Choosing the right keywords is critical to getting found in Google and other search engines. But how do you know what words people are actually searching for? A great, free tool is Google’s AdWords Keyword Selector tool. You can start using this tool by entering a couple of words or phrases (in this context, the word “keywords” is used interchangeably with “key phrases”) that you think your prospects will use when searching for someone who offers your services. The tool will then display a page listing similar keywords that people have actually been searching for along with the number of searches for each keyword. This can help you when choosing what keywords to target on your site.
It’s important, first, that you do target specific keywords to increase your chances of being found in search engines. Second, it’s important to target the right keywords so that you’re using the words that people are actually searching for in reasonable numbers. E.g., you don’t want to target words that people rarely search for. And, to be clear, targeting, in this context, means using specific keywords and related words fairly frequently on a given web page.
With each search you do using the tool you’ll get a list of words that have come up regularly in Google searches. One important point when using the tool is that your prospects aren’t necessarily searching using the words that you would use. You’re an expert in your domain and, as such, are familiar with the proper terminology in your field. Frequently, your customers are not. So, they’ll often use words that you wouldn’t expect. The tool can help you find these. Also, as you choose your keywords, you want to use a couple of variations which the tool can help you find.
Once you’ve selected about ten keywords you’ll want to review your existing copy with an eye to working your keywords/phrases into that copy (wherever those phrases don’t already exist). Your goal is to make sure that the keywords (including variations) appear regularly.
You’ll probably want to include variations that include the cities and counties you serve. What I usually do when creating a website is to include a list of cities/counties in small print on the Contact page. The list of cities is usually long and people aren’t looking to read that. Still, the list needs to be included for search engines.
Target Pages for Other Keywords
You probably don’t want to target the same keywords on every page. Search engines like pages with content that is highly targeted. That allows them to deliver accurate search results for specific terms. So, it’s generally more effective to target your pages narrowly. Targeting different keywords on different pages also gives you the best chance of ranking highly for a variety of terms. You can’t rank highly for ten different keywords on a single page even if they are all related to your field.
Search engines give extra weight to the text contained in heading tags. Web page headings are created with a set of tags ranging from the highest level, h1, down to the lowest, h6. These tags work similarly to the heading styles in Word. As you write/update your copy you want to be thinking about where you can insert headings and how you can include your keywords in those headings as much as possible. Using heading tags helps both with SEO and with making your pages more scannable—which increases their appeal to your visitors.
Analyzing the Competition
I would recommend that you have a look at other websites of your competitors to see what keywords they are targeting. You can use the Google Keyword Tool to analyze your competitors’ sites to see what keywords they use on each page of their sites. To do this you simply choose the “Website content” option in the tool and provide the URL of a page. Checking out what the successful sites (i.e., sites that rank highly in search engine results) are doing can help you to choose a good selection of keywords. It can also help you determine what pages you want to create for your new site.
Pay special attention to keywords that people are likely to use when they are ready to engage someone who provides your services. People use the internet both for research and for finding companies to do business with. It can be helpful if people find your site when they’re in the research phase but it’s more important to be found when they’re ready to buy. So, for example, in my business I’d be more interested in targeting the keywords “web design services” or “web designer” than just “web design.”
Another factor that search engines use to rate websites is keyword density; i.e., the concentration of your keywords on a given page. A page that uses the target keywords a lot is interpreted as being more focused on that topic than a page that, for example, includes the keyword only once. So, as you choose your keywords and target them to specific pages you want to try to work the appropriate keywords (and related text) into the copy wherever possible.
With both link text and keyword density there can be a temptation to write copy that sounds unnatural in an attempt to load the page up with your keywords. That’s not a good approach. You want to write as naturally as possible so that the text doesn’t sound stilted. Also, if your keyword density is too high Google will interpret that as search engine spamming and downgrade your ranking.
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