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Keywords: a beginner's guide

Keywords: a beginner's guideSmall businesses can get more online exposure by using the right SEO keywords. Danielle Haley of Freelance SEO Essex explains how to optimise your ecommerce website to generate more traffic and increase your online sales leads

Small business owners can find it daunting to try and compete with larger companies when it comes to getting online traffic, yet small firms can attract an enviable number of online leads and sales if they get their search engine optimisation right.

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, refers to the methods used by website owners to get their site to rank well in the search engine listings for particular search terms. Search engines such as Google have complex algorithms that they apply to all web pages to measure how relevant they are for certain search phrases.

None of us know the exact content of the algorithms, which change frequently, but we do know that the way in which we spread our targeted keywords across our page content is an important factor in getting a site to rank well.

How to choose your keywords

All ecommerce website owners want a top ranking for the most obvious search terms related to their industry. But there's an awful lot of competition out there, so smaller businesses may find it more realistic to target less popular and perhaps slightly more obscure keyword terms that can bring in more targeted visitors to their site. Keyword generators are extremely handy tools that allow you to check out the popularity and competition for any search term.

Domain name choice

If you're in the early stages of setting up your ecommerce website and have yet to choose a domain name, it can be a good idea to try and purchase a site name that contains one of your keywords, or at least a variant. That said, it is possible to rank well for keywords even if you have a non-related domain name, such as one that simply contains the name of your company.

Page content

Once you've chosen a small selection of keywords or phrases that you want to rank for, you can now concentrate on working these phrases into your existing site content. It's important to sprinkle these keywords naturally throughout the entire body of your text – top, middle and bottom - but the trick is not to overdo it, or the search engines may suspect that you're guilty of "keyword stuffing" and will apply a penalty to your site, which will see it drop further down the search listings.

A keyword density tool is a helpful way to ascertain how well the search engines and your readers will respond to the addition of new keywords found within your content.

Titles and meta tags

Unlike site visitors, search engines don't just read the text on your web pages - they also evaluate the coding behind each page. This is good news for shrewd webmasters, as it means there are extra opportunities to promote keywords on your site through the use of coding elements such as page titles, meta-tags and headings. Place your keywords naturally into each of these codes and you could see a dramatic improvement in your rankings.

Backlinks

Another great way to get the search engines to look on your site favourably is to get other related sites to link back to yours. Rather than asking these sites to simply list your website URL, a better idea is to request that your preferred keyword is the clickable text, or "anchor text" which then links back to your site. This shows the search engines how relevant you are for this term.

SEO is an ongoing trial and error process, so it makes sense to try out a small selection of keywords and phrases on your site, then monitor which terms convert into real sales and leads for you.

Written by Danielle Haley from Freelance SEO Essex. Ecommerce content edited by Chloe Thomas of eCommerce MasterPlan.

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