Category Archives: Search engine optimisation

The first steps towards keyword research

I have been writing a fair bit about keywords lately – the process of choosing them, their relevance, their placement and their effectiveness. Still it remains a bit of a mystery as it seems a subjective process –there are so many ways of looking at it. Therefore the next topic I like to elaborate on is keyword research.

What is keyword research?

It has been called a practice to find and research actual search terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search. Search engine optimisation professionals research keywords in order to achieve better rankings in their desired keyword.

A lot can be said about keyword research and as with everything there are some myths to deal with. I have mentioned this before but we all perceive things in different ways and therefore we all search for answers in a different way. Every problem or issue has a number of angles it can be dealt with. The myth I like to demystify, is the fact that we as bloggers think we know what our readers are looking for. We don’t! We assume we do but we don’t.

Just stand still for a moment and try to recall that moment when your partner or your best friend disagrees with you. When that happens you can be quite stunned as you thought you would be on the same wavelength. But you are not – you are looking at the same issue and have a total different idea on how to deal with it. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Who can tell? And are you the one to make that decision anyway?

A counsellor needs to be able to ‘step’ into the clients shoes and attempt to see their point of view. It does not matter what the counsellor thinks – what matters is how the client sees the issue. That is your starting point.

The same goes for keywords. If web site owners could predict what words people use to put in Google, they would be on their way to riches. Unfortunately the majority doesn’t know and they may guess, assume and estimate search terms based on success of others, their own expectations or do the necessary research themselves.

Myth number 2 is the fact that you have to choose keywords that are generic or general and may catch a high amount of traffic. When someone finds your website through such a word only to find out that there is nothing about that word written in your site, you may find that you are not getting many followers! The words you choose have to be relevant and actually ‘deliver the goods’.

How to research your keywords?

The first step is to analyse your site or blog and see what you are actually offering and ‘promising’. Then imagine all the words, phrases and questions your potential readers could enter into the search engines in order to get to your site. Be hard on yourself because after all you are after ‘qualified’ readers and not just anyone.

What is a qualified reader? You may ask. A qualified reader is someone that comes to your site to be informed. In my case I want to attract readers that like to learn something about blogging or readers who are interested in setting up a blog themselves or maybe even someone who is interested in following my “road to professional blogging”. Who knows, but at this point in time I am not interested in visitors who want to learn about upholstery or wine.

With this in mind I like to invite you to create a list of relevant words, phrases and questions for your blog – be specific, not too generic and cover every aspect. If you find this hard, ask your partner, friends – anyone who could give you a point of view. Also check out the competition to see what words they use to attract visitors.

Just create that list without too much judgment as we leave the judging over to the research tools. And that is what my next blog post will be about!

Where to place your keywords?

A number of well researched keywords can be used all over your article but it is effective to place them where search engines and your readers can detect them easily. People tend to scan pages, usually only the first page, for the information they are looking for. They are not prepared to read everything you write but only the stuff they need and scanning is one way to do that. If you write about keywords I suppose it is logical to put it your blog post title. If you describe a process or explain something, let your readers know this perspective and the title is a great place for that.

Blog title and blog post tile

The main purpose of a title is to get attention and make your readers want more. Your title should not be so concise that it is not inviting readers to read the whole article neither do you want to trick people by writing about something that has got nothing to do with the title.

If it is appropriate place a keyword in the title and use it at the beginning rather than the end. Also keep in mind not to make the title too long otherwise you end up with only half of it in the search results in Google. In that case it is better to opt for a sub title or a head line.

Headers and sub headings

Headlines are another effective facilitator for scanning. They give readers a quick overview of what is in the article. Placing a keyword in a header is effective but again keep in mind that it should be appropriate. Don’t become a so-called keyword bomber or – stuffer.  Google does not like this and your blog may be blocked rather than climb the search engine ladder. As long as your article reads natural and creates a great user experience, include a keyword.

Content, ‘About Me ‘and links

Keywords can be placed in the rest of your content, the ‘About me’ page and in links to your other posts. It is very likely that several posts have the same keywords as some of your previous posts and it is logical to refer to them. There are ratios in place on the amount and frequency of keywords in an article but I will have to dig a little deeper before I understand what the full impact is of those.

Apparently emotional terms in your titles and headers appeal more than a functional description of an article’s content.  This is based on the fundamental desires that drive our behaviour. It does not matter what you call them or how many there are but some core desires include love, security, change, contribution, curiosity and achievement to name a view. Such words or values in your content attract more attention as they appeal to our needs and wants. From a search point of view, your readers may put such words into search engines to find what they are looking for.

