I generally avoid writing about SEO since there are so many articles, ebooks, blogs, etc. already out there, but I am more frequently hearing from my small business clients that that they want to “rank #1 for this or that keyword” without really understanding how the new world of SEO works. Yes, keywords were important years ago for ranking—and they still are, but in a different way.

With algorithms constantly changing, and Google’s shift to considering hundreds of factors (yes over 200), small businesses can’t think about ranking #1 — it is an impossible task. Google has stated that keywords only play a partial role in factors considered for relevancy when someone searches for something. Many other things such as location, YouTube views, previous searches, social shares and even Gmail inbox content are factored in.

Ranking #1 (or even in the top 10) Does Not Guarantee Conversions

Even if you could rank for #1, it does not guarantee sales or conversions. How does the saying go? “Visitors are nice but customers are better…” This is why I get so frustrated with “SEO” companies who promise #1 rankings. There are certainly many ways to game the system to get quick results, but long term it is not sustainable and again – is no guarantee for conversions. Yes, there is research that shows people tend to click through on results that show up on the first search page…but what they do when they get to the next landing page is determined by the content and experience they have on that site.

Today, keywords are important to help those writing content for website, online ads, etc. to stay focused on the right messaging, not necessarily see how many times they can use the keyword in the content. We create a matrix that lists each page on the site and has a column for target audience, focused keywords, page title, page meta description, and goal of the page. This helps to align all the content and helps the search engines logically and clear identify main topics or “keywords” for the page.

For instance, if you have a pool cleaning service and one of the services you provide is pool repair, the content written for that page on the site would need to stay focused on pool repair services specifically – talking about potential repair issues, options for repairs certain problems, etc. By making the content focused on the main topic, you naturally integrating the “keywords” you want but are not artificially trying to “stuff” them on the page. Google does not necessarily care if pool repair is there 5 times or 20 times as long as the content relates and makes semantic sense. Try creating a single page with jibberish and one key phrase inserted 10 times…this page will likely be completely ignored by Google for that term.

Three Important Things You Can Do For Results Other Than SEO

So, the point here is that there are other ways to get results too, and there should not be a singular focus on standard keyword “SEO” tactics.

The three most important things that I have seen create a big impact for my small business clients are to

#1) honing their website messaging and content to speak to their target customer and making them take action, then

#2) leverage other “free” or inexpensive options to drive traffic to their site and, finally;

#3) use marketing automation to segment and nurture prospects through a relevant and logical journey to purchase.

I still work with my clients to build on-page SEO based on keywords, but as a way to help them focus on the content they need to create for their web pages and to help write page titles and meta descriptions.  So before you hire an SEO agency and spend a small fortune on trying to rank for keywords, think about how you can naturally increase your rankings through better content and other less expensive options such as social media campaigns, presentations, webinars, building your email list, etc