There’s a good chance you’ve seen “(not provided)” somewhere in your analytics. If you have, then you know it’s associated with your targeted keyword. Google, somewhere along the line, decided to fight keyword spam in its indexes by not providing the metrics that search marketers use to create it. That’s a win for Google.
But a win for Google doesn’t necessarily mean a loss for you. It just means you need to get a little more creative in your analysis.
While Google has closed off a lot of information that you can ascertain from your keyword metrics, one thing they did not close off was metrics associated with your landing pages. Most search marketers associated their landing pages with one or two keywords. If you can measure how much traffic you’ve gained for your landing pages, then you can unwittingly measure how much you’ve gained for the associated keywords.
Granted, it’s a little crafty, but it’s a necessary level of analytical craftiness in this post-Panda world.
Let’s break it down:
- You have landing pages A, B, and C
- Landing page A is optimized for keyword 1
- Landing page B is optimized for keywords 2 and 3
- Landing page C is optimized for keywords 1 and 4
If your analytics tells you that you got 10,000 unique visits for landing page A, 15,000 unique visitors for landing page B, and 25,000 unique visits for landing page C, then your math problem is: How do these numbers translate into metrics for the associated keywords?
Well, you know you got at least 10,000 UVs for keyword 1. But there’s an X factor. Landing page C also uses keyword 1 and got 25,000 UVs. You can figure this out in one of two ways:
- You can split the UV down the middle for your keywords, giving 12,500 of them to keyword 1
- Or you can look at your last known traffic numbers for the associated keywords and split the metric according to that percentage. For example, if your last known traffic measurement for keyword 1 was 15,000 and your last known traffic measurement for keyword 4 was 3,000, then the numbers represent a 5:1 ratio toward keyword 1. What that means is you’ll take your 25,000 UV and divide it by 5. Give 5,000 UV to keyword 4 and the rest to keyword 1.
Doing it this way will yield a 22,500 UV metric for keyword 1 under the first scenario and a 30,000 UV metric for keyword 1 under the second scenario. Is it perfect? No. But it can give you a sense of your relative traffic for each keyword, and it can give you a much better picture than simply blind guessing.
More and more, the search engines are using a process called Latent Semantic Indexing for categorizing search results. So what does that mean?
In a nutshell, Latent Semantic Indexing (or LSI) involves analyzing a web page to look for related words and phrases that can be substitutes for each other or help the search engine identify what that page is about. For instance, “car” and “automobile” are two words often used for the same object. If you write a web page about your blue 4-wheel drive automobile, based on the principles of LSI, that page could also rank for search terms that include the word “car” even if “car” doesn’t appear anywhere on the page.
This is an important concept to understand for content writers because it means you can play up these related keywords in your content without harping on them.
In the old days, you counted your keywords and tried to write your web pages with a certain keyword density in mind. In other words, the number of keywords per words on the page. You wanted “automobile” to appear 1% to 5% relative to the actual number of words on the page (i.e. 1-5 times for every 100 words on the page). That’s no longer the case.
Instead of counting keyword densities, with LSI you can spread your keyword usage around to all related keywords. You might use “automobile,” “car,” and “vehicle” interchangeably throughout your content, which is more like natural writing anyway.
Latent Semantic Indexing is the future of SEO. It means that writers can get back to being writers again instead of keyword managers.
You’ve decided it’s time to update your website design. Good for you. There’s just one problem. You’ve achieved some pretty high search engine rankings over the years and you don’t want to lose them. What should you do?
Think about these three considerations before you do anything:
- Keyword Research – At the heart of your SEO are keywords. You’ll need to analyze each page on your website for keyword usage. Are you ranking for keywords that aren’t searched for any more? If so, your SEO could be outdated. Or perhaps you have pages that still get great traffic for keywords that are still being searched for. Make a list of all the keywords you are ranking for and how much traffic those pages are getting. Also make a note of any relevant keywords you are not ranking for.
- Conversions – Traffic is great, but conversions are better. If you have web pages that get a load of traffic, especially from search, but no conversions, then maybe you just need to rewrite the content. Compare your conversions to your search engine rankings and traffic.
