Now, I know it might seem funny that I get thrilled about something so seemingly boring and complicated. But, I’m passionate about search engine optimization because I know SEO has the power to give small businesses and creative entrepreneurs big results.
In fact, every year, 40% of my clients find me on Google, meaning 40% of my annual income is a result of the fact that my website ranks well on search engines. (Referrals are responsible for approximately 55% of my business, and social media actually only accounts for 5%. But, social media does help me stay top of mind, so it’s a great investment of my time.)
If you haven’t tuned into or read “Episode 004: Five Ways to Improve Your SEO for Free,” I highly recommend listening to/reading that episode before diving into this one.
But, in this particular episode of Priority Pursuit, we’re going to break down how you can identify and use strategic keywords to improve your SEO and get your website, blog posts, and other content in front of your ideal customers, so you can make more sales!
First of all, what are keywords?
In other words, keywords are the words or phrases that people Google, and as a business owner, you want to include relevant keywords on your webpages and in your blog posts so that you can get your website in front of potential customers who are specifically looking for your products, services, or content.
For example, because I’ve optimized my homepage for “Wedding Photographer in Lafayette, Indiana,” my website is one of the first to appear when people are looking for wedding photographers in the Lafayette, Indiana area. This allows me to get my services and information in front of people who are actively shopping for what I have to offer. And, that’s a very powerful thing!
A common mistake that creative entrepreneurs make is optimizing their websites for broad keywords (head keywords) instead of specific keywords (long-tail keywords).
We’ll discuss the differences between head and long-tail keywords below, but basically, it’s important to understand that it will be much easier and more beneficial for your website to rank for long-tail keywords than for head keywords.
Broad keywords—also called “head or singular keywords”—are usually one or two words. For a wedding photographer, examples of head keywords might include “wedding photographer,” “photographer,” “wedding photos,” “engagement photographer,” and other broad words that describe a wedding photographer’s services.
Head keywords have high search volumes, so it’s a common mistake for people to think that these are the keywords they should be using to optimize their websites. But, this is not the case, especially for small businesses.
We’ll stick with our wedding photographer example. The average wedding photographer won’t be able to rank on the first page of a Google search for “wedding photographer” (a head keyword) because there are so many photographers in the world with websites.
Right now, if you Google “wedding photographers,” 1,860,000,000 results appear. That’s a lot of online competition! And, to be honest, it’s practically impossible for even a world-renowned wedding photographer to overcome these numbers and make his or her way to the first page of Google search. (The exception is local search—results that Google shows based on your location when you type in a search query.)
So, how do you combat this? You need to optimize your website with long-tail keywords that your ideal clients will be searching for.
Long-tail keywords are more specific keywords—ideally made up of four or more words (three words work occasionally)—that better mirror a searcher’s intent.
Long-tail keywords are more powerful than head keywords because, according to Neil Patel, “Long-tail keywords are how people actually search the internet.”
Think about when you search for something. Do you type in one or two words? No. You type in a question or add a description so you can find results that are more relevant to what you need. Examples might include “blush maxi dress with pockets” or “best bloody Mary in Madison, Wisconsin.” In fact, 70% of all Google searches are specific like these examples.
Now, let’s pretend that you’re a wedding photographer in Lafayette, Indiana and that your target audience is brides in Indiana. You don’t need to rank well for “wedding photographer.” Instead, you need to rank well for searches that are relevant and specific to your target audience.
These searches might include “Lafayette, Indiana wedding photographers,” “wedding photographers in Lafayette, Indiana,” “Indianapolis wedding photographers,” “best wedding photographers in Indiana,” or “light and airy wedding photographers in Indiana.”
These long-tail keywords are more specific to your target audience and have less competition, meaning you’re more likely to rank well. For example, only 815,000 results appear when you search “wedding photographers in Lafayette, Indiana.” This seems like a lot, but this is 99.96% less than the 1,860,000,000 listings for “wedding photographer”!
Basically, according to HubSpot, long-tail keywords offer you the path of “least resistance” and are more likely to put you in front of your target audience.
Please Note: Long-tail keywords aren’t just location specific. If you have a service area (like a photographer) or a brick and mortar location (like an ice cream shop), using your location makes sense.
But, let’s pretend you offer a service or product where you can serve anyone anywhere, like a clothing boutique. Long-tail keywords that make sense for you might include “boho women’s online boutique” or—if you’re optimizing for a product page—“blush maxi dress with pockets.” Long-tail keywords like these are more likely to get your website in front of the right people and help your website appear before Nordstrom, Amazon, and other big-name sites.
