Search engine optimization can be a tough subject for some people. There is so much information and misinformation available online making it confusing for new users. When I began, many questions ran through my head. Does the latest tactic I’m reading about work? Does it work for all sites or only some? Or is this just another crackpot theory that sounds reasonable, but will never help to improve search traffic to my site?
SEO can be confusing but it doesn’t have to be. The basics of SEO are actually pretty easy to understand and if you give yourself to learn search engine optimization you’ll be able to sort fact from fiction and you’ll have the tools to delve into more advanced SEO concepts.
How to Approach SEO
You can do everything wrong when it comes to SEO, never receive a single visitor from a search engine, and still have a very successful and profitable site.
If you take a step back and market yourself well some of the more difficult parts of SEO will take care of themselves. That’s not to
say you should ignore SEO, but most of us don’t need to obsess over every little detail. There are ton of factors that determine where a page will rank in search results. Obsessing over one of those factors doesn’t make sense. Try to see the big picture rather than stewing over one detail.
SEO is not a set it and forget proposition. It’s an iterative process. You do what you can, measure the results, and continue to improve. You can’t SEO a site in a day or month. As with marketing in general, SEO is never ending. It also changes daily and what works for one site may not work for another.
SEO can be generally categorized into 5 different areas:
- Keyword research
- Search engine friendly site development
- Link Building
- On-page SEO
Each of the above is important and they all work together. The whole s greater than the sum of the parts. Let’s talk about each of the above in more detail.
Everyone would like their pages to rank #1. So…what is it to rank #1? Not all keywords and keyword phrases are created equal. Some are typed into a search engine more often and some are more likely to lead to a sale. You don’t need to optimize for every possible keyword or phrase.
Say you sell real estate in Charleston, SC. You might think it important to rank well for the phrase “real estate,” but is it? Someone looking to buy property in Chicago or Los Angeles isn’t going to be interested in the homes you sell in Charleston. It is pointless to spend time and money trying to get those people to your site. You’d do much better to target phrases that include South Carolina and even better Charleston.
There are 3 types of queries someone might type into a search engine
Informational queries – searching for information from general to specific
Navigational queries – searching for a specific site or page
All three types of queries are important and each of them could ultimately lead to a sale. Someone finding helpful information on your site at one point may come back later and buy something. It is important to understand that what a person types into a search engine reveals something about their intent. Based on the searcher’s intent you may want different pages of your site ranking for different queries.
Developing a List of Keywords to Target
Brainstorming is the first step in developing good keywords. Write down as many words and phrases (50-100) as you can think of that relate to your site and understand that this is simply the start of your research.
As you brainstorm ask yourself: Do you only offer web design or do you also offer web development? You might specialize in
ecommerce design or small business web design. Maybe you also offer web hosting. Each of these will likely become a keyword theme around which you can build a more detailed list. The next step is to expand your list with some keyword tools.
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool
- SEO Book Keyword Tool
- Keyword Discovery
There are also a variety of more advanced keyword research tools should you desire them.
Don’t worry about the absolute numbers with keyword tools. The numbers are estimates. Consider the numbers more in relative terms in comparison to each other. If all of the above tools show that more people search for web design than website design, it’s probably true.
A few tips about building keyword lists:
Find the words and phrases your customers use instead of industry jargon.
Look for synonyms – Similar to the above seek the words potential clients will use. You call it e-commerce. They might type ecommerce. Is it web design or website design?
Add qualifiers – Our Charleston SC real estate agent might add Charleston, South Carolina, or both to most every phrase. As a web designer your services might be affordable or professional. Optimizing for “professional web design services” also optimizes for “web design services”
Qualify your qualifiers – You might be tempted to add a qualifier like “free” since so many people use the word. However, someone searching for free anything isn’t looking to buy.
Look to your analytics package to see what phrases are currently bringing people to your site.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO, while capable of providing a valuable source of traffic, is still only one way to attract potential clients and customers to your site. Think of SEO as part of your marketing strategy instead of your whole marketing strategy
SEO is a process that can begin anywhere. Most of the time it will begin with keyword research, especially if you’ve yet to build your site or create the initial content. Keywords help you define who your market is and what that market is looking for. They’ll also lead the way when it comes to how you develop your site, what content you choose to create, and how that content is written.