Search engine optimization isn't mysterious: Finding your keywords

I recently had a business owner ask me about the money she’d been spending on search engine optimization. She’s a small, local business owner with one part-time employee, and she was spending $50 a month with a company that promised to ensure her business would display on “the first page of Google results.”

This business owner happened to have TWO listings on the front page of Google anyway — free listings. One in the Google Local map section, and one in organic search. I thought, well, then she must have a keyword ad, and that’s what this company was managing.

Nope.

Here’s my basic thought on search engine optimization — also known as SEO: If it sounds like a scam, it is.

No one can promise to get you on the first page of Google for your desired keyword. However, there are several easy things you can do to improve your own search engine rankings, or that you can work with a reputable SEO firm to do.

So I’ll make a few posts in the coming days to tell you about things that anyone can do to improve their search engine rankings. First up: Using keywords.

Keywords sound mysterious to many people when they first begin to learn about SEO, but they aren’t. Keywords are what people type into the search box on Google, Yahoo! or any other search engine. If you’re using the same keywords on your website that people type into the search box when they’re looking for your kind of company, you’re more likely to show up in their search results.

When you’re picking keywords, you’re trying to get into your potential customer’s brain and ask, Now, if I wanted a business that does X, how would I search for it online? There are no rules about “keywords” and no magic way to identify the best ones. But there are some tricks you can try to hone your keywords.

We often make assumptions about ourselves that our customers don’t make. We use industry slang to identify ourselves or talk inside baseball. Our customers don’t.

  • So, ask your customers: How would you search for me on Google if you didn’t know the name of my company?
  • Check your website’s incoming search results to see what keywords DO bring people to you.
  • And search yourself to find your competitors online — with a description of what they do, not their company names — to see what keywords are most successful.

These three tips will get you a long way down the road to the right keywords for your organization. If you’re ready to take another step, you can also check out some free tools from Google: the Search-Based Keyword Tool, and the AdWords Keyword Tool. Primarily designed to help you run a Google AdWords campaign, these tools can also help you find keywords you can use on your site.

Next time, I’ll share some ideas about what you should be doing with those keywords.

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  1. What to do with your SEO keywords | Creekmore Consulting - April 6, 2009

    […] I wrote about finding the right SEO (search engine optimization) keywords to use on your website. Step 2 may be just as big a mystery: Using them […]

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