While common sense will get you a long way, you don’t want to choose your long-tail keywords without looking at data.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, there are a few things that you should note:
These five things are so important. As you’re choosing your long-tail keywords, be sure to refer to this list.
Now, let’s talk about actual steps and tools you can use to identify and use strategic keywords to improve your SEO!
I’m going to give a brief description of how to identify and use strategic keywords (long-tail keywords) below, but if you’re a more visual person, I highly recommend downloading, “A Guide for Photographers: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients.”
While this guide was created for photographers, I think it’s safe to say that any creative entrepreneur will find it useful. The guide includes screenshot examples and more specific instructions, while this blog post is simply an overview, because SEO is difficult to explain in text alone.
Start with a spreadsheet and make four columns: one to list all of your webpages, one to list each page’s coinciding long-tail keyword, one to list each keyword’s average monthly searches, and one to make note of other keywords you’d like to include on each webpage.
Then, go ahead and add all of your webpages (home, about, services, etc.) to the first column.
While you’ll likely put up or update all of your webpages at once, you will (or at least you should) be adding blogs and other content to your website on a regular basis. So, every time you add something new, you’ll want to return to this spreadsheet to:
Next, you want to think like your ideal clients and about their intent. What are they searching for? What do they need from you? Is your location or service area important? What’s important to your ideal clients when they’re looking for a product or service like yours?
With long-tail keywords, user intent is very important because your goal is to get your website in front of the individuals you can serve. So, start by brainstorming a list of keywords that you think might be relevant.
After you’ve brainstormed a list to get you started, it can’t hurt to use a little technology for more inspiration. When exploring potential long-tail keywords, I regularly use:
Once you have a list of possible long-tail keywords, it’s time to determine which are most effective based on data.
Using Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner, type in each possibility (while paying attention to other options that populate) and look at the long-tail keyword’s average number of monthly searches (in the “Avg. monthly searches” column).
Your ideal long-tail keywords will contain 4+ words and have 1-100 average searches per month. Like we talked about before, it sounds like a good idea to look for keywords that have thousands or millions of searches per month, but that isn’t the case. Remember, your goal is to get your website in front of the right people. And, it’s very difficult to appear on the first page of Google search results for general keywords.
Cut your brainstorming list down until it only contains keywords that meet the qualifications you need.
Please Note: Google may not have data for all long-tail keywords. While Google knows almost everything, it does occasionally fall short.
If you’re convinced that a long-tail keyword will work but Google’s Keyword Planner will not display the long-tail keyword, or the average number of searches aren’t available, don’t panic.
Instead, type your long-tail keyword idea into a Google search and see what appears. If you want your business listed with the results that appear (maybe competitors show up), you likely still have a good long-tail keyword choice. It’s probably just so specific or niche that Google doesn’t have the data you’re looking for.
Once you have a list of possible long-tail keywords that are intentional and have the data needed to back them up, start identifying long-tail keywords for each webpage that are relevant.
In this case, relevant means that there is a connection between each page and its long-tail keyword. Some people assume that if they simply use a long-tail keyword on a page, the page will rank well. However, if your long-tail keyword does not relate to the content on the page, search engines will likely punish you by giving you a lower ranking.
For example, if you have a webpage about family photography but make your long-tail keyword “best wedding photographers in Indiana” because you’re trying to increase your search engine rankings as a wedding photographer, your long-tail keyword is not relevant to your webpage.
So, work your way through your spreadsheet and determine which long-tail keywords work best for each page, and record the keyword’s average number of monthly searches.
When you’ve completed your list of long-tail keywords, what happens next? Well, it’s time to get those babies on your website so you can improve your search engine rankings!
You will need to include each page’s long-tail keyword in the page’s:
If you have no idea what any of this means, don’t panic. That said, understanding how to use long-tail keywords in each of these places is much easier to show than tell.
With this in mind, I want to encourage you to check out “A Guide for Photographers: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients.” This downloadable guide walks you through exactly how to use your long-tail keywords in each of these sections so that your website can truly be keyword optimized.
I know listening to this episode or reading this blog post might feel overwhelming. But, friend, here’s the thing. Learning to understand even just basic SEO principles is an excellent use of your time because:
If you have more questions about SEO, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com or shoot me a DM on Instagram. You can find me at @victorialrayburn. I may answer directly, or if there’s enough interest, we’ll do a future episode answering all questions submitted.
Now, get to optimizing your website, friend. SEO is a game changer!
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