- Content Anomalies – This is a broad category of content problems that could include duplicate content or low-value content. Perhaps you have a large number of pages with little content on them that could be beefed up a bit. They’re targeting good keywords but just don’t have enough content. Make a list of your web pages that might have some version of a content anomaly and determine what you can do to improve them.
It’s important that you improve web pages that have content problems in your redesign, but it’s also important not to significantly change the content of web pages that are ranking well and converting well. So make your lists and analyze your content before you commit to the redesign.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, often takes questions from people and answers them via video. WebProNews featured one of these questions from Cutts recently regarding synonyms in your content.
Regarding the use of synonyms in your on-page content, Matt Cutts makes the following comments:
- Use both words, “without sounding artificial or stilted or spammy”
- “Make sure that you mention, in a natural way, that you are good at both of those”
- “Maybe once it’s a USB drive, and the next time it’s a USB stick, and at the bottom of the page it’s a flash drive”
- Read the text aloud and ask, “Does it sound stilted? Does it sound artificial?”
- “Try to use the words in a natural way as long as it doesn’t go too far, and people start to notice that it sounds weird”
Notice how many times he used the words “natural,” “artificial,” and “stilted.” He even used “spammy” once, and “weird.” The idea is to use natural language writing techniques to cover the topics you write about online. That is, write as if you were writing about your topic and search engines didn’t exist.
If you use the same keyword phrase over and over again in your content, then it will likely sound artificial or spammy. You don’t want that. So you do want to substitute your keyword phrase a few times with something that is synonymous. You want to do that so that your writing does come across as natural and not stilted. But here’s the catch – if you replace your primary keyword phrase too often and use too many synonyms just for the sake of using synonyms, then it will sound unnatural.
So the key is to find that balance, that in-between place, where you focus on your primary keyword but substitute it for a synonym in certain places so that your content flows smoothly from beginning to end.
More and more, I’m seeing top-notch SEO experts – people who have been the top leaders in SEO and Internet marketing for more than ten years – saying that chasing keywords is no longer an SEO best practice. That just doesn’t seem right, but I’ll have to agree with them. If you want to rank well in the search engines going into 2013, I recommend focusing on high quality content without the keyword spam.
What do I mean by that?
Jill Whalen has an article at SiteProNews listing 18 former SEO best practices that could now work against you. I think this is a very important list.
Right in the middle of her article, however, is this paragraph:
Today, and for the foreseeable future, SEO is much less about optimizing for specific keywords, and much more about technical issues, social signals, and the overall trustworthiness of a company and its website.
Pay attention here because this is real important. The emphasized phrases are mine.
Trust: The New SEO
If you aren’t optimizing for specific keywords, then what are you optimizing for? Answer: Trust. That’s it. Your new buzzword going forward is trust. That’s the new SEO.
Does that mean you can’t use keywords? No, not at all. It does mean that your keywords should not be the focal point of your content. The needs of your readers should be the focal point of your content with the end goal of earning and building trust at the forefront of your thinking process.
In reality, this is the way it should have always been. Keywords can get your site ranked, though going forward this is questionable, but they won’t build trust in your brand. Only high quality content that meets the needs of your readers can do that.
Forget about stuffing keywords into your content, building back links with anchor text, and other manipulative SEO tactics. Just write great content. That’s your new SEO strategy.
More and more, I see websites ranking for key terms that don’t appear in their title tags and that don’t have any measurable inbound anchor text using that specific key term for which they are ranking. And in many cases the key term isn’t anywhere on the page. I’m not the only person who has noticed this.
So what’s happening?
Rand Fishkin does a good job of explaining about co-citation, which makes a lot of sense actually. We’ve looked at another type of citation that Google has become adept at using for SEO purposes in the local space as it relates to Google Places. Maybe Google is taking what it has learned from Google Places citations and applied it across the Net as a whole. That wouldn’t surprise me.
SEO is changing, folks. What used to work isn’t working any more for a lot of people. That doesn’t mean that anchor text, title tags, and other classic SEO tactics are dead, or dying. What it does mean is that they may have a diminished effect in the future as Google learns to look for other clues that will help it rank web pages for specific search queries that webmasters may not necessarily be targeting.
