The Fine Art of SEO Keyword Strategies
In this post I’m covering some SEO tips and research strategies that have emerged from discussions we’ve had with many of our blogging, content marketing and podcast production clients. The good news, unlike in years past, is that almost all of our clients consider SEO a “must have” component of running a podcast or blog. And for many, their blog orpodcast serves as the central inbound marketing component for their site, driving traffic and increasing their e-mail lists.
But understanding of SEO keywords strategies and finding good keyphrases often starts with this mis-conception:
I just need to find a popular keyword that lots of people are looking for, and then optimize my post for it.
1.) The dangers of being too popular
It might seem quite easy to imagine a popular keyword that you want to be found for. Why not try and optimize a podcast episode for the keyword “podcast” for example? A popular term, 350K searches a month. Would that not drive lots of traffic to your site?
The answer is yes, but only if your site can rank in the top 50 search results for this keyword.
Suggestion: Click here to do a search for the word “podcast” on google right now, and look at the top 10 results. Who are the sites ranking in the top 10? That’s right, Wikipedia, Apple, NPR, The Atlantic, etc. In other words hugely popular sites.
Now ask yourself, on which page of the search results do you think your own post would show up?
That’s right, page 200+ or something like this, unless you have a massively popular site. And when was the last time you looked at or clicked on anything beyond page 2 of a google search result?
The lessons and implications are this:
- Do not try to rank for hugely popular keywords. You will not be in the top 50 search results, and therefore your post will not generate any organic search traffic to your site.
- You need to research keywords and keyphrases in order to know if they are in fact “too popular” for your post to rank for them.
- You need to have an idea about how your site ranks, in other words who it can compete with. Without this information, you are flying blind
No worries though, we will cover all of these considerations in this blog series.
2.) Is there such a thing as being “too niche”?
OK, so in our previous example, the keyword “podcast” seems very generic, and we’ve realized it’s unlikely we can rank our post for it. So what about the other extreme? Maybe it will be easier to rank for a key-phrase that is very specific?
Assume for a minute we optimize a post for the term “health tips for dads”. And a few days or weeks after we published the post, HOORAY, we are ranking on the top 1-2 pages for this post!
Mission accomplished? Well no, hang on…
How many people a month do you think are looking for this term? Oh, sorry, a quick peek at Google Adwords reveals that this term is searched for 0 times a month, which is exactly how much traffic this keyword choice will generate.
The lessons and implications are this:
- You may rank in the top 10 search engine results, but that does not mean you will get traffic from a keyphrase that is too niche.
3.) So what’s the answer then?
The answer is finding a fit: To identify keywords and key-phrases commensurate with the search engine power of your site overall.
Some rules of thumb we follow for keyword research success:
- The rule of thumb we follow is that if you have a brand new site with little traffic (Under 2000 sessions a month), try and find key-phrases that have at least 70 searches a month, but stay under 300 searches a month.
- If you have a popular site at least 1-2 years old with 5000+ month visitor sessions, perhaps you can rank for key-phrases with 300+ searches a month.
- But to rank for content that has 1000+ searches a month, you need your site to have both a lot more traffic.
Ask yourself, is it better to be on page 100 for a keyword that is popular, or on page 1 or 2 for a keyword that is un-popular, but that people are still looking for 100 times a month?
4.) Some other ways to determine your overall site rank
Have a look at Alexa rankings, there you can look up your site’s rank for free. Keep in mind, these are my personal educated guesses based on our experience, I would love to hear from you if you manage to “break the ceiling” of these rather cautionary numbers.
Alexa is a great toolset, and if you sign up for the free version you can create charts and comparison graphs to track your site’s rank vs your competitors.
Our “educated guess” rules of thumb here are as follows:
- New sites are typically ranked 5million or higher. If you are, stay with key-phrases that are searched for at most 70-100 times a month.
- If your site is ranked above 1.5Million on Alexa, you can likely rank for key-phrases that have 300 monthly searches and above.
- If your site is ranked above 500K on Alexa, you can likely rank for more popular search terms and key-phrases that have 1000 monthly searches or more.
5.) How can you tell the number of searches a month for any given key-phrase?
Notice that earlier we mentioned checking up on how many times a month people search for a specific key-phrase. This is super valuable information, but how do you do this? The answer is Google AdWords. If you have not ever placed any pay-per-click ads with Google before, you may be unfamiliar with the platform, but it is free to use and has the best keyword research tools available for free.
Our advice on this one: sign up for an AdwWords account, even if you don’t intend to do paid advertising
- The sign-up process is a pain, as it requires a credit card and the only way you can sign up is to launch your own initial PPC ad, but you can simply pause the ad as soon as you launch it, and it won’t cost you a cent. The process may be scary, but it is definelty worth it.
6.) The Concept Of Keyword Difficulty
Keyword Difficulty shows you exactly how hard it’s going to be to rank in top 10 results for any given keyword in the search engine of your choice.
It does so by investigating the sites that show up in the top 10 results of google, and then comparing their SEO maturity and rank to your own. So a low keyword difficulty score is better, it means that you are more likely to be able to compete with the sites in the top 10 search results. A high score means that the top 10 search results are occupied by popular sites that you will have difficulty competing with.
Keyword difficulty tools we use provide a range of information about your competitor sites that currently occupy the top 10 search results. Domain age, # of incoming links, Alexa ranking and social signals are all able to pinpoint “