No matter what business you’re in, if you have an online presence you’re bound to be concerned about ranking on Google (or any applicable search engine). After all, what’s the point of having a website if nobody can find it?
You may have spent plenty of time on your site doing all the typical SEO improvements – you’ve optimized your images, you’ve checked and double-checked your site’s loading speeds, and you’ve developed an eye-catching design that’s mobile-friendly. But you’re still not on the first pages of Google. Why?
Well, it could be your SEO keywords.
SEO keywords are an essential part of getting found on search engines (though that may be changing in the near future, but we’ll get to that), but business owners and creative developers often spend little to no time coming up with effective keywords; they regularly take the most obvious choice and leave it at that. But missing out on the right keywords can make or break your SEO.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to uncovering effective SEO keywords that get you found on Google much, much faster.
Do your research
Choosing the right keywords is not just about picking random words out of a hat. Finding effective word choices is about understanding your business intimately, and using words that help your customers understand your business, too.
The important thing to remember when you’re choosing keywords is that you’re not really picking one word, you’re putting together a phrase – a string of 2-3 words – about your business that you think someone would type into Google’s search bar. The goal to creating effective keywords is to be specific.
The best keywords are ones that predict what your customers want. What are they thinking when they search for your site? Are they looking for local businesses? Or are they searching for something niche? If you were trying to find your competitors online, what would you type in to find them?
Think about it terms of having an actual, physical storefront. Imagine a customer approaching your sales team and asking for something. What are they after? If you owned a jewelry store, for example, your customers wouldn’t necessarily come in and ask about “jewelry” – they’re already in a jewelry store – they’d ask about “gold watches” or “women’s bracelets” or even specific brand names, like Rolex.
When it comes to searching for things online, the same rules apply. If you want people to find you, you have to break your services down into essential parts. What is your business all about?
If you run a site with a directory, for example, you could use the keyphrase “business directory”, but that’s a little vague. If your customers type “business directory” into any major search engine, they’ll be hit with thousands of results, and none of them will be your site.
Instead of using broad keywords or phrases that are fairly common, focus on something unique or specific about your business. If your directory features businesses from a certain area of the country or includes businesses from certain industries, go with that. Setting your keyphrase as “Chicago business directory” or “graphic design business directory” will improve your chances of being ranked.
Use natural language keyphrases (topics)
Another option to try when researching keywords is to use common language questions or search terms instead of standard keywords. What does that mean?
Well, for the most part, search engine algorithms use keyword-based terms (like “women’s jewelry”) to find relevant results. The problem is these keyword-based systems ignore common words – such as “a,” “an,” “the,” “is,” etc. – which can actually eliminate relative results.
To counteract this, search engines have been introducing natural language algorithms to help give meaning to search results. Unlike keyword algorithms, natural language algorithms focus on the meaning of the phrase – the natural way humans ask and answers questions – in order to generate results. For example, people might be more likely to type in questions like, “Where is the nearest Greek restaurant” instead of simply typing “Greek restaurants Chicago.”
Google has already begun incorporating the use of natural language into what it calls “topics” – groups of similar keywords and phrases that give context or meaning to the search, which many SEO experts consider to be more important than the individual keywords themselves.
Moz recently conducted an experiment to determine whether individual keywords or topics were more effective at getting rankings. They found that the results were mixed: In some categories, topics were more effective at getting sites found, while in others individual keywords played a stronger role. Basically, while traditional keywords are (and will continue to be) vital to SEO, topics and natural language phrases will probably play a major role in the years to come.
So what does this mean for you? It means that both individual keywords and topics will be important to SEO. Ultimately, you’ll probably have to come up with a list of keywords and natural language phrases to use in your site.
Save time with tools
Of course, this might mean double the work. And you’ll also need to be sure your keywords are meaningful (as in, it’s possible no one in the world is really searching for your chosen terms). The best way to save time in your keyword research and to ensure that your keywords are actually effective is to use keyword research tools.
For simple SEO suggestions or variations on keywords you’ve already chosen, or for helping come up with keywords from scratch, try using a free service like Ubersuggest. Simply type in a keyword (like “jewelry”) and it will show you related terms that people are already searching.
If you want more detailed analysis about keyword popularity, or who is viewing your search terms, then, try using a paid SEO service (it’s often worth the investment). Here are a few of the top choices ranked by SEO experts:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Keyword Tool.io
- Longtail PRO
- Google Trends
- Google Analytics
- Moz KW Difficulty Tool
- Market Samurai
Keep in mind that just because your keyword is popular doesn’t automatically mean you should use it. Remember, if thousands of people are searching for the words “jewelry” and you own a jewelry business, you might not get the rankings you want. Attempt to blend commonly searched terms with something unique about your business for maximum results.
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Once you’ve settled on a few effective search terms, you’ll need to put them in your site as many times as possible. As Elizabeth Arden says, “Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers.” Or in this case, repetition makes it easier for Google to crawl your site and list you higher in the rankings so customers can find you.
The best strategy is to list your selected keywords in a variety of places throughout your site. Here are a few places to use keywords (or natural language) for maximum results:
Website URL. This can be tricky, but if your URL is related to your business, you can use keywords that match for an instant SEO boost (e.g. your business URL is “johnsjewelry.com” and your search terms include “jewelry” as a root word).
Content and Copy. You should be choosing keywords that are related to your business as a whole so they won’t be out of place in your site’s general copy. Your content is the best place to list natural language phrases, too, which will help when customers are searching using questions (e.g. “Where can I find gold jewelry?”)
Titles and Headers. If you have forms (with titles), blog posts, or page headers on your site, try including your SEO phrases in these places, as Google tends to crawl headers and titles first. While it might not necessarily make the biggest difference in the world, something is better than nothing.
SEO Plugins and Code. One of the essential places to put your chosen keywords is into the backend of your website. If you don’t want to spend hours hand-coding your words into each landing page, you can always use SEO plugins to save time. Consider upgrading to plugins that allow you to input more than one keyword or phrase, too.
Developing a good SEO strategy can be tricky, but if your search engine rankings are abysmal, you might want to double check the quality of your keywords.
By choosing effective keywords and placing them strategically around your site (in as many places as feels natural), you will gain a positive boost to your SEO and significantly increase your chances of being found on Google.