Search engine optimization (SEO) is a hot topic, as it should be. I’ve noticed that there is a significant amount of curiosity, anxiety and confusion around search engine rankings. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed an uptick in companies that sell SEO optimization services to unsuspecting business owners. Search engine optimization can be complicated and tedious. But, there are also a number of simple tactics you can employ that will make a huge difference without hiring anyone. Keyword optimization tops the list.
HOW DOES SEO REALLY WORK?
Ranking in search engines is painted as a mystical holy grail. You think to yourself, “If only I could reach number one — if only I knew the secret to boosting myself above the competition — all would be right in the world.” Or, worse, you hire someone who claims that if you pay them enough, they’ll get you to No. 1. We worry about the ranking without thinking about the spirit of search engine rankings. We lose sight of the why (providing the most value) and focus on the what (I must be No. 1!).
The spirit of search engine rankings is to provide the best information and results to the person searching. Google (we’ll use Google as our default search engine for the entirety of this article) is constantly tweaking its complex algorithm to make sure its search engine is churning out the highest-quality results for every query. Imagine if every time you did a Google search, you got some messy, low-quality mix of results. You’d stop using Google, right? Right. So, for Google, it’s all about quality.
But, what constitutes quality? This is where things can start to get very complex. But, I can assure you of this: If you are creating high-quality original content on your blog and you are optimizing your content for keywords that your target market cares about, you are well on your way. Master this first, and then worry about the more complex SEO strategies.
FIND YOUR KEYWORDS
To find the highest quality keywords for your website, you need to start with a little brainstorming. Think about what problems you solve, what you think your prospects are searching for and your expertise. Brainstorm 10 to 20 ideas. Here’s an example: If you own a company that tutors high school students for their SATs, you might write down keywords like “SAT,” “SAT Prep,” “Test Prep,” “SAT Tutor,” “SAT Prep Gainesville,” “SAT Prep Ocala,” “SAT Prep North Florida,” “How To Increase SAT Score” and “How To Get Perfect SAT Score.”
Next, use a keyword tool to find out what’s being searched for in your field. The Google Keyword Planner is excellent. You’ll have to sign up for a free AdWords account to get access, but it is worth it. There are also other options out there that would be fine for this initial planning. If you Google “keyword planner,” you will discover a handful of keyword research tools.
Finally, type in your brainstormed terms. See what comes up. The keyword tool you use will return a list of related results and give you an idea of what your prospects are searching for in relation to your brainstormed terms. You’ll see a ranking of search terms. Write down the terms that are ranked medium to high on the keyword planner tool and relate to your business.
PUT YOUR KEYWORDS TO USE
As a reminder: Above all, Google ranks stellar content. You should already be creating content for your website’s blog addressing questions and topics relevant to your target market. This is the single best way to increase your search engine ranking. Assuming that is the case, now you can use your keywords to elevate your content to the next level.
Going forward, as you create new posts and content for your blog, keep your keywords in mind. Don’t try to awkwardly insert irrelevant keywords into your post in an effort to make it keyword heavy. Don’t sacrifice the quality and usefulness of your content because you are trying to use keywords. Simply keep the keywords in mind and insert them in your writing where they naturally fit. I like to keep keywords in mind, write my content, and then go back and figure out where I can naturally insert the keywords. It’s easier than trying to figure it out as you produce your content.
Forget about SEO tricks and tactics, at least for now. Get the basics down first. Commit to posting on your blog, and do your keyword research ahead of time. Think about how you can naturally include those keywords in the copy of your blog posts and, if you are feeling really ambitious, insert those keywords in the static copy of your website.
STEPHANIE GORDON is the founder and CEO of Psych’d Marketing, a boutique marketing firm based in Gainesville, Florida. She holds degrees in both psychology and business from the University of Florida. Psych’d offers full service, concierge marketing solutions for small to medium sized businesses. Stephanie prides herself on connecting phenomenal businesses with the people who need them. www.PsychdMarketing.com.