I should warn you in advance that this part is a bit messy, but it's all about starting broad and scaling down as you go.
This doesn't have to be a solo task, so feel free to round up the troops. The more insight the better so try to involve a variety of team members, as everyone should have a unique perspective to bring to the table.
Start by creating a list of SEO keywords and keyword phrases that apply to your industry, product or service. What would you ideally want to rank for?
These aren't set in stone so feel free to jot down anything and everything that you feel is important to your business. However, you'll want to be sure that these words seeks to encompass everything that your product or service encompasses.
Once you've got enough to work with, it's time to actually research. So where does one turn nowadays to uncover insight into keyword demand? Check out some of these resources:
Right off that bat you'll want to cross out words and phrases that are either extremely difficult to rank for, or terms that don't yield much search traffic at all.
While the keywords used by your competitors aren't the end all be all, it's a good idea to do a little poking around to see what they're up to. By uncovering the words that they are trying to rank for, it can help you to narrow your own focus, justify your choices, or inspire a new concept.
If you find that there is a common keyword that you're both working towards, you'll want to pour a bit more of your efforts into improving your ranking, but don't let it consume you. There are certainly other factors that can improve your competitive advantage like content quality, relevance, and customer service.
If you feel like you're hitting a lot of dead ends, explore the difficulty and demand of more long-tail keywords. As a result of the Hummingbird update, and the introduction of conversational search, long-tail keywords are becoming increasingly popular. This is a notion worth making note of simply because long-tail keywords provide marketers with an opportunity to eliminate any ambiguity and ensure that the traffic they are attracting is a good fit.
By taking into all of these factors into consideration, you'll find that its easy to focus your list down to the keywords and terms that will perform best for your business.
Here are some of the best places to stash your prized SEO keywords:
Title tags: This is perhaps one of the most important places for a keyword to live. Your title tag looks a little something like this: <title> Insert Title Here </title> This title is what will appear on search engine results pages (the bolded blue), so before sure to choose wisely.
Headers: In terms of HTML, the headers that appear on your website can be classified by H1-H6 and they serve as another important spot for some keyword incorporation. Keep in mind that your H1 is your title and there should only be one of these, even Google recommends this.
Meta description: Your meta description is the little snippet of text that appears on search engine results pages right under the title. The meta serves as an indicator of what the article or site page is all about, so you'll want to include a keyword there too.
Content body: You should absolutely pepper the keyword into the body of your content, but don't go overboard. If it starts to sound unnatural, slow your roll. You want to be sure that the text is still very readable and doesn't give off a spam-y vibe.
Alt Tags: All of the images that live on your website should have a keyword in the alt text. The alt text refers to the "alternative text", or the text that the Internet uses to identify what the image is for people who have difficulty seeing. If this is the first you've heard of alt tags, go back and fill in the blanks with descriptions for a quick SEO boost.
While keywords serve as a great guide in terms of directing the positioning of your website and content, there are a ton of other SEO techniques that don't always get the credit that they deserve. So if you're looking for a couple alternative ways to make your business out perform others on search engine results pages, consider the following.
Google Authorship: Have you noticed the little faces popping up next to links on search engine results pages? Google Authorship is responsible for that. While there is a constant debate surrounding whether or not it makes an impact, there is not denying that the images help those pages to stand out, and are likely to increase clicks.
Optimize for Your Personas: Having a strong understanding of your ideal customers pain points and behaviors will make it that much easier to ensure they find your content. By creating blog articles that serve as solutions to their specific problems, you are increasing the likelihood that your content is going to align with what they are searching for. Sounds like a match made in heaven to us.