This is the second in our SEO series. Optimizing your website is probably the top way to leapfrog your competition today in my opinion.
The basic building block of SEO – and all online marketing -- is the keyword or search term. There are free research tools to learn how your prospects are actually searching for your products/services. The words they use may never occur to you. But you can discover them and use them to drive traffic to your website from these active searchers.
Here’s how important keyword research is according to SEOMoz – one of the top authorities on search engine optimization – excerpted from its “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO”:
“Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Through the detective work of puzzling out your market's keyword demand, you not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated. In the history of marketing, there has never been such a low barrier to entry in understanding the motivations of consumers in virtually every niche - not taking advantage is practically criminal.”
Here’s how to start researching keywords. Click on this link to Google’s free keyword tool. It was developed to help companies target Adwords in Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. It’s also very useful in organic (unpaid) search.
Here’s what to do. In the search field type in keywords and search terms that you believe are important in your industry. In the left column of the tool, you’ll see an option called Match Type. Select the option that says Exact Match. This will return you suggestions related to the exact broad term you typed in.
The suggestions provided are based on actual searches that have happened over the past month. Refer to the column marked ‘Local’ which is the searches performed in your country. The Global search column is for searches worldwide.
The second column from the left tells you the difficulty – or competition -- of ranking for the search term. The lower the number, the easier to rank for it on Page one of search results.
The suggested search terms are considered “longtail” search terms. For example, a recent search for the exact broad search term Social Media Marketing revealed 22,200 local monthly searches and competition of .92.
The longtail search term “using social media for marketing” only had 480 local searches but had a competition of only .62. Plus, those 480 people are more likely to be interested in finding help using social media for marketing rather than those who may be seeking broader information. That would be an interesting longtail search term for me.
You’ll make similar search term decisions for yur own industry. Keyword research is not an exact science and it’s a bit of an art. As you’ll discover, there are thousands of ways that prospects may search for your products or services. It’s humbling, actually, and important motivation for dropping jargon from our marketing language.
The best advice I can offer is to explore, experiment and analyze. HubSpot has keyword tools and analytics built in, including your ranking for specific keywords. There are other tools out there like Keyword Spy, which also gives you competitive intelligence.
Optimizing your web pages and content based on keyword research will pay off in more traffic to your site from targeted prospects.
As you consider your keyword strategy learn more about another key element of ranking for search terms - Social Media. Download your free White Paper.
The Longtail image is from the Flickr photostream of Mister-E chris Eason under Creative Commons license.