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Throwback: Old Online Trends That Have Gone Stale

If you work in any technology-based company or sector, you know things are always changing. What was standard practice and trendy and new one day or week becomes outdated and ineffective the next. As SEO trends constantly come and go, one simply can’t afford to not change. It is a company’s flexibility and ability to accept and support constant change that often succeeds.

If you’re interested in entering the technology field or you’re returning to the industry after a long break, here are some of the old online trends to avoid. You’ll notice these trends were once the accepted but have since grown stale and have fallen by the wayside:

Music Playing Website

 

As if hold music or elevator music wasn’t bearable, there was a time when companies welcomed visitors to their website with this awful, outdated music. This old online trend quickly became a no-no as website visitors quickly left a site.

“Click Here!” Linked Buttons

 

These forms of old online trends are still heavily used even though they aren’t as effective as other types of linked text. Web users now are in a hurry and want context to what kind of website a text link will take them to. The generic “click here” doesn’t tell the busy web user what the linked page is about and whether they would benefit by clicking through to it.

Long Sales Letters

 

There are multiple reasons the long sales letters disappeared. The largest two reasons being the fact that print is now largely out of date, being replaced with everything digitally, and the other being the short patience and attention spans of busy consumers who don’t want to read long text.

Buying Links

 

While a good link building campaign still has value today, the link building process has changed. The old online trend of buying links was common practice, but that technique of getting links is a serious no-no that violates SEO ethics and best practice today. Before buying links was a thing, anyone could link to whatever and however many of external pages as they liked. This caught the attention of Google, the largest search engine who put a stop to this form of link spamming with its Penguin algorithm. Since then it’s become important to consider where you’re linking to and the authority of that site.Linking to quality sites gains credibility for your site as well as the trust of Google and web users. Instead of buying links, it is acceptable to “trade” for links via guest posting and blogging outreach.

Yellow Page Advertising

 

Back in the day, the “Yellow Pages,” or phone book was delivered to each home. It contained a large, local business directory. If you needed a company’s phone number, hours, location or briefly see what they specialized in, you would look it up in the “Yellow Pages.” In addition to basic business information, some businesses would grab reader’s attention through sprinkling ads throughout the phone book. These old online trends was a good idea then. Now, however, with the widespread use and accessibility of the computer and Internet and smartphones, people now have immediate access to the same vital business information on the go.

Keyword Stuffing

 

In the past, SEO specialists and programmers were overzealous in their use of keywords. The use of keywords in a piece of content made it hard to read and understand. This caught the eye of Google who implemented the Panda algorithm to put a stop to the practice. The use of keywords in online content is still important today, but, now inserting an amount of keywords exceeding 3% of the content is looked down upon.

Artsy and Hard to Read Fonts

 

With all the websites out there, people use to use a variety of ridiculous fonts such as comic sans and papyrus to show the unique style and personality of the brand. However, these fonts were also distracting and

hard to read. Now, its more professional and credible to use an easy to read font such as a Times New Roman or Calibri and avoid the old online trend of overly artsy fonts.

Phony Stock Photos

 

While numerous organizations and companies still use stock photos on their websites and printed collateral, the stock photos of today are vastly better than their predecessors. The use of staged, grainy obviously noticeable stock photos are unpopular as these old online trends lower a brand’s credible perception.

Distracting Websites

 

Back in the day an overly busy website was seen as a way to impress the website visitor, make one’s website memorable in the sea of millions of other websites. Little did developers know how distracting and confusing these old online trends made their website. Today, developers are more focused on the user’s experience. This has resulted in an easy-to navigate, simplistic, yet creative looking websites.

Print Media

 

Print media has seen a similar to the demise of the “Yellow Pages” and phone book advertising. While print media is till widely used in advertising and in journalism, many consumers access information online via the internet on their smartphones. With the popularity of online media, many advertisers and news outlets have developed digital copies of their content.

Whether you’re an “old school” SEOer who has resisted changing with the times or you’re a new SEO specialist, avoid these common old online trends. They will keep you living in the “dark ages” and prevent you from seeing results in your company’s SEO strategies and campaigns.

If you’re a business owner and aren’t familiar with SEO and its current best practices, contact the specialists at SEO.com. We are a full-service internet marketing firm helping businesses both large and small with all aspects of their online presence.  Our staff has been in the industry for numerous years and know the current SEO online trends.  Contact us today to learn how we can help update your SEO strategy to be in alignment with current online trends.

