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In 2021, a strong digital presence is imperative to business success. Unfortunately, you can’t just build digital content and expect your audience to find you. Search engine optimization (SEO) requires a long term investment in strategy.

The best way to develop an effective search engine optimization strategy is by first determining which keywords you want to target.

What are keywords?

Keywords are terms used by your audience when searching for answers on Google. An effective SEO strategy helps your business rank at the top of Google search results pages for the keywords your target audience uses.

Long tail keywords are search terms containing multiple words, sometimes forming a complete sentence. Short tail keywords are search terms with only a few words. For example, a long tail keyword for this blog could be, “how to choose best keywords for SEO”. Meanwhile, short tail keywords could include, “keywords for SEO”, “SEO keywords”, and “SEO blog”.

Typically long tail keywords are searched less frequently than short keywords, but they tend to be less competitive. When you’re beginning your SEO strategy, it’s a good idea to target more long tail keywords to build up your domain authority and increase your rankings. As you gain new keywords, it will get easier to compete for more sought-after search terms.

Consider the search terms your audience uses.

If you want to show up in search results in front of your target audience, you need to consider what terms they search for. It’s important to think about the terminology and phraseology of your ideal buyer. For example, with the rise of voice assistants, people are more frequently phrasing their search inquiries as questions.

Outside of phrasing, consider the types of questions and topics your audience would be interested in. If you’re not sure here, a great place to start is talking to your sales team about common questions asked during the sales process.

If possible, try to think a step further back and consider what questions your audience might have before they know they need you. Usually, these questions are tied to a problem or pain point that you solve for your audience.

Finally, consider what you want to be known for. If someone was searching for you, but they didn’t know what your company name was, what terms would they use? For example, Zealous wants to be known as a “digital marketing agency”.

Use an SEO tool to conduct keyword research.

Once you have some general topics and terms in mind, use an SEO tool to conduct keyword research. SEMRush and Moz are great tools for this. In either Keyword Magic (SEMRush) or Keyword Explorer (Moz), enter your desired keyword. From there, you’ll get recommendations for related keywords as well as some important data on the search terms.

The important numbers to look at are the keyword volume, difficulty, and competition.

Keyword volume defines how frequently your term is searched each month. Keywords with no search volume provide no opportunity — you want to rank for terms people are Googling. Depending on your industry, keyword volume may be on the lower end. No matter what, it’s best to always aim for terms with a search volume of at least 50.

Keyword difficulty refers to how challenging it is to rank for a term. Depending on how established your website is, you may not be able to rank for more difficult keywords. A good rule of thumb is to aim for keywords with a difficulty level below .7.

Keyword competition is how competitive the results page is for a certain term. It’s easier to aim for keywords with lower competition when you’re getting started and work your way up to more competitive terms.

As you go through and review the data for each term, add keywords you want to target to a list. Some tools will let you save your list right in the program, but a spreadsheet is just fine for organizing these too. Then, go through and group your keywords by topic. This will make it easier to use when you get to the next step.

Create content using your target keywords.

Now that you have your list of keywords to target, it’s finally time to start creating your content! Due to the way Google ranks content, it’s a good idea to pick 2-3 general themes and focus on ranking for those keywords first. By narrowing your focus down to a few themes, you’ll ensure you create content that can easily be interlinked and will work together to rank for keywords.

For each new piece of content you write, select a main focus keyword as well as a few additional keywords to incorporate. Don’t wait until after you’ve written your content to go back and add keywords or it will feel forced. Instead, keep your keywords in mind while writing and incorporate a variety of related terms organically in your content.

Not all copy is created equally, though. Be sure to include keywords in your title, subheadings, alt text, and hyperlinked text to ensure they get extra priority.

Search engine optimization is a long-term play.

Unfortunately, SEO will never be a fast strategy. The best way to rank for keywords is by creating valuable content that your audience loves. As long as your content is based on the list of target keywords you’ve developed, you’ll start climbing the ranks over time. As you rank for more and more keywords, it will get easier to aim for bigger targets.

Keywords are just one element of a successful search engine optimization strategy. If you’re looking to get your site to the top of Google search results, reach out for a free SEO consultation.

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