Keyword Research

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SEO Web design is the partnership between web design and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). More so, it is a philosophy that includes the user and lead generation within the design and planning process. Even more importantly, it is a methodology whereby SEO planning and strategy happens throughout, rather than as a post-launch activity.

If you’re looking for a new website and/or SEO strategy, seek a company that includes comprehensive SEO as part of the planning process, in addition to the design and post-launch phases.

Most commonly you will find web designers who outline SEO as a post-planning and/or post-build service. This often comes by way of an SEO plugin so metatags and titles can be optimized and content can be reviewed and graded. For others, there will be some general keyword research and SEO content edits.

SEO Web Design from reputable SEO Web Design Agencies takes an entirely different approach altogether.

This approach includes SEO throughout the entire process from planning, to coding, to design to content to post-launch. It is an approach where the entire foundation is built upon solid SEO infrastructure and knowledge designed to not only bring leads to a website, but capture and convert them.

If This is Such a Great Approach Why Aren’t All Web Designers Doing This?

SEO is hard work. It’s time consuming work. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to do it properly and quite frankly, web design is easier without taking user experience and lead generation into account.

It is an entirely different skill-set than web design, so a team approach is often needed. It would be difficult to be one person fluent in programming, coding, web design, graphic design and comprehensive SEO.

In addition, due to the time and work involved, good SEO is not suitable as a lost-leader type service, especially if you want it done properly. This means it adds to an overall budget and when web design companies are quoting for accounts, they can bring their price down by leaving it out.  Since many non SEO companies say they do SEO, a real SEO Web Design Approach when compared to basic web design can often run higher in price.

In addition, education is usually part of the sales process which also takes time and resources.

When business owners are comparing web design quotes, they may think they are comparing apples to apples. In reality, the quotes likely vary in scope regardless of SEO. Plus, comparing a basic web design with SEO web design is truly like comparing apples with, well, pineapples.

SEO Web Design – The Process

Incorporating true SEO into web design requires a process that begins in the planning stages and is a part of every aspect of the build, and beyond. This is the key element that is important for businesses to understand when comparing web design companies.

The SEO web design process has several additional steps than a regular website, and with that comes additional time, additional scope and often additional cost.

When businesses understand the process and the importance of user-experience and lead generation, the added steps and cost makes sense.

1. Planning

When following an SEO Web design process, planning is a crucial stage. SEO moves beyond basic keywords and content and incorporates user experience, lead generation, site speed, user paths, targets and goals. It is during this phase that we work with you to really understand your business, your target market, how to attract your target market and the best way to encourage them to interact with your website.

What features do you want your website to have? What are the best technologies to achieve these goals? What will things look like (figuratively and literally)? What is the user looking for?

Keyword research, competition research, industry trends, current website analytics and more all go into the planning process. It is during this phase where a thorough audit of your business, your market and your goals begins.

2. Keyword Research

Exhaustive keyword research is part of the planning process (and will continue long after the build). What is uncovered during the research phase helps lead the way for key site planning decisions, including site architecture, lead capture pages, content and more.

Keyword research helps determine the search phrases your targeted customer is using to discover websites of businesses such as yours.

Top Keywords – Top keywords are the general keyword phrases that are common among web visitors. If your business is local it will often be city +service or city +product. During the keyword research phase we determine the popularity and competitiveness of keywords and set target goals.

Long-tail Keywords – These are more specific, generally longer search phrases, used by users to find specific products/services/content from businesses such as yours. These may be questions or sub-services. Generally, these are less competitive, less popular and easier to rank for. We can’t ignore these phrases as when combined, the traffic can often amount to a strong base.

We may set a phased schedule of keyword priority. This allows us to work on a variety of keyword phrases (top and long-tail) in tandem, before moving onto a different topic or priority. This is an effective way to continuously build website traffic and relevance in the marketplace.

3. Competition Research

Let’s take a look at what your competition is doing, and then do it better. By fully understand what other businesses in your sector are doing online, we can best plan how to compete in the marketplace.

Are there gaps in the marketplace where you can easily slide in?

Are there ideas we can garner from other websites?

By thoroughly analyzing the competition, we can gain a solid understanding of the market and where you best fit.

4. Site Architecture

The navigation and flow of your website is important. In a basic web design (non SEO) process this may be given to a client by a web designer or a client may ask for certain items.

With SEO web design, the key decisions for site architecture are made based on SEO and User experience.

Getting the site architecture right can involve several key decisions. After all, keywords don’t always have marketing flow. Since thus far, everything has been done based on SEO and usability, the same holds true for this phase.

The competition research, keyword research, the user and your goals outline the best navigation, page names and content.

This is where many businesses and web designers will be reminded that it is not what the business wants that matters, but rather what the user needs.