The post Throwback: Old Online Trends That Have Gone Stale appeared first on SEO.com.

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How to Communicate the Importance of SEO to Your Boss

If you’ve been in SEO for any amount of time, chances are you’ve ran into others who just don’t seem to geek out about 404s, redirects, backlinks, spiders, canonicals, and indexing the way you do. Instead, when you discuss any on of these elements in public, you probably just get a blank, confused look in return.

This is pretty standard, but when you’re getting that same look from the decision makers in your company, that may be more of a problem.

SEO is an important component to any business’s success. Many small business owners and CEOs, however, are often uninformed and uneasy about diving into SEO. They know that they need it, but they don’t know how it works or understand the great time commitment and value of it.

|Related: 

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Whether you work for an agency or an in-house marketing team, trying to convince executives to bolster their SEO budget can be a good challenge. There are some simple tricks, though, that can help you communicate the importance of SEO and the reasoning behind your tactics and choices.

1.  Help Them Understand the Terminology

Every field has its own industry jargon. The SEO industry isn’t any different. The same way your eyes glaze over when the accountants start getting excited about their extensive spreadsheets, someone from another department will easily get lost when you start busting out the industry lingo.

Coming into the SEO conversation with this realization will help you lay a good starting point.

Take time to teach and educate your audience about the basics of SEO and clearly define any and all jargon terms. Clarifying, defining and discussing relevant metrics can also be handy in helping your audience get a better grasp of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

2.  Explain Exactly Why You’re Taking a Certain Course of Action

SEO involves a lot of work that happens behind the scenes and doesn’t often yield instant results.

Many people in business have a hard time trusting SEO because it doesn’t deliver the kind of results they want in their desired timeframe. It can be difficult to convince the boss of your proposed course of action when there is a lack of tangible benchmarks and no set timeframes.

As you explain why you chose to do something or why you made a certain decision, try to keep the overall big picture or goal in mind and to explain both what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

For example, if you discovered an epidemic of duplicate content on the site, you might immediately set about rewriting the content or redirecting unneeded pages the ones you want to focus on. Your boss may then question you about that. After all, why not leave those pages alone because the more content – even duplicate content – is just more exposure, right?

Communicate SEO3.jpg

Well, since you’re an SEO professional, you know all the reasons why duplicate content is a bad idea.  And when they ask about it, you could fall back on the old standby reasoning: “Because Google hates it.” But that’s not enough to satisfy your boss’s need for information.

Instead, explain a little more about how Google works, how the same content would literally compete with itself on the search engines, and all the other reasons beyond “Google doesn’t like it.” They’ll have less questions when you pre-load them with the right answers.

3.  Craft the Right Explanation for the Audience

Depending on the size of your organization, you may have regular meetings with a variety of audiences. People from the IT department to the marketing department to the executive office will want to know what’s going on and why SEO matters.

People in IT would like to know the technical details as well as any fixes or bugs that need to be worked out. The marketing department would be more interested in how SEO is attracting the right audience to the website, and the executive leadership will likely care less about what your SEO plan is, as long as it boosts the company’s bottom line.

If you want higher support and buy-in of your SEO plan, you need to know your audience. Then you can format your presentation in a way that “speaks their language.”

For example, a meeting with IT personnel may entail how certain technical implementations will be needed to make the website more mobile-friendly. A similar meeting with leadership may involve discussions about the time and resources that your SEO plan will need, the opportunities that it will open up, and the potential ROI that can result should the plan be successful.

4.  Document, Document, Document

When talking to others who don’t know much about SEO, you may get a lot of blank stares and sarcastic remarks. For all they know, you could just be taking advantage of their ignorance and making things up.Communicate SEO1.jpg

This is why you need documentation and data to back up your SEO strategy, your reports, and your claims of success. Again, it is important to focus on particular metrics that would be most beneficial and interesting to the audience. Keep your explanation simple and limit SEO jargon.

5.  Build Your Personal and Your SEO Credibility

It can be difficult to prove the power of SEO to executives. It can also be just as difficult for you to be taken seriously.

How do you build your own credibility so that leadership will listen to you?

