First Steps to SEO Success Keyword Research

First Steps to a SEO Success – Keyword Research [SEO Like a Pro]

First Steps to a SEO Success – Keyword Research

First, let me start by saying if anyone tells you that keywords are not an important part of SEO anymore you should automatically assume that person does not know the first thing about SEO.  Keyword research is literally one of the very first steps to a successful SEO strategy.

Some SEOs will tell you that you will never reach the top spot on Google with generic one-word keywords like “Lawyer”.  What if I told you there were wrong?  What if I proved it?

Lawyer is one of the highest valued keywords in the Google world.  Try running ads using the keyword Lawyer and you will see what I mean.  Now try to search Lawyer from Google and see what your results are.  While you and I will have different results, you might notice that a local attorney or two shows up near the top of the organic results.

lawyer search results in Google

 

To understand why keywords are still relevant and very important you need to understand how Google Search is intended to work.  When someone wants to gather information, they open a browser and type in what it is they’re looking for.  A quick check on Google Trends reveals that the term “Lawyer” is a popular search term.

What Google has learned over the years is that often when people are searching for lawyers they’re probably searching for a specific type of lawyer.  For example, they may be searching for a personal injury attorney.  Where it becomes even more challenging is while I might search for personal injury attorney you might search for car accident lawyer. Google over time has attempted with some degree of success to learn searchers intent, what the searcher REALLY looking for.

Google averages approximately 650 changes to their search algorithm in a given year.  This works out to almost 2 changes per day.  Most changes are minor but throughout the year there can be multiple major updates.  Google usually does this without telling anyone or maybe sharing some of the details.  The Google Search Algorithm is clouded in mystery and always has been.  Google uses machine learning (RankBrain), artificial intelligence, and real people to help evolve the Google Search Engine. The Google SERP has become very intelligent. Its goal is to deliver what the users (searchers) want on the first query.

With the explosion of mobile search as well as the increase in voice search (which will eventually catch on with the masses), Google is constantly trying to improve their search results page to accommodate its users.

What does all this mean?  It means that keyword phrases (also known as long-tail keywords) are still very relevant but you need to be smart about their usage.  That’s where the research comes in.  You will need to determine how your ideal client will search and find your business.  As someone who has performed this research for numerous clients I can tell you that very often the business is surprised to learn how their ideal client is searching for their product or service.  They may not be using the type of device or search phrase the business owner thought they would use.  They may not even be using Google to get the information they want.  Therefore it is very important to start with a client profile to understand who your client is and their purchase process.

Using our lawyer example, most law firms that deal with car accident claims start out thinking that people are looking for Personal Injury Attorney, and they might be right.  Without doing the research I would tend to believe that someone who is looking for a personal injury attorney after a car accident might search “What Should I Do After a Car Accident” or “Car Accident Lawyer”.  Don’t worry, I am going to do the research to show you how Keyword Research works.

Keyword Research

It’s time to roll up our sleeves, throw on some music and get dirty.  Let’s do some keyword research.  I am going to go through some of the tools I use to perform keyword research.  The tools I use are very popular choices for SEOs.  This is not by any means an all-inclusive list of SEO tools nor an endorsement of any specific tool.

Google Keyword Planner

For this, you will need to have a Google AdWords account.  Don’t worry though, you don’t need to run ads.  Go to http://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner to get started.  Either log in or create an account to begin your keyword research.

As of this writing, Google’s Keyword Research tool is in the process of a makeover.  Some features do not work in the new version, so screenshots are from both the new and legacy version.

keyword planner landing page

Let’s jump in.  Start by searching some of the keyword phrases you think your ideal client is using to search for your business.  Take note of how many searches are conducted.  In the example I am using Car Accident Lawyer does get more searches than Personal Injury Attorney.

keyword planner research

Narrowing it down to one state (Connecticut) shows how many searches there are locally and further confirms that more people search for Car Accident Lawyer.

keyword planner results local

Let’s dig in a little more.  For this, we’re going to switch to the legacy version of Google’s Keyword Planner.  We’re going to perform two more queries but feel free to play around with it even more.

