My article about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) gave you an overview about how your website can be discovered by potential customers. You can have the most beautiful, useful and user-friendly website, but if you are lost in Google’s search results pages, all your efforts may have been wasted. Keywords are part of a successful SEO strategy to make your site visible. Let’s start with a beginner’s guide for keyword strategies.
What are Keywords?
Keywords will allow people to find your site via search engines. I frequently use the following example: When I was a child, we found businesses using the “Yellow Pages”. When you looked for a plumber, you went to the page with the list of all the plumbers in your area and chose one. Some paid for advertisement, others only provided their contact details. Very often, it was a hit and miss because there were no reviews and only limited ways to find new companies.
Today, Google and other search engines have made it much easier for businesses to be discovered by potential customers. Provided you understand their language, you can integrate certain key information into your website which allows you to be discovered by Google’s search algorithm and rank high in their search results. (Note: for reasons of simplicity, I focus on Google as search engine only in this article.)
Why Do We Need Keywords?
Keywords are all about language. We need to make an important distinction here: the language we as business owners use might not always exactly match how our customers think. It is crucial to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think how they would search for your products or services on Google.
If you sell jewellery, for example, you as a business owner may think “Jewellery made from high quality materials sold at a good price” while your customers search for “cute and versatile gold necklace”.
Most importantly: a lot of people do not know about your store. Frankly, they might not even care about it. What they care about is your products. In the end, you want to make it as easy as possible to find WHAT they are looking for in YOUR store. Therefore, you need to make your website as easily understandable not only for the customer but also for Google and its search algorithms.
Types of Keywords
Let’s stick with our jewellery store example. If you think about keywords related to the store, your first idea would be the obvious: “jewellery”, “necklaces”, “bracelets”, etc. Of course, it would be great if your store ranked first if somebody searches for “jewellery” in Google. But the competition for these so-called “short keywords” will be extremely high given that almost all the pages in your field will use them.
Therefore, incorporate so-called “long-tail keywords” into your website. The above-mentioned “cute and versatile gold necklace” is one example of a long-tail keyword. It is similar to hashtags on Instagram – jewellery has millions of results, while a more concrete description or hashtag such as “cutegoldjewellery” will have fewer results. However, it will give you a more realistic opportunity to be found and ranked higher on the search engine results pages.
Mapping Your Website
We have covered the theory. What can you do now to optimize your website? You may be tempted to just go into each individual post and start entering keywords. Well, it would be first step. But like any other strategy, your keyword strategy needs to be carefully planned. If you just enter random keywords into your posts, you may be lucky and rank high with some of them. However, you want to make sure to have a coherent strategy which boosts your page overall and does more than just allowing you random hits.
Therefore, I recommend a keyword map for your website. I am a visual person and usually draw the hierarchy on a piece of paper. You can also use a spreadsheet where you map out the hierarchy. Start with the meta-topics, then break them down into the actual keywords.
Firstly, you need to think of your website as a whole. What is the overall topic of your website? In the jewellery example it is probably something like “beautiful high-end jewellery at affordable prices”.
Secondly, break it down to each individual page of your site. What are the topics of all your pages? Why did you build them and how do they contribute to your overall page topic. For example, your pages may cover topics like “necklaces”, “bracelets”, “rings”, etc. Look at your map and see if you can group certain topics and further refine them. For example, maybe you offer gold and silver jewellery. Therefore, you can group the necklaces, bracelets and rings made of gold and further refine them. Maybe there is a collection or design element which makes them stand out.
Once you have defined the meta-topics for your website and its sub-sites, define the keywords for each topic. I highly recommend doing some research about the keywords. There are two ways to do this: either you pay for a keyword search tool or you use Google. For the latter, if you want to test a keyword, just enter it in the search engine and see how many results you get. If you end up getting millions of hits, your chances of being seen will be very low. Therefore, go back and refine your keyword. (My tip is also to go to the bottom of the Google search results page and look into the “related searches” for inspiration.
Furthermore, check if your keyword is really relevant for the search. Think about if your keywords really cover what people are actually looking for. Assess if your page offers relevant answers or solutions to their search. After you tested the keywords, assign them to each page in your map.
Bring the Map to Life
Now it is time to put your map into action. In your website developing dashboard, choose one of the pages. There are various ways to incorporate your keywords.
1) Incorporate the keyword in the heading. As this is one of the first things potential customers will see, it makes sense to incorporate the keyword in your heading.
2) Use the keyword in the website text. Usually, it is recommended to use keywords in the first paragraph. But it is also advisable to use the keywords later on in the text. However, bear in mind that you do not want to interrupt the flow of your text. Avoid the text sounding awkward just for the sake of having keywords in there.
3) Keywords can also be incorporated in the URLs of your website.
4) Do not underestimate the impact of images for SEO. Make use of the caption, the so-called “alt-text” and the description of the images when you insert them into your pages and posts.
5) Incorporate the keywords in the meta-description of your post or page and also the SEO title.
Search engines take into account how relevant your page is regarding the keywords themselves but also their density. The latter means how often the keyword or versions of it are found in the text, title, etc. Please bear in mind that SEO should not compromise the readability and usability of your site. Do not try to cram too many keywords into your text and sacrifice the overall experience just for the sake of SEO.
Tools to Help You
Depending on which service you use for your website, you may already have tools incorporated to work on your SEO. I personally also have been using Yoast, a free WordPress plugin. Yoast works with a traffic light system to indicate if you are on a good path with the SEO of your post/page. However, I do not blindly follow all the recommendations. I rather use it as guidance and still keep readabilty and user experience in mind.
Have you worked on your keyword strategy? What is your experience and would you like to share your advice? Or do you have more detailed questions? Please share with me, I am also planning more detailed articles about the topic and I would love to answer all your questions.
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended services above.