Before we do, let’s take a moment to answer the question:
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
In a nutshell, SEO is a process that has the ability to improve the natural ranking of your website or blog in search results — leading to increased traffic, sales, customer engagement and overall growth. SEO is the connector between someone who’s making a specific query on Google (or another search engine) with websites and/or blogs that contain relevant information pertaining to the query.
We’ve all performed countless searches, right? And on the surface, it seems pretty simple. Someone performs a search — say with the keyword “plumber” — and Google looks for and delivers results that are relevant to this keyword phrase. This, in and of itself, is no big news. But the question is, how does Google decide which results to list? And why do some sites or blogs rank higher than others?
Search engine optimization is a large part of the answer to these questions. It plays a critical role in determining where a website or blog ranks in the natural (also referred to as “organic”) search results.
Let’s take a deeper look at how this works, and learn about …
THE SEO PIE
Part of search engine optimization is the selection and strategic implementation of optimal keywords into your website content. Keywords account for approximately one-third of the SEO pie — a significant amount, for sure, but not a complete package by any means. In the past, keywords were a bigger piece of the pie. Then blogs and social media came along.
Now, effective SEO is broken into three major parts: keywords, content and social media. Together, they make up the SEO pie. And in this tip of the day, we’re going to focus our attention on keywords …
You’ve probably heard the term “keywords” referred to more than once in relation to your website. And although you may know they’re a critical element in SEO, you may be wondering exactly what keywords are.
Keywords are terms or phrases that, when implemented into your website, can help connect you with people who are looking for what you do. In other words, when the keywords you use on your site are in alignment with the search terms people use to find the specific products or services you offer, there’s a better chance Google will present your website higher in the search results.
That said, the quality of your keywords makes a big difference in how effective they are. Many factors go into determining which keywords are best for your website and blog, including:
- The size of your site
- How long it’s been around
- How many people are searching for a specific keyword phrase
within the region(s) where you do business
- How much competition you’ll be facing for that particular keyword
or keyword phrase
- How relevant a keyword phrase is for your organization
Now that we’ve got a basic definition in place, let’s dive deeper for a greater understanding of what I like to call …
This is something I’ve developed over the years to help identify optimal keyword phrase usage.
Essentially, when optimizing content, you don’t want to have just one keyword phrase that you hammer on ad nauseam. Instead, you’ll want to create a well-rounded list of keyword phrases for every web page and blog post. Depending on the topic and the content length, this list could include 3–5 keyword phrases or more than a dozen.
No matter the length of the list, make sure every single phrase is relevant to the topic, service or product you “discuss” in your content.
Once you’ve developed your list of keywords for a particular web page or blog post, you’ll need to decide which are primary, secondary and semantic, respectively.
- Primary Keywords: As “primary” indicates, these are the main keywords in your content. Sometimes you’ll determine them in advance; other times your organically written content will dictate them.
- Secondary Keywords: Used less often than primary keywords, these are still specific to the website page or blog post you’re optimizing.
- Semantic Keywords:Used only once or twice, at most, these stillplay an important role in “rounding out” the relevance of the content.
As you can see, semantic and secondary keywords play a supporting role in the optimization of content. They’re good to use, but they don’t have the oomph that a main keyword has, typically for three reasons: 1) they have low search numbers; 2) they have high competition; 3) they’re not the main topic of the page, but they work tangentially to support the main topic. An SEO novice might use secondary and semantic keywords as main keywords — or might overlook them completely. In Part 2 of the book, we’ll dive deeper into primary, secondary and semantic keyword usage.
This is a fancy term for using keyword phrases that are typically three or more words long. Very often, what makes a keyword phrase long-tail is the fact that it has some “definers” or “qualifiers” in it, making it very specific.
For example, “dentist” is most likely going to be a strong keyword, no matter where your dental office is located. But I’ll bet it also has very high competition. Adding qualifiers to the keyword — “Dentist Madison WI” for example — makes it more specific and might have less competition from other area dental offices.
The term “keyword density” is worth a quick mention here. Keyword density is what it sounds like: the number of times (density) a keyword phrase appears on a page compared with the total number of words on the page.
Over the years, I’ve heard SEO experts argue that a keyword phrase needs to occur a certain percentage of the time to be considered an actual keyword. Through testing, I’ve found this untrue. Although a keyword phrase typically needs to appear more than once within the content to be taken seriously by Google, it DOES NOT need to appear a certain percentage of the time. That’s no way to optimize — and that’s no way to write good, relevant content.
Next time, we’ll dive into the content slice of the SEO pie.
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