If you're operating a small website, it's a real challenge to compete on search with your big company competitors. Perhaps the most common mistake we see is websites trying to target a really broad search phrase (like cars or flowers). The broader a word or phrase, the more competitive it's likely to be, and a site with a few hundred or thousand visitors every month is never going to get into Google's front page for a highly sought-after keyword. So you need to pick keywords and phrases carefully for success.
Plug in SEO will automatically suggest keyword terms for you to focus on, based on various factors including the search volume, but it needs to be "seeded" with some terms to get started with - think of this as pointing us in the right direction. The better your initial search terms, the better Plug in SEO's recommendations will be, at least to start with.
Don't worry too much about all the people you're missing out on who are searching on those broad, competitive terms. Reports vary, but somewhere between 68% and 90% of users click on the first page of results, so you're much better off focusing on narrow terms where you can rank well, than broad terms that are dominated by big players. You will get far more business by appearing on the first page for a term that 100 people search for today, than to rank on page 10 for a search term that 1,000 (or even 10,000) people search for.
If you really want to dig into the detail, you can use the Google keyword tool to understand how many people are searching for different terms - this is called the Search Volume, and it's one of the factors Plug in SEO takes into account when making recommendations.
Niche capabilities and specialities
Pick keywords that highlight what's special about your particular business. Think carefully about what distinguishes you from your competitors.
- How would you describe your company, or its products or services? Add adjectives (fresh, tasty, cheap, wholesome, quick, reliable, spicy) to the nouns (cheese, haggis, car rental, dog food) to make them more specific.
- Do you have products or services that target specific events in the calendar? Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mothers' Day....
- How would your customer or the product end-user describe themselves? Student, senior, girls, boys...
- What might people want to learn about your products? History, making of, recipes, size...
- Are there alternative names for your products? Milk drinks, milkshakes, milk shakes. How about protein drinks too?
So for example, if the thing that's special about you is that you make haggis in a whole range of sizes, you might choose keywords like individual haggis, family haggis, giant haggis. And since it's so good for Halloween, and you know your customers tend to be families celebrating together, why not put specifically target family haggis on Halloween (and variants like Halloween family haggis). You'd probably want to design a specific page focussing just on that particular occasion, so that users find information that's directly relevant to exactly what they searched for.
Location and locality
If you serve a particular locality, pick keywords that include the name(s) of the towns and areas you work in. For example, Florist is much harder to rank well on than Guildford Florist or Surrey Florist. The chances are, if your customers are looking for a convenient local business, they'll enter the city, country or state name as part of their search term.
This isn't strictly about keywords, but while we're thinking about the SEO benefits of having a physical location, like a shop, make sure the address is listed on your website, so that you can be picked up for Google's local business search results. Why not also list your business (with links) on sites like Yelp or Foursquare?
Use your keywords in your content
So you've picked some niche keywords that you'll focus on - now what? Targeting a particular keyword is not as simple as typing it into Plug in SEO, sitting back and waiting for visitors! You do actually have to include those keywords on your website. Unfortunately, content doesn't write itself so you (or someone in your team, or an outside contractor) need to put some effort in.
Review your website and look for places where you could use the more specific keyword term in place of a broad term. Where your copy says We sell our haggis at the Easton Farmers' Market, how about We sell our tasty, organic haggis at the Easton Farmers' Market. But don't sacrifice natural, easy to read text - your site still needs to appeal to human visitors.
Keep building up your content, making sure it includes the keywords you picked. Creating frequent content makes a huge difference. Plug in SEO makes suggestions about writing blog posts or creating content containing your keywords.
For more guidance and resources on picking keywords, check out our Paint By Numbers Guide to Choosing Keywords.
MiniBar, the monthly London tech meetup, has organised a series of really useful (...and free) workshops covering their most often requested topics of SEO, analytics, social media, online marketing and more.
Daniel Sim, CEO of Plug in SEO, will be presenting the SEO workshop in London on March 10th. It's going to be a practical session looking at how to get more visitors to your website using tried and tested optimisations. And, don't worry, it'll be really simple with an interactive discussion about your business.
Better register fast as spaces are sure to go quickly.
Image by Earl - What I Saw 2.0 via Flickr
Customers of Plug in SEO aren't just in London, UK, so we'll post video of the search engine optimisation and analytics workshop here on the blog. Subscribe so you don't miss it.
Would you like a workshop in your town? Ask us, provide biscuits, and you never know...
Multilingual marketing, localisation and SEO
English has emerged as the global language of commerce and the lingua franca of the internet, but it’s worth pointing out that three quarters of the world’s population speaks no English whatsoever.
So the need for businesses to speak to international consumers in their own tongue can’t be overemphasised. Even though English is the most widely spoken second language, the fact remains that most consumers will search for services/products in their mother tongue first.
So for any business looking to go global, the need to ‘think local’ means you should consider the multitude of cultural and linguistic complexities that you will face when entering new, emerging markets.
For example, the French in France and the French in Canada (Québéquois) is largely the same, but there are enough dialectal distinctions between the two forms of French to mean that separate marketing strategies are essential when targeting each market.
By way of illustration, ‘email’ is simply email in France, but in Canadian French it is courrier électronique (literally, ‘electronic mail’). And déjeuner means ‘lunch’ in France, but ‘breakfast’ in Switzerland and Belgium.
There are many such differences between the French dialects in France, Canada, Switzerland and Belgium which help to highlight the importance of properly localizing your services for each specific target market. The same can also be said for German (Germany)/Swiss German, Portuguese (Portugal)/Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish (Spain)/Latin American Spanish and, closer to home, US/UK English.
How to localize your SEO
So assuming you intend to properly localize your website for international markets, there are a number of issues you must consider when optimizing the content so that you gain as high a position on search engines as possible.
Firstly, there is the domain name. Your choice of name is entirely up to you, though you may want to consider something that is suitable for the country that you’re targeting – your brand name may work just as well abroad, but you are best using the services of a specialist translation/localisation company who can research any potential negative connotations of your name in your target market.
Equally important is your choice of web host as the server they use should be located in your target country – Google considers the IP address of the server in its algorithms, so make sure you ask where their server is based before committing to using their services.
Then there is the issue of keywords. There is a strong argument that says you should NEVER translate keywords, simply because even a direct dictionary translation may not be what people use to search for a service or product locally. They may use colloquialisms, abbreviations or acronyms instead.
In the same way as you would use something like Google’s keyword tool when identifying the most popular industry keywords in English, you should thoroughly research the key search phrases that are incorporated into your new foreign language website too.
Localisation and SEO should underpin any international online marketing strategy, as it will not only help ensure linguistic and cultural nuances don’t impede your entry into new markets, but also your visibility is maximized on foreign search engines.