First, we are going to do a competitive search.  Find a competitor that ranks high on the Google Search Results Page (SERP).  Enter their website in the landing page section.  Make sure you adjust the location to your area (state or a large city near you).  Run the query.  What you will get back are the keywords from the competitor’s website and the search frequency for them.  Some won’t be relevant, but some will.  This will help shape your SEO strategy.  If you want to overtake their position, then you must know how people are finding them.

keyword planner category search

 

Now let’s try category search.  For this you will select the category that closest matches your business category.  I would also suggest narrowing it down to your location as we did in previous queries.  We are talking about Local SEO, right?  As you can see from the screenshot we get quite a bit of information.  Some of it does not seem relevant.  We’ll just skip those for now.  Notice that Whiplash gets 1600 searches per month in Connecticut.  That’s a lot more searches than Car Accident Lawyer (170) or Personal Injury Attorney (110).  This is something we will want to pay attention to.  Look at some of the other query results we get.

Keyword Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only)
whiplash 1600
attorney 1600
mesothelioma 1300
johnnie cochran 1000
lawyer 1000
robert shapiro 1000
accident 880
slander 880
compensation 880
car accident ct 880
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 880
defamation 720
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 720
negligence 720
class action lawsuit 720
car accident 590

There were over 700 results.  This is just the top few.  The two that have been redacted are because they are actual law firms but look at the search volume.  That could be used in a different kind of campaign, but we’ll discuss that in another blog post.

legacy keyword planner competive search

 

This information can be used for the content of your web pages but also for blog posts.  Even if your law firm doesn’t handle class action lawsuits who’s to say you can’t write a blog post on a recent class-action lawsuit verdict?  There are lots of opportunities for just these keywords.  Your Local SEO Strategy should evolve from this research.  A lot of these keywords can be used for multiple blog posts, a series of blog posts, page content, white papers, video blogs, and eBooks.  You should combine these strategies for the biggest impact.

Using the legacy version of the keyword planner I would also try other keyword phrases to see what Google suggests as alternatives.

Just using the Keyword Planner, we have a perfect example of what I mean by the business does not always know how people are looking for their business.  We also need to consider the mobile results displayed in the screenshots.  Some businesses have a much higher rate of mobile search, while others are much lower.  The continued growth of voice search will also impact how people search. Many people have a different voice when typing a search query than they do when using voice search.  There are numerous other factors that play into the results when people use Google to search.  Google’s Machine Learning (RankBrain) also tries to determine the searchers intent.  Therefore, it’s important to not put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to keyword research.

We now have enough information to continue to the next step in our keyword research.  Before I continue to that next step let me first tell you that there are lots of tools out there to accomplish what we’re going to accomplish.  I am not going to go through all the tools, just the ones I prefer to use.  The tools that I use are either free or free to a point.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a great tool for keyword research.  It’s a free tool that displays how a search phrase has trended over a period.   Go to google.com/trends in your browser to get started.

google trends landing page

 

As you can see from the screenshot Google will tell you what is trending on its search engine in real time.  It’s the middle of March as I am writing this blog post which means it’s March Madness.  For those that don’t know, March Madness is the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, and the name is very appropriate.  Of course, President Trump and other political news are hot topics right now. You can see the other subjects that are also trending.

I mention this because depending on what category your business is in, one of these trending topics might be a good blog topic.  Keep in mind however that what is trending today may not be trending tomorrow.  March Madness will be over in 2 weeks.  If your blog calendar can’t accommodate the rapidly changing list of trending topics, then it’s probably not in your best interest to utilize this SEO tactic.  Personally, if I know enough about a topic and I am in the right (write) frame of mind to write I can put together a decent blog post quickly.

What does the data in Google Trends mean? Google Trends measures interest in a topic for a given period.  Google can measure real-time and non-real-time data to display how hot a topic is or was. It does not measure the number of times something is searched but rather how hot a topic is. If something that was getting 100 searches a day suddenly gets 100,000 searches, then that topic is trending.  If something was getting 100 searches a day and continues to get 100 searches per day, then it will not be trending.  The numbers I use in this example are not representative of what makes a trending topic.  I just use them to make an example.

We’re going to continue using the Personal Injury Lawyer as an example, or should I say Whiplash Attorney?