Is this good news? I think it is. I think it could mean less spam in the search results, but I also think it will make SEO better for online marketers who want to do it right.
Friday we talked about AuthorRank, which is the new model of ranking for search phrases in Google. There is actually a lot more to say and today I’m going to say it.
I think it’s inevitable that Google will consider author reputations when ranking web pages for specific key phrases. Gone are the days when search marketers wrote spammy keyword-based content and focused instead on reputation enhancing content that addressed the needs of a specific audience.
That’s not to say that keywords aren’t going to be important. What it does mean is that keywords for the sake of keywords are definitely NOT important.
How To Rank Web Pages Going Forward
Instead of writing keyword-based schlock and spending all your time and money building links to it, here are 5 things you should start doing right now, and keep doing, if you want to rank for content related to your business:
- Write great content that solves a real need among your community.
- Develop a social media presence on networks where your target audience hangs out, but don’t just publish keyword-based schlock. Instead, interact with your client base and build relationships.
- Connect your social profiles with your blog and website.
- Reach out to industry leaders within your niche, comment on their blogs leaving helpful, valuable blog posts that aren’t necessarily keyword-driven. Link back to your website without spamming.
- Work judiciously to establish one online identity using Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
The key to this online marketing approach is to produce valuable content that people want to read. Become a content king, then share your content widely on your social networks.
If you hear an SEO firm promise you permanent search engine rankings, you’d better run. Fast. And not look back. It’s impossible to achieve permanent search engine rankings.
Why is that?
First, because search engines don’t promise anyone a ranking. They certainly don’t promise good rankings. You must earn them.
Secondly, no one else can guarantee you a top spot in the search engines. SEOs can give their best effort to get your site ranked, but they can’t guarantee you a position because they don’t control the search engines.
Thirdly, ALL search engine rankings are temporary. The truth is, search engine rankings change constantly. You could be No. 1 this morning and drop to No. 9 this afternoon for the same search query. You might be No. 1 for a particular search query right now in Minnesota and be on page 2 for the same search query right now in California.
Not only can you rank differently in different places at the same time, or in the same place at different times, but you could also rank differently for different searchers at the same time – even if those searchers are in the same city.
Search engine optimization is no longer about achieving the highest rankings possible for the keywords you are targeting. It’s about maximizing your traffic from the search engines, and that requires more than throwing keywords at algorithms.
What should you do when your keyword list runs out and you don’t know what else to write about? There are a number of things you could do. Today, I’m going to suggest a keyword suggestion tool by the name of Soovle.
The first thing you should notice when you arrive at Soovle is the search box in the middle of the screen surrounded by the names of 7 search engines. The 7 base search engines include:
If you type one of your search terms into the search box, you’ll get similar terms appearing over the names of each of these search engines. Click on one of those search terms suggestions at any one of the 7 search engines and you’ll be taken directly to that entry at that search engine.
This is the most basic way to use Soovle. You can click on the little red arrow under the search box to rearrange the search engines on the page. You can also click on one of the small icons below the search box to rearrange the search results so that a particular search engine is at the top of the circle around the page. For instance, click on Amazon’s icon and the Amazon results will appear at the top of the page.
Up in the top right corner of the screen you’ll see a series of links. Click on “engines” and a little pop up appears that allows you to increase the number of search engines from 7 to 11 or 15. Want to switch a search engine for another? Just drag and drop the icon into one of the dotted-lined boxes. Now make another search.
Soovle is real easy to use. It can be a good tool for coming up with additional search terms based on your primary search list.
Search engine optimization practices have gone through a lot of changes over the years. Early on, webmasters stuffed their web pages with keywords and used meta tags extensively. It was not uncommon to view source on a page and see the meta keywords tag stuffed with hundreds of keywords even if most of them didn’t appear on the web page anywhere. And those pages ranked for those keywords too.
When Google came along, they created an entire economic system based on backlinks. Inbound linking became a new kind of currency – and spam.
Umpteen million algorithm changes later, Google looks at links in a totally different light, meta tags are pretty useless (especially the meta keyword tag), and hardly anyone knows what constitutes effective SEO any more. The game has completely changed.
But has it?
