There are essentially two parts to any SEO effort: on-page optimization and off-page optimization. We begin with an overview and deep dive covering on-page optimization because it creates the foundation for your SEO and is pretty easy to understand. Basically, on-page optimization is what you do on your web pages that can have a positive or negative impact on search engine results — where your site is ranked on Google for a particular search term or phrase.


Defined in its most simple form, on-page optimization is what you do on your website to help or hurt your search engine result page (SERPs). From my perspective, on-page optimization also refers to critical planning steps like understanding your niche, keyword research, and website strategy.
The best part of on-page optimization is that it’s fully in your control. If done correctly it can improve how search engines see your website, weigh your relevant content (keywords), and place your website within search results for a given term. This is especially true for local and mobile search results.
Many Internet marketers debate the importance of on-page optimization when it comes to Google. I believe the effects of on-page optimization are paramount given the latest changes to the Google algorithm which are looking for natural language and targeted content. Any serious Google optimization effort cannot be effective unless on-page optimization is thoroughly addressed at the start of any search engine optimization campaign.
What I’m referring to when I speak about specific on-page optimization factors is the proper use of meta tags , website URLs , formatting, internal linking and friendly URLs , keyword development , and on-page placement. Let’s review each item in detail after you learn about the importance of keyword research. I’ll show you step-by-step what you need to know to ensure that your web pages are 100 percent optimized for Google.
Warning: Once you update your site with the proper on-page optimization tactics, you might very quickly find yourself starting to improve ranking for a variety of keywords.


The more I learn about search engine optimization, the more I’ve come to rely on effective keyword research. Finding the search phrases that your website or blog should be optimized for is essential to any search engine optimization campaign. The goal is to find relevant, high traffic keywords that will be less competitive from an optimization perspective. Less competition means that you’ll have a much better chance of achieving number one rankings for your chosen keyword phrase. Doing this takes a little work but is well worth it.
The value of selecting keywords strategically is very high. The “right” keywords allow your optimization efforts to happen quicker and produce the best organic result. Many of the companies I’ve consulted for over the past few years didn’t pay much attention to keyword research. As a result, they were either trying to optimize websites for keywords they could never achieve number one rankings for, because an authority site like Amazon held the top position, or for keywords that had next to no search volume.
Not too long ago I had a conversation with a potential client. We were introduced through a mutual friend and sat down to dinner to discuss his online marketing needs. I started to ask him questions about his online marketing strategy, website, and so on. About thirty minutes into the conversation, he said, “I don’t need SEO. I’m already ranked number one.” When I asked him what keyword he was ranking for, I looked it up on my mobile web browser. I wanted to see how much search volume this particular keyword phrase had on a monthly basis.
Not surprisingly, the keyword that he was so enthusiastic about was getting less than thirty searches per month. That’s it! It’s pretty difficult to build a multi-million dollar business on only thirty searches a month, especially considering that not all the clicks go to the top ranked result, only about 30%. He was surprised and said, “But in my industry that’s how everyone refers to our service.” I responded with, “That’s clearly not the case given the low search volume.”
After we started working together, I showed him the proper way to do keyword research and find the actual keyword phrases that people in his industry were typing into Google to find services like the ones he was offering. With thorough research we found keywords his website could realistically rank well for in a short amount of time and also had enough traffic to sustain and grow his business.


Keyword development is one of the most important optimization factors you’ll learn about and can make or break your website’s ranking. But don’t let that scare you. I’ll be showing you the best way to find the right keywords and determine whether or not you can rank well for them.
Why are keywords so important? Because search engine algorithms are largely based on keywords and keyword phrases—keywords on your web page, keywords in your code, keywords in the links within and pointing to your website or blog. I guess you could say that Google has keywords on the brain. Their goal is to return websites and other digital assets that most closely align with a user’s search query. This is why keywords are so important to get right.
A keyword is any word or phrase that describes your website and/or web page content. Another way to think about it is in the form of a search term. What a user enters into the Google search box is considered a keyword or keyword phrase .
A number of years ago, Google started helping searchers by implementing Google Suggest – still in effect today. Google Suggest is the feature producing suggested search terms as you begin typing into the search engine’s search bar. Enter a query like, “kitten” and you’re likely to see suggested terms including, “kitten for sale”, “kitten near me”, and “kitten adoption”. Additionally, Google Suggest will offer up some local terms you may want to consider as well. Google Suggest is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to SEO. Using Google Suggest to help find frequently searched keywords can be a valuable part of your optimization strategy.
Before get too deep into keyword research, let me begin by saying that choosing a keyword phrase is more art than science. However, your selection of a keyword can be greatly simplified if you follow these steps:
  1. Define the content of your site in general terms. What is my site about? Tennis shoes? Photography? Business services? Desserts? Once you’ve identified a general topic, it’s time to start your keyword research.
  2. Identify keywords/keyword phrases related to your topic. To do so, visit Google Adwords. If you don’t have an Adwords account, you will need to sign up for one at:https://ads.google.com/home . It’s free and will begin to get you familiar with a variety of Google ad tools. In the Tools & Settings area, located on the top navigation, you’ll find theKeyword Planner tool.
You may be asking why we would use an Adwords tool for SEO, but you’ll quickly discover the power of this free resource that provides search volumes and suggested keyword phrases.

