I thought I'd kick things off with a series on the basics of Search Engine Optimization. SEO is one of the most common - and complex - topics I find myself engaged in with clients, and it makes sense to start out with the "building blocks" of every successful web marketing strategy.
Even if you know nothing about search engine optimization, you've probably heard about how important keywords are. Keywords are absolutely foundational to search engine optimization, and for any successful web marketing campaign, for that matter. SEO experts discuss how and where to use them all the time, but what's seldom discussed is exactly what they are - and how to identify the right ones to use in your campaign.
Without thorough, accurate keyword research, even the best internet marketing campaign will at best be inefficient. At worst, it will hemorrhage time and money.
Let's take a look at the basic principles of keyword research, starting with a definition:
Keyword: a word or short phrase which captures the essence of the topic being discussed in a particular web page or campaign.
Now, this is where it gets tricky.
There's a huge difference between the keywords YOU think apply to your website and the keywords your potential customers are using in search engine queries. If you simply try to guess, you may be right sometimes, but it would be like playing darts in the dark. Plus, you will be guaranteed to be missing out on other major terms you wouldn't have thought of.
I was recently reviewing the website of an auto repair shop. The page title read:
"Community Car Repair".
Granted, the owner hadn't put
too much thought into the words, but he felt fairly confident he'd chosen a good phrase. I took 30 seconds to plug a few alternative phrases into Google's keyword tool, and this is what we found:
"Community Car Repair" ended up having the lowest search volume, and "Car Repair" has roughly 1/7th the search volume of "Auto Repair". (PS, for now we're only looking at Global Monthly Search Volume. Local Search Volume is usually unreliable, for a number of reasons we won't go into now).
Clearly, "Community Auto Repair" will bring this auto repair shop more traffic than "Community Car Repair".
But wait: there's more. It's not enough to find the one highest volume term for your industry then pepper your entire site with that single phrase. Focusing on a single phrase, or even two or three phrases, will not only make your site look spamalicious to your potential leads, customers and to Google, but it will cause you to miss out on a host of traffic brought in by longer, more diverse phrases.
Search queries composed of long, complex words and phrases are called "longtail keywords", and they're quickly becoming the Holy Grail of SEO. One of my favorite SEO bloggers, Tim Grice, pounds this point home when he emphasizes that 90% of his organic search traffic comes from longtail keywords, rather than short, 2-3 word keyword phrases.
For example, Tim routinely ranks between #1-#5 on page one of Google for the "shorttail" keyword:
Yet the majority of his traffic comes from longer, more complex search queries such as:
search engine marketing consultant in the UK
how to use link building to improve seo
anchor text best practices for on-page search engine optimisation
We'll tackle using longtail keywords in business blogs to boost search engine traffic in a later post, but it's important to understand the concept of them in order to do effective keyword research.
How do longtail keywords effect keyword research?
Being aware that long, complex phrases are just as crucial - if not more so - as regular high volume keywords causes us to be more alert when performing research. Rather than scanning Google's keyword tool for only the highest volume terms, we need to look for common words and phrases which appear across different queries.
When performing keyword research, I typically segregate keywords into a focus group and a content group. Into the focus group, I toss short, high volume keywords which I'll use to optimize the most crucial areas of a website. Into the content group, I'll toss keywords with lower volume which appear commonly across different phrases, including their most common combinations. When writing content, such as web page content or blog posts, I'll string words from the focus group with relevant phrases from the content group into as many different "longtail" keyword combinations as I can fit.
Using this strategy, I not only capture a more diverse pool of keywords in organic searches, but I help the content sound more natural by using more diverse phrases.
Take the above results from Google's keyword tool, for example. If I were optimizing a set of pages for "high heel shoes", I'd want to take into consideration all the color and style qualifiers which are used in the lower-volume search strings. By combining common descriptive qualifiers with my root keyword, "high heel shoes", and peppering my longtail phrases throughout content and titles, I could triple my search traffic.
Confused yet? Shoot me a question!
Next week we'll take a more in-depth look at how to get the most out of Google's keyword tool.
Marjorie Steele | Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Labels: web marketing in general
The term "expert" has been getting banged up lately, particularly in regards to social media marketing. Social media legend Peter Shankman recently presented a blog post listing 25 traits to be wary of in a social media "expert". The list includes points such as:
- They call themselves an evangelist, guru or expert, and no one else does.
- They use "expert" or "evangelist" or "guru" or our personal favorite, "influencer" as any of their usernames.
Social media marketing is a new field - new enough for it to seem ridiculous that anyone could call themselves a social media expert. It simply hasn't been around long enough for anyone (aside from Mark Zuckerberg) to claim expertise. But what about self-proclaimed expertise in more established fields such as SEO or PPC advertising?
The truth is that these fields are constantly evolving. Thanks to the unethical practices of many SEO "experts", search engines are constantly changing their ranking methods to avoid spam. Ironically, this in turn causes SEO best practices to change monthly, or even weekly. Likewise, Google is routinely altering its AdWords advertising program to keep up with the ever changing online environment.
Being an expert in internet marketing requires not only experience, but a dedication to continual learning. Considering how quickly the rules change in SEO and social media, it's a wonder anyone calls him or herself an expert. It would be like Lewis and Clark claiming to have discovered every plant species in North America.
To be fair, it's true that there are some talented - even expert - internet marketing professionals in the industry. But they tread very cautiously around terms like "expert" and "guru", and they don't often mistake a lengthy career history for applicable skill. Dave Snyder, a respected SEO analyst, entrepreneur and co-founder of SearchEngineJournal.com, makes the following comment:
“When I talk to SEOs now who throw around how long they have been in the business I happily tell them I have only been professionally doing this for a portion of their lengthy career, because in the end talent and drive are what this game is all about, not the number of years someone has been mediocre.”
As I kick off my own entrepreurship in internet marketing, Dave's words are both comforting and inspiring. Sure, most other internet marketing professionals have much larger portfolios and a thick number of years in the industry under their belts, but that's all the more reason for me to work extra hard at staying on top of best social media practices and changes in Google’s algorithms. In an industry which increasingly rewards relevancy and freshness of content, surely being “new” has its perks.
Take my husband's success in freshwater fishing, for example.
I grew up very close to a private lake here in Michigan owned by my family. My grandfather was an avid fisherman, and I started tagging along when I was two years old. By the time I was ten, I had the whole process down, from catching bait to frying fillets. I consider myself a pan fishing expert.
My husband, on the other hand, is a native Filipino and had never fished in a freshwater lake until we were married. When I introduced him to my family's lake, he was enamored with my grandfather's fishing legacy and dove into the sport headfirst. While I lingered on the dock casually threading worms onto my hook, he was mining the bait and tackle shop for information on which lures worked best, when, where and how to use them. Before I'd caught enough bluegill to fill a frying pan, he'd pulled sixty inches of pike and bass out of the lake.
It may be a silly analogy, but I think it's a great example of how being an "expert" can end up limiting what you're able to accomplish. In this case, I was the "expert" in the field of fishing, but my novice husband was the one who landed the big catch. He researched and gathered effective “tools” while I used the same thing that had always worked for me - worms. I complacently went for small fry while he jumped in with high expectations - and fulfilled them.
Rather than attempting to become another internet marketing expert in a sea of self-proclaimed gurus, I aim to be a perpetual student. I look forward to sharing what I learn about web marketing here on my blog, and I hope those of you reading will share your own insights as well.
If you've gotten all the way to this paragraph, my heartfelt thanks for reading through my first blog post! I've set a goal to make a post each week, so stay tuned, and thanks again!