Keywords are what we type in when we are searching for products, services, and answers on the search engines, an act that people performed billions times according to ComScore, the web research firm.
Companies optimize their webpages for search by assigning keywords to those pages. The implications for a business of picking the right keywords are therefore huge. Keyword selection is fundamental to success when it comes to executing a paid search or PPC campaign. It is also integral to a website natural or organic ranking on the search engines.
But keywords are not just about SEO. They at the heart of a company’s internet marketing campaign at its most granular level. If you can’t immediately identify the most important keywords for your company, it is doubtful that you can effectively market your products and services to your target audience. Here are 5 ideas to keep in mind when you are selecting keywords on which to build your online marketing.
Picking SEO Keywords: Focus on Good Phrases
All too often, people dramatically overthink the most basic keyword research concepts; keyword generation should start simply with answering the question of “What products or services do you sell?” and “What services do you offer?.” If you sell cat food online, the root words cat and food alone would be very poor keywords because on their own, neither cat nor food do a remotely good job at describing what you sell. Though this example makes it obvious, many times we have to fight through our urge to include those bigger, broader root keywords.
Picking SEO Keywords: Avoiding “Vanity” Keywords
Now let’s look at a trickier example—one where the root keyword arguably does a good job describing what we are selling. Say I own an online pet store that sells all types of pet food. To rank highly for the keyword pet food would probably be at the top of my search engine marketing goals. And yet this would probably not be a profitable keyword that will drive relevant traffic to my site. That is because, from an organic SEO perspective, you are unlikely to rank highly for this term unless you are a huge, highly authoritative site—or lucky enough to be petfood.com, knowing that Google rewards keywords that match website addresses.
In this case, you would do well to go after more specific keywords such as all natural pet food, or holistic cat food. Not only is the competition for these terms less fierce but, from both an SEO and a PPC perspective, those more specific keywords are going to have a significantly higher conversion rate to purchases on your site.
Sometimes we refer to those root keywords as “vanity keywords,” because if you do just one search to see who seems to be winning the space, you are likely to pick the single broadest keyword and see who comes up ranked highly. In nearly every case, however, we have found it to be more successful and deliver a significantly better return on your SEM investment by focusing on the hundreds or even thousands of more specific keywords that more closely match the services, products, brands, and locations that you sell or serve.
Picking SEO Keywords: Using Google’s Contextual Targeting Tool
One of Google’s hidden gems: Contextual Targeting Tool.
What you are presented with now is a visual representation of the way that Google groups together keywords. This alone can become the basis of your PPC and SEO keyword research.
Starting with the search term cat food, I see related more specific terms like cat food reviews, cat food comparison, and cat food brands, which can help identify other keywords to focus on. Then, clicking on cat food brands, the search engine automatically expands that keyword to be another hub, with more specific keywords related to cat food brands such as nutro cat food, Purina cat food, and so on.
At Conundrum Media, we use this tool to help shape overall content strategies. Continuing with the cat food example, we can see that ratings, comparison, and reviews all were all grouped as closely related to cat food in general, implying that people that are searching for cat food are very interested in the comparison and review side of things. So from a content strategy perspective, it would be a very powerful takeaway to include a heavy emphasis on customer ratings, third-party reviews, and side by side comparisons to help the consumers make their cat food selections while shopping.
Picking SEO Keywords: The Value of Repetition
One concern we hear frequently is whether it is beneficial or harmful to repeat keywords. In other words, should we vary keywords (cat food and Purina) or repeat keywords (cat food reviews, cat food comparison, and cat food rankings.) The short answer is that the repetition is just fine, as long as the meaning of the phrase as a whole is sufficiently varied. In other words, cat food and cat food online are basically synonymous, and the content that one might expect to find associated with both keywords is the same. However, cat food reviews and cat food comparison indicate somewhat different content and therefore are appropriate to be used in tandem as keywords.
The more important concept to keep in mind is that you want to choose keywords that best relate to the content present on a web page and on a website; if you don’t have a cat food comparison chart, then don’t bother including comparison-related keywords; you are misleading your users, and certainly not fooling Bing or Google. So in an ideal world, you do have a comparison section, a reviews section, and a rankings section, housed on different pages or sections of your site, with each one tagged with the appropriate keywords. Correspondingly, your SEO and PPC search engine marketing efforts should that content by driving review keywords to the review pages and so on.
Picking SEO Keywords: Keywords Should Guide Your Content Strategy
We think linearly about content and keywords; we build a website, and then launch search engine marketing campaigns to drive users to our content. That approach has its limits. When we think about strategy at Conundrum Media, we think about a circular process; since our keyword research reflects both what users are seeking and the way that the search engines “think” about keywords, we let that help to drive our content strategy.
To be successful, we leverage the existing needs of the users, and use that knowledge to help us create the best possible user experience. The rewards will be higher rankings, greater traffic, and a higher ROI from our marketing efforts.