[Downloadable versions of this transcript, the presentation deck, and other materials are available in the Resource Center].
Welcome back, everyone, to the third installment of the Partner Bootcamp webinar series. This time, we’re discussing how to do effective keyword research and keyword selection.
[slide: Meet the Expert]
So, again it’s me. I’m Bernard, and I am your web fossil of 18 years. Out of the 18 years of working on the web, I’ve spent the last five years with SEO Reseller and it’s been a great ride. Aside from that, I’ve also worked with four previous companies prior to SEO Reseller. I’ve taken a couple of companies to multi-million-dollar status. Over 300 websites—that number is actually significantly larger now—and so are the thousand marketing campaigns; that’s also significantly larger now.
[slide: What Happened During the Previous Webinar]
Before I move on to the meat of this conversation, I want to talk about what happened on the previous webinar in case those of you listening were not here on the previous installments. Previously, on the Partner Bootcamp series, we discussed how you could effectively use each part of SEO Reseller Site Audit to win new clients and how to recommend the right solutions and begin a successful SEO campaign.
Like we said last month, the success of the campaign really depends on the right keyword selection. A successful SEO campaign begins and ends with your keyword selection: Is it smart? Are you targeting relevant terms? Is it already mentioned in the business? Is that what the audience types into the query? That’s everything that goes into keyword selection, and we’re actually going to do a deep dive on this topic specifically with this webinar.
We also talked about accessibility, indexability. We talked about how search engines are actually copies of the World Wide Web, and that the result you can get from your website depends on how complete and how comprehensive a search engine’s copy and understanding of your website is inside their own mainframe. We talked about onpage which is essentially meta content and onpage content, and how to use your URLs, your H1 tags, your meta titles your meta descriptions, and so on and so forth.
We also talked about a healthy backlink profile, what your digital footprint looks like versus your competitors’, whether you’re mentioned naturally or whether you’re mentioned unnaturally.
And I showed you guys a couple of samples of some penalties that you can get from Google if you are following a methodology that isn’t compliant with what Google standards are.
If you guys want to view the videos, you can follow the bit.ly link below by going to bit.ly/partner-bootcamp-webinars, or you can also go to the SEO Reseller website and find the recordings and the videos of the webinars there.
And at any point in time, if you guys have any questions, feel free to ring us through the toll-free numbers below. We’ve got a US, UK, and Australia number, and a toll-free US number.
[slide: PPC Promo]
Before I move on, it is shameless plug time. This is really the part where I wish I had a prompter that I can press where I have some project managers singing, “Shameless plug”, but on this webinar, what I wanted to talk about as part of my shameless plug is a PPC offer to get you guys started.
We started offering PPC as an organization because we realized that our partners wanted to work with companies that are an all-in-one solution, everything under one roof. We want to help you guys start driving instant traffic for your clients especially if their website is new. And in order to get you guys to do that, we’ve created a package where your setup fees are waived if you sign up your clients for six months’ worth of the campaign. There are more details that you can get by following bit.ly/ppc-rebate. Or feel free to dial us up and talk to one of our project managers.
[slide: Discussion Overview]
Moving on. This is what we’re looking to cover during this webinar for the next 50 minutes. We’re going to talk about keyword research and how it lays the foundation for your SEO campaigns and how it makes it easier to set expectations with your clients. I’d like you guys to join me for the next three-quarters of an hour on the third Partner Bootcamp webinar and learn how to win keyword research and keyword selection to drive more business and more value for your clients.
The topics that we’re going to talk about are understanding what keywords are and what they really mean relative to a marketing strategy and the sales funnel. What is the users’ intent and what classifications of keywords fall under the intentions of those users?
We’re also going to talk about how to determine and how to select the ideal keywords for your campaign. And then just SEO methodology in terms of keyword density and grouping.
And then just to make sure that this is all actionable for you guys, we’re going to talk about challenges in keyword selection, meaning what kind of objections are you bound to get from the clients that you make your pitches to. And then we’ll have a 10 to 15-minute Q&A session or as long as it takes and we will try to address as many questions as you guys put into the chat box.
[slide:What Are Keywords?]
Before I discuss this slide I want you guys to remember that there’s a chat box on the upper right side of your screens. Feel free to punch in your questions at any point in time. There’s no need to wait for the last 15 minutes of the conversation.
Let’s talk about keywords because this is about keyword research and selection. Keywords are essentially terms that are used in search queries, and they are the terms you want your website to be relevant for when your target audience creates a query inside Google or any other search engine.
A lot of people seem to think that keywords were invented by the SEOs or search engines. But in reality, they’re not. The general marketing community has been using keywords inside advertorials and ad copies for the last 70 years. So this is not a new concept.
But let’s talk about keywords from the concept of search and digital marketing specifically.
A keyword or a key phrase is essentially a core term that’s relevant to your business. Either that or it’s a query that a user will type into the search engine in order to find the service that your clients render.
