Keyword strategy is the foundation of an SEO campaign. What is keyword strategy? For SEO, it means selecting the right keywords to target in the campaign, and then prioritizing those keywords to maximize campaign efficiency and results.
To back up for a moment, let’s define keywords. Keywords are the words, or more often phrases, that people use in their search queries on Google and other search engines. Search engines try to match the user’s keywords with the most relevant and valuable content. Thus, if you want Google users to find your appropriate web pages for your products and services, you must try to match those pages with the best possible keywords.
Determining those keywords is much harder than meets the eye. Many organizations, even fairly big ones, make the colossal mistake of selecting keywords “by feel” rather than systematically narrowing the field from the hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of possible keywords available. Achieving high rankings for the wrong keywords will not generate enough traffic or conversions to justify an SEO campaign.
Selection Factors in Keyword Strategy
Professional SEOs evaluate several factors in order to pinpoint the ideal keywords for your campaign. The major ones to look at:
- Search volume. Understanding how often searches use a keyword is obviously important. If only 100 people use that term every month on Google, you’re unlikely to generate enough click-throughs and conversions (sales leads or e-commerce orders) to pay for a campaign. On the other hand, a super-popular term that drives 10,000 searches a month may not be the best choice, either, for reasons that should become clear as we move on.
- Relevance. The more relevant the keyword is to your product or service, the better click-throughs you’re likely to get — and more importantly, the more conversions you’re likely to get. For instance, “boxes” may be a great keyword in terms of boxes, but if you sell only hat boxes, then you will get a lot of irrelevant organic traffic from people searching for moving boxes or doing research on the box industry, etc.
- Intent. Does the keyword suggest an interest in buying something? This is obviously an advantage if you’re looking for sales leads or online orders. “Compare prices on luxury sedans” suggests an interest in buying, whereas “features of luxury cars” indicates an effort to do research. Generally, keywords with high buying intent make the best high priorities in an SEO keyword strategy.
- Competitiveness. Earlier we noted that high-volume keywords aren’t necessarily the best targets. This is because high-volume keywords — let’s assume they’re relevant — are usually targeted by big competitors with big SEO budgets. If you have a more modest budget, you may not be able to crack the first or second page of Google’s organic results no matter how skillful your SEO execution. There are free and paid online tools, incidentally, to help analyze keyword competitiveness, as well as other selection factors.
- Current ranking position. Your web content may already be ranking well for attractive keywords, or it may not be ranking at all. Your starting point matters. Starting from scratch may be cost-prohibitive, whereas leading from strength may make an otherwise so-so keyword a slam-dunk winner — because you can get very high in the rankings with less than the usual effort.
- Low-hanging fruit. Along similar lines, a good keyword strategy research plan takes into account various keywords that are not competitive and yet represent a good chance for not only high rankings, but also for excellent conversion rates. Long tail keywords — that is, long keyword phrases that are very specific — are often great fits in this regard. Finding them is an area where your input on the nuances of niche applications for your products or services can help SEO researches pinpoint these keywords they would otherwise miss, because they don’t understand in enough depth what your customers are looking for.
Prioritization in Keyword Strategy
One important thing to consider in prioritizing keywords is your budget. If you are able to spend $1,000 a month on SEO, you’re probably not going to have enough to properly optimize 1,000 keywords. At the other extreme, if you’re able to spend $8,000 a month, 100 keywords won’t be nearly enough, at least not in most situations.
Another area to consider is whether to put a lot of effort into a small group of high-volume keywords, or a lot of effort into a large group of long tail keywords. As noted earlier, many small and midsize organizations can win at SEO by attacking the perimeter with long tail keywords, rather than trying a full-frontal assault on keywords all the big competitors are after. But, there are cases where going for high-volume keywords will work, despite the competitiveness.
Once the keyword field has been narrowed, they are normally grouped according to the applicable products and services. For instance, there may be 10 keywords grouped around hat boxes, 10 grouped around shoe boxes, etc. Then, the keyword strategy will deal with assigning a primary keyword phrase or two to each group. This is important because, during the execution of the SEO campaign, the team will put most of the effort into building rankings for the primary keyword(s), with much less attention being given to secondary keywords.
In many cases, there will be a keyword strategy for the campaign rollout, and another set of target keywords for phase two and phase three of the campaign. This helps organizations manage their SEO budgets and enable them to quickly build on their campaigns once they start seeing results.
To discuss your keyword strategy and other SEO issues, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.