Get People to Your Site by Using Keywords that Speak to Them
Search engines periodically visit your site and copy out all of the content, links, and markup code they can find. They put it all into a giant database and analyze it. Your site is then scored for its relevance to search terms and this score affects your site’s position in the search results when someone searches for a relevant term.
According to a 2008 Nielsen Global Online Survey, 31% of all online purchases came from search.
Our approach to SEO is to focus on two main things 1) Creating unique, valuable content and 2) Making that content most available for indexing by search engines. Search engines employ a lot of people that spend all day figuring out how to get the most relevant results to the top of the list. This means they try to weed out the hacks, the spammers, and the evil doers. There isn’t anything worth doing that is meant to trick the search engines, it’s all about creating good content around your products or services and making it available honestly.
Think like they think — Research keywords
The people that would be interested in your product may not be thinking about it the way you think about it. They may use different terms, relate it to something else, or may just not be aware of the context that you’re putting it in. All of that can be explained on your website and in your marketing, but in order to get people in from search traffic you have to make a connection between the language you’re using to position yourself and the diverse ways people may be thinking about products or services like yours. That’s where keywords come in—they provide that bridge.
For example, eRetail is a term we’ve chosen to use at Yobiz as a blanket term for an industry we are marketing to. Other terms used out there include Retail eCommerce, eTail, e-Retail, Online Retail, Electronic Retail, and dozens of others. We had to pick one to describe our focus and we chose eRetail. Its concise and descriptive…we just like it. The problem is that the group of people we’re trying to reach could be using any one of these terms to think about and search for what we’re calling eRetail.
There are several resources for doing keyword research. A good free one is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Type in any word or phrase you use to describe your company, your site, your products, your selling points, and sort the results by Global Monthly Searches. This will give you a list of terms ranked by the 12-month average of user queries for each term on Google.com. You can get pretty advanced with your research if you go further and use Google Insights for Search, but that’s outside of the scope of this article. It will probably be necessary to weed through the list and get rid of anything that’s not entirely relevant, but make sure you walk away with 10-15, two to three word terms.
Once you have this list, you can implement SEO enhancement across your site in the following ways…
Build the bridge – Infuse your site with keywords that speak to the masses
Create a few meaningful sentences and phrases using as many keywords as you can without it sounding like something that doesn’t make sense grammatically. Keep it natural. Think of these sentences and phrases as alternative ways to describe your business, the website, your products, or your services. You’ll use these in areas of your content that aren’t readily apparent to the person visiting your site, but are very apparent to the search engine that’s indexing and scoring it.
We’re going to show you several places you can use these keywords, but don’t overdo it. Search engines will penalize you if it looks like you’re trying to trick it into scoring you higher.
First, let’s start with the parts that visitors see. The parts of your content that visitors see are things like the title, the headings and subheadings, the paragraphs, the links, etc. We have tips for each of these, but they can only be effective if your site is built to comply with Web standards.
Web standards were developed to help establish consistency in the way that HTML is authored and rendered across browsers. Using Web standards has many SEO advantages. It ensures that a search engine isn’t going to encounter errors when it is indexing your site and it allows you to clearly communicate the information hierarchy of your site. You can read more about Web standards at webstandards.org.
Your page title is one of the most important places for keywords, but don’t jam a bunch of disconnected keywords in it. People use the title of a page to navigate a site, so it should contain the page name. We suggest adding one of your descriptive, keyword rich phrases after it. The title is also what site visitors click on in the search results themselves, so make sure it’s a natural description, otherwise they may not choose to click on it.
<h1> and <h2> tags
The <h1> tag and the <h2> tag should be each be used only once per page. The <h1> tag represents the top of the information hierarchy of your page and should contain the most important keywords. The problem most sites have is that the most important part of their information hierarchy is locked up in an image that contains their logo, business name, and tagline. These words not only need to be made available to search engines, which could be achieved by utilizing an alt tag, but they need to be represented with the appropriate tag. To fix this, remove the <img> tag and add the text to an <h1> tag. Then, use CSS to put the image in the background of the <h1> tag. Add more CSS to hide the text from your visitors.
<strong> and <em> tags
Formatting wise, these translate to bold and italic, but search engines see content inside these tags as more important. Take a look at your content and wrap a <strong> or and <em> tag around any keywords that appear, but remember, don’t overdo it. You can hide this visual differentiation from your visitors by adding this code your CSS:
First <p> tag
The content of the first paragraph of your page is very important because the search engines think this is where you will say something substantial. Make sure it contains your keywords and, where appropriate wrap those keywords in <strong> and/or <em> tags.
The words you are linking with an anchor tag are seen as very important to search engines. Make sure these are rich with keywords. You don’t want to negatively affect usability though, so use the title attribute of the anchor tag to add more keywords and provide more context for the linked words.
Title attribute of <a> and <img> tags
You can add a title attribute to many HTML tags including anchor tags and image tags. The title attribute causes a small block of text to popup when your site visitors move their mouse over one of these elements. Place keyword rich phrases into these title tags to boost your score.
Alt attribute of the <img> tag
For each image on your site, the alt attribute should be populated with keyword rich phrases that describe the image. This text is used for both image and text search results.
The more human readable your URLs are the better. Try to eliminate strange characters and too many id numbers. When visiting a page, the URL should be as easy to read and as descriptive as your page title. Putting keyword rich phrases into your page URLs is a good way to boost your score.
The following tips can boost your SEO using elements of your site that visitors don’t typically see…
The <meta name=”keywords”> tag has been abused so much that search engines just ignore its content across the board. Other <meta> tags are still valuable. Make sure you add your keyword rich phrases to a <meta name=”description”> tag.
Using your keywords in filenames can boost your score too. Be sure to separate keywords with an underscore when using multiple keywords in one filename.
Text in images
Many times a site will include images that contain text. The text in an image is not readable by a search engine so it is important to make sure the text gets indexed. One effective method for doing that is to use CSS to define the image as a background for an element (like the <a> element below), then place text inside that element. You can hide the text from site visitors by applying CSS as follows:
<a href=”signup.html” style=” text-indent: -9999px”>Sign up for a free trial!</a>
For many landing pages, the first piece of important content on the page is either an informational graphic or a video. In this case it’s important to transcribe it into text and place that text in a <p> tag. You can hide the text from your visitors by using the method described above.
Your domain name is very important to search engines. If you have a domain name that contains multiple words that run together it is worth buying a domain name with the same words separated by dashes and pointing both domains to your site. Visitors have a harder time with dashes, but search engines understand the individual words much better with dashes. Plus, it gives you built in keywords when making links. You can list the dashed version with search engines and use the domain without dashes in your marketing materials.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what you can do to boost your SEO, but its a good starting point, especially if you haven’t paid much attention to it before. We will continue to post tips on SEO and other ways to optimize your site for findability, traffic, and conversions. Stay tuned!