Getting Started with SEO: Baseline Keywords

How do you respond when someone asks you, “What do you do?” Think about how you describe your business, your products and services, your industry, your product features and service benefits. More often than not, you use the same words over and over to describe what you do. The starting point for all your online marketing efforts are keywords and you’re already using them every day, whether you know it or not. It’s important to notice this repetition because these words resonate with you (and they will likely resonate with your customers too). These words and phrases are the same ones your customers type into search engines to find businesses like yours. Think of these words as your baseline keywords. Now, when most business owners hear “keywords,” they immediately start to feel overwhelmed or a little nervous. But when you’re just getting started, there’s no need to stress over your keywords because you already know them and use them daily. As a small business owner on a limited marketing budget, you don’t have to pay for keyword research and analysis. You can start making a positive impact on your company’s SEO with just a few simple strategies.

Marketing is a journey that you take your prospective customers on. A person has a problem they need to solve. They turn to the internet to find a business/product/service to find a solution and bring them some sort of relief. You want your business to be the solution they choose. In order to be found online, you have to be discoverable, and to be discoverable, you need to use the same keywords that your customers are using in their online searches.  The easiest way to do this is to make sure you’re using your baseline keywords consistently in all of your online materials so that search engines see the relevancy of your business to these words.

An important point to remember is that your baseline keywords are not just a list of single words. If you are a massage therapist, while the word “massage” is important to your business, it’s too vague and general to make your business stand out from all the others that offer some sort of massage therapy. Using phrases that are made up of 3-5 words (also known as “long-tail keywords”) are much more powerful. For example, if you are a massage therapist and you specialize in working with athletes, “sports injury recovery” is much more specific and will help your ideal clients find you easier.

If you’ve never taken the time to strategically think about your company’s keywords, there is no better time to start than right now. All you need is 5 minutes of uninterrupted time, something to write with and a piece of paper. Using these three things, you can create a strong foundation for all of your future digital marketing efforts.

Your Challenge

In 5 minutes, you are going to do a brain dump of all the relevant words and phrases associated with your business. Then you’ll keep this list handy because in the next part of this blog series on SEO, you are going to learn to focus in on the most important ones to start strengthening your online presence. There are no rules or limits about what goes on your list at this point. The fine tuning will come later.

Step #1: Find a quiet place to work where you will not be interrupted. Allow for a minimum of 5 minutes (but be prepared for it to take longer; this process is actually a lot of fun once you get started!) Turn your phone to silent, close your office door and turn off your Outlook notifications. It’s time to focus.

Step #2: Start the timer and start writing out all of the words you use when describing your business. Feel free to talk out loud to yourself – this can be really helpful (it will also help you tighten up your elevator pitch for future networking meetings).

Need some help getting started? Use these ideas as jumping off points:

  • Start with the basics. List your company name, products and services.
  • Write a 1-2 sentence description for each of the products and services you offer. What words jump out as more relevant than others?
  • Use both specific and generic phrases related to your products and services (i.e. “Nike running shoes” is very specific; “running shoes” is much more general).
  • Include all of the locations you serve (city and state) – this is great for optimizing local SEO.
  • Ask co-workers, friends and clients how they would describe your business. Listen for repetition of words and phrases.
  • How is your competition describing similar products and services? You don’t want to copy their exact wording, but you can use it for inspiration.
  • Practice your elevator pitch. We are often more comfortable talking about our business than we are about writing it. It might help you to hear the words out loud to hear which ones have the most impact.

To help you get started, we’ve created a Baseline Keywords Worksheet. Feel free to download this free resource and use it for this exercise. We’d love to hear how this works for you. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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