It begins by being a leader in your department. Write articles on behalf of the company, answer questions customers may have in the company’s website content, and provide valuable industry resources, such as how-to guides.

Like we mentioned above, you need to document all of this to show how your SEO efforts help contribute to increasing the company’s bottom line. To accomplish this, you may try the following:

Record conversion data from organic search traffic and equate those numbers to revenue. Get set up on Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console, so you can monitor revenue from contact forms and e-commerce, which will speak to leadership and the marketing department.

Report on how you are doing compared to competitors. Compile a list of 5-10 competitors who are currently beating your company for the top 10 keywords and show what the average monthly search volume of those keywords or terms are. Showing these lost opportunities can be enough to spur any executive to bolster and support your SEO efforts.

How CEOs See SEO

Many business executives know that SEO is a crucial component of their company’s success. However, they may not know or care to know how SEO works.

That’s why they want someone to do it for them.

However, you can geek out on them all day long about how this or that is doing great and blowing the competition out of the water, and they just won’t seem to get on board with your enthusiasm.

Again, they just care about the company’s bottom line.

Some CEOs have some knowledge of SEO and understand how it basically works. It is still a good idea to rein in your zealous enthusiasm and spare them of all the stats and numbers. You can touch on the SEO topics they are familiar with, but avoid the urge to go too deep. As much as they may be interested, they have busy schedules and want to know if the resources going to SEO is paying off.

The best way to deal with this is to agree on some clear key performance indicators before the campaign even starts. Since SEO takes time, monthly check-in meetings are also good ideas to keep leadership informed and reassured that you are gradually but consistently moving toward those KPIs.

It can be hard to get support for an SEO initiative. It can also be frustrating communicating with others who don’t understand the nature and workings of the search engines. Knowing your audience, proving the value of SEO, and always using data to back-up the successes of your strategy are some ways these difficult and frustrating conversations can become more successful.

 

Got some buy-in on SEO already? Are you ready to push for more social media action? Download your free Social Media Checklist and make sure you’re ready to get started.

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How to use the readability analysis

Everybody knows the colored bullets (or dots, or even ‘traffic lights’) in Yoast SEO. Two parts of the plugin use this system: the content analysis and the readability analysis. The first checks whether your post is SEO-proof, while the latter checks if it is readable for a general audience. Of course, these two are interconnected, as readable content is incredibly important if you want your site to do well in the search results. Here, I’ll show you how to use the readability analysis.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading #6 of our best-read posts this year! Find out how the Yoast readability analysis helps you write readable content and why that’s important. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another holiday countdown surprise!

What does the readability analysis in Yoast SEO do?

The readability analysis uses an algorithm to determine how readable your post is. We’ve carefully crafted this algorithm to make it as accurate as possible without being too strict. It features several checks that’ll give you advice when you write your post. In other words, by following the advice, you can make your text easier to read and understand.

It has been said that Yoast SEO suggests to dumb down your writing. Of course, that’s not the case. We merely want to help people write easy to understand content. I always come back to this quote by content design hero Sarah Richards about making your content as readable for humans as possible:

“You’re not dumbing down, you’re opening up.”

By simplifying content, you’re automatically growing your audience, as more people grasp the message of your content. Also, you’re not writing your content just for people anymore. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri have to be able to work with it as well. And even Google increasingly uses well-written pieces of content for rich results like featured snippets.

That being said, while the advice in the readability section is not the be-all and end-all advice, it does give you important clues to the perceived difficulty of your text. It is crucial to write with readability in mind, as we think readability ranks!

Current readability checks

At the moment, Yoast SEO uses the following checks:

