How Important Are Exact Match Keywords?

how-important-are-exact-match-keywords

Whether you’ve been doing SEO for a while or you’re just getting into the topic, there’s a good chance that you’ve already done some research on keywords. In fact, you’ve probably received quite a bit of advice on how to best use keywords–that you should focus on long-tail keywords and phrases; that you need a specific keyword density so search engines can pick up your content; that you should be adding keywords into headers and creating anchor text.

Well, at one time, all of these tips were true. While many of these practices are now outdated, there’s a reason you’ve been hearing so much about keywords: At one time, keyword-focused strategies were at the top of any SEO’s game.

So the question remains, how important are exact-match keywords now? How do keywords translate into useful information for search engines? Read on and find out!

Back in the day

Because search is an ever-evolving practice, search engines have had to make a huge number of adjustments in how they rank sites over the years. These adjustments are referred to as “algorithm updates”. And with each of these algorithm updates, SEOs find new ways to help boost page rank. So back when the web was less sophisticated and the algorithms weren’t quite as effective as they are now, search engines looked for pages with keywords that matched the search query exactly. These were called exact-match keywords.

Keyword stuffing

Once SEOs noticed that the usage of exact-match keywords would get sites ranking higher, they began putting those keywords in all the content on the website. They’d put it in image descriptions. In headers. In footers.

It got so bad that they’d even put it in the background of the site–yes, as in the space behind the text and images–and just change the color so that it blended in with the background color. Talk about obnoxious (and shady).

Now that is something that Google strongly dislikes. In fact, they wrote a whole piece about why hidden text and keyword stuffing is bad. Needless to say, it didn’t take too long before they started penalizing sites that stuffed keywords.

Keyword density

A tactic used alongside of keyword stuffing was adhering to a specific keyword density. Many of the people who used to stuff keywords realized that the search engines had begun to penalize them for it, so they decided instead to hit a specific density of keywords per article, thinking that this made the text appear more “organic” to search engines and thus would not be flagged as spam. Their density goals usually ranged from 2-5%, and the keywords had to be an exact match.

Of course, this led to really sloppy writing. We’re talking keywords and keyphrases shoved in roughly every two sentences, leading to repetitive, grammatically- and syntactically-incorrect content. It was so obvious that it was “optimized”. And soon, Google began flagging many of those articles as spam, too.

So how do exact-match keywords work now?

As a part of the Hummingbird update in 2013, Google began taking semantic indexing into account. What does that mean? It means that the search engine is smart enough to parse sentences and pick up on keyword variations as well as topics and themes. This eliminates the need to try to stuff strangely-worded keywords into your content.

So let’s say that you run a site promoting salon services and you’re located in Atlanta, GA. Before, with exact-match keyword phrasing, you might only want your content to reference “salons in Atlanta, GA” so that you could rank locally for salon services.

With the Hummingbird update in place, however, you wouldn’t have to worry about it. If you have claimed your Google business listing and made sure that your address is correct, you’ll already have a location associated with your website. As long as your site contains content about salon services, Google will understand that when someone is searching for salons in the Atlanta area, there’s a good chance they might be looking for your page.

So if exact-match keywords aren’t as important now that Google utilizes semantic indexing, what should you focus on?

Website structure

When it comes to your website’s layout and the way the code is structured, you might think that SEO has nothing to do with it. Well, you would be wrong.

If your site is easy to navigate, then visitors will find the information they’re looking for without much trouble. Google looks at this data–how long is someone on your site? Do they click around?–which, if they stay a while and look at your content, implies your site has what they needed. But what if they just back out immediately? This would suggest they didn’t find what they were looking for, and Google will assume your site isn’t relevant to their needs.

So be sure to title your pages with descriptive words. Make your menus easy to navigate. Ensure your web designer has enabled a site map. All of these things are far, far more important than exact-match keywords.

Site speed

Something that you might not even consider to be an issue can often really make or break your SEO efforts–if your site is slow or has errors in loading, you could be damaging your ranking without even knowing it. So what can you do to make sure your website loads quickly?

