She was using the Keyword Planner, as I had suggested because it tells you how many monthly searches take place for a particular key word or phrase and what the competition is. Ideally, you want a significant number of searches (the definition of significant varies based on your business) with low to medium competition.
My friend was having trouble because when she researched her ideas, she was either getting really high monthly searches with high competition and when she narrowed it down to more specific long tail key phrases, she found no one was performing those searches.
What’s a girl to do?
Let’s step back for a second. Your web content attracts traffic in a few ways:
- Organic search: These are people that have never heard of you but come across you from Google searches using key words.
- Social shares and links from other content: These are like referrals from people in your network that extend your own network and reach.
- Direct visits to your site: People who go to your site to see what your business is about. Maybe you met them in person or someone in your network suggested you.
All three of these things are good for your SEO ranking. Your various pieces of content will do different things for you – not all will accomplish all three things, therefore your strategy and keywords will differ.
Which is why I want to preface this post with:
While keywords are the building blocks to your content strategy, they aren’t the end-all be-all.
For example, I wrote a post called The Jargon-Free Explanation of a Digital Strategist’s Job and it’s the most popular post on my site in 2013. It turns out many people Google “digital strategist job description.” On the other hand, the third most popular post was Breaking Up With Friends but that was more from social referrals than organic search. I know this because of my Google Analytics and what keyterms are bringing in traffic. I also know the week Breaking up With Friends ran, that post had about 10 times the normal traffic I get.
The Digital Strategist gives me ongoing traffic while the Breaking Up post was more like a one hit wonder. A good percentage of the traffic it received was in the week it ran. Both bring lots of new people to the site and both served a great purpose.
How to Choose Keywords
Knowing that keywords are important but breaking the rules now and then is fine, let’s talk about choosing them:
The problem I discovered with my friend is she was trying to optimize all her content for her product. More than likely, a product or service category will have high competition. Your customers aren’t necessarily looking for your product specifically. They might not know you exist, or that your solution exists. In this case optimizing for the problems and questions they have will be more successful for you. Go back to these ideas for content.
Use those problems and questions as your keywords by answering the questions and solving the problems. Just like I’m doing with this blog post and answering the question: “What Keywords Should I Use?” This is a common question I help my clients with – if someone sees this, they might want to hire me to help, or they know someone who needs help in this area.
Get specific. A long-tail key phrase is going to have less competition, and net you traffic that is more targeted. A simple example might be “restaurant San Francisco.” There are tons of restaurants and while you obviously want to make that list for those who are browsing, you’ll increase your odds at greater visibility if you get specific to “Vietnamese restaurant with outdoor seating.” You haven’t excluded yourself from the “restaurant” searchers, but you’ve identified areas where you differentiate, the results list will be smaller, and you’ll have better odds of winning the business.
Keep Your Sales Funnel Top of Mind
Those three items above represent prospects at various stages of your sales funnel, in other words, they are at every stage of the purchase-readiness path.
- Top of the funnel: Discovery, they have never heard of you. They are searching for a solution to a problem; one that you solve.
- Middle of the funnel: Awareness that you exist. They might be subscribed to your blog and share it regularly. Maybe they aren’t even a potential customer but by sharing it, you are reaching new possibilities.
- Bottom: Ready to buy now. They have been following your brand, are subscribed to the blog, or have been referred by a friend. They find you through the long tail keywords (very specific).
Match your keywords accordingly. Your job is to keep that funnel full, so you’ll want to do a mix of product, brand, and long tail keywords.
Think about the person at each stage of your sales funnel, what they are looking for, and then test it in the Keyword Planner. Look at the recommendations for related terms and adjust as needed.
Search is more than keywords
I want to reiterate, focus more on relevant and quality content if you get hung up on keywords. Depending on your business model, the better quality leads might come from the social sharing and word of mouth from influencers than cold organic search. A financial services firm I work with is less interested in organic search and more interested in building community and getting content shared. When a business becomes a commodity, it’s more difficult to convert a cold lead than it is to convert someone who was referred through a network or colleague – a relationship.
Google’s latest Hummingbird update is your friend if you’re genuinely writing good content that gets shared, and linked to. If you have a great idea for content that might not have a keyword associated with it, do it. Your community will eat it up and share it. Just like my Breaking Up With Friends post did.
I’m happy to answer your questions.
Also – feel free to download this ebook on 25 things to consider before you build your new website: [hs_action id=”3061″]