  • Transition words: Do you use transition words like ‘most importantly’, ‘because’, ‘therefore’, or ‘besides that’ to tie your text together? Using these words improves the flow of your article as they provide hints to the reader about what is coming next.
  • Sentence beginnings: Do any of your consecutive sentences start with the same word? This might feel repetitive to your reader, and that can be annoying. Always keep your sentences varied, so your article is readable and free of obstacles. Unless you want to prove something or use it as a writing style, of course.
  • Flesch reading ease: This world-famous test analyzes texts and grades them on a scale from 1-100. The lower the score, the more difficult to read the text is. Texts with a very high Flesch reading ease score (about 100) are very easy to read. They have short sentences and no words of more than two syllables. Usually, a reading ease score of 60-70 is believed to be acceptable/normal for web copy.
  • Paragraph length: Some people tend to use extremely long paragraphs. Doing so makes your text look daunting as it becomes just one big blob of text. Break it up, use shorter paragraphs and don’t forget to give your core sentences some thought.
  • Subheading distribution: Similarly to long paragraphs, texts without subheadings are difficult to scan, which makes them rather daunting. So, we check if you use enough subheadings to guide your readers through the text and help them find what they’re looking for.
  • Sentence length: Sentence length is one of the core aspects that can make a text hard to read. If most of your sentences are too long – over 20 words – people lose track of your point. Readers often have to jump back a few words to find out what you mean. This very tiring and inefficient. Try to keep the number of words in a sentence in check. Shorten your sentences. Aim for easy understanding, not a complex literary masterpiece.
  • Passive voice: Using a lot of passive voice in your text makes it appear distant, and your message will be less clear. Your sentences become wordy and difficult because the sentence structure is harder to understand. Whenever you use the passive voice, always consider whether a better, active alternative is available.

Supported languages

The readability analysis is available in English and several languages, such as German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. Check out the features per language for an overview. We’re continually working on adding new languages.

How to use the readability analysis in Yoast SEO

It’s very easy to use the readability analysis in Yoast SEO to improve your content. Personally, I just start writing the article I want to write. I keep the audience I’m writing for in the back of my head and try to use the words they would use. Although the readability score is calculated in real time, I won’t look at the score during the writing process. Only after (the draft of) my article is finished, I’ll check the readability score and see if I have to fix anything. If I get an orange or red bullet, I can click on the eye icon to find out where improvements can be made. Easy peasy!

Everyone has their own writing and editing process, and my way isn’t necessarily how you should use it. For instance, you might be targeting a Flesch level of 80. If so, you have to find out what works gradually. When using the readability tool for a while, you’ll notice that you’ll automatically get a feel for the level you are aiming for. Practice makes perfect!

The readability checks in Yoast sEO

Should all bullets be green?

This is a question we often get and no, not every bullet has to be green. What you should aim for, though, is a green, happy bullet overall – the one in the tab that reads “Readability”. Having an orange bullet for one of the checks, like in the screenshot above, is ok. Your article will still be able to rank, even if it doesn’t pass all of the tests. This is merely an indication, not a necessity.

We want everyone to be able to read and understand content, but we also know that there are industries where the language used is totally different from what ordinary people would use. That’s perfectly fine. Find out what works in your case. Need help? Please read our ultimate guide to SEO copywriting.

Try it out!

The readability and content analyses of Yoast SEO help you to write excellent, SEO-proof articles that are easy to grasp for anyone. In doing so, you make sure that every piece of content you write is ready to start ranking in search engines, while staying enjoyable for readers. Don’t have Yoast SEO yet, or want to take advantage of the awesome additional features our Premium plugin offers? What are you waiting for?

Read more: How to use the content & SEO analysis of Yoast SEO »

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Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide

Keyword research is the first step in the SEO copywriting process and an essential part of any SEO strategy. Before you write your website content, you need to think about which search terms you want to be found for and this means getting inside people’s heads to find out which words they use when searching. Then, you can use these exact terms in your content so that you start ranking for them. This is keyword research, and our ultimate guide will take you through the many steps involved.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading #7 of our best-read posts this year! Find out what steps you need to take to do proper keyword research. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another holiday countdown surprise!

What is keyword research?

Before we start explaining the process of keyword research, let’s look at the most important concepts behind it.

Keyword research can be defined as the work you do to come up with an extensive list of keywords you want to rank for.

Keyword strategy is about the decisions you make on the basis of that keyword research.

Keyphrases are keywords containing multiple words. We tend to use the word keyword all the time, but we don’t necessarily mean it’s only one word. [WordPress SEO] is a keyword, as is [The best Google Analytics plugin]. Keywords usually consist of multiple words! So, in this guide, when we talk about keywords, we usually mean a phrase, rather than a single word. As of Yoast SEO 9.0, we are using the term keyphrase in many more places, and have replaced the term focus keyword with focus keyphrase.

Long tail keywords are more specific and less common because they focus more on a niche. The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it will be to rank for the term. Keywords that are more specific (and often longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords.

