Drilling into your keyword research
Any organic search campaign starts with keyword research. As a site owner, you have to decide what you want to rank for before you start investing in content, link building, submission or any of the other SEO tactics that might be in your strategy.
The first point in most keyword research 101 articles (including our own) is the need to strike a balance between volume and competition.
Just as a term that nobody searches on is of little value, regardless of how winnable it is, a search term with mouth-watering local search numbers is going to be a bad choice if the first five pages of results are dominated by competitors with more cash and superior domain authority.
But keyword research is more complicated than a simple volume / competition trade-off. The most obvious additional consideration is convertibility. People are searching for it, you think you can rank for it, but will it be worth the effort?
Seasoned Adwords users will be familiar with the need to filter out irrelevant search traffic. When it comes to organic campaigns, it’s equally important not to throw resource at terms that will bring the wrong type of visitor to your website.
If you run an online bicycle repair store, for example, you’ll want to be careful not to work your socks off ranking for terms that are mostly used by motorcycle enthusiasts. Some crossover is inevitable, but you need to keep a close eye on your analytics.
A high bounce-rate or poor conversion might not be the fault of long page load times, a lack of fresh content or a badly-located call-to-action. You could just be ranking for the wrong search terms.
Some other questions to consider as you begin your keyword research:
How should we measure competition?
Google’s number of indexed pages figure often gets bashed on blogs and forums. It should still be in the mix, but you’ll also want to look at the indicators on the various free keyword research tools at your disposal. The presence of sponsored links from your competitors is usually a good indicator of how relevant and valuable the traffic is likely to be.
Which search engine do we use?
This sounds obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Sure, Google dominates the local market here, but if you’re targeting customers overseas then remove your Google Goggles. Other engines with decent market shares will provide useful data for your keyword research.
How do we account for personalised results?
Every few months there’s a search trend that means the end of the road for SEO. Personalised search is the latest harbinger of doom, but don’t be fooled. Where your site ranks when you sign out and search your target keywords (or use one of the many excellent, free rank checking tools) still matters and is still a good indication of what your target audience is seeing.