A website that speaks to the user and their needs will perform better than a website that is simply about the business.

5. The Website Build

This is where all that hard planning work starts to see the light of day. Seeing a mockup of a homepage or page layouts is fun and exciting, which is why non SEO web designers often start with this step. It gets a client excited for the project. But, with an SEO-first approach, the build cannot begin until after all the planning is finished.

There are a variety of ways to build a website, including various platforms, code languages and templates. But, for a website to perform well in the search engines, there needs to be an SEO approach to the build. Google and other search engines outline best practices for webmasters including, user experience, site speed, clean code, tags, hosting location and optimization.

From coding to design, SEO best practices should be accounted for.

6. Website Content

On the surface, writing content for a website seems like an easy task for most business owners. Many times, they know their business best and will want to take on this job. Writing content for the web is much different than writing content for a brochure or a business proposal.

With an SEO approach to web design, developing good content is essential. In addition, an ongoing content marketing plan is key for success.  

SEO website content has three main jobs. It needs to be relevant to search queries so search engines rank the pages higher. It needs to grab the reader’s attention right away. It needs to provide the information the visitor is looking for.

Let’s say we had a 4th. It needs to encourage the visitor to learn more, purchase or contact.

Generally, web content has a many headings, lists and short paragraphs. It is scanable and various typography styles will be used to make things interesting.

Content should be written to speak to the user. It needs to be quick and easy to read and should not include industry terms the user has not yet been introduced to.

Content has a big job to play on a website and it’s important this phase is done right. Well-crafted content is key to success.

7. Ongoing Reviews and Reporting

Once the website is built and launched, there’s still more to come. SEO web design undertakes the practice of regularly reviewing web analytics, running a/b testing and making updates as needed. In addition, regularly adding content helps future success.

SEO professionals relish in digging into a website’s analytics to see what is performing well and what may need a revision. In addition, user queries and intention change which is why monitoring analytics, search engine results and leads is a crucial aspect of a sound SEO strategy.

8. Site Maintenance

Regular tweaks, both programmatically and within content, will be made on an ongoing basis to ensure a website is running its best. Platforms change and have updates and upgrades so regular website maintenance helps ensure your website is performing at its peak for your visitors.

How to Incorporate SEO Into Your Web Design

SEO isn’t something that should be incorporated in silo into your web design. It should be the foundation and a part of every piece of the puzzle.

When SEO is considered at every stage of web design, it shows in the results because it shows in the build. It puts the user first and when the user comes first, they feel important and are more likely to convert.

While a strong SEO strategy can be incorporated on a pre-existing website, when you have the opportunity to build (or re-build) from scratch, you can rest-assured that your foundation is sound.

1. Hire the right SEO Web Design Firm

This is the key step when incorporating SEO into web design. Whether you are utilizing your current built or starting fresh, having the right time is essential. When SEO professionals work closely with web designs the results are better.

2. Don’t rush the process

SEO is a long-game marketing approach. The results build up slowly over time, but the long term benefit is worth the wait. It’s easy to get cold-feet while you’re waiting, but give the strategy time to take footing.

3. Don’t quit

Once you start to see results, it is tempting to quit. Keep in mind, that a well-planned SEO approach involves a content and optimization plan that is continuous. In other words, the results you will see in say six months are solidly based upon the work that is done today. If you stop, you may not see the effects of quitting immediately, but over time you will.

Our best results come from web design builds that were executed with a sound SEO strategy at the forefront. While sometimes, in a non-competitive market, SEO can be added post-build, best practices and the best opportunity for success come from a true SEO web design build.

Our success is built upon our past results. While trends and tactics may change, year over year this SEO web design build process is crucial for our top achieved results.

About 1st on the List

Located just outside Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1st on the List is a boutique SEO Company that has been offering search engine optimization, pay per click, and SEO web design services since 1997.

To learn more about our services, please call us Toll Free at 1-877-567-1341 or send us an email.

It happens all the time. You finally start to see your website or page in the top search results for your keyword phrase only to have it disappear faster than it took to get there. You panic. You’ll have forgotten the warnings of your SEO professional that there is bound to be some fluctuations as things get ranking. You’re worried and frustrated. You think something must be wrong. The good news is that in most cases, this sort of fluctuation is perfectly normal as the search engines work behind the scenes to determine a website’s natural place in the order of things.

SEO is a long-term affair, and can sometimes be quite tumultuous. As a business owner, you likely receive a variety of email sales-pitches telling you that you can get first page search engine results in a short amount of time. Or, they tell you that your website is not performing well on the search engines and they can very quickly turn this around for you.

It can be easy to get caught up in this offer, while questioning your current SEO efforts.

