As a publisher, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about your content. But even the best content won’t generate revenue if no one sees it. Whether your monetization strategy relies on affiliate marketing, ecommerce, advertising, or some combination of tactics, sustainable earnings depend on your ability to drive high quality traffic to your site.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can help you attract visitors by optimizing your website content based on the specific keywords people actually search for. These keywords act as a summary of your site for search engines.
All search engines have an algorithm that determines the relevance of sites to a search term, and then lists them in order on the results page. The goal of SEO is to provide a general guideline for your content strategy and site infrastructure.
Having a good SEO strategy with effective keywords will satisfy the search algorithms and allow your website to rank higher in search terms.
Got it. But what is a keyword?
A keyword is a specific search term that a user might input into a search engine. Readers type these terms and phrases into search queries, and then search engines use these words to crawl the Internet for relevant sites.
For example, if you wanted to buy a snowboard you wouldn’t look up “a website to buy and sell winter sports equipment.” You search for “Burton snowboards” or simply “snowboards.”
In the early days, publishers could just list a bunch of popular keywords on their site and then hide them in the background where people couldn’t see them. Fortunately, that shady tactic doesn’t fool search engines anymore. Advances in search engine technology have eliminated these tricks and leveled the playing field, so “black hat SEO tactics” like these are no longer effective.
Today, it’s critical to have a solid understanding of SEO — and keep up with its constant evolution. Publishers who legitimately and skillfully maximize their keyword use will benefit through increased traffic.
How to choose the right keywords for your website
As we saw above, keyword selection is all about understanding the words people use in their web searches. As you develop your list of target keywords, think carefully about the words and phrases that can be associated with your site.
It might help to perform a brainstorming exercise with your staff members. Ask everyone to think of their top 10 keywords and use that list as a starting point.
Here are a few other ideas that you can use to find keywords for your website:
- Do you have any competitors? If so, look at their sites and see what keywords they’re using.
- Are there any trends currently impacting your industry? If so, what keywords are people using to learn more?
- Do you have keywords that you’re using already? If so, take a look at how you’re currently ranking.
- Do you have a Google Analytics account? If so, which articles generate the most (and least) traffic? What keywords are used in those articles?
- Do you currently utilize SEO tools (like SEMrush)? If not, are you willing to pay for SEO support and expertise?
Incorporating keywords into your content
Once you’ve identified your list of target keywords, they need to be featured in your content wherever possible. The easiest way to do this is by building content around your keywords.
For example, each blog article can focus on one keyword or phrase that is at the center of what you’re writing about. For our snowboard example above, you could create content like “The Best Snowboards for Beginners” or “How to Buy Your First Snowboard.”
Keep in mind, keywords can be highly competitive. Ranking effectively for “buyers guide” is nearly impossible, but the phrase “summer purchases for every student” may be easier to rank for because it’s more specific.
Whichever keyword(s) you choose, best practices suggest using them in the page header, in the page URL, and throughout the page content. You can even include your keyword in the alt text associated with your images and in the page meta description.
Here are a few additional tips related to specific monetization tactics:
SEO and affiliate marketing
Understanding your affiliate earnings is an important part of optimizing your SEO strategy. If you aren’t already including traffic source and keywords in your earnings-per-click (EPC) analysis, you should. For example, if you’re getting traffic from emails, maybe you should launch an email newsletter. If you’re generating revenue from social media sites, it might be time to double down on social content. Analyzing the source of your earnings can help you better direct your publishing efforts.
SEO and advertising
Analyzing your ad stats by keyword and traffic source can provide useful insights. For example, traffic from search engines may drive higher CPM than other traffic sources, and certain keywords may produce higher click rates. Keyword rankings can also help to optimize your ad locations. Premium ads typically go on pages that get the most traffic, but you should also consider the pages that have great keyword rankings. For example, if a particular article is ranking well in organic search results, it may be worth placing premium ads on that page as well.
How to interpret your results
Anyone can throw together some basic keywords and hope for the best. But effective SEO takes both discipline and patience. Over time, you should see your organic search traffic increase. If not, your SEO strategy may need more work.
That said, traffic growth may not be your only goal. You should also consider how your SEO strategy plays into your overall monetization efforts. Include keywords and traffic sources in your reporting and see how they impact metrics like:
- Total sales
- Average order value
Remember, SEO is a process
The task of SEO is never over. Your audience will change over time. Your site content and strategy will evolve. And most importantly, search engines will continue to update their algorithms — so you need to keep up with these changes. Analyzing your site performance on a regular basis can help to ensure that your SEO strategy is effective today, and provide insights to help optimize it in the future.