Article written by Megan Totka, Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com
We’ve noted in the past that SEO is often the elephant in the room when it comes to small businesses and their websites. What if we told you that the elephant in the room had its own elephant?
SEO, keywords and keyword research remain some of the most controversial, hot-button topics, when it comes to small business and a good rapport with Google. There is no true “one-size-fits-all” way of working with keywords as there’s so much conflicting information out there for site owners. Couple that with the fact that the search engine sphere is constantly evolving, and you can understand why keywords make the average person’s head spin.
Keyword research for small business is about as complicated as it is simple. That is, there are a lot of moving pieces and variables to consider; however, a truly great site should easily be able to find a healthy balance between targeted keywords and natural, sharable content.
Wait, Why Are Keywords Such a Big Deal?
The numbers speak for themselves:
- On average, there were over 5 billion daily searches conducted through Google in 2012.
- Search engines are the top source of traffic to content-driven websites, ahead of social media by over 300%.
- Leads acquired through SEO have a 14.6% close rate versus a 1.7% close rate through print media or direct mail.
Users are out there, and they’re searching like never before. The recent announcement of Google’s Hummingbird update arguably makes a strong keyword strategy more important than ever. As keywords make your site look bigger to Google, ask yourself: Is your site reeling organic traffic in? Does your site have such a keyword strategy?
Consider first that many sabotage themselves before they even get off the ground with keywords.
Three Major Pitfalls of Keyword Research
Don’t Think Big – While we may want the very best for our businesses, we can’t assume we can rush in and take the top spot on Google without a fight. Instead of thinking big or small, think smart. The game of Google is a marathon, not a sprint, and you’re expected to play by the rules.
Don’t Assume – Although many business owners insist on trusting their instincts, guessing is as good as gambling, when it comes to Google. Never make assumptions on your keywords and always ensure that your decisions are driven by data (think: Google Analytics and Google’s Keyword Planner are here for you).
Don’t Stop – Ranking in Google isn’t a “one and done” affair. It’s a continuous process that requires you to continuously evolve, adapt and create. Like we said, it’s a marathon; if you’re looking to rank, you’re in this race for the long haul.
So, What Should I Do?
Act Natural – Being the king of keywords does little for your business content, if your site doesn’t look and feel natural. Never stuff keywords or allow them to ruin the flow of your content or structure. Instead, focus on an aesthetically pleasing site, and don’t obsess over keyword density.
Focus on the Long Tail – Website owners should focus on long-tail keywords (search terms with three or more words), if they’re looking to hit the ground running. Dominating keywords is an uphill battle; you have to start with less competitive terms before you can reach the top of the proverbial mountain. Long tails also allow you to target a specific audience in pursuit of a broader, steady stream of traffic.
Do Your Homework – Spend some time understanding both how Google works and what’s being searched within your industry. What keywords can you realistically rank for? What keywords could you possibly rank for in the future? By understanding such questions and setting goals for yourself and your business, you’ll know which direction to go in the keyword game.
The Bottom Line
The world of keywords is a full of opportunity for SMBs looking to make their mark on the Web. Don’t squander your chances of doing so. Instead, focus on strong, organic SEO efforts that will bring in new and excited visitors. What’s your keyword strategy?
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.