Keyword Research and On-page SEO

By Kevin D'Arcy
December 13, 2018
SEO. Button on Modern Computer Keyboard. Internet Concept. 3D Render.

How to be found in the digital world

In this edition of the Marketing Peer Group series we are going to explore the best practices for conducting keyword research and on-page search engine optimization (SEO) so that our customers and potential customers can find us online. This recording will talk you through:

  • The importance of conducting keyword research
  • Understanding the intent behind searches
  • How to implement the best practices for on-page SEO
  • Introduce you to the concept of Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters to help boost your rankings

Throughout the video we reference a number of links and tools, click here to jump to a listing of those now.

Watch the recorded webinar

Marketing Peer Group Series - Keyword Research and On-page SEO

 

JUMP TO THE REFERENCED LINKS AND TOOLS

Case Study How One Company Landed On Page 1 of Google in Only 26 Days

Video transcript

Welcome back to our digital marketing peer group series. And this month, we’re going to be looking at how to be found in the digital world; with a specific focus on doing keyword research, and on page search optimization.

So today’s objective is really to provide you with the tools, and the knowledge, to conduct kick ass keyword research, and implement best practices for your on page SEO.

So let’s jump right into it here. So what’s changed over the last ten years or so when it comes to search engine optimization? I mean, obviously, there’s a lot that’s changed. Search engines like Google and Bing are updating their algorithms, it seems like daily, to bring you better search results. But what does better search results mean to these organizations?

Well, what’s changed, and what they continue to strive to do, is to focus on intent. The intent of the search that you’re using. So not just the keywords that you’re using, but what you’re looking for with those keywords. And I know that sounds a little confusing, so let’s look at a couple of examples here.

So let’s say I was to type this into Google, “storage lockers.” Well, what am I looking for? Am I looking for the self serve storage locker, where I can go in 24/7, store whatever I want in there, and if I don’t pay my bills, I’m going to end up on a show like Storage Wars? Or, am I looking for something like what we have on the right hand side here. Where I’m looking for lockers, where they can go into an athletic department, into golf courses, into gyms, into schools; where people can store materials.

If we run a search for storage lockers, what we find is that the bulk of results that come back, pretty much everything that dominates page one of the search results is like the images here on the left. Is the self storage lockers. So that is what people, our audience, is intending to find, when they run these searches.

So if I’m in the market of selling lockers like you see on the right hand side, I’m going to have to start looking for different keywords, that represent what people are looking for when they look for these. So it might be athletic lockers, it might be school lockers, it might be gym lockers, things like that.

Let’s take another example, Italian restaurants. If I type this into Google, what am I looking for? Well, chances are, I’m looking for a place that I can go and have lunch or dinner.

In the older days of SEO, when things were really heavily focused on keywords, I could make a page rank on the first page of Google results, just by overloading it with keywords of Italian restaurants. And the problem with that is that I could be in a completely different province, state, country, and still come up very close to the top, if not in the top positions, if I had great SEO.

The problem is, if I’m in Toronto, I’m not looking for an Italian restaurant in San Francisco; that’s not the intent of my search.

So [what] Google and other search engines are focusing on is the intent; what am I actually looking for, what is the thought process behind my key words. And in that case, they’re thinking, well, they’re looking for a place to go eat that has Italian food.

So websites that talk about their local presence, that are near me. Websites that have an online menu that talk about garlic bread, red wine, pasta, soups of the day, whatever, are going to rank better in my area, for my searches, than somebody who is not in my area.

So with that being said, let’s talk a little bit about keywords. And specifically, keyword research.

So as you know if you’ve listened to any of our marketing peer group series, or read any of our other blog articles, very rarely do we like to promote paid tools, or push you in that direction. However, I’m going to in this case.

There are a lot of free tools out there that you can use for doing your keyword research, like the Google Keyword Planner, that’s part of the Google Ads platform.

But really, what I want everyone, even to just take a look at or consider, and we’ll include a link below this video for it, is a tool called SEMrush. And the type of keyword research that we can do, and the information that we can pull back using this tool will really, really help you with understanding the intent of the search, related keywords, and so on. And I’ll show you a couple examples of this.

So let’s say I was in the business of helping small businesses get government grants. So inside the SEMrush tool, I can search for government grants, and it gives me a list of keywords that include that. Along with their relevant search volume, and the difficulty, which is the “KD” column you see here, on how difficult it will be to rank for that keyword.

