You’ve probably heard of people claiming significant traffic to their site after achieving a top ranking on Google or Yahoo. But sometimes you hear from someone else who also achieved a similar top ranking but they were disappointed when no one arrived at their site. How can two people achieve a top ranking and have such markedly different outcomes? Simple. The person in the first example selected a keyword or phrase that many people are searching on, and the second did not.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to brainstorm your own list of keywords, only to find out later that they are not as popular as you first thought. Keyword popularity is essential to success in search engine marketing.
The question to ask yourself is how do you really know if you’re optimizing your pages for keywords that web surfers are looking for? There are several good techniques you can apply:
1. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience.
For example, you may have a “clothing business” where you “sell clothing.” While those phrases describe what you do, they are not necessarily the words that your audience would enter into a search engine to find you. How many times have you gone to Google and typed in “sell clothing” in order to find a particular shirt or hat?
Therefore, you must change your point of view from the person selling the product to the person that wants to buy your product. For example, popular phrases to target in the clothing category would be “plus size clothing,” “mens clothing,” or “womens clothing.” However, when searching using keyword tools, don’t be surprised to see unusual terms like “medieval clothing” and “gothic clothing” with high searches. That’s why we use tools like Google suggest, It’s next to impossible to simply guess what the most popular phrases will be today.
2. Target Niches
While “mens clothing” in the previous example may be one of the most popular clothing related searches, it unfortunately has a lot of competition. If you do a search on Google, you’ll find it returns over 4 million results for that phrase. While this type of phrase may gain you a lot of traffic, achieving a top ranking will prove difficult and time-consuming.
In addition, you will normally find visitors who search on very broad keyword categories purchasing less often than someone who knows exactly what they want. A good example of such a niche phrase would be “custom baseball hats”. The benefit of “custom baseball hats” is that it’s both a popular search phrase and it only has about 102,000 pages on Google competing against it. That’s much less competitive than the 4 million results returned for “mens clothing.”
Therefore, targeting relatively popular niche keywords has the following four advantages:
1. Niche keywords still produce a nice flow of traffic if you’re careful to pick ones that still have good popularity.
2. Niche keywords will significantly increase your chance of success. Achieving a top ranking will be much easier with a niche keyword phrase versus a very broad, highly popular phrase. No top ranking can be guaranteed in an organic search engine like Google. There are simply too many variables. Therefore, you’ll greatly increase your chances of success by choosing less competitive keyword phrases. Work smarter, not harder as I like to say.
3. Niche keywords will save you time. While you could use various tools and research to achieve a top ranking for “mens clothing,” the time required to do so may not be worthwhile. Let your competitor waste their efforts on the ultra-competitive phrases. In the same amount of time they spend trying to achieve a single top ranking for your industry’s most popular phrase, you could achieve top rankings on twenty other phrases.
4. Niche keywords yield more sales per visitor. That’s because these keywords are more targeted. Therefore, these prospects have a better idea of what they want. If they find it on your site at the right price, then your chances for a sale are much greater.
3. Brainstorm for keywords in your category
There are many ways to brainstorm new keyword phrases. You can examine the content and the meta tags on your competition’s Web site to see what phrases they consider important. While this is a good place to start looking for ideas, there’s no guarantee they are targeting the best keywords. You must check these keywords against the corresponding popularity and competition factors.
4. You could also consult with your thesaurus for synonyms and related phrases and correlate these to popularity and competition
5. Choose only relevant keywords
Just because a keyword is popular with a low competition factor, doesn’t mean you should target that keyword or phrase. You may be tempted to optimize for phrases that are only loosely related to your site’s content — but DON’T.
The phrases you target must be relevant to what you have to sell. It must also be applicable to what you have to offer on the specific Web page you are optimizing. How many times have you searched Google, landed on a page, and then backed out within 5 seconds of arriving? That page had a top ranking, but it did not have what you were looking for.
Perhaps the Web site did have what you wanted, but the product resided elsewhere on the site. Unfortunately, your visitor may never know this. If you target a keyword or phrase, then the page they land on must offer the products, services or content that they expect, or you’ll be wasting your time and your visitor’s time. At the very least, the page should offer direct links to the potential products and services they may expect to find there.
6. Understand that keywords can have multiple meanings
If you have a travel business, then your first thought might be to target the word travel. However, if someone is searching on just plain old “travel” are they:
a. Helping their child with a paper on some aspect of “travel?”
b. Looking for the “travel channel?”
c. Looking to plan a vacation cruise?
d. Preparing to take a business trip?
e. Day dreaming about time travel?
f. Looking for driving directions for their travel across the country?
g. Looking for a travel club such as AAA?
h. Looking for the perfect backpack or hiking supplies for a travel expedition?
If you own a travel agency that specializes in vacation cruises and optimized your site for the single keyword “travel,” only a limited number of the people identified in the example above would be qualified prospects. This of course assumes that travel was not too competitive to begin with.
While a top ranking on travel would yield a great deal of visitors to your site, many of them would select the “Back” button in their browsers, turn around and effectively walk out of your site! That’s not the outcome you’re looking for. When you select more targeted keyword phrases such as “Alaskan Cruise,” there is a much higher likelihood that you have focused in on exactly the right audience. It’s the difference between attracting actual buyers versus tire kickers.
Doing extensive research in Google suggest and the Google Keyword Tool is a great way to get a feel for all the keyword variations that your audience may be searching on. You’ll also discover which are the most popular, and least competitive. This is not only invaluable in regard to search engine marketing, but for your marketing efforts in general.
Written by Mark Stoffels