SEO Basics: Keywords

This article is for everyone. You may have a small business with a website your nephew built. You may be the nephew about to build your uncle’s small business rad website. I’ll run down what SEO is, basic setup and principles.

SEO, search engine optimization, is the art of creating a clear and concise path for users to find your content. This means finding out what users are looking for/want, how they search for it (Search engine, social network, listing site), and what verbiage the use when looking for your product/service (keywords and key phrases).

SEO relies on creating great content, correct code, gaining credibility, and building connections. SEO is also a marathon, it takes time to build up a reputation and SEO generally won’t give you a return right away.

Keywords and Keyphrases

Before we ensure our site’s code is SEO compliant, we need to talk about keywords. Keywords and phrases are the main attraction of your site, and code is simply underlying structure serving up the content. Building a site without knowing the keywords is similar

A Keyword or key phrase is words or terms used by people visiting your site. User’s who reach your site by search enter the keyword or phrase into the search field on sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The search engine then looks for the keyword throughout your site. Depending on how many times the keyword is mention, the place of the keyword is mentioned, and the sites overall technical qualities, the search engine will give your site a rank among their listings.

Getting Started

If you already have a site and Google Analytics, you can use Google Analytics to discover what phrases people already use to get to your site. Go to Acquisition -> Referral -> Keywords.

If you haven’t created a list or need help, the first thing to do is come up with 5-10 different topics that best describe what your site or product is about. You want to start basic, but not stay there.

Two concepts to keep in mind when picking keywords is search volume and how competitive each phrase is. Search volume refers to the amount of times a particular word is searched for during a given time period, usually a month. When compiling your list, you’ll want to include words with relatively medium to high search volume. The competitiveness of a word describes how many other websites are ranking for that word. A phrase that is considered highly competitive means that it will be harder for your website to show up right away. You’ll generally want to look for medium to low competition for your words.

Once you have your different topics, dive down into specific phrases that each of those use. Each of those general topics should have very specific phrases and keywords. Its important to use a whole range of lengths in this list. Your list should have short phrases ( 1-3 words) and long ( 4+ ). These specific key phrases are much more important and will usually generate more traffic to your site than the generic list we started with before. The reason this happens is

  1. The basic keywords are not descriptive
  2. Generic Keywords are extremely competitive
  3. People looking to buy or get information are more likely to be exact in there description.

In total, we should get a a minimum of 50 keywords and phrases by now. Over time you should adjust this list, removing ones that don’t produce more traffic and adding new ones or adjusting for trends.

Implementing Keywords

Once you have the your list, keywords should be added in a few key places.

  • Beginning of the Title Tag
  • Within an H1
  • A minimum of four times within the main content of the an article or page.

Remember to not over load these areas with keywords. Content should still feel natural to read and not be stuffed. Search engines are also advanced enough that they can spot this technique and will penalize you.

Keyword Tools is a great tool for expanding your keyword list. It takes a search term and uses it as the first word and matches the top search queries in a given languages.

Google Adwords has a great tool to research keyword groups and give you CTR and competition indicators for individual phrases.

Google Trends is another tool that can be useful for determining which keywords are searched for more frequently. Enter in two keywords or phrases and google will give you a timeline to compare which one has more searches over a time or which phrase is more popular currently.

For more information, you can check out Moz’s cheatsheet.