Last week we explored how search engines work by using programs called robots to crawl the web, index pages, determine importance & relevance and present search results. This week we’re going to cover a few key things that will help answer the question…
Where do I start?
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to install a web analytics tool that offers insight into where your web traffic is coming from, and will help you make more informed decisions. There are a number of analytics packages on the market, but for all intents and purposes Google Analytics will meet just about any webmaster’s needs. All you have to do is sign up for a Google account for free access, place a small bit of code on pages you want tracked and you’ll have free reign to slice and dice data as you please.
Your next step will be a tedious but important one, keyword research. Everything revolves around the keyword because that’s what people are using to search. Ask yourself what sorts of words and phrases people would use to search for your site and what sorts of keywords you want to be found for. Even better, ask real customers what they would use and write all these terms down including all possible variations and common misspelling of those words.
Now we want to see if people are actually searching for these terms with a keyword analysis tool. If you set up your analytics with Google (you did that right?) then I’d suggest using the keyword tool in Google AdWords, it’s also free. Use this tool to evaluate all those words and phrases you wrote down earlier. Look at the number of searches for each word and pick a handful (say 5 or 6) that have the highest number of searches each month. In the screen shot below, we can see the Google AdWords keyword tool not only predicts the estimated search numbers, but also gives you an idea of how competitive the term is, estimates cost per click (CPC) and provides other related keyword suggestions. Very handy.
Determining how many other web pages in the world compete for the same keywords is also very important. The more competitive the term the harder it will be to rank highly for it. Google’s keyword tool gives you a general idea (high, medium, low), but you can dig a little deeper and even dust off your high school algebra skills to better determine where to pick your battles. Google the keywords you selected and see who is currently ranking high for them. If you’re keyword is competing for top rank with likes of Wikipedia or a major brand, chances are you’re not going to break their dominant position and should focus on a different keyword. Check to see how many pages Google has indexed for your keyword and divide that by the number of monthly searches to figure out which keyword has the best relative ratio of pages to # of searches.
This week’s homework is to work on your keywords and practice using some of the tools I mentioned above. Don’t forget to let us know your SEO questions in the comments section below, on Facebook or our Twitter page.
Next week we’ll get under the hood with on-page optimization tips!