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    SEO 101

March 23, 2010

A Beginners Guide to Keyword Research

I read a tweet today about keyword research. I decided to go nuts. Thus I also got the inspiration for this blog post. See, this is the thing with Search engine optimization, it is actually kind of an art form. Regardless of how many of the rules you know, there are always exceptions and if you don’t know these exceptions you will end up biting the dust.

This article is intended for those of you who know about SEO, but are still a bit confused where to begin your research for those words/phrases that will start to bring you qualified traffic. It is also intended for those of you who think SEO is bullshit and think that it is all about making your pages readable for the search engine spider. And remember… this is just the basics.

What is keyword research?

So. What is this thing called “keyword research”? Well, it is not about what you should put in the meta-keywords between your header tags. It is neither a process where you choose ten keywords and then try to find out how to rank for them. Keyword research is all about finding what kind of words/phrases people search for when they are up to doing some kind of thing that is beneficial to your overall business goals. Thus, keyword research denotes the process where you turn to all accessible data and try to figure out what the user search for when they try to buy your stuff.

However, it is not as simple as finding ten keywords and then you’re done. Keyword research also enclose the practice of finding related terms to one concept you are trying to sell. This means that you should try to create information that meets the user throughout their complete purchasing process.

If you manage to both find good quality content that corresponds to the purchasers and the information seekers out there, then you are a very happy person.

How to find the right keywords

I wrote an article about this a while back and it kind of sucked. However, I will write briefly how you can go about finding keywords in some bullets below. If you have any questions about this, please ask.

  1. Use your metrics tool to see what people are searching for in your internal search engine
  2. Secondly, ask yourself what words you believe you should rank for
  3. What does the search volume look like for the words that you have found
  4. What does the competition look like (search for the keywords and look where you are today)
  5. Are there any synonyms to the keywords you have listed
  6. Who ranks for those words today
  7. Get SEO Quake as a firefox plugin and check the keyword density of some landing pages of your competition
  8. Do the same for 5 top bloggers of your vertical
  9. What kind of words, phrases do they use
  10. Now that you have a keyword list of at least 500 words (oh yeah baby) you go to Google Sets to find some more

Now these ten first advice were for those of you who are working from scratch and want to get some kind of sense into what the heck you should put in your titles, links etc. to reach your target audience the right way.

When looking at competitive verticals or when you look at PPC then you should aim at finding lists of keywords that at least border the sum of 20-50 000 words and phrases. All depending upon how big of a search volume you have in your vertical. Remember that Google announced that 25% of the searches each month are new to them. This means that you should work with both content that you know generate qualified traffic (yeah… you will know from your stats) as well as experiment with new content (yeah.. you will know what works from your stats).

Tools to use that will help you out

If I were you I, which I am not, but let’s say I was. Let’s say I was you and I had a budget for marketing purposes. Let’s say that budget was at least $500 per month (I know all my readers are as poor as I am and you think; “500 dollars!!! Gosh jesper… who the heck has 500 dollars to spend in one single month…). But, let’s all pretend that we were rich and had 500 bucks to spend on tools per month.

Which tools would I recommend you chose to help you out in your keyword research? (promise affiliate link free)

  1. Webmaster Toolkit – this one is FREE
  2. Wordstream – $49 bucks if you’re a SEO, $299 if you’re a PPC:er – and you’ll understand the price difference once you have a look at it
  3. Either Cemper Link Research or Cemper Keyword Research tool – Price starts from €100 –
  4. SEOMoz Linkscape (Free) and Keyword Difficulty
  5. Google Trends and Google Keyword tool (both Free)

That’s about it if you’re looking to rank in a European or American search engine. If you’re looking to rank in other places such as in Yandex or in Baidu then I suggest you just bring out your wallet.

So what should you do with all these keywords?

Well, now you have a list of keywords that your gut is telling you to use. Always trust your gut, then you look at the data and see what darlings to kill. Now it is time for you to construct your pages accordingly.

Think about it this way. The search engine spider will enter your web page through a link from an external web page or from an internal link on one of your other web pages. Just as when you enter a room full of people at a party. Let’s say the anchor text in the external link said “bananas in pyjamas”. The search engine spider now checks whether or not your web page knows anything on the topic. Just as you would try to find out if the person was a party animal if someone pointed to him/her at the party and said “party animal”.