First, unless you are going for obscure or unpopular keywords (that are not being widely searched by your target audience), ranking well on the search engines takes time. For some very competitive industries and keywords this can be months, or even years of working a well-strategized SEO plan. And, just because your site may get to the illusive page-1 ranking, doesn’t mean it will stay there forever.

Keyword rankings fluctuate.

From an SEO professional’s standpoint, there is nothing more upsetting than finally getting a client’s website where it belongs in the search results only to have it disappear again. But, this is part of the game.

Top 6 Reasons Keyword Rankings Fluctuate

1. Site is New / Content is New – When you publish a new website or new piece of content, Google will test-drop you into the search results, in a variety of different positions. Google even has people who help index content by hand. This means they manually look at a website’s content and how it matches a particular search query.

New content is especially prone to fluctuations and can even jump on and off the results until the search engine can determine the most natural fit for a specific result.

How to Overcome This? Continue to create good content that is based on what your user is looking for. By determining your authority in the industry, your website content will speak for itself and you may find the fluctuations lessen.

Content really is KING. After all, the job of a search engine is to deliver the top related pages to a specific query.

2. Algorithm Update – Google makes minor updates to their algorithms on a regular basis. Even the most minor change in their programming can sometimes affect the positioning of a website or piece of content. Then, there are the bigger updates that can sometimes work amateur SEO professionals into a frenzy. They can even, sometimes, catch the most experienced SEO professionals off guard.

Over the years, the updates that have wreaked the most havoc on search results were:

2009 – Vince – While Google explained Vince was a minor update, the Vince update seemingly favoured big brands and some small businesses reported a negative long-term impact on their positioning and traffic.

2010 – May Day – This update was targeting long-tail keywords and content. Websites with thin content were hardest hit. </span

2011 – Panda – About 12% of search results were hit by the Panda update. Panda targeted content farms and weak, thin content. Additional Panda updates have happened in years since.  

2012 – Penguin – Penguin targeted websites that were over-SEO’d. Websites that had poorly written, keyword-stuffed content were hardest hit.

2014 – Pigeon – Pigeon saw some drastic search result changes for local query results.

2018 – Medic Core Update – Health and wellness sites were reportedly hardest hit, but change in results affected queries in all verticals.

How to Overcome This? First, a website built on a foundation of good SEO principals is best set to withstand algorithm updates. While no website is immune, if your content and website is built with your user in mind, which in itself will help because it will mean your website likely will not include many of the things that Google penalizes (spam, too much advertising, thin content etc.).

3. Search Engine Penalty – Break the rules and you can be penalized. Generally speaking, Google will let you know when you’ve been assessed a penalty within your Google Search Console. Overcoming a search engine penalty can be quite time consuming so it is best to play by the rules.

How to Overcome This? Keep an eye on your Google Search Console so if you ever are assessed a penalty you can begin the recovery process right away. Ideally, if your website is built by experienced professionals and is based on a sound SEO strategy, the chances of being assessed a search engine penalty are low.

4. New Players in the Game – Competition! A new related business may open up shop, or an old business may take on a new SEO strategy. Chances are, if your website ranks well, your site will be their goal. A good SEO professional will analyze what all the competitors are doing and then strive to do all of that, and then more (and better). Staying ahead of your competition is possible with a continuous SEO strategy.

How to Overcome This? Your ongoing SEO maintenance should include competition research. This way, you can keep an eye on the new players to the game and stay one step ahead. Once again, if you can continue to publish quality content that your target visitors want, you will have a head start over newcomers to the game.

5. Spidering Issues – If Google has a hard time spidering your website, you may notice fluctuations. In addition, in some website platforms such as WordPress there is a button “Do Not Index” and this can be for the page or the entire website. Many an SEO-professional has found this button turned on, generally from an inexperienced web developer who was building ‘live’ and forgot to turn the button off once the site was released to the general public.

How to Overcome This? Keep a close eye on your Google search console to determine what pages are being spidered. As you publish new content, ensure that content has a home on a page of your website that is regularly spidered so Google has an easier time reaching it. Having clean navigation is also key.

As for the “Do Not Index”, mistakes happen. So, if you have a web developer working on your website, which should be the first thing you check when website updates or content additions go live.

6. Personalized Search – Often, a user’s search results are specific to their location and their past behaviour. This can make it difficult to ascertain where you rank for your target audience. You may find that your listing fluctuates depending on the user. You can get a broad overview of your general ranking within Google’s Search Console; however, it doesn’t depict the entire story. For instance, for localized searches, often results will appear that are close to your location. If you have frequented a particular website many times, that website may appear in the top results when you search. As a general rule, your goal should be to average in the top results but not get too worried if certain users do not see your website where others do.

