Last updated on June 10, 2016
Choosing and using keywords for your website is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Having gone through this exercise multiple times over the years and doing it the wrong way in a multitude of ways, I can tell you, if you think choosing the right keywords for your website isn’t that important, you’re mistaken. In my outside life, I’ve worked in web hosting and the domains market and so this has come up a lot. In helping others with this for their own websites as well as my own, dabbling in the domain aftermarket, building targeted keyword websites and forking out cash to various services and training courses, I’ve picked up a lot of the trade secrets.
When your end goal is driving traffic to your site to get people looking at your content, so there’s the faintest hope of them purchasing anything from you, you want to get this right. In a nutshell, you want to take advantage of the way search engines work and make them work for you. Seems pretty basic, right?
The one place where people fall down is always lack of research. It takes work. Everyone thinks it’s easy. It is, in its simplistic elegance when it’s working, but to get there? You need to do the work. If you’re not prepared to do it, you’re going to have to trust me on this, but you’re not going to get the results you think you will.
Being the research junkie I am, I’ve seen a lot of talking around choosing and using good keywords, but very little information on the nuts and bolts of how to do it. Why? Consultants and keyword services make their own living on capitalizing on your inability to do this yourself and as a result, this info isn’t widely distributed.
Honestly? You don’t have to pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars, because you can do this yourself. As long as you’re prepared to do the work. Ready?
Grab a pen or open a notepad, because you’re going to want to take some notes.
Let’s start with what not to do.
Black Hat SEO – What is Black Hat SEO? This is a deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes. In plain speak, that means loading keywords in the meta data of your site for things you don’t even have on your site in an effort to rank higher in search results.
This is a trick some people suggest to drive traffic to websites and there’s always a few nefarious individuals who do this (those horrid online pharmacies and phishing sites and the like), so don’t get yourself lumped into this category. You’ll end up getting yourself banned. I can’t say it enough – don’t do this.
Some things in this category include:
- keyword stuffing in your meta title, description or keywords, heading tags or below your footer
- saturating your page content text to the point it doesn’t make any sense
- hidden keyword text over images
- on-site Black Hat techniques like hiding keyword text in CSS, spamming image file names or alt tags, linking from a hyphen, period or comma to get further into your site
- off-site Black Hat techniques like having thousands of low quality directories, reciprocal linking schemes, link farms or forum and comment spam
- Okay, and now the things you should do.Content Pages – What are content pages? These are the pages that Google can see. Knowing that Google would rather see authoritative sites, you can use this to your advantage and write good content for your website.
Be the expert in whatever your endeavour is. Write “how-to” articles and FAQ’s on your subject and include things like case study articles. You want to aim for 5 or more content pages as this goes toward a better search engine ranking and trust. Your main keywords should be included in the content of your website without going overboard.
Google loves content and not just any content. The search engine wants to see good, original, fresh content. Update your content with regularity.
Do not copy information from other websites and take it for your own. Aside from plagiarizing someone else’s work, it won’t help you to display content already associated with another website. Good content is important in creating a good user experience and helps your site build credibility and so will improve your website’s quality score.
Domain Name – Your domain name is the address on the Internet where people can find you. If you’re planning on selling something and haven’t registered your domain name, think hard about the domain name before you choose. Creating one that’s made from 2 keywords that describe your product can go toward getting you ranked higher in a Google search. Cute domain names are fun, but if you’re planning on making a living at what you’re selling, you might want to rethink the too-cute domain name you had in mind in favour of one that uses 2 of your main keywords to help search engines zero in on your site. Register the domain for at least 2 years, as this is something else search engines also like to see.
Search engines have an affinity for older domains, so picking one up in the domain aftermarket can give you a marketing jumpstart, especially if it has an existing page ranking. However, if you’re just starting out, this won’t help you if you haven’t become proficient in the rest of the website keyword and content page techniques and can end up costing you large amounts of money for nothing. I’d leave this option as something to explore after you’ve got yourself established.
Keyword Research – Doing the legwork on finding the exactly right keywords for your website and ones that aren’t being overused is the key to getting you a higher ranking and coming out on top of your competition.
A simple way to start is by making a list of 20 keywords you can think up associated with your product or service. Use that list to find out if anyone would be able to find you using those words and then narrow the list down and adjust it based on what you find. By the end of it, you want to end up with 10 solid keywords that will boost your ranking and help your target audience find you.
You can use a tool called freekeywords.wordtracker.com that still has a 7-day free trail to help you with this. Once that runs out, you can actually Google itself to help you do the same thing, so you can use it right from the beginning and skip the other if you like.
To check a keyword with Google:
- pop it into Google search box
- take note of the total number of searches Google brings up
- the sweet spot is a return of less than 5-million searches
- cross off any keywords that don’t hit this sweet spot and don’t use them
- analyze the first page of returned search results for each of the keywords you check
- if large corporations come up or dominate the first page, also mark this idea off your list, because that means the corporations control the market and you won’t be able to break in
- if you notice that all the results on the first page have the same product over and over and for the same price, they probably all have the same supplier, which means saturation is about to peak, so you will likely want to go in another direction
- once you’ve narrowed down your keywords list, now find the popularity of the remaining keyword or keyword phrases (toward choosing the best for yourself)
- you can use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool for this purpose (go to Google, search for Adwords Keyword Tool)
- once you’re signed in, click on the result, add your keywords in, check the box for only “keyword specific”, enter the Captcha and then search
- the numbers you’re looking for are global monthly searches and local monthly searches
- the sweet spot for this is 2000 or more global monthly searches and local searches
- in this case, the higher in number results, the better
- if any niche ideas keywords don’t fall into this range, cross them off your list
- While you’re checking on the keywords you thought of on your own, in the results, you’ll be presented with multiple other keywords that are likely in the sweet spots and that you probably hadn’t even thought of. You’ll want to add a few of those to your list, as well.It might seem be a bit tedious (which is why so many people don’t do this or resort to shelling out money for a service), but it’s very worth the effort. Don’t stop until you end up with 10 awesome keywords that aren’t overused, that target your product or service, that people do search for and that doesn’t point your target audience in any other direction but yours.
Choosing and using keywords for your website doesn’t have to be a mysterious thing. Using the basic information here, almost anyone can improve the ranking and reputation of their website without having to pay a consulting firm thousands of dollars. All it takes is a little work. Try it!