If you have a website, e-commerce site, or blog, chances are you understand the importance of SEO. But do you understand how to properly build SEO quickly and effectively so that it improves your search engine ranking and website traffic? If so, this article is for you!

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, refers to the objective of driving online user traffic to your website by elevating your website's standing with search engines such as Google. Ideally, you want your website to appear on the first page of Google search results whenever a user is looking for a business like yours.

Inbound internet traffic such as this remains the #1 content marketing strategy for lead generation. If you want to increase inbound traffic to your website, e-commerce site, or blog, you'll need to integrate strong, relevant, and effective SEO into your content marketing materials. It's all about keywords, but we probably didn't have to tell you that.

What we do have to tell you, is how to select and use keywords in order to maximize your search engine optimization efforts.

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SEO IS ALL ABOUT KEYWORDS

Keywords are the foundation of SEO, but what are they really? You can think of keywords as the words, phrases, or questions that a Google user would type into the search field in order to generate a list of possible websites relevant to that search topic.

For instance, Amy suspects her puppy has fleas and she needs to find a local veterinarian who will see her dog immediately. Using a search engine like Google, she would type into the search field "veterinarian near me" or "treat puppy fleas fast" or "walk-in vet for puppies".

Each of these phrases are considered keywords, or more appropriately "longtail keyword phrases". Either way, the point is that you want Amy to connect with your veterinarian office, which means that your website content needs to include Amy's keywords and longtail keyword phrases so that Google will point her to your business.

Because search engines like Google are the matchmakers that suggest relevant websites to searching users, in order to get these search engines to work for you, you'll need to use keywords smartly. Hence, keywords are the foundation of SEO.

Let's get down to business…

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SELECTING & USING KEYWORDS

Keywords won't help you optimize your website's ranking within search engine results unless you're using the right words and phrases. There's no getting around doing your research in order to determine what particular keywords will yield the best results in raising your search engine ranking and increasing your website traffic.

As we mentioned in the example above, there are a number of potential phrases that a consumer like Amy could plug into Google to locate a vet to treat her puppy's fleas. What's important to understand here is that Amy is trying to solve a specific problem. Her problem, and any consumer problem, is called a "pain point". Your business is the answer to those problems, so be mindful of the pain points when you're developing your keywords.

Let's break this down into two parts--selecting keywords and then using those keywords. First, how do you select effective keywords?  

#1 Know Your Audience

If you haven't done so already, it's imperative for the success of your business that you identify who your ideal customer is and what their primary "pain points" are, in other words, what problems can your business solve for them? Once you identify and really "know" your audience, you can optimize your website using keywords that will attract them. Ask yourself, what does my audience care most about? What topics would they be interested in? How can I convince them my products, services, and informative content will check all of the boxes that these ideal customers have in mind?

If Amy from our ongoing example is your ideal customer, you will have a better chance of attracting her to your veterinarian office if your website content includes at least a few keywords highlighting your specialty with puppies, specifically. Why? Because when it comes down to it, if Amy has a choice between a vet that has experience with young, scared puppies versus a vet that doesn't state they have experience with puppies, Amy is going to go with the puppy vet.

#2 Target Longtail Keyword Phrases

Earlier in this article, we touched upon the definition of "longtail keyword phrases". This term refers to using an entire phrase as your "keyword", which is meant to help narrow down the search category that a user is potentially looking for. In other words, using longtail keyword phrases will reduce your competition and help you stand out from the crowd. In order to understand this concept, we'll need to reverse-engineer the idea.

Using Amy as an example--yet again--due to the fact that she is using Google to solve a problem, i.e. her puppy might have fleas so she needs to find a vet, she is not going to type a single keyword into the search engine, but rather use a phrase. When you take the time to select longtail keyword phrases, you essentially want to put yourself in your customers' shoes and think of all the words and phrases they'll type into Google to find a business like yours. Using longtail keyword phrases will help you narrow the target audience, which will benefit your search engine ranking. Think of it as being a big fish in a small pond. When you have less competition, you increase the odds of Google elevating your webpage and website ranking.

#3 Use Different Variations

This tip elaborates on our suggestion above to target longtail keywords. Put simply, using one keyword or one longtail keyword phrase isn't enough. When Amy sits down at her laptop to search for a veterinarian, she could potentially type in any given number of phrases. In order for you to cover your bases and make sure that no matter what Amy types in, she'll find your website, you'll need to incorporate as many different variations on relevant keywords and longtail keyword phrases as you can.