First, we compared Car Accident, Personal Injury, and Whiplash without using any other filters.  This shows that Car Accident always seems to trend much higher than Personal Injury or Whiplash.  Scrolling down this page shows that a lot of people talked about a car accident involving Venus Williams within the last year, and most topics weren’t exactly relevant to a personal injury attorney.  Does that mean this information is useless? Not necessarily.  What if you were to write a blog post about the car accident Venus Williams was in.  It’s still listed as a trending topic but a new post about it could send traffic your way since it might be the most up to date (relevant) blog on the topic.

google trends map

You will also see that there are maps of where the search terms are trending around the world and related trends next to the maps.  There are some trends for specific personal injury attorneys (this may be a cause for concern and should be investigated if your business name is trending. Is it negative or positive items causing your brand to trend? This is where Online Reputation Management ORM comes in).  Notice that Child Personal Injury Claims is one of the trending topics related to personal injury.  Is this a possible blog post?  Can your content team come up with something regarding Personal Injury Law for Children?

Let’s make this query a little more relevant to what our business is about.   We’re going to filter results to show results in Connecticut for the last month related to Law & Government.  As you can see Car Accidents and Personal Injury have peaks and valleys throughout the 30-day period.  This might correlate with major accidents or extreme weather during this time. You will also note the Whiplash has remained flat during the last 30 days.  Given the information we have from the Google Keyword Planner, this would seem to indicate that while Whiplash receives many searches monthly it does not become a trending topic at any time.

google trends local 30 days

Take some time and play around on Google Trends using search terms related to your business to see what you can come up with.  Make sure you use the filters to get the most accurate information for your business.

Now that you have two pieces of information regarding keyword research we’re going to look at a few other tools that will help in your keyword research and overall SEO strategy development.  Remember, SEO is not a set it and forget it process.  It’s an ongoing process that requires constant analysis and research.  What is relevant today might be old news tomorrow.  The process that works right now could be considered black hat next month although the methods I am listing have always been considered ethical for SEO.

As an example, at one time it was perfectly acceptable to stuff keywords that were irrelevant and did not contribute to the overall quality of the content on a webpage.  We have all seen the service website that lists the service and every town in the area at the bottom of the webpage.

If you’re looking at RandomComputerRepair.com at the bottom of the home page you might see something like –Anytown Computer Repair | Anycity Computer Repair | Yourtown Computer Repair | Histown Computer Repair | Hertown Computer Repair and on and on and on.  This does not contribute to the quality of content on the website, but it was acceptable at one time.  Web Designers and SEOs used to stuff related and unrelated keywords into the Meta Keywords tag in the website code. This helped websites reach the first page of Google for keywords that might have nothing to do with the website.

Google eventually started cracking down on these techniques.  Today Google frowns upon keyword stuffing into the text of a webpage. If the content of the webpage is not relevant and legible to the humans who read it then Google will not rank it as well as a competitor who does create relevant content that people find value in.  Google determines the quality of content by how often it is shared, how long readers spend reading it, the length of the content (how many words) and relevancy to the website it is part of.  There are probably other items Google looks at to determine quality, but these are the items that are known.

Meta Keyword tags are now deprecated. It’s pointless to use it if you still are.  Google does not look at this, so it will not help your website ranking in any way.

SpyFu and SEMRush for Keyword Research

SpyFu and SEMRush are very powerful tools and at least one of them should be a part of any SEOs repertoire.  Both tools are similar in nature and have a lot of features that SEOs and anyone running PPC campaigns will appreciate having.

For this blog post, we’re going to focus on the keyword research component of SpyFu and SEMRush. The keyword research for both platforms is similar.  The primary difference is the aesthetics of the platforms.  I am going to focus on SpyFu for this post.

Both applications have a landing page on their home page.  Once you arrive you are prompted to enter a domain name for research purposes.  After you enter a domain name you will receive a bunch of information as it relates to the domain name you entered.

spyfu landing

There is a lot of information available to help you with your SEO strategy.  You can tell what the focus of the business and website are.  You can determine how much the business is focused on by reviewing the organic results versus paid results.  You can see who their closest competitors (for SEO & AdWords purposes) are.