Keywords are also said to be long-tail or short-tail variations. Short-tail is a misnomer. There are actually no short-tail keywords; it’s got a tail or it doesn’t have a tail. But I guess SEOs just, through the years—because SEO is a two-decade-old industry—decided that for easier reference, keywords have been referred to as long-tail and short-tail. But essentially, when your core term is supported or followed by, or even preceded by a prefix or suffix, it turns it into a long-tail variation of that term. And I’m going to keep using these words—core term, keyword phrase, long-tail variation—a lot in the next 40 minutes.
Bernard: Again, feel free to punch in your questions on the chat box on the upper right corner of your screen, and I’ll answer them during the Q&A portion of this conversation.
Let’s talk about understanding your keywords.
[slide: Understanding Your Keywords]
Your keywords make it easier for you to narrow down your keyword list. They help you drive relevant traffic to the site, meaning, if you understand the query that users are trying to search for, if you understand the generic terms that people type into a search box in order to find a service like yours, then you will drive relevant traffic over to your website.
Once you drive relevant traffic to your website, eventually—if your user experience engineering is good—you’ll convert your traffic into customers. And those customers could ultimately walk into your establishment or complete a transaction on your website online. Using the right keywords according to the different stages in the sales funnel allows you to manage your customer journey from awareness to information to desire building to consideration to conversion.
[slide: User Intent Classification for Keywords]
Let’s talk about user intents and classifications before I move on to the sales funnel.
Essentially, what we teach our employees here is that keywords are segregated into four purposes. Keywords can be navigational in nature, they can be informational in nature, they can be commercial, or they can be transactional. What do we mean?
Navigational keywords are company or brand queries, or they’re domain queries. An example of this might be, for seoreseller.com, it might be “seo reseller” with or without the space. That could be a navigational keyword for us. For nike.com, they’re navigational keyword would be “nike”; and for Macy’s it would be “macy’s”, and so on and so forth.
For informational keywords, these are generic terms. Take for example, Nike’s informational keywords might be “sneakers”, “performance sneakers”, “performance shoes”, “sports shoes”, “basketball shoes”. These are general, commercially benevolent terms. And people are typically just curious, they’re question oriented, or they’re research-based queries. They are solution-seeking queries. The user is looking to get educated. That is the primary purpose. There’s not necessarily an interest in a potential business relationship or a purchase.
Commercial keywords are a little different. Commercial keywords are informational keywords. However, they have future business implications. For example, “thailand activities”, “thailand scenery”, “thailand provinces” are informational terms. But if you start putting in “thailand vacation packages” they become commercially intentioned. “thailand vacation”, “thailand hotels”, or specifically, even if they type in “bangkok hotels”, these are commercial keywords.
Transactional keywords are actually purchasing keywords. If you guys have run SEM or PPC campaigns before, these will look like “thailand hotel deals”, “bangkok hotel deals”. These are transactional keywords. The business implication is clear and present. The conversion opportunity is high.
A pro tip for all of you guys: following these four user intents helps you identify the best-fitting keywords for your clients.
Just a thing to note: whenever you guys do keyword research, what you’ll find is that informational keywords typically have very high traffic values. When I say traffic values I mean the relevant queries that are happening for that term. However, the value to bid for those terms is particularly low. It’s because inside the conversion funnel, these are the terms that are the furthest from a purchase. If you do PPC or SEM your brand is probably going to be the cheapest keyword that you bid for. Informational keywords are going to be slightly more expensive. Commercial keywords are going to be more expensive, and transactional keywords are going to be very expensive.
An example of an expensive transactional keyword (actually, this one’s not going to be super expensive)—“buy flooring online” is a high-value transactional keyword.
[slide: Applying Keywords in the Sales Funnel]
Let’s take a look at the sales funnel. When you apply keywords into the sales funnel, the sales funnel is essentially you trying to define what your customer journey looks like. The customer journey takes you from brand awareness to product information to consideration to building desire to purchase. These are what the sections of the funnel represent. The keywords fall in this order:
Informational and navigational keywords fall in the highest tier because these are awareness and informational driving terms. These pages must be designed to educate. These pages must be designed to state whatever your unique selling proposition is. An example of an informational keyword would be “new york hotel”.
When you move them over to the consideration phase, it might be “hotels in manhattan new york”. And when you try to build desire, it could be “best hotels in manhattan new york”, “five star hotels in manhattan new york”, and if you’re trying to convert them, then the people that are doing the search might type “online booking for best hotels in manhattan new york”, “best pricing for manhattan ny hotels”, and so on and so forth.
In short, though, if you take a look, the keywords get longer as you go down the conversion funnel. So while the search queries may decrease at the bottom, their proximity to your conversion funnel is highest at the bottom. So high search volume at the top but far from conversion; low search volume at the bottom but high potential for conversion.
The longer the tail of the keyword, the closer to the conversion portion of your funnel; and the more general the keyword, the higher up it tends to be.
[slide: The Value of Traffic]
Let’s move on to the next slide, and I want to show you guys traffic value and this is about Disney. Disney would be an example of a navigational term. It is a brand. But when someone types “disney” it tends to be commercially benevolent. Why do we say commercially benevolent? We say commercially benevolent because you don’t really know whether the person’s just doing research about who’s Walt Disney, when was the Disney company founded, who the first mascot was, is it talking about Disney apparel, Disney cartoons, the amusement park—the bottom line is you don’t know. It’s a branded search. So the distance to conversion? Extremely, extremely far. Now if Disney were to do a PPC campaign, that would be the cheapest keyword that they would ever bid for.