Focus keyphrase is the word or phrase you most want your page to be found for. You should put your focus keyphrase into the meta box of the Yoast SEO plugin.

Search intent is all about discovering what a searcher actually wants. These are not just keywords, but the underlying goals of what a searcher wants to know, do or buy.

Read more: What is keyword research? »

Why is keyword research important?

Proper keyword research is important because it will make clear which search terms your audience uses. At Yoast, we frequently come across clients who use one set of words when describing their products, while their target audience uses a completely different set of words. As a result,  potential customers don’t find those websites, because of a mismatch in word use.

Sometimes a marketing department decides to give their products a certain name. And, that can be a smart marketing decision. It can be a way to make people remember your product. For example, you don’t rent out vacation homes, but [vacation cottages]. But: be aware that very few people search for [vacation cottages]. So, if you optimize your text for these terms, you’ll probably rank well on these specific terms. However, you won’t generate a lot of traffic with these terms and you’ll miss a large part of your potential audience.

So, you’ll understand that it doesn’t make any sense to optimize for words that people don’t use. Good keyword research makes sure that you use the same words as your target audience and this makes the whole effort of optimizing your website far more worthwhile. In addition, by looking at search intent, you find out which questions your customer has. Those questions should get an answer in the form of quality content.

Keep reading: The basis of keyword research »

How to do keyword research

For us, there are four steps to keyword research. First, you write down the mission of your business. Next, you make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for. Then you look at search intent and finally, create landing pages for each of those keywords. This ultimate guide takes you through these steps in much more detail.

Step by step, we’ll guide you through the entire keyword research process, and we’ll give you practical tips to easily start your own keyword research.

Things to consider: How competitive is your market?

The market you’re in determines whether your mission will prove genius enough to sell your products to people. Some markets are highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have huge budgets for marketing in general and SEO in particular. Competing in these markets is tough, so ranking in these markets is also going to be tough.

Perhaps you sell cruises to Hawaii. You offer great facilities for children, making the cruises especially suitable for young or single parents. Offering great cruises to Hawaii for young parents could very well be what makes your service unique. Look for the thing that makes your product stand out from the competition. This should be your mission, your niche – and this is what you have to offer your audience.

If you’re launching into in a competitive market, your best bet is to start out small. Once you ‘own’ a small part of that niche and become a big name in the business of cruises to Hawaii, you could try to go one level up and sell your cruises to a larger (more general) audience. Your mission will then become much more general as well.

Step 1: What is your mission?

Before starting anything, think about your mission. Think about questions like: Who are you? What is your website about? What makes you special? Who are you trying to reach? And what promises do you make on your website?

Read on: What is the mission of your website »

A lot of people can’t effectively answer these questions at first. You have to figure out what makes you stand out from the crowd. What’s more, you have to know what kind of audience you want to target. So take your time and literally write down your mission on a piece of paper, a computer or an iPad – anything will do, as long as you do it. Once you’re able to answer these questions in detail, you will have taken the first and most important step in your keyword strategy.

Step 2: Make a list of keywords

The second step of keyword research is creating a list of your keywords. With your mission in mind, try to get into the heads of your potential buyers. What will these people be looking for? What kind of search terms could they be using while looking for your amazing service or product? Ask yourself these questions and write down as many answers as possible.

If your mission is clear, you will have a pretty clear image of your niche and your unique selling points (the things that set your business apart from others). These are the terms you want to be found for.

Make sure the keywords fit your site

Be aware that you should be found for terms that match your site. If we went crazy and did our very best to make yoast.com rank for ballet shoes, people would be rather disappointed to find our site. They would probably instantly go back to Google. If we ranked for ballet shoes, we would have a massive bounce rate. And a high bounce rate tells Google that people are not finding what they are looking for based on their search term. This would inevitably lead to a lower ranking on ballet shoes for our site – and that would be completely justified because we know nothing about ballet, nor about shoes for that matter.

Tools you can use

Making a list of possible search terms is hard. Up until a few years ago you could just check Google Analytics and see the terms people used to find your website, but unfortunately, that’s no longer possible. So you’ll have pretty much no idea which terms people use in search engines to end up at your website. Luckily, there are still some other tools which make your keyword research a bit easier. Read our post about tools you can use in your keyword research for more tips and tricks.

