Without the budget to outsource SEO, many small businesses choose to ignore it altogether — it’s too complicated, it takes too much time, there are better things to be doing. And while these are all valid points, optimizing your site for search engines is extremely valuable if you’re running a business. Who checks the second page of Google? Who even reaches the bottom of page one? If you’re not ranking in the top 10 for your chosen search term, the chances of anybody visiting your site drop pretty significantly.
In a nutshell, keyword research means figuring out what people will be searching for if they want to reach your site. It also means sifting through these search terms, seeing which get the most searches and which are too difficult for you to rank for.
If you’re serious about this, you can use tools like Moz Pro (subscription), Serpfox (subscription), SERPs (free) and Market Samurai (keyword research tool is free, but other features expire after trial is up.) If you’d rather not spend any money, you can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find keywords that you may want to use on your site.
When picking keywords, the trick is to make sure they’re not too general and not too specific. For example, the chances of you ranking highly for “notebooks” are zero. The chances of you ranking for “small yellow spiral-bound leather notebooks” are much higher, but a keyword like that is not going to get many searches each month. Probably about ten. Maybe not even that.
“Luxury leather notebooks” or “small yellow notebook”? Assuming your website isn’t a disaster zone with a million bad backlinks and a page-load time of ten seconds, and assuming you actually sell small leather notebooks, you probably have a good chance of ranking on the front page.
So, to generate keywords using Keyword Planner or Market Samurai, you’d type in your “main” keyword (this will be different for each page) and then try to incorporate the suggestions into your copy.
For a site selling leather notebooks, you might want to use “luxury leather stationery” and “leather notebooks” for the homepage, and then “leather diaries” and “leather journals” for a product category page. This is known as keyword targeting — choosing when and where to use your keywords, rather than scattering them randomly about your site and hoping for the best.
A lot of this is common sense, although tools like Serpfox and SERPs can tell you exactly which pages are ranking for a particular keyword and what your search engine results page (SERP) position is.
Aim to use your most important keywords once for every 100 words of copy on your webpage. For less-important keywords, one or two instances will still make a difference. If a keyword isn’t relevant, don’t use it in the hope that you’ll attract extra visitors — you don’t need that traffic. It’ll increase your bounce rate (bad) and Google won’t approve (also bad).
Wherever you can type text, you can use keywords. For Web 201 in the coming weeks, we’ll be talking about on-site optimization for images, videos, and more — so sign up to Get Ghost Tips so you won’t miss out.