If you scroll further down, you can view the top 5 keywords for organic and paid results.  You can determine what’s important to the business based on the paid results.  The organic results help you understand how you can move your website up in the organic search results.  SpyFu places ranking and number of clicks per month for organic and a dollar value on paid keywords.  These statistics are very helpful in determining what keywords are best to focus on.

spyfu keywords

You can also use the related keywords tab to find related keywords based on a keyword you have already researched.  For example, if you research car accident lawyer further using the related keywords tab you are returned with 5 (because we’re using a free account) keyword phrases including these 3:

  • Car Accident Lawyers
  • Car Accident Attorneys
  • Car Collision Lawyer

The other two are related to specific geographies.  The results include a lot of valuable information regarding the keyword phrases including keyword value, SEO difficulty and number of searches. This can help you work in various adaptations of the keyword phrase in your content.  Doing so makes it more likely you will be found when Google uses searcher’s intent, and when the searcher uses variations of the keyword phrase(s). Just because a keyword phrase is one of the higher searched keyword phrases does not mean that searchers won’t use a different variation of it, such as the keyword phrases above.

spyfu related keywords

You should use this tool with all keyword phrases to find relevant alternatives that have some value to them.  This will help you develop content that is keyword rich and does not appear to be spammy.  This means your website now has quality content with valuable, relevant keywords and a high word count.  Your site visitors will spend more time reading the content and find greater value in it which means they are more likely to share it and/or comment on it.  All these signals tell Google that your content is authoritative and should be ranked higher.  More visitors spending more time reading, commenting and sharing your content means it moves up the Google SERP.

One final note on SpyFu and SEMRush.  I talk about using the free version because most businesses will not be ready to commit to a subscription.  There are obviously more features and options with a paid account.  Tools like SpyFu and SEMRush are typically focused on SEO professionals as clients.  A paid subscription to either might be overkill for a business not in the marketing world but don’t let me discourage you.

Google Analytics

If you’re in business, you are probably at least aware of Google Analytics.  Google Analytics is Google’s website analysis suite.  Google Analytics is free and is a very powerful tool for businesses to measure, analyze and track results of efforts.  Google Analytics provides a ton of information regarding website visitors such as geolocation, time of day, traffic source, real-time analytics, the technology used to arrive at your website and conversion tracking.  You can compare different time frames to see what efforts are paying dividends and which efforts have opportunities or should be scrapped.

Using UTM codes you can further analyze your business’ efforts regarding sharing content.  This allows you to further analyze traffic sources to determine best efforts.

If your website is a new website, then Google Analytics is not going to help you with keyword research initially.  If your website has some tracking history with Google Analytics, then you can use Google Analytics to further shape your keyword research efforts.  Remember, I said earlier that SEO is an ongoing effort, not a one and done effort.  Constant analysis and modifying of your SEO strategy is a necessary part of a successful SEO plan.

In 2011 Google stopped displaying keywords (for the most part) in Google Analytics.  This was done to protect user’s privacy. However, you can at least get a good idea of your searchers intent when arriving at your website.  There are several ways to get an idea of how people are searching for your website.  It’s important to point out that you should be looking at Google / Organic.  When looking at the keyword data you will see most of the traffic says, “Not Set”.  There will be a few keyword results but not enough to do an in-depth analysis.

How Do You Determine Keywords Used for Your Site?

Really the best way to do this is with the Google Search Console.  The Google Search Console (formerly named Google Webmaster Tools) can now be connected to Google Analytics.  If you do this, you can see the keyword queries in your Google Analytics account.  If not, you will have to go to the Google Search Console to see the keyword queries.  This does have to be set up ahead of time to work inside of Google Analytics and your website. The nice thing about the Google Search Console is you are also able to see your click-through rate for keywords. With this information, you can deduce not only what keywords are bringing people to your website but also what keywords are performing well.

Wordtracker

Wordtracker is a little bit more streamlined and serves primarily one purpose, to display relevant keyword phrases based on a long tail keyword you enter.  This information helps solidify the research you have already performed using the tools listed above.  Wordtracker is free for 5 queries.  If you want to expand beyond 5 queries or save keyword lists you will need to purchase a plan.

wordtracker

Moz Keyword Explorer

Believe it or not, there are rock stars in the SEO world too!  One of those rock stars is Rand Fishkin.  Rand Fishkin created Moz to help other SEOs and business owners with their SEO efforts.  Moz is a very powerful tool for SEO.  Rand Fishkin is considered one of the top SEO experts in the world.  He has recently stepped down from Moz to launch another startup.  Moz continues and still provides an amazing suite of tools.