We’ve heard reports of unscrupulous SEOs using this type of search to their advantage when reporting or holding client meetings. Because they work on the website often, the website will show up high on the search results. Note – if you’re in a meeting with your SEO professional, ensure they’re using an incognito window.

How to Overcome This? Open an incognito window with your browser cache cleared to whenever you wish to check on your results personally. This will give you the best understanding of where you rank for the general public. If you do not wish for search engines to collect data on you, use an incognito window for your searches whenever possible.

How to Avoid Keyword Fluctuations?

Keyword rankings are in a constant state of movement, especially beyond page two or three. When new websites or content is launched, generally they will move around the search results for some time before eventually settling into a natural position. Movement from this stage is slow-going.

The websites in the top positions in search results are generally employing an SEO strategy, have the added benefit of having been there longer and usually have good content that web visitors like.

With patience, a solid multi-channel marketing campaign, sound SEO strategy, excellent content, ongoing content edits and even more excellent content you can find your own website in the top positions.

Once there, the last thing you want is to fall back down. Your ongoing SEO strategy will help keep you there.

1. Ongoing SEO edits – it is tempting to leave good, top-ranked content as-is to avoid any potential fall; however, your visitors search queries will see subtle changes over time and it is important your content stay up-to-date with the most popular queries. Do not take on SEO edits in an unorganized manner though. There needs to be a strategy and a reason to make even minor adjustments to content, and, your visitor should be the top priority.

2. Technical Maintenance – Site speed, user-flow and spidering should all be part of an ongoing maintenance program. A site that is performing at its best technically will stand a better chance of avoiding negative SEO impact.

3. More Than Just SEO – While organic search traffic may bring in the most targeted traffic to your website, you’d be remiss to rely solely on this form of visitor. Display advertising, offline advertising, pay-per-click keyword advertising, social media etc. can all nicely round out your visitor chart.

4. Ongoing Content – Your website should have a sound content plan including ongoing edits and publishing new, fresh resources for your visitors. Ongoing Keyword research will help determine what information your target visitor is looking for and can help assist in creating a content calendar.

5. Monitor Google’s Search Console – A lot of information can be had with regular monitoring of Google’s search console. You can see what keywords and content are performing well as well as any technical issues.

6. Monitor Google Analytics – Google Analytics can provide a wealth of information for those so-inclined to study the numbers.

7. Employ Regular SEO Audits – There are a variety of tools that can help you audit your own website and content. SEMRush, WooRank, Web.Dev all provide important insight. <

In Conclusion

Search engine results fluctuate, as can the traffic you receive from them. This is why it is important to embark on an ongoing SEO program that consists of regular keyword research, market research, content edits and a content marketing plan.

Patience is a key trait when it comes to SEO. Determination is also important. When you can stay the course of the strategy, even in the face of keyword fluctuations, you will come out the other side in victory.

Following best practices will help your website survive once it makes it to the top search results. It is important to remember that just because you get to the goal, the job is not finished. There will always be competitors vying for your spot so it is important to stay ahead of the curve.

SEO is a long-term lead generation and marketing approach. Along the way you will run into gains and setbacks. It is not a straight line, but rather a windy road to get to the top of the rankings. If you are looking for quick gains, you may find those with long-tail keywords; however generally speaking, for quick leads SEO will not be your marketing platform of choice.

It is important to have a decisive SEO strategy that incorporates a variety of keyword phrases. While you’re working on the more competitive keywords, you can be seeing faster wins on long-tail keywords. In fact, sometimes the cumulative traffic generated from these highly specific keyword searches can overtake the traffic from the ‘big-win’ keywords you are dreaming of.

Don’t lose hope. Keyword rankings fluctuate; however, an experienced SEO professional understands what to look for and how to stay the course.

Keyword rankings are not always stable. In fact, especially when a website or piece of content is initially launched, the page will move around in the search rankings for various popular and related keyword phrases.

You may notice that eventually, you settle a few pages in, only to move page by page fairly quickly, until you get to the first couple of pages of ranking results.

Once you’ve landed in the top 10, 20 or 30 for a popular, competitive keyword phrase, moving further up the ranks can be slow-going.

Generally, the top results are usually employing an SEO strategy, have the benefit of being their longer, and have tried and tested content that visitors seem to like. Generally, you’ll have to work harder to take their spot.

Patience, a solid multi-channel marketing campaign, excellent content, ongoing SEO edits, and even more patience is what it takes to move to the top.

Tip: While you’re waiting for the slow-moving keywords to break the ceiling, work on content optimized for long-tail keywords or less competitive searches. Cumulatively, these can work together to increase your traffic which can also help any stagnant or slow-moving keywords, too.

