Single Keyword Focus Spells SEO Disaster

A Look Inside Straight North

This email (emphasis added) recently came to me from Matt Lane, our Business Development Manager. An excellent summary of a huge problem we encounter in sales prospecting, I thought it was worth reprinting in its entirety. It will help you learn a very important lesson about SEO, as well as give you an idea of how we view and develop our SEO strategy. — Brad Shorr

The Email

Hi Brad,

Hope you are well.

I’ve got a great blog post idea for you. We get prospects every day who are uber-focused on ranking for ONE keyword and can’t see past that one term.


For instance, recently I had a prospect [ABC Company] with this same goal and they actually have been negatively impacted by over-optimizing content, links, and anchor text for one keyword. Scott Hepburn helped me put together the following response and analogy, which should resonate with real buyers.


The analogy here would be the guy going to the gym every single day and only working his biceps (i.e., dumbbell curls every day, week, month). Not only is this not healthy for your entire body, but there will be long-term consequences and muscle fatigue to your health and body. For his sake, a hired personal trainer or friend should have stepped in long ago and informed him of the inherent risks with this continued approach.

As Google’s guidelines state and third-party experts have confirmed, Google’s updated algorithms have been engineered to punish websites that have hyper-focused and optimized pages for individual keywords. Best practices and a decade of experience tell us we should be optimizing for topics or subject matter authority as opposed to individual keywords.




This over-obsession in pursuit of an individual keyword like “XYZ keyword” is precisely what has led to ABC Company’s recent decline. To be frank, the tactics engaged in — sub-optimally or not in your best long-term interest — are the primary reason you were positioned favorably on the first page of Google. What Google has told us as a result of updating its algorithm is you don’t deserve to be there and you never did.

If Straight North is able to successfully partner with ABC Company long-term, there must be a strategic shift in mindset and performance goals. As the goal of any quality SEO campaign built for long-term sustainable success, the focus must be increasing leads and revenue versus hyper-focusing on individual keyword rankings.


In addition, I like Scott’s comments below from an email a few months back:


“ ‘Resource allocation’ is the name of the game. Let’s talk about the time and resources required to target this word, which may never rank even with extraordinary effort. We’re not saying your word is a bad idea … heck, it could be a great idea. But again, are you 100 percent sure you want to wager all your chips on a hand that’s a long-shot and that may not be a money maker anyway?

"Now, like your financial planner keeps telling you about retirement, ‘Let’s take a diversified approach based on your investment objectives.’ ”



Matt Lane

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