Moz offers a keyword research tool for free (up to 10 queries per month).  You do have to create an account to be able to use Keyword Explorer.  The results returned include search volume, keyword suggestions, and pages that rank high with the keyword.  It also displays SEO difficulty and Click-Through Rate.

moz

Again, this information helps supplement the research you have already completed with the tools mentioned earlier.  The results returned will assist you in developing content for your blog post or web page that will get people engaged.  Getting people engaged means Google will view your post or page as the authority on the subject.  Over time your page will move up in ranking, increasing traffic and driving results.

Go Research

I have said it before and I will say it again.  SEO is an ongoing process.  Wash, Rinse, Repeat.  Whether you’re just starting out or your site has been online for 10 years you will need to analyze, assess and plan your SEO continually.  In fact, if your site is 10 years old you probably have an even bigger challenge than that of a new website. As technology evolves so should your website. As an example, if your site is 10 years old, then it’s probably not mobile friendly.  If it’s not mobile friendly, then Google may not display your site at all for mobile searches.  You may be missing out on 50% or more of the search traffic for your website.

Next, we will talk about choosing the right domain based on the research in this blog post.

 

 

5 Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation in 2018

5 Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation in 2018

Reviews! Your Online Reputation Depends On Them

5 Steps to Improve Your Online Reputation in 2018Online Reputation has become a critical component of many business’ core plan.  Google has made it so that your business’ online reputation has become an increasingly important component of your local SEO strategy. 

I am going to be completely transparent here.  I used to loathe businesses that asked for a review.  I always felt that reviews shouldn’t be forced.  Now it has become the social norm for businesses to ask for a review or you to rate their service.  You call a call center and when you’re wrapping up the call you’re asked if you wouldn’t mind taking a brief survey.  You just finished eating at a local restaurant and the waitress asks if you wouldn’t mind leaving a review on Yelp or Facebook.  It’s an expectation now, but have you ever wondered why?

Ratings and Reviews help businesses determine what they’re doing well, and what opportunities they have.  Ratings and Reviews server another purpose though.

What’s Your Rep?

Over the last few years, Google has placed an increasing amount of emphasis on reviews.  Google has made it clear that it will use your online reputation as a factor for your business’ website SEO and search results.  A poor reputation means your business loses credibility with potential clients, and with Google.  A good reputation means you have more credibility with both.

Google does look at reviews on your website as part of this factor but before you add random reviews to your site keep one thing in mind.  Google will also search Google My Business and other 3rd party sites like Yelp and Facebook to see if reviews on your site correlate with reviews elsewhere.  If they do not your online reputation will take a hit.

It is important that reviews and ratings are legitimate.  We have all seen the business that has several negative reviews over a few months and then suddenly they have 5 positive reviews on the same day.  You just know these positive reviews are fake, and Google knows too

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Online Reputation

How do you create a positive reputation or improve on a not so good online reputation?

  1. Ask for Reviews-It’s OK, you can ask.  I have gotten over it so you should be able to as well.  But how or when do you ask?
    • Ask when the sale is complete.  If you leave or send an invoice include a link to your direct review link.  Another way to ask is to send a thank you note or gift with the link to your review page.
    • Add the client’s email to your newsletter (with permission of course).  Every 3 months send an email to your list asking for reviews.  Include direct links to your review page(s).
    • Share review links on social media.  Again, make sure to include a direct link.  If there is a lot of work involved to find the actual review link you will likely miss opportunities.
    • Include links to review sites on your website.  People will review you on their preferred platform (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc).  Be careful with Yelp, it is against their TOS for businesses to ask for reviews.
  2. Respond to Negative Reviews-This is a pet peeve of mine.  I once worked with a locksmith in New Haven who received a negative review on Facebook.  The reviewer wasn’t even a client but someone complaining that one of the locksmith’s trucks almost hit his car on the highway.  This was the perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.  Instead, the locksmith chose to ignore the review, and everyone saw this.A better way to handle this would have been to respond with a sincere apology and maybe offer a small token to express that he was truly apologetic.  Doing this would have shown anyone who has seen this review that the locksmith is a caring person and is generally concerned for the well being of others.  It also shows potential clients that you are responsive and attentive to people’s feedback, negative or positive.
    Batman & Robin SEO
  3. Provide Excellent Service-This should go without saying but I think it needs to be said.  A lot of people have forgotten what great customer service looks like.  The problem with that is we live in the information age.  It has become easier than ever to publicly express your displeasure with a business.  People are 50% more likely to share a bad experience on social media than they are a good experience (Marketing Charts, April 15, 2013).  That means you have to work twice as hard to get a positive review.Providing consistent excellent service will improve your odds of receiving a great review.  Provide added value to your service or product.  I am not suggesting that you give something away for free (though that would work) but provide something that gives your product or service a little extra value.
  4. Socialize-This blog post, and all blog posts created by Local SEO Guru, and posts created for our clients, are shared often on social media.  Sharing your expertise and knowledge helps you build your brand and gets your audience talking.  I have gotten reviews based solely on information I have shared. People are more likely to review a business on social media if the page or profile is active and providing value.Sharing your expertise and knowledge helps build your credibility creating trust with your audience. As you probably already know trust and credibility go a long way to grow your brand.  The more people that are buzzing about your business and brand the better your online reputation.Be active, be responsive and be social.  Your Online Reputation depends on it.
  5. 5 Steps to improving your online reputationTrack It All-One thing that is often missed in regards to online reputation management is tracking and monitoring.  There are plenty of applications out there that help with tracking mentions and comments about your business/brand.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to use Google Alerts.  Go to google.com/alerts to create an alert with your brand/business name.  Google will send you an email whenever there are comments or mentions relevant to your business.Track the results and reply to anything that is relevant, even (especially) if it is negative.  Tracking and monitoring what is said about you online allows you to address things in a timely manner before it spins out of control.