Step 3: Look at search intent

Today’s SEO strategies should, for the most part, revolve around answering the questions people have. Whenever someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are on a quest for something. Every type of question needs a specific answer. In my SEO basics article on search intent, I said:

“Search intent has to do with the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something?”

When planning your content, always ask yourself these questions. There are four types of intents:

  • Informational intent: Just like it says on the tin, people are trying to find information on a specific topic.
  • Navigational intent: People want to access a specific website by entering the term in a search engine.
  • Commercial intent: People want to buy something sometime soon and are doing research before making a purchase.
  • Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

Find out which kinds of intent apply to you and try to match these search intents, literally giving people what they want.

Step 4: Construct landing pages

The next step towards a long-term keyword strategy is to create awesome landing pages. In the past, each of the keywords you wanted to be found for, got its own landing page. Today, however, search engines are so smart that they mostly use search intent to give searchers the best answer to their questions. The page that answers those questions best will rank on top. Search engines also understand subtle differences between keywords so you don’t have to create landing pages for all subtle variations of a keyword. You can just optimize a page for multiple keyphrases, synonyms, and related keyphrases.

Create an overview

We would advise you to build your page structure in a well-structured way – using a spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Docs/Sheets is a great way to do this. Create a table then add your list of keywords. Using a table forces you to set up a structure and to make relevant landing pages. Put the search terms in the first column and add columns for the different levels of your site’s structure.

Create landing pages

Then, you’ll need to build a landing page for your search terms, but you don’t have to create all these pages immediately – it can be a long-term thing. The more specific your search term is, the further down into your site structure the term’s landing page belongs. The most important keywords will lead to your cornerstone content articles. These are the keywords you definitely want to rank for. To do this, you create the best possible content about that keyword – authoritative and all-encompassing, just like the ultimate guide you are reading right now. All your supporting articles will link to this cornerstone content. This should be part of your internal linking strategy, which Yoast SEO Premium can help you implement.

After completing your keyword research for SEO, you should have a clear overview of the terms people use and the terms you want the pages on your site to be found for. This overview should guide you in writing content for your website.

Long-term keyword strategy

No website should rely on one single keyword or one keyphrase for its traffic. You should use your mission as a starting point, then take our steps in carrying out proper keyword research and work towards a solid base: a keyword strategy. This section of our ultimate guide explains why it’s important to have a long-term keyword strategy.

How many keywords?

We can’t tell you the exact number of keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you need a lot of them – as many as you can think of. However, more than 1000 keywords is probably too many!

Even if you’re a reasonably small business, you’ll probably end up with a couple of hundred keywords. But there’s no need to create pages for all of these straight away. The great thing about having a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is that you can add content bit by bit. Think about what keywords you want to rank for now, and which ones aren’t as important right away. Understand your priorities and plan the creation of your content.

Keep on reading: Managing a growing blog: content planning »

The importance of long-tail keyword strategy

Focusing on long-tail keywords should be an important part of a long-term keyword research strategy. Long-tail keywords are keywords or key phrases that are more specific (and usually longer) than more common keywords, often called ‘head’ keywords. Long-tail keywords get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they focus more on a specific product or topic. Read our post about the importance of long-tail keywords if you want to know why you should focus on long-tail keywords when optimizing your site.

Read more: Make friends with the long tail »

What is the competition doing?

Always keep an eye on the competition. Whether you should go after long-tail keywords, which are specific and consist of multiple words, or after head terms, largely depends on your competition. If the competition in your niche is high, you’ll have a hard time ranking on competitive head terms. If you have little competition, you’ll even be able to rank for head terms. So how do you determine your competition? What should you be looking for? There are two steps to take to properly assess how you compare to your competition:

1. Google and analyze your competition

2. Try, evaluate and try again.

1. Google and analyze your competition

Google the keywords that came out of your keyword research. Start with your most ‘head’ term. The most general one. Check out the search engine result page (SERP). These are the websites you’ll be competing against once you optimize your content for such a keyword. To check whether or not you’ll be able to compete with the websites on that result page, analyze the following things:

  • Are the websites professional websites? Are they company websites? Ask yourself whether or not you are an ‘equal’ to these companies. Does your website belong among these sites? Is your company of similar size and does it have as much influence in your niche?
  • Does the SERP show well-known brands? It’s harder to rank when you’re competing against sites with strong brand-names. If brands are known from TV or radio commercials, your chances to rank will become even smaller.
  • What about the content of these websites? Is the content well written and well optimized? How long are the articles on the sites? If your competition has poor content, you’ll have a larger chance to outrank them!
  • Are there any ads in Google? And how much is the pay-per-click in Google adwords? Search terms that have a high pay-per-click are usually also harder to rank for in the organic results.

How do you compare to the competition?

It all boils down to a single question: how does my website hold up, compared to the websites in the SERPs? Are you of equal size and marketing budget: go ahead and focus on those head terms. If not: try a more long-tail keyword.

The next step is to do the same analysis with a keyword that’s slightly more long tail. Longer and more specific search terms will generate less traffic, but ranking on those terms will be much easier. Focusing on a whole bunch of long-tail keywords combined could very well attract a lot of traffic. Once you’ve managed to rank for those long-tail keywords, aiming for more head terms will become a bit easier.

2. Try, evaluate and try again

Once you’ve done a thorough analysis of your chances to rank on a specific term, the next step is to write an amazing article and optimize it accordingly. And hit publish. Make sure you’ll attract some nice backlinks. And wait a little while. Check out your rankings. Does your article pop up? Did it hit the first page of Google’s SERPs? Or is it hidden away on page 2 or 3? Make sure to evaluate your articles in the SERPs. Google the terms you’ve optimized your articles for. Check whether or not your SEO is paying off!

If you’re not able to rank on the first page, try to write another article, focused on an (even) more long-tail keyword. Make it a little bit more specific, more niche. And see how that goes. Evaluate again. Continue this process until you hit that first page of the SERPs!

Ad hoc keyword research strategies

In an ideal world, you would do your keyword research, make a beautiful table and create landing pages for each one. Your site structure would be flawless and you would blog and write every day making your site rank higher and higher in Google. Unfortunately, we live in the real world.

Of course, your keyword research will not always be as extensive. And some posts or articles aren’t written as part of an awesome strategy, but just because the topic was in the news or something inspired you to write it. That’s just how these things work. But this doesn’t have to be a problem.

If you’re writing something that doesn’t exactly fit your strategy, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make that content rank. You could still use it to rank for something related to the terms in the list of your keyword strategy. Use tools like Google Trends to choose which keyword you’d like to rank for. At least take some time to think about how to make your article or blog fit your strategy. After all, if you are writing valuable content, you might as well make it rank!

Synonyms and related keywords

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin allows you to optimize your content for synonyms and related keyphrases. Synonyms are direct replacement words for your focus keyphrase, while related keyphrases are words and concepts that are not a direct replacement but terms and phrases that deepen and broaden the understanding of your focus keyphrase. By using synonyms and related keyphrases in your text you can paint a complete picture of your focus keyphrase in your article. Remember, don’t use your focus keyword more than once. Not sure if you used a focus keyphrase before? The post why and how to export your focus keyphrases with Yoast SEO Premium explains how to get an overview of the focus keyphrases you used before and on what page.

Singular or plural focus keyword?

Should you aim for the singular or the plural keyword? Well, this depends on the query. As Google is learning more about search intent of your query, it is able to better guess what you’re looking for. For instance, if you search for book, you get a different result than if you search for books. Apparently Google thinks that in the first case you’re looking for a definition or certain stories, in the second case it believes you’re looking for books to buy. So make sure you know what you offer on your page and that it fits with the query and results Google gives on that query.

Yoast SEO Premium has word form support, so it automatically detects all the different forms of your focus keyphrase (known as keyword stemming). Now, you no longer have to optimize your post for a specific word form. Optimizing your post has become a much more natural process. However, there are reasons why you’d still want to optimize for a very specific word form of a keyword. In this case, you can put your focus keyphrase in quotes: “best books ever”. Yoast SEO will now only take that exact focus keyphrase into account when checking your content.

Keep reading: How to choose the perfect focus keyword »

Conclusion on keyword research for SEO

Keyword research should be the start of any sustainable SEO strategy. The result will be a long list of keywords for which you’d like to be found. But the hardest part is still ahead: writing all that content. You should write articles and blog posts on every single keyword you would like to be found for. That’s quite a challenge!

Read on: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

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