The most difficult part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is deciding on the right keywords for your SEO copywriting. Before you begin copywriting, your first task in improving your SEO is to find your keywords.
If you try to work on SEO without knowing the right keywords to reach your audience you will have limited success. It would be like navigating on a camping trip without a compass. You need to know your keywords or you will get lost along the way.
The keywords are the key phrases that customers will use to search for you on Google and other search engines. The key phrases you choose need to be an intersection of the service and product you provide and the words that customers use to search for you. In order to choose the best key phrases, you must put yourself in the shoes of your customers and see yourself as they see you. In other words, your goal is to identify and use the search terms that customers will use to find you in Google searches.
After you find your key words, the Yoast “SEO for Everyone” plugin makes the rest easy. I recommend the Pro version of the plugin ($79 per year) but the Free version works great as well. The Pro version has some key features that make it easier to craft posts that will work well on social media, and it also recognizes and automatically creates redirects when there is a change to permalinks.
As Yoast explains, there is a strategy in choosing keywords that could be very important to your business SEO. If you use the keywords in articles strategically, it can enhance the credibility of your website and place it higher in Google searches. There is no secret sauce to this…just common sense. If your website is about GNOMES, then you may have some “cornerstone” articles about gnomes with short-tail key words, like “GNOME SIGHTINGS”. Then, you may have posts about specific gnome sightings, like “GNOME SIGHTING IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA” and “GNOME SIGHTING IN ST PAUL”. In Google’s eyes, you are making your website the place to learn everything about gnome sightings. The cornerstone article sets the strategic framework and the additional pages on gnome sightings strengthen the credibility of the entire website. This improves your SEO ranking.
Another important step is where most keyword tools start: What are the keywords that your customers will use to find you? But it important to use those keyword tools along with the bigger strategy of making a plan to write content that aligns with your strategy.
After reading the articles by Yoast on how to develop keywords, I took their advice and created a Keyword Strategy Tool for use on the websites made by by White Buffalo Websites. The tool is based on the training provided by Yoast on how to choose keywords and how to use “Cornerstone” pages strategically to strengthen the overall SEO of your website.
The Keyword Strategy Tool is in Google Docs. Start by making a copy of the tool for your own use. Complete Part I to help you understand your mission and start to see yourself in the eyes of your customer. In Part II you will make decisions on your Cornerstone pages, your short-tail key phrases for your Cornerstone pages, and your long-tail key phrases for additional blog posts.
Part I: Understanding Your Mission
The questions in Part I are intended to help you see your business as your customers see you. You may have certain words that you use to describe what you do, but those words may not be the same words that customers use to find you in search. The questions in this segment may also help you craft a mission statement for your company or organization. However, the goal in this exercise is to make sure you understand what you do and how your customers see you in order that you can find the right key phrases for your keyword strategy.
What does your business do? What product do you make or what services do you perform for customers? If you are a blogger, how are you helping your readers?
Who are your customers? What are their ages, gender, and where do they live? Why do they need or want your product or service?
Who are your competitors? Think broadly with this question, including both direct and indirect competitors. How could your customers find what they need in an alternative way?
Why should a potential customer choose you instead of your competitor? This question gets to the heart of the issue. What is your niche? Why are you different than other organizations that provide similar products or services?
What is your mission? Based on everything you have said above, now is the time to write a short mission for your company or organization. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be the published mission for your company. Large companies spend tens of thousands of dollars writing a public mission statement. This mission statement will be more of a guide to help you with choosing key words.
Part II: Choose Cornerstone Content and Key Phrases
Now that you have clarity on your mission, it is time to make some decisions on keywords and key phrases for your SEO work. Fill out the grid like the one below to help you make decisions. See the example below for a website about gnomes.
A. Cornerstone pages. What are the most important pages on your website? What are the products or services your provide? Identify 1-5 pages on your website that describe what you do and why you are different from your competitors. These cornerstone pages will be the most important pages on your website. They will be the longest pages and the most in depth. You may want to consider only one cornerstone page if there isn’t a lot of complexity to the products or services that you offer.
Once you know your Cornerstone pages, type them into Column A on the spreadsheet below.
B. Customer Search Terms. Now that you have your Cornerstone pages picked out, it is time to learn what search terms your customers may use to arrive at your Cornerstone pages. How can you find out what words or phrases customers use to search for you? Go to Google Search and type in a couple of words in a search, to see what others have typed in. Better yet, consider an investment in a tool like Keywords Everywhere to help you find the searches in words that customers are using. For only $10 you at Keywords Everywhere they will provide you with up to 100,000 keywords.
Type the key phrases you have found into column B in the table below.
C. Short Tail Key Phrases. Now it is time to make a decision. Choose the two or three word short phrases that you think customers will use for each Cornerstone page. This may be the most important decision you will make. As you make decisions, look for synonyms, and move those into Column D.
If your brand is important to your business, you may want to use your company name as the key phrase for your home page. Yoast recommends that you use your company name (your brand) as the Key Phrase for your home page. For most businesses, this is the right decision. However, if your brand isn’t key to your business marketing, then consider alternatives.
It is best to choose one key phrase for each cornerstone page. The reason why I recommend only one key phrase per page is to make it easier for you to complete the SEO copywriting. It will be more of a writing challenge to write to two key phrases.
Also look for synonyms in Column B, the Customer Search Terms. The synonyms can be moved to the Synonyms column in Column B.
D. Synonyms. Take a look at your Short Tail Key Phrases. Are some very similar in meaning? Move those to the Synonyms column.
E. Long Tail Key Phrases. Write some longer key phrases that are extensions of the Short Tail Key Phrases. For example, if your short tail key phrase is “Gnome Sightings”, you could write an article on “Gnome Sightings in Alaska”. Each long tail article you write strengthens the short tail key phrase. You will use these long tail key phrases for supplemental posts or pages that build upon, link to, and strengthen the Cornerstone page.
When most of us work on SEO we are unlikely to be able to get to the top of search results with a single word. There is just too much competition. So rather than choosing one keyword, you may want to choose a short key phrase.
A short tail key phrase is usually one to three words. However, it is difficult to get your post to the top of search results, so it works better to use a long tail key phrase of three to six words. The strategy recommend by Yoast is to use a short tail key phrase for a “cornerstone” article, an article that more broadly explains your topic. Then write several shorter in depth articles that explain your topic in more depth using long tail keywords. The long tail key phrases will help to strengthen your website’s credibility for the short tail key phrases.
Choosing the right keywords to use for SEO should be part of your business strategy work. That is why Yoast recommends starting by clarifying your business mission. (https://yoast.com/whats-your-mission/). You should strive to find the right answer for you, rather than relying on recommendations from a simple keyword tool. Our Keyword Strategy Tool starts by asking questions to clarify that strategy. This work is not easy or straightforward, but it is rewarding. The right keywords for your website is the intersection of your website’s mission and what your customers perceive you to do.
Good question! It is very tempting to “wing it” and just go with your instinct. And sometimes that can be effective. I know bloggers who just started blogging and have posts that come to the top of search results. However, for most mere mortals running small businesses, having a strategy will make your business more effective. If you worked at a large corporation, planning would be done by senior leadership with the assistance of experienced consultants. Assuming you don’t have consultants at your disposal, you can try our Keyword Strategy Tool to set you on the right path.
Not sure how to get started on choosing the right keywords? White Buffalo Websites has an SEO Copywriting Service that can help you. We will start by interviewing you and helping you to clarify your mission with the questions on the keyword tool. Then we will do some keyword analysis to determine how your customers search for you. Last but not least we will help you with copywriting your website to your key words.