Ask the Experts: How Do I Optimize for the…
Q: I’m a newbie reading your “Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day” book, and I had a question. On one hand I’d like my target keywords to be general and broad. However, these are highly competitive terms, and the big boys already have a leg up on them, so I was considering going after more specific keywords, [names of individual products] that I carry. Problem is that I have over 6,000 [individual products].
Should I be going for more general terms? Should I go after specific product names? Do I choose my 10 most popular products to optimize for? What if those products change in popularity over the months, and I just spent months trying to optimize for them?
A: Your situation is well-suited to a “long tail” approach to keyword optimization. This means that rather than selecting a short list of 10 or so keywords, you will dedicate your site to ranking well for a wide range of keywords, with all pages following site-wide general optimization guidelines. Each of the many thousands of product names may not get much of search volume, but in aggregate, this “long tail” provides a large amount of traffic.
For example, let’s say you have a shoe store and you decide that optimizing for specific shoe model names is the way to go. Do some keyword research on a sample set of product names (perhaps 5) to determine how people are searching. Are they searching for just the name, or something like “buy XXX online,” or any other variations? Do they include a brand name too? (as an aside, these patterns might change seasonally, so be sure to look at year-round numbers rather than just current numbers). Once you know what word patterns you’re targeting, you work on optimization for a TYPICAL product landing page. For this page, you make up general rules such as:
- HTML Page Title always follows the formula “Joe’s Discount Shoes: Buy [shoe name] Online” (or whatever your chosen formula is)
- Product Name always follows the formula: “[brand: shoe model]” (or whatever your chosen formula is).
- Description always includes “buy [brand: shoe model] online…”
- URL is always /brand-shoe-name.html
- Product photo always includes an ALT Tag: “Shoes: [Brand]: [Shoe Model]”
- Navigation text always includes shoe model name
(Note these are all examples and you should develop your own list).
In addition to the above, you may wish to choose a small number of generic, highly popular terms and to target these on your home page, or even include them sitewide, by incorporating them into your formulas. This combination of “queen bee” keywords (popular terms that get royal treatment on your site) with “long tail” keywords (lower volume keywords with a large number of different landing page possibilities) is often a powerful SEO strategy.
The basic principals in the book don’t change, but you’ll be applying them to ALL your pages rather than just a set number of landing pages.