10 Step SEO # 1: Keywords

This is quite oversimplified, of course, but if you’re having trouble getting your brains wrapped around the process of Search Engine Optimization, you can break it down into 10 easy-peasy steps. Well, it seems easy enough….

  1. Keyword research
  2. Content
  3. Meta tags
  4. Headline tags
  5. Internal links
  6. External links
  7. Labels
  8. Content
  9. Navigation
  10. Sitemaps

I’m going to go over these steps, one every Thursday, for the next ten weeks. Today, we start with the job that has to come first, and that is probably the hardest task for people to get a good grasp on:

Keyword Research
You cannot do anything else with SEO—not a single damn thing—until you have determined at least a handful of the most important keywords/keyword phrases for your website. “What?” you say? Keywords before content?

Yup. If you plan to do this thing right, it has to be first things first.  Of course, you can optimize existing content with your keywords (in fact, that’s mostly what professional SEOs do for a living). But that’s really missing a very important point. Keywords are NOT some magic incantation that creates money from the aether.  What keywords—and the process of keyword research—really truly are, and this is important, is:

Understanding what your website is about, what you want it do, and who you want to visit it.

If what you are building here is an online business, you really must know these things before you start. It’s Basic Business Building 101. If you know the answers to those four questions, you’ll know what your keywords should be.

What is the site about? Are you selling track shoes? Then it’s about track shoes. Not generic “shoes,” not “shoe-fly pie,” not “stiletto heel shoes.” The site is about “track shoes.”

What do you want the site to do? Direct sales to customers? Then you want the site to sell track shoes. Not elaborate on the history of track, or demonstrate which shoes are worn by which superstar. You want you visitors to “buy track shoes.”

Who do you want the site to appeal to? High school track teams? Then you are targeting amateur runners. Not Olympic stars, not amateur runners, not ultra-chic street fashionistas. You want to attract people who buy track shoes for “high school track teams.”

So far so good! We now now what, why, and who. Time to do some research. Here’s where a lot of professional SEOs start: Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it rocks. Quick, think of 100 words or phrases that either variations of or related to “track shoes.” Get yourself a cup of coffee. This is going to take a while. OR, you could just think of maybe three or four of those phrases, enter them into the Google Tool, type in the “Captcha,” and push “Search.” Google will spit out a very nice list, but BONUS!!! Not only will you get a whole bunch of variations of “track shoes,” you’ll also get some statistics to go with them! Stuff like “Average Global Monthly Searches,” “Average CPC (that’s the average price folks are willing to pay Google for a single click on an ad generated for that keyword),” and more. This data is going to be Very Helpful.

So you generate a nice list. Download it (there’s a button for that), and open the file into your favorite spreadsheet program. Sort the list by Monthly Searches, ordered from largest to smallest. You now have a list of search terms related to “track shoes” that is ranked in order of the most-to-least searches. Wow. Think of the power of that knowledge. You now know that the search phrase “track shoes” gets searched for in Google about 40,000 every month. You also learned that “running shoes” gets around 1,000,000., and “track shoe store” gets less than 150.  Bingo! You want to use the search phrase “running shoe” on every page! Right? Well, no, not exactly.

Because the next step will help you decide which search terms you can actually compete for. Meaning, what’s the point of all this trouble if at the end of the day, despite all the SEO you can muster, you still end up no higher that Google page 6, because there’s just so much brutally competent competition? You really think a little SEO is gonna get you higher than NIKE for the “running shoes” phrase? Hmmm?

Not going to happen. What you really want is a set of search phrases that

  • generate a useful amount of traffic
  • are highly relevant to your website
  • are actually “winnable”

Quick gut check. Pick the three keywords from the Google tool that you think might help you sell your product, and also have high traffic numbers. Plug each one of those into Google search, surrounded by “quotes”. I’m going with “running shoes (1,000,000 visits/month),” “track shoes (40,000 visits/moth),” and “track & field shoes (6,600 visits/month).” On the search results page, you’ll see a number, right below the search box. For “running shoes” I see About 21,100,000 results, for “track shoes” the number is 520,000. What that means is that there are 21 million webpages competing for the term “running shoes,”  and only half a million trying to capture “track shoes.” You chances of getting somewhere for “track shoes” is 40 times better. What about “track & field shoes”? A mere 6,600 potential monthly visits, but with 200,000 competitors. You are twice as likely to get a good rank with “track & field shoes” but the potential gain is only about 8%. Huh? What up with that? It’s because a lot of websites think “track & field shoes” is better for traffic than it actually is. (Of course, it’s really really really a LOT more complicated than that, but a good enough explanation for this exercise.)

So now what? So now, you sort through the list and pick the best possible compromise keyword phrase between Relevance to Your Business,  Monthly Average Searches and the Number of Potential Competitors. It’s a little bit art, a little bit science, a little bit luck, a little bit instinct, and okay, it’s a little bit dark magic.

Pick the best one. That is your site’s main keyword. This is the one you will optimize into your home page content. Done! Easy!

Now you can go forth and do the same thing for every single page on your site. Crap! That’s a lot of work! Well, we can whittle that down some. Every product page has a built-in keyword: the product name. I.e., “Brooks Nerve LD Track Spike.” That is going to cut out most of your pages, most likely. Also, you can forget about keywords for any pages you have that you don’t particularly care about traffic for: sitemap, list of phone numbers, legal statements, etc.

So you really only have to do keywording for the home page, category pages, and any pages with content that is designed to draw search traffic, like video demonstrations, how-to instructions, and the like.

I keep my keywords in a spreadsheet. Columns as follows:

Primary keyword
related keywords (2 or 3)

Now you have done your initial keyword research, pour yourself a beer to celebrate. Then you can get busy writing content. See you next week!

2 Responses to “10 Step SEO # 1: Keywords”

  1. November 30, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Lo mejor del seo es la variedad. Desarrolla el seo de todas las maneras posibles

Leave a Reply to Seo1 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: