[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 make effective keyword research and keyword selection.
[slide: Meet the Expert]
Again, I’m Bernard, 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 before SEO Reseller.
I’ve taken a couple of companies to multi-million-dollar status. Over 300 websites—that number is 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.
In the last Partner Bootcamp series, we discussed how you could effectively use each part of SEOReseller Site Audit to win new clients and how to recommend the right solutions as well as begin a successful SEO campaign.
As we said last month, the campaign’s success 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 going to do a deep dive on this topic specifically with this webinar.
We also talked about accessibility and indexability. We talked about how search engines are copies of the World Wide Web and that the result you can get from your website depends on how complete and comprehensive a search engine’s copy and understanding of your website is inside its mainframe.
We talked about on-page, which is essentially meta content and on-page content, and how to use your URLs, your H1 tags, your meta titles, your meta descriptions, and so on.
We also talked about a healthy backlink profile, what your digital footprint looks like versus your competitors,’ and whether you’re mentioned naturally or whether you’re mentioned unnaturally.
I also showed you guys a couple of samples of some penalties you can get from Google if you are following a methodology that isn’t compliant with Google standards.
If you 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, 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 the part where I wish I had a prompter that I could 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. 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.
You can get more details by following bit.ly/ppc-rebate.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 selection to drive more business and value for your clients.
The topics we will talk about are understanding what keywords are and what they really mean relative to a marketing strategy and the sales funnel. What is the user’s intent, and what classifications of keywords fall under the intentions of those users?
We’ll also discuss how to determine and select the ideal keywords for your campaign. 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 you are bound to get from the clients you pitch 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 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 terms 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.
Many people think that keywords were invented by SEOs or search engines. But in reality, they’re not. The general marketing community has used 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 a core term relevant to your business. Either that or it’s a query that a user will type into the search engine to find your clients’ services.
Keywords are also said to be long-tail or short-tail variations. Short-tail is a misnomer. There are 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 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. I will 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 in 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 you understand the query that users are trying to search for.
If you understand the generic terms that people type into a search box to find a service like yours, you will drive relevant traffic 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]
Before I move on to the sales funnel, let’s talk about user intents and classifications.
We teach our employees here that keywords are segregated into four purposes. Keywords can be navigational, they can be informational, 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, their navigational keyword would be “Nike”; for Macy’s, it would be “Macy’s,” and so on.
For informational keywords, these are generic terms. Take, for example, Nike’s informational keywords might be “sneakers,” “performance sneakers,” “performance shoes,” “sports shoes,” or “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,” and “Thailand provinces” are informational terms. But if you start putting in “Thailand vacation packages,” they become commercially intentioned.
For “Thailand vacation,” “Thailand hotels,” or specifically, even if they type in “Bangkok hotels,” these are commercial keywords.
Transactional keywords are purchasing keywords. If you guys have run SEM or PPC campaigns before, these will look like “Thailand hotel deals” or “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 is that whenever you do keyword research, you’ll find 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 terms are the furthest from a purchase. If you do PPC or SEM, your brand will probably be the cheapest keyword 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 to 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 a 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,” or “five-star hotels in Manhattan, New York.”
If you’re trying to convert them, the people doing the search might type “online booking for best hotels in Manhattan, New York,” “best pricing for Manhattan NY hotels,” and so on.
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 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, what is the distance to conversion? Extremely, extremely far. If Disney were to do a PPC campaign, that would be the cheapest keyword 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, far from the conversion funnel. High query but mid-traffic value.
Type in “Disneyland hotels,” and now we’re talking about some commercial activity because it looks like a potential conversion inside the query. When somebody looks for Disneyland hotels, they’re typically looking for an experience. All you have to do now is narrow down where this user is coming from.
So, a great example of this query’s long tail conversion variation 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.
Now, why do we teach our employees about navigational keywords, transactional keywords, informational keywords, and 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.
For 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.
It was very early on, 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, desktops, or devices to look for ideas while doing a specific task.
Queries could be focused on how-to content, where to do something or other experiences they might want to do.
For example, if you went to an exotic beach and looked for what activities could be done there, those are “I-want-to-do” moments. These are what you use your commercial keywords on and are where you take advantage of desire-building information.
Then, 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 in the chat box on the upper right, and we’ll discuss them in the last ten minutes.