  • Clean up any extra pages that you don’t use anymore (perhaps from an old design).
  • Get rid of plug-ins that are broken, outdated, or are otherwise unused.
  • Ask your web developer if there is any unneeded media or outdated code that you can get rid of.
  • SSL encryption could possibly give a ranking boost, although it’s not significant.

Other content tips

If you’re writing your own content, here are some good things to keep in mind:

  • Use proper grammar and sentence structure. Writing poorly comes off as spammy.
  • Choose a topic and stick to it. By using the topic keywords organically throughout the post, you will tell Google what the page is about.
  • Do not repeat the same words over and over again. You’ll look spammy.
  • Interlink your posts. Google loves links, including links on your own site.
  • Use images. When you use images with proper titles, you increase reader interest and you tell Google more about your topic.
  • Encourage conversation. Leave comment sections open. You can earn trackbacks to your post (other links) and make it easy for people to engage with you.

And there you have it! Exact-match keywords aren’t important today, but staying on topic and providing fresh, relevant content for your visitors is. So keep practicing your writing and let the ideas come naturally–and remember that you need to write for people, not for search engines.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

Advertisements

5 SEO Tactics You Should Be Working On

5-seo-tactics-you-should-be-working-on

1. A Great Website

So many businesses are focused on simply getting themselves online that they often forget about optimizing user experience. In fact, many small business owners aren’t really even that familiar with the concept of user experience, and instead put up a website without really considering anything beyond its mere existence in cyberspace.

So why is user experience is important? Well, for starters, someone who arrives at your webpage has a goal in mind. To better illustrate this example, let’s say you sell 100% vegan, organic, dye-free doggie beds. So when a visitor finds your website, they’re probably comparing prices for different brands of doggie beds, or are curious about yours in particular because they’re 100% vegan, organic, and dye-free. That makes sense, right?

So what happens, then, when your site is slow to load? What happens when a visitor can’t find ordering information or how to contact you with questions? Or worse, what if they encounter a bunch of broken links or images that won’t load?

They “bounce”. Bounce rate is how long it takes someone who has navigated to your page to leave. When bounce rate is high, that’s a bad thing. That means your users are having a poor experience and they want out of there as quickly as possible!

So focus on creating a website that not only looks great and is filled with valuable information about your products and services, but also is:

  • Easy to navigate–menus located in clear spots, informative labeling for links.
  • Filled out completely–no “under construction” pages or broken links.
  • Structured in a way that visitors can easily parse–i.e., no blocks of text that go on and on and on; no images that take up half the screen; no unnecessary scrolling.
  • And a quick load time–in fact, studies cite a less than 3 second load time as being optimal. Yes, it’s that important.

2. Fresh, High-Quality Content

Content is king. You’ve heard it before, and unfortunately, we’re gonna trot it out for you again. Why? Because it’s still true.

Think about it: Would you rather go to a site that has content that is a) well written, informative, and answers any questions you might have? Or content that’s b) clearly hastily thrown together, written only for search engines, and basically just takes up space on the screen? Obviously you’re going to go with option a.

So then why would you even bother putting together shoddy content? Your visitors will hate it, which in turn, means search engines will hate it. Content for the sake of content isn’t helpful. Content for the sake of your visitors is.

What does all of this mean for you? It means that you should update your site regularly with only high-quality content. Make sure that your content is helpful to your visitors. If you get negative feedback, take that into consideration to improve your future content creation efforts. If you do all of this, you’re already steps ahead of the competition.

3. Social Media Presence

You’ve probably told by many sources (least of all, us) that you need to be on social media. And while some businesses can manage to be successful without a social media presence, they’re among the few and the lucky. Many older businesses in small towns often have enough clout to simply rely on word of mouth marketing. But if you’re not one of those old, established businesses, then you need to seriously evaluate why you should be creating social media accounts for your SEO and marketing strategies.