Even with keyword research tools in hand, doing Hyperlocal Keyword Research is a challenging venture.

Simply put, there’s not enough data available in most keyword research tools to provide definitive results for small businesses in humble locations.

Before we dive into this article, let’s first explain what we mean by “keyword research”.

Keyword research is the process of discovering what search queries people are typing into Search Engines like Google to find the types of products, services, or information you promote on your website. By bringing the content and words used on your website in line with what people are actually searching for you are optimizing your website.

There are plenty of keyword research tools available to determine how many times a specific phrase is searched, how many other websites mention the keyword, and how competitive the keyword is. These tools are great, but even the best keyword research tools lack data when it comes to very specific local areas – what we refer to as hyperlocal keyword research.

In a recent Whiteboard Friday, Rand Fishkin presents 3 Tactics for Hyperlocal Keywords for Local SEO in data-deprived locations.

In this article, I’ve outlined Fishkin’s three suggestions and then added three of my own ideas for SEOs working in the often-frustrating digital space of small centres.

1) Use Numbers from Nearby Regional Data

Rand suggests using data for larger centres in close proximity to your focus area as a stepping stone for ideas. He argues that searches in more populated areas could provide results that would likely be just as applicable to the geographically similar but more modest location.

2) Rely on Google Autosuggest

Presuming that Google presents autosuggested results in order of usage popularity, they can certainly provide a foundation for close examination. And, as suggested, they aren’t unique to Google, which means the information you glean from other search engines may be just as useful when comprehensively investigating keywords.

3) Explore Lexical Vs. SERP Suggestions

Lexical searching involves using semantically-related search terms. Presumably one would crack their Thesaurus open for this method, and hunker down for a few hours exploring all the possible variations of the keywords being explored. Often, this can bring up volumes of very unique and surprising results and in this way do what is called long tail keyword research.

SERP suggestions can be a lucrative source of related keywords used to search for the same item. Sometimes, very slight changes in phrasing or presentation from the suggestions can win you SERP placements you might not otherwise have thought possible. All variations are worth exploring.

4) Consider Regionalisms Vs. Common Terms

This is one area of keyword research that I don’t believe receives enough attention. Examining language variations by region (East Coast) provides a whole new set of search terms from those commonly used on the other side of the country (West Coast).

I’ll give you some examples which show researching regionally specific word variations before you begin serious local keyword investigation can be more fruitful than one might imagine.

Let’s say you are an SEO client that sells small boats which sailors tow behind or often store on their vessels. These tiny boats are used for emergency purposes as well as for shuttling food, water, fuel, and other necessities between the shore and the sailing vessel. You want better global representation for the watercraft you produce.

What name would you use for the vessel? And how would you do keyword research for the vessel name? Examining your regionalisms is where you need to start.

Below are some regional and global specific names for the same vessel:

Cockleshell (UK)
Sampan (Asian)
Skiff (UK)
Tender (AUS)
Wherry (UK)

Have any idea what I’m talking about?

Here’s a hint. Where I live (Canada), it might be called a Dinghy. Did you have an aha moment? I sure did! I could suddenly picture the vessel in my mind. Your customers will only be able to do that if you use Regional terms with which they are familiar.

5) Expand Your Keyword Horizons

Local keyword research doesn’t just mean trying search terms you might use yourself if searching for a specific item or service in the area in which you live. It depends a great deal on the regional phrases used in the area being promoted. Products and services are called different names in different locales. People who live in those locations are going to use search terms with which they are familiar. Make sure your SEO firm is aware of any regionalisms used to describe your products or services. Otherwise, you may be circumventing the local market entirely.

Regionalisms are evident across the US for many things, particularly food. Although several years old, a good follow up article after you finish reading this one is Selecting Keyword Variations Based on Gender, Age, and Region. It will give you an excellent starting point to determine how products or services might be researched in varying location-specific searches across North America.

6) Drop the Industry Jargon

This suggestion isn’t specific to just hyperlocal markets but it is still very important to think about when doing your keyword research. Stop researching industry jargon phrases and terms that only people within your trade would use.

What you call one product or service may be much different than what your actual consumers think they are looking for.

As you do your keyword research, stop and think about all the phone calls and in person experiences you’ve had with customers. What words do they use to describe the product, service or solution they are looking for?

That’s where your keyword research should start.

Moving Hyperlocal Keyword Research Forward

Once you’ve determined the regional variations you can then begin dialing-in some specific Google searches and going through points 1 – 3 above. You’ll most definitely discover a wider range of search terms through which you can pursue hyperlocal SEO aspirations.

If you’d like more information on Local SEO keyword research strategies or to inquire about how our professional keyword research strategies could benefit your company, contact 1st on the List today at 1-888-262-6687!

