4 Tips To Build Your Solid SEO Core
The discovery phase of every SEO program is possibly the single most important aspect an SEO does to build successful organic optimization. Your keyword analysis is the central core to every program; it’s where the success starts and where the failure can begin. Here are some tips to keep in mind and build great keyword analysis in hours:
- GIGO Syndrome: Garbage In, Garbage Out
- Talk To Your Clients:
- “Take Only What You Need To Survive”:
- The Long and Winding Road:
The SEO program’s success, initially, is only as good as your keywords and the diligence you put toward it. Generally, if you start with “garbage”, that’s exactly what you and your clients can expect: garbage. Prepare yourself to dive deep into the keyword universe, exploring multiple variations of similar keywords, picking apart client site content, and continually refining until you attain your core keywords.
Someone has to break it to you. You aren’t omniscience. This is the best way to find out what you should actually be targeting, and a great way to keep from falling in the GIGO Syndrome. They’re coming to you for a reason: you’re a professional in your arena; they’re professional in theirs. And, chances are, their site is a complete and utter mess, so it’s not a reliable source to hone in on what they actually do.
Talking to clients BEFORE you begin your analysis is a great way to discern what their primary service or products are and what their secondary products and services are. It’s going to tell you what the client makes the most money on and what they need to be competitive for in order to keep their doors open. These are going to be your seed words. The words you’ll use to start your keyword research. More importantly, it’s a great way to get client buy-in on all things you’ll be doing in the future and to build confidence and trust.
Create and organize two separate spreadsheets: one for the client and one you use internally. Why? It’s pretty simple: you don’t want to overwhelm or start negotiations with your client. Through your refining process you’ll have hundreds of viable keywords, and the last thing an SEO wants to do is start “keyword nit-picking” with a client. If you show them your entire keyword universe, make no mistake that you are offering the client a say in what keywords they think/would like to be using.
The client-facing spreadsheet should show information that will only be valuable to the clients: primary keywords, secondary keywords, and long-tail keywords. If you have access to WordTracker or Keyword Discovery, or even Google’s Keyword Tool External, you’ll want to use the data they can provide support your keyword choices.
The best way to avoid a GIGO situation is, as I mentioned above, to put in your due diligence. Below is a process that works quite well for me:
Use Google’s External Keyword Tool Run your client site through the “website content” analyzer and check off the “include other pages linked from this URL”.
WARNING: unless you are doing PPC research, you just want to look at the “Common Terms” and “Keywords” columns. The traffic numbers aren’t going to help you out here as evidence for keyword choices, but they will give you an indication as to if the term is searched, as they include the entire content network and search partner network. This is not just Google Search Queries.
Review The Client Website:
Even after your sit down with the client, you still need to review ALL the content on the website. You need to know what content is on the site and what’s not. It’s not going to do you any good to find primary keywords if the content doesn’t exist on the site. Building targeted content to target keywords comes later; at this point you need to target what already exists. Chances are you’ll get more keyword ideas (and you might even find a hidden gem)
- Invade the Competitors:
- WordTracker or Keyword Discovery:
- Refine One Last Time:
Simply put, you need to know what the client competition is targeting and how well they’re doing it. You can use Google’s keyword tool and drop in the client URL, or use a couple of great paid tools like SEO Digger or SpyFu. Those two, I find, offer great results at a cheap price. Check this post by Ann Smarty for an in-depth look at these tools and others.
Once you’ve got an expansive list of keywords that all seem like a fit, it’s time to test their mettle. I like to drop each keyword, or group of similar keywords, in by themselves. It won’t do you any good to drop the entire list in at one time, especially if the settings are set for the standard 100 top keywords. Be sure to allow for misspellings or plurals or both, and let er’ rip.
Pretty soon you’ll have squeezed that list down from hundreds to about 30-40 keywords that get traffic and aren’t ultra-competitive. But, let’s face it, you’re going to have to target a few ultra-competitive keywords because that’s where the searches are happening and you have to be there.
Take another 30 minutes and review your keywords one last time. Match them up to the content pages of the client site and make sure they fit. If they don’t, lose em’.
It’s a big task, and a lot of work, but by putting in the effort up front, you’ll be saving yourself a headache and a lot of questions down the road.
Cuil Will Not Contend with Google (Or Anyone For That Matter)
Danny Sullivan posted on in the wee hours of the morning on Search Engine Land about Cuil (pronounced “Cool”). It’s a great post by Danny, as usual, and it’s a must-read.
If Cuil is really going to make a run at Google and attempt reorganize the order of the “Big 3″ (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft), then they can’t afford to go down. Ever.
In all my time using the web and surfing it, I’ve never seen Google go down. Not once. Maybe some of the old guard has seen it, but I’m not aware it’s happened. Is the fight over before it even started? This is not a good sign. Just look at what happened to Twitter and the infamous “Fail Whale”. How many devoted users migrated somewhere else because they could never use Twitter?
Round 1: Google.
Why Microsoft BrowseRank Will Fail Too
CNET has posted an article on Microsoft’s newest attempt to challenge Google for more of the search share market. Microsoft will be launching a new toolbar called BrowseRank. If you don’t want to read the whole article, here the gist of it:
Microsoft likes the results BrowseRank, which assigning Web page priority based on how people actually use the site. (Credit: Microsoft Research A Asia)
Essentially, the researchers tested out a system that replaces PageRanks’ link graph–a mathematical model of the hyperlinked connections of the Internet–with what they call a user browsing graph that ranks Web pages by people’s behavior.
“The more visits of the page made by the users and the longer time periods spent by the users on the page, the more likely the page is important. We can leverage hundreds of millions of users’ implicit voting on page importance”
The key takeaway here is that Microsoft, like Nielsen, wants to change the paradigm of how a page should be considered relevant from web pages link to your site and the importance of those linking pages to how much time a user spends on a page.
Granted PageRank is not perfect, but measuring a site’s importance and relevance by the time a user spends on it, is a worse idea. All that will really do is encourage the web community to regress back to 1995. We’ll all build sites so complex and convoluted that it will take every single user 10 minutes to find what they want. And by BrowseRank standard, all my sites will be excellent because users spend tons of time wandering around on them.
And, I can see Microsoft’s point with measuring TOS (time on site), it must mean that my site has compelling content and information. But, as you’ll see below, Plurker beagooddad made some great points:
While I couldn’t find any exact numbers on how many users actually use Live Search, it’s safe to say it’s considerably less than Google (based on current market share of search traffic). And, with lower population data, how valid will these results be? While I’m sure TOS won’t be the ONLY factor MS considers, having that piece as the cornerstone of your algorithm seems to completely invalidate BrowseRank for me.
Once again, Microsoft is a “Johnny-come-lately” in the area of web innovation. And, this effort, while valiant, is doomed to fail as all the rest of the MS search endeavors have. And, we know that if Yahoo ever builds a web page relevance toolbar, it’ll be nearly as solid as Google’s and really offer some competition. But, we’ll have to wait and see how the community, and the general populous, takes to the new BrowseRank Toolbar.