SEO // Search Engine Optimization

Keyword Research

Good SEO starts with comprehensive keyword research. Although there are many keyword and SEO research tools, we prefer to use Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends for the bulk of our keyword research. Several factors are important when choosing keywords to focus your search engine optimization efforts around.

  1. Relevancy
  2. Search Volume
  3. Competition
  4. Value
  5. Trend & Seasonality

Google’s Keyword Planner and Trends are the perfect tools to research these factors and determine the best set of keywords to target.

1. Relevancy

While relevancy is mostly intuitive, we use a combination of the search term, avg. monthly searches, competition, suggested bid and manual searches to help us  determine which keywords are the most relevant for our client’s objectives.  The intent of some search queries may not always be straight forward, so manually seeing what type of results Google serves up on its SERP (Search Engine Results Page) can help us in determining intent and relevancy. In addition, the suggested bid, which is a clear indicator of the value of a search term can also indicate the relevancy, because sometimes value is relevancy.

2. Search Volume (avg. monthly searches)

SEO Research Volume

While relevancy is the most important factor when choosing keywords, search volume or average monthly searches comes in a close second.  If you want lots of website traffic, your site needs to be optimized for search terms with lots of volume. Some search terms with the highest monthly volume don’t have high suggested bids because they are search queries with information intent rather then buying intent.

3. Competition

SEO Research Competition

Google’s Keyword Planner rates search term competition low, medium or high.  We don’t avoid high competition search terms, we welcome the challenge! Often times the most competitive search queries are also the most valuable. We simply us the competition rating as factor in determining which set of keywords are the best to target within our client’s budget.

4. Value

SEO Research Value

The suggested bid can be a good indicator to the value of a search term.  Industries and keywords with a high lifetime value of an acquisition may also have a high suggested bid.  High suggest bids are common in law, medical and other professional service fields.

5. Trend & Seasonality

SEO Research Trend

Some search terms have seasonality or clear trends.

Additional Research Factors

Titles

Page titles or title tags are one of the most important SEO factors. Titles give users and search engines a quick explanation about the content of a page. They are often the primary piece of information used on SERPs (search engine results page) to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.

Here are a few tips for managing your titles:

  • As explained above, make sure every page on your site has a title specified in the 
  • Be careful about disallowing search engines from crawling your pages. Using the robots.txt protocol on your site can stop Google from crawling your pages, but it may not always prevent them from being indexed. For example, Google may index your page if we discover it by following a link from someone else’s site. To display it in search results, Google will need to display a title of some kind and because we won’t have access to any of your page content, we will rely on off-page content such as anchor text from other sites. (To truly block a URL from being indexed, you can use meta tags.)

If we’ve detected that a particular result has one of the above issues with its title, we may try to generate an improved title from anchors, on-page text, or other sources. However, sometimes even pages with well-formulated, concise, descriptive titles will end up with different titles in our search results to better indicate their relevance to the query. There’s a simple reason for this: the title tag as specified by a webmaster is limited to being static, fixed regardless of the query. Once we know the user’s query, we can often find alternative text from a page that better explains why that result is relevant. Using this alternative text as a title helps the user, and it also can help your site. Users are scanning for their query terms or other signs of relevance in the results, and a title that is tailored for the query can increase the chances that they will click through.

If you’re seeing your pages appear in the search results with modified titles, check whether your titles have one of the problems described above. If not, consider whether the alternate title is a better fit for the query. If you still think the original title would be better, let us know in our Webmaster Help Forum.

Descriptions

The description attribute within the <meta> tag is a good way to provide a concise, human-readable summary of each page’s content. Google will sometimes use the meta description of a page in search results snippets, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content. Accurate meta descriptions can help improve your clickthrough; here are some guidelines for properly using the meta description.

  • Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description. The HTML suggestions page in Search Console lists pages where Google has detected missing or problematic meta descriptions.
  • Differentiate the descriptions for different pages. Identical or similar descriptions on every page of a site aren’t helpful when individual pages appear in the web results. In these cases we’re less likely to display the boilerplate text. Wherever possible, create descriptions that accurately describe the specific page. Use site-level descriptions on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and use page-level descriptions everywhere else. If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.
  • Include clearly tagged facts in the description. The meta description doesn’t just have to be in sentence format; it’s also a great place to include structured data about the page. For example, news or blog postings can list the author, date of publication, or byline information. This can give potential visitors very relevant information that might not be displayed in the snippet otherwise. Similarly, product pages might have the key bits of information—price, age, manufacturer—scattered throughout a page. A good meta description can bring all this data together. For example, the following meta description provides detailed information about a book.
    <meta name="Description" content="Author: A.N. Author, 
    Illustrator: P. Picture, Category: Books, Price: $17.99, 
    Length: 784 pages">

    In this example, information is clearly tagged and separated.

  • Programmatically generate descriptions. For some sites, like news media sources, generating an accurate and unique description for each page is easy: since each article is hand-written, it takes minimal effort to also add a one-sentence description. For larger database-driven sites, like product aggregators, hand-written descriptions can be impossible. In the latter case, however, programmatic generation of the descriptions can be appropriate and are encouraged. Good descriptions are human-readable and diverse, as we talked about in the first point above. The page-specific data we mentioned in the second point is a good candidate for programmatic generation. Keep in mind that meta descriptions comprised of long strings of keywords don’t give users a clear idea of the page’s content, and are less likely to be displayed in place of a regular snippet.
  • Use quality descriptions. Finally, make sure your descriptions are truly descriptive. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it’s easy to let this content slide. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s search results, and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.

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