An SEO campaign is only as good as its keywords. Therefore, selecting the right ones is pretty important, and is a much more nuanced process than some people realize. At our Internet marketing firm, we spend a great deal of time on the keyword selection process, and never move forward with a campaign until we have reviewed our keywords and keyword prioritization two or three times internally and with the client. Here is how to select keywords for SEO.
The more relevant the keyword phrase, the more qualified will be the website traffic it drives. The more relevant the traffic, the better the conversion rate will be. For instance, a packaging company might be attracted to the keyword “boxes” because of its high volume (more on volume later), but a person searching for “boxes” on Google could be looking for one of 1,000 different kinds of boxes that the company does not sell. The keyword “boxes” is too broad. To drive relevant traffic, a keyword describing the type of boxes sold, or the type of application would be better choices — for instance, “file boxes” or “boxes for moving an office”.
How many times do Google users input a given search term? The greater the volume, the more traffic it can potentially drive. So, if “boxes for moving an office” has a search volume of 100 per month, it’s not enough to make it worth optimizing efforts. However, if the term is searched for 10,000 times per month, it would make a dynamite term for a company that sells file boxes.
Where are the users that use the keyword? To continue with the same example, if the file box company does 100 percent of its business in the U.S., and Google users outside the U.S. search the term “boxes for moving” for 50 percent of the time, the term is now half as promising as it appeared when looking at just overall volume. User location is an even more important criterion for regional and local companies.
Smart SEO strategies always take the competition into account; keywords should never be selected in a vacuum. If two or three major competitors with big SEO budgets dominate the term “file boxes”, a smaller firm may not have the budget or resources to have a legitimate chance to achieve high organic visibility. A lot of SEO investment is wasted on keyword targets that are just too ambitious.
Usually the best solution to a competitiveness problem is selecting long-tail terms with lower volume but very high relevance. These terms may be “under the radar” of big competitors, and present real opportunities for lead or revenue generation. Long-tail alternatives to “file boxes” include phrases such as “custom printed file boxes”, “custom size file boxes”, “file boxes with lids” and “inexpensive file boxes”.
In the preceding list of long-tail keyword alternatives, “inexpensive file boxes” suggests the highest interest in actually buying file boxes now. The other terms probably indicate intent to purchase, but not necessarily, and not necessarily now. Other long-tail phrases such as “file boxes in stock” or “buy file boxes” show an even greater buying intent. A keyword may fit all the other criteria of a good target, but if the intent is wrong (e.g., everyone using the term is doing research), it probably won’t generate conversions — that is, sales leads or e-commerce revenue.
What Not to Consider
Let’s touch on a couple of factors to ignore when doing keyword research.
- “Ego terms” — that is, high-profile terms that appeal to business leaders based on feel — don’t always convert. It may pump up people to see their company rank #1 for a particular phrase, but if it doesn’t drive relevant traffic and conversions, it is worthless as an SEO target.
- Copying the competition is another way to veer off course. Competitors that rank highly for particular phrases could mean they are running brilliant SEO campaigns — or just have high visibility on terms that don’t convert. Unless you know how well a competitor’s SEO campaign is performing, and that’s pretty hard to know, pick your own targets and then see how the competition stacks up.
In summary, if you let qualified traffic and conversions be your guides, keyword selection will lead you to the basket of target terms that give you the best opportunity for strong ROI from your SEO campaign.
Dialogfeed solution allows you to aggregate all of your social media feeds and improves your ranking on search engines!
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing company in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Forbes, Moz and American Marketing Association.