We talk at length about how important social media can be for a small business. We talk about it so much that sometimes I worry that we talk about it too much. While there are certainly opportunities to capture new leads and gain exposure, small business owners can’t get caught up in what’s simply shiny. We still have to focus on the technical stuff that has been proven to produce traffic and conversions. And that means focusing on search engine optimization and using keywords effectively.
While I was traveling last week, I stumbled across an important article in InformationWeek that talked about how search terms mean big business for SMBs. The article cautioned that by focusing too much on branded terms and ignoring generic keywords, SMBs may lose out ‘on a significant amount of online traffic’. Because it is these generic terms that most people search for.
According to the article, users aren’t searching for ‘Round Table pizza’ or ‘Nike running shoes’. They’re simply searching for ‘pizza’ and ‘running shoes’. With more and more marketers shifting money online , it’s important that they allocate money to the right areas. If you haven’t taken time to tune up your keywords and tighten their placement into your site, then now’s a very good time to do that. Otherwise, you’re missing out on huge search opportunities, the ones rooted in the basics of online marketing.
I’ve written before about how to pick winning keywords . The tools outlined in that article still stand and provide excellent resources for business owners looking to understand what terms will bring the most traffic to their sites. But that’s only the first step.
Once you KNOW the terms, WHERE do you plug them in? How do you know you’re getting the most out of those keywords?
Title Tag: The Title tag is one of the most important places to put your keywords. It appears as the top line of your search results and acts as the title of the page once a user clicks through. Users want to click on the page that most resembles what they searched for, so if they’re looking for a page about [Los Angeles Chiropractors] and your Title Tag mentions Los Angeles chiropractors, they’re going to take that as a good indication that you’re relevant to them. And then they’re going to click through. This is just one of the many reasons why your Title tag should contain the most important terms for your page.
Meta Description Tags: The Meta description is the 200 or so characters that appear under the Title tag in the search results. This is another great place to use keywords to help the search engines and users understand what your page is about and, in the case of users, to get them to click through. The search engines will also highlight the terms that a user inputs that match the ones listed in your Meta Description. SEO Darren Slatten has a Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool  that can you help perfect your Title and Descriptions so they are the correct lengths and optimized for the terms you’re after. I highly recommend it.
Navigation: Unless your home page is about “homes”, you should not be using that word in your navigation. It doesn’t tell people anything about your site or its pages. Use keywords in your navigation that actually tell people what the page is about. It sounds like common sense but many small business owners try and get ‘clever’ and use silly words to link throughout the site. All you’re doing is confusing people. Use keywords when applicable to take advantage of search traffic.
URLs: When naming site pages, blog posts or anything else related to your site, try to insert 2-3 keywords in the URL where appropriate. DO NOT go overboard and start stuffing your URLs with keywords totally unrelated to the content, however, you’ll notice that the URL for this post ends with ‘how-to-use-keywords’. This helps to take advantage of the natural search traffic for that phrase.
ALT text: If you have images on your site, then you need text to describe those images, per Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This is another prime place to put keywords. Local search expert Patrick Sexton  recently released an Image SEO Tool to help business owners see how well their alt tags are written. It’s not fancy, but it does get the job done and help business owners check their image titles. Another great (and free) tool.
Internal anchor text: The way that you link inside your Web site is incredibly important. Avoid using anchor text such as “click here”, “read more” or “next” and instead use keywords that explain what the next page is going to be about. The search engines use these links for relevance the same way they look at the external anchor text pointing to your site. You can’t always control how people link to you, so make sure you’re at least controlling how you link within your own site.
Your content: I know, I know, you already know this, but look over your pages and see how you’re using your terms. Are they spread out evenly on the page? Are you using them early enough to grab reader attention? Are you using them enough times on the page or diluting them? While there’s no magic number for how many times you should use a keyword in order to rank for it, by reading your copy over you should be able to identify what “feels right” for you and your industry.
Other people’s content: Are you writing a guest post for another blogger? Submitting an article to a local online magazine? Speaking at an industry event? Chances are you’ll be linking back to your site in the bio section or even inside the article itself. When you do, be smart about the keywords you’re using. Don’t spam other people’s blog, but do look for natural opportunities to benefit from keywords.
Above are just a small handful of ways you should be using keywords to improve rankings and traffic coming into your site. It’s really important that you be aware of the power that keywords can have not only in social media or your Google Local Business Listing, but on your own Web site as well.