings of text that matched what the user had entered, and then serving them up ranked from the page that used that exact string the most (or with the greatest emphasis) to the one that used it the least.
That was how relevancy was determined.
Algorithms have gotten considerably more sophisticated now, but keywords still form the firm foundation of a search engine’s understanding of what a webpage is about.
If there’s one SEO-specific consideration you’ll want to make room for early in your process, it’s determining which keyword or keywords correspond to the search audience most likely to be satisfied by reading your page.
The Keyword Brainstorm
Write a thesis statement.
Start by trying to express the core idea of your page in a single declarative sentence (this is what I learned to call a thesis statement back in high school).
It can be valuable to do this with an old-fashioned pen and paper. Revise as much as you need to until you have a sentence that captures the whole idea of that particular page and avoids all risk of being misconstrued.
Imagine some questions that your thesis statement could answer.
Turn that thesis statement on its head and try to come up with some questions that your page would answer for anyone reading it.
The more, the better, as long as you find them all realistic and reasonable. [These questions might have a direct way of serving your page’s search visibility in the process, so keep a record of them in their full, intact form, but also be prepared to manipulate them for the next phase of this initial process.]
Imagine what you would type into a search engine if you wanted answers to those questions.
Chances are extremely strong that you yourself are a search engine user.
Put yourself in the shoes of somebody seeking an answer to each of the questions you wrote down in the previous step.
Write down those potential SEO keyword queries, in every way that you might word them if you were the one seeking the information.
Those potential queries that you’re left with at the end of this process is your initial keyword list. This is your starting place.
The tool-driven steps that follow will help you refine it for maximum search power.
Proper Keyword Research
Now you’ve got a list of all the keywords that you would enter into Google if you were looking for a page like yours.
That makes for a great first pass at a keyword list.
Your next step is to try to get outside your own head as best you can and determine what keywords the average person would enter into Google if she were looking for a page like yours.
After all, you might not intuitively be saying it the way most other people say it.
This is the whole reason we must do keyword research: to create alignment between the way we talk about our subject — from our insider’s perspective — and the way the web at large talks about it.
We’ll need to get some information from the web itself for this part.
This process will begin and end with the single best tool in the keyword space: Google’s Keyword Planner.
Keyword Planner is a tool that, for any keyword you enter, will output:
- An estimate, based on real data, of the total number of searches performed on that keyword every month (this total describes exact matches only. It can be tailored to any geographic region).
- A list of up to 800 keywords that its algorithm thinks are similar to the one you entered (based on past searcher behavior), along with the same estimated total for each of those.
To call this significantly helpful information is an understatement.
Not only is this where you’re going to see how the keywords you brainstormed earlier measure up against one another, but it’s also —more importantly — where you’re going to get your first exposure to those crucial alternate phrasings.
What if you were already deep in the process of writing an article about the health benefits of garbanzo beans, and Keyword Planner informed you that significantly more people search for
“chickpeas” than “garbanzo beans”? [They do, by a factor of 74.]
That would be terrifically valuable knowledge to have, and it would no doubt inspire you to rethink your entire article’s choice of term, which you could almost certainly do without altering its main thrust.
This is the kind of thing that Keyword Planner’s suggestions can point out to you.
That’s an extreme example based on a very simple substitution, but the potential for discovery here is far greater.
Consider this: “vegan gluten-free oatmeal cookie recipe” gets an average of zero searches per month, but “gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookie recipe” gets an average of 20.
All we did here was reverse the order of the two modifiers.
Who would have guessed what a difference would show from that?
Some other tools you can use to augment your list of potential keywords…
It may seem obvious, but Wikipedia is a stellar resource for learning your way around a discourse.
Especially in cases where the page topic is not a matter of great personal interest to you and thus requires more careful research, Wikipedia is a great place to go and see all the other words and phrases that most commonly surround the one you started with.
For any keyword you enter, this tool will scrape Google’s “autosuggest” feature — the feature that enables Google to see the start of the query you’re entering and suggest ways for you to finish it — and return the most commonly searched long-tail queries that begin with your input.
The value of long-tail keywords will be further revealed in the next section, so remember this tool when you begin your quest for them.
This is a jQuery tool as basic as it is useful, giving you three columns into which you can input words or phrases, and spitting out a single list containing every possible ordered combination of every string in every column.
This is particularly useful when you’re dealing with a page topic that could be expressed using different potential combinations of terms for which multiple synonyms exist, and the list it generates can be copied and pasted directly back into Keyword Planner.
By making thorough use of these tools, you put your initial keyword list through the semantic wringer and emerge with a much longer list.
Most likely, you’re now looking at a few keywords that already appear to show strong potential (some of which may still appear in exactly the same form in which they appeared on your initial list), and a longer list of “maybes”.
As long as they all appear relevant to the topic as only you can know it, they all qualify for the next round.
Albany, New York – Bring Your SEO Campaigns To The Next Level Today!
Too many small business owners throughout the Albany Capital District waste time and money working with SEO company’s that over promise and under deliver.
When it comes to SEO success, it’s all about experience.
At SEO Without Borders, each member of our team has at least seven years of experience directly managing campaigns for a plethora of verticals, which allows us to understand exactly how specific tactics work in various environments.
Anyone can recommend blogging as a means for driving traffic to your site.
The difference with us is that we can show you how to build the most precise form of content that aligns directly with your target audience’s behavior and solicits the most conversions possible.
Stop wasting your time and money, give SEO Without Borders a call today for a FREE strategy consultation.
You can connect with us through e-mail or by calling us at 518-888-0407.