To start, you should pick a few platforms you feel comfortable on and that will benefit your brand the most. How do you know if a social media platform will work to your advantage?

Let’s go back to our doggie bed example. Obviously, pet owners will be the most likely people to buy your products. Pet owners enjoy looking at photos of cute animals and they also like talking about their pets. This makes our hypothetical business ideal for Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. These highly visual platforms will let you show off your product in a way that pet owners will relate to, and they’ll want to talk with others about their experiences with your product.

If you’re an HVAC company, though, you probably won’t have as much luck with Pinterest or Instagram. Rather, you might want to try Quora, where you can answer questions (people have lots of DIY questions that can be answered here for free), and you might want to put together YouTube tutorials detailing minor maintenance jobs your customers can do on their own time.

As you can see, a social media presence is important for most brands. But you have to choose platforms that actually benefit your brand, as well as make sure that you have enough time to maintain your updates. Nothing will grow stale faster than a dead Facebook page or YouTube channel. By connecting with your customers and marketing your work through social media, you’ll bring more traffic to your site and you’ll probably earn shares and links back to your articles in the long run.

4. Creating visual content.

So far, we’ve talked mostly about written content. And while blogs and informative product pages are all well and good, there’s a lot more link juice to be found in visual content.

Visual content includes videos, images/memes, and infographics, all of which are highly shareable. If you think about your own sharing tendencies, which are you most likely to send to your family and friends–a long, in-depth article about why vegan dog beds are the hottest thing right now, or a video showing a cute pup enjoying his new vegan dog bed? Probably the latter. And so it goes that your own customers will be more likely to share your articles and content if it is a visually-compelling piece.

If you’re not graphically inclined, that’s no problem. There are plenty of sites out there that help you design images and infographics for free. Try the following to start:

5. Most recently–be mobile friendly.

Desktop searches are trending downward compared to mobile searches–in fact, mobile outpaces desktop in 10 countries, including the US, according to Google’s recent reports. Combine that with the mobile update that occurred April 21st of this year, and you can see why you should already be focusing on creating mobile-friendly websites. And if you aren’t focusing on mobile accessibility, then it’s time you do so.

It’s easy to make your site mobile friendly. Check out our article on preparing your site for the mobile update and see how you can ensure you’ll be in Google’s good graces. If you don’t do this, you’re going to be pushed off the search results pages for people who are using mobile devices to find what they need.

You might be thinking, “Well, I don’t think people will be finding me through any fancy kind of searches. I just use Google on my computer.” And while you might be doing that, that doesn’t mean others are. A lot of small businesses get web traffic through local mobile searches. It’s imperative that local businesses be accurately listed so that people who are looking for their products and services are able to locate them, no matter which devie they’re using. (And that’s what we specialize in, too!)

So it doesn’t matter whether you think your customers will be finding you on their desktops–because not all of them will be. Add tablets into the mix and you’ve got yourself several mobile devices to accommodate. Now you can see why it’s so important to be mobile-friendly!

Hopefully by focusing on these five SEO tactics, you can start to see some improvement in your rankings. Remember, SEO is a long-term investment, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But with perseverance and some smart strategies, you’ll soon see yourself improving your online presence.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

Back to Basics #7: Website Rank

seo-tools-to-improve-website-rank

Note: If you’re an internet marketing expert, this post will probably not be of much help to you. But you can feel free to check out our other marketing tips and tricks here, or learn about our internet marketing services here.

If you’re a beginner, we welcome you to read our Back to Basics series to learn more about internet advertising and small business marketing.

And be sure to follow our blog for posts delivered to your inbox!

Website Rank: Which Factors Are Most Important?

At Internet Local Listings, we strive to help small businesses get more visibility on the internet. Since 2011, we’ve helped thousands of businesses learn more about website rank and the effort and strategy that goes into the process of getting your site to show up on the front page of search engines. As you probably already know, getting a website to rank on Google can be tough—there’s often a lot of competition, and if you don’t know much about running a website, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out the formula to rank—only to find out that there is no magic formula. It takes time and consistent effort.