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Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) just a buzz phrase you hear floating around the office among your colleagues?

In this article our goal is to help you understand SEO better by explaining the fundamentals of how Search Engines work, what Search Engines need to rank your website and how we “SEO” a website in an effort to give the Search Engines what they need.

Understanding How Search Engines Work

Search Engines are the directories of the Internet. Imagine the Internet as the largest library in the world. Now picture finding an image or article in this vast library. Unless the image has some defining terms to enter into the library directory, that picture is just a piece of paper floating around without categorization in the miscellaneous drawer. Now envision the billions of pages that users around the world have deposited onto the internet.

Search Engines were originally created to sort through all the information uploaded to the web daily. Search Engines use spiders to find and crawl the information on each new page. The Search Engines then have to decipher how this information fits with every other page on the Internet. The page is then categorized and added to an index so that is it faster to recall and show in a Results page for a relevant search.

There is a big difference between what Search Engines actually show in results and all the potential results they could show that are stored in their results. In fact, Google uses more than 200 factors in its algorithm and is continually updating the formula to meet user demands. In the last year alone, there have been almost 900 updates!

What Search Engines Need from a Website and How You Get Ranked

Before any website can be shown in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) the Search Engine must be able to:

  1. Find your website.
  2. Crawl (or spider) your website pages.
  3. Understand what information is on your website.
  4. Categorize each of your website pages in the indexes based on what it understands from your Source Code.
  5. Understand the intent of any Search Query by a person and display the pages in its index it believes are most relevant.

This means that your website must be easy for Search Engine spiders to find, to crawl all your pages, understand what is on your pages (including text and images) and be confident that your web page is the most relevant. Sound like a lot of work? This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in.

How Search Engine Optimization Works in 5 Simple Stages

At 1st on the List we like to break SEO down in 5 stages that work together to make the website most accessible to the Search Engines and most relevant to what visitors expect to find.

1. Site Analysis:

Taking stock of the current state of any website provides a good strategy for moving forward and determining what needs to be fixed to make it easier to the Search Engines to access and crawl your website.

    • Review the site to make sure the Server and Hosting is set up properly, to make it as easy as possible for the Search Engines to access any page on your site at any time.
    • Review the website for duplicate content, spam, slow load times, broken links and other things the Search Engines will demerit your website for.

2. SEO Keyword Research:

A large part of Search Engine Optimization is making sure that the words people are using to search for a company like yours are visible on your website for the Search Engines to read. Keyword research provides the basis for optimizing the content on your website and seeks to discover:

    • What phrases people are using to search for your company? (these are your “keywords”)
    • What SEO Keywords are the most popular (search volume), have the fewest competiting pages and are most relevant to the content presented?
    • What phrases are most attainable for your website and will attract the most qualified traffic?

3. SEO Content Optimization

Once the research stages of the Site Analysis and Keyword Research are completed it is time to start optimizing the content on the website. This SEO work includes but is not limited to:

    • Proper page source code
    • Internal link structure
    • Meta Data
    • Alt Tags
    • Page headings and sub-headings
    • Sitemap creation
    • Body text content that supports the keywords searcher’s use.

A site must attract visitors and it must hold the visitor’s attention. Google uses engagement metrics as one of its ranking factors. The more people who visit your website and stay on it for a long time and look at a number of pages, the more often the Search Engine will show the site in Search Results.

Content optimization focuses on accessibility, reliability, readability, currency, credibility and more as these all affect site rankings. Content optimization also focuses on giving visitors the exact information they are looking for, plus anticipates what additional information the visitor will need in order to complete a conversion, such as purchasing a product or signing up for a consultation.

4. Website Analytics

Once most of the initial grunt work is complete to bring a website up to Search Engine standards the best way to increase value is to monitor its progress and growth. This stage is called “Analytics” and includes:

    • Monitoring visitor traffic to the site over a set time period
    • Tracking and understanding visitor motivations
    • Tracking where and how visitors use the website
    • Tracking and measure sales conversions

Often Analytics can give additional insights to go and tweak items from the Site Audit, Keyword Research and Content Optimization stages.

5. Ongoing SEO Maintenance

If you think SEO is a one time task you are wrong. SEO is always ongoing as the Search Engines like to see fresh and new content on your website. With more than 500 websites created every minute and with your competitors working on their SEO strategy you can’t afford to just sit back. Ongoing website optimization and maintenance keeps web content current, relevant and maintained to meet the changes that the search engine algorithms make, changes in HTML standards and what visitor searching habits indicate.

Search Engine Optimization has changed drastically in our 17 years of experience. However, our general process for optimizing websites has remained stable and is able to achieve lasting results for clients.

