This is the first of a series of posts called DIY SEO (Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization): Step by Step Instructions on SEO You Can Do Yourself Today. While you could pay hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to an SEO company to optimize your site for the search engines, there is an awful lot of SEO good you can do for your site all by yourself – for free – even if you’re not a programmer or particularly “technical” by nature. So why not do what you can do, first? Armed with a little information and some step-by-step instructions, you can significantly and positively impact your site’s performance in search results and ranking. Yes, YOU!
Step 0: Keyword Research
Keyword research is about finding and researching actual terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search. It’s about finding out what words people actually use, not necessarily what you expect they’d use. It’s about thinking like your ideal customer, from their frame of reference, using their vocabulary, not your own.
If You Skip This, Don’t Bother With the Rest
There is no point in doing any SEO anything if you don’t do your keyword research first. Almost all the SEO you do is based on keywords, so if you don’t know what keywords are the right keywords to target, then there’s no point in doing any SEO. If you’re targeting the wrong words, the people who need what you have to offer may never find you. You’d be better off not doing any SEO, because targeting the wrong keywords can not only waste your online advertising time, effort and dollars, but hurt you and your brand, in the long run. So, don’t skip this step.
Forget What You THINK You Know
Most people skip this ultra-important preparatory step because they think they already know what keywords to target. You might think you know what others would enter into a search engine to find what you have to offer, but often, your vocabulary is different than your ideal customer’s because you’re closer to your subject and know more about it. The ‘obvious’ words to you are not so obvious to your target market.
Your branding efforts might get in your way, too. You might want to put yourself out there as a ‘domestic goddess for hire’, but who sits down at Google and searches for a domestic goddess? More likely, the person looking for you will search for ‘maid service’ or ‘house cleaning service’ or ‘housekeeper’, don’t ya think? And don’t forget to include geographic keywords if they’re appropriate for you. I don’t care about housekeepers in Dallas, I want to know about housekeepers in Tulsa.
You might also think you should target only the broad, generic, high-traffic keywords related to your site. Yes, you want to include those broad terms in your keyword list because they tell the search engines what your site is about, not because you want to show up on the first page of results. Where there’s high traffic, there’s also stiff competition and you’ll rank for that search term…somewhere 30-50 pages back.
Think about how you use the search engines. If you’re shopping for shoes, do you really sit down and type in ‘shoes’ and expect to get something other than 30 million results to wade through? Probably not. Neither does anyone else, likely. You and the rest of us try to get as specific as possible because we don’t have all day, right? So get more specific with your keyword research, too. Use multi-word phrases that really define who you are and what you do.
Find Out How the Search Engines See You Now
Let’s say you’ve got a site up and you’ve got lots of great content on it, but you haven’t done any SEO at all. It’d be VERY REVEALING to find out what the search engines think your site is about, wouldn’t it?
Google AdWords Keyword Tool will let you research keyword ideas two ways: descriptive words or phrases and website content. Use the website content option, enter your site’s URL and click the ‘Get Keyword Ideas’ button. This will show you what Google perceives as keywords from your site as it exists now. This will help you see where you need to concentrate based on any gap between what you think your site’s about and what the search engines see. This tool doesn’t show exact search or competition numbers. Instead, it gives approximations, but that’s still useful because it’s more information than you had a few minutes ago, right?
Ok, brainstorm on this until the next post in this series which will tell you what to do with this list of keywords you’ve generated and how to determine which ones to eliminate and which ones to run with.