Today’s Biz Ladies post is from the women of the branding, graphic design and web design company, Drawing from Memory. They’re sharing some of their knowledge on mastering search engine optimization (SEO) for your sites. They offer this easy-to-follow guide on exactly what SEO is and how to utilize it to maximize your online reach. Thank you, ladies, for such an informative and helpful post! — Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump . . .
Finally — An Easy SEO Keyword Cheat-Sheet!
Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, can be a very confusing process. Most savvy businesswomen out there have heard of it, but not many of us know exactly what it is or how to use it to our advantage.
First, the most basic question: What exactly is SEO, anyway?
The main goal of SEO is to make sure that our end users can actually find us using search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. It’s a completely free process that we can do to our website that involves:
A. Figuring out exactly what our end users are most likely to search for to find our products or services (called “keywords”), and
B. Strategically placing those keywords on our site so search engines can “see” that we offer those products or services, which means we’ll show up in the search results — preferably on the first page.
Seems simple enough, right?
Ha! We wish. It turns out that SEO is possibly one of the most confusing processes ever. Many women entrepreneurs that we talk to have no idea where to start with SEO, if they’ve even heard of it (and we know some amazingly smart and extremely talented ladies!).
What SEO Isn’t
Before we get into it, we have to first distinguish between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). Although these two are related, they are not the same. You’ve heard that you can pay to get on page 1 of Google, right? That’s SEM. Search engine marketing is not free, and it includes the paid version of Google AdWords, pay-per-click, paid inclusion (those “sponsored listings” you see on Google) and contextual advertising.
In contrast, SEO focuses on organic search results. SEO involves a lot of work, but it’s also focused on long-term results and success. SEO is free and more effective than paid SEM efforts, especially if you’re a small business that can’t afford to spend money on it. This article will explain how to implement SEO tactics that will show results.
Although SEO is an extremely complicated process and we could talk about all the little details for hours (or days . . . or weeks . . .), we’ve found that choosing keywords and figuring out what to do with them is often the hardest part of the process. As such, we’ve put together a simple, easy-to-understand SEO Keyword Cheat-Sheet to help you, our fellow women entrepreneurs and business ladies, optimize your websites, increase your revenue and improve your businesses.
Part 1: Choosing Keywords
Choosing keywords seems simple enough in theory, but there’s actually a real “right” and “wrong” way to go about it that can make or break the success of your entire SEO plan.
First, ask yourself what it is you’re in business to do. What products or services do you provide, and who is your target customer? Try to step into her shoes: who is she, and what would she type into Google to find you?
Relevance is probably the most important part of choosing keywords. If you were looking for an experienced interior designer in the Los Angeles area who specializes in Scandinavian design, would you search for “California Designers”? No way. Too broad, and not exactly on target. “California Designers” might lead you to various schools for design or large web design studios in San Francisco (both true, and not at all what you were looking for). If you were the customer, wouldn’t you type in something like “Swedish Interior Designer” or “Los Angeles Interior Designers” instead? We’re getting warmer.
Specificity is the second most important factor when choosing keywords. If you’ve just gotten engaged, would you type “Wedding Dress” into Google? Probably not. Holy cow, there are MILLIONS of wedding dresses out there. Where would you even start? You would probably type in “Vera Wang Wedding Dress” or “Wedding Dress Boutique Los Angeles,” right? Absolutely. Narrowing it down can be immensely helpful, as long as you don’t go so far that people aren’t searching for that term at all.
To illustrate this point further, we have to take a look at “long-tail SEO.” Simply put, long-tail SEO is the use of mostly low-volume, high-conversion keywords. These keywords are typically 3–5 words long and seem very specific (like “Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcake Recipe”). These terms are searched for less frequently, but when there’s a hit, it’s extremely likely that the search will turn into a sale or inquiry.
“Interior Design” is a high-volume, low-conversion keyword called a “head term.” It’s searched for often (30% of all searches on the web are for head terms), but it’s almost always going to be too broad to actually be helpful to most businesses.
Long-tail (low-volume, high-conversion) terms include the remaining 70% of all search queries. That’s a ton! They include terms searched a few hundred times a day, as well as terms that have only been searched for once. Long-tail terms might include:
“Blue Interior Design,” “Blue Interior Design Ideas,” “Bright Blue Bathroom Interior Design” or even “Bright Blue Bathroom Interior Design Ideas My Husband Will Love”
Typically, the more specific you can be, the better. However, you do have to watch for keywords that no one would ever search for. For example, Google AdWords says that no one searches for “Fuzzy Pink Bunny Slippers to Wear in My Bright Blue Bathroom,” so it wouldn’t be the best phrase to use as a keyword for your site.