Let’s create a variation and let’s assume “disneyland” or “disney (space) land” would be a variation of the term “disney”. This one is an informational keyword and you don’t even know which Disneyland they’re looking to go to, right? Anaheim; Florida; Tokyo; Hong Kong; there are several. So “disneyland” is still an informational keyword, still far from the conversion funnel. High query but mid traffic value.
Type in “disneyland hotels” and now we’re talking about some commercial action, because it looks like there is a potential conversion inside the query. When somebody looks for Disneyland hotels they’re typically looking for an experience. And so all you have to do now is narrow down where this user is coming from and so on and so forth. So a great example of a long tail conversion variation of this query is “hong kong disneyland hotel deals”. The search volume is the lowest of all the different types of keywords. However, the proximity to the sales funnel is extremely high.
It would sit here. So, I’ll move on.
[slide: Google’s Micro-Moments]
And again, if you guys have any questions feel free to ask them at any point in time.
Now why do we teach our employees about navigational keywords, transactional keywords, informational keywords, commercial keywords? In Google’s own words, Google translates queries into what they call moments. And Google translates keyword purposes into “I-want-to-know” moments, “I-want-to-go” moments, “I-want-to-do” moments, and “I-want-to-buy” moments.
In short, “I-want-to-know” moments are informational keywords. Consumers act on a need to learn something new instantaneously. Or they could be people just doing research.
People that do “I-want-to-go” moments, the consumer expects a location-based query, and queries are focused on maps, local searches, something within their proximity, and so on and so forth. It was very early on, I think data coming from 2010 and probably earlier, when Google realized that searches were usually, 60 percent location based. And that’s why they’ve invested so much in the robust development of Google Maps.
Now, what are “I-want-to-do” moments? “I-want-to-do” moments are consumers using their smartphones, their desktops, or whatever their device is to look for ideas while doing a specific task. And queries could be focused on how-to content, or where to do something, or other experiences they might want to do. Like take for example, if you guys went to an exotic beach and looking for what activities could be done there, those are “I-want-to-do” moments. These are what you use your commercial keywords on and these are where you take advantage of desire-building information.
And then, of course, you’ve got “I-want-to-buy” moments, which are transactional keywords. The consumer has decided what they’re going to buy; the question is, are they going to buy with you? And their decision will be influenced strongly by what they find online and usually last minute. So these tend to be your commercial and transactional queries.
[slide: Determining the Ideal Keywords]
I’m going to move on to Determining the Ideal Keywords. But before I do that, please feel free to send your questions via chat on the chat box on the upper right, and we’ll discuss them in the last ten minutes.
The next section I’m about to discuss with you guys is SEO Reseller methodology. And this is what we try to educate you on, and what we teach you when you’re dealing with your clients.
When you try to determine what keywords could potentially be successful, what factors can affect successful keyword selection, these are the four factors that we teach our project managers or analysts, and then ultimately, our partners.
Keywords that tend to drive success for a campaign are keywords whose purpose to landing pages match. The intent of the keyword and the intent of the page match. The keyword will usually have existing ranking equity.
If the keyword has existing semantic relevance your chances for a successful campaign are higher. And if the keywords are already supported by incumbent content on the website, then your potential for success is even higher.
I’ll just repeat the four: keyword purpose to landing page match; existing ranking equity; existing semantic relevance; and supportive content. Don’t worry; I’ll dive into each one in more detail now.
[slide: Keyword Purpose to Landing Page Match]
Let’s talk about keyword purpose to landing page match. This goes back to the four types of keywords we discussed, also goes back to Google’s four moments, right? Keywords can be navigational, information, commercial, or transactional in nature. If you’ve got a navigational keyword, that ideally lands on the home page. Don’t try to target a money term onto the homepage unless the money term is the core business.
Take for example, if the client you’re pitching was a lawyer, don’t try to target the term “divorce” or “prenuptial agreement” onto the homepage because that’s only one of the services that they offer. You target that to their category pages. But what you would want to target to the homepage would be the domain name, the registered name of the practice, or the lawyer’s name. These are ideal keywords to target navigationally onto the homepage. And the homepage is primarily a navigational page.
Informational pages. We ran a research a couple of months ago. Actually, there are also some blogs, like Search Engine Journal and Moz, that did their own research. They found that the pages that tend to rank on the first page for a hundred random keywords were pages that had 1800 words or better. We actually ran a parallel test and what we found was, against a hundred random keywords, pages with 1600 words or better tended to rank on positions 1, 2, 3.
Why is that? Well, for the same reason Wikipedia ranks for a lot of informational terms, right? The purpose of the user is to research. They want to learn information and therefore the more information-rich page tends to rank. And I side with Google on this one; they’re doing exactly the right thing. What keywords you will allow your clients to have sort of depends on what type of pages they already have or are willing to have inside their website. If they insist on having purely informational keywords, but they also insist on having highly designed, low content pages, it’s not going to work.