So if you were to choose a few factors to focus on, which ones should you choose? Which factors are most important for your website rank?

Website Rank Factors

1. Getting your local listings in order. There are lots of places to list your business across the internet. As mentioned in a previous article, you can be listed on places like The Yellow Pages, WhiteSpark, Brownbook, eLocal and more. Between desktop and mobile, local listings found in searches are among the top foundational ranking factors—and seem to make the biggest difference in terms of competition. So if you have a storefront, make sure that you list your business—complete with physical address—across as many free listings sites as you can.

 Some tips to keep in mind for local listings: 

  • Ensure you’re listed in the proper categories.
  • Optimize your listings with keywords relating to the services your business offers.
  • Make sure your physical address matches the city you want to rank in. You’d be surprised at the number of people who forget this.
  • Verify your business listing wherever possible. There may already be existing listings that you can claim once you verify yourself as the business owner.

2. Updating your site frequently. We’ve also mentioned this in previous articles, but it’s so important to remember that it needs to be mentioned again. Many small business owners think that blogging is pointless and don’t bother with it. This is one of the things that hurts their website rank the most. Google looks for relevant search results. So think about it: if a site never updates, why would Google consider that relevant? It’s gathering dust, while other sites work hard to provide fresh data and content. Of course it’s going to rank those higher than it would a site that hasn’t been updated since 2007.

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • You don’t need to blog every day to provide fresh content for Google. However, you should aim for at least once a week. A great way to make sure you do this is to sit down and write about 100-150 words a night. By the end of the week, you’ll have 500-750 words to put into a blog post. When you break it down like this, it becomes a much more feasible task.
  • Talk about topics relevant to your business. Many business owners give personal status updates—their new puppy, their Easter dinner, etc. And while it’s important to give your customers that personal connection, it’s not going to help your business rank. If you’re a pet groomer, talk about the Westminster Dog Show. Ask people to send in pictures of their pets after visiting your store. There are plenty of ways to get creative and still help your website rank higher!
  • Posts with images tend to do better. Make sure you include a nice featured image at the top of your post and name it something descriptive—Google prefers posts like this.

3. On-page SEO is still relevant. There’s been a lot of debate on whether or not on-page SEO will matter in the future. Skeptics say Google will always try to shut down efforts to game its algorithms; fatalists claim SEO is dead and there’s nothing that can be done about it. As long as search engines try to return relevant results, SEO will not die. The rules will change, and the game will get tougher, but there’s always going to be ways that improve your chances of being placed higher in search results. Everyone wants their website rank to improve—that is something that will stick around for years to come.

You can do on-page SEO by updating content, ensuring the “about us” and other static pages (i.e., “products and services”, image galleries, etc.) are optimized, and your site is easy to use and easy to navigate. Make sure your site loads quickly and that your customers can always find a way to contact you, whether by email, phone, or a contact form.

Some tips to consider:

  • Define your keywords before you even begin building your website. Know what your services are and how you’re going to advertise them. Consistency is key to getting your website rank higher.
  • Develop a plan B in case your first attempt doesn’t turn out well. Many times, you simply won’t see results for a specific keyword. SEO isn’t magic. There’s no way to guarantee results. Instead, switch to another option and try again.
  • Remember to include links on your site—to your other pages, to helpful sources, to your sponsors and suppliers. This is an important part of on-site SEO because Google wants to see sites that contribute valuable information. The whole point of the internet is to find and follow links!

No matter where you are in your website marketing process, the most important thing to remember is this:

You must have patience.

If an SEO company tells you that you’ll be ranked overnight if you use their services, they’re lying. If a friend tells you they got their site to rank in a week, they’re using illegitimate tactics. Google rewards sites that use honest, consistent, and quality SEO practices. Your site should be among them. You owe yourself that.

Furthermore, Google changes its algorithm often. Even if you rank highly right now, you need to stay caught up with the algorithm changes and make adjustments when needed to keep your website rank secured.

