You have now got your website up and running – Fantastic! Now your job does not end here; many website owners believe that once they have a website created people will automatically find it. Nothing is further from the truth. You must actively drive traffic to your site. The old adage of "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door" is completely defunct today – and has been for quite some time. Today you must actively seek to drive traffic to your site – otherwise, you will fail to receive the return on your investment that you wanted.
Before you begin, I always recommend analyzing your competitor's Pay Per Click (PPC) activity first. I used to advise that people should always begin with your own PPC before doing SEO. Although that is a great way to start and you can get some good results quickly, it can also be expensive for people just starting out on the internet because you are spending money on keywords without any certainty of which ones will work for you.
Once you have spent some time analyzing your competitors' Pay Per Click activity, you should have a good idea of which keywords drive high quality traffic to their site. This now gives you a starting point for your SEO. Remember, one of the biggest keys to SEO is good keyword research. You want to ensure that you optimize for the "right keywords", the keywords that your target customer group are searching for. Otherwise, you are wasting your time. Imagine that you created a website talking about Java coffee beans as being the best coffee. You optimize your website for "Java" and it ranks # 3 on Google – on initial thoughts you have done well.
However, if the people searching for "Java" are looking for the Java programming language, then your site is of no relevance to them. You've optimized for a keyword that makes sense to you, but not your customers. They are not searching for "Java", they might be searching for "Coffee Beans" or "Best Coffee". You are missing out on all that traffic, because of poor keyword research and you have wasted all your time optimizing for the keyword "Java". This is what I call the "SEO Sucker Punch!" You think you're doing well but in reality you're competitors are laughing at you. Never presume that you know what you're customers are searching for – always ensure that you do your research or ensure that your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultants are doing this research for you.
When it comes to keywords, there are lots of so called SEO experts who recommend optimizing your site for up to only 5 keywords. To me, that's just dumb! Why would you only optimize your site for 5 keywords if your customer base was searching for 25 different keywords that related to your product offerings? You're missing out on over 50% of your potential traffic. Too many people only focus on 5 terms because they received bad advice or they concentrate on the 5 terms with the highest search volumes – yet these 5 terms are also often the most competitive. Ironically, if you spread your efforts to encompass 25 keywords, the traffic from the additional 20 keywords will often outweigh the traffic from the first 5. Of course, when you begin, you might start with 5 and then build on that later. That's fine, but do not stop at 5 and short change yourself. Remember SEO does take effort but the results can be amazing.
And what about the Long Tail? Long Tail keywords often contain 3 or more words in their search phrase and do not give you high search volumes every day but they are extremely targeted, have high conversions and can be quite profitable. Let me give you a rather extreme example to illustrate. Imagine if you ran the Hilton Hotel in Paris. If you decided to try and compete for the keyword "Paris Hilton", you would have very little chance of ranking well and even if you did, it would be of little use because most people searching for "Paris Hilton" are searching for pictures and the latest gossip about the famous socialite from the USA. Instead, you might focus on such keywords as "Luxury Accommodation Paris". This is not a keyword searched for in as high volumes as "Paris Hilton" but it is a highly targeted keyword for you and you want to ensure that your website appears in front of them. If you have not optimized for these keywords (again, this should come out of your research), then you're missing out on massive dollars!
A final tip – and it comes from a misnomer in the industry that SEO is all about optimizing websites. That is not actually true – you do not optimize websites, you optimize particular web pages. Google will only ever show two pages from your site for a particular keyword. So do not get over exuberant and optimize every single page for the same bunch of keywords. You are wasting your time and potential cannibalising your efforts. Instead, you want to look at your site and for each keyword (or group of keywords) pick the best two pages that have the most compelling content with regards to your keywords. These are the two pages you want to optimize.
For example, one of my first clients was an insurance company that offered a range of different insurance products. We optimized their home page for such products as car insurance and home insurance, plus one other page of relevance. However, for business insurance, we created and optimized the business insurance landing page and a lower level page. Of course we then used good internal linking with quality anchor text and as a result my client ranked in the top 5 on Google for all their relevant search terms.
So you can hopefully see just how important keywords are to you in order to get large numbers of high quality, targeted customers coming to your website. Ensure that regardless of whether you are doing your SEO or whether you get an external company to do your SEO, adequate time is spent doing research. It will pay you back in droves. Good luck!