Do you need help applying the SEO Process to your website? Give our consultants a call at 1-888-262-6687 to set up a free meeting to discuss your needs and the SEO Plan best suited for your goals and budget.

Keyword Variations:  “Subs & Soda” or “Grinder & Pop”?

This article discusses how to select specific keyword variations to target people by age, location and gender and outlines why it is important to ensure that your targeted keyword phrases, your website and your text copy all work together to increase conversions and sales.

To aid in understanding this article, I will target potential visitors interested in a sub and a soda… or should I say a grinder and a pop?

I first looked at soda, soda pop, pop and soft drink to determine which phrase is more popular by location, age and gender.

I also took a look at subs, submarines, grinders and hoagies to uncover how the phrases differentiate based on the searcher’s age, gender and location; and how, as a website owner, you could be missing the mark if you fail to complete the proper research to find the proper keyword variations for your target market.

The Online Business Plan

Before most companies open up a brick and mortar business, they usually create a business plan.  Within that business plan, they outline their target markets:

  • Businesses or Consumers
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location

This information is generally heavily researched and decided upon to ensure the company’s success.

However, when most people have a website, they seem to only worry about how much traffic a keyword receives, not whether it is reaching the same targeted market that matches their online business intentions. Often times when I speak with business owners they provide a handful of keywords that they say are a must to sustain their online business.

Their chosen keyword phrases are usually the generic or broader term keywords that tend to attract anyone and everyone, whether they are a potential customer or not. Keyword variations are generally overlooked.

It’s important for website owners to give as much attention to their online business plan and business model as they would to their offline business to ensure that their website can be another successful marketing force for their company.

Keyword Research & Selection Tools

When Search Engine Optimization companies (SEOs) first began completing keyword research for clients, the tools were limited and we did not have a large amount of information that was available to us.  We were usually only able to obtain an estimated number of searches for a given phrase, and the number of competitors for that phase.

A lot has changed in a few short years and now many of the search engines are providing much more information; far more than ever before.

  1. Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool provides you with the average number of searches and last months’ estimated number of searches for a specific phrase. Additionally, you can receive a list of related keyword variations based on your website’s content.
  2. MSN AdCenter provides geographic and demographic information which allows you to ensure you are targeting the right searchers.
  3. Spyfu gives PPC and competitor data for both organic and paid search marketing. You can also receive a list of related keyword variations that your competitors are paying for on Google Adwords plus terms that are achieving top rankings within Google’s organic listings.
  4. provides you with traffic patterns for your competitors’ websites, the top phrases they are using to bring in that traffic and information that tells you how much of their traffic comes from specific search phrases.
  5. provides you with a complete list of top search phrases; plus Wordtracker & Yahoo! Search Marketing search estimates

Keyword Variations Based on Age, Gender & Location

All this valuable information, as provided by these online sources, will allow you to select keyword variations that target visitors by age, gender and geographical locations, which can make a significant impact on your conversions; and ultimately you’re ROI.

It is important to know your targeted market and the keyword variations used before selecting your keywords phrases for your SEO campaign.

Selecting Keyword Variations by Location

When targeting search visitors by location, website owners commonly put actual location in the keyword phrase; such as “Tampa SEO Company”.

There is nothing wrong with doing this, however if you offer your products and services on a national level then you’ll need over 6,700 keyword variations to target all the cities within the U.S.

The truth is that people from different geographical locations tend to phrase things differently, even within the United States. Often times the terms we use when talking are the ones we use when searching as well.

Subs, Submarines, Grinders & Hoagies

If you’ve ever gone to Philadelphia and asked for a sub, most likely they looked at you funny and said, “You want a what?”  They will then correct you and tell you that they call it a hoagie!

Although you were not wrong, people in different geographical locations may use specific terms that are not used in other parts of the world…or country.

    • Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey use the term “hoagies” more often
    • Ohio, Michigan, Illinois Missouri and Utah use the term “grinders” more often
    • Nevada, Florida, Arizona and South Carolina use the term “sub” more often.

Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink

When I visited Pittsburgh, people would ask me if I wanted a pop.  For the life of me, I kept thinking do you mean a soda?

When visiting South Carolina, people asked me if I wanted a Pepsi. When I said yes, they would ask me “what kind?”  I would say, “What kind do you have?”  They would say, “Orange, Sprite, Ginger Ale…”  It would seem that in South Carolina a soda is considered Pepsi and the name Pepsi isn’t actually being used as a brand.

    • Utah, Washington Wisconsin, Connecticut and Missouri use the term “soda” more often
    • Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah use the term “soda pop“more often
    • Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York use the term “pop” more often
    • Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana and Georgia use the term “soft drink” more often

The end result is that although they are all trying to find a sandwich and a drink, they are all utilizing different words to accomplish the same end.