Use these 5 steps to improve your online reputation.  I am confident that if you put these into practice you will yield the results your business needs to be successful and to improve your Local SEO.  If you think there is something we forgot let us know.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re ready to take your online reputation seriously fill out the form below and we’ll let you know how your online reputation looks. Learn more about our Local SEO Services.

 

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    First Steps to SEO Success Domain Purchase

    First Steps to SEO Success – Purchasing a Domain Name

    First Steps to SEO Success – Purchasing a Domain Name

    As with any well-executed plan you have to…well….plan.  The early strategies of SEO include trying to determine what keywords are relevant to your website and business.

    Finding the best keywords are important early on because you will use this to determine what domain to purchase for your website.  I always recommend a business chooses one of two methods for deciding on a domain to use.

    You can choose to go the branding route (the name of the business or your name) or you can choose to use a domain that reflects relevant keywords.  I chose to go with branding over relevant keywords however I purchased some relevant keyword domain names along the way.

    Don’t be fooled by so-called SEO Experts that tell you not to focus on keywords.  While the method of focusing on keywords has changed over the last few years you still need to know how potential clients will find your business.  We’ll get into all the details you have to use to find your relevant keywords in a later blog post but for now, let’s discuss how to determine the best keywords for your business website.

    How Do You Determine Relevant Keywords?

    There are numerous tools available on the internet to do keyword research. We’re going to start with the Google Keyword Planner.  To use the Google Keyword Planner you will need to create an AdWords account but don’t worry, you don’t actually have to run any ads.

    For the purpose of this blog post, I am going to use a baker that specializes in cupcakes and has a food truck.  There are a few ways to research relevant keywords.

    1. Start with a keyword in mind. If you have an idea of how people are searching for your type of business use this to see what Google comes up with.  In the case of a bakery, I would also set the location to your local geography, unless you also deliver to other places.   You can also conduct a survey using Google Surveys or Survey Monkey.  Market Research is always a good idea when determining things like how will people find your product or service.

    keyword planner for keyword research

    As you can see from my results for keyword “cupcakes” in Connecticut there are 2400 searches for “cupcakes” per month in Connecticut.  This is based on a 12-month average.  You will also note that Google gives you other related keyword terms and their search volume.

    Now using “cupcakes” for your keyword is going to be very challenging so you will have to research competitors to see what you will be up against.  It’s best to try to find something a little more specific like “Gourmet Cupcakes in CT”.

    Using the keyword planner you will see that this only yields 10 searches per month in Connecticut.  Let’s remove the “in CT”.  Google says there are 40 searches per month for “Gourmet Cupcakes” within Connecticut.

    At this point, you still have a lot more research to do but I want to point out that a quick domain search on GoDaddy reveals that gourmetcupcakes.com is not available but gourmetcupcakes.net is.  You’re might think that you would rather have the .com or that you can’t compete with the .com but a little more research reveals that gourmetcupcakes.com is not being used.  That means there is no competition when it comes to using “Gourmet Cupcakes” as a Top Level Domain (TLD).

