biz ladies: SEO Cheat Sheet

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

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

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.

Long-Tail SEO

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.

To illustrate:

“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.

Google AdWords

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:

1. Go to https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.

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 http://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.

Keyword Density

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!).

Keyword Order

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:

http://www.flyte.biz/resources/newsletters/08/08-google-analytics.php

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!

Sincerely,

The Drawing from Memory Team: Jen, Sharon, Kelly, Soojin, Sheriah and Rosalind

www.drawingfrommemory.com

Christine

so perfectly timed as I just finished up my website and the SEO is the final thing to do. Thanks so much for this thorough overview. Looks like a have a lot of work ahead:)

Heather Joy

Wow! So thankful for this post! Thanks for sharing your info with us! I’ve had SEO on my list of things to learn for awhile now. Thanks for helping me chip away at that, I’m beginning to understand more now.

Marlene

Very helpful, thank you! I think I’ve been improving a bit just from getting info from Google Analytics like you mentioned, also from checking Google Insight for Search, but of course there’s much more room for improvement!!!

Kathryn

This really breaks down the confusing components of SEO. Thanks so much! This post is much appreciated.

KD

Thank you so much! I absolutely love how concise and dense with information this post is. After the coffee kicks in today I’m going to start applying some of this information!

Amy

This is really useful! I’ll admit I’m a bit intimidated by SEO, and some articles I have read just overwhelm me a bit. Thanks for breaking it down and making it easier to understand.

Heidi Trost

Thank you so much for this article. I find that SEO is not typically something my clients think about and it can be incredibly confusing. This is a great resource to help you get started and to consider things you may be missing. I had already implemented a few of these tips for my company’s website and it has helped immensely.

stef

This is immensely helpful. Every time I write a new post I see the fields for title tags, meta descriptions, H1 tags, etc. and know I SHOULD be filling them in, but I’ve never really known the best way to do so. Thanks so much for this entry!

Camie

This article was super helpful! I recently started a blog and wonder if it’s only my mom and niece checking out my stuff, but now I utilize the right tools to get out there more (and track it!) Thanks so much for helping out a blog newbie!

Ilene

Great article, very helpful. Now I need to get rid of all of my too generic keywords!

Free Website Tools

Great list, but the ‘competition’ column on Google Adwords doesn’t have anything to do with how many sites use the keyword. It’s a gauge that shows how many vendors bid on that keyword in Adwords.

The higher the competition the more a vendor pays for an ad for that keyword. This information might come in handy when setting up a website with Adsense ads because pages with higher competition for keywords will generate higher $value clicks.

To find out how many sites/pages use a specific keyword, simply do a Google search and check in the upper left corner for the number of pages that use the keyword.

Molly Sylestine - Volusion

Thanks for an awesome, concise article on SEO. It’s such a confusing and difficult thing for many of our customers to understand when they start an online store. I love the definitions section. That’s really helpful for a beginner and/or for folks who hire someone to help them w/ SEO. It’s nice to be able to speak the same language. Thanks again! Love your blog!

Carolyn Y.

Great timing! Thanks for reading my mind (or to-do list?). So helpful as I revamp my translation website!

Melissa Kojima

So awesome. I just read about this on another site, and it totally reinforces what I already read. Thanks for posting it to help it sink in a little bit more.

Handmade Artists'

SEO is definitely a never ending process. On page SEO is almost more important, as you might as well fix what you can fix before you worry about links all the rest. Thanks so much for sharing your post is very well written.

Lisa

Thank you for this great post. So much valuable information!

Vanessa Fernandes

Thank you soo much for clarifying everything so clearly. I have been practicing a bit of this already on my blog but perhaps it is even more helpful should I be selling items on my website also…

Andrea

I was thinking about SEO this morning! 10 mins later and I feel like a wizz! Thankyou.

Shane

Really great, in depth article about SEO! A lot of people will learn so much from this!

