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SEO Series #2: Audit what you have and plan for success.

by Sian Simon on October 10, 2011

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In the first post in this Search Engine Optimization series we explored what SEO is and why it’s important if you want people (and search engines) to find your website. But before you dive in headfirst, it’s important to take stock of where you are today, decide on your objectives and figure out a plan that will work for you.

As we mentioned in the first post  search engines are looking for websites that are relevant to things people are searching for and easy for search engines to navigate around and catalog. We mentioned that the way search engines find a web page is either because someone told them about the page by submitting it to the search engine, or because they followed a link from another website to the page. So the first thing you should do, is search for your website in the major search engines, Google®, Yahoo!® and Bing™, to find out what they already have listed for your site and also who is linking to you. You can find out who is linking to you by typing specific commands into the search boxes on the search engine. For instance, “link:www.yourwebsitename.com” will list web pages that have links pointing to your homepage. For a more comprehensive view of all the websites that Google has found linking to any of the pages on your site, you can open a Google Webmaster account and it will display everything that Google has in its index.

So your next task is to identify what you expect people to type into search engines to find websites like yours and the things you have to offer. When someone searches for something in a search engine, they are said to be searching using “keywords”.  These keywords are generally different depending on what stage of the buying cycle the search is in. For example, someone wanting to buy new shoes and searching for “shoes” is probably going to get a pretty unhelpful set of results – the term is too broad, unless they just want to know everything in the world about shoes. As people move from the research phase of the buying cycle into the shopping and buying phases, their searches will generally get much more specific. In our example, the person could move on to searching for a specific brand of shoes in the shopping phase, and then to looking for stores that stock that brand in their local area in the buying phase. (By the way, this is called a local search, which we’ll review in a later post, but it’s important to remember that by the time people get to this level of granularity over 50% of them have an intent to buy something*.)

These are the steps you will take to find high quality keywords that will perform well in search results:

  • Consider your most important function, product or service (example: attorney)
  • Add a descriptor to the word above to provide more specificity (example:  bankruptcy attorney)
  • If you have a local focus, add the city name to the phrase (example: Oklahoma City bankruptcy attorney)

Your objective should be to find words that a reasonably large number of people are likely to search on, but ones that are not targeted by a large number of other websites. Don’t try to optimize for lots and lots of keywords. Focus on one primary and 4 secondary sets of keywords and then review how much competition and search volume there is for these words.

You can use a keyword suggestion tool such as Google Adwords or if you are using SEO Optimizer, the tool will make suggestions for tight keywords that have a worthwhile number of searches:

 Image via Flickr (creative commons) by marciookabe

* Source eMarketer.com

This entry is part of 6 in the series All About SEO


Series NavigationSEO Series #1: What is Search Engine Optimization and Why Should you Care?SEO Series #3: On-site Optimization: Get your website ready for visitors

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