If they’re trying to target commercial keywords, take for example, carbon fiber sports bikes might be a commercial term that would usually not fall on your homepage unless that’s the only thing you sell, and you’re not selling any other bicycle parts. But if you’re selling complete bicycles or accessories or whatnot, a keyword like that would probably fall better inside your category pages, which are then commercial in nature, bringing your customers closer to the end of the conversion funnel.
Informational keywords must fall on informational pages. If your clients don’t have information-rich pages, the next question you need to ask is, “Are you willing to have information-rich pages?” Because if they’re not, then you need to target the keywords that require less content, such as commercial and transactional keywords.
Don’t allow transactional keywords on informational pages, and don’t allow informational keywords on product pages. You will do your customers a disservice.
This is the portion of the pitch where you need to be the pro, you need to be the expert. And sometimes being the expert means you diplomatically saying no. You need to know what’s right for the brand, what’s right for the website, and understand what kind of pages Google wants to present to its users in order for you to drive relevant traffic into the website.
[slide: Existing Semantic Relevance]
Let’s talk about existing semantic relevance. Just to remind everybody, the first thing we talked about was keyword purpose to landing page match. The second topic is Existing Semantic Relevance.
What’s existing semantic relevance? Simple: the site is already talking about that topic. Therefore, Google—the search engine—and other search engines have already established a contextual relationship between you, your brand, and your generic topic.
I’ll teach you guys a hack. This one is a great cheat. The easiest way to pick your keywords is to let Google show which keywords are relevant for you. Let Google do the work. Use the Google Keyword Planner. If you guys don’t know what the URL is, it’s down there at the bottom. You just go to http://adwords.google.com/keywordplanner. Or you guys could type keyword planner on Google and then follow result number 1. Don’t click the ad; don’t make Google pay for its own ads.
Go to the Keyword Planner and type your domain name inside the Your Product or Service box. Take note: don’t type it in your landing page; type it inside the keyword box. Type it in the product or service box. Once you do that, click Get Ideas.
And once you get ideas Google will present you into this page and will typically drop you either in Ad Group Ideas or Keyword ideas. Select Keyword Ideas.
Take a look. If you guys typed in starbucks.com, Google understands that the word starbucks.com is relevant to “coffee”, “frappuccino”, and other coffee-related terms. In short, Google already understands that there’s a relationship between that brand and these generic terms, right? Coffee, incredible, Frappuccino, incredible.
[slide: Existing Ranking Equity]
Number 3. And before I move to number 3, I’ll just remind you number 2, so number 1. Keyword to landing page match; number 2. Existing semantic relevance; number 3. Existing ranking equity.
For those of you that were part of the previous webinar, we talked very quickly about why our methodology puts caps on our search volume in order for it to rank. That’s because that’s the limit that allows us to rank 80% of campaigns, 60% of keywords on to the first page. However, just as with any rule, there are exceptions. And the exceptions are simple. Don’t deny your clients a keyword if it’s good enough to be on the first page of results. Don’t tell your client no, you can’t have that keyword if they’re already on the first page.
Here’s an example. One of the clients that we work with wants to rank for “kitchen furniture dubai”. I know that most of the guys listening are not in the Middle East but this is an actual campaign that we’re working on. One of the clients we are working on wants to rank for “kitchen furniture dubai”. They do custom furniture. If you take a look, the number of impressions are 2,931 and the number of times they got clicked is 9. The search volume on this keyword is particularly high, which would make them exceed the search volume limits that we allow for specific keyword groups.
However, if you take a look at the position, it’s already good enough. The brand’s relationship to that term is good enough to be on position 8. That tells you the search engine has a good understanding of the relationship of the brand to that generic keyword.
Keywords like this are easier to rank. All you have to do is take a look at what positions 1 to 7 are doing, what elements they have and you don’t, and leverage those elements. So when a client has existing ranking equity against a keyword, this is one of those times when no is the wrong answer.
Here’s another way for you guys to find existing ranking equity. The previous tool that we looked at was the Search Console. This is a third party tool called SEMrush. And if I plugged in “starbucks” against SEMrush and did an overview of what they’re ranking for, if you take a look they’re already ranking for these keywords—“birthday rewards”—so if they ever talk to you, don’t tell them you can’t rank for that keyword or we don’t want to run that keyword. “Calories in a latte”, although I don’t know about the commercial viability of that term, but you can’t say you can’t have these keywords because Google already understands the strong relationship between these topics and your brand.
[slide: Supportive Content]
Bernard: Let’s move on to the last. After I’ve moved on from existing ranking equity, the last thing you need to take a look at in order to identify whether that keyword is a good idea or not is Supportive Content. In short, is the content already talked about inside the content of your site?
One of the characteristics of a perfectly optimized page is keyword targetedness. You can’t rank for a term that you’re too ashamed to mention. You can’t. In order for you to become relevant for a term you must be free to mention that term inside your page.
The keyword topic and the client should have the following relationships:
The first kind of relationship is called a semantic relationship. A semantic relationship is simple; you’re actually talking about the topic. You’re actually talking about that keyword. The next relationship your content has to have to the keyword is a contextual relationship.