Now, people who are used to tools like Google Keyword Planner, this will look pretty familiar.

And so if I look at this and I say, oh, government grants for small businesses, that looks like a really relevant keyword to what we’re trying to accomplish. It gets 720 searches in our target area a month; this looks like a good keyword to rank for, or to try to position ourselves for.

However, using a tool like SEMrush, we can then click on the “related” button that you see in the top menu there. And we can bring up a list of keywords that are related to our core one, of government grants.

And as we start going down this list, what we’ll notice down here is that we have one that -- another keyword called “small businesses’ grants.” And that actually gets about four times the search volume, for about the same keyword difficulty.

So, again, what we’re looking [for] here and what we’re trying to highlight here, is the importance of doing your research around keywords. You can’t just sit there, make the assumption that I know what customers are typing into; you need to use tools and knowledge that is out there to validate that.

And this is one of the big thing about marketing today. Marketing today is not about arts and crafts. It’s not about necessarily making things look pretty, and so on. I mean, there’s obviously that element to it.

But really, what it is is about taking data that’s available to us, to make the best decisions possible. So using this small businesses grant, I can do my validation of intent, I can search for this term; see what types of sites are coming up, if the intent matches what I’m trying to sell or promote.

I’ve just found a keyword that’s going to bring me, hopefully, four times the amount of traffic.

The other nice thing that you can do with the SEMrush tool is sort your keywords by all keywords, or by questions.

So if we were to click on the questions option here, it now gives us a number of key phrases that we can use, that are worded in the form of a question.

So why is this important? Well, it’s important because a lot of us struggle to come up with ideas for blog topics. And blog topics that are written in the form of a question tend to get more click-throughs, and more engagement. And here is a whole list of ones that apply to your keywords, that you can now to start write blogs around. So here are some great ideas, and a great tool for coming up with those ideas.

So to wrap up the keyword section of today’s presentation, what I want you to really take away from this is that you need to validate your assumptions. You can’t just sit around a boardroom table, as yourselves, the marketing team, the sales team, and try to come up with, well, this is what I think people are searching for.

You need to validate it through tools, like Keyword Planner, like SEMrush. And then, you need to validate those through search intent, you need to test the intent of that keyword by searching for it.

And you should even interview existing customers and prospects, and ask about, how would they describe the services that you did for them? And leave your jargon at the door, leave your assumptions at the door, when you have these interviews with people.

And no matter how ridiculous the phrase [is] that they might use to describe it, or different phrases, go back and search those, validate them. Because even though that’s not the way that you would describe what you would do, that’s the way a really good customer, or a potential prospect, has done it.

So moving on, we want to talk about on page SEO basics.

SEO is a topic that we could cover for days if we wanted to; here’s on page, there’s off page, there’s link building, there’s authority, there’s so many elements that go into it. But really, it needs to start with your on page basics.

So this is where we’re going to focus our time today. And really, I bring these into three different categories. One is strategy, second is content, and the third is technical. So let’s have a look at then.

So the strategy one is really around what we’ve been talking about so far today. It’s about doing our keyword research, understanding the intent of the searcher, and validating our assumptions.

The other element that I want to talk about in the strategy section is around keyword cannibalization. Keyword cannibalization is where we’re trying to rank for the exact same keyword, or key phrase, on multiple pages, or blogs, throughout our site.

Case Study How One Company Landed On Page 1 of Google in Only 26 Days

That’s a big no-no. It confuses search engines, it causes your pages to try to compete against one another. And you miss out on the opportunity of optimizing for longer form, or long tail keywords; which are usually more related to your target audience’s search. Lower search volume, but much more targeted.

So avoid keyword cannibalization, which, again, is the practice of trying to optimize more than one page, or blog post, for the same keywords.

So let’s look at the content section, and this is really our on page changes that will affect how our search engine results are displayed. As well as the elements on our page itself.

So I want to start off with our title tag, and the title tag is the element that shows up as the blue link in your Google search results; it’s also at the top of the window bar in your browser as well. And again, that should include your focus keyword for that page.

So carrying on, the other part that shows up in the search results is this little description underneath, and that’s called your meta description. Now meta description is just about 160 characters or so to explain what this page is about.

Now, you’re not guaranteed that every time Google is going to explain your meta description in the search results. But it does index that information, to get a better understanding of what that page is speaking to. So make sure you include your meta description.

H1 tags. So in this case, if we click on our page, and we’re looking at it here, and we’re focusing on the keyword data recovery, we want to make sure that that’s included in our H1 tags.