    Back to our research

    Alright, so we have determined that the keyword “Cupcakes” is a good option as far as search volume but likely has a lot of competition.  We have also determined that “Gourmet Cupcakes” has far less search volume and less competition.

    1. What’s the Trend? Now go to Google.com/Trends and plug in the keywords we already researched in the Google Keyword Planner.

    We’ll start with “cupcakes”.  Change the geography to the United States and try different time frames.  Using 5 years reveals the number of searches for cupcakes has steadily declined over the last 5 years.

    Scrolling down further will show you how the searches break down by the state.  You will notice that Connecticut is number 9.

    Scroll down even more and you will see related searches.  This is where you may find a keyword that works better than just cupcakes.  “Cupcakes Near Me” is listed as a breakout.  Clicking on this query reveals that this keyword phrase has rapidly grown over the last few months.

    “Cupcakes Near Me” doesn’t really make a great business name but it is an option.  The .com was already purchased but is not in use.  Cupcakesnearme.net is a premium domain and GoDaddy is listing it at $19,500 so this is probably not an option for most.  Cupcakesnear.me is available and at normal domain prices (as of this writing).

    “Gourmet Cupcakes” has no search volume shown on Google Trends so this will likely not be an option.  Let’s continue to focus on “cupcakes”.

    Google Trends

    1. There is Competition. Using the Google Keyword Planner we can also check to see what your competition is using for keywords on their site.  Additionally, you can use Ahrefs, Spyfu or SEMRush to check on your competition.  You can learn where they rank for specific keywords, backlinks and more.   Each of these tools allows you to use them on a limited basis or try it out before you commit to figuring out which is the best for your needs.

    One of the features of all these tools is the ability to “spy” on competition or similar sites to see what they are using for keywords, the value of those keywords and search frequency.

    Using Spyfu (free option) I put in the Sugar Bakery’s website.  I can now see that they are not doing any advertising on Google 5 of their top keywords.  Of the 5 keywords, only one relates to cupcakes and that’s flower cupcake.  I can now see what the suggested bid price for this keyword, their ranking for it and the search volume for it.  This information helps me to determine if this is a good domain name option.

    There are two other things to check regarding whether or not Flower Cupcake is a good option beyond the information above.  First is it available, and second is it relevant to what your cupcake shop is about.

    A quick search reveals the .net is available.  Even though the .com is not available it is not being used therefore your SEO will be a little easier.

    spyfu keyword research

    1. Purchase Your Domain.   Enough hemming and hawing.  You’ve done the research.  It’s time to make a purchase.  I referenced GoDaddy a few times but there are other reputable domain sellers.  Google, Network Solutions, and Register to name a few.  You don’t have to necessarily buy from GoDaddy.

    It’s really a combination of determining the best keyword for your business site and what works best with your branding plans.  This post should not be used in any part to make a branding decision.  It should be used to ensure you are purchasing a domain that is going to work best for your business.

    When you purchase your domain you should also purchase for multiple years.  It’s a small factor but Google does look at the length of registration and tends to favor registrations of one year a lot less than multiple years.  You can usually get a discount for purchasing for multiple years as well.

    One thing I should mention here that has nothing to do with SEO.  Do not allow a web designer, SEO or anyone else to purchase a domain or hosting under an account that is not yours.  I have seen all too often a business lose their website and domain because they let the person building the site purchase everything under their own account.  If you let someone else buy the domain and hosting on an account that is not yours, you risk losing all of it.

    Based solely on this research I would have gone with cupcakesnear.me.  You may decide to use more of a branded name and that is fine.  I will say this much if you purchase a branded name like I did you should rank number one on Google for that name.  If you search Scott Gombar on any of the major search engines you see that my site is number one and that other properties that I control are on the first page of Google.  This is good SEO.

    I should also mention using Google Alerts will allow you to continue to monitor your selected keyword(s) for ideas and opportunities.  This is also part of brand monitoring for some companies.

    Make sure you come back for the next step in my 10 part series First Steps to a Successful SEO Plan.  Sign up for the newsletter to stay in touch.

