SEO Overview

What are keywords?

Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about.

In SEO speak, keywords are the words and phrases searchers type into Google (aka search queries).

If you boil all the elements on a page — all the images, video, copy, etc. — down to a simple word and/or phrases, those are your primary keywords.

All of the keywords on your website should be relevant to what people are searching for.

You don’t want to put irrelevant keywords on your pages because people will bounce from your site quickly, signaling to Google that the page is not relevant to whatever query they searched for.

What are the different types of keywords?

There are two keyword types: broad keywords and long-tail keywords.

Broad keywords are the short words or phrases that not only apply to your own industry and company but also to just about every company in your industry or even companies in other industries.

Long-tail keywords are longer words or phrases that are more specific to your business or industry.

Long-tail keywords are the keywords to target for many businesses because these are a lot easier to rank for; not to mention, they also bring in the most relevant and qualified traffic. (I’d rather have less traffic that’s qualified than a lot of traffic that’s not)

Your client’s goal may likely be to rank for the broad keywords because they have high search volumes. The problem is there’s usually always extremely high competition.

For instance, do you think your online boutique is really going to outrank Zappos, Amazon and Nordstrom for “clothes?”

On top of that, a broad keyword is completely vague and will likely result in tons of unqualified traffic (people who will never buy from you).

For example, what the hell does someone searching “dog” actually want to know? They could want a million different things.

I like long-tail keywords because it’s usually much easier to define the searcher’s intent behind their query.

Long-tail keywords are also perfect for blog post ideas.

Keyword Usage Rules

You should employ unique keywords on each page of your site in the areas that bots and humans normally look to reassure them that you have what they’re after.

Key places for each page’s primary keyword
  • H1 tag on the page
  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Focus keyword
  • URL/Slug
  • Image alt text

All of the above will tell search engines what your content is actually about.

Using your keywords in these areas is the most basic way to optimize your content. While it won’t immediately shoot you to the top of SERPs, it’s SEO 101; failing to take these simple steps could keep you from ranking, which is no bueno.

On-site SEO

Also known as on-page SEO, on-site SEO is when you optimize the elements on a website (as opposed to links elsewhere on the Internet and other external signals collectively known as “off-site SEO”) with the goal to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic from search engines.

With on-site SEO, you optimize not only the content but also the HTML source code of a web page. (We won’t dive into the HTML part in this course)

The purpose of on-site SEO is to help search engines understand a page’s content and quickly and clearly show a visitor what a page is about so they know straight away whether it addresses what they’re searching for.

TLDR: Proper on-site SEO tells search engines what a (human) visitor will see along with the value they will get from visiting a specific web page. This allows search engines to consistently (and reliably) serve up results that human visitors will consider high-quality content about a particular search query (keyword).

The overarching goal here is making it as easy as possible for both search engines and humans to:
  • Quickly understand what a web page is about
  • Quickly identify the page as relevant to their search query
  • Decide that the page is useful and therefore worthy of ranking on SERPs

On-Page Ranking Factors

On-Page factors are the aspects of a given web page that influence search engine rankings.

Title Tag

Title tags are the second most important on-page factor for SEO, after content.

A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags are displayed on SERPs as the clickable headline for a given result and are important for usability, SEO and social sharing.

The title tag of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content. (source)

Title tags are used in three key places:

  1. search engine results pages (SERPs): Your title tag is what searchers see in SERPs and is their first experience with your site. An optimized title can be the make-or-break factor in determining whether or not someone clicks on your link.
  2. web browsers: Your title tag is also displayed at the top of your web browser and acts as a placeholder, especially for people who have many browser tabs open. Unique and easily recognizable titles with important keywords near the front make sure that people don’t lose track of your content.
  3. social networks: Some external websites—especially social networks—will use your title tag to determine what to display when you share that page. Here’s a screenshot from Facebook, for example. Keep in mind that some social networks (including Facebook and Twitter) have their own meta tags, allowing you to specify titles that differ from your main title tag. This can allow you to optimize for each network, and provide longer titles when/where they might be beneficial.

How to write a good title tag

Optimal format: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

Example: 8-foot Green Widgets – Widgets & Tools | Widget World

Optimal Title Length

Typically, Google shows the first 50-60 characters of a title tag, but be careful with the length.

Just because you keep your title tag under 60 characters doesn’t necessarily mean that your entire title will show on SERPs. You can use this free tool to see what it will look like in SERPs.

Don’t keyword stuff.

If your title tag is something like: “Buy shoes, best shoes, cheap shoes, shoes for sale,” it’s bad for two reasons . For one, it creates a poor user experience (UX). Steer clear of titles that are just a list of keywords, like the example above.

And for two, it could definitely get you into trouble with search engines. Search engines are smart. They understand keyword variations so it’s unnecessary to stuff 10 different related queries into your title.

Each page should have a unique title.

Unique titles tell search engines that each page on your site is uniquely valuable and often drive higher click-through rates (CTRs). Avoid default titles, like Home or New Page, at all costs because they may lead Google to think your site has duplicate content. Additionally, default titles result in lower CTRs. I mean how often do you click on a site titled “Hello World?”

Place your most important keywords first.

In SEO, it’s a common fact that keywords closer to the beginning of your title positively affect your rankings in SERPs.

And according to research, searchers scan as few as two words of a headline. Moz recommends avoiding titles like “Brand Name | Major Product Category – Minor Product Category – Name of Product.”

