When looking for information, where do you go? If you answered Yellow Pages, you’re probably one of the last few holdouts. But if you said a search engine, you’re in the overwhelming majority. People are searching for organizations, programs, classes, and events like yours on the web every day. Today, we’ll talk about how to get your website to show up in search results.
This process of getting ranked by search engines is known as SEO (search engine optimization). But don’t be intimidated – you’ll be able to optimize your own website as well as any expert by following three steps. Today, we’ll cover step one – finding the right keywords (also known as keyword research) for your organization:
1) Brainstorm ideas of what you want to be searched by
First, think about what you offer your community. What classes, services, facilities, and events do you manage and how are they valuable to the public? Also, think about how your target customer would conduct a search. What would that person search? Make sure to include all types of phrases that would lead directly to a buy and others that are research-based.
Create this list of brainstormed words and phrases that would ideally direct people right to your organization and its offerings. Save the list.
2) Check similar organizations’ websites for keywords
Now, other organizations are probably doing some search engine optimization as well. Check out the websites of your neighboring organizations and similar groups. Click around the website and see what phrases are being used often. Also, check the top bar of your internet browser on each page. Any similar organization that has done SEO will have their keywords here:
Whatever relevant phrases you see, add them to the list. If you see some location-based phrases like “Zumba classes in San Antonio,” change the city and add the phrase to your growing list of brainstormed keywords.
3) Survey your customers and clients
This isn’t absolutely necessary in the keyword research process, but it could give you some good insight into how your members and customers think. Ask them how they found you. Ask them how they find classes and programs that are similar to what you offer. This could be really helpful to weed out some of the industry jargon that you may use internally. For example, if you and your staff refer to your buildings as facilities, your audience might call them gyms. The ultimate goal here is to add keyword phrases to the list from your customers’ perspectives.
4) Look at Google’s suggestions
At this point you should have a pretty big list (20-100) keyword phrases that you’ve brainstormed. Now Google the phrases. As you type in the search terms, check to see what phrases Google is suggesting. If you find relevant ones, add them to the list. Google recommends searches that have some popularity, so this is your first step towards honing in on the right keywords for your website.
5) Plug all of your terms into a keyword tool
Up until this point, we’ve basically been guessing. Keyword tools help you make the step from what we think people are searching to what we know people are searching. Here are three keyword tools that you can use online:
These tools take the phrases that you enter and make suggestions that seem similar. Also, they provide search volume and competition numbers. Here’s how to get started with Keyword Tool by Google Adwords:
- Visit AdWords.Google.com/Select/KeywordToolExternal
- Enter your brainstormed list of keyword phrases into the top box – one phrase per line
- Choose your match type on the left hand side (I recommend checking “exact” because that gives you the correct search volume numbers for each specific phrase)
- Click search and view the “Keyword Ideas”
- Create a new list in Excel to track the keywords that have been researched through a keyword tool
6) Pick keywords based on relevancy more than traffic
Don’t get caught in the traffic trap. As an example, let’s say you are the P & R department for Chicago. You see this as one of the keyword ideas: parks and recreation and it is searched 135,000 times in the United States per month.
This is enticing, but not a good keyword for you! First, it’s not too relevant because you are only trying to attract people from Chicago and visiting Chicago. Second, most of the people conducting that search are looking for the TV show. And third, it’s not realistic to think that your website will be able to jump NCB, Wikipedia, Hulu, IMDB, and the NRPA in the rankings. So throw that one out!
Here is a much better keyword idea recommended by Google: Chicago recreation. That is searched 73 times per month and has low competition. It is also as relevant as you’ll find. Each person who conducts that search is looking directly for you. Check it off in Google’s keyword tool to mark it as a keyword to make your master list.
7) Export to excel and manage the list
Once you’ve checked all of the keyword phrases that you want to target, export them to Excel so that you can get organized. Try to organize your keywords into categories like events, recreation, vacation, things to do, and rentals. This will help when you go into phase II – putting the keywords in the right place on your website.