Keyword research, the most fundamental and one of the most important if not the most important task in any SEO campaign. You get this step wrong and you will end up wasting time, energy and money in going after the wrong niche or demographic. Even if you get the niche right and your keyword research wrong, you will end up with one of the two scenarios described below.
- Zero to minimal traffic – Very little to nil organic traffic because there is nobody searching for that keyword/key phrase that you spent a ton optimizing your website for.
- Zero conversions – No conversions because you have optimized your website for a keyword / phrase that is not a buying keyword.
You will not believe how many webmasters and even seasoned SEO Consultants and firms get this part wrong. If you are a doing it yourself kind of person, I would urge you to outsource this part of your campaign to a SEO firm or SEO Consultant that knows what they/he/she are doing. Many if not most of the SEO Companies offer keyword research as part of their SEO Service portfolio but finding the right firm is another story in itself best left described in a follow on post.
I have seen many SEO firms that push relatively easy to rank keywords onto clients simply because it makes their job easy. A popular tactic is to offer Guaranteed SEO Services and as part of the keyword list pick 10 real easy long tail keywords out of say a total of 15. The Guaranteed Service is deemed successful if the SEO firm ranks the website on the search engine result pages for 60% of the total keyword list. You can see where I’m going with this. A client that is not educated enough about keywords blindly trusts the SEO firm and will even be convinced because they will see some high competition keywords in the target list. Sadly the keyword list is also padded with enough long tail keywords of little value to easily meet the requirement of the guaranteed service.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for long tail keywords. Infact long tails often end up as buying keywords than your typical one or two word key phrase. This is where a little keyword research is necessary. This is why I believe that getting the right data on a list of keywords upfront that are targeted to your business or niche is one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization.
Remember keyword competition is not always an indicator of conversion. Let us walk through an example. Assume you are an SEO like me . As an SEO what is the first keyword that comes to mind to try and rank your website for? Yep, that’s right. It’s “SEO” The holy grail for all SEO Companies. Let’s look at the competition. At the time of writing this there are approximately 278,000,000 results in the Google index for the keyword SEO as you can see from the image below.
Again folks, 278 million pages competing for positions on the index for the keyword SEO. Probably one of the toughest keywords out there to rank for on page 1. Forget page 1, getting to the top 50 is quite an achievement. Why is it tough? Because every SEO out there would love to rank for “SEO” irrespective of what he/she/they claim. Let’s take a quick look at the number of searches that they keyword SEO has for an average month. There are approximately a 90,000 searches for the exact keyword SEO every month. Here is a screenshot from Google’s very own keyword traffic estimator.
90,000 searches is quite a lot for exact searches. If you set it to broad match it is close to a million searches every month but I’m digressing. Let’s only look at exact searches for now. If you are a Search Engine Optimization Company or Consultant, do you believe targeting a 90,000 potential searches every month makes sense? Yes, it would. But what about conversions. As an SEO firm you are looking to get more clients. What percentage of the 90,000 searches are people looking for a SEO Company? Not a lot. Most of them are tire kickers, newbie consultants looking at who is ranked high, people looking to learn SEO etc etc the list goes on and on.
So why the competition? If SEO is too generic why the stiff competition? Well, ranking for SEO is all about building credibility and to a lessor extent get the bragging rights. An SEO Consultant or SEO firm that ranks for SEO can legitimately claim that they indeed are good at what they do which is rank for one of the toughest keywords out there. After all someone that can rank in the top 50 for SEO can potentially rank for pretty much anything out there.
Moving on, if I were to solely focus on conversions, then a better key phrase to target would be “SEO Services“. Why? Because the phrase is such that a potential searcher is looking for a SEO Company or Consultant that offers seo services and if he likes what he sees, he might just sign up.
Let’s look at the number of results or potential competition. At the time of writing this, there are about 3,700,000 results for the key phrase SEO Services. Does this mean that ranking for SEO Services is easy simply because you have only 3 million odd results when compared to the 278 million for SEO. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is a little tip and I plan to write a post about this sometime. If you see or have someone quote you a price for search engine optimization solely based on the number of results on Google without even knowing and researching the keyword and potential competition then you are dealing with a complete newbie or are being setup for an elaborate scam. Hang up the phone or run the other way if this ever happens to you. Trust me on this one.
I digress far too often, back to the key phrase SEO Services. Let’s now take a look at the average number of searches for the SEO Services key phrase every month. Again its a quick check on the Adwords keyword tool and the number that I see there is 18,100 on an average every month. Have a look at the screenshot below.
This is a far lessor number than the 90,000 for SEO but a far better number as far as potential conversions for my business. There are 18,000 odd searches for SEO Services each month by people looking for services from SEO Consulatnts or SEO firms and these are people that will go ahead and buy. It is a buying keyword. For this very reason, there is a lot of competition. Every Search Engine Optimization company will target this key phrase. The SERP’s show far less indexed pages or results because it is not too generic as the SEO keyword.
Now you can go deep further. Instead of targeting a high competition, high traffic, low conversion keyword such as SEO or targeting a high competition, relatively decent traffic, high conversion keyword such as SEO Services, you can start by targeting a low competition, low traffic but high conversion keyword such as say “Dallas SEO Services” or any other city name followed with SEO Services. Geo targeting helps you get your share of potential clients relatively easily compared to the generic Google.com
Low traffic but targeted usually converts well and should definitely looked at. But avoid long tails that are not targeted atleast when you are drawing up your keyword list for your SEO firm to optimize. This is easier said than done. A typical client simply does not understand keywords and conversion well enough to decipher this. If you are in this position, then I would suggest the following.
Before you sign up for Search Engine optimization, get a second and even a third opinion on the keyword list. Try to find reputable ones, yes search for SEO or SEO Services and pick one that meets your requirement from the first 50. Remember you are looking for a second opinion. Your cost usually should not be more than $500 for this particular SEO Service. You might find tons of people than do it for $100 or less but I doubt you would find them in the top 50. Again guys, the top 50 is just a means to filter the number of SEO firms out there. There are quite a few good Search Engine Optimization firms and consultants that don’t figure in the top 300.
Keyword research is one of the few SEO Services that I do on a stand alone basis. My typical charge for a one time keyword list generation is usually around $350.
Now that you’ve got your keywords identified, compare lists from a minimum of two SEO vendors with the list provided by the SEO firm you’ve shortlisted. If you see good number of convergence then you should be ok. If not, suggest some from the alternate list that you’ve procured. You can pretty much take it from there.
I hope this little example showed you the importance of good keyword research and if you are looking for a Dallas SEO Company, you know where to look