    Google My Business New Options

    How To: 6 Ways to Optimize Your Google My Business Page

    (Edited 4/15/18-Google added a menu option for all businesses)
    When it comes to Local SEO one of the very first, yet often overlooked, tasks is to create your Google My Business listing.  Google My Business is where Google Maps and the Google 3 Pack get their information from.  If you don’t create a listing for your business on Google My Business then your business will either not show up, or show up with incomplete or inaccurate information.  Google My Business also increases the likelihood your business will show up on the Google 3 Pack and in the organic search results.

    Google has recently implemented some new changes to your Google Business listing that will help further your engagement with potential clients.  These new updates will allow you to further attract new audiences.  Utilizing these updates will also improve your standing within the Google Local Pack, especially since there’s a good chance your competition is not aware or acting on the updates.

    Google My BusinessGoogle has put more and more emphasis on Google My Business in recent years.  While Google+ personal profiles have drifted into the social media abyss, Google My Business continues to evolve into a very important component of Local SEO.

    There are 3 opportunities for your business to show up on the first page of the Google Search Results Page.  The first is with Google AdWords.  The second spot is the Google 3 Pack (Also known as the Google Local Pack).  The third is in the organic search.  Ads may or may not show up in the results depending on whether or not you or a competitor is using Google AdWords to advertise locally.  The information that is included in the Google 3 Pack comes from your Google My Business listing.  Chances are there are more than 3 businesses doing what you do locally.  So the 6 optimization steps below will help you secure one of the top 3 spots.

    If you have not already claimed your business listing then that will be the first step.  Visit www.google.com/business to started.  You will enter some of your basic business information and be asked to verify that you are the owner of the business.  The verification process is usually done through a postcard with a pin number mailed to the business address.  In some cases, phone verification is also an option.

    • Complete All the Information Google Asks For-I cannot express how critically important it is to have complete and accurate information on your Google My Business listing. I have personally been the recipient of inaccurate information on because someone failed to provide the correct information to their Google My Business.  Included in a complete listing is contact information such as website address, phone number, and physical address, hours of operation, categories relevant to your information, and pictures including your logo (profile picture).
    • Use the Booking Button-A recent addition to the Google My Business listing is the ability to add a booking button.  This is great for service businesses and for end users alike.  Using one of the dozens of scheduling sites that Google has partnered with you can easily incorporate a booking button into your Google My Business Listing.
    • Post to Your Google My Business page – Often-This blog post will get posted on our Google My Business page.  So will many, many, other posts.  As often as you post to Facebook you should be posting to your GMB page.   These posts show up on the Knowledge panel and on Google Maps.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for your business) most businesses have abandoned the practice of posting to their Google My Business Page.  This tactic can separate you from the pack (pun intended).
    • Set up Text Messaging-I bet you didn’t know you could do this!  Now people can send you a text message directly from your GMB listing on mobile.  Google uses Allo to send text messages to your mobile device (or another number that receives text).
    • Reviews, They’re Important-It used to be frowned upon to ask for reviews but today you should encourage your clients to leave you a review.  The difficulty is people leave reviews where they want to leave them.  Facebook, Yelp, or Google to name a few.  The method that we find works best is to send an email with a link to your Google review section.
    • Google Local Pack Google My BusinessQuestions & Answers-Another feature that has begun to grow wings of its own is the questions and answers. Google Local experts can answer questions that other Google users ask about businesses they visit.  This helps Google ensure that the information on the Google Business listing is accurate and up to date.  That also means that your information should be up to date and correct.  While it’s not clear what impact this has on the Google Local Pack there’s no doubt that it will factor in one way or the other.  Oh yeah, we’re Google Local Experts as well.
    • (Edited 4/15/18) Menus-Up until early April 2018 only restaurants were able to add menus to their Google Business listing.  Now all businesses are able to add a menu.  You can list products or services that your business offers.  I added this to my client’s business pages but have yet to see it in the search results for Google Maps or the Google 3 Pack.  One added bonus I can see this potentially having is added keyword phrases.  Keep in mind many business owners, I would say the majority of businesses, are not paying attention to the updates giving any business that does a potential upper hand.  The worst case scenario is eventually you will have a listing of products or services on your Google Business Listing.

    As you can see there are a lot of opportunities to engage with your audience and potential clients using Google My Business.  Just like SEO it’s not just a set it and forget it task.  Your Google Business listing requires constant review and optimization.