3-step keyword strategy for small business owners

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The first question that pops up in any internet marketing discussion is about keywords. Be it an individual blog, a small business, or even a large firm, the whole idea of content visibility is based on what people punch into the search boxes on the googles and bings of the world. Despite leaning on the plethora of content that has been written about strategies to go about the task, I have struggled over the past months trying to precipitate the right mix of what works. In my view, it boils down to a three-step process – not so simple though, I may add.

Knowing what you do: Not that I really need to explain this further, but there are a few dimensions of this step that make it a tad more complicated than it seems. The key question is not only what you do, but also what your target audience is looking for. It is a dive into the online behavior of the people you want to reach out to – a peek over the shoulder into what they are typing, so to say. It is hardly about your brand, which more often than not, business owners and marketers tend to overemphasize. It is about the services you provide and the benefits you drive. This involves mapping out the core of your offering, the auxiliary services, the benefits, and the pain points you are addressing. Pull out your firm’s strategy document, the business plan, the annual objective statement and you have a start. And then, keep in mind the thumb rule – think like the consumer and not as yourself.

Doing what you now know: Assuming you have not jumped the gun and by now have a good idea of what your target audience wants to find you for, you can get to setting the ball in motion. Make a list of 10 broad items or categories that define your offering and the motivations of your target audience vis-a-vis the offering. Under each, add about 5 words or phrases that further define/describe the category. Now let your imagination loose, and keep adding as many words or phrases as you think come close to the 50 odd items you had. You could even pick up the thesaurus and make the exercise as comprehensive as possible. The objective is to end up with at least 300-400 such keywords. Use as many colloquial terms and commonly used words as possible, since these are likely to be searched for more often. One word of caution – each keyword should comprise of anywhere between 2 to 5 words. It just tends to work better.

Now you need to go about ensuring that your online content has the right sprinkling from this bank of keywords. Pick out the 10 keywords you think are most relevant in terms of your business objectives vis-a-vis your online target audience. Then use these keywords as many times as possible in your content or blog posts. But, don’t push it! It doesn’t work. Sprinkle the words the way you season your food with salt – anything extra and you know what you could end up with. Trust me, you don’t wanna piss off a search engine’s algorithm. Another suggestion here – definitely use the target keyword in the content’s title and meta description.

Getting better at what you do: There’s a wide variety of keyword optimization tools available in the market. Most of them use certain basic parameters, such as volume, per-click rate, and in turn the difficulty level associated with the keyword. A good starting point can be either Google’s keyword analyzer or Yahoo’s keyword assistant. The objective of this exercise is to refine and optimize your selection of the top 10 keywords you want to target for your website. Intuitively, the best choices are a combination of high search volume, low per-click rate, and low difficulty levels.

In recent months, I have seen startup owners—particularly in the case of bootstrapped businesses—struggle to establish their search engine visibility, because they just don’t have the budget to hire a full-time SEO expert. For such entrepreneurs, these three steps represent a relatively less technical guideline to take a stab at improving their online visibility. It may not be easy to get going, but it’s not as difficult as it may have appeared.

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  • http://gottabreakfree.com Gaurav

    As I read back the post later, I felt some people may find it difficult to visualize certain things I have written. If you feel the same, please reply and I can explain with a more specific example to elucidate further.