What is a contextual relationship? You’re already talking about topics that are related to that keyword. And then the last relationship that you need to take into consideration is called a syntactic relationship, or syntax.
What is a syntactic relationship? The term exists in your website in exactly the same order as the query. An example: Inside a query for site:seoreseller.com “white label social media”. If you take a look, it drops you to the seoreseller domain with a URL for white label social media. But more than that, the syntactic match exists inside the content of the page. And then we also have other pages that contain that.
Now why would a page like this rank, right? This is where Google is establishing a semantic relationship between the site’s homepage and white label social media, and so on and so forth. And Google just orders this based on relevance and the power of those pages, and so on and so forth.
But in short, it would be easier for you to rank pages, it would be easier for you to rank keywords where you’ve got pages with great supporting content for that keyword existing.
[slide: Short-tail vs Long-tail]
Let’s talk about the use of long-tail versus short-tail keywords. When do you use short-tail or long-tail in your keywords? And the answer is, it sort of depends. It depends on what your website is supposed to do.
If you’re a brick and mortar store, if you’re an existing business, if you’re a real business, and you require foot traffic in order to convert customers, then the purpose of your website might be to inform, create awareness, build desire, and that’s it. And your definition of a conversion might be the acquisition of your customers’ emails so you can put them into some form of marketing automation. But the purpose of the website has to determine whether you’re doing long-tail vs. short-tail keywords.
It also depends on the competition that you’re trying to win. Informational or commercial terms are great at driving huge bulks of traffic. However, longer tail variations are more successful at driving conversion. So it’s a balance of what the SEO campaign really is, what the budget of the client is, and how much time they’ve got on their hands.
Whenever I talk about winning an SEO campaign and selecting keywords, I like to use the wedding analogy.
[slide: The Wedding Analogy]
You need to figure out what is your client trying to achieve and what is negotiable with what they want to achieve.
When you run an SEO campaign it’s like running a wedding. And a wedding can either be cheap, beautiful, or fast. A wedding can be cheap, beautiful, or fast in the same way that an SEO campaign can be cheap, effective, and fast. You can get two out of three. You can’t get all three.
A wedding can be beautiful and fast, but it’s not going to be cheap. A wedding can be cheap and fast, but it’s not going to be beautiful. And a wedding can be cheap and beautiful but it’s not going to be fast.
This analogy is what I use whenever I need to describe SEO campaigns that run with us. I need to find out when I talk to customers which one is negotiable. Is the budget negotiable? Is the marketing goal negotiable? Or is the time negotiable? But one of the three things has to be negotiable.
[slide: Keyword Density and Grouping]
I’ll move on to talking more about our methodology and this time it’s a guide to keyword density and grouping. Remember, feel free to make use of the chat box on the right if you guys have questions.
Let’s talk about SEO Reseller’s keyword density and grouping.
When we talk about keyword density and grouping, remember that we’re very Panda minded. We want to make sure that the page is not spammy, that it doesn’t overuse the keywords and it’s obviously not just built for a bot. When we take a look at keyword density, we take a look at both page density and content density.
What’s page density? Page density is the number of times the keyword is mentioned inside the entire page’s source code. That means including navs, including branding, including footers. How many times are the core terms used or how many times are the keywords used throughout the entire page?
Content density just talks about how many times the keyword is mentioned within the body, HTML tags.
So when we assess websites, in order to figure out whether they are over-optimized or not, we try to make sure that keywords are not mentioned greater than 5% of the time throughout the page.
When is there an exception to this? If the brand is very closely named to the generic term, you actually can exceed 5%. However, if the brand is not closely related to the generic term, we always try to trim it down to be less than 5% percent throughout the entire page. And when we create content for it, we try to limit the content to become less than 3%.
These are critical markers because you could get Panda warnings if you over-optimize you keywords to greater than these values.
Bernard: When we actually execute your content, we will only write 1-2% keyword density in any webpage content that we create. And when we create off-page content and then we blog outreach for you the content will only contain the keyword a maximum 1-2%. And we really try to limit it closer to 1 then we try to limit it to 2.
When we do on-page content for you, one of the things that we will do is we will mention other relevant services, other relevant topics and we will hyperlink them to the most relevant pages that they need to be supported with. When we execute off-page, we try to limit it within 1-2%, with one exact-match to two partials, and only one keyword is hyperlinked to the client’s site. And there are 1-2 other semantically related terms pointing to other relevant websites.
Google does not like advertorial content. If your off-page looks like it’s endorsing you, it is a clear sign to the search engine that you bought the link, or there is a commercial relationship between you and whoever posted the content, and that’s link buying, which violates Google’s quality guidelines.
Try not to intervene in what kind of off-page there is about you. The only thing that matters about off-page is the referral traffic and the noise about you online.
More on keyword density and grouping. Keyword grouping is the practice of categorizing keywords into groups in order to simplify PPC campaign administration. However, for SEO we also group our keywords.
An example is digital marketing agency, digital marketing company, and digital marketing service provider. I have seen clients group digital marketing agency, digital marketing, and digital marketing service together. Those are not all contextually the same.
