A long, long time ago, at least in internet years anyway, the whole SEO game revolved around cramming a number of keywords on any given page as possible, as search engines used to equate the frequency with which a certain word appeared on your pages with relevancy. In this bygone era you could rank fairly high if you paid attention to things like keyword frequency, but this keyword stuffing strategy yielded poorly written spammy content, so Google really slammed down hard on anyone trying to play the system with tons of keywords and no real engaging content. These days it’s not about the number keywords – it’s about being specific, incorporating certain key phrases organically, and providing high quality, original and useful material for the visitors. So, it is still important to choose the right keywords and create your content around them, but the game has changed, and there are plenty of things to keep in mind.
The ground rules for keywords in 2015
Before we go any further and discuss effective ways of finding the best keywords to use, let’s set some basic rules for using keywords in 2015 and the near future:
- Use long tail keywords consisting of 3 or more words
- Make sure that your keywords sound natural
- Headings and subheadings are great for making a keyword stand out without spamming it
- Place your keyword in the meta description tactfully
- Speaking URL’s can add another layer to your keyword cake
Now that we have the basics covered, we can move on to keyword research and other fun topics.
1. Think about your target audience and market trends
The first thing you need to do, supposing that you have already settled on a niche, is to picture the average visitor who will discover your website by doing some searching on one of the popular search engines. There different questions that you can answer to get a feel for how the average user thinks, and you can also go over a number of different types of person that would be interested in your products and services:
- What specific things would someone be looking for in a company like yours?
- Which are the common topics and phrases from your niche that lay people would need information on?
- What age group, sex, socio-economic background and personality type would most of your visitors be?
- How would most of the people in your target demographic phrase their searches?
- What are the most popular aspects of your niche that get the most searches?
Think long and hard about such questions, and come up with a few more of your own, before you start thinking up the best keywords to use. You can hit some of the forums, comment sections on popular blogs, look at vlogs and video reviews to get a good idea about the vocabulary that those interested in your niche commonly use.
2. Test to find the long tail keywords that work best for you
You may get a decent idea of which phrases would work well after answering the questions in the previous paragraph, but that still leaves you with a lot of different options, and you want to focus on just one or two main keywords and a handful of variations. The thing is, some keywords will be used a lot more than other similar ones – e.g. “hiking backpacks”, “camping backpacks” and “hiking packs” may each have a drastically different number of searches per month – and even a simple difference like choosing the singular or plural form may make a huge difference.
This is where the different online keyword tools come into play. You can do some preliminary research by just typing a few of the keywords you’ve found to be close to the mark into a search engine and looking at what your competition is optimizing for. However, to get a clearer picture you can use Google Keyword Planner and similar keyword tools. These will allow you to see how competitive different keywords are, i.e. how much money and effort you’ll have to spend to rank high for each of them.
The best way to go is a keyword that is used a fair amount of times in searches, but that your competition hasn’t been focusing on. You can even invest in a short AdWords campaign to get some initial data on whether your chosen keywords are working for you.
3. Don’t just look at visitors – look at your conversion rates
It’s worth mentioning that website traffic is not really a good indicator of success on its own. Yes, you want as many people as possible to visit your site, as that will improve brand recognition, but what’s really important are the number of people that actually take an action. This can be any of the following things:
- Subscribing to your email newsletter
- Creating a personal account
- Making purchases
- Sharing your content on social media
In other words, you are looking for clicks and purchases, not mere visitors who look at a couple of pages and leave. Conversion Tracking is a free option that you can use with an AdWords campaign, and it can give you a ton of useful information.
4. Find the kinks in your competition’s armor
We’ve already mentioned doing a little preliminary Google searching for certain keywords to see what the competition is up to, but you can take it a step further and really explore the SEO strategies of your competition. It’s best to look at what the top dogs in your niche are doing first, then look at the top few results in the SERP’s for some of the less competitive keywords and try to find what’s missing on your competitors’ websites. They may lack truly unique and informative content, have poor web design or very basic product pages, and you can use that to your advantage and upstage them.
Keywords still play a big role in SEO, but finding the right ones and optimizing your website for them requires a bit more finesse and tactical thinking than in the past. Make sure that you go through the steps mentioned in this article, and that you adhere to the best modern keyword practices, and you won’t have too hard of a time growing your audience and expanding your business.