You may think SEO is something that requires having a lot of technical knowledge. You also may think that SEO is not worth your time and energy. Both those thoughts are absolutely wrong!
If you want to help increase traffic to your site without having to spend money, SEO is a great tool to consider. There are a few basic steps you can take to put you on the right path towards an optimized site and something that will be of Google’s interest. We’ve outlined those preliminary steps below. But first…
What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
Search engine optimization simply put is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” (Source: Moz)
We think it’s important that you understand the SEO landscape first. We’re going to compare the search engine landscape to a grocery store.
Who are the players in the SEO grocery store?
You and your business (the producer)
On this playing field, your business is represented by your website/online presence, whether that be a blog or ecommerce site
The searchers (the grocery store customers)
These are your potential customers who are using search engines to find what they’re looking for.
The search engines (the grocery stores)
Think of search engines as the middlemen. They’re the ones who are bringing together you and the searchers.
As middlemen, the grocery stores (i.e. search engines) set the rules. If your product packaging takes up too much space to fit on the top shelf, it simply won’t be put on the top shelf or stocked at all. The same principle applies to your website’s search rankings: If your website does not fit into Google’s guidelines and does not relate to user searches, it won’t show up in the search results.
Don’t think of this as cruel or manipulative – there could be a multitude of producers selling the same thing as you are and the grocery store has to think about what makes sense for them to stock and (most importantly) what their customers would want.
The goal is proving to the search engines that your website is optimized to fit nicely into their experience and is something that their customers would want based on what they are searching.
Keywords, keywords, keywords!
Now that you’ve got an understanding of the SEO landscape, let’s dive into how you can make sure your site gets noticed by Google. And that all begins with keywords, which are “phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines” (source: WordStream).
When researching and choosing keywords, there are a few things to consider:
The keyword should intuitively match your business and product offerings
If you’re a tour operator who sells street food tours in Tokyo, you’ll probably focus on keywords like “tokyo street food tours” or “street food tours*” as those are keywords that indicate someone who is interested in going on a street food tour in Tokyo.
The keyword has good search volume and isn’t too competitive
There are a variety of keyword research tools (we’ll cover those later) and most will give you estimates for search volume and the competition for that keyword. You want to make sure that you don’t spend time and resources focusing on keywords with no volume or keywords that you won’t be able to compete on.
The keyword relates to and is easily integrated in your content
Your focus keywords, your product offerings, and your content should all work in harmony. Just keep in mind that you’re going to have to write content for your site that incorporates your focus keywords.
The keyword is not too general
That is not to say that you should not consider general keywords, but focus on keywords that are specific to your offering. Using our example of a Tokyo street food tour operator, the keyword “food tour” might be too generic as it casts a wider net than “street food tour.” Google may rank your site well on a general term, but it may end up having negative effects in the form of a high bounce rate/exit rate.
Focus on the intent of the keyword
Moreso now than ever, understanding the intent of a keyword is important to your overall SEO strategy. Someone searching “book Tokyo street food tour” will most likely be looking to buy in the very near future.
*Google is able to tell where it’s users are. So if a user is in Tokyo and searches for “street food tours” they are most likely going to get search results for street food tours in Tokyo.
How do I start researching keywords?
A good place to start when identifying your focus keywords is with yourself. Think to yourself “what are people searching that would lead them to my website?” If you have an existing site, another good place to start is to see which content has the highest pageviews. You may also have unknowingly already started to optimize your content to the right keywords!
Once you have that starting point, you can start using keyword research tools to find related keywords. These keyword research tools will also give you stats on the search volume and the competition on the keywords. We’ve outline 3 free tools below, but there are a lot more out there you can utilize:
Short-tail and long-tail keywords
When picking keywords, it’s important to consider a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords are usually one or two words that are less-targeted (e.g. “food tours”). Long-tail keywords are longer and more descriptive (e.g. “street food tours.” It may be tempting to focus on short-tail keywords because they generally hold the most traffic when compared to long-tail keywords. Whereas short-tail keywords have more search volume, long-tail keywords are more relevant and are of a higher quality.
Understanding your limitations
Our limitations are not something we like to talk about, but it’s important to recognize them. Here’s a few things to think about when choosing your keywords:
If you’re product offering is limited, you will have few keywords from which to choose
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. If you only sell Tokyo street food tours, there are a limited amount of keywords you can focus on. Do not stress out if your keywords do not have the highest search volume. It’s simply supply and demand.
Time and resources
Optimizations made for the purpose of ranking higher in the search results do not always lead to immediate results. It’s a long term game, but it pays off in the end. Do not get upset when you’ve invested a lot of time and resources and you do not see immediate results. Be patient and prioritize!
Casting too wide of a net
You might think that casting a wide net will yield the best results. Getting as much traffic as you can might seem like a good idea, but you have to assess the quality of that traffic. If you have a lot of traffic on a certain keyword but many users are leaving your site or not taking any action, you may need to refine that audience by refining the keyword. This is why it’s important to include some long-tail keywords in your plan.