by Chris Horton
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to assume that they know what keywords people are searching for to find them. 9 times out of 10, when an SEO client provides a list of keywords that they wish to rank for, they’ve missed a huge chunk of their biggest draws. For a dealership to chase the term “cars” or “automotive” is suicide. And when you ask why they’re striving to chase that word, they say, “Google says that 5 million people search for the word cars every month and I want that market.”
To start, that’s not what Google is saying . People often get confused when they see the Google Adwords tool tell them that “cars” is the highest search term. That number also includes a lot of words that include the word cars (i.e. – classic cars, used cars, new cars. etc.), so don’t let that skewed number entice you to throw money somewhere that you shouldn’t. Your best bet is to look for more specific 3 word terms such as Atlanta Chevy dealer, Chevy dealership in Atlanta, etc. that a searcher will actually use to find your business.
If you’re not locked into a location and have a site such as a movie review site or something similar, use Google’s Keyword Tool to look for 3 word terms that contain the word movie, movies, theater, etc. Make sure that you choose the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” checkbox and sort the results by Global Monthly Searches. You’ll find tons of ideas that thousands of people search for every month and where competition is little to none.
Make a list of your top 20 keywords and then make sure that you have good landing pages on your website that actually use those terms in the text, title tags, etc. Once you have those terms, use a program like IBP to find out what you can do next with your site to start ranking for that keyword or hire an SEO expert (with a proven track record) to tell you what you need to do next. They can even help you with the keyword search process if even that frustrates you. The trick is to not chase only the terms on the top of the list (when sorted by Global Searches), but to also make sure that you actually have a page on your site that clearly and definitively talks about the search term.
That’s the biggest mistake most people make. They say something along the lines of, “I want to rank for cookies.”, but they only have one page on their site that has one recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies. You might be able to rank for “peanut butter cookies”, but not the broad term of cookies unless you had some more pages with a proper silo to support that term. Understanding customer intent is very important and Google has made a business out of it. Someone searching for photography is not looking for the same thing as someone searching for photographer. One is most likely looking for photography tips on how to take photos and the other is looking for the person to take the photos. That’s a big difference. And it’s also the main reason why people get frustrated choosing the right keywords and get annoyed when they don’t appear on the rankings for those terms. Get real about what you’re chasing.
So spend some time going over your main site pages and see exactly what you should rank for and more importantly make sure that your site has a good content silo to support it.
by Chris Horton
While we did talk about 55 great SEO tools on a previous post, I wanted to go over some of them again and filter out the ones that you probably really need to use.
There are a TON of tools and good bit of which are free and some that cost a little bit of money, but they will be invaluable to you. Here are the ones that I use religiously and that you’ll probably want to use also to accomplish great results. You can obviously do it without these specific tools, but these will make your journey so much easier. I’ll break this down into “must haves” and “should haves”. I highly suggest downloading the “must haves” before you even start the SEO journey.
The Absolute MUST HAVES. Don’t even bother unless you have these.
Google Webmaster Tools
If you’re not using this tool, then you should be shot and hung. All that’s required is that you actually own the site. You verify your ownership by adding a meta tag or uploading a page to the root directory and then you have access to a wealth of information. Everything from broken links, title tag issues, backlinks and more. It’s only shortcoming is lack of competitive analysis, but it’s all here and it’s all FREE.
If you don’t know what it is or how to use it, you are beyond help. If you don’t, then just pretend you do and go there. You sign up for free, put a code block into your web pages and then you have a ridiculous amount of data at your disposal. Traffic patterns, what keywords you’re being found on, e-commerce, where they’re leaving from, what keywords they’re finding you with and tons more. There is some setup involved in this, but it’s worth it and an absolute imperative tool for you to use and again, it’s free.
This program is limited, but it spits out some amazing keyword suggestions. The program is free, which is even better. You type in a basic keyword you’re interested in and it displays a laundry list of alternate keywords from Yahoo and others.
