Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of maximizing a web page and its content so that users can easily find what they are looking for. It’s important for you, the retailer, because it can help people find your website by boosting it when they search using certain keywords. SEO also refers to the process of making web pages quicker and easier for search engine indexing software, or “crawlers,” to locate, scan, and index your site.
The first step of SEO is to determine what it is you’re actually optimizing your website FOR. What is it that you want to rank up for in Google and other search engines? To do this, you need to identify “keywords” people are searching for when they are looking for information that you have on your website.
For instance, imagine that you have a local produce market. You want your market to pop up when people search “local produce” and also when they search “buy produce” or “fresh tomatoes” or “hothouse cucumbers.”
Before beginning to figure out the keywords you need for your website, you need to understand your consumers and what they’re looking for:
- What are they buying?
- Why are they buying it?
- What needs/wants do they have?
- What values are important to them?
- What lingo or jargon do they use to describe what they’re looking for?
- Where else are they shopping?
Next, you need to take into account three key factors when thinking about keywords:
- Volume – how many people are searching for a particular word? The more popular the word(s), the bigger your audience. Consider the words that will draw the widest searches.
- Relevance – make sure your words have a close connection to your site. Keyword relevance is a critical ranking signal.
- Competition – keywords with high volume can drive high traffic, but they are also the most competitive on the search engine results pages and vie for the top spots.
Now it’s time to target keywords. This is the tough part.
- Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and ask how your average customer would search for a product.
- Look at the competition for each keyword. Ranking for competitive keywords is unavoidable, but try to go after those with less competition.
- Analyze your industry competitors’ websites for keywords that they target. You’ll likely want to target the same words or slight variations of them.
- Target keywords with greater search volume. Finding the combination of low competition and high volume is ideal (and tricky).
The three types of keywords to target are product, category, and content.
- Product Keywords: These are focused on the actual products that you’re selling. Your product pages need to be optimized just like any other page. Be sure to differentiate your product keywords from those in the next two types.
- Category Keywords: Peruse other websites to get an idea of what they are trying to rank for. You can follow related product suggestions and similar searches to get an idea of other category keywords to rank for. Category keywords will be found on your landing pages (“homepages” for different sections of your website).
- Content Keywords: Your blog is a great place to host pages with your content keywords. Because you have more freedom with your blog, you can use it to inform visitors about your website and products without the pressure of the sale. You can also target long-tailed keywords here, which are more focused and precise.
Beware of some common pitfalls.
- Focus is the most important feature of your keywords. Although broad keywords will draw more visitors, many of them might not even be interested in your product, which garners you nothing. They will promptly leave your site and cause you to have a higher “bounce rate” and a lower conversion rate in search engines, both of which are red flags in Google. Use precise keywords.
- Precise keywords constitute over 60% of all searches, making them valuable to you. Target more of them and fewer high search volume keywords, which make up 25% of searches and have lots of competition.
- Make sure you aren’t choosing keywords that cause your own web pages to compete with each other, also known as “keyword cannibalization.” It can cause your content to get buried in a search engine. The best way to avoid this is to write supporting content or even similar content, but not repetitive or competing content.
- And for heaven’s sake, don’t duplicate content. Copying and pasting is always a bad idea. It waters down your site and your searches.
Finally, it might be helpful to know about some keyword research tools.
- Ubersuggest lets you type in a competitor’s domain to get better keyword suggestions.
- Google Adwords also has a free tool that differentiates between global and local searches.
- Google’s own keyword tool is another resource.
- WordStream’s keyword tool
- More apps and tools are popping up all the time – free and otherwise – to help you nail down what’s best for your website. Keep checking!
Photo by Diggity Marketing