I’ve said this to just about anyone that will listen: there’s really no secret to ranking well in the search engines. It comes down to three things: keywords, content and links.
The foundational step for any website that hopes to rank well in the search engines is keyword research. Simply put, keyword research is any research that helps you better understand the actual words and phrases your target customers actually use when they turn to a search engine to try to find a business, product, service or answer.
Search engine spiders crawl the Web day and night looking for new content to pour into the engine index, rank for phrases, and serve up when a prospect goes looking.
Layering these phrases into the content and linking aspects of a site is akin to speaking the same language as your customers over the industry jargon or marketing speak that may dominate the language of most of the sites in your industry.
Below is a plan of attack to help you gain the insight that will make your website a dominant force in the search engines.
Do the research
There are countless free and paid tools and services that can give you an understanding of the core and related terms that people use in search engines. Often using niche phrases can help your site rank well for abundant, but less used phrases. Your research will also help you understand the level of competition for your important phrases and help you get much more specific about the terms you need to be using and structuring your entire site around.
Start your research with one or more of the following tools:
- Keyword Strategy Studio
- WordTracker free version
- Google Keyword tool
- Keyword Discovery
And don’t forget to ask your clients what they would put into a search engine when looking for a business like yours.
Start simple and expand
Create your list of core phrases and consider ways that you might build them into your web pages, articles and blog posts.
Use the tools to find related terms and expand your list in layers to create a hierarchy of terms that you may eventually work into your content. Google has a nice visual tool for related searches call the WonderWheel.
Once you start to develop your core keywords, you’ll want to take some time to understand the competitive landscape for these phrases. Do a simple search using your phrase and see what sites rank well now. Tools such as SpiderMate, Alexa or Compete can help you understand why a competitive site (even one that you are simply competing with for search terms) is doing well.
You can also employ some Google search shortcuts tips to search for competitors using phrases in titles and anchor text.
Work those keywords
Once you choose your list of keyword phrases, you need to make sure you are using them in your web content. Rule number one is to write first for eyeballs and then go back and check that you’ve worked your keyword phrases and variations in into the text in ways that will help the search engines fully understand what your page is about.
The title of a page may be the most important element to contain your phrase. The title is an HTML element that often only shows in the browser title bar and not on the page, but don’t underestimate its power with search engines.
Headings, subheadings, link anchor text and lists all carry a little extra weight so make sure you effectively work your phrases into these elements. One of the best ways to learn how to create keyword rich pages that search engines and readers will love is to use a service like
Scribe to evaluate your pages and suggest improvements based on your chosen keywords.
Image credit: luc.viatour
John Jantsch is a marketing coach, award winning social media publisher and author of two best selling books, Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.