In contrast, “Blue Interior Design” qualifies as a good long-tail keyword to use even though it has a fairly low search volume (more about this below). Also, don’t completely ignore the basic head terms; just realize that long-tail terms are extremely important because they tend to be more successful at turning searches into revenue.
When you have an idea of which keywords might be relevant for your customer and specific enough to provide a good conversion rate, Google AdWords will become your SEO life jacket. It’s free, easy to use and can tell you what keywords people search for, how often and what the competition you’ll be facing from other websites looks like.
Simple Steps to Using Google AdWords:
2. Enter a term in the search box.
3. Interpret the results:
a) Competition — This shows how much competition you would be facing from other websites that are also using this keyword. It will be Low, Medium or High. The lower, the better.
b. Number of searches — This is where is gets a little tricky. Typically, low- competition, high-volume keywords are the best to choose. However, low/medium-competition, low-volume, long-tail keywords are smart to use if they are very relevant to your product/service because they typically have a very high conversion rate.
In the example below, it would be more advantageous to choose “Fuzzy Kitten” rather than “Stuffed Animals” if I sell fuzzy kitten stuffed animals because the competition is much lower. It’s hard to compete with a term like “Stuffed Animals” because the competition is so high — getting to page 1 will take a LONG time, if it ever happens. Use keywords that will get your business to page 1. “Stuffed Animals” won’t get you there quickly, but “Fuzzy Kitten” might!
And Finally, Our Top 5 Tips for Keywords to AVOID
1. Single words (“Cake”)
2. Terms that are too broad (“Graphic Design”)
3. Terms that are too specific (“Funny Los Angeles Female Web Designer”)
4. Unpopular terms (“Ornery Unicorn”)
5. Highly competitive terms (“Engagement Ring”)
Remember: It’s not the total volume of traffic to your site that counts; it’s the quality of the people landing on your site. A thousand hits from random people who end up on your home page for about four seconds before bouncing off won’t help you, but one hit from a customer looking for an orange swivel chair in Los Angeles will. The likelihood of her clicking through to your website and eventually purchasing your chair is much, much greater when you keep your keywords relevant and specific.
Part 2: Placing Keywords
So now that you’ve done your research and have your keywords all picked out, it’s time to place them on your website. This process is easy and painless — if you know where to put them and how many times to use them.
Placement Definitions & Basics
First, the basics. Title tags? H1 tags? Meta data? URLs? Alt text? OMG! Here we break it down so you know exactly what’s what:
- Title tags are what appear on the top of any internet browser. It’s also the main text that appears in search engine results.
- Meta descriptions have no effect on SEO, but are the little snippets that appear below the title tag in search engine results. These actually serve more of a marketing purpose than SEO and should be carefully written — it’s free advertising!
- H1 tags are typically the main paragraph header on any web page.
- Meta keyword tags are special HTML tags that provide information about a web page but don’t affect how the page is displayed (i.e., they are “hidden” in the paragraph).
- URL stands for “Uniform Resource Locator.” Betcha didn’t know that one! It’s your web address, like www.designsponge.com.
- Alt text or the “alt attribute” is used to give images a text description. You can usually do this by clicking on “properties” in the image dialog box.
- Body copy is the main text on any web page.
Keywords can and should be used in all of these places. Title tags are definitely the most important place to nail down good keywords, as well as in H1 tags and body copy. Meta keyword tags are somewhat important, but it’s unclear how much they really affect SEO. URLs should always include keywords (especially for all you bloggers out there!), and alt text should always be used to provide a description for any image on your website and every time you post an image, if you’re a blogger extraordinaire.
Ok, so now that I know where to put my keywords, I should just put them in as many times as I possibly can, right?
Hmmm . . . not exactly. “Keyword density” is an SEO myth that says the more times you can use a keyword all over your website (even going so far as to “hide” keywords in the same color as the background, black-ops style), the better.
This simply isn’t true, and it can actually hurt your SEO efforts instead of help. To illustrate what a well-optimized page should look like, we put together a visual based on our favorite sweet-tooth indulgence, the coconut macaroon.
In the body copy, you want to use your chosen keyword(s) at least once in the first 1–2 sentences of the page, and then repeat them a few times (as shown above). However, never repeat a keyword more times than it actually makes sense to do so. For example, this is awkward:
Coconut macaroons are so good. If you like coconut macaroons, look no further for the perfect coconut macaroon. Our coconut macaroon store in Los Angeles has the best coconut macaroons you will ever taste. We know coconut macaroons, and for coconut macaroon lovers, these are the best coconut macaroons you could ever hope to find. We love our coconut macaroons so much — we hope you love our coconut macaroons, too.