Another interesting factor is that you can use synonyms for your keywords. Search engines have algorithms that take synonyms into consideration and rank them accordingly. This applies more to English sites than to other languages. This is interesting as you have more creative freedom to write a great post while optimising SEO tactics.

And THAT is to my opinion still the best achievement – optimising SEO while at the same time keeping the user experience to an optimum.

How is your search engine visibility?

If you are blogging for success and want your blog to be found you will need to increase your search engine visibility. Search engines provide web browsers with relevant information based on the keywords that were used for the search. You will attract genuine readers but unfortunately also spammers. The way to deal with the latter is to ensure that your blog has some kind of spam tracking software that filters unwanted comments before they are published.

One of the ways to increasing your search engine visibility is the use of keywords. The trick is to select a small number of keywords and place them in your article in such a way that it enhances the natural flow of your content. You don’t want to sacrifice the experience of your users for the sake of SEO. Search engine optimisation is a means to an end and it should not be your sole goal!

What is exactly quality content?

Most articles about SEO will tell you that one of the most important factors is your content. Google likes quality content. My first question is ‘how to define quality? It could be a matter of opinion. Let’s be honest there are websites  that look classy and offer great information and can be found on page 3 while others are full of ads, appear less user friendly but they are on page 1.

As an exercise I Googled “quality content” and read the first post on page 1. It says the following:

“The key to website success is quality content. Quality content is something that your visitors will enjoy reading, watching or listening to and will refer their friends, colleagues, family members and others to it”.

Nice sentence but how does it make you any wiser? I may think that something is quality content but you may not agree. I think my blog “Blogexercise’ looks nice, classy and offers good information. Still my audience is small, growing but nevertheless small. So who decides what ‘quality content’ is?

Apparently Google does, but on what is that based? Google has a tool called ‘Google Webmaster Tool” and as long as content stays within the guidelines of this tool, it is technically not considered spam even if it is so-called ‘shallow content’.

In whatever way it is said, it is so subjective to my opinion. And opinions and perceptions changes over time. With the increasing knowledge of the effects of SEO, new technologies, faster computers it becomes more complicated to define something although I do like the way Google describes the following.  According to Google, “high quality content” is content that you can send to your child to learn something”.

Just think for a moment of the implications of that statement…..

How to select keywords for your blog

Since I started having a closer look at SEO I have found myself checking my blog a lot more. Every time when I publish a post I keep an eye on the amount of views and comments I get. Quite exciting to be honest to see the figures and as a result I have become more interested in getting up in the rankings.

Also interesting is that I have received a lot more comments since I explore SEO and it seems that this topic is close to many readers’ heart. Some comments have been bizarre but most of them are useful and give me the feeling that I am adding value to people’s websites and blogs.

So thanks for all the positive and inspiring comments!

How to choose effective key words?

‘Is there a magic formula to ‘find out’ what keywords to use?

This is how I ended my last post. I have been trying to get an answer to this question and have again found out that there is a lot written about keywords. I am trying to simplify it and have picked some of the main points to work with. Let’s start at the beginning.

  • You have a blog and write content for it. Your aim is for people to find you, to read and ideally subscribe to your blog
  • You have an idea who your target audience is and you write your posts accordingly
  • You want this audience to find your blog when they search for information. In other words you need to anticipate what words they put in search engines such as Google and Yahoo
  • If you can anticipate such words you can use them as keywords in your blog
  • Search engine spiders depend on keywords to find your site therefore a lack of keywords in your blog prevents the spiders from finding you and consequently your readers as well

Keyword selection is an important part of your marketing strategy and is vital for your search engine optimisation. The words in your blog are indexed by search engine spiders who classify your blog content.

To my opinion one of the main objectives of your site is to provide a satisfying user experience. If you have been capable of selecting appropriate keywords and place them in your blog content, you will attract more searches and your readers will be able to find your information. It is as simple as that!

The process of keyword selection

Brainstorm keywords:

Once you have defined your target audience, anticipated what words they search, you can start brainstorming possible keywords. No need to be too hard on yourself at this stage as the main aim is to get a list with keywords. Be creative, persistent and stay clear from words that are too competitive.

For example if you want to write about ‘organic herbs’ don’t use the word ‘herbs’ as a keyword. It is too general and you will compete with every other site that has anything with herbs on it. Use a keyword phrase instead that indicates that you write about ‘organic herbs’.

Research keywords:

The next step is to research the effect of your selected keywords. There are a number of specific tools for this purpose but before I go further into this topic I like to widen my research. Examples of keyword search tools are ‘Google Trends’, Word tracker and Trellian Keyword Discovery.

