Your target audience regularly uses search engines like Google to find the products and services they need. You need to show up in those searches! That means that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of your business’s success. Figuring out how to optimize your website for your target keywords can take some practice, but when you know the basics, you can make good things happen.
What ARE Your Target Keywords?
Before you can even start thinking about how to use keywords effectively, you need to know what keywords you should be targeting. Deciding on your target keywords is tricky business! You want to rank for the search terms that people are searching the most, of course, but it’s complicated; the higher the search volume, the more your competition will be trying to rank for that keyword, too. Further, Google tries to match the results with a keyword’s search intent, which means you can only rank certain kinds of pages for certain categories of keywords.
For small businesses, the shortest road to success is to identify keywords that are related to your industry, but also that are under-utilized by your competition. These are called “longtail keywords.” These keywords are more specific and are usually composed of longer phrases that people are likely to use when searching for products and services like yours. The goal here is to find longtail keywords that are not being targeted by your competitors, but that your potential customers are likely to use when they look for things online.
There are special tools like SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs that can help you identify high-volume, low-competition longtail keywords. However, if you don’t want to invest in those tools, you can use Google Trends to see the relative search volume of different keyword variations. You can then search these keywords and see whether businesses your size are capable of ranking on the first page.
When researching keywords to target, it’s important to understand the concept of “search intent.” Not every searcher is looking to purchase your product or service when they hop on Google—some are looking for a particular brand, some are looking to compare products and services by quality or price, and some are just looking for helpful information to solve their problems.
You can (and should) make educated guesses about the reason someone might type a keyword into Google. Let’s imagine you’re an ecommerce store selling cashmere sweaters. Here are the categories of search intent that you might think about when doing keyword research:
These keywords are searched when users are looking for a specific product or service that they intend to buy.
- cashmere sweater for sale
- buy cashmere sweater
If you are trying to optimize a product or a service page, you should target transactional keywords.
The second type is local keywords which are helpful when clients are looking for products and services in a particular area.
- cashmere sweaters near me
- cashmere sweaters los angeles
It can be tricky to optimize a page for these keywords without coming across as spammy or keyword-stuffed. Even for local SEO campaigns, it’s generally best to optimize your pages for transactional keywords. You can then use tools like Google My Business to signal to Google where you want to rank for those keywords.
When your customers are looking to compare products and companies across dimensions like price, durability, quality, or other important features.
- how much is a cashmere sweater
- best cashmere sweater
- cashmere vs wool sweaters
- which company has the best cashmere sweaters
- cheapest cashmere sweaters
Ranking for “best cashmere sweaters” would be awesome! but if you look at the pages that Google likes to rank for that keyword, most are blog posts or review aggregators that list several different brands—not product pages. Unless you’re trying to promote such comparison posts, it’s tricky to optimize for preferential keywords.
Other keywords are navigational (help clients looking for a particular site). In other words, these are branded keywords—your company or the brand name of a particular product line.
Example: emily’s cashmere
Ranking for these keywords is usually pretty easy, even without doing much work on your SEO. Unless there’s an unusual challenge (for example, another company with a very similar brand name crowding you off of your branded keywords), you probably don’t need to intentionally optimize for navigational keywords.
Users search these keywords when they want a question answered or helpful information to solve a problem themselves.
- what is cashmere
- does cashmere need to be dry cleaned
- what is cashmere made of
- what goes with a cashmere sweater
- how to wash a cashmere sweater
Informational searches usually return information-rich articles. It’s difficult (and usually not desirable) to try to rank product and service pages for informational keywords. Informational keywords can be useful to help you understand the questions your audience has and what to write about on your blog. You can then link your blogs to your product or service pages.
How to Optimize a Page for Your Target Keywords
When you know what keywords you want to target, you need to know where to put keywords in each page for on-site optimization. The positioning of your keywords on each page can make a big difference in your keyword rankings.
Try to include your target keywords (or close variations) in your <title> tag and <h1> headings. Make your page URL short, readable, and try to work your target keywords into the URL. Get your keywords into your page’s <meta> description. Keyword-optimize your image alt tags. You also want keywords in your page copy, so that the text of your pages matches up with the keywords you are wanting to use.
Whenever your blog posts are relevant to a product or service, you should link those posts to the appropriate product or service page. Ideally, those links will contain or co-occur with your target keywords or close variants.
Finally, you want to build backlinks to your important pages. Those backlinks should come from relevant pages, and have relevant anchor text, which ideally should (at least some of the time) contain or co-occur with your target keywords.
To Stuff, or Not to Stuff?
Some brands have focused on making sure that every page is completely full of keywords—so full that it’s awkward to read. And while this might seem like an attractive SEO tactic, it isn’t a recommended way to get the attention of potential customers. Keyword-stuffing your pages might seem like a good fit for the search engines, but it can alienate your audience. Search engines are always getting better at identifying this kind of spammy content and suppressing its search visibility.
Instead of stuffing your keywords unnaturally into your page, it is better to incorporate keywords naturally. You should provide information that is relevant, easy to read, and compelling for your audience. By choosing to focus on your users, you can actually help your site to better meet the requirements of the search engine’s ranking algorithm.
Mastering SEO is a skill that takes time and effort to develop. But once you have a sense of how to use keywords in the best possible way, you can improve your search engine visibility and scalably increase your revenue.