The key to ranking in the search engines has always been quality of content. Yes, you might have built inbound links, wrote impressive meta descriptions, and made sure your page title had your primary keyword in it, but the search engines still focused on the content. Was it any good and did it solve a reader problem? That’s still the case today. Quality content will win out every time.
That’s not to say that search engine spam doesn’t still exist. But if it’s spam, it will eventually disappear from the SERPs. Focus on quality. It’s the only real SEO that’s left any more.
One of the most important tasks to get right in modern web design is site structure. If you do it wrong, it can kill your business. Get it right and it will make your business.
So how do you structure your website so that you drive traffic where you want it and help each page rank optimally in the search engines?
First, you should start with keyword research. What search terms are people searching for within your niche? Make a list of the most searched for search terms. Then pair those up with the right search terms for your business.
Now, group your keywords into categories. If your website is focused on commercial real estate in Key West, for instance, you might have a category for new construction, another category for retail business, one for industrial, and so on. Keep all like keyword terms together in one group.
In each group, take the broadest keyword search term and make it the group leader. That keyword term will be the top level navigational element and will be at the top on your navigation menu.
It will help if you draw a diagram of your website before you start building it. Get your presentation skills ready and draw out your website so you can see it visually. Don’t do any web design work until you have your site structure defined.
If you are doing any amount of video marketing, then you’ve got to pay attention to YouTube. It is THE place to upload and share your videos online. But you have to optimize your videos for search and that takes a little thinking ahead.
Here are 5 elements of YouTube video optimization that every video marketer should implement:
- Title – YouTube videos, like web pages, have titles. And they are just as important. It’s not clear just how much titles affect the rank of videos, but the title is sure to affect video rankings. Make sure your video titles tell viewers what your video is about and use your primary keyword (the one you want the video to rank for).
- Description – Just like meta descriptions, video descriptions are important on YouTube. Take the time to write a description using one or two keywords. Tell viewers what your video is about. How is it different than other videos on YouTube?
- Tags – YouTube allows you to write tags for each of your videos. This is where you will use keywords that are relevant to your video. List as many as you can think of, but make sure they are relevant. Don’t engage in keyword spam.
- Transcription – This is one that many YouTube video marketers don’t think about. YouTube actually uses your transcription to rank videos. What you want to do is type out a word-for-word video transcription of your video and upload it to YouTube.
- Authority – You should create a channel, and post videos often. As you post videos and they are liked by other YouTube users you will develop a channel authority. That’s very important. Manage your channel authority and you’ll do well.
One of the most important steps in the search engine optimization process is keyword research. The keywords you choose for a particular project can make or break the project. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the keywords you select can mean the difference between a profit or no-profit situation.
This is true whether you’re talking about organic SEO, pay per click advertising, or even a social media campaign. Keywords are the nuts and bolts of your marketing plan.
What You Need To Know About Keywords
In just about every niche online there is considerable competition for the most popular keywords. Why go after the same keywords that everyone else is going after?
Instead, try going after those keyword phrases that are not so popular. Often, you can find very profitable keywords that few people are bothering to chase in the search engine rankings. Ideally, that is where you should spend your time.
What you want are keywords that have a low CPC and a high conversion rate. If they have low competition, even better.
A low CPC means that your cost per click prices will be low so your investment in those keywords are minimal. But a high conversion rate means that the keyword delivers targeted traffic that takes action. Low competition means you’ll have a lot of maneuver room as you jockey for position for that low-investment high-opportunity keyword phrase.
Don’t just take our word for it. Test it for yourself.
It’s pretty well established by now that long tail keyword phrases have value in and of themselves. But what constitutes the long tail?
Generally, the long tail is defined by those keywords that are less competitive than the broad search term. For instance, “website design” would be considered a broad search term. As of this writing, there are 1.79 billion results in Google for that search phrase. But we can narrow the search field by narrowing the scope of our search. Let’s try “website design for churches.” Barely more than 5 million search results.
OK, so now let’s put our keyword phrase in quotes and search. Just 11,200 results for the exact search phrase “website design for churches.” There’s your long tail.