SO!! Try to group your collected keywords into clusters that make sense together. A page about cars should perhaps also have a link to a page about the engine. A page about wheels should probably say something about the rims. A page about “bananas in pyjamas” should probably say something about kids watching wicked and disturbing TV-shows.

You should aim at making your page as relevant and unique as possible for what you are trying to rank for. DO NOT use your main keyword excessively. Rather, use semantically related words to make the content as good and link friendly as possible.

When constructing a website you most definitively should keep this in mind as it effects the architecture of your web project. Also, nothing should be more than three clicks away. Also, your pages should have call to action over the fold and a nice design. Plus, remember that newsletter sign up and the member functionality. AH!! Don’t forget to add the reviews and ratings, plus all the social buttons. Naturally, do not miss the opportunity to embed your YouTube clips and your rich images. AND remember your page load time. 🙂 Still think that SEO is a walk in the park?

Concluding remarks

Now I am sure you’ll have stuff to do over the coming days and weeks. I am in no hurry so I conduct all my keyword research in the long tail of my Google Analytics installation.

However, if you are marketing director and you happen to stumble upon this post, then you should keep in mind that you have to start thinking keywords when planning your webproject. DO NOT BUILD until you know what you want to communicate. But since no marketing directors would ever read this far into a post, I am pretty sure they’ll continue to order stuff that blinks and make bgsound on pageload.

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December 2, 2009

Every Link comes with a Person(-a)

personality1After a searchmeet conference with loads of talk about links, I find it quite nice to kick back and write some about the social basics behind natural linking on the web. Cause links, as they are used, are more than a connection between two pages on the web. A link comes with a person, or more accurately it comes with a persona.

So, how can I say this? Well, basically this statement is two folded. If you recieve a link from someone they actually do more than connect their page to one of your pages. They connect everything that’s been said on that domain historically, along with all that will be said in the future when passing the link love along.

Secondly, it is allways a person linking. Even though there are some pretty neat spam tools out there, the common link is an action by a person, with a reason to use the link as a way to put a story into a context or mention what they are linking to with a good or bad reference.

Co-Citation

Many of us out there have read Jim Boykin’s Co-Citation post. I remember finding a link to it when reading a post written by Swedish SEO Jim Westergren sometime in 2007. What it says is basically that your website is effected by what neighborhood it is connected to. Just as we get judged by the crew we hang with when out in town a dark winter night. Google cares about which pages your web pages hang out with online. The way they judge your crew, and thus, what to label you with, is by watching what pages you are linked together with.

LSI/LSA – Latent Semantics

What this theory basically tells us is that in order to be an authority on a topic, you’ll have to know a lot about it. If you are an authority within a niche of a topic, then you’ll have to know all about that niche. Basically, LSA looks at what you know, if you know the details, the slang, the synonyms and if you can connect them to all other information in related topics. When Google uses LSI I suspect they have a look at first, what you write. Do you cover the full topic? Do you spend time on linking to individual pages about more detailed descriptions for complicated terms? Do you vary your copy to include all different synonyms and do link to the most authoritative page outside your own website when the info cannot be found on your own.

Semantics deal with meanings. If I write, “break a leg”, then that can mean a lot of things. It can be a wish for good luck, but it can also be a curse for bad luck. Google, and semantic analyzes takes aim at knowing when you mean which by determining the context in which you use the phrase. That is what LSA is all about.

A Person Links because

minimeOn the modern web the link to your website is shared amongst users if it leads to a valuable resource. Value can be determined in many ways, but in the end it is all about what the reader thinks is valuable. People will link to your content if they like it or if they think that you have said something important, or well explained enough for them to clarify what they themselves are writing. You complete them… to use words of Mini-Me.

Regardless of why a person links to you or not, a natural link comes with a motive. That motive might be praise, recognition or just simply a way to say that “you explain this better than I so I won’t even bother”. A link might also be a thank you for something you’ve done and it might sometimes be a sign of the fact that you belong in the same crew as another person. Blogroll links are commonly used to say; “we write about the same stuff”.

In the Eyes of Google

As your link profile starts to build, all the people linking to you becomes the mirror of your face online. Your persona builds from the way that others are including you in their multidimensional Internet. For each link your dependence to the next link decrease whilst your importance to the previous link increase. Your persona, and thus the personas of all the people who has previously linked to you, change as you get new links putting you in new light of the search engines.