And what an H1 tag is is typically, it’s going to your main heading on a page. And we call them H1 tags because when you’re writing that content in your web browser, in your content management system, your WordPress, whatever.

We’ll usually apply what’s called a heading 1 tag to it, and that’s what formats it to the large size. But it also puts in the coding these little tags around it, that indicate that this H1, or heading one. And those tags are really important because, again, that is the thing that Google and other search engines look at, to understand what is this page about.

Now, again, like everything that’s going to be on this list, we want to make sure that our keyword, or keyphrase, is embedded in that H1, or that heading.

It doesn’t have to be the only word in there. So for example, if I’m trying to optimize for data recovery, my H1 tag could be data recovery services. But data recovery in that order needs to be there.

So then we want to talk about keyword placement. So we want to use that keyword, or phrase, again throughout our text, but not overloading it.

It isn’t like how search optimization used to be, where if I said data recovery 150 times on this one page, that I was going to rank better. No.

We need to include it. We want to have about a 1% density, meaning that 1% of the words on the page should be our keyword. And we want to include them as close to the top of the page as possible.

So that brings us to the next point, which is keyword stuffing. Which is the opposite of it, where we want to make sure that we’re not overloading the page with the keyword over and over and over again, because that’s just what they refer to as keyword stuffing. It’s a negative practice, and you would get penalized for that in your search results.

Where possible throughout your site, include video and interactive content. Interactive content is things like calculators, or customize a quote form; things like that, where people can move or adjust values, to see different outcomes.

So for example, if I was looking at a car manufacturer’s website, I could adjust my down payment on a car, to see how it would affect my monthly payments, and I could move all of those around.

The reason that we want to include video and interactive content is because it helps to keep people on our site for longer. And the longer people are on, that’s one of the metrics that search engines look at; in determining the relevance of our site, if we met the intent of the searcher.

If somebody lands on our page and is gone five seconds later, chances are, we didn’t have the right type of content that they were looking for; we didn’t match their intent.

But if somebody comes to our site, stays on our page for two, two and a half minutes. Hey, a good chance in search engines’ minds that we match the intent of what they were looking for.

So interactive content and video is a good way to help keep people on your site longer.

The other thing that we want to look into is related keywords; so keywords that tie into our core keywords.

So in this case, data recovery, so things like data loss, or lost your data, are words that are related to it; that are other keywords that people would search for potentially, that relate to the same topic.

So if we can add in more related keywords, it helps with our optimization of our page.

And finally, in the URL of our page, which is that part where we type in www.yourwebsite.com/. After that slash, we want to make sure that we’re including our keyword, or our key phrase in there, as well. So in this case, it might be yourwebsite.com/datarecoveryservices.

And the last part of the on page that we want to look at is the technical side. So this is the more behind the scenes, it doesn’t really show to users, or display, really, in search engines. But it’s more of a technical thing that we want to watch out for, that will help improve our optimization.

So all of those things that we talked about on the other page, so titles, H1 tags, meta descriptions, we want to make sure that we’re not duplicating those across different pages. So we don’t want to have five pages on our website that say data recovery services.

Also throughout our site, we want to make sure that we don’t have duplicate content. So we don’t want to have the same block of text appear on every page, because at that point, it’s just content that’s duplicated throughout the site, and it’s not adding any value to that page.

We want to make sure that our site is not being blocked from crawling. So this can happen in one of two ways. One, you can do it on a page by page basis, using different coding or plug ins, if you have a WordPress site or something like that. But the more commonplace that we see this happen and be an issue for people is actually sitewide.

So people wonder why, no matter what they do, they never see their page coming up in the search rankings, and when we dive into it, it’s because there’s this little file, called a robot.txt file. And we have a great article about it, which I will link to below. And that little text file, on your web server, tells search engines what it can look at, and what it can’t look at.

And what we often see is when somebody was building out a staging site, when they were designing a new website that they were going to launch and replace their old one. That they don’t want search engines crawling while it’s in that test phase; until they move it over into the live site.

But what happens is, when they move it over, they forget to change that robot.txt file. And what ends up happening is that, all of a sudden, now, the site that they used to have; their old site, which was ranking well, all of a sudden, just disappears. And it’s because now we’re telling search engines, we don’t want you to come look at this.

So make sure that’s one of the things that you check.

And the last one on the technical side is internal links. So these are hyperlinks within the pages of our content, that take you to different areas of our website.