The next section I will discuss with you guys is SEO Reseller methodology. This is what we try to educate you on and what we teach you when you’re dealing with your clients.
When you determine what keywords could potentially be successful and 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 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 and also goes back to Google’s four moments, right? Keywords can be navigational, information, commercial, or transactional.
If you’ve got a navigational keyword, that ideally lands on the home page. Don’t try to target a money term on the homepage unless the money term is the core business.
For example, if the client you’re pitching is a lawyer, don’t try to target the term “divorce” or “prenuptial agreement” on the homepage because that’s only one of the services they offer.
You target that to their category pages. But what you would want to target on 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 on the homepage. And the homepage is primarily a navigational page.
Informational pages. We ran a research a couple of months ago. Some blogs, like Search Engine Journal and Moz, also did their own research.
They found that the pages that tended to rank on the first page for a hundred random keywords 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, and 3.
Why is that? For the same reason, Wikipedia ranks for many informational terms, right? The purpose of the user is to research. They want to learn information, so the more information-rich page tends to rank.
I side with Google on this one. They’re doing exactly the right thing. What keywords you will allow your clients to have 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, they also insist on having highly designed, low-content pages.
Suppose they’re trying to target commercial keywords, for example. In that case, 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, 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, you need to target the keywords that require less content, such as commercial and transactional.
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. 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 for you to drive relevant traffic to the website.
[slide: Existing Semantic Relevance]
Let’s talk about existing semantic relevance. Just to remind everybody, we first discussed 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. 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. 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.
Once you get ideas, Google will present you on this page and will typically drop you either in Ad Group Ideas or Keyword Ideas. Select Keyword Ideas.
Take a look. If you guys type 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. Before I move to number 3, I’ll just remind you of number 2. So number 1. Keyword to landing page match, number 2. Existing semantic relevance, and 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 for it to rank. That’s because that’s the limit that allows us to rank 80% of campaigns and 60% of keywords on 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 any; you can’t have that keyword if they’re already on the first page.
Here’s an example. One of the clients 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 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 look, the number of impressions is 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 look at the position, it’s already good enough. The brand’s relationship to that term is good enough to be in position 8. That tells you the search engine understands the brand’s relationship to that generic keyword.
Keywords like this are easier to rank. All you have to do is 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.
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.
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 look at 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 you’re too ashamed to mention. You can’t. To become relevant for a term, you must be free to mention that term on 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 talking about the topic. You’re talking about that keyword. The next relationship your content has to have to the keyword is 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 on your website in 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 SEO reseller domain with a URL for white-label social media. But more than that, the syntactic match exists inside the page’s content. And then we also have other pages that contain that.
Now, why would a page like this rank right? This is where Google establishes a semantic relationship between the site’s homepage, white-label social media, and so on. And Google just orders this based on relevance, those pages’ power, and so on.
But in short, it would be easier for you to rank pages, and it would be easier for you to rank keywords where you’ve got pages with great supporting content for that keyword.
[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, an existing business, a real business, and require foot traffic to convert customers, then the purpose of your website might be to inform, create awareness, build desire, and that’s it.
Your definition of conversion might be the acquisition of your customers’ emails so you can put them into some form of marketing automation. But the website’s purpose 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 client’s budget is, and how much time they’ve got on their hands.
Whenever I talk about winning an SEO campaign and selecting keywords, I use the wedding analogy.
[slide: The Wedding Analogy]
You need to figure out what your client is 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. A wedding can either be cheap, beautiful, or fast. Much like the same way 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 will be costly. A wedding can be cheap and fast, but it will not be beautiful. A wedding can be cheap and beautiful but will be slow.
This analogy is what I use to describe SEO campaigns that run with us. When I talk to customers, I need to find out which 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 to use the chat box on the right if you guys have questions.
Let’s talk about SEO Reseller’s keyword density and grouping.
Remember that we’re very Panda-minded when discussing keyword density and grouping. We want to make sure that the page is not spammy, that it doesn’t overuse the keywords, and that 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, branding, and 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 often the keyword is mentioned within the body and HTML tags.
When we assess websites 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 can exceed 5%. However, if the brand is not closely related to the generic term, we always try to trim it down to 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 your 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 blog outreach for you, the content will only contain the keyword a maximum of 1-2%. And we 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 and 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 to 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. Suppose your off-page looks like it’s endorsing you. In that case, 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 to simplify PPC campaign administration. However, for SEO, we also group our keywords.