What Long Tail Keywords Can Do For Your Business
If you were to target that keyword phrase, you wouldn’t get a lot of traffic. But if you do website design for churches, then it’s a targeted keyword phrase that would be easier to exploit for traffic purposes and you stand a much better chance at getting on page 1 for your search engine optimization efforts.
The long tail represents opportunities for you to capitalize on less often search terms that could still be profitable for your business. Think about this hypothetical-but-realistic scenario:
- The most popular search phrase in your industry delivers 10,000 unique website visitors to the website in the No. 1 position in Google. It’s not you. In fact, as a new business, you are down somewhere on page 100 of the search results. You get no traffic from that phrase.
- One long tail keyword phrase delivers 50 unique website visitors to the website in the No. 1 position in Google for that phrase. You’re No. 3 and get 10 uniques a month from that phrase.
- You target 100 long tail keyword phrases and get an average of 25 unique visitors each month from those keyword phrases – a total of 2,500 unique visitors.
Let’s stop there. With 100 long tail keyword phrases you are able to capture 2,500 very well targeted website visitors each month, and let’s say you convert 10% of them into sales. That’s 250 new customers per month. If your average sale is $30, that represents an income of $7,500 per month. Would you rather have that or 0% of 10,000?
Long tail keywords are great opportunities for new businesses online. In time, you can turn long tail keywords into broad search income. But it takes time. Be patient.
There was a time when content writers got a little concerned that their keyword density was too high. In fact, many early SEOs taught people to ensure their keyword density was somewhere between 1% and 5%. It seems a little silly now, but a lot of us bought into that line.
Here’s the truth: Don’t worry, be happy.
Your keyword density is not the issue. It can’t be too high or too low. The idea is to write great content. If you write awesome content that speaks to your audience, it’s well written, and it provides value, then you can have a high keyword density. You’ll still get your page to rank.
The most important thing to know about web page content is that it must be good content. Quality content that adds value to the Internet.
The problem with content that doesn’t meet the quality standards of the search engines is that it is usually deemed as spam. That could mean too many keywords on the page, but if it does, it likely means that the keyword is used in a spammy way that doesn’t provide value to your audience. In that case, the problem isn’t a keyword density that is too high. Rather, the problem is that your content quality is too low.
If you’re not a writer, you’d be better off hiring a content writer. Hire a ghostwriter who understand search engine optimization and will write great content, not one who uses spammy techniques and voodoo SEO.
You hear it every day. Some SEO says you have to write a keyword-based meta description to make sure the search engines use your content in the SERPs and not their own. OK, here’s the truth: You don’t need a meta description and you never did.
You first need to understand what the meta description is for.
Its purpose is to get the searcher to click on a search result and visit the page. Therefore, it needs to have a strong call to action. But does it need a keyword in it to be successful?
Yes. And no.
Understand that Google sometimes uses the meta description and sometimes not. Your web page could be returned for any number of search terms. You might target one search term and do it well enough to rank No. 1 for that search term. Good for you. But there will also be other search queries your page could rank for. A web page could rank for 500 or more search queries on any given day. Google will NOT use your meta description for every single one of those search queries.
Google will take text from a page itself to use as meta description based on the search query at that moment. It’s a split second decision. If your meta description best suits the SERP result, it will be used; otherwise, Google will use on-page text.
So when then do you need a meta description? Why not let Google choose the SERP snippet for every query?
SEOs fall on every side of this issue. Some say write a keyword-rich meta description every time. Some say don’t do it at all. Others say do it sometimes and sometimes not. I say you have to pick your path and do what is right for each page of your website.
Most times, a keyword-based meta description with a call to action targeting your primary keyword is a good thing as long as you understand that other search queries may have a different search snippet taken from your page. You can’t control every variable. Don’t try.
Have you ever checked your referral logs or analytics and saw a search query that someone found your site for and wondered why you ended up ranking for that search term? Have you ever seen that search query show up more than once in your referral logs and analytics reports? If you’re like me, I’m sure you have.
SEO Theory’s Michael Martinez says this.
Search engines don’t stop ranking your pages at the end of your list of carefully chosen keywords. If they find expressions your page is relevant to that you didn’t think of, they’ll give you some exposure you didn’t count on. The difference between a real long tail strategy and a faux long tail strategy is the absence of popular head terms in your search goals.
