Millions of entrepreneurs in India’s tier-2 and tier-3 towns are selling products through their websites every day. Their sites have shopping carts and accept payments from local and international customers. They partner with logistics companies to ship products to customers. Those who don’t sell through their business websites, choose a marketplace like Amazon.in, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong, Myntra, e-bay.in or some other e-commerce website in India. They have product pages on those e-commerce sites. But how will customers find their product pages or business websites using search engines like Google or Bing? Customers are more likely to type words or phrases for the products they seek. If you sell a product like shoes, you want your website to show up in search results when customers search for ‘Shoes’ or ‘Footwear’. Thousands of companies in the world manufacture footwear, and naturally, there are thousands of footwear websites. Your website listing will be lost in the deluge of footwear site listings on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). But if you know what is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), and how to optimise your web pages for search engines, you might see your website on the first page of the Google or Bing SERPs. One trick is to use ‘long-tail keywords’ or keyword phrases. I will explain this later in this article and offer more tips.
Why is SEO important?
SEO helps to get traffic and visitors to your site. And it helps in lead generation.
Your business website will inform existing and potential customers about the nature of your business and the type of products and services you sell. A website is indeed a great marketing tool. But it is also used to generate ‘leads’ or new business from new customers. To do that, you need to make your website discoverable – so customers can find you on the Internet. And that’s why it is essential to understand what is SEO and to apply SEO techniques on your website and web pages.
SEO is essential for ranking on search engine results pages. As I explained in the introduction, there are thousands of websites that sell products like yours – and hence thousands of listings on search engine pages. But those searching online rarely look beyond the first page of the search results. So the objective of SEO is to get your site listed on the first page – and higher up on that page. That would make it highly visible, and hence, highly discoverable. And you want to do this organically and naturally. You could also do this inorganically by bidding for keywords and paying search engines to list your site higher up for those keywords. But that is an expensive option that requires a decent budget.
In this article, I describe organic SEO using specific techniques to improve search listings – for free.
It’s all about keywords
SEO is all about keywords – the words people type in search engines when they look for something online. It is also about you using relevant keywords — the words that define and summarise the content on your business web pages. So you have to understand the words or phrases that people use when they search for products similar to the ones you sell. SEO is about matching those expectations and search terms with the keywords on your web pages. The closer the match, the higher the number of visitors to your site.
Talk to your customers to understand what keywords and phrases they use when searching for your business online.
You can also use headline testing techniques and gauge the results using tools like Google Analytics. Try out different headlines for the titles on your web pages. Which ones get more visitors to view those pages?
SEO isn’t instant. It could take months to get your SEO accurate and to see results. You need to try out a mix of approaches and keyword combinations.
Where to use keywords
Search engines have special programs that scour the Internet looking for and indexing web pages. These programs are also called bots, crawlers and spiders, and thankfully, they are not the creepy kind! From here on I will use the term bots or crawlers to refer to these programs.
Crawlers examine the content on a web page to discern what the page is all about. They look for word patterns, how often those words are repeated on the page. And they look at specific areas on the page. And you should include the keywords you’ve chosen in those areas, as listed below.
This might get a little technical, so you will need to take the help of your website development and content development teams. I’m not going to explain some of the technical terms here but your website developer will know it like the back of her hand.
Generally, you should sprinkle keywords throughout the page, but ensure that you include keywords in these sections:
- The URL or web page address
- The title of the page
- The first paragraph
- Put keywords in an H1 tag on the page
- In the meta description and alt description in the page header section
How to choose keywords
Look at the content on your page. Do you see certain words repeating? Those are keywords. Imagine that you are using a search engine like Google to search for something described on this page. What would you type in the Google search box? You might type a few words like ‘Brown shoes in Italian leather’. That’s a keyword phrase or a ‘long tail keyword’. I would advise you to use long-tail keywords as you stand a better chance of being discovered.
Read this article carefully. You will observe that I have used the keyword phrase ‘What is SEO’ several times – in the article title, the first para, the sub-headings and elsewhere on the page. The page you are now reading has also been optimised. Anyone who searches for ‘What is SEO’ should see it in the search listings – hopefully on the first page.
