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Research - Keyword Research

Keyword phrase research involves identifying a group of keyword phrases that will be used in optimization. This step is critical and requires a considerable amount of time to find a good set of phrases that offer a balanced combination of two important factors: high usage by searchers and relatively low competition within the search engines.

Determining the most used phrase that contains your targeted keyword(s) is relatively easy. Online tools allow you to enter a particular keyword or words and will return all the ways in which that word(s) was used by searchers in the last month and in what volume. However, the most used phrase(s) is also likely the one with the greatest competition within the search results and may, therefore, not be where you would want to devote your optimization efforts. A more effective approach is to find a set of phrases (10 is a nice round number) that are heavily used by searchers but somewhat less competitive in terms of the total number of search results.

Competition Research

Once armed with the target keyword phrases, we do a thorough competitive analysis of the subject site against its 7 – 10 biggest competitors (using both offline and online competitors). We use a series of SEO metrics, including indexed content, Alexa rating, inbound links, domain age, and social media following among others. Through this process, we are able to gauge the client site’s starting position against its competition and identify areas requiring priority in the subsequent work. For example, if we see that relative to the competition, the client’s site has 50% less indexed content, then content building would be a priority in the goal setting that happens in the next phase.

Reporting & Goal Setting

After establishing your targeted keyword phrases and starting position relative to the site’s competitive set, it is important to understand what the subject site’s starting position is within the search engines. Doing so ensures that you know the specific areas that need work and provides a baseline against which to gauge the subsequent campaign’s success.

After developing a complete picture of the site’s starting position, goals are set for the SEO plan. These goals are tied to the specific business objectives of the site. In the ongoing progress of reporting and follow up, progress towards the plan’s goals are analyzed and reported. Adjustments to the SEO plan can be made according to the findings of these progress reports.

Content Building

Content is king in search engine optimization. The search engines love text; high volume, high-quality content related to your business will serve you in a couple of important ways.

First, a site loaded with high-quality content of interest to site users will give them a reason to stay and a reason to come back. After all, the reason they came to your site was to find information. Second, you will receive the added benefit of serving up exactly what the search engines want – content. Search engines will have more information to store about your business and products; that information will translate directly into the ranking they give your site for related keyword phrases. For more information on content development and specific ideas about ways to expand your site’s content, read our, Content is Still King.

We often find in the Competitive Research phase that the client’s site is falling behind its competitors in the amount of indexed content. In those cases, this phase of the process takes on additional importance.

Page Optimization

Following the addition of new, high quality content, we tackle on-page optimization. See our piece on Page Optimization Basics for more information on this topic.

Page Titles – Make sure that your site’s page titles say something other than just your company name or “welcome.” Ideally, they need to lead off with your targeted phrase for that page and then follow with your company name.

Targeted Keyword Phrases – It is not enough to have your keyword phrase(s) somewhere on the web page, the placement and prominence given to them also affects your search engine placement. For example, leading off the site’s first paragraph with your keyword phrase gives it more weight than burying it half way down the page in the middle of a paragraph. Also, using larger font sizes and bolding the text can emphasize its importance and positively affect the page’s ranking for that phrase.

Site Map – Developing a site map that includes a well-organized list of links to all the important pages of your site and includes a text link to the site map on your home page is the ideal way to make sure that all the site’s pages are indexed by the search engines when they visit the subject site. Google’s Webmaster Tools is ideal for this purpose.

ALT and META data – These are tags not seen by the site’s users; they are embedded in the site’s code. ALT tags refer to the text that describes an image — words that you see pop up as you mouse over some images. In optimizing your company’s name, an ALT tag placed behind the image of your company’s logo is ideal. Meta tags are lines of code included in the uppermost section of your site’s code.

They communicate the page’s subject matter and relevancy to the search engines.

Further, the short description of your site included in some search results is pulled from the meta description tag of the home page and should, therefore, be used to the site’s advantage.

Clean up the Code – Navigation rollover scripts, other JavaScript-based code, and all CSS scripts should be taken out of the code of each page and put into external files to which each page of the site is referenced. Doing this has several advantages, but one of the most compelling is that your site’s keywords and content all move up, up, up in the code, communicating their importance to the search engines and boosting your site’s relevancy ratings.

Social & Link Building in the Social Media

In marketing, you fish where the fish are. And, the fish are using social media in increasing numbers. The power of online sharing through social media provides tremendous opportunities for companies willing to commit the time to using it. During this phase of the process, we help clients establish a social media presence and consult with the client on how best to use those social media profiles to share site content and connect with customers and potential customers.

 

Building In-Bound Links

Each new, quality link to your site increases the likelihood of both the search engines’ spiders running across your site as well as searchers looking for services or products like yours. Google views links to your site (as long as they are links from high quality sites) as votes for your site and rewards the site accordingly. You can check your link popularity with a variety of free online tools. In addition, Google’s Webmaster Tools provides information regarding the inbound links to your site. A word of caution: free for all links sites and other low quality sites of that nature are of no use and, in fact, detract from your progress with penalties from the search engines. This became even more important with Google’s release of the Penguin algorithm update. We consult with our clients on ways to build their online reach and influence with new inbound links.

Follow Up Reporting and Analysis

The same reporting done in the initial phase of the campaign is done again at regular intervals, post-optimization. Rankings, site traffic and other key metrics can then be compared to pre-optimization levels, giving measurable results to the SEO campaign. The specific metrics used in an SEO plan will depend on the goals of that site.