So as an example, I mentioned just a moment ago that I’m going to include a link to our robots.txt blog article, so you can take a look at that; that’s an example of an internal link, which you’ll see below.

And the reason I’ve bolded and highlighted [it] is because it’s going to tie into the final bit of our presentation, which is on pillar content; or topic clusters they’re sometimes called.

And what these are is is [that] it’s kind of new wave of search engine optimization. And it’s a new thing right now, it’s having extremely great results for everyone that we’ve tested it with. And it’s something that I would really encourage you to look into. We’ll give you a brief overview of what it is, but schedule some time to talk with us, or do some extra research on it. I’ll include some links below on them as well.

But really, what this is, is a tool that is going to help search engines better index, and better understand, how content is related on your site.

So right now, most of our websites look something like this. Where all of these little yellow and black shapes within the framework of our site are individual pages, blog articles, pieces of content, things like that.

And obviously, we’re going to have a navigation menu that kind of ties some of this together. But it just kind of sits there. When we add a new blog, it lives in that environment. We’ll have some internal links to different things, but this is really where everything lives, like so.

And what we’re doing at this point is, we’re really asking search engines to take it upon themselves to decipher, and figure out how different pieces of content throughout our site are interlinked with one another. And how they’re related to one another.

Well, we want to make that easier for them, and when we make it easier, we get indexed faster, and also more accurately.

So what a topic cluster, or pillar page content is, is switching that model to something like this; where the black and yellow circle in the center of our clusters are pillar pages. And pillar pages read almost like a Wikipedia page. They’re going to be 3,000+ words, they’re going to contain a slew of different links to internal content, like blog articles; external sources as well.

And really, what we’re trying to do is tie all of a centralized topic together, so that everything that you need to know about that is in one spot. And we’re helping the search engines, through this internal linking system, understand what is relevant, and what’s related to one another.

So an example of a pillar page content might be something to the effect of lead generation; that might be our pillar page. And we want to teach on that page everything there is to know about lead generation, from the basics to using advanced automation tools and things like that.

And then, throughout there, we want to give people links to read more in-depth information on any of those different topics.

So we actually have a pillar page dedicated to lead generation, which, again, I will include a link to below this video.

So when we use these pillar pages, what do we see as results? Well, again, I’m including a lot of links below this video; I’ll also link to a case study from a company called Townsend Security. And Townsend Security, they implemented a pillar page one of their core products and services, and here was the results that they saw after, if you can believe this, only three short months.

So they saw a 55% increase in organic traffic, an 80% growth in leads, and that resulted in 600 leads generated. And again, keep in mind that this was only over a three month period.

Normally to see numbers like this, and using traditional SEO, and link building, and everything like that, you’re going to anywhere from 15-24 months. So it’s going to be a really long process.

These numbers, obviously, they’re going to vary depending on your industry; the popularity, the need, the search volume around it.

But regardless of that, I mean you might not get 600 leads in three months, but you’re going to dominate the first page rankings very quickly, and start to bring in a lot more leads based on the search volume around your products or services.

So to wrap everything up, really what we want you to take away from today’s event is that you need to focus on the intent of the search. And that’s more important, or at the very least, equally important, to the actual keywords that you’re doing.

Do keyword research, don’t just think [them] up yourself and say, oh, this is what I think people would search for, so this is what I’m going to optimize around.

We want to follow those on page SEO best practices that we talked about, and implement pillar pages before they start to become common. Like I said, right now, this is something that not a lot of people have picked up and are doing, and are advancing, on their sites.

So there’s a lot of room for you to grow, and start to take advantage of search positions, before your competitors catch on to this.

So that wraps up our keywords and SEO presentation. You can watch our other ones, download our other videos, and [the] slides for these.

And I look forward to having you join us in upcoming events for paper click advertising, how to create great content, conversion rate optimization, email marketing, automation. And, of course, aligning our sales and marketing teams for optimal success.

So again, I want to thank everyone for joining us, and have a wonderful day.


Referenced Links and Tools

The definitive guide to lead generation

About Author
Kevin D'Arcy

As our Chief Marketing Enthusiast, Kevin strives to provide clarity, honesty, and unique insights into every one of our engagements. Kevin helps companies improve their lead generation, enhance customer acquisition, and increase revenue. With over 18 years of inbound and content marketing experience with B2B technology companies, Kevin brings a straightforward approach to marketing with results that can be measured. He also has the most adorable hound dog that frequently comes to work with him.