A digital marketing agency is an entity, a digital marketing company is an entity, a digital marketing provider is an entity. A digital marketing service is a service, and therefore it does not mean the same thing to the user. Therefore, you should not try to target them within the same page.
Make sure that whenever you get keyword groupings like this from your clients, try not to say yes to everything, or else, you’re doing them a disservice while you’re doing the pitch. So don’t say yes to everything. Be the experts that your clients need and sometimes the right answer is no.
Let’s give you guys some practical applications of what we’ve learned so far.
[slide: Challenges in Keyword Selection (and How to Overcome Them)]
Bernard: If you guys are executing a 30-minute to 1-hour pitch, here are a few objections you might overcome when it comes to you guys giving them keywords.
[slide: Challenge #1: Saying No to a Keyword]
Challenge no. 1 is saying no to a keyword. Take for example a specific vanity keyword. In SEO we try to teach our partners that it’s all about gunning for multiple little grails than gunning for that one holy grail.
Should you try to hit a keyword with 10,000 exact searches a month, or should you try to hit 10 keywords with 10, 20, 30, 120 searches every month? And the answer is, you’re most likely going to rank for the ones with smaller search volumes. However, you’ll drive traffic to the website today.
A great example is the keyword Family Law Houston. For some reason, this keyword is incredibly difficult to rank, and the Houston area is incredibly competitive when it comes to law terms. More competitive than Boston, more competitive than New York, and more competitive than Los Angeles. I don’t know what it is with Houston but it’s very competitive in terms of legal terms.
If the client tells you, I want to rank for “family law Houston”, you should not be abashed about beginning a conversation asking them, would it not be better to rank for divorce, child custody, child support, prenuptial agreements, and other related family law terms that can drive traffic to them sooner rather than trying to gun for that one holy grail core term which is “family law Houston”? Look for easier wins in order for you guys to drive relevant traffic today. And you’re not going to drive relevant traffic today really, because SEO is momentum driven. However, the more sensible the term, the more sensible the term is to the competition, the more sensible the term is to the competitors, the more likely you are to drive relevant traffic to your client’s website today.
[slide: Challenge #2: Watering Down the Vanity Keyword]
The next challenge you might encounter is watering down the vanity keyword.
What’s a vanity keyword? In traditional marketing, we have two goals: brands will have a tactical goal and they will have a strategic goal. Strategic goals tend to be goals that are highly relevant to revenue. Tactical goals are—the decision-maker gets a kick out of achieving that result, like take for example, for SEO Reseller, I look at the competitors and one of my vanity goals is I just need to make sure I’m higher than that competitor, that competitor, and that competitor. And those are verbatim instructions I give to my marketing team.
An example is when the client or your decision-maker, or in our case, the boss wants to beat the competitor for a specific term, even when they’re already on top spots for over a hundred keywords, what you should do is set expectations on what you can and cannot win. This is so important. Don’t try to over-promise and under-deliver. It is significantly better to under-promise and over-deliver.
Focus on long-tail variations that drive business today especially if the domain is young and the website is new. And sometimes the right answer is no. But remember that just because it’s no today does not mean it will perpetually be a no to your client forever. What if sometimes the answer is not yet? And we can explore doing that a year down the road, two years down the road, and so on and so forth. And yes, you can retain SEO clients that long.
[slide: Challenge #3: Targeting for a Specific Term, but the Equity is on the Homepage]
Bernard: Let’s talk about challenge number 3. Targeting for a specific term, but the equity is on the homepage. This one is a great challenge. I love seeing this challenge and I love it when I see my SEOs overcome this.
An example would be, you’ve got a term that you want to rank for, like take for example the earlier example I gave was “carbon fiber sports bike”. If you’re selling different types of biking gear, biking equipment, or bicycles all together inside your website, but “carbon fiber sports bike” ranks on the homepage, obviously there’s something wrong.
Take note: that isn’t always the work of a sloppy SEO that worked on your site. But remember, for the homepage it’s easy to steal equity for a lot of keywords because the homepage is typically the most powerful page in your domain.
What’s the right way to rank the right page for the right keyword? I’ll give you guys an example from experience. The client offers a large range of vacation services and they’re a resort in Colorado, but they wanted to rank for a specific term, which is “white water rafting in Colorado”. The problem was, that term was ranking in the homepage and the homepage isn’t just talking about “white water rafting”. It’s talking about all the different activities that you could do in the Colorado resort.
What we needed to do was make an inner page more relevant than “white water rafting Colorado”. Inside the site audit, what we found was, every time the term “white water rafting Colorado” was hyperlinked, it was hyperlinked to the homepage. And that’s a problem. Because you’re giving the search engine a signal that your homepage is the most relevant page for “white water rafting Colorado”. So what we did was we built an inner page that would become relevant for the term “white water rafting Colorado” and we built a… This is an I-want-to-do moment, by the way, in the eyes of Google, therefore creating a commercial page is what was appropriate.
We created a page for white water rafting, we created content that was algorithmically compatible with ranking, with making it more visible on Google. We split the term “white water rafting in Colorado” between the homepage and the inner page just so the rankings didn’t drop like a rock.