This example title is putting repetitive, commonplace information in the spotlight, and search engines may even cut off titles like this.

Utilize your brand.

If your brand is well-known, adding it to your titles may increase CTRs. But don’t put it at the front of the title regardless. Leave brand keywords toward the end.

Your homepage and/or about page may be the exceptions to this rule as they’re more brand-oriented.

Write with your customers in mind.

Always put the human before the search engine. Don’t trick searchers with clickbait titles. It will leave a bad taste in their mouth.

URL

Use each page’s “focus keyword” for the URL/slug. For more information, check out this infographic.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise summaries of web pages. They appear underneath the blue clickable links in a SERP.

Example:

While meta descriptions can be any length, search engines typically cut off snippets that are more than 160 characters. Keep your descriptions long enough to accurately describe the page but within that 160-character limit.

So we don’t optimize meta descriptions for search engines, as they don’t affect search rankings. We optimize them to increase CTRs from search.

These descriptions are your chance to woo searchers into clicking on your link. You must create a compelling, directly relevant, unique description for humans while also including the targeted keyword.

Don’t include quotes (or really any non-alphanumeric characters) in your meta descriptions. Anytime you do, Google truncates that description at the quotation mark when it appears in the SERP.

Resources:

SEO your website.

It’s time to put your new knowledge to good use. Let’s learn a bit more about SEO and then start optimizing our site for keywords.

Keyword Research 101

Keyword research is a core SEO task that involves identifying popular words and phrases people enter into search engines -make in an attempt to figure out what to rank for.

It’s certainly not just about finding high volume keywords to try and rank for. It’s about exploring the right opportunities for your client, based on search volume and the level of difficulty to rank for that keyword.

Keyword research isn’t just for SEO. It’s a massive part of content marketing as a whole. Keyword research helps you find great blog post ideas and learn more about your audience.

How to do Keyword Research

Step 1: Make a list of 5-10 important, relevant topic buckets.

Start by brainstorming the generic terms or topics your client would like to rank for.

Here are a few ways to find relevant topic ideas.

Ask your client questions.

Here’s a list of questions via HubSpot.

  • What products or services do you offer? Come up with an initial list of the products or services that you offer to your leads and customers. Try to focus on long-tail keywords over broad keywords. If your company sells shoes, you should create a list of keywords that includes all the different types of shoes you sell. It’s the difference between “shoes” and “nike red running sneakers.”
  • What problems do your prospects/leads/customers have that your company can help solve? Create a list of keyword phrases that matches the problems for which potential leads search for solutions. If your company sells iPhone cases that make an iPhone waterproof, your leads would probably be searching using keyword phrases like “Waterproof cases for iPhone” or “How do I waterproof my iPhone?”
  • How would you describe your business to someone who has never heard of your company? Leads might not know all the industry keywords for your products or services. They will instead try searching using keywords that they are familiar with. Also keep in mind that various keywords may vary in different parts of the world. For example, the terms that describe what your company does can vary by region. What is “pop” in one part of the world might be “soda” or “cola” in another part of the world.
  • What common questions do your leads ask? Any of your salespeople should be able to tell you what questions their leads ask. Once you identify what these questions are, create a list of keywords that match all the different ways these questions can be asked. Leads typically have questions about what your products or services cost, what features they have, how they can purchase them and what support your company offers.

Visit competitors’ websites and look up what keywords they use.

  1. Download the extension SEOquake (http://www.seoquake.com/).
  2. Once activated, the SEOquake extension will pop up next to the URL box in your browser.
  3. Now, visit one of your competitor’s sites, and you’ll see this bar at the top of your screen. It’ll look like this:
  • Click “Page Info.”
  • A new tab will open that looks like this:
  • Check out their Titles, Page Descriptions and Keyword Tags.

If you want even more ideas, I highly recommend this in-depth post on finding lots of long-tail keywords.

Once you have a long list of ideas, pick your topic buckets.

EXAMPLE:

Topic buckets for CredSimple:

  • Medical credentialing
  • physician credentialing
  • healthcare credentialing
  • provider credentialing
  • credentialing software
  • credentialing solution
  • credentialing
  • delegated credentialing
  • credentials verification organization

Step 2: For each topic bucket, find keyword phrases that you think people would search related to that topic.

In this step, you’ll add keyword PHRASES that you think are going to be important to rank for under each topic bucket you came up with in step one. Here’s how to get ideas for keywords:

  1. Google the different keywords that the client gives you initial ideas for, and take note of Google’s “Searches Related to [Keyword you searched]” at the bottom of the page.
  2. Use the tool, keyword.io or ubersuggest. These tools spit out loads of keywords based on the keyword you input.

EXAMPLE:
  • Medical credentialing
  • Medical credentialing software
  • Medical credentialing service
  • What is medical credentialing?
  • Medical credentialing process
  • Medical credentialing certification
  • Best medical credentialing software

Step 3: Filter down your keyword list with an SEO tool.

I use Moz, but you can use other keyword tools, like Ahrefs, Serpstat or SEMRush. There should be free trials you can use to get the information you need.

Here’s what you need to pay attention to:
  • Search volume: the number of times people type this search query into Google per month
  • Difficulty/competition: how difficult (on a scale from 0-100) that a keyword query is to rank for
This is what it looks like in Moz:
moz
Resource: You can use this keyword template to help you. Just make a copy in Google Drive to work on it yourself. You’ll see an example of mine from a former client.

NEXT: Deliver your website back to your client