15 / January 2016, Matt
Using Research to Focus Your SEO Marketing
Google, Bing, and Yahoo! searches have moved over the years further toward a conceptually-driven algorithm, one that helps reward websites based on their content rather than on strict adherence to keyword concentrations. This includes allowing for stem variations, varied orders for keyword phrases, and context that supports and strengthens the keywords in place. All of this effort represents part of a push toward ranking the best content highest for any given content area.
This does not mean, though, that keywords have ceased to matter—or that they ever will. However sophisticated search engine ranking algorithms become, keywords will remain the textual anchors, the starting points from which the programs launch to sort and rank web pages. Context plays an increasingly important role, but keywords still identify the contexts that must be examined. Your site ranks based on the searches people run; unless and until search engines are reading brain waves to create results, the words entered can never cease to serve as the starting point.
With this in mind, keyword research is as important as ever to your SEO marketing success. Identifying the terms that will bring you the right site visitors can create the difference between having a website and having an effective online marketing tool. The former is nice to have, but when you build your page rankings through effective research and execution, you open up possibilities that will drive your revenue much more efficiently and effectively.
When you begin researching keywords and keyword phrases, you should start with as broad an approach as possible. First, consider what you do, the services and/or products that you provide. People will search for these in different ways, including not only specific phrases that should lead them precisely to you, but with more general terms as well. Some search with words or short phrases, while others run longer phrases. When you look to identify the best keywords, you should cast the net widely.
Further, once you have a set of keywords and keyword phrases, you can broaden it by searching with those terms and seeing what comes up. Other websites may have variations or additional keywords included that you may not have come up with. In addition, Google searches provide autofill suggestions when you start typing in a keyword phrase. Take advantage of what you can find using other searches to get as many different relevant options as possible.
Once you have identified a list of potential keywords, you should start to narrow your list in two important ways. First, you should prioritize the keywords that make the most sense for your website and the content you might create that is most relevant to your business. You should not seek to focus what you create on everything pertinent to your industry, but rather on the points within your industry with which you connect most powerfully. These include local specifics, particular kinds of products and services, and anything else that serves as a primary direction for what you do.
Second, you should narrow the list based on the combination of volume of search requests for each keyword and the level of competition for each keyword. High rankings for a keyword no one uses in a search will only get you so far; the purpose of achieving first-page ranking success, after all, is to drive traffic to your website. On the other hand, if too many players are already building around the keyword you are researching, the opportunity to rank well for that keyword is much lower than for one with lower competition.
Keyword optimizing requires steady research over time to stay on top of search trends and make sure you are using the best words and phrases to drive traffic to your site. The content should still drive your process; keywords should fit within the message you want to deliver to the market. On the other hand, the right keywords can also help inspire relevant new content as well. Rather than two approaches that conflict with each other, keyword optimization research and content generation should complement and energize each other to help drive your website performance.
When you create your list of keywords, part of the process should also be to identify variations that make sense. Some of these variations will be inherently included in searches. Google, for example, will include terms with different roots and spellings when it directs people to your site. If you optimize around “SEO Marketing,” “SEO Marketers” and other similar phrases will be included. This means not only that you don’t have to separately optimize pages for both variations, but that trying to optimize the same page around both could lead to keyword stuffing issues that push your rankings down the list.
On the other hand, variations that come from synonyms and phrasing specific to your industry should be included in your SEO marketing approach. Google may not lump terms of art or non-obvious synonyms within its analysis of your web pages. RankBrain and other quasi-AI programs are beginning to do this more effectively, but identifying alternative searches based on words that mean the same thing can help you build out your content library and drive more traffic to your site.
Similarly, you should include both brand and generic names. Information about motorcycles and information about Harley Davidson will overlap in searches to some extent, but not completely. Either one can generate traffic that the other does not. Further, if you sell particular brands of a product, you should research the traffic that the brand names generate. The same analysis applies here: volume and competition should drive your decisions on what words you choose to optimize around. If you sell forty brands of a given product, you should let people know about all of them, but you should optimize web pages based specifically on the brands that will help you generate the most traffic. This might mean a page or blog post that spotlights that brand, or just strategic emphasis in your copy of that brand name. Either can help you generate new content that drives more potential customers to your website.
