If you’re at all familiar with SEO and online marketing, then you probably know that keywords are crucial to Google’s ranking system.
Determining which keywords to use, how often to use them, and how to fit them into engaging, valuable content is all part of the process.
If you want your website to rank well on Google, your first step is to come up with relevant keywords (words and phrases that users are likely to type into the Google box) for which you’d like your site to appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
But how do you determine what those keywords should be?
How to Develop a Keyword Strategy for Your Website
The following is excerpted from our super awesome and informative Website Muscle book, Authority: How to Boost Your Online Presence and Grow Your Business – in stores now!*
(*Just kidding, it’s not out yet. But stay tuned, because it will be hitting the shelves soon at a Costa Mesa Website Muscle near you!)
Start the keyword strategy process by asking yourself these three questions:
- What are my customers looking for on Google?
- Do they search online for information about my business or industry?
- What search terms do they type in for information about my industry, product, or service?
If you don’t have an answer, STOP what you’re doing and take some time to really contemplate this, because the secret to creating an effective online marketing strategy lies in the answers to these questions.
How to Build Your Keyword Strategy
Coming up with an initial list of keywords can feel overwhelming. It shouldn’t. Keep in mind that this list can – and should – be modified as you close in on who your ideal customers are, and who is searching online for your product or service.
Here are some questions to ask when creating your list of keywords (write down your answers):
What products/services do you offer?
Be specific. Let’s say you’re a dealer of residential front doors. There’s a big difference between broad, unfocused keywords like “doors” or “front doors” and narrower, more specific keywords like “fiberglass entry doors” and “solid wood entry doors.”
What problems do you solve?
Every product or service solves at least one problem. For example, if you are a general contractor specializing in damage restoration, keywords might be “fire damage restoration” or “rebuilding home after flood.”
How would you describe your business to someone who has never heard of you?
Use search terms that your prospective customers are familiar with. Avoid industry jargon if that’s not what customers will know or use.
For example, one of our clients owns a fitness studio for a Pilates-inspired exercise method called Lagree fitness. Even though they aren’t a Pilates studio per se, their keyword strategy includes phrases like “Pilates studio in Tustin” in addition to “Lagree fitness” as their brand awareness grows.
How would you search for your own business without using your company name?
Someone just beginning their research on a new front door for their home wouldn’t necessarily know to search for “Plastpro fiberglass entry doors.” Instead, they might search for “affordable new front door” or “entry door installation.”
What locations does my business serve?
If you only do business in Southern California, it won’t do you any good to attract search results from people in Poughkeepsie. Many of our clients are local businesses who want to be found online in certain geographical areas. If you want to limit your reach to local searches, include location names (like “Costa Mesa” and “Orange County”) among your keywords.
What questions are you asked most often by prospective customers?
These are likely things people will type into a Google search. If you are a divorce attorney: “Do I need a divorce attorney?” “How long will my divorce take?” “Who gets the family home after divorce?” and so on. These are known as long-tail phrases, which I’ll explain later.
Now that you’ve answered these questions, you’ve got a list of some primary and secondary keywords. As you build content (website pages, landing pages, blog posts, etc.) based on your keyword list, remain consistent with your terminology throughout. But don’t overuse the keywords to the point that the content doesn’t make sense anymore; that’s not helpful to a user. Also, Google may label it as spam, which could have serious ramifications for your website down the line.
How many times should I use keywords on each page?
Moz recommends using keywords once in the page title, once in your headline, two to three times in the content, and once in your meta description. Too much and it will be spammy, too little and Google may not recognize what the page is supposed to be about.
A very important component to your keyword strategy is what’s known as the “long tail.”
Long tail keywords are more niche and specific to your own business, as opposed to broad keywords that may apply to every business in your industry (and possibly even other industries).
The website wiseGEEK gives a good definition of the long tail (which they call “low hanging fruit”):
“We have Mother Nature to thank for the expression low hanging fruit. A fruit-bearing tree often contains some branches low enough for animals and humans to reach without much effort. The fruit contained on these lower branches may not be as ripe or attractive as the fruit on higher limbs, but it is usually more abundant and easier to harvest. From this, we get the popular expression ‘low hanging fruit’, which generally means selecting the easiest targets with the least amount of effort.”
Let’s say you’re a massage therapist. “Massage therapy” is a very broad industry keyword that will be difficult to rank for on Google. However, a long tail keyword like “corporate chair massages Costa Mesa” or “sports injuries massage Huntington Beach” will be easier to rank for, and reach searchers that are more likely to be looking for your services.
When someone conducts a Google search, Google wants to return the most accurate results. So the more specific your keyword strategy and page content, the greater your chances that it will appear on the SERPs.
Hopefully now you’ve got a great list of keywords to work from. Narrow it down to your Top 10 and get started!