There are helpful keyword research tools out there, like UberSuggest, that can assist your effort. Using a site like this, you can test specific keywords you think will work and the site will approximate how successful those keywords will be. It can also suggest alternative keywords and phrases that it believes will generate more leads and traffic for you.  

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Next, you're now ready to use the keywords you've selected, but you'll want to use them effectively so that it helps and doesn't hurt your search engine ranking. Let's take a look at how you can do that.

#1 Keywords Inform Content

We can't emphasize this SEO tip enough. Keywords should inform content and not the other way around. This means that before you start writing your content, you should already know the keywords and longtail keyword phrases you're going to integrate into the webpage, product description, blog article, or whatever online content you're about to write.

A common rookie mistake you'll want to avoid, otherwise known as putting the cart before the horse, is writing your content first then going back after-the-fact and trying to jam your keywords into the text. Please don't do this. Readers can tell. It's awkward, and worst of all, Google has the intelligence to recognize this tactic and penalize your website for it. Unlike ten years ago when search engines like Google picked up keywords straightforwardly, nowadays, Google has dynamic algorithms in place that are designed to suppress and bury content that appears to be trying to "game the system" by using a ton of keyword-saturated sentences. Remember, your use of keywords has to look and sound natural.

#2 Use Different Keywords

This might sound repetitive, but it's worth emphasizing twice. As we detailed above, using different variations in your keywords and longtail keyword phrasing is critical when you're selecting the keywords you plan to integrate into your content. Here, rather than address selecting a variety of keywords, which we've already covered, we're talking about striking a healthy balance between plugging a keyword into a particular webpage and then using variations of that keyword on additional pages and within the backend of the site's meta data. For example, if you've worked the longtail keyword phrase "all-natural puppy flea control" into your latest blog article, you can use different keywords that mean the same thing, such as "organic flea control for puppies" and "non-toxic fur treatment for pets", on other webpages.

When you find a way to subtly work in every conceivable keyword that's relevant to the niche category you're trying to market, you'll increase the chances of an internet user like Amy typing one of those phrases into their search engine to find you.

#3 Leverage Traffic Analytics

Once you've integrated a variety of keywords into your online content, it's vital to track and monitor how each keyword is doing. Trending keywords can change on a week to week basis, even when the subject itself remains the same. For example, last week the keyword "all-natural" might have been ranking high in search results in reference to puppy flea control, but this week the buzzword happens to be "organic, non-GMO". We wouldn't recommend that you go into your already-published content and swap the keyword out. But it is important to stay informed of trends so that you can use them to your advantage.

Website traffic analytic tools, including Google Analytics, can help you select and manage trending keywords to use as part of your SEO strategy. When you're able to identify successful keywords that are currently being used, you can build on those trending keywords within the content you generate. This is referred to as on-page optimization, and having Google Analytics in your toolkit can really help.

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What else can you do to increase your SEO ranking and drive traffic to your website?

• Use "Title Tags"--Every webpage has a "Title Tag" that is another opportunity to integrate a keyword. Note: this is not the page's "Headline". Rather, the "Title Tag" can be found on the browser tab of your website, which you enter into your page's source code in the meta tag data on the backend. • Use "Meta Descriptions"--This is also different from the "Title Tag" and "Headline", the "Meta Descriptions" are other meta HTML elements that can include keywords. These backend descriptions function as your site's additional ad copy, which Google can "crawl" and "index", because these represent the first few sentences that appear on a Google search after your website page's Title Tag. • Tailor URL Structure--You have control over the actual wording of your site's URL, which is important in terms of Google's indexing so you'll want to make sure keywords are used here, as well. Aim for short, descriptive URLs and not overly wordy ones with too many keywords. • Include Internal Linking--The architecture of how your website information is presented and linked can help how Google and other search engines regard and rank your overall site. If you sell products, each product page could "suggest" relevant products that "link" to those other product pages within your website. If your website includes a blog, any given blog article could link to other relevant articles from your blog, too. These internal links help to increase the "clicks" your site receives from each visitor, which will elevate your SEO ranking in the long run. *• Increase Page Speed--Search engines have been including page loading speeds in their assessment of where websites should rank among their competitors. Having a fast-loading website is imperative and an interesting catch-22 is that the more website traffic you have, the slower your site will run. For example, if a million visitors suddenly landed on your Home Page, would your website crash? Be sure to check your pages' speed from time to time, and make the necessary upgrades and adjustments so that your website always loads as quickly as possible.

That concludes our tips for building SEO. The entire team here at FTx is passionate about all facets of digital marketing, including SEO, so if you would prefer the pros handle your SEO strategy and implementation, be sure to Contact Us anytime!