If you are attempting to attract a specific state or sub-region to your website, it is important to ensure you target the keyword variations that state or sub-region are likely to use.

If you are not trying to target specific areas, then you would not want to limit yourself by selecting only soda, or only subs; ensure that all the keyword variations are available within your content; essentially providing you maximum exposure.

Locating this type of information is becoming easier than it ever has been before, with the help of trend data from Google Trends.  This information can be used to find keyword and phrase trends throughout the world.

Note:  Please keep in mind that although I provided state specific information, your research may need to be city specific.  I live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and I order a sub, however in Philadelphia it is a hoagie.  Additionally, I drink soda and in Pittsburgh it was called pop.

Selecting Keyword Variations by Gender & Age

I believe it is important to know the Gender and age of your targeted market BEFORE you actually create your website.  Your website design and website copy represent you to your website visitors.  It’s important to know who will be seeing and reading your website.

Note:  If you were to create a website with senior citizens as your targeted market, you would want to ensure you incorporated the Website Usability recommendations for Senior Citizens; created by the Nielsen Norman Group.

Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink Variations

Below is the information I was able to research regarding gender and age for searches on Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink.  You’ll definitely see that there is a big difference within the genders and the ages.

•    More women used the term “soda
•    More men used  the term “pop

•    More People age 13-18 use the word “soft drink
•    More people age 35-50 use the word “pop
•    More people 65+ use the word “soda pop

So now that we know that women love soda and men love pop; but middle-aged men and women love pop, let’s see what we found for subs.

Subs, Submarines, Grinders & Hoagies Variations

Below is the information I researched for both men and women of various ages who search for subs, submarines, grinders and hoagies.

•    More men use the term “submarines
•    More women use the term “hoagies


•    More people 18-25 use the term “hoagies
•    More people 25-35 use the term “grinders
•    More people 65+ use the term “submarines

Seems like women love hoagies and men love submarines while the 20-30 crowd enjoy grinders.

Now subs and sodas aside, if you apply this information to your own website and do the proper research you will begin to look at your keywords, your website content and website design a little differently; ensuring they are geared towards the market you are looking to target.

If you wish to use keyword variations that target a specific age or gender you can download MSN AdCenter’s Excel 2007 Ad-on.

Popularity Keyword Search Trends

As new technologies emerge, so do new products, brands, companies and more.  Knowing what keyword searches change based on trends is important to sustaining your online business.

Google Trends provides trending data and history that will allow you to visually see how specific keyword variations have decreased or increased in popularity over the years.

It’s important to ensure that you take this information into consideration before you do your keyword research as well as throughout the year in order to keep up with new emerging trends and incorporate the proper keyword variations into your website.

Below you will find additional information I researched, which has some pretty interesting results.

Trends for Pop, Soda Pop & Soft Drinks

    • Over the past four years it appears that searchers are decreasing the number of searches for the term “pop”.
    • Although there are more spikes in 2007, people seem to use the phrase “soda” in 2008 as much as they have since 2004.
    • Over the past 4 years there appears to be a gradual decline in searches done for the term “soda pop”.
    • A fairly significant decrease can be seen for visitors who use the search term “soft drink”.
    • Although we see a decrease over the past 4 years for visitors who use the term “pop”, it is still much more popular than “soda pop”, “soda” and “soft drink”.

Trends for Subs, Submarines, Hoagies & Grinders

    • The use of submarines has seen a tremendous drop in searches over the past 4 years.
    • The use of grinders has been roughly the same, a few ups and downs but no real large drops or increases.
    • The term hoagies was nearly non-existent in 2004, but has grown in popularity over the past 4 years
    • The term subs has had a large increase over the past 4 years as indicated in the screenshot shown on the right.

Note:  Over the past four years, searchers have increased their search for subs.  Based on MSN Adcenter, this has grown due to both men and women ages 18-35.  I personally would like to believe that it is because more restaurants are putting up websites, uploading their menus and providing delivery information. Additionally Google is delivering localized results based on your IP address, as well as Google Maps providing maps and directions based on these types of searches.

One other thought is that more people may use their cell phones to do this type of search and Google requests your zip code to help show relevant results.  Let’s face it; there is no purpose in showing me sub shops in California if I live in PA.

Conclusion About Keyword Selection and Target Market Behavior

As you can see, it is important to use any data available to you when selecting the keyword phrases and the keyword variations you will be using for your website, but in order to do so you need to know your target market, by age, by gender and by region.

You need to know who is searching and how they are searching. The tools to accomplish this are now readily so use them often and use them wisely.

To learn more, visit our SEO Keyword Research Page, contact us Toll Free at 1-888-262-6687 or Email our SEO Consultants.