Woah. Keyword overkill! Having good, clean content on your website is MUCH more important than having keyword density. Studies have shown that overloading your page like this will have absolutely no effect on your SEO efforts (not to mention making you look cheap and unprofessional), so save your readers from rolling their eyes and skip the stuffing (or you’ll owe them more than one free coconut macaroon!).
The last thing to consider is your keyword order. It does make a difference what order you place keywords in (especially in title tags), so be sure to consider which keywords are the most important.
For some businesses, it would be appropriate to put the brand/company name first if it’s likely that potential customers would be searching for the specific name to find your product or service. For many small businesses, however, it’s often more likely that someone would search for “Cupcake Bakery Los Angeles” rather than directly searching for “Sprinkles,” “Crumbs,” or “Yummy Cupcakes.”
For your business, you’ll have to consider what’s most appropriate for your brand name right now — putting it first or last (or in some cases, not at all in the title tags). Let’s say you are Sweet Tooth Bakery, a cupcake shop that opened six months ago, and you offer unique, custom-designed cupcakes in the Los Angeles area. After researching your keywords, you come up with your top two keywords: “Cupcake Bakery Los Angeles” and “Custom Cupcake Design,” in that order of importance. The optimal format for the title tag on your homepage would look like this:
Cupcake Bakery Los Angeles | Custom Cupcake Design | Sweet Tooth Bakery
Putting keywords in this order should help potential customers find you most effectively. Since no one knows who you are yet (but they will!), it’s more likely that they would search for your other keywords to find you, rather than your brand name. Once you’re rolling in brand awareness (and hopefully money), it might be a good idea to switch your brand name to the beginning of your title tag, as it may make a difference in the effectiveness of your SEO as people get to know who you are.
On sub pages, it can be appropriate to forego your brand name for another, more important keyword. Since Sweet Tooth Bakery specializes in custom superhero cupcakes, a “portfolio” page might look like this instead:
Cupcake Bakery Los Angeles | Superhero Cupcakes | Power Rangers Cupcakes
Also, keep in mind that Google caps search results at 70 characters. Keep your title tags under that length to avoid the dreaded ellipsis . . .
Part 3: Checking in on Keywords
You’ve chosen your keywords, placed them properly on your website and . . . now what? Unfortunately for those of us who love immediate results, a major part of SEO is just sitting and waiting.
SEO Progress Log
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your SEO about once a month. We suggest making an SEO Progress Log — pick the top 20 or so keywords that you’ve incorporated into your site (head terms and long tail!) and use an Excel or Numbers spreadsheet to track each keyword’s page ranking over time. It’s simple; no fancy tools necessary, just type your term into Google and see what page you show up on. For example, here we are on page 1 of “Los Angeles Graphic Design.” Amazing!
Every month you should be able to see what page you’re showing up on and which keywords are improving or falling. Once you have a month or two of results, you’ll be able to see which keywords need adjusting.
Google Analytics & Other Measurements
Google Analytics is also an excellent tool to help you track your progress — it’s the top recommended tool by most SEO gurus out there. There are tons of articles detailing how to use and understand Google Analytics. We like this one:
Besides keyword tracking, it’s also a smart idea to keep track of where your traffic is coming from, called “referrals.” There are three areas of traffic sources:
1. Direct (typing your URL directly into the address bar)
2. Referral (clicking a link to your website from somewhere on the web)
3. Search engines (coming to your site as a result of finding you on Google, Yahoo or Bing)
Paying attention to where most of your traffic is coming from is important because it will tell you where you need to put more effort into developing traffic.
You also want to know how long people are staying on your site before they bounce off (called “average length of visit”) and the percentage of people who only visit one page before bouncing off (called “bounce rate”). These metrics will tell you if visitors to your site found it helpful or not. If most people are staying on the homepage for four seconds and then bouncing off, you might want to take a look at your keywords — they may not be the right ones. Looking at the keyword report in Google Analytics will tell you what terms most visitors are using to find your site, which will help you figure out what to keep and what to toss!
In Closing . . .
We hope this article has been educational and maybe even a little fun. While we are by no means “experts” on SEO, we’ve seen success on our own website using the above tips and information, and we wanted to share it with you other savvy women in business out there. We fully support women entrepreneurs in all of their ventures (including the always daunting and usually painful SEO), so please feel free to ask us questions if you have any, or visit our website to learn a little more about us!
The Drawing from Memory Team: Jen, Sharon, Kelly, Soojin, Sheriah and Rosalind