For SEO (search engine optimization), targeting the right keywords makes all the difference.
If you target the wrong ones, two things happen — both of them bad:
1. Your SEO keywords generate no traffic to your website.
2. Your SEO keywords generate traffic, but no inquiries or online revenue.
Use a Keyword Research Tool
Fortunately, there are many low-cost and no-cost online tools to help you do keyword research to find the right ones. Moz Keyword Explorer is one of my favorites because its data is reliable and it is very easy to use. If you are running a Google AdWords PPC (pay-per-click) campaign, you already have access to the Google Keyword Planner, an excellent research option for SEO as well.
The Crucial Factors to Weigh in Keyword Research
There are many factors that go into the perfect keyword. These are the most important.
The keyword must be as relevant as possible to the content of your associated website page. People using search engines get very frustrated when they click an organic link that takes them to a web page unrelated to their search. Thus, Google and the other search engines place ultra-high value on relevance.
Many small businesses err by selecting keywords with extremely high volume. This is often a big mistake. First, high-volume keywords may be targeted by huge companies with huge budgets — you can’t compete. Second, high-volume keywords may be too broad, and therefore attract the wrong type of traffic. For instance, if you sell organic shaving cream for sensitive skin, targeting a keyword such as “shaving supplies” will attract people looking for razors, aftershave, etc. “Longtail” keywords, with lower volume but other positive characteristics, are a better bet — keywords such as “organic shaving cream for sensitive skin”.
Some keyword phrases suggest the search engine user wants to buy something, while others suggest the user wants to research something, still others suggest no intent at all. For SEO, words suggesting intent to buy offer the best opportunity for ROI. For example, “low price shaving cream” conveys strong buying intent, whereas “sensitive skin shaving cream comparison” suggests possible buying intent.
I mentioned competition earlier, and it is definitely a critical issue for small businesses. You can do everything right in your SEO campaign and still fail if you’re targeting keywords dominated by big firms. Fortunately, good keyword research tools have systems for evaluating a keyword’s competitiveness, which removes a lot of the guesswork.
Common Keyword Targeting Errors in Small Business
Targeting keywords that are too competitive is probably the most common error we see.
Another common error is targeting words based on their assumed value. Sometimes, a phrase that seems popular in your industry is a bad target — that keyword may not really generate much traffic, or may not lead to many conversions. Verify all of your intuitive keyword assumptions with research.
Finally, a serious error is failing to create web pages associated with each target keyword. If, for instance, you target 10 primary keywords — that is, keywords associated with 10 distinct product and/or services — you need 10 pages on your website dedicated to each of those 10 keywords. If you try to jam all of these keywords into one or two pages of content, you’re likely to confuse the search engines about what is really important on those pages. Confused search engines don’t rank content very highly! However, if you take the time to create valuable content around each target keyword, you’ll turn those perfect keywords into powerful revenue producers.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago SEO expert firm serving small and midsize companies.