This post is about a common misstep I see people make when they are doing their own SEO.
This misconception is to make either their home page, or every page on their website a catch-all for every single term that they want to rank for.
If you do this, it is highly unlikely you will get to #1 in Google for any of your target terms.
What you should focus on instead: one page, one term.
Why is it important that you limit optimizing each page to a single phrase?
Clarity and Focus
Though it is tempting to throw twenty search phrases on your home page, the reality is you will do much better if you pick one search phrase and build rankings for that specific term.
When you are not clear about what each page is about, you muddle the meaning to the search engines (and to your customers)!
If you want to rank for different things, like specific offerings, it’s better to create pages that target those specific offerings or products.
This means creating rich, unique content for those pages. Resist the temptation to copy-paste another page on your site and create carbon copies of it for each offering.
Google’s algorithm is actually smart enough to understand synonyms, so don’t be afraid to use those for specific landing pages.
What About Location-Based Landing Pages
To be clear, I think it’s a bad idea to create specific landing pages for each city in your region targeting the same service unless you can create unique content for each of those pages.
- Testimonials from customers from those specific cities.
- Case studies of how you helped specific clients in those specific cities.
- If you have offices in multiple locations, do an overview of the staff in each city you are highlighting.
- Examples of community contributions and involvement in those specific cities.
While it used to be a common tactic at the turn of the millennium to create carbon-copy landing pages for every city in a fifty-mile radius of your store, this tactic has diminishing returns these days.
If you set up your Google+ Business page to show your service area radius, Google is still going to know what cities you serve.
Modern SEO should be less about trying to trick the search engines, and more about publishing legitimate information that will help customers make a good decision.
Pick One Phrase Per Page, Or Get Shredded
Google looks for quality, not keyword stuffing.
The search engines use real user behavior as a signal to determine whether your page is quality or not.
Let’s say you are fortunate enough to have someone find your page in a search, and they click on it.
Let’s pretend that user is faced with a jumble of alphabet soup instead of the information they were looking for, and they bounce out and click back to search again.
Google now takes that bounce out as a signal that the customer didn’t find what they were looking for — because they initiated another search for the same term after visiting your page.
You’ve got to design your pages for people first, and search engines second if you want to get those quality signals.
Which brings us back to creating focused content.
Designing For Intent
When customers type a search into Google, they are looking for an answer to a specific question. They are searching with a specific intention.
Here’s three things I recommend to makes sure your pages are laser-focused on anticipating that search intent, and answering those questions.
1. Make sure each page on your site is optimized on one key phrase. Pick one keyword phrase for each page and focus down on it. Make sure that phrase appears in the title tag, meta description, URL, and page content.
This doesn’t mean keyword stuff the page, or repeat the phrase in a way that is completely unnatural.
Feel free to use words that means the same thing. Google can understand these meanings.
2. For your home page, choose the single search term that is most important to your business, and optimize for that term. This is usually the term that will you bring you the most general traffic, but can be a focused-down niche term that conveys specific customer intent.
Don’t feel like you have to optimize your home page for every possible term you want to rank for. Just focus on the term that will bring you the most targeted business leads.
By focusing on one term, you have a substantially better chance of gaining traffic to your site, than by trying to capture everything in one swoop. Too many keywords on a page (and little else) reads to the customer like you’re going out of your way to keyword stuff the page.
3. Don’t forget to cross-link your own pages. Internal linking is an important part of any SEO effort.
What do I mean by internal linking?
Every page on your website should be linking to another page.
You already do this through your main navigation, at the top of every page on your website. This is how Google already knows which pages on your site are the most important.
What you can do to improve your existing pages is find places you can reference other pages on your site, and link to them in the body text of those pages.
What’s useful about this is you can choose what words you link to your other pages with. The words you use to link with is something we call anchor text.
Anchor text is important, because it tells the search engines what the linked page is about.
Linking to the page you wish to rank for a certain phrase with the very phrase you’re trying to rank it for is a signal.
Again, synonyms are okay too. Mix it up just enough to where it looks like you’re not trying to over-optimize that page for the exact phrase and you’ll do just fine.
External links to your site are like votes for that page. But internal links also count. Don’t forget about them.
4. Don’t make your pages into alphabet soup. Customers don’t want to look at a wall of keywords. Talk to them on your page like you’d talk to them face to face, and you’ll have a much easier time getting them to convert.
Remember, there are many factors to why certain pages rank higher than others. You have to have back links, you have to get people to share your content on social media. Having good looking code in the background helps a little, and for local SEO, having your information consistent everywhere also helps.
But a lot of it comes down to what’s on each page. If you build each page with intent — answering the question of one specific search phrase on each page — you stand a better chance of ranking than trying to scattershot every phrase in the book on your home page.