Not sure where to start with SEO? Choose your focus keyword.

A woman sitting on a key with a magnifying glass on a search bar

You want to start thinking about SEO. But it feels complicated. And you “save it for later.” 

If you think SEO is too complicated, I have good news for you. Setting a smart SEO foundation for your website doesn’t need to be overwhelming or take tons of time. It just requires a simpler approach: Start with a focus keyword or keyphrase. I’ll use these terms interchangeably throughout this post because they mean the same thing.

You might be tempted to start with a list of 18 keywords. You might be tempted to spend hours or days doing keyword research. You want to do everything asap when it comes to SEO.

I say, DON’T. Let’s keep it simple and take the stress away—focus on one keyword or keyphrase to start. This approach has served me well.

Ask yourself: what keyword or keyphrase do you want to be found for?

What are ideal clients going to type into Google that you want your website to come up for? 

For example, my website shows up for WordPress designer and WordPress developer on the first page of Google searches.

I didn’t get there overnight. When I started my SEO pursuits, I prioritized more localized phrases, like WordPress designer Atlanta.

Determine and narrow your focus keyword.

What are people searching for in Google when they’re trying to find a business like yours? 

Are you a graphic designer? Are you a copywriter? Or are you a web designer like me?

The more narrow and specific you can get, the easier time you’ll have showing up for that term in Google search results.

If you’re trying to start your SEO efforts, and your website doesn’t have a lot of content, anything you can do to narrow your focus will be extra important.

You might eventually want to be found for a broad term like “WordPress developer,” but it’s best to be more specific at the beginning.

Add your location

Don’t use your town—use your closest city or major metropolitan area. Even though I live in Dallas, GA, I use Atlanta, GA for SEO purposes. It’s only a 45 minute drive (if there’s no traffic). This doesn’t mean you only have to work with clients in this area—it’s just helping to identify where you are. People often like to work with someone close to them, even if they never meet up in person. So, this is a good place to start before you take over the globe.

Add your niche

What service do you provide? The more focused the better. For me, I do web design and web development, but I only use WordPress. So the term “WordPress” makes it much more niche (and much more likely to show up in a Google search) than just “website development” alone.

  • Wayfinding design Philadelphia
  • Annual report designer Chicago
  • Sales copywriter Boston

Add your industry

If it makes sense, you can also add your industry:

  • Higher education design
  • Healthcare annual report design
  • Medical sales writer

Remember, this is just your marketing. You can ultimately work with whomever you want (and they will still find you). This is all just about who you’re targeting.

Make sure to consider what your prospects might call your service. 

What you call it, and what they think it’s called, are sometimes two different things. Use the term that would come most naturally to them. For me, developer is more of an industry term but I know my clients use it, because most of them are designers themselves. If I were targeting the business owners directly, I might focus more on WordPress designer (which is what I did most in the beginning).

If you’re a writer, do your prospects call you a “copywriter” or “content writer”? 

If you’re a branding designer, do your prospects simply call it “graphic design” or “logo design”?

At this point, we’re just using our intuition—thinking about what prospects would type into Google. Why is this a great approach? Because you know your prospects better than fancy keyword tools do. I find that while keyword tools can provide relevant information, they can also detour you from the actual thing you do, for whom, and where. These are the most important elements.

Using your knowledge of your clients, and your intuition, what is the focus keyphrase you want to start with?

Once you know your focus keyword, what should you do with it? 

SEO is based on pages, not sites. So this means you need to pay attention to each page like it’s the most important. A prospect can land on any page based on what they’re looking for, and what content you have. This is a great opportunity. 

Start with the homepage and your title tags, meta description, and content.

If you have a WordPress site, you can use plugins like Yoast SEO or Rank Math that will let you enter that “focus keyphrase” on your individual pages. Then it will analyze your page and recommend SEO improvements you can make.

You also want to make sure to use this keyphrase regularly within the copy on each page. If your keyphrase is “WordPress developer,” but that term doesn’t appear anywhere on that page, it won’t have much merit to Google.

Should you use the same focus keyword on every page?

The keyphrase on my homepage is “Atlanta WordPress developer.”  That keyphrase also makes sense on my about page, and my contact page.

A screenshot of the Yoast SEO plugin Focus Keyword section showing "atlanta wordpress developer"

Implement your focus keyphrase on the pages where it makes the most sense (and also shows up in the page content). 

As you evolve your SEO efforts, you can use other keyphrases that are specific to your services, on your services pages. For example, if you’re me, you might use “WordPress website design” or “ecommerce WordPress design” on your services pages.

But you don’t have to do that now. Start with one focus keyword or keyphrase. Get something going. Baby steps!

Then once you get the hang of it, you can add another keyphrase. And another down the road.

And before you know it, you’ll be showing up left and right in front of your ideal clients.

About Jill Anderson

Hi, I’m Jill, a WordPress WordPress designer/developer who partners with talented designers, copywriters, and agencies on their websites, and their client’s sites. I’m passionate about crafting beautiful and innovative WordPress websites focused on clear positioning and positive user experiences. Get my free report, Get Your Website Done: 12 Actionable Steps for Designers, and check out my Client Onboarding Toolkit, a simple 4-step digital course for converting prospects into a paying clients.


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