You can also use specialised tools called keyword research tools to determine which keywords work best for your content. Some of these tools are free, and others offer trial versions. Try out tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz Keyword Explorer, Keyword Tool, etc.
Another way to choose your keywords is to look at what your competitors are using. Go to their websites and read their web pages. You will see consistent patterns of words used repeatedly. Those are keywords that you will be competing for on your site.
How often must you use keywords on your page? That’s what keyword density is about.
This is the number of times a keyword or keyword phrase appears on a page, in relation to the total number of words on a page. The formula for keyword density is: (number of keywords / total words on the page) X 100. It is a good practice to repeat keywords throughout the page as the search engine crawler will then associate the page with the keyword when registering the page in its central index. It’s important to get the keyword density right – too few keywords on the page and the search engine crawler will not be able to understand what the content on the page is all about. Use too many keywords and Google’s algorithm will think you are overdoing it on purpose and may blacklist your website. ‘Keyword stuffing’ as it is called, will deteriorate the quality and readability of the text and confuse readers. There is no ideal keyword density for getting a higher ranking on Google SERPs. That’s because Google’s algorithm also considers other factors such as the context, the quality of the content, authority, and how often the site is updated (among other numerous factors). But SEO experts generally recommend between 1 – 3%.
And before I conclude the article, here are some SEO tips to take your web page and website high up on the search engine results pages (and get more people to your website).
- Use keyword phrases. Using keyword phrases or long-tail keywords instead of single keywords is more effective, and increases the chances of someone finding your website. That’s because certain single keywords can be used in multiple contexts. Take the keyword ‘Policing’ for instance. It can be used as ‘Policing the Internet’ or ‘Policing the Community’. So it’s better to write a keyword phrase in this case.
- Avoid broad terms. Refrain from using broad terms like ‘Warranties’. Be more specific and use ‘home warranties’ instead.
- Spell out the acronyms. ISP should be written as ‘Internet Service Provider’ the first time.
- Use the plural form. By mentioning ‘trucks’ you also include ‘truck’ in the search possibilities.
- Synonyms. The words ‘Hotel’ and ‘Lodging’ mean the same thing. But people are more likely to search for ‘hotel’. So give careful thought to this when defining your keywords.
- Multiple intents. A keyword like ‘Orange’ may refer to the fruit, the colour, or the House of Orange (politics in the Netherlands). So you have to provide more context in your article, to make this discernible to search engines.
- Use Bold typeface. It has been proven that people skim through long texts and do not read every word on a web page. This is especially true when reading texts on small screen mobile devices. So it would be a good idea to boldface certain keyword phrases in the text. Don’t overdo it though, as text readability will suffer.
Summary and Conclusion
If you’ve read (and understood) this far in the article, you have all the knowledge to optimise your web pages and website. If you use all the techniques and follow all the practices mentioned in this article, you will undoubtedly be able to increase traffic (and visitors) to your website.
Generally, when one completes a course, a good teacher (or Jedi Master) always shares some parting wisdom (remember Yoda in Star Wars?). I’m no SEO Jedi Master, but I think it is essential to keep one fundamental rule in mind: Always consider web page optimisation from two dimensions. Optimise for search engines and optimise for human readers. To explain this further, use the right number of keywords (for the benefit of the search engine) but also ensure that your text reads naturally to human readers.
The flow of ideas should be good. The messages conveyed must be clear and easy to understand. Stuffing in keywords will not serve this purpose.
So do give a lot of thought to the keywords you are selecting for the page. Use a keyword research tool to assist you.
I also want to add that these days, search engines like Google do not give as much importance to keyword density, as opposed to quality of the content and authority. So write good content and project yourself as an authority on the subject. Update your site or blog regularly. Your site must become the go-to place for anyone looking for information on the topics or domains of your specialisation.
And as Yoda told the hero of the film, “Pass on what you have learned.” The wisdom and knowledge you’ve gained from this article is a gift to pass on and share with others. Do not keep it to yourself.
May the SEO force be with you!
This article was originally written for a web hosting company.