Courtney

Oh my goodness, this is so in depth. Thank you! I’m bookmarking it for later when I have more coffee in me. Admittedly, SEO is something I’ve thus far glossed over when it comes to my own shop. This is a huge help.

linda

Thank you so much for this info. I had no idea how this one done and you put it in lay terms that I understand it! I’m printing this out so I can take it with me to reread.

Sophia Kruz

This is amazing! It is so hard to find quality information on SEO–and for free! I’ve been working on optimizing my video production business for almost a year now, and I’m so excited to get back to work on my site after this post…Thank you!

Teresa

Wow! So much fantastic information and education that I feel I ought to have paid for it. I just did a quick search for one of my “long tail keywords”. My website didn’t show up on page 1, but two images of my product showed up halfway down the page. I’m trying to figure out if that is good or bad. I guess I have work to do. Thanks again!!! :-)

Holly

Thank you for such a great article! Finally SEO makes sense to me. I was wondering how significant tags are in SEO when blogging.

Carrie K

Great article, thank you. I do suggest that you clarify the sentence about overloading a website with keywords. Rather than having no effect, it may have a negative effect on your seo efforts.

Barbara Austin

Thanks for helping me finally understand SEO! Every time I’ve tried to educate myself on it, I just ended up frustrated and back to square one. It’s great to see it explained so simply, and now I actually know how to implement it on my website. :)

Tania

This is the best SEO article I’ve read… and having recently tried to improve my own and my clients’ websites, I have read quite a few! Thanks for the tips. It is surprising to see which keywords bring in the most hits… it is often not the ones you’d think!

Jennifer

Thanks for the concise explanation. Seeing it broken down like that makes it easier to digest!

Ericafpc

This is a very thorough, useful and engrossing article. I haven’t seen one like this piece that connects the dots so skillfully. Thanks for sharing!

Sewthegirl

Thanks so much for this. It’s by far the most concise, understandable, and usable explanation of SEO I’ve come across.

Christen

I’ve done this a few months ago and my company is still not pulling up on google search pages when I type my key words in. How do you get closer to the top, or even show up in the search at all? Are those people paying to be there?

Louisa

If you have lots of people staying 4 seconds and bouncing off your site Google will also rank it lower in search terms as it tries to put useful ones up the top. You want lots of people staying on your site for a long as possible as this also helps you move up the rankings. One company I worked for found the best way to get to the top was to put the company offices on google maps! Then if anyone searches using the area (Los Angeles) you automatically appear at the top as this is where the location results are :)

Christen – you cannot pay to move up Google rankings. I would suggest targeting new keywords. Also try to build up links with reputable websites as this also helps your website look more legitimate to the Google bots and helps you move up those pages.

There is also a chance your webite has not been cached (saved by google) yet. You can request they cache your website, although I’m not entirely sure how you do it! This should help also, as they will know you are there to include in the search results. If you have made a lot of changes recently they may be using an old version too.

Good luck!

Linda Norton

So glad I stumbled upon this article. I am new to this and so many articles are vague like they are keeping the secret to themselves. I like that you use examples. Thanks for the help.

Wendy

Thanks for this article its really great information. I have a question about blogs, i have a wordpress blog and i dont remember seeing the fields you mention where you create a new post (the ones mentioned in the “Placement Definitions & Basics” above). Do sites usually have these fields identified or do you have to determine where they are? Thanks!

cate wood

Thank you for bringing together all the little bits of SEO information I had floating around in my head, given to me by different people. Reading this has made me want to take action rather than procrastinate.

Tina

t.h.a.n.k. y.o.u.!!!!!! I’m so glad to have found this easy-to-understand article. Love BizLadies!

Hilary

Thank you for shedding a little light on such a daunting task – I knew SEO is important, but Google AdWords and Analytics had stayed off my radar! This is a great reference and starting point for those of us just getting the ball rolling. Thanks!

Ilene

There’s certainly a great deal to know about this issue. I like all the points you made.

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