Finally, don’t settle for only words or short phrases. When people search for something online, they often include longer phrases that read more like questions than search terms. You can optimize around “motorcycle accessories,” but you should also consider longer phrases that are more specific: “motorcycle accessories in Albuquerque,” or “how to find motorcycle accessories in New Mexico.” The more ways you can build content to bring people to you, the more opportunity you create to build your site traffic and your business revenue through SEO marketing.
While you want to start broad and narrow from there with your content optimization research, running a PPC campaign requires a different approach to keywords. In your ad copy, you have a much more limited space in which to build in keywords, and thus need a much more directly focused approach. Further, finding every keyword phrase that fits a favorable volume to competition ratio becomes less practical in the PPC arena. You need to choose carefully and target the words and phrases that will generate the most traffic for you.
In PPC keyword research, then, the focus should be somewhat less on the competition for keywords and more on the search volume. Your ads will be situated in websites that are relevant, and in some cases may even be placed on competitor websites. Given this, the greater the volume of a search, the more placement opportunities you have, regardless of competition in that keyword’s space. Your opportunity to drive revenue comes almost entirely on the volume side of the equation.
This does not mean you should look for volume that does not fit closely with what your business is and does. Far from it! If anything, your PPC keywords should be even more focused on fitting your website’s content and your business’ identity. From a cold, practical perspective, driving traffic to your site from those who are less interested in your content or your company can get your ads reported as spam and removed. Nothing sinks a PPC campaign faster than losing the ability to post the ads in the first place.
In addition, you drive traffic to gain customers and increase revenue. When you generate disinterested traffic, you attract non-customers to your site. This may give a short-term boost in your page rankings, but eventually people will stop clicking, whether they are potential customers or not. Meanwhile, you are paying for every time someone clicks your ad, which means you are investing in something unlikely to pay revenue dividends. You have too much to lose, and too little to gain, by filling your PPC campaign with clickbait.
One way to help prevent this problem is to build negative keywords into your PPC campaign. Your business may focus on a particular niche within an industry that does not benefit from people who search for others. For example, if you specialize in motorcycle accessories, you may want to drive traffic from people interested in helmets. However, people looking for bicycle helmets might find and follow your ads, making you pay for visitors who will have no interest in your product. You can exclude “bicycle” and related terms that would generate the wrong ad placements and clicks from people who are interested in something you do not have.
Because PPC involves investment in everyone who clicks to your site, you want to make sure you are focused on getting the right kind of traffic, from people whose website visits might pay off for you. Choosing high-volume search terms with ads focused on exactly who and what you are will help ensure you get the most from your marketing budget.
Throughout your process, it is important to remember that trends change over time. You need to keep track of research you have done, and update the results regularly. Some keywords that register very high in volume and low in competition will undoubtedly see an increase in that competition over time, and need to be reconsidered if you are not at or near the top of the rankings when that happens. And some keywords that make sense for your business but do not generate much volume may start to see more searches as the population or market evolves.
This means two things for you as you research. First, a broad array of potential terms makes even more sense, because words and phrases that do not make sense for an SEO campaign today may provide some of the best optimization options tomorrow. You need to generate as many ideas as you can, and hold on to them. Keep track of what you are using, how you are ranking, and what is working well for you. Your content should make use of the most effective options, whatever they are at a given time.
Second, it means your research does not end. For as long as you are running an SEO marketing campaign, your research into the most effective keywords and keyword phrases should continue. Trends are not concrete realities; they change not merely year to year, but month to month, week to week, and even day to day. SEO keyword research must not only accept that reality, but embrace it. In business, you define success not by what you accomplish in a day, but how well you achieve your goals over time. SEO marketing should approach things the same way. When you stay on top of what the market is doing and how it acts with regard to online search activity, you position yourself for success.
The best way to manage this process is to develop relationships with trusted partners who can keep abreast of the research trends. 1st in SEO adheres to a long-term approach with its clients to deliver keyword research that drives site rankings both quickly and over time. Contact us today to explore what we can do for your business.