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Keyword Research

The foundation of any successful SEO project is a solid grasp of the data that pertains to the intersection of what services you offer, in what market, and what people search for.

Best practices:

Make a List

First, determine which cities and counties fall into your immediate service area, and compile them into a list of geographical terms.

In most cases this means the area within which clients & customers will be willing to drive to meet with you, and within which you are licensed to do business.

Some businesses may seldom or never physically meet with clients – however, for most searches pertaining to service & retail businesses, Google and Bing localize all or most of the search results based on the searcher’s location.

Thus, a person in Omaha who types “defense attorney” into Google will generally see that every result is an Omaha law firm’s website, or an Omaha-specific page in a directory site such as Yelp.

Thus, the best starting point for gaining exposure in these localized search results is generally to to focus on the city or area where you have a physical presence (the location that corresponds to your Google, Yelp and Facebook listings and pages), and adjacent localities.

Examples:
Dallas, Arlington, Fort Worth

Portland, Gresham, Beaverton

Next, compile a list of the various core services and products that your business provides. If you provide more than one general category of services, segregate these into separate lists.

Examples:
Criminal Defense, DUI, Drug Crimes, Assault, Identity Theft

Plumbing, Drain Cleaning, Sewer Repair, Hot Water Heater Installation

Now in a spreadsheet, combine each locality with each phrase.

Examples:
Portland Family Law, Portland Divorce, Portland Child Custody, Portland Child Support

Beaverton HVAC Service, Beaverton AC Repair, Beaverton Heating Service, Beaverton Boiler Repair

If you’re an attorney, append the word “attorney” and or “lawyer” to each phrase.

Examples:
Dallas Family Law Attorney, Dallas Divorce Attorney, Dallas Child Support Attorney, Dallas Child Custody Attorney, Dallas Spousal Support Attorney

You now have a list of “keyword phrases” that potential clients may type into search engines.

Get Some Data

Before you decide what keywords to rank your site for, you need to be able to compare their value and prioritize.

Google provides monthly search volume data for millions of keyword phrases, so the next step is to take your list of phrases and find out how many people are using them.

To get started, go to https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/

You’ll need to log in with your Google account.

* Google provides much more accurate search volume data to users with an operational AdWords account, even if none of your campaigns are currently running. So if you’ve never run AdWords in your Google account, set one up (you’ll need your credit card information). You can then set up a very basic campaign, and pause it if you prefer. At this point you’ll be able to see the full keyword data for your research. To activate your AdWords account, go to https://adwords.google.com

Once you’re logged into the Keyword Planner, you’ll want to select:
Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.

Then paste your keyword list into the box labelled:
Your product or service

And click Get Ideas.

Now you’ll see data in a spreadsheet format, including Average Monthly Searches and Suggested bid, which represents what advertisers are paying in Google AdWords.

Both of these numbers can provide useful information – since the suggested bid represents the amount advertisers are bidding for keywords, it may offer some perspective on how well a particular phrase pays off in comparison to others.

You’ll also notice that Google has probably added many more phrases to the data than you originally entered. This will help you discover which search terms to focus your website on. Locate the Download button and save this data as a spreadsheet.

Once you’ve downloaded the spreadsheet, open it and sort it by search volume, from highest to lowest, and begin to eliminate phrases that aren’t directly relevant to your practice.

You may also want to eliminate phrases that show a very low Suggested Bid compared to others.

You will then want to eliminate the phrases that show the least (or no) search volume.

Be aware that Google may combine data for similar phrases into one, so if you see “Milwaukee Bankruptcy Lawyer” but you don’t see “Milwaukee Bankruptcy Lawyers”, that’s probably the explanation.

If you’re just starting the SEO process, you’ll probably want to narrow the list down to less than 40 phrases.

You now have a keyword list, which should inform how your website is structured and how your site’s text content is formulated.

 
 
 
Website Code Optimization

Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing scan the code inside your website’s pages for information that helps them decide what your website is about, and how to list your site in search results. This internal website code is sometimes referred to collectively as “meta tags”.

Best practices:

The HTML title tag for each page should reflect relevant words and phrases on the page.

The search engines read and weight these words from left to right, and only pay attention to the first 60-70 characters.

The meta description tag is mostly ignored as an organic search engine rankings factor, but is usually used as your search engine listing description.

Thus, it can have a powerful impact on the effectiveness of your listing once people find it.

You can even include a phone number.

Limit your meta description to 160 characters or less.

The meta keywords tag is ignored by the major search engines, and can even have a negative effect if you overdo it.

If you feel you must include meta keywords, limit this field to a maximum of 10 words.

It is essential that all your web site text be original.

If you feel you must include text on some of your web pages that exists on other pages or sites, you can instruct the search engines to ignore these pages via robots.txt

 
 
 
Link Building

Search engines keep track of links between and within websites. The volume, variety, relevance and authority of links to your website from other sites are indicators of the the authority and relevance of your site, and a critical factor in determining your rankings in organic search results.

Best practices:

Among other factors, the most productive and authoritative kind of link to your web site is widely considered to be one that happens naturally.

This can occur when another web site owner or blogger links to your content because they find your web site useful, informative or interesting.

Such links can take time to build up, and there are ways to help your web site content get noticed both by search engine spiders and by editors of other sites and blogs.

This can include submissions to online news agencies, the contribution of articles to online publications and blogs.

It can also include, listings in relevant directory categories, and promoting your site through social media services like Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

A good starting point is to examine the links pointing to your competitors’ sites, and secure those that are relevant, authoritative and achievable.

 
 
 
Text Content

Search engines give higher organic search rankings to websites that regularly publish original, quality text. For most websites, the best framework for regularly publishing new text is to have an on-site blog and publish articles to it.

Best practices:

For top results, each of the core pages of your site should feature at least 400-800 words of text content.

Once you have this foundation in place, a good general guideline is to publish at least two to four new articles or pages per month, of at least 400 words in length.

It is essential that your text be original, and you should generally publish content with no more than a few consecutive words identical to any other page on the internet, even if you own or authored the other site or page.

The articles should contain the search phrases or words you are targeting, in a natural looking way, so not very repetitively.

You should also link keyword phrases or words to appropriate pages on your site once or twice per article if it seems genuinely appropriate.

Aside from these parameters, and the value of simply publishing original material, the most productive articles will be ones that visitors find useful or entertaining.

This can inspire visitors to share your content via social media or link to it from their own blogs or web sites.

This in turn signals the search engines that your site is useful, authoritative and popular.

To help people find your content, share it via social media such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

To make your content more appealing, include dynamic images in your articles.

 
 
 
Local Listings

Search engines include local listings associated with points on a map in organic search results. Local search engine placement can be based on the geographical information and reviews in your local listings, and the content and reputation of your website.

Best practices:

Your business must have a profile on each search engine to show up in its local business listings.

These profiles are often created automatically by the search engine, based on information it finds on your web site and/or various directories.

If your profile was created automatically, you will often need to go through a telephone or postal mail verification process in order to claim and update it.

If not, you can manually create and verify a free profile on all three major search engines.

You should be sure to specify appropriate business categories as well as geographic areas you are targeting.

Typically the closer you are to a given area the more likely you are to show up for a search specifying or originating from that area.

You should also consider adding images and compelling business information to your local listings.