As highlighted a couple of weeks ago, I have decided that with the growth of the search engine optimization (SEO) industry, it is important to ensure that we don’t forget the many newcomers. With many new business owners and webmasters exploring SEO for the first time, this series of articles looks to assist with the basic information needed to start a search engine marketing campaign.
In the first part of the series, I wish to ensure we discuss the importance of a solid foundation. When starting any SEO campaign it is tempting to leap straight in and start tweaking meta tags and changing text. However, like any successful marketing strategy, it is vital to ensure that you know whom your audience is and how to reach them. In the same way traditional advertising agencies survey their demographic audience, search engine marketers must ensure that their SEO campaign targets the correct keywords or search phrases. Target the wrong search phrase and you could end up with great search engine rankings for keywords that have no search requests. A few hours now spent ensuring that the correct search phrases are targeted, can save months of useless optimization.
When you started your company or developed your products, you no doubt sat down with your friends, relatives and business partners and discussed the needs of your target audience. You would have been foolish to stubbornly press ahead with your products without first testing the market to see if there was a demand. Likewise, when you start out on your SEO campaign it is important to brainstorm search phrases that are likely to bring qualified visitors to your website. Sit down with your co-workers and business partners and discuss which keywords are relevant to the products and services you offer. Compile an initial list of 5-10 search phrases that you feel best represent your company and which you believe people would type into a search engine when trying to find you. Consider the following factors when brainstorming:
- Is your audience likely to search for industry standard terms or simple layman phrases?
- Which of your products are in stock? There is no point targeting search phrases that are popular if you don’t actually stock that item.
- Which products have the highest profit margin? If you had just a $0.20 mark-up on a very popular product, could you sell enough online to make a profit? A product that is less searched but has a higher profit margin would be easier to obtain a search engine ranking and would yield higher revenues.
- Identify your biggest competitors. View competitor websites and see which products they appear to target; which search phrases do they have rankings for?
Make use of any PPC data
Chances are, your decision to begin a SEO campaign is fueled by your desire to reduce costly pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. While reliance on PPC will be reduced with a good SEO campaign, you can make use of your current PPC efforts when researching your search phrases to target. Analyze your PPC keywords and look to see which of them have brought the highest traffic levels, best click through rates and greater sales conversions. It is likely a search phrase that brought successful results through a PPC campaign will be very relevant in your quest to obtain top search engine positioning.
Expanding your Keyword list
Once you have completed your brainstorming and have compiled your list of 5-10 core keywords, it’s time to move on and expand that list. A list of 5-10 search phrases will not, as I am sure you will know, bring the amount of search engine traffic needed to make your website successful. However, that list will be a vital tool when determining which phrases to add to the mix. At this point, you need to turn to the search engines themselves and research which search phrases are actually being typed into Google, Yahoo, MSN et al. While few search engines will openly tell you which search phrases are the most often searched, there are a couple of very useful tools you can use to expand your list.
The first and most well known, is the Overture Search Suggestion Tool. This great little research tool is primarily for the use of Overture PPC users and if you have ever endeavored on a PPC campaign with Overture, you will no doubt have come across it. Take any of your main search phrases and enter them into the suggestion tool. Overture will then spit out all other popular search terms that contain that phrase. In addition, Overture will place the search phrases in order of popularity and give you an idea of the number of searches per month for each phrase across their network. While this tool can be very useful, especially as it is free to use, it does have some key drawbacks. First, it does not differentiate between singular and plural search phrases. Consequently, “desktop computer” and “desktop computers” are combined together, leaving you to use your own judgment as to which variation is the most popular. For many search phrases, you can take an educated guess as to which one is likely to be the most searched, but often you will be left without a clue as to whether to target the singular or plural. Secondly, the Overture Suggestion Tool does not handle punctuation very well, preferring to ignore it completely. Thus “kid’s toys”, “kid’s toys”, “kid-toys”, “kid’s toy” would all be shown as “kid toy”. Again, this never used to be a big problem, but go to Google and search for each of these phrases and you will see different results for each one.
If you are serious about your SEO campaign, you will consider a subscription to WordTracker to be a worthwhile investment. Starting at just $7 a day, with discounts all the way up to one year of service, WordTracker offers a similar type of research tool as Overture but with many more bells and whistles. The biggest advantage with WordTracker is that is uses Meta-Crawlers when sourcing search phrase frequencies. This eliminates inflated search phrase frequencies from Overture users checking their own rankings and thus artificially increasing the popularity of certain phrases. In addition WordTracker offers the following advantages:
- Offers a “thesaurus” and “lateral” search. Allowing you to view search phrases that are related to your main search term, but not necessarily containing that term.
- Shows search frequencies for both singular and plural phrases; allowing you to determine which is the most popular.
- Identifies which form of punctuation is the most popular.
- Allows you to place your targeted keywords into a “shopping basket” so that you can analyze all of your phrases together.
- Has an exclusive KEI analyzer that allows you to compare the popularity of the search phrase with the number of websites competing for that keyword.