As always, we hope this has been helpful to you. Remember that Internet Local Listings offers a wide range of internet marketing services, from free websites with the purchase of an SEO package, to directory mega-boosts and social media management services. Feel free to browse our site or contact us here for more information. We look forward to helping you make your site the very best it can be!

Back to Basics: What is SEO?

What is SEO, content marketing, social media

This is the first post in the “Back to Basics” series. To stay caught up on posts, follow our blog and posts will be sent directly to your inbox!

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve probably noticed that we talk a lot about search engine marketing and optimization. And while that notion is easy to grasp, some of the terminology surrounding the subject can be a bit… exclusive. If you’re feeling a little in the dark about what internet marketing entails, then this post is for you. If you’re already well-versed in the intricacies of SEO, then you may enjoy reading about how to increase customer engagement, or our tips on implementing new marketing strategies this summer!

So What is SEO Anyway?

As you’ve probably gathered, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it refers to the process of crafting a website and its content around the algorithms search engines use to rank search results. It sounds confusing—and when you get into the details and science of it, it can be—but the concept is actually not very difficult to grasp. SEO covers a number of industries: Search Engine Marketing, Internet Marketing and Advertising, Content Syndication and Marketing, Social Media Management, and more. You don’t necessarily need to understand exactly what all of these terms mean, but it’s important to understand that SEO isn’t a precise science, and that it is applied across a number of industries—it’s dynamic; not static.

The good news is that for most small businesses, having a rudimentary understanding of SEO is enough to get started on improving your search engine rankings. So let’s go over a few things that you’ll need to know to understand the science of internet marketing!

  1. Content is king. If you haven’t heard this one yet, you’ll definitely start hearing it now that you’re looking for more information on search engine optimization.  What is SEO without content? It’s an incomplete effort at best. To rank better on search engines, you’ll need to provide the robots that “crawl” data on the internet with new and fresh content. And how do you do this? The easiest way is to start a blog. You can also opt for frequent social media posts, but you should note that in this case, the search engines will likely rank those sites higher than your own website!
  2. Organic results are best. Organic? As in, like the food? No, not exactly. Here, “organic results” means the results that pop up when you search for a specific phrase. Let’s say you’re looking for information on how to install your own windows. You’ll search for something like DIY window installation or installing your own windows. The results that pop up are “organic” search results. What is SEO’s role in this? Simple: You want to get the search engines to rank you for these kinds of terms, which are otherwise known as keywords. Do some in-depth keyword research and build your content around the best choices for your industry and local competition.
  3. People love social media. In fact, chances are, you’re already on Facebook, if not a number of other social media sites. Most of us are on social media in some capacity today, right? And it’s important that your website and company are listed across a few choice social networks as well. Not all industries are the same and thus not all social media platforms are suitable for everyone. Look at your competitors and see what they’re doing. Then create your profiles and start gathering your own fanbase. So then, what is SEO in relation to social media? The more you update your social media sites and interact with fans, the more attention you bring to your sites. Your social media pages will also appear in search results when customers search for your business’s name.

What is SEO to a small business?

Your small business may already be ranking fine for a couple of keywords. But the thing about SEO is that it’s a fickle beast—between Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, ranking algorithms are changing all the time. It can be difficult to stay caught up on all of these factors, particularly if you don’t have a dedicated marketing team. Chances are you’re doing this mostly on your own. And when you’re trying to run your business, do you realistically have the time and resources to spend learning about best SEO practices? Probably not.

These few tips should help you grasp a few of the main components of ranking—providing fresh content, choosing good keywords, and setting up social media accounts to connect with fans and customers—but the science goes much deeper than that. Search engine optimization is a necessity if you want to succeed as a business online.

If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, simply browse through our site or fill out a contact request form. At Internet Local Listings, we have over 50 years combined experience with SEO and internet marketing services.

What is SEO to you? An investment you’d like to make? Something you’d like to learn more about? Whatever it is, Internet Local Listings would like to help. Give us a call or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, email, or via our contact form today!