A standard misconception is that SEO prepares a site to rank high for the keywords that have the most relevance. Yes, this is one of the reasons to do SEO. One of the less important reasons.
The most important reason is to prepare the site for the public.
But, as the public will use search terms to get to a site, keywords play a very important role in ensuring findability.
They are called keywords and this is exactly what they are “keys.” As they place your site on the right shelf in the Internet library, the keywords are also the keys that open the doors to your online store. They let people in. But as any “keys” they need to be the right ones to really open any door.
You think that your best keyword is “fishing apparel” – because this is what you sell. Apparel means “clothing in general.” Now, do you honestly believe that people looking for fishing clothing will type into the Google search query “fishing apparel?”
You see, “apparel” is way too technical for the typical user. It doesn’t speak the plain language. It is not bad to target this word as a “long tail” but don’t make it the main keyword phrase of your website. Try to rank for “fishing clothing” instead.
It works in design, it works in SEO too: keep it simple.
Key Words Vs Keywords
When you use fancy keyword suggestion tools, you are always tempted to pick the keywords the return the greatest number of searches and start optimizing your website for them.
So you will see that “fishing gear” returns far more results than “fishing clothing.” And you will probably want to rank for a keyword that brings you more hits, more potential buyers.
But you see, this keyword phrase is not your key word. Because “gear” deals with technical equipment. Sure, people interested in fishing gear would probably be interested in fishing clothes too, but you are not selling gear.
Targeting keywords that are not relevant for the content of your website is deceiving. You deceive your visitors, for making them enter into your shop when you actually don’t sell that special offer, and you are deceiving the search engines for making them deliver irrelevant results to the users. This is bad SEO.
Aside irrelevant traffic and some Alexa ranking boosts, these keywords will bring nothing. They will not bring the ready-to-buy customer to your site.
Unless you sell ads space on your site, you have no reason to worry about how high the traffic numbers are. But even then you should not deceive the search engines and the visitors by creating a scrap site (a site that compiles content copied from different sources on the web) or by trapping them into a page with no relevancy for the search.
Look for the right keys – those key words that your potential buyers are really searching for.
You can rank on the first page for many keywords, but when they are irrelevant for your target market they are not “key” words.
How to Identify the Key Words
Know your market. This is the golden rule and with it starts everything: business planning, website development and SEO.
By knowing your market you will be able to identify key words that are relevant to your site, in common use and not too general.
Let’s say you sell wedding dresses. The key phrase “wedding dress” is, of course your main concern, and it is also very competitive.
Even using a free tool like Aaron Wall’s SEO Book Keywords Suggestion tool you will notice that the estimate monthly searches number is huge.
Then, a search in google.com will reveal a high number of results for this particular term.
Of course you want to be on the first page for your most important key phrase and you can compete for that position – and you should compete. But ascension in the SERPs (search engine results pages) is difficult and it needs its time.
You could rank faster for less competitive terms, and these are the “long tail” terms, words that describe a product more specifically.
Examples of “long tail” keywords for a site that sells wedding dresses:
- casual wedding dress
- plus size wedding dress
- cheap designer wedding dress
These terms are less searched for than “wedding dress” and if you perform a Google search you will also notice that they deliver less results.
Less results for a key phrase means more chances for you to rank high for that particular term.
The more long tail keywords you target, the greater your chances to increase targeted traffic to your site. Targeted traffic means visits from real people who search for particular things from what you have to offer.
A very important factor you need to consider when you target long tail keywords, and keywords in general, is how to identify your real competitors. The sites that rank on the first positions are not necessarily your competitors.
For example, Wikipedia ranks on the first page in Google for almost every keyword you could think of. But Wikipedia is you competitor only as far as SERPs are concerned. It will not try to sell anything and it is pointless to even try to steal Wikipedia’s thunder. Better create a page that is valuable enough to be linked from the Wikipedia related pages. That will bring you some good targeted traffic, but not necessarily buyers, since the Wikipedia is just an information source and not a market place.
Once you identified you real competitors you need to start analyzing their sites and SERPs to see what they do and how to differentiate yourself from their services. Once you know the difference you’ll also have the answer to a very important marketing question: why should someone buy from you?
Unless you are in a franchise business or have the same supplier you don’t sell the same wedding dresses. So take a look at your products, compare them to what your competitors sell and then create a list of attributes that portray similarities and differences. Maybe your competitor sells lace wedding dresses and so do you, but your power-seller is a vintage lace wedding dress.
You got a long tail keyword phrase right there and targeting that will eventually bring you advantage over your competitor.
With vintage lace wedding dress you already have a good description of your product, you target your competitor’s keywords too and if your site gets more links and more popularity for the particular page that displays the vintage lace wedding dress you will rank higher in the SERPs for “lace wedding dress” too. You just need to convince the search engines that your website is better. Keywords alone will not do the trick.
To get more popularity you’ll need to create an exceptional web page – one that really shows the beauty of the dress, one that visitors will like to bookmark and vote for on social networks like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit and so on.
It’s part of SEO to promote a site on various channels: article directories, press releases ezines, social bookmarking sites. But it is not part of SEO to abuse these channels.
If you want the visitors to like your site and to buy from you, you have to match their search criteria, not only in terms of “keywords” but also in terms of expected quality.
When you target and really want to sell “vintage lace wedding dress” make sure your customer will not land on something that looks sloppy and cheap like http://www.denisebyrd.com/
Customers looking for “vintage” expect quality and luxury. Something more like http://www.maggiesottero.com/ , which has a quality design, a design that inspires trust and concern about quality and customer satisfaction.
- the key words you target need to match customer’s expectations
- do not target keywords that are irrelevant for your site just to get traffic on your site
- know your market first and then start keyword research
- keywords alone cannot put your site at the top of the SERPs
- ranking for irrelevant keywords doesn’t generate sales
Important SEO Pointers
SEO is not all about keywords. SEO deals with content structure, site logical structure, user trends, user behaviors and market analysis.
Web 2.0 SEO deals with many aspects of website development, but most importantly it prepares the field for what marketers call seller-buyer symbiotic.
Because web design it’s not enough. A website has to be beautiful, usable, accessible and SEO ready. But a website has to be, above all, useful.
- Who, aside yourself is going to benefit from it?
- Who, aside yourself needs it?
Answer these questions, honestly, and then, only then, start working.
Don’t worry. There are answers. You just need to approach the market with a realistic attitude. You also have to understand that being on the Web means competing against millions other entrepreneurs who, just like yourself, want to make the best out of their online presence.
SEO is a necessity because it interacts with all aspects of online marketing.
Once again: SEO is pointless if the market is not ready for what you have to offer, if you are not ready for the market. OK: if your website is not ready.
Search engines follow people. This is the main rule of the Web 2.0 SEO. In fact, all other rules are just subsets of this rule. Just like all roads lead to Rome, search engines follow people! So make your website ready for the people.
SEO is an integrated part of what modern marketers call online marketing. As you will see below, you cannot do SEO without marketing anyway. Integrate SEO with your online marketing strategy from the first stage of a project in order to cut costs and maximize your website’s potential.
- SEO should not be an attempt to rank in the search engines for Web pages that bring no real value for the users. Many people have a hard time accepting that their websites lack value. But one thing should be clear from the start: without value there is no point in doing SEO.
- SEO will not force a visitor to buy a product from you, but it can prepare the scene for you to display your best products, in the best package. It opens the doors to your online store or services, but it is entirely up to you to make the sale.