During the 1990s Internet boom, search engines (and thus organic traffic) hadn’t quite taken hold of the market yet. Business owners passed out pencils and mouse pads with their websites emblazoned across the front, so it’s obvious that the name of the game back then was building a brand — similar to the Amazons and YouTubes we have today. While branding is still an important consideration, organic SEO is the name of the game for now.
That being the case, choosing good keywords for your SEO marketing campaign is vital to being successful online. Click here to read last week’s Part I of this article.
Beyond the Math of Keyword Research
In Part I, we discussed how to use some simple math to quantify specific keyword phrases, keeping in mind that:
- You must invest some time or money to market every keyword phrase.
- Some phrases receive a higher search volume than others.
Marketers should establish a minimum monthly search level to help make choosing profitable keyword phrases easier.
Unfortunately, just firing up the Google Adwords Keyword Tool and doing some simple math doesn’t cut it in SEO. There are some other considerations you have to keep in mind when researching keywords for your website.
One of the biggest considerations in keyword research is competition. Unless you’re targeting a very broad long-tail keyword phrase, like “online insurance policies for senior citizens in Oregon,” you’re probably going to face a bit of competition for any keyword phrase you choose. The difficulty you’ll have defeating that competition will help you determine whether a keyword phrase is ripe for the picking.
Evaluating Competition With Keyword Phrases
First of all, make sure you log out of Google. If you’ve been messing around in YouTube or checking your Gmail account, you’re probably still logged in. This is important as Google remembers where you’ve been online (scary thought right?) and can manipulate search results based on your activity. On the surface, this seems to be a wet blanket for SEO right off the bat (and it is), but all you can do is make sure you get the most accurate search results without any personalization.
Google also considers your location when you search, even if you’re not logged in. Try changing the location to “USA” to avoid local results (assuming you want the most accurate and cleanest results). If you do have some local interest or business, you can also play around with this feature to see who sees what results in which location. I’ve done this before for small businesses targeting local areas.
If you don’t use any SEO tools, that’s ok. You can do some simple competitive keyword research simply using Google.
Type your potential keyword phrase into Google’s search box – we’ll use “online marketing” for our example. Take a look at the first five results, ignoring the colored ad box that Google displays at the top. You can also shoot for the stars and just pay attention to the top three spots. After all, as you can see here, only the top three spots are what marketers refer to as “above the fold” or the information you can see before scrolling down on a web page.
Reviewing Google Search Results
Considering these results individually against this list. If the answer is yes to each question, give the keyword a point. If the answer is no, subtract a point.
The search result IS a subpage of a domain (ex: www.marketingcustoms/our-team not www.marketingcustoms.com).
The search result IS NOT a recognizable brand (ex: wikipedia, amazon, huffington post, ny times, etc.)
The search result IS clearly from a business, not a purely informational site.
The search result IS NOT what you’d expect to visit if you were interested in information on the keyword phrase. (ex: if you search for dog food prices, is the first result a history of dog food?)
The site to which the search result leads IS low quality or does not feature good content and a user-friendly design.
Essentially, we’re deciding which sites you can compete against, and which you can’t. If you’re up against a major brand that specializes in your keyword phrase (Netflix for “online streaming video” for example, you don’t have much hope of beating them in the SERPS. If, on the other hand, you’re up against a couple of business site subpages, you have a great opportunity to compete well.
Find the keywords that get the highest score and target those first as part of your campaign. Although you might eventually get more competitive as your site grows, it’s best to start with phrases that you can compete with right off the bat.
Finally, don’t assume that you can’t beat Wikipedia – you can. Although the wiki brand is strong, you can defeat a subpage of the mega-site with an exact match domain name, or some intense link building. If you can get ahold of the exact match domain (onlinemarketing.com would be lovely), buy it if it’s within your budget. Be forewarned, however, that you’re probably going to be paying a premium price for exact match domains.
With a combination of some simple math and a bit of competitive analysis, you’re well on your way to identifying some solid keyword targets for your SEO campaign. Marketing Customs goes much, much more in depth in keyword research and competitive analysis services, but these simple tasks should be plenty to help you get an idea of how well your site will perform in a competitive marketplace.
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