Placing keywords in your content:

Place keywords in the content of your blog ensuring to maintain a natural flow. You have to use them where they make sense and where they facilitate a better search result for your target audience. Ideally each page should have 1-3 related keywords.

Once you have placed well researched keywords in your content, search engine spiders can find your site and you will be able to offer your readers a better experience. The result may be that they come back for more, talk about your site and become one of your followers.

 

Titles and keywords

It has become obvious to me that I need to write an article about the importance of keywords in blog post titles. Two day ago I elaborated about the general use of key words in blog posts. While doing that I came across the fact that keywords in the title of your blog post have an important function.

Well guess what! After that bit of information I have changed the title of that particular article three times while it was already published. It even woke me up in the middle of the night. The final title is ‘Keywords, SEO and competence’ because that is what the article is about.

The importance of blog post titles

There are a couple of rules when it comes to post titles. I have touched some basics  in a previous blog post, but there is lot more to it. I mentioned the relevance of the title to the article, the use of keywords in your title and its length. Pretty straightforward stuff. This time I like to explore the issue a little further and look into the importance of your title when it comes to search engines. In other words what are the best title and keywords to use in order to be found?

If you write about a certain topic it seems logical to let the title reflect the content of your article – either literally or metaphorically. Even more so it is desirable to choose keywords for your post title that not only reflect your content but at the same time are terms that people put in search engines to find information. Anticipating what words your readers and followers use for their search and using those words in your title and blog post is crucial for your post to be ‘visible’ and consequently climb the rankings.

Keywords, anticipation and perception

This is not as easy as it sounds. We all perceive things in different ways and use different ways to describe experiences. That’s why languages can be so rich in their vocabulary. For any word you can find several others that describe in similar ways the issue you read or write about – let alone all the words that come into existence with the emergence of new trends and technologies.

So how to know what to put in search engines if there are so many ways to describe the same thing. Furthermore how to know what words your target audience would use to search the net. And we should not forget to mention what words Google likes to search for. It’s a science in itself!

In sum,  you want to write a blog post. Your aim and purpose is to express yourself and to get an audience. Your main goal is to please the reader and not the search engine. But in order for your reader to find you, you’ll have to use words that are ‘liked’ by the search engines.  The perfect blog post title should therefore have it all! It should ideally be interesting, original, being full of inspiration and creating different perspectives while containing those keywords that actually will be ‘Googled’ by your readers in order to find you.

My immediate question is the following:

‘Is there a magic formula to ‘find out’ what keywords to use?

Keywords, SEO and competence

As I am now well and truly on the road to SEO ‘perfection’ I feel that something has shifted. It is a little bit as the psychological Learning Model of Competence. There are four stages for learning a new skill being:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

The state of ‘Conscious Incompetence’

Before I started blogging I was more or less unaware of search engine optimisation and was blissfully ‘unconsciously incompetent’. After dabbling a bit with websites and my current blog I became aware that SEO is a factor to consider and I became ‘consciously incompetent’. After establishing a need for SEO mastery I am now attempting to become ‘consciously competent’ and hopefully will achieve in the near future the level of ‘unconscious competence’.

A quick recap regarding SEO. In some of my previous posts I have talked about the important of the quality of your content is and the use of social media to spread the word. So what’s the next important thing?

Keywords and their use

What is exactly a keyword? A keyword is a word that helps you find information about a topic. It opens the door to useful resources. Keywords have been around long before the age of the internet. They are an essential part of any language and were originally used to support the writer’s reasoning, the composition of an article and the readers’ comprehension of a topic.

The use of keywords for the purpose of SEO has diffused this meaning somehow and many online writers use keywords for the sake of being found. This is largely due to search engines such as Google who identifies certain words in a text and compares them to a larger list of words – a so-called reference corpus. The result may be that an article can be found but not that it necessarily is of a high standard.

The trick is to use key words in your articles and blogs in such a way that they appear to be a natural part of the flow while functionally supporting the meaning of your text. The latter is important as they should describe your topic in such a way that your potential readers can ‘anticipate’ them and use them in search engines to find your article.

To turn this around, you as a writer will have to ‘anticipate’ what people may be looking for. You will have to be able to come up with words that people put in search engines to find the information that is useful to them – in other words, to find your article! You will have to assess your readers’ needs, tailor your information including keywords to those needs and position yourself in such a way that you and your blog can be found.

Sounds easy? Well it’s not! And the proof is the amount of sites that are not on the first page. It is a competitive business out there and only the best get to the top. Furthermore I am still not convinced that it is possible to be at the top without paying for it, but I’ll keep on searching for answers.

Great information you may think, but how do I decide what keywords to choose? Well my next article will be exactly about that!