Who needs to read this: A small business-owner or self-employed individual who wants to optimize their brand-new website or update a very old website by themselves, but does not know where to begin.
Who doesn’t need to read this: A professional keyword researcher or SEO technician, there’s nothing new here!
When you first move into a house, it’s a mess. There’s boxes and wrapping paper everywhere. You’re sorting through all the stuff in the boxes, purging what you don’t need anymore. Then there’s the long process of unpacking everything, and finding a home for all of your knick-nacks. How will you arrange your furniture? Will the silverware drawer be to the left or right of the sink? You’ll make decisions like, “I want my TV against this wall so I can avoid glare from the windows,” or “I want my dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls all together in that cupboard so they are easy to put away”. If you have a brand-new home, you’ll be faced with having to decide which big-ticket furniture pieces to buy first. “I want to buy a nice couch for $300 on craigslist because I value comfort, but I’m okay with eating off of a card table until my budget opens up more.” What you’re really doing though, is optimizing your home while balancing a budget. You can apply this same logic to your new or old website.
If you don’t already have a website, decide on the pages you need to include. Each page you add to your site will increase your maintenance time and cost, so be sure to only include the pages that are vital to your online marketing strategy. If you already have a website, now might be a good time to review the usefulness and relevance of the pages you currently have. To help, here is a list of the most common pages found on websites (expand “Common Website Pages” to see the list):
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Once you have a list of pages you would like to include, use a bulleted list to arrange the order and structure of the pages. Now is not the time to get fancy with your page names, or use a unique page order, because that will just confuse people. If a visitor is struggling to comprehend the symbolic meanings of your page titles, they will just leave. In general, most websites have Home & About as the first and second links in their main navigation bar, and Blog & Contact second to last, and last.
Here’s an example of a real site map for you to use as guide. Stephanie Claussen’s website is extensive, but the rough outline is something like this (expand “Bulleted List / Site Map” to see the example):
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Now that you have your bulleted list, write one or two sentences after each bullet that describes what the page will be about. We’ll go back to Stephanie’s website for our example (expand “Site Map Outline” to see the example):
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Now this is where the real magic begins. From your outline you should be able to isolate a few of the words or generate new words that sum up what your website is about. You will see that I didn’t pick out all of these phrases verbatim. You need to do a little bit of creative thinking to distill whole pages down to just a few words. Number one question to keep in mind: “What terms would I Google to find more information about __________?” (Expand “List of Key Phrases” to see the example):
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Don’t be afraid of the Google Keyword Planner. For the purpose of this tutorial, we are not going to get very in-depth on using this tool. We’ll start with something easy. After the tutorial, feel free to browse around and manipulate the data however you like. The more you learn, the better it will serve you in the future.
The easiest pages to optimize are the ones that talk about a specific service you provide. In Stephanie’s case, let’s start with “Wedding Harpist”.
Ooooo…Kkkk…. 200-800 Phrases. Nice. What to do with this information overload? These phrases represent REAL potential customers. They are all REAL searches on google! Very powerful information to know, because now you can choose a real search phrase to optimize your new web page with, and have data to back up your choice. Remember, the end goal is for YOUR PAGE to be returned in the results next time a magic key phrase is entered in the Google search bar.
In general, as you look through the phrases, you’re looking for one that:
(Expand “Sorting the Results” to see instructions and corresponding keyword analysis):
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Here’s a checklist for all the places you should place your selected keyword. For definitions and examples in each of these items, please refer to this infographic: On-Page SEO. If you are using WordPress, install the plugin “WordPress SEO by Yoast” to help you manage your optimization process.
Additionally, are your services only available in a specific area, such as “Minneapolis, MN”? Then you should include a location with your optimization efforts as well.
Use your selected keyphrase in the…
Finally, here’s an example of how Stephanie’s optimized page appears on Google’s search results page:
Well there you have it; a very pared-down how-to on keyword research and optimizing your website for search engines. The more practice it, the better you get. There are over 200 ways to optimize your website for search engines. If you’d like to explore these options, check out my favorite article: Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List.