When Larry Page and Sergey Brin started a search engine in a garage in Stanford, no one in the world could imagine how it would change the internet forever. Yet today, it is an undeniable fact that Google is the world’s #1 search engine. Originally coined after the number “googol,” or a 1 with one hundred 0’s following it, the tiny garage-based firm now acquires an average of one company per week.
Google was the first search engine to go beyond simple keyword matching; its algorithm examines the relationship between websites to offer users the most likely match for what they search for, regardless if they include all related keywords in their query. To publish content or design a website without taking Google keywords into account is like rushing into an obstacle course while blindfolded; it’s just not going to work!
You want to optimize your pages for Google’s search engine so it can understand who you are, what you do, and what you’re writing about. Targeted keywords improve organic site traffic, which is proven to lead to better lead generation then paid AdWords or off-site referrals.
To help nail down the right keywords, think about your target audience using buyer personas. Buyer personas are semi-fictionalized representations of your ideal customers. They are meant to give you a detailed picture of your target customers and help you better understand their typical research, decision-making, and buying behaviors. Personas are comprised of information about these ideal customers, including: demographics, motivations, goals, pain points, place within their company structure, attitudes, and who they consult with for help making decisions. (For an in-depth look at buyer personas, check out our previous post here.)
For example, if you are a SaaS company offering out-of-house marketing services to other businesses, your keyword list does not end with marketing. It should include digital marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, etc. The more specific the keyword, the more targeted your audience will be in the mind of the Google search engine.
If you’re starting a site from scratch, it can be overwhelming to begin your list of targeted keywords. But fear not! We’ve compiled a solid list of tools to serve as a starting point for your SEO strategy.
The Free Keyword Tool: Accessible tool to discover thousands of profitable keyword opportunities.
SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool: Perfect introduction to finding new keywords.
SEMRush: It offers a 14-day free trial and a myriad of powerful keyword research services.
Google Keyword Tool: Keyword suggestions from Google itself!
Keyword Research: The Ultimate Guide: An extensive amalgamation of several useful SEO-relevant posts.
After you’ve compiled a preliminary list of keywords, you should meet with your team to think about how you can segment that list. Segmenting keywords divides your ideal buyer persona up into small, slightly different personas which again leads to a higher and more refined degree of targeting. Video marketers will have small but important differences in their major keyword lists compared to social media marketers. The more time and effort put into this crucial planning stage, the better Google ranking you’ll have. But more important than that, it will be a high Google ranking to attract the right people to your site. Here is a list of questions that will help refine your keyword segmentation:
- Does this keyword fit within my website’s theme?
- What content should this keyword assist in producing?
- How will I leverage this keyword within my content strategy?
- What buyer persona(s) will this keyword satisfy most?
If you’re not a novice regarding keywords and SEO, then consider updating your current content to optimize it based on Google’s newest keyword algorithm. The trick here is to add more niche keywords into your page headers, titles, or even within the articles themselves. It can be a “tricky” because you don’t want the keyword strategy to detract from the readability of the content. Remember, your human readers come first! Try playing around with specific phrases to include more details without sacrificing accessibility. More in-depth tips can be found here.
“The objective is not to ‘make your links appear natural’; the objective is that your links are natural.”—Matt Cutts
Although Google can reward your company with higher site traffic and better lead conversion, the same is also true: Google can penalize you in SEO if your keywords or links are unnatural. So, what constitutes an unnatural link? That is solely up to the Google algorithm, which is constantly updating and improving itself. Basically, Google wants to avoid pushing links to the top unless they are organically driven by real users and relevant keywords. There are plenty of exploitative scams out there which buy links instead of producing their own content. Red-flags for these include, but are not limited to: internal 404s, excessive reciprocal links, keyword-saturated pages, hidden or broken links, and comment spam.
Some people think they can get away with “anonymous” users clicking through and commenting on their pages, just so they will get boosted to the top Google search result. But sooner or later, Google will notice this nefarious activity and penalize these sites, from pushing them down the rankings to removing their content entirely. Of course, Google has been known to penalize sites that aren’t purposefully providing unnatural links, they just might not be privy to the way in which the search engine determines if the site is “good” or “bad.” So, when designing your site with SEO in mind, rely on your buyer personas and keep your content tailored to the most targeted, relevant content.
Even as social media expands to offer more communication channels, and as Google offers more paid options for SEO, professional marketers can still maximize their traffic and conversion opportunities. They can achieve this through keyword rankings, by creating quality content (especially around the most specific concepts and phrases that their target audience searches for). This allows brands to increase their monthly traffic and receive qualified conversions based on the type of consumer research that guides their content development efforts. Google’s ubiquity and power is truly staggering, so why not have it work best for you instead of for your competitor?
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