SEO basics: Good keyword research

Search engine optimisation

Keyword research is the most fundamental and most important task in any SEO campaign.

Keyword research

Keyword research, you get this step wrong and you’ll end up wasting time and money, going after the wrong niche or demographic. However, even if you get the niche right and your keyword research wrong, you will end up with one of the two scenarios described below.

  1. Zero to minimal traffic – Very little to nil organic traffic, because there is nobody searching for that keyword/phrase you’ve optimised your website for.
  2. Zero conversions – No conversions because you have optimised your website for a keyword/phrase that is not a “buying keyword”.

You will not believe how many webmasters and even seasoned SEO consultants get this part wrong. If you’re a DIY kind of person, I would urge you to outsource this part of your campaign to an SEO professional that knows what they 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.

Avoid the guaranteed SEO services

We have seen many SEO firms that push relatively easy to rank keywords onto clients, simply because it makes their job easier. A popular tactic is to offer “guaranteed” SEO services and as part of the keyword list, pick five really easy long tail keywords from a total of say-fifteen.

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. This is because a client may not be educated enough about keywords and therefore, blindly trusts the SEO firm, being even more convinced when they see ranks for their keywords. Sadly, their keyword list is padded with long tail keywords with little value, easily meeting the requirement of the “guaranteed” service.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for long tail keywords. In fact, long tails often end up as buying keywords than your typical one or two-word keyword phrases. This is where keyword research is necessary and it’s why we believe that getting the right data on a list of keywords upfront is one of the most important aspects of keyword research when it comes to search engine optimisation.

Keyword competition is not always an indicator of conversion

For example, assume you’re an SEO like us. As an SEO, what is the first keyword that comes to mind when trying to rank your SEO company’s website — SEO?

Let’s look at the competition, at the time of writing this, there are approximately 419,000,000 results in the Google index for the keyword “SEO”. That’s 419-million pages competing for that position. Forget page 1-rankings, getting to the top 50 is quite an achievement.

According to Google’s keyword planner, on average the term “SEO” is searched 33,100-times as of the date of this post. So if you’re a search engine optimisation company, targeting 33,100-potential searches every month makes sense, right? But what about the conversion rates?

As an SEO firm, you’re looking to get more clients. Therefore, understanding what percentage of the 33,100-monthly searches are people actually looking for an SEO company and not just people trying to learn SEO is something that can help you.

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 lesser 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 we 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 an SEO company or consultant that offers SEO services.

Let’s look at the number of results or potential competition. At the time of writing this, there are about 7,410,000 results for the key phrase SEO ServicesDoes this mean that ranking for “SEO Services” is easy simply because you have only 7-million odd results when compared to the 419-million for “SEO”? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now to take a look at the average number of searches for the keyword “SEO Services” has every month, it’s 2,900. Which is a far lesser a number from the term “SEO”, but a far better number as far as potential conversions for an SEO business as it’s a buying keyword. It’s still a lot of competition, however.

Therefore, from now on, 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 “Newcastle SEO Services” or any other city name followed by “SEO Services”. Geo-targeting helps you get your share of potential clients, which are relatively easy compared to the generic Google listing.

Low traffic but targeted usually converts well and should definitely be looked at. But avoid long tails that are not targeted, at least when you are drawing up your keyword list for your SEO firm.

A typical client may not understand keywords and conversion well enough to decipher this, however, if you are in this position, then we would suggest the following:

  1. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes for keywords/phrases that they might search for.
  2. Ask your SEO to find each keyword’s competition and monthly-searches.
  3. Before you sign up for search engine optimisation, get a second and even a third opinion on the keyword list.

Posted on 25th Aug 2008