Everyone knows choosing the right keywords begins the SEO process (or at least you know now). After all, search engine optimization means optimizing keywords so you can rank for them. In this post I’ll refer to keywords as a phrase you want to rank for, and demonstrate how to find longer keywords where competition is less extreme. Even a new site or beginner can rank quickly.
Knowing Keywords is a Critical First Step
Without a keyword list it’s easy to optimize for the wrong words, repeat words, words nobody searches for, and words that don’t create new business. All of these take time away from your true talent (hint: not SEO) and are doomed for failure. Let me demonstrate some examples of what not to do. Feel free to bang your head against a desk for having fallen victim to one of SEO’s classic blunders such as:
1. Wrong words: optimizing for wedding binders won’t make you crazy cash like a successful rank for wedding albums. Go with words people actually use.
2. Repeat words: No need to put Los Angeles wedding photographer in all your blog titles and images. Do you really expect every one of them to rank for that phrase? A homepage will outrank a blog post for a main/primary phrase. Target one page per phrase please.
3. Words nobody searches for: Cool, you rank #1 for Arizona ocean photography but nobody has yet to search that in Google. Don’t waste time optimizing for that.
4. Words that don’t create new business: A #1 rank for celebrity photographer may build your online rep to Ashton Kutcher levels, but if you’re based in Minnesota and not willing to travel it probably won’t deliver new clients. Avoid the above by doing a little up front keyword research to find the most searched terms. We’ll put those terms into a list and map it to a content timeline.
How Longer Phrases Can Help SEO
Before you go picking the top 10 most difficult keywords in your niche, let me explain how Google works.
1. A user types a phrase into Google
2. Google looks for a page about that phrase
3. Google finds lots of pages about that phrase and ranks the page with the most authority at #1 (authority is mostly determined by the number of links pointing to the page or site)
Thus, Google looks for keywords on the page (in the title, then URL, then body copy and images). A phrase like Los Angeles wedding photographer appears on 3.5 million pages.
Rather than try to compete on authority for that phrase (or in addition to), find phrases like Hollywood Indian wedding photography ideas. No pages exist with that phrase, so if you optimize a blog post then you will easily rank very high. Plus you might even rank for different keyword combinations such as Hollywood Indian wedding, Hollywood photography ideas, etc. Even if only a handful of people search for that every month, that blog post provides exactly what they are looking for. Specific phrase + little competition = new client. Multiply the number of posts optimized for specific phrases and the traffic becomes significant. Look at this Google Analytics snapshot from a Sacramento Photographer. The main phrase Sacramento photographer was just 1 of 3,868 keywords that she ranked for and contributed to less than 1% of total traffic. Most of the few thousand phrases are very specific searches you would never imagine people would type.
Long-tail SEO is a strategy to find and capture search presence for the thousands of long phrases users will type to find you. Here’s how to locate and organize them.
Keyword List Worksheet
Start with a 4 column list on paper or spreadsheet using the following column headings
Adjectives: Indian best
Locations: Los Angeles Hollywood
Niches: wedding photography
As the columns fill out, use various keyword combinations to develop the best phrases for your business.
1. Indian Hollywood wedding ideas
2. Best Los Angeles Indian wedding photography
Put the most important phrase at the top of the list. Next time you write a page or a post, take a look at the list and see if you can incorporate one of the phrases into your post idea. Or you can proactively start writing posts about each of your phrases. This week write about item 1, next week item 2, etc. Cross them off your list so that you don’t optimize for the same phrase twice.
Idea! Create a “best-of” post using content you already have written elsewhere. Take a paragraph here, and image there, and using old posts you can quickly create a new and optimized post.
How to Find Great Keywords
Two of my favorite 10 SEO Tools for Photography Keywords are free Google Keyword Tool and Traffic Travis PC software. Most everyone knows about the Google Keyword Tool for keyword research, but may be confused on how to get great ideas. I searched Los Angeles wedding photographer has 170 broad searches per month, meaning those 3 words were somewhere in the search criteria. Notice other keywords that users type as a part of their search phrase: Indian, top, ideas, photography. Add these to the keyword list worksheet for future use.
Yes, it is that simple. Looking up Hollywood Indian wedding photography ideas would not show any search volume, but we can see that users do search with those words in different combinations. If people are searching top wedding photographers, then they would also search for top in local searches as well. You don’t need 1,000 visits to grow your business. Rank high for something that 5 people search for each month and you can snag all of those clients ASAP. Traffic Travis just offers a second opinion. Another search uncovers more great keywords. I add the following keywords to my list: tips, best, destination, beach.
My next post might be something like “10 Photographer Tips for the Best Beach Wedding in Los Angeles” and capture users searching for beach wedding tips, best photographer tips, Los Angeles beach wedding, etc. The power of long-tail SEO gains a little traffic from a number of phrases.
Compare Two Keywords
The other time a keyword tool comes in handy is when comparing the search volume of two or more keyword phrases. If I’m a wedding photographer in Southern California it would help to know which cities have the most searches. After typing a few phrases (at the same time) into the Google Keyword Tool I find that Orange County is very highly searched. Optimizing for that location has a lot more potential than Beverly Hills, while Hollywood and Burbank have very few searches. The keyword list should reflect this priority with the majority of phrases going after Orange County and maybe only 1 or 2 for the other locations.
For the creative and visual learners out there this video speaks to some of the tactics above.
Take Keywords to the Next Level
Keywords are a small portion of search engine optimization strategy. My Photographers SEO Book and Blog SEO Zen ebook are quickly becoming the standard do-it-yourself guides for ranking photo and wedding businesses. Learn about site structure, link strategy, and tools with no technical knowledge needed.