Keyword research and keyword optimization are not dark arts! There’s no danger of becoming “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” if you use the tools that are available to you as they were intended to be used. It’s when you attempt to game the search engines that there will be problems. Every business does itself and their customers a disservice if they do not properly optimize the content that they produce.
When I was born, there was no internet. At all. That’s only forty years ago. Now we use it all the time, almost regardless of where we are. We expect the answers to all our questions to be instantly available and verifiable at the mere click of a mouse or the tap of a screen. This is such a seamless process that we often forget the technology involved in getting those answers to us.
From a small business perspective, this is an amazing opportunity, to have the ability to reach your audience by answering their questions and providing solutions to their problems without leaving your office. You can reach a section of the global marketplace that you could never have hoped to only a few decades ago. We’re right to get excited about this world of opportunities that have opened up to us.
It’s not a free lunch, however, you still need to work to get your content in front of your audience. Most will use search engines to find the answers they’re looking for; the volume of search queries increase year after year, and there is no end in sight to this trend.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) attempts to bridge the gap between what the search engines need in order to consider your content relevant and of high quality and providing what your audience will find compelling to see and read. Think of it as optimizing your content for both people and computers.
Researching, identifying, and providing what your audience wants has always been part of the product and marketing strategies of most successful businesses, making sure that their products or services meet one or more needs of the intended audience such as physical, legal and regulatory, emotional or aspirational ones. Small businesses have always been at a disadvantage because of how this type of research has until recently been very costly to carry out, but now you can look at data from various sources to find out what potential customers are searching for in and around your niche.
Keyword research is a valuable tool. It’s not for finding words to thoughtlessly stuff into your content as an attempt to game the search engines; it’s there to help you get inside your audience’s heads, to walk in their shoes and to understand the language that they use. This way, you can provide them with what they are looking for in a language that they understand. If you do this well by using your keyword research the right way then your content will also naturally be considered relevant and of quality by the search engines.
Not using relevant language and keywords across your content and site structure is a bit like owning a grocery superstore that has no street address, no signs to guide customers to the store, no signs within the store itself and the shelves are randomly stocked with products in a haphazard manner. You might be happy to do this as it is less for you to have to think about in the short-term, but you’d have a hard time staying in business! People won’t be able to find you, and if they do by accident then they will leave frustrated having had a bad experience. Using keywords appropriately provides signposts for the search engines so that they can index your site and direct your audience straight to what they are seeking.
Give your business a fighting chance to be successful online — incorporate SEO from the ground up. There are plenty of free tools and tutorials that can help you get started with keyword research and SEO. Unfortunately, it is the case that a great deal of SEO information out there is less reliable than you would like, and it can be hard to work out who is providing solid information about the topic. I’d suggest that you head over to SEOmoz and start with their beginners guide to SEO; they walk you through the process in easy to manage steps and will have you on the right track in no time at all!
Do you use SEO on your website? What tools do you use to do your keyword research? Please leave a comment below!