Arguably the most important aspect to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is keyword research. Everything on your website – from title tags to page copy to directory structure to filenames – is built around keywords. Knowing how to properly generate keywords and also use a keyword tool is absolutely vital to success of any SEO campaign.
Keyword research should begin with some brainstorming. Based on the concept of your website – what product(s) or service(s) you’re selling – the initial keyword list should be long, featuring a variety of both “head” terms and “tail” terms (also known as “long tail” terms). Head terms are shorter keywords – usually one or two words. “Tail” terms are longer – usually three or more words. An example: “motorcycles” is a head term, and “Harley-Davidson Sportster Motorcycles” is a tail term.
After brainstorming, the next process is to first prioritize a bucket list of “head” terms and “tail” terms in order of search volume – the number of searches on a particular keyword over a period of time. The free Google AdWords Keyword Tool provides this insight, as does other popular tools such as SEMrush and Searchmetrics, the latter an enterprise-level tool that LSEO uses daily. There are many keyword generator tools that provide insights into the competition; knowing what keywords a competitor is ranking for should be a huge part of your research when picking SEO keywords.
The tail terms typically have a much-lower search volume than other head SEO keywords, and are easier to rank for. These tail terms sometimes suggest that the visitor is further along in the search process – which means ranking high for a longer tail keyword may provide an easier route to conversion.
The simple way to look at things are head terms may have much more search volume, but will be much tougher to compete for; other sites with higher domain authority may already rank high for these. Tail terms, on the other hand, may be easier to rank for due to lower search volume, and due to their specific nature easier to convert with. The most optimal strategy is to have a blend of both head and tail terms.
When building out pages, use head keywords for pages like the homepage and others that provide more general information. In regards to the motorcycle reference, if your website was about Harley-Davidson you would want to target the head term “Harley-Davidson Motorcycles” for the home page. Then use longer tail keywords for other pages, such as “Harley-Davidson Sportster Motorcycles” or “Harley-Davidson Softail Motorcycles.”
Also, the highest number of backlinks typically point to your homepage over others, so ranking well for a more general term will assist in domain authority (built from the quality/quantity of links pointing to your homepage from other websites).
Also, your homepage is considered the most important page of a website, explaining what the website is generally about to both the reader and search-engine spiders such as Googlebots. This gives your homepage the best chance of ranking for highly-competitive head terms.
The most strategic approach to the rest of your webpages is to build out each one for one or two of the longer-tail keyword terms. Although search volume may be substantially less, you’ll have a great chance of ranking for specific tail terms. Remember – it’s always better to rank for a few long-tail terms over not ranking at all for a head term.
With these thoughts in mind, your goal should not be to optimize your website all at once, but rather optimize each page of your website. And again, you should never try to rank for more than two main target keywords. But remember to use a few synonymous phrase variations (semantically related terms) so the content flows and search engine spiders can detect a theme on the page.
The approach of optimizing web pages will be different whether optimizing current pages or creating new ones. If you are optimizing an existing page, choose your one or two terms and manipulate the content so the target keywords take precedence over the others. If creating a new page, keep the keyword phrases in mind when writing, highlighting them.
Also, always use the target keyword or keywords in the title tag, headline tags, and in meta descriptions. The latter is said not to be a ranking factor in Google, but the meta description acts as the marketing message of that particular page. Be creative with the text, and use your main keywords to get the point across. Remember – catchy meta descriptions can increase click-through rate, which is a ranking factor for search engines.
Also keep in mind these target terms when building internal backlinks to that page. If your page is about “Harley-Davidson maintenance,” building other pages with the anchor text “Harley-Davidson maintenance” that links to the maintenance page produces the most optimal results.
These are the basics to keyword research, but don’t make it a one-time thing. The most successful websites revisit the initial keyword generation list every few months. Simply plan to target this revisiting process once a quarter, and you should be fine.
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