Selecting the best keywords is a critically important aspect of search engine optimization, as well as AdWords advertising. In order for a project to be effective, keyword phrases must be selected that will drive targeted traffic to a web site.
There is a very fine line to be aware of when selecting the best keyword phrases to target for an SEO campaign or an AdWords advertising campaign. If the wrong keyword phrases are targeted, the project will either fail or will not be cost-effective.
The keyword phrases must specifically target the products and services that you offer. If the keyword phrases are too generic, they will not help drive the type of traffic that is desired and the keywords are very likely unnecessarily competing with web sites that they should not be in competition with. If the exact keyword phrases that people actually use when searching for your products and services are not selected, you may not drive any traffic at all or you may drive the wrong type of traffic.
There is both and art and a science to proper keyword selection. Sometimes the CEO of a company, or an engineer, or the head of the marketing department is not the best person to select the keyword phrases for an SEO campaign. Those individuals would very likely chose very exact technical terms or brand-related phrases to describe their products and services. A problem arises when that is not the way that someone would search for those offerings when they are unfamiliar with your company. If the goal of search engine optimization or advertising is to drive new business to a company, then the targeted keyword phrases must reflect how a non-customer would search for what you offer. The idea is to avoid focusing on how you would sell a product or service, but instead focus on how someone would seek the offering.
The Problem With Generic Keyword Phrases
Generic keyword phrases are those that can cover multiple industries or multiple products and services. They are not specific to what you offer and therefore cover a wider range of possibilities.
I used to work for a company that was the industry leader in selling copier parts and supplies. The heart of the copier process is a component technically referred to as a photoreceptor, but generically referred to as a drum due to its typical cylindrical shape. When we began our search engine optimization efforts, it became clear that we could not compete with the search phrase “drums” because the first 100+ search results for that phrase were typically music stores. Furthermore, if a prospective customer tried to search for drums, they would see the same unrelated search results and would then very likely perform a second search using the technical term “photoreceptors”, or would further differentiate the search using something like “OPC drums”, which is more specific. The single word “drums” is so generic that it is useless to use as a targeted keyword phrase unless you own a music store. The search itself must be clarified to be more specific and therefore the targeted keyword phrases must also be more specific.
The Problem With Targeting the Wrong Keyword Phrases
Targeting a brand-related keyword phrases or internal corporate terminology or highly technical terminology also has its pitfalls if the targeted keyword phrases are not the same as those used by potential customers searching for what you offer.
It is imperative that targeted keyword phrases reflect the actual keyword phrases used in searches. The level of competition today for many search phrases is brutal. It is not unusual to find over one million web pages competing for a single search phrase. The closer a page is targeted to an exact search phrase, the greater the chances are that the page will rank well. Achieving a high rank for a search phrase that no one uses in a search is useless because it will not drive traffic.
When targeting keyword phrases for your SEO or advertising campaigns, follow these rules:
- Targeted keyword phrases must very specifically describe your offerings and exclude unrelated products.
- Targeted keyword phrases must reflect the way a user would search for your offerings and not how you would describe them.
- Targeted keyword phrases must reflect large quantities of actual searches currently being performed for those keywords.
- Do not target keyword phrases that are excessively competitive.
The trick to selecting the best keyword phrases is to take off your CEO, engineer or marketing hat and put on a user hat. Ask yourself the question, “How would I search for a product or service if I was completely unaware of the companies who offer these products and services?”
We can get an estimate of how often users search for a specific keyword phrase by using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. This tool provides an estimate of the number of times that a keyword phrase is used in a search on average in a month. When using the tool, uncheck the Broad checkbox under Match Type in the left column and check the Exact checkbox. Keep in mind that it is important to attempt to target the exact keyword phrases used in searches. You may be surprised how many keyword phrases are almost never used.
Keep in mind that the larger the number of web pages that are competing for a keyword phrase, the more difficult it will be to achieve high rankings for that keyword phrase. It is not unusual to find that over one million web pages are competing for a specific search phrase today, but there are only 10 slots on the first page of search results pages. If a keyword phrase is overwhelmingly competitive, it may be better to focus your efforts on other keyword phrases.
Proper keyword research should take all of these factors into account and produce a list of viable keywords, while excluding those that are not likely to produce good results.