We’ve just completed a number of SEO strategy projects for various clients. Part of our work here is to help folks understand what they’re getting into and why – to explain what separates a good keyword strategy from a stinker. I thought I’d share a bit of the thinking with you…
Your goal for SEO: to generate ‘high value’ prospective customer traffic.
‘High value’ means visitors who are engaged with your product / services set and are actively looking for help.
‘Prospective’ means visitors who are new, or relatively new to you / your site and are looking to you as a potential vendor and solutions partner.
Broadly speaking, you need to capture the interest of people who are researching solutions to problems that you can solve, and to divert their attention to strategic points within your web site.
How? Well, one big thing to consider is your KEYWORDS. (There’s more to SEO than this, but we’ll just concentrate on keyword principles for now…)
Your aim is to structure your on- and off-site content using the words that your audience is using to search the web – so that you improve your chances of featuring on the first couple of pages of Google in relation to a given search query.
For example, if you’re in the business of IPTV and your audience is searching around your backyard using phrases like ‘IPTV content management software,’ then you need to align the language you use to describe yourself with these terms.
At the same time, you need to be aligning yourself with a set of keywords in a ‘win-able’ arena amongst competitors: some keywords will have no competition, others will be red hot.
In simple terms, this last point creates a ‘keyword index.’ You need to place a calculated bet on where you want to play. Your choice should be calibrated by the following formula:
Volume of daily searchers on any given key word
Volume of other web pages that are optimised around those keywords
Clearly you want to engage with as many people as possible that are using search terms related to your products / services. At the same time, you want to position yourself where you can compete, given the resources you have to hand.
The challenge is best illustrated by a quick experiement….
If you’re in the business of software apps for sales support, you might choose to optimise around the term ‘CRM.’ This would currently give you an audience of 563 searchers per day on Google. Unfortunately, it would also put you in direct competition with 129 million other web pages that are optimised on that term. Alternatively, if you were to focus your keywords around the concept of ‘sales management software’ you’d have a total audience of around 50 searchers a day; and using this route, you’d be up against approximately 150,000 other pages.
Clearly the chances of capturing the attention of a ‘CRM’ searcher are more remote than for a ‘sales management software’ searcher…. and this ought to give you plenty of food for thought, because conventional branding wisdom becomes a little cloudy in the face of hard data.
But choosing keywords is not just a question of running the numbers. Those branding considerations are absolutely essential to a successful SEO strategy.
For example, you need to consider the following things…
You brand equity – what’s does your overall investment in non-web language mean to this work? What about your sales patter and your product naming conventions? Do these things fit with your keyword findings?
Market maturity – does your current searching public really reflect where the market is at? Are you leading them or following them? What stage is your market in terms of possessing a common body of language to describe its problems and requirements?
Influential people – are industry analysts setting the market terms? Or are they just spinning far-fetched yarns? Do you need to follow or ignore them? What influence do they have on your customers? Will this influence matter tomorrow? Has it already had an impact?
Your resources – can you afford to compete in hotly competed areas? If you have a mega-budget, why not just nuke it out? If your resources are small, can you find smarter keyword arenas to play in?
The quality of the data sample – if you’re playing in niche territories, are you willing to bet a keyword / naming convention on a sample of 10 searchers per day? Once your product category matures, how are the trends going to change?
The state of the nation – can you afford not to play in competitive fields?
The above questions should create an interesting debate where branding ideas meet public perceptions of you and your products and services.
Ultimately, your SEO choices will be determined by your guts and your resources.
Some words of warning…
Be warned, branding babies should never be thrown out with the bath water.
Competition is also a key factor. To nuke it or to duck it is not always clear cut.
As ever, you’ll make plenty of branding compromises and web concessions along the way… The best advice we can give is to treat your keywords strategy as a journey – experiment, tweak and try again. The path to SEO nirvana wasn’t built in a day…