The moment we got the word “white water rafting in Colorado” two positions below the homepage, it was then time to take the content from the homepage and all the inner links from the domain and transfer them to the inner page. And then we got the inner page to outrank the homepage. So that’s what we did in order to get a specific term higher on the search rankings.
This is an example of matching the keyword to the purpose of the page. The purpose of the keyword must be a match for the purpose of the page.
In summary, understanding your keywords helps you select the right terms according to the different stages your customers are in inside your search funnel. Or where they are or how mature they are inside your customer journey.
You have to categorize keywords according to user intent, which is navigational, informational, commercial, or transactional. Or, according to Google, I-want-to-know moments, I-want-to-go moments, I-want-to-buy moments, and I-want-to-do moments.
Keywords should also match the purpose of the landing page. The purpose of the keyword needs to match the purpose of the landing page, or you’re not very likely to rank.
Find existing semantic relevance between the keywords that the client wants and the website. And if that relationship is not there, ask your client, if you want this commercial term, are you willing to build a commercial page? If you want this informational term, are you ready to build an informational page? And if the answer is no, then they can’t have that keyword. This has more to do with your salesmanship than anything else.
Just because you like being right doesn’t mean—just because you got your first no through the door and closed the deal anyway doesn’t mean you should get addicted to it. Don’t deny your clients a keyword if it’s good enough to be seen on the first page or even on the higher second page. Don’t deny your clients a keyword if it’s good enough for Google to display you as a result of search on the first page or the high second page.
The keyword topic and client should have a semantic, contextual, or syntactic match to the pages.
And keywords need to respect the right density and should be in correct keyword groups.
[slide: For Our Partners]
For our partners, we’ve actually created a downloadable PDF Training Guide of what we’ve covered in this conversation so far, and it’s the How to Do Effective Keyword Research Guide, and it is available through the bit.ly link here, which is bit.ly/keyword-research-partner-guide, or you guys can go to your dashboard and download it from there.
[slide: Q&A Session]
I’ve already covered about 48 minutes of our time, actually about 49 minutes, so we’ve got about 11 minutes left for questions and answers. I’ll start with the first question.
Q: I have a client with a page on safety pool covers. Content on the page is low because there’s only so much you can say about them. How do you get around that? Yoast SEO said content was too low.
A: Here’s the first thing, safety pool covers sounds informational and it could be converted to a commercial page. What you need to do inside that page is to educate a user. The question is—I don’t believe there’s only so much you can say about them. Like take for example, what kind of pool shapes are they compatible with? What are the benefits of pool covers? Are they for children in the house? Are they there so that you maintain your pool less frequently, so that you change water less frequently? Are they usable for all pools of shapes and sizes? Do you need them if your pool is indoors? There are so many questions that can be asked for that topic so I think Yoast is right, you need to add more content onto that page. Take note, if we go back to a few webinars before, when you add more content, make sure you also add content in different formats. I hope that was helpful and I didn’t dance around your question.
Q: Between the title and the description, which holds the highest weight in Google’s algorithm?
A: Great question, easy to answer. The title. The description has no algorithmic weight in terms of rankings. The meta description is a CTR tool. It is part of the onpage content of your site as far as keyword relevance, keyword targeting goes, but please don’t try to optimize your meta descriptions for rankings. Optimize your meta descriptions for click-through. The meta description is not a powerful ranking factor. It is a powerful click-through converter, and that’s what you need to use it as.
Q: Why is it necessary to put a cap on the monthly average search volume?
A: I got this question the last time too and this is really based on our methodology. The reason we try limit you guys to 2000 exact matches per five keywords in an organic package is because based on our methodology and our observation, that is what we can rank 80% of the time and for 60% of its keywords on the first page. More than that and we can’t predictably say that we will be successful 80% of the time or that we could get 60% of the keywords on the homepage. The methodology is designed with just enough power to rank enough keywords, and that is unfortunately its limit. Now, remember, in spite of that rule let’s go back to one of the topics that we talked about earlier. Don’t deny your clients a keyword if it’s good enough to be on Google’s first page or on the high second page, so that’s not a hard and fast rule that’s set in stone. How do you get over the rule? Talk to your project manager. It’s always just a negotiation and SEO is an opinion game.
Q: When grouping keywords, is there a difference between the plural and singular variation, and do I need to put them into separate groups?
A: This one’s a great question. When I personally consult for an SEO campaign and I’m working on a website that is a single brand, I don’t offer them plural variations of their keywords. Think about it, if you were a user, when do you type in plural variations of a keyword? Essentially when you’re looking for choices. When you’re looking for choices, when you’re looking for selections, and therefore you’re expecting to land on a website that offers you that selection. Like take for example, “hotels Brisbane”, “hotels new york”, “hotels los angeles”, what are you guys looking for? You’re looking for your options. If you were one of the hotels inside New York, would you really post your competitors inside your own website? Probably not. Therefore, I would strongly advise ranking for the singular version, and leave the plural version to review websites, aggregator websites, and so on and so forth. Now if push comes to shove, yes you can optimize them. But make sure that the way you mention that keyword is highly readable, and sounds good inside the body content, because it doesn’t, you won’t rank for it. So yes, there’s a difference between the plural and the singular because the plural is a comparative search in nature and the singular is not. The singular could be awareness building, information building, consideration building, desire building. So there’s a difference. Do I need to put them into separate groups? If you must have both, not really. But again the recommendation is you should only have one.
