The point of SEO is to opti­mize a website’s con­tent organ­i­cally (with­out pay­ing money) so that it brings in views from search engine users. In order to do this, mar­keters and con­tent writ­ers must uti­lize key­words that coin­cide with the things that users are search­ing for. Just as SEM mar­keters must pay atten­tion to their tar­get cus­tomers, SEO mar­keters need to do that too. But build­ing key­word lists is a wholly dif­fer­ent prac­tice for SEO than it is for SEM, and SEO key­word build­ing is a dif­fer­ent prac­tice than it once was.

The Demo­c­ra­tic Side of Search

SEO refers to organic, unpaid search. Although there’s no money involved, organic search can drive traf­fic to a site and incite action and returns. Because SEO is organic, it is the demo­c­ra­tic side of search. This descrip­tion is not com­pletely accu­rate though, because SEO is not all about key­words. SEO is also about link build­ing, clout, and other fac­tors. Search engines will rank a site higher if other highly ranked sites back-link to this site. Using the right key­words can only do so much. The organic search mar­ket is highly sat­u­rated, and search engines use many fac­tors to rank and list search results.

There are ways around link and key­word build­ing. Search engines often favor con­tent from their own sites or asso­ci­ated sites. For exam­ple, Google favors Google+ results, and Yahoo! favors Yahoo! News results. These are not iso­lated instances. It’s also pos­si­ble that SEM ads influ­ence SEO results. For exam­ple, if an SEM ad dri­ves a lot of traf­fic to a site, then that site will build views and thus may earn a higher search rank­ing. Because of these newly gained views, this site’s organic page will prob­a­bly rank bet­ter in organic search results.

Tip of the White Hat

When some mar­keters fig­ured out that search engines indexed and ranked pages accord­ing to views, links, and key­words, they used this knowl­edge uneth­i­cally to drive traf­fic to their sites. Search engines have put a lot of effort into end­ing these so-called “black hat” mar­ket­ing tech­niques, and search engines have been suc­cess­ful in thwart­ing these tech­niques. Using black hat tech­niques nowa­days does more harm than good.

Black hat mar­ket­ing tech­niques like key­word stuff­ing and door­way pages—or even tech­niques with close resemblances—can get your site down­graded in search results, delisted from search engines, or worse. Although SEO is the more demo­c­ra­tic side of search engine mar­ket­ing, it’s not with­out its flaws. Black hat mar­keters will search for new ways to beat the sys­tem, but it makes more sense to put in the work and build eth­i­cal con­tent that will yield long-standing results.

Beware of Homographs

Pay atten­tion to prod­ucts that have the same name or spelling as your prod­uct. If there are com­pa­nies or prod­ucts with your name, your prod­uct could get lost in the teem­ing SEO masses. When they come upon pages for other brands, the con­fused searchers who were look­ing for your brand will have to do extra work to find you. If you can help it, avoid mak­ing your cus­tomers jump through hoops to find you.

Try to develop unique key­words that iden­tify your com­pany or prod­uct. When devel­op­ing prod­uct names, keep SEO in mind by estab­lish­ing unique and sim­ple names. This rule will not only improve your SEO results, but will also make it eas­ier for cus­tomers to remem­ber your brand and prod­uct. And it’s always a good thing when it’s easy for cus­tomers to think of your brand.