At the best of times SEO can seem like black magic sprinkled on websites by witch doctor-like designers.

The idea is simple– to rank better with search engines – but the methods are often debated and constantly changing, which is why business owners spend money on SEO experts to spread their voodoo on their websites. And then, boom, there you are at the top of the page, absolutely certain now that people will find you and as a result, your sales will rise.

So you sit back waiting for the traffic to spike. And you wait. And wait. And, well, you get the idea – no one’s coming and it feels like your fifth grade birthday party all over again (or was that only us?)

Ranking for the Right Keywords

So, why is no one coming to your birthday par… err… website? It’s time to look at those invitations a little more closely – specifically your keywords.

Even though you might see your webpage at the top of the search engine page, it doesn’t mean everyone else will. So, before you go off and spend a bunch of money on a professional, there are a couple easy things you can check on your own:

  • Your personalized results may be skewing the results on your page. Search for your keywords while in “Incognito Mode“, or, better yet, on a public or friend’s browser.
  • You, or your webmaster, can integrate Google’s Webmaster Tools with your website, and you can view some of your metrics through that dashboard.

The next step is to see what keywords you are actually ranking for. Sometimes unscrupulous designers will optimize for keywords with no competition to make their job easier. The problem is, these noncompetitive keywords may not fit your business, or may have traffic so low you can count it on one hand. So, while SEO is important, it can only get you as far as the keywords your site is optimized for.

Here are some helpful tools (specifically from Google) to see what keywords you’re ranking for:

  • Google Analytics – free and easy to use, this will give you a detailed rundown of which keywords are driving traffic to your site.
  • Google Webmaster Tools – Webmaster tools will tell you what search terms you’re getting impressions (views) for, as well as clicks and your average position.

How to Choose the Correct Keywords

Here’s a few steps to help narrow down your focus on the keywords you should be trying to rank for:

  1. What You’re Selling – This one is simple. You want to rank for words that are related to the product or service you are selling. Chances are you don’t sell just one product, though, so it’s a good idea to come up with a list of words that all lead back to you and what you do. This will become your initial keyword pool.
  2. Tailored For Customers – It doesn’t matter how high you rank if no one is searching for those words. Go back to your pool of words and find all the jargon, technical, or insider words and take them out. You may think they are catchy for your business, but if the general public doesn’t know or understand them, they won’t look for them. You can use Google Adwords, or websites like Moz, to find out how many people are searching for the terms you have in your pool of keywords. The bigger the pool of searchers, the bigger the pool of possible clients. Just make sure you take what you’re selling into account and ranking for keywords your clients will be looking for, not just the ones with high traffic numbers.
  3. Conversion – We’re not talking about a religious experience. Conversion is when a visitor to your site takes the time to do the desired action, whether that’s buying your product, or signing up to a mailing list. The big conversion for you, on that search engine search page, is clicking. If you optimize for apple, because you’re selling fruit, you might find people don’t click because they’re searching for computers, phones, or tablets. Get in your customer’s boots and do some searches. For example, maybe ‘buying specialty granny smith apples on line’ is a better multiple word keyword for you, even if it has low traffic.

Keep Checking Back With Your Keywords

Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of words, you can start taking action by optimizing your website, or keeping your developer honest with your new knowledge. But, it’s still not time to sit back and watch that traffic roll in. Search engines are living, growing algorithms, and that means your SEO strategy needs to be adaptable.

To keep attaining the best ranking on your search engine, it’s important to keep checking back. Continue to go through your pool of keywords, what you’re ranking for, and what people are searching for, in order to stay competing for the right words. It’s a tedious job, but optimizing your keywords is well worth the ranking rewards you’ll gain in the long run.

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