Google Website Optimizer
This is also another tool that you can use to split test pages so that you can try out two different versions of a page to see which one performs better. Free.
Yahoo Site Explorer
If you want to research a competitors inbound links or even your own, you must use Yahoo’s Site Explorer over Google’s. Google simply does not want to give up everything because it doesn’t want you to know exactly everything it sees, so it only offers you a piece of the puzzle. Yahoo on the other hand will give it all to you. Forget the whole “Google rules” train of thought and leave it at the door. Yahoo’s Site Explorer is one of the most important free tools to have at your disposal. Click the link, bookmark it and plan to use it often.
IBP (Internet Business Promoter)
Cost: Check site for current cost
I shouldn’t give away this secret, but I use this tool very heavily. It has keyword tools, web optimization tools, competition analysis and a very, very cool reporting feature that spits out 50 page reports in seconds showing analysis of what the top 10 competitors are doing and suggestions about how you can fix your site to be in line with what they’re doing. It’s amazing. One of my favorite tools on the list.
Now these are the Should Haves. These will make your life SO much easier.
This is by far the mack daddy of SEO tools to have in your arsenal if you’re expecting to make it up the charts. I have brought companies to the top of Google without using this tool and also with it. And I can tell you that using it makes the process not only easier but hundreds of times quicker. It will shorten your efforts by weeks if not months. It shows you everything from what your competitor is doing, what keywords you should use, how to structure your code, keyword ratios, IP addresses of inbound links, and the entire gamut. It’s amazing and will literally get you to the top of Google very quickly. Get it.
Wordtracker has been around forever and while they do offer a free version of their keyword tool, the paid version offers a wealth of information that will simply blow you away. You’ll have such ridiculous insight into keyword conversions that you might actually get sick by the spinning array of data. It is worth every dime.
SEOBook is run by SEO mastermind Aaron Wall. You will find lots of free tools in the Tools area of their website that you can download and use with the Firefox browser. Dozens of plugins to make finding information about your competitors much easier. There are also free Rank Checkers so that you can track your progress as you go, find out whether or not your link partners are legitimately linking to you, etc. They also have a membership area as well that will give you a lot of extras and access to some very cool stuff.
PPC Web Spy
This program is designed to basically spy on your competition while you’re browsing the web. It’s a plug-in for your browser that shows you the keywords that your competitors are focusing on in their Pay Per Click Campaigns which ultimately gives you an advantage to capitalize on words they’re probably missing. It literally will show you all of your competitors ad copy for Google AdWords. Their cost per click, their position, and even how much they’re spending. In reality, this is very covert and is really a crazy amount of information to be able to get. A very dangerous tool. To your competitors.
Ultimate Guide To WordPress Plugins
If you plan on starting a blog using WordPress, you need this. It’s the major difference between a blog that gets a few views as opposed to hundreds a day outside of compelling content. Using the right plugins in WordPress is imperative to that effort. This little guide documents the plugins that you must have by all means necessary and others that will tweak the blog beyond anything you could imagine. And it’s cheap.
The “They’re Free, so you might as well get them” tools.
A pretty amazing piece of software that is also completely FREE and is literally beaming with greatness. Plug in the keyword you want and you get a treasure trove of long tail keywords that your competitors are most likely missing. Then you can take that list and tweak it out, multiply results and much more. It’s free.
Another FREE program that does have a paid component for it, but it offers so much free content out of the gate, that it’s hard to ignore. You can get some pretty amazing information here from keyword research, code alteration, and some very valuable tips. And again, it’s free.
Google Keyword Research Tool
Google Adwords is imperative for anyone to use if you’re just starting online. This tool spits out arbitrary numbers, but it will tell you what keywords are the most competitive, which ones will eat you alive in click through cost, and what words no one is even bidding on. An invaluable FREE tool.
If you’re curious as to what people are searching for right now and what’s the most popular? Look no further than Google Trends. A glimpse at the most common searches at that given time. You can then use this info to write blogs or articles that are guaranteed to snag traffic.