One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is thinking that they can simply insert keywords into their content and rank highly on search results.
Make no mistake: keywords are still important.
Over the last year, there has been plenty of chatter about whether or not keywords are still important to search engine optimization, but it is impossible to argue that they are not while Google still lists them as one of their many ranking factors.
Many people are arguing that keywords are no longer important simply because they really are not as important as they once were.
At the dawn of Google, all you had to do was have the highest frequency of a certain keyword on your webpage and you would likely be the first link in the search results.
As you can imagine, this was extremely easy to exploit and has since led to far more complicated search algorithms, which have, yes, lessened the importance of keywords, by giving importance to other factors and by changing the way Google looks at and evaluates the keywords that it does find in content.
So, many people, especially those with fewer resources and less time, like those who own small businesses, will often just insert keywords into their existing content and then wonder why their content does not rank highly.
If you are just coming up with your own keywords and plugging them into content, your small business SEO campaign is probably not going to bring you the results you want.
How can you tell if your content is actually search engine optimized?
Here are a few of the most important criteria:
1. Have your keywords been thoroughly researched?
There is a big difference between the keywords that you think potential clients, customers, or patients will use when looking for a business like yours and the keywords that they will actually use.
The only way to know what keywords they are likely to use is to research them.
Brainstorming your own keywords is a good place to start, but keyword research is a necessity before any content is written for your website.
2. Do your keywords interfere with the natural flow of your content?
One of the biggest mistakes many people make when selecting keywords is choosing phrases that are extremely difficult to integrate naturally into your content.
For example, if you choose the keyword, “dentist office Philadelphia PA,” there are only a few ways that that keyword can be inserted into a sentence to sound anywhere close to natural?
Why does this matter?
Because when a reader comes across an awkwardly worded phrase that is clearly being used just to incorporate a keyword, the content loses value.
They realize that the content was written not for them, but instead, for an algorithm.
3. Are your keywords highly relevant?
The best way to achieve a high page ranking is to make sure that your keywords are highly relevant and that they narrowly fit your business and your audience.
Location-specific phrases are a good place to start. Take, for example, a small, local shoe store.
Trying to optimize and rank for a keyword like “shoes” is going to be impossible.
Trying to rank for a keyword like “New Jersey red kitten heels,” is going to be much, much easier and will probably bring individuals to your website that are more likely to make a purchase.
A keyword like that is targeted—it is searched by someone who is looking for a specific type and color of shoe, and probably has more impetus to buy than someone who is just looking for “shoes.”
4. Does your content have meaning?
This is one of the most important metrics of search optimization.
You can plug keywords into meaningless content, but in this day and age, your content is simply not going to rank.
Your pages will really on been search engine optimized if Google can take a holistic view of your website and get a very clear idea about what it is that you offer and whether or not you can actually deliver it.
Google is looking for keyword synonyms. It is looking for context clues. It is looking at all of the content, the entire message of the webpage, in order to determine whether or not your page is going to be valuable in certain search results.
What does this mean?
It means that your small business website is not fully search engine optimized until the content accurately reflects your business and what you offer.
5. Are your keywords placed correctly?
While there is a de-emphasis on keywords, Google still does look for them in certain areas of your website in order to establish context.
These areas include the title of your website, your meta tag, and your headers.
Just because Google is looking for at so many other factors does not mean it is not important to still use keywords in these areas.
When you have taken the time to include keywords here, Google is able to get a much better idea about your website and what potential readers could expect.
6. Are other factors accounted for?
It does not matter how well structured, how valuable, or how relevant your content is if the other important small business SEO factors are being ignored.
Two of the biggest factors: security and site speed.
Users will be actively looking for security and they will passively notice and respond to site speed.
An unsecured website indicates an illegitimate business, or, at least, a business that does not care about its visitors.
A slow website indicates age—and, really, no one has the patience to wait for a slow website to load these days.