What most business owners, and even a lot of SEOs, don’t understand is that the magic that happens in search happens when the searcher enters a search query in the search query box and clicks the Search button. It does NOT happen when you optimize your web page.
So what does that mean exactly?
Well, you can optimize your pages endlessly, do all the keyword research you can think of, and build link after link after link with the very best anchor text possible and still get traffic for search queries you didn’t think of. That happens because search engine robots are looking for content that matches search queries. They are not looking for search queries that match your content.
That’s an important distinction. But what does it mean in terms of search? Here’s what I think it means:
Quit chasing keywords. Instead, chase the customers that are important to your business – the ones most likely to buy your products and services. You cannot guess every search query those customers will use to find you on the Web. What you can do is write great content that attracts the people you want to do business with. Then promote that content where those people hang out.
Funny how so many people are willing to tell you how to optimize a web page but they can’t do it themselves. They’ve read the book, they know all the right things to say, but where are their rankings?
They don’t have any.
Real SEO is not about chasing keywords. Keywords are important, yes. But if you can’t rank a web page without doing keyword research, then you probably aren’t doing your SEO right. Stop it.
Search engine optimization is about creating opportunities. It’s not about following 10-year-old advice as if it is today’s recipe.
So now the big question is, How do you create opportunities with search engine optimization? Glad you asked.
What world class copywriters do is study copywriting techniques. They write headlines that grab readers’ attentions. Then they write content that people want to read. And they do it so well that you wish you had written it. On any given day a good online copywriter can get their content to rank for hundreds of keywords. They write content that matters.
Instead of chasing keywords, try instead to write as keywords don’t matter. Don’t just pick a popular phrase that a lot of other people have written about and write a post about it. Instead, write a post about something that people in your niche want to know about. Write it without worrying about what keyword to use.
I’m not saying keywords are not important. What I am saying is that bad content can’t be saved by keywords. Learn to write good content before you try to spruce it up with keywords.
Most web pages that suffer from mediocre search rankings can have those rankings increased with just a few simple tweaks. In most cases all it takes is 3-5 small improvements that take less than 5 minutes each to fix. Here are 5 very small web page improvements you can make to better your website’s SEO in less than 30 minutes.
- Alt tags – Got a photo or image that you are adding to your page? Include an alt tag. Make sure that your alt tag uses your primary keyword for that page. The alt tag is to notify the search engines that the photo is there and what it is about. It will definitely increase your SEO to have alt tags on all your images.
- Unique meta descriptions – If you have two or more web pages with the same or similar meta descriptions, rewrite the meta descriptions until they are all unique.
- Keywords in subheads – Subheads are often overlooked in pages with lots of text, but if you add subheads every third or fourth paragraph and ensure you have your keywords in those subheads, then that will go a long way to optimizing your web pages.
- Optimized meta title – Like the meta description, a unique meta title can do wonders for your on-page SEO. Don’t just take your page’s headline and make it your meta title. Instead, write a unique meta title using the same keyword that is in your headline.
If you follow these 5 simple steps, you should find your on-page SEO improving your search rankings almost immediately.
When filling out your social media profiles, should you use keywords? I don’t see why not. In fact, I would encourage you to do some keyword research prior to writing your profiles and using the most popular and profitable keywords within your profile.
I’m not talking about spamming here. I’m not talking about excessive use of your keywords or inappropriate use of them either. I am talking about effective marketing.
Your social media profile on most of the social networks are crawlable and likely will be indexed in Google. So why not use your keywords? If those keywords are important to you in search, then they should be important to you in your social media profile.
For instance, let’s say you are filling out a LinkedIn profile and are the creative director in a theatre. What keywords would you use to describe what you do? Here are a few:
- Creative director
If a particular job description entails the use of a specific keyword, then you want that keyword used in your social media profiles. You want to use it on any social media where you network with other professionals. So, if you use Twitter and LinkedIn for professional social networking but not Facebook, then you don’t need to worry about using your keywords for Facebook – but you do for the other two networks. If you decide that you want to use Facebook for professional networking, then use your keywords on Facebook.
Social networking is not an exact science. But it does impact search in some ways. Use your keywords.