This article will begin the Bureau 24 series on optimizing your website for better search results. It will be our intent to provide users with a solid method that if utilized will result in better search engine rankings for their website. Users should keep in mind that from time to time search engines modify the criteria that they use to determine the rankings of websites. What works today may not work tomorrow. That being said, Bureau 24 does intend to keep this series going and when there are updates to the search algorithms we will address those. Let’s begin.
The goal of search engine optimization is to get your website to rank higher in the search engines result pages, called SERPS, than your competition. The reason you want to rank higher is to draw traffic to your website when people conduct searches using keywords. If the goal is traffic then it stands to reason that you want to rank well for keywords that get lots of traffic. That is words that lots of people are conducting searches for.
When looking at keyword phrases, there are very general terms and more specific terms. Let’s take a look at Google SERP using the keyword cat.
Click on the image to enlarge it. What you will notice is a general term like cat pulls up a lot of websites that may not exactly be looking to sale items on the internet. Think about who might type this term in during a search. For example, if I was doing a paper on cats for school, this may be something I would type in or if I was looking for pictures for whatever reason. Looking at the results you will notice Wikipedia, with a definition, its giving some local results from Las Vegas. Google is doing this more and more and that local result is pulled from the top ranking sites on the localized search for the term. It also pulls up pictures and some news at the bottom along with a video.
You will notice on this image that various businesses come up and all of them have to do with selling cats. Now, if you were in the business of selling cats, which of these two keywords do you think would do your business the most benefit? Cat or cat for sale?
These keywords with three or more words to them are called long-tail keywords. Studies point out that when people are looking for a product or service to buy, they will typically type three or more words. Mercedes for sale in las vegas or Beretta pistol for sale or House for sale in Barstow. Well, maybe people aren’t moving to Barstow that much but you get the idea.
There is an advantage to you going after long-tail keywords. First these three, four or five word phrases tend to have less competition then the more general terms. Often these long-tail keywords generate a reasonable amount of traffic. In the aforementioned cat for sale keyword competition is a little fierce. There are many, many animal breeders and they compete for the terms that drive traffic, pretty ruthlessly. So, keep in mind that all industries are not exactly the same. However, keep in mind that long tail keywords are almost always going to be easier to rank for then general terms and that people typing these keywords tend to be looking for products and services to buy!
Therefore, when optimizing your website you want to make sure that long-tail keywords form the foundation of your post and pages. As you work at optimizing your website, Google and the other search engines will begin to build the trust and authority of these pages and thus your ability to rank well for these keyterms. This will eventually give your website more trust and authority for category and more general terms.
How Should You Research Keywords for SEO?
When preparing to optimize your website by using best practice SEO methods, the first thing you need to do is gather some intelligence. The military when they are going on the offensive doesn’t just get up one morning and charge across the battlefield. Far from it, the first thing the military will do is gather intelligence on their adversary. In the SEO world, the first thing you must do to be successful is know what is going on, so, gather intelligence.
The first step in intelligence gathering from a SEO perspective is to install an analytic program on your website. Many people use Google Analytics and many hosting companies will provide you some sort of analytic program on your web server. Analytic programs give SEO consultants a wealth of information, such things as where visitors are coming from, what keywords they are typing in to search engines, what pages they are looking at, etc.,.
The second thing you want to do when optimizing your website for better search results, is to take a look at your competitors and their SEO campaigns. There are a few tools we use for this and we typically go into as much depth as possible. Take three top competitors and then go to http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/. Open Site Explorer is a tool by Seattle Based SEOmoz and their tool emulates Google. It actually crawls the web and it finds links and rates them the same way we believe, best guess anyway, the Google Algorithm does. So, Open Site Explorer will give you all kinds of data on trust and authority, links and anchor text which will give you a pretty decent idea on why your competitors are ranking the way they are. Don’t worry if you don’t understand this right now, we will cover each of these things in future lessons.
You will want to use a tool like Compete, which gives you additional information on your competitors and consequently on their SEO campaign. Compete is sort of like looking at your competitors analytic data and you get estimates on traffic, search terms, and so on. With that you want to go to each persons website and right click on the site and select view source. This shows you the website code which shows you their TITLEs, H1 to H5 and usually their keywords. You can do this on every page and print that data out.
Now, after analyzing this mountain of data that you have collected you should have a fairly good idea of what search terms it would be a good idea to target. To narrow that down I like to use a few different tools. Search engines are notorious for collecting data, but they really don’t like giving that data up. So, most of the time information is slightly off. Kind of like military GPS systems and civilian systems. The civilian versions of GPS have a slight error built in. So, I use a few keyword tools then I average what they tell me and I make a decision. So, keyword tools are available below:
All of these tools pretty much work the same way. You type in a keyword and push the button and they bring up a series of results along with the daily search traffic estimate. In the picture below I am going to use as an example the keyword “cat”.
Again just click the image to enlarge it. This shows the results for cat and you see it list pretty much every thing related starting with the highest traffic item and working down from there. It also gives you an idea of which search engine is used the most for queries with that keyword. What we want to do at this point is simply compare our keyword tool data to our other data and make some choices about what keywords to target. Preferably we are going for the long-tail keywords initially.
So, that will conclude our first lesson in our series on search engine optimization. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section or by giving us a call at 855.462.6022. Thank you and hope to see you at our next lesson.