3.   Select Discover New Keywords. 

Enter your product or service, the website URL, or a product category and press Get Results . The list of ad groups and keywords shown contain all of the search terms and search counts—the number of searches using that keyword or keyword phrase performed during a given month on Google. Results are sorted by relevance but can also be sorted by search volume or competition.
Personally I like to start with the URL search under the “Start with a website” tab. I enter the website of the three biggest competitors in my space and download all of Google’s suggested keywords.

4.   Select anywhere from ten to thirty keyword phrases to research further. 

OK, here is where the rubber meets the road. Look at your list and choose a few keyword phrases (not an individual word because, in most instances, it will be way too competitive with many sites trying to rank high for that particular keyword) that accurately represent your website. Make sure your phrases have a search volume of at least seven hundred monthly searches unless you are in a very small niche. Keep in mind that the more searches on a given keyword, the more competitive it may be. Eliminate keywords with 10,000 or more searches per month.
Now you might be asking, “Why NOT pick the phrase with the greatest number of searches?” It stands to reason that the greater the number of searches, the greater number of visitors to your website. However, there are other factors to consider such as how competitive it will be to rank well for the given search term.
When I conduct keyword research I usually generate a short list by eliminating anything over ten thousand searches per month unless supporting a recognized brand and anything less than seven or eight hundred searches per month. I also eliminate phrases that appear unnatural or may be difficult to use in a sentence. This simple method usually gets my list down to about thirty keywords or so. Then I go to the next step to refine my search further.

5.   SEO Competitiveness. 

Your ability to rank well is not just dependent on search volume for specific keywords. In fact, it’s even more important to find keywords that drive qualified traffic to your website or blog and are not extremely competitive. I’ve had a number of clients over the years who did their own keyword research only to struggle for page one rankings. Where they went wrong was choosing keywords based on search volume alone.
When using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool you’ll see a “Competition” column. What this refers to is the advertising competition for a keyword. Over the years, I have found that low competition on Adwords generally reflects less competition in organic search but not always. Remember, you’re looking for well trafficked keywords that are easy to rank for – at least easier than some of the more competitive search phrases others are trying to rank for.
Take your list of thirty or so keyword phrases and evaluate their SEO competitiveness either by looking at the Adwords competition or, more effectively, by using the Moz SEO keyword research tool or plugin. There are other resources available such as SEMrush that can help you in this regard. If you do not have access to these tools, start with a free trial or search for an online coupon. Don’t be afraid to try them. Mastering these tools gets easier by the day as they continue to develop new features. There are always new tools coming on the market to give you this type of information at a lower cost, so don’t hesitate to experiment with free tools that offer SEO competition information as well as on page insights.
Keywords that have high SEO competition aren’t there by happenstance. As more websites build content around certain terms, they become more competitive. This means ranking well for a particular keyword may take time, website authority, and lots of optimization to achieve. Your best bet is to choose keywords most closely aligned to your website with the least amount of SEO competition.
I also like to look at the number of competing sites/pages simply by searching for your keyword phrase in Google and looking at the total number of results noted in the upper left-hand corner of the search results page under the search box.
For example, if we were to choose the keyword phrase womens tennis shoes and do a search in Google, we would see that 917,410,000 web pages (at time of publication) contain the phrase womens tennis shoes . Not only that, but looking at the results, I see all of the major shoe brands from NIKE to Zappos. Looks like I’d need to expand my keyword search to find something less competitive.
Depending on my initial research, I may choose to look at expanded phrases or phrases related more specifically to what I’m selling. “Popular tennis shoes for women”, “Green tennis shoes for women”, etc. By having more specific phrases that are less competitive, I stand a much better chance of top rankings. Add in local search intent and your chances of generating organic traffic go up exponentially. 
One great way to do this is with the “People also ask” feature that appears for a number of Google Searches. It’s always a good idea to type your target keywords into an actual Google Search to see what else is popular via the Google Suggest tool and the “People also ask” accordion if one is available in search results. 

6.   Research the competition. 

Regardless of which tool you use to generate or research keyword phrases, you’ll need to size up your competition. This is the final step in keyword research and definitely one of the most important when it comes to developing a strong list of potential keywords to optimize for. Remember that Google is a voting machine. The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you can optimize your website (both on-page and off) better than your competition and attract more votes! If you can, you’ll quickly find yourself at the top of search engine results. This step is extremely important so we’ll take a deeper dive on the most effective way to research your competition. Again, I like to use SEMrush or the Moz plugin to automate a lot of this work and confirm my research with actual data.
Don’t skip this step. As I mentioned previously, achieving your SEO goals is more about beating out the competition than being perfect when it comes to implementing SEO techniques. The more you know about your competitors, the more you learn about your own business and how you should be attacking your SEO.


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