In the eyes of Google, I suspect, your complete profile is a constantly changing process. Just as you grow older and gain wisdom, or idiocy, your link profile is what determines your position in the eyes of others. Have you been a “good” person, then you will probably have a “good” legacy. People will have linked to you because of your impression on them or because of your knowledge.

Google recognize this. They also recognize that a one time star, can fall if they break a trust. That’s why you have to build your links over time, at a constant and increasing flow as your reputation spreads all over the web.

What am I really trying to say

Well basically I am trying to say that the natural link exchange on the web, just as the relationships between people, performs just as judgmental as society. If you hang out with the wrong crew, or if you say the wrong things, then you’ll have a much tougher time making advances in life.

In the eyes of the search engine, you’ll have to keep the chin high, and not just leave a one time gigantic footprint. You have to care for your relationships and inbound links over time. You have to nurture where you get mentioned and how. You have to exercise the kind of judgment you would do in real life.

LSI and Co-citation tells us that it doesn’t matter if we wear a suit, if we hang out with gangsters. It is the association we bring that is important to how people will judge us, our websites and what we do online.

//Jesper

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September 10, 2009

Where to put the keywords

I will now continue my SEO 101 guide with explaining where to put the keywords for a particular page.

Just as you arrange your ordinary word document that is longer than just a page, you construct an index so that all people reading your document will have an easy overview of what they are reading. On a website this index is called the sitemap. (Now some of you think… “Isn’t that the start page??” NO IDIOT… I will deal with the start page later… but keep in mind that you do NOT… I repeat… do NOT put all the links to all your content on your start page)

In the sitemap you should put links to all the pages of your website. As you want your reader, google and all other interested to know where they end up you use the “jam jar method” to lable your links and the pages where the people will end up.

Where to put the keywords - jam jar method

Jam Jar Method
Just as you don’t put “Sweet and sticky” on a jar of strawberry jam (because no one knows what’s in it) you don’t put a slogan or something catchy in a link to a page. You simply say what’s on the page or in the jar. As for the case of the Jam jar you would write “Strawberry Jam”, as for a web page explaining the recepie for strawberry jam, you would give it the name “Recepie – Strawberry Jam” or “Recepie for strawberry jam”.

Many people put catchy phrases in their links, or even worse, put “read more” in their links leading to pages. This method sucks as it doesn’t give the reader any notion on where he or she is going to end up.

On-Page keyword optimization
Once you are on the page there are some elements that search engines as well as people find more important than others.

The title
First of all it is the title of the page. This is what is seen as the link from Google. It is also what is seen in the field on the very top of your browser. The title is defined in the head meta text of the page. The tag you use to define it is <title>Your title</title>.

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June 11, 2009

SEO Link values According to Gollum

There is allways a huge discussion in the search engine optimization community about link values. However, only a few people come out and say that they are actively building links to rank better in the SERPs. Even fewer people say that they buy links.

In an attempt to actually build some understanding on the topic. I contacted the link builder and black hat SEO spammer Gollum. Yes, you’re correct. Gollum who made an outstanding performance in playing himself in the Lord of the Rings. Gollum takes us behind the scenes to describe what the Lord of the Rings is really all about. Namely: The value of different links!!

– Oooooh… preeccciousss… links… preeecious liiinks… I’ll tell you all about them links..

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January 31, 2009

Extending keywords

Extending keywords is a practice where you extend the concept of viewing your keyword as a theme. As it is meant to define your page, you should really try to include whatever words can complete your theme. If your main keyword or theme for the page is car insurance for example, you should think of whatever other words are related to car insurance.

Such words can be found in either Google KeywordTool or by using Google Sets. You can also search for you page keyword and look at what pages end up on top in the search engines. What other words, related to the word you are working with, are included in the top three results. I generally use SEO Quake to find what words have the highest density on top ranking webpages for the keyword I am pushing for. Read More

January 31, 2009

Keywords

What is a keyword?
It is debatable whether or not a keyword is one word or if it is a theme. What we know is that a keyword defines the content of a page. There is a misconception that you can have several keywords on one page. Each page should be optimized around its own keyword. No other pages on a website should be optimized for the same word.

A keyword…

  • …defines the page
  • …is unique
  • …matches a potential search queery from a user

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