I am your ideal customer. I want exactly what you are selling. I only have to find you. If only Google made it that simple right?

Google is needy. It needs you to make a search engine's job easy. You have to make it blatantly clear to Google that your page offers the information the user is looking for ( i.e making your site SEO friendly).

Optimizing your sites content is no simple task but it is essential to e-customer acquisition. So where do you start - page rank, keywords, metatags, link building?

I suggest starting exactly where your customer does - the search bar in Google. The term a user types in the search bar is a keyword and SEO is essentially optimizing a sites content to match desired keywords. Therefore, your first step is to determine the keywords you need your site to rank for.

Keyword research is the first step and likely the most important step in effective SEO. To get you started, here is our guide to DIY (semi) simple keyword research:

1. Become your customer.

Grab a pen and paper (or the nearest keyboard) and get into your customers mindset. What would your customer type in to find homepage like yours? What are they looking for? What are they wanting to know? What do they need?

When first brainstorming keywords, think about all of the reasons customers would need to find you. Ask yourself the above questions for each page and keep in mind descriptors customers may be searching for - brands, colors, quantity etc.

2. Form a focus group.

Turn your friends and family into a free focus group by polling them on their Google habits. Ask them how they would search for your products.You will find that people search differently than you write.

For example: you could find more people type ‘cheap designer sunglasses’ then ‘inexpensive designer sunglasses’. Although ‘cheap’ is not how you would describe your products, it may be how your customers are searching for them.

3. Get organized.

Write all of your brainstormed keywords into a spreadsheet and separate them category.

For example: If you were an online retailer, you could separate keywords by clothing categories T-shirts, pants, dresses, shoes, etc.

4. Begin research.

With your organized keyword spreadsheet, it is time to move to the Google Adwords tool and see what our favorite search engine has to say about your list.

  • Enter each keyword from your first category.
  • After entering all the keywords from our first category, set your preferences from ‘“broad match” to “exact match.”
  • Export your results at .csv and enter your next category’s keywords.
  • Repeat with rest of the categories.

5. Be smarter than Google.

Once you have compiled all of your results (csv files) into one spreadsheet, skim through to determine irrelevant keywords. Google can unearth some new relevant keywords but even Google isn’t perfect. Using your judgement, eliminate irrelevant keywords.

6. Not too big. Not to small. Understanding competition.

This isn’t exactly a step but it is an important concept to understand. Once you have your list of relevant  keywords, you have to determine which keywords are within your reach. Keywords that are too general are likely to have dense competition.

For example: even though the keyword ‘yellow dress’ may perfectly describe my inventory,  I would be fighting against SEO heavy weights like ‘The Gap.”

On the flipside, keywords that have very little competition may be that way because of the low amount of searches.

7. Research. Research. Research.

Determining keyword competition in my opinion is the single most difficult aspect of keyword research. You cannot rely completely on the the Google Adwords tool competition stats but Google's statistics are based on paid search (i.e Google Adwords) and not natural search.

There are plenty of paid research tools that help you determine a keywords natural competition but here are some DIY free ways of determining natural competition.

Titletags - One way to get an idea of a keyword’s competition is to look at the number of pages which have your keyword as a title tag. To find the title tag SERPs ( search engine results page) type in Google : Allintitle: “keyword”
**Make sure to use Google’s advanced search because after several ‘allintitle’ searches Google regular search will prevent you from further title research (for a period of time).

Anchor Text - If a site poses serious competition for a keyword, they will place the keyword in the anchortext. ( if you don’t know what anchortext is a  here good overview).To find out competition based on anchor text: check SERPS for [inanchor:keyword] .

8. Don’t throw relevance out with reason.

Be reasonable when picking your keywords but don’t disregard a highly relevant keyword just because of the competition. SEO is unfortunately not a science and there isn’t always a right or wrong answer. Use your discernment in finding the middle-ground between reasonable competition and relevant keywords.

Don't throw a highly relevant keyword out because of competition. Just realize that SEO is a marathon not a sprint and ranking for competitive keywords will take time and hard work.