Search Engine Optimization

seo-linksMany marketers use the terms search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) interchangeably. We define SEM as an umbrella term that means using search engines to market an organization. SEM can include trying to get higher organic (free) search rankings, buying paid listings, or using a combination of both.

Search engine optimization is focused exclusively on attracting traffic to the natural or organic listings on search engine results pages. This article will focus on SEO, and how to attract as much free organic search as possible.

Since organic listings are often more trusted and have a statistically higher likelihood of being clicked on, we will start the SEM education with SEO.

Getting a website optimized and indexed takes a lot longer than simply placing an ad on Google or Yahoo!, but once the organic efforts are indexed, the power of free visibility can’t be beat. One of the reasons that getting found in the free listings is so attractive, aside from its zero cost, is that people frequently become ad blind, meaning that the sponsored listings do not catch their eye as quickly as the organic listings.

SEO is important because by optimizing a website around the key phrases that are important to a given audience, the online marketer can pull in prequalified traffic. The key is streamlining the process by understanding which phrases the audience searches and leveraging the website, blog, social media, videos, and more with these phrases so they can connect and accomplish their goals.

How to Uncover a Site’s Magical Keywords and Phrases

The first step is determining the best keywords and/or phrases to focus on for visibility. These keywords should not only be relevant to the site, but also relevant to searchers.

The best way to start uncovering a site’s magical keywords and phrases is by sitting down with a plain sheet of paper. Look at web analytics to see what your audience already searches to find the products, services, and information in your topic area and expand on those. If you are starting a website from scratch and don’t have any analytics data, use one of the following keyword tools to get ideas.

To get results from these free tools, you will have to insert some phrases to start, so think about what the web surfers will type in to find you. Think from their perspective.

– Google AdWords Keyword Tool: KeywordToolExternal

– Google AdWords Ad Preview Tool: AdTargetingPreviewTool

Check out the competition’s websites to make a list of keywords and phrases that are given importance (in subject headings, sales copy, and so on).

– If you have an existing site with web analytics installed, you can see the keywords and key phrases that people are using to find the organization’s website.

Some of the obvious keywords you may see are:

– Your organization name

– Your products

– Your slogan

– Your services

– Search Engine Optimization

– Your location

– Keywords that are specific to your industry

Some of the not-so-obvious keywords may be:

– Your competitors

– Your senior staff or employees

– Misspellings

– Content related to an obscure page on your website (happens all the time)

Web analytics packages reveal not only which keywords and/or phrases brought in the most traffic but also which ones converted most. Conversions can be leads, sales, signups, or a combination of both. Being able so see which words and phrases yield actions is powerful data. It helps focus content creation and steer search optimization efforts around language that truly “clicks.” Create a spreadsheet that lists the website’s top converting keywords and phrases (people may search the same product under a variety of names). This list of key phrases will become your SEO compass as you begin optimizing your site.

How to Use Keywords

SEO works when people type in key phrases to come to a site in a prequalified way. There is more power in phrases than in single words, so once your list of phrases is defined, be sure to use those consistently in website copy, code, URLs, and more. If the site is selling a wrinkle cream called CraggyBeGone but “heavy wrinkle cream” is a more likely searched phrase, then be sure to spread “heavy wrinkle cream” liberally into site messaging.

If the website owner, for some reason, is adamantly opposed to the words wrinkle cream and insists that CraggyBeGone be called a facial youthenizer, for branding purposes, find a way to meet the art of branding with the science of pulling prospective customers in with content that they need. Show the owner the traffic data or free keyword reports, especially which keywords or key phrases led to increased goal conversions. When organizations debate strategy, the side armed with data instead of opinions usually wins.

Share Your Optimized Key Phrases with Your Marketing Team

The important thing to realize about SEO is that while individual keywords are important, it is key phrases that will deliver the right audience. SEO is not about getting traffic; it is about targeting the right kind of traffic so your time is spent serving more qualified site visitors. Key phrases must be listed and shared with anyone at the organization working on any type of online marketing (people writing blog posts or online press releases or uploading website images; social media consultants) before any search optimizations are executed.

For a local search, use the following equation: Business or service + Location or region = Optimized key phrase. For other nonlocal businesses, the activating keywords could be descriptors of whatever the potential customer would search for, as in the following equation: Product or service + Distinction or description = Optimized key phrase.

The power of determining targeted phrases pays off when you begin optimizing page titles, meta tags, site content, internal links, and external links. Preplanning and researching and documenting the right phrases will help attract targeted search results and bring the right customers to your site.

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