How to find the right keywords to boost your SEO

Posted By:
Lifeline Design

You ever hear that expression "he knows just enough to be dangerous?” That's how I feel about most people trying to boost the SEO on their website.

SEO used to be an obscure and nebbish topic. A topic reserved for the thick rimmed glasses, scientific calculator set. But, as the internet has continued to expand and solidify itself as not only the premier communication tool in the world, but the best marketing tool, SEO has become a common, but not entirely understood concept. 

We all know that it's important to rank well on Google search results if you want to attract visitors and business to your website. 

We all know that SEO is the way you make that happen.

Most of us know that a big part of SEO relies on keywords.

What people don't know is how to pick the right keywords.

That's what I'm going to explain today

How keywords work

Very simply, keywords are what Google uses to determine what a page is about. They use them very intuitively, looking at things like the page name and title, any heading text on the page, if a term (or something close to it) appears multiple times on a page. They also look at what kind of content that page links to and if it's related, or if people are landing on that page from a link, what kind of content was on the page that led them there.

When someone throws a search term into Google, those are the keywords Google will look for to find a match for their request. The closer your keywords align with someone's search results, the more likely your name will pop up first (well, that and about a thousand other factors, but let's focus on the basics here).

Picking the keywords that make sense for you

I want you to grab a pen or open a word doc and write down what your business does, what you sell, and where you sell it. Just by doing this, you'll already have a good selection of keywords to target. This is what your business does, so these are terms you want to appear at the top of Google's search rankings for.

Depending on what you do and the competition in your market though, that may be very difficult. This is why I always recommend focusing on key differentiators. Think locally, don't just try to win a generic keyword like "appliances” or "kitchenware.” Think about combining them to match your market, like "appliances in Hamilton.” Even better, target specific products like "microwaves in Hamilton” or services, "microwave repair in Hamilton.”

Write down a list of these, go nuts. Keep going until you have a few dozen. It might sound like a lot, but don't worry, we'll be narrowing it down.

Do your research

Once you have a few dozen keywords down on a piece of paper, it's time to figure out which of them you should focus on. This is the winnowing process where you trim that list down to five or six keywords that you really want to fight for.

A handy way to narrow down your options is do run a quick keyword check. There are plenty of online services that will rank keywords for both popularity and current usage. Take your keywords and run them through two or three of these services (different sites sometimes offer different reports) and see how your keywords stack up.

So, you might guess we're looking for the most popular search words here, right? Well, yes and no. Popularity is important, but you also have to consider the competition. If you're just starting out with SEO in a small business, it's just not realistic to believe you'll be able to usurp the top ranking spot for the most common search terms from a multi-million dollar company. So you need to be smart.

You want to look for the empty chair. Those instances where a keyword is popular enough to be worth chasing, but not currently held by a massive chain or enterprise. Generally, this means you need to think locally. 

Let's say you run a restaurant. No matter what you do, I don't think you're going to be capturing the top rank for the term "restaurant” anytime soon. Even if you have a specific cuisine or genre, like "Greek restaurant” that is going to be tough. But, "Greek restaurant Brantford?” That's something you can claim. 

Find a few keywords that fall in the sweet zone and build from there!

The friend test

If all of this seems a little complicated or confusing, take a step back. If your research isn't helping, and you've been wracking your brain and you still don't know which keywords to focus on, try the simplest, easiest, and most intuitive way to narrow down your options - the friend test. 

The friend test is very simple. All you need to do is go to a friend (doesn't matter if their tech savvy or not) and ask them how would they find a business like yours if they wanted to. If they suddenly decided they needed the services of a business just like yours, what would be the first thing they'd type into Google. Don't let them over think it, just grab the first phrase or two that pops out of their head.

Do this with three or four friends and see what they come up with.

This is especially helpful if your business is a little unorthodox or serves a particularly niche or specialized audience, those tricky cases where it isn't always clear what keywords you should be targeting. It's easy to get a little too inside your own head when you start searching for keywords, asking for some examples will give you some clarity and help you focus down on what's essential. 

Keywords don't have to be complicated! Find the terms that make sense for a local person trying to find your business and focus your effort on those terms!