Examples are digital marketing agencies, digital marketing companies, and digital marketing service providers. I have seen clients group digital marketing agencies, 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, and 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 on 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.
[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. 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 ten keywords with 10, 20, 30, or 120 searches every month? The answer is that you will 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 regarding 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 if 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. 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, and 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. 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 in 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. 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 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 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, “carbon fiber sports bike.” If you’re selling different types of biking gear, biking equipment, or bicycles on 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 many keywords because it 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 on the homepage, and the homepage wasn’t just talking about “white water rafting.” It talks about all the different activities you could do in the Colorado resort.
We needed to 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.
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, and we created content that was algorithmically compatible with ranking, 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 to get a specific term higher on the search rankings.
This is an example of matching the keyword to the page’s purpose. The purpose of the keyword must be a match for the page.
In summary, understanding your keywords helps you select the right terms according to your customers’ different stages 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? Are you ready to build an informational page if you want this informational term? 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 go 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 the 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 must respect the right density and be in the correct keyword groups.
[slide: For Our Partners]
For our partners, we’ve 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.
It is available through the bit.ly link here, bit.ly/keyword-research-partner-guide, or you can go to your dashboard and download it from there.
[slide: Q&A Session]
I’ve already covered about 48 minutes of our time, 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 the content was too low.
A: Here’s the first thing, safety pool covers sound informational and could be converted to a commercial page. What you need to do on that page is to educate a user. The question is—I don’t believe there’s only so much you can say about them.
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 Yoast is right; you need to add more content to 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 that 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 on-page content of your site as far as keyword relevance and 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 cap the monthly average search volume?
A: I got this question the last time, too, and this is based on our methodology. The reason we try to limit you guys to 2000 exact matches per five keywords in an organic package is that 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, 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, which is, unfortunately, its limit.
Now, remember, despite that rule, let’s go back to one of the topics we discussed earlier. Don’t deny your clients a keyword if it’s good enough to be on Google’s first page or the high second page, so that’s not a hard and fast rule 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 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 you’re expecting to land on a website that offers you that selection. For example, “hotels Brisbane,” “hotels new york,” and “hotels los angeles” what are you guys looking for? You’re looking for your options.
If you were one of the hotels in New York, would you post your competitors on 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.
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 if 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, or 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 technical. If you want to test if a keyword is converting, you must first ensure that your Google Search Console and your Analytics are integrated.
Because if they’re not integrated, you will get your keywords in a Not Provided collection inside Analytics. Integrate them, 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.
Suppose you are mapping your keywords onto specific pages. In that case, you can then monitor how they’re performing in your Analytics and how your users are using your website, and what the user experience is like after that.
This is more than a webinar, so it will take a lot of work to answer. But the right answer is to integrate your Search Console and Analytics, then set up your goals and funnels inside your Analytics.
That will ultimately allow you to track which keywords are effective for you. The easiest 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 depends. How much experience do you have with SEO? If you have a lot of SEO experience, you’ll 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 serve 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 my answer made sense. If that question is not satisfactory, feel free to call these numbers, and the project manager will explain our keyword selection process.
Q: Do we, the agency owner, follow a project brief template? There are a lot of detailed questions the SEO needs to know. It will be better for the SEO to ask since they’ll be doing the work. And I think the agency is best suited for 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 we need to write the content, optimize the site, and so on.
Even optimize the site, like credentials to the website. 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 converse with you 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 the 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 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 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 in 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 and highly visible, then 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 previous webinars: 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 website’s content even if it’s already ranking just to insert your target keyword?
A: Great question. First, it wouldn’t already be ranking if Google didn’t understand that there was an existing semantic, contextual, and syntactic relationship to the page. So, if we’re saying ranking, the rule we have in the office is, if the page already ranks on positions 1, 2, or 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. When I say ranking, I mean positions 1, 2, and 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, so that’s the last question I can have. But you guys tossed in some pretty challenging and great questions. I look forward to seeing you guys next month at 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, US numbers, Australia numbers, and UK numbers.
We’ve got project managers that work Mondays to Fridays during 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 hope to see you next time at the Boost Your Business Webinar. Cheers!