Q: How do you test if the keyword is converting?
A: This is a tougher question to answer. The correct answer to this is a bit technical. If you want to test if a keyword is converting, the first thing that you have to do is make sure that your Google Search Console and your Analytics are integrated. Because if they’re not integrated, you’re going to get your keywords in a Not Provided collection inside Analytics. Integrate them together and there is a way for you to track what keywords got impressions and clicks from your Search Console and then drive that to Analytics. If you are mapping your keywords on to specific pages, you can then monitor how they’re performing in your Analytics and how your users are using your website and how the user experience is like after that. This one is more than a webinar on its own so it’s going to be difficult to answer. But the right answer is integrate your Search Console and your Analytics, set up your goals and your funnels inside your Analytics. And that will ultimately allow you to track which keywords are effective for you. The easiest way, by the way, is to take a look at your Search Console. The keywords that drive the most impressions and clicks are the most effective keywords. You’re not going to find them in Analytics. Your result-driving keywords are inside your Search Console.
Q: If I start an SEO campaign with you for one of my clients, how much say will I have in the keyword selection?
A: It sort of depends. How much experience do you have with SEO? If you have a lot of experience with SEO, you’re going to have a lot of say. If the project managers have more experience than you in SEO, and our project managers will typically have anywhere between 3-5 years’ worth of experience in SEO, I will strongly recommend that you guys allow them to service you well by giving them a strong say in what keywords will wind up being successful or not. But if the question is meant to ask, are we going to bulldoze our way through you so that we can get our keywords and get you to pay for it, the answer is no. Getting the right keywords for a campaign is a negotiation between you and your project manager. We want the same thing. We want the website to rank. We want it to have more traffic. We want the business to become more successful. I hope I didn’t dance around that question and that made sense. If that question was not satisfactory, by the way, feel free to call these numbers, and the project manager will explain to you what our keyword selection process is like.
Q: Do we, the agency owner, follow a project brief template? There seems to be a lot of detailed questions the SEO needs to know. It will actually be better for the SEO to ask since they’ll be doing the work. And I think the agency is best suited for the sale and that is it. But if you’re putting the technical SEO stuff, and the sale is in the hands of the agency, is there a good project brief scope worksheet for us?
A: Great question. The answer is yes. Whenever you guys launch a campaign with us, your project managers will send you intake forms with the information that we need to write the content, optimize the site, and so on and so forth. Even optimize the site, like credentials to the website, is it built on WordPress, and so on and so forth. So we do give you a project brief, we send out an intake form with any campaign that you guys launch with us. The other thing is I would expect our project managers to have a conversation with you in order to understand what our mutual client’s business is about. Because it allows the project manager to relay that information to his team that will execute the work. So yes there are intake forms, yes they’re in the dashboard, yes your project manager will send them to you, and yes I expect that conversation to happen.
Q: When creating an inner page to rank a keyword, would you recommend placing it on navigation tab or not?
A: That depends. How important is the keyword? There’s a rule here. Google’s index budget is highest on pages that are closely related to the keyword, meaning the more shallow the page, the more likely you are to rank it. When you create an inner page, and you want to put it on the nave, the question is, is there good user value to that page being navigable from the navigation of your homepage? Is there value with that page being directly navigable from the homepage? Or from any page, for that matter, because you’re putting it inside the navigation. So if there’s high user value in that page being easily accessible, highly visible, yes put it on the nav. If your intent is just to rank that page then there are several ways to boilerplate that but you don’t necessarily want to put it on the nav. Let’s go back to a couple of webinars ago: Google rule no. 3. Build for the user. If you build for the user the page will rank.
Q: Is it advisable to tweak the content of the website even if it’s already ranking just to insert your target keyword?
A: Great question. First of all, it wouldn’t already be ranking if Google didn’t understand that there actually was an existing semantic, contextual and syntactic relationship to the page. So, if we’re saying ranking, the rule that we have in the office is, if the page already ranks on positions 1, 2, 3, don’t touch it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? So don’t tweak the content on the website if it’s already ranking. And when I say ranking, I mean positions 1, 2, 3. If it is ranking for positions 5 through 10, yes by all means tweak the content especially if the content of the landing page and the keyword don’t match.
Bernard: I’m out of time and so that’s the last question I can have. Buy you guys tossed in some pretty challenging and some really great questions. I look forward to seeing you guys next month on the next Boost Your Business Webinar. I’ll wrap this up. Thank you very much for your time. If you guys have more questions, feel free to schedule a call by clicking here or dial our toll-free numbers, our US numbers, our Australia numbers, and our UK numbers. We’ve got project managers that work Mondays to Fridays on your hours. We’re a 24/5 company. And if you want to send us an email, feel free to email us at [email protected]. Trade secret: I receive those emails too. Thank you very much, you’ve been a gracious audience. I appreciate your time, and I hope to see you next time on the next Boost Your Business Webinar. Cheers!