How to Use SEO (Part 1/4)

SEO is a powerful way to increase the visibility of your business. At its most basic, SEO is about increasing the ranking of your website; at its most complex, it is managing, the programming, content, visibility, and success of your website and much more. Search engines are the primary way the people find information. If you are not visible in the search engines, then your customers won’t find you.

SEO enables you to know what your customers want and enables you to be found. SEO has changed over the years and some early methods are not only ineffective but could put you in trouble with the search engines; because of this, it is important to keep up-to-date on the latest information and continually increase your knowledge and skills. SEO is the number one activity for successful businesses as it all starts with search.

Developing skills in this area will enable you to provide invaluable service to companies. In addition, it provides a base for additional skills related to search engine optimization. The importance of SEO is clarified in this article. SEO comprises several factors: keyword research, on-page optimization, off-page optimization, website management and optimization. I explain about each factor in a separate post. This post addresses keyword research.

Keyword Research

The foundation of everything you do in search engine optimization is based in keywords. In fact, when you understand motive and the intent of the searcher, it helps you understand what they need, the words and the phrases they use, and how you can utilize those words on your website in order to be found when they are trying to solve a problem or find information. You can then take those words, make your website, your content, and your overall marketing much more relevant and visible, because you understand the searcher.

The foundation of keyword research is a direct line into the mind of the searcher; it is a direct information that people type in the search engines to find information that they need right now. As the words go into the search engines, they are re-published in research keyword tools; therefore, we can find what people are looking for, understand the words they use and the phrases that they add. We can get some heads as to motivations and what they need, how they associate our brand name with other words or what keywords do they associate together. Therefore, you see that keywords are so essential.

Most of the time, when I start working with a new business, I find that they use their own words, their own terminology on the website. They never research to see what their customers use as a word; instead, they focus on their company and the way they’re always done it. And so, those words are much more internalized and internally focused.

Keyword research helps us take that focus off of our own internal methodology of naming things or using words that much are being native to our company or to our industry. Keyword research helps us understand what do searchers or customers call these things, and what words do they use when they’re searching for them. That’s how we understand the mind of the searcher. So, this is the foundation of search engine optimization which branches into almost every other digital marketing channel.

In fact, through keyword research, we understand:

  • Word associations: what words people use and how they arrange them when they search for them.
  • Brand associations: how they associate a brand.
  • Directions
  • References
  • Questions
  • Locations

In addition, keywords not only help us in terms of optimization, they help us understand the big picture of what people need. So, we can also use this in content development, because our searchers are giving us ideas of the types of information that they want to see; so, we can develop that content to answer those questions. Keywords are ultimately ideas; the more we listen to our customers, the more benefit we’ll get from this research. In fact, when train people to work in search engine optimization, the main area of focus is keyword research. I find that the better people are able to research and understand the words that people use, the patterns, the frequencies, the associations, and the placements.

The more and optimizer understanding the words, the easier everything else is, because we can leverage that into different area of marketing and it becomes the  nature of understanding what the customer wants. So, initially, keyword research is collecting all the words that people search for. Therefore, build keyword lists based on:

  • Big picture words: Describe the business and industry
  • Product category words: Describe the specifics of your product
  • Long tail words: These are the four or five or six word-phrases that people use to describe exactly what they want
  • Brand associations: Describe the words people associate with your brand name
  • Buying cycles: Describe the initial words people start with, the additional terms they use, and how they make the final decision
  • Questions: Describe what the searchers are asking, such as how do I do this? or where do I find?
  • Secondary phrases: Describe related, but not specific terms
Picture of Long-tail keywords: how to use SEO
A four-word long-tail keyword

Picture of short-tail keyword: how to use SEO (part 1/4)
A short-tail keyword (less than four words)

Picture of brand association: how to use SEO (part 1/4)
Brand association: Tesla electric


The Buying Cycle

Now, I talk about the buying cycle. Here is an example of how it works.

People search when they have an interest; this is the micro moment, this is when they put action to inspiration, they know they have a need, and so, they search. Typically, this is a very broad term, they’re giving a sense of what’s out there. And, then they start to gather information; this could be different brand names, different product types, and different areas of interest. In fact, searchers try to understand who can satisfy their problem, and who can provide answer for their problem.

And so, they develop research and add more words to their search phrase in order to expand who they’re looking at and the information they receive. In the next step, they define the problem, and start to exclude vendors. And, finally, they’re ready to commit.

Picture of Buying Cycle : how to use SEO (part 1/4)
Buying Cycle: Interest, Gather, Research, Define, Exclude, Commit


Ideally, a good research program should help you achieve visibility at the following stages:

  • Initial interest
  • Gathering information
  • ¬†Final commitment

People’s search terms change throughout the buying cycle as they require more information and decide what is that they really want.

Another example of this is “search path”. A good example of illustrating the search path is the field of travel marketing, where people know that they want to go to a specific destination for holiday. That’s the concept.

when you decided where you want to go, then you have to look at transportation to get there, you have to look at all the alternatives that are available, maybe you have to consider where exactly you’re going to stay. You see, this is where searching for one concept branches it into multiple concepts; it creates secondary searches. And then, it goes into the practical level.

Practical searches mean once you’re there, how do you know where you’re going to eat, where you’re going to shop, and where you’re going to see. In this step of research, you’re going to look at reviews, you’re looking at local search features, and then looking at very specific searches. Travelling is very accommodated to this type of search path, because making one search leads to multiple searchers, which then leads to searching to enhance your activities once you’re there. One search leads to multiple searches, and keyword research helps us to understand how people are moving through the search path, and how they are using the information to make decisions.

Picture of search path: how to use SEO (part 1/4)
Search Path: Concept, Secondary Search, Practical Search, Informed Search


Ultimately, what we’re doing with keywords is connecting to the customer when utilizing a search engine to connect to a human. We’re trying to get to the bottom level of what people want-intent. And, when we discover what people want, we can reflect that terminology, those concepts, and those words on our website.


From this post, we can conclude that

  1. SEO depends on different factors such as keyword research, on-page optimization, off-page optimization, and website management and optimization.
  2. This post addressed keyword research and I will address other factors of SEO in the future posts.
  3. Keyword research helps you understand the mind of the searcher.
  4. Keyword research provides information about searchers’ intent, direction, and associations.
  5. You can learn about your customers by studying their keyword choices.
  6. Understanding the Buying Cycle helps you understand how it affects keyword choices.
  7. Multiple searching activities present a logical flow of informational requirements that will guide us as we optimize our website for our visitors.

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