Client: "I want to rank for the keywords X, Y and Z."
Me: "Why do you want to rank for those specific keywords?"
Client: "Because that is what my product/service is..."
Me: "Ah, I see, but do your customers/potential customers use those keywords to search for your specific product/service...in your area?"
And that is a conversation I've had countless times over the years.
Keywords can be slippery little suckers to nail down. It's not just about ranking for keywords for the sake of generating any traffic; it's about getting ranked for the right keywords--the ones that your customers and potential customers enter into the all-knowing search box on Google.
Say you sell refurbished Chris Craft boats. (For those of you who aren't boat enthusiasts, think James Bond or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) Do you want to rank on the first page for the keyword "boat"?
No, of course not. That search term gets roughly 2.2 million searches a month globally, according to Google AdWords. And it's anyone's guess on what a user is looking for when they just enter "boat." They could be looking for a ski boat, river boat, sailboat, boat repair, boat rentals...
You get my point. Out of those 2.2 million searches, how many of those are searching for your specialized Chris Craft refurbished boats to buy?
Now we can get to the nitty gritty. Finding the right keywords to rank for and drawing in the right traffic is now our focus. So, how does one determine what keywords are the right keywords?
A good place to start is Google Analytics and Google Webmaster. If you don't have your site linked to Analytics for Webmaster yet, do it. Google provides these free tools, which are packed with all the good stuff to help you optimize your website.
This free Google tool will be your best friend when it comes to SEO and how Google regards your site. Webmaster reports the following:
The list above is only a fraction of what Webmaster offers, but these are great tools for determining your current standing with the search engine giant.
Once you've determined which keywords you're ranking for (both good and bad), you can start updating your website content to both strengthen the relevant keywords and weed out content that may draw in the wrong type of traffic.
I included errors on your site for a very specific reason. Let's go back to your theoretical Chris Craft business. Your Chris Craft site has 7 pages on every model you offer. Each page has detailed information that you know Chris Craft collectors look for when searching online.
What if those pages were blocked from being crawled by a "noindex" tag? All of that glorious, keyword-rich content is useless. You'll want to address that issue right away with your website developer.
Also free from Google, Analytics is an invaluable resource for seeing how your website users interact with your site. The dashboard gives you:
These data points all help you determine what pages are optimized for the right users and which ones aren't. While analytics doesn't give you the best organic keywords information, it does report which pages get the most organic traffic. If your product/service pages aren't getting traffic, it's probably time to refresh that content.
We've said that before, and it's still true today. Google smiles down upon those who actively add fresh, original content to their website:
Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Think about how you would have searched for your product five years ago, three years ago, and today. It's changed. Users have evolved. Search engines have evolved. The economy has evolved.
It's ludicrous to think that five year-old content on your site would effectively bring in traffic today. Google feels the same way. If you aren't consistently adding and refreshing your content, as the soup nazi would say, No rankings for you.
Yes, finding and implementing the right keywords to rank for is no small undertaking. It's research, testing, tracking, then repeat. You can't cram all of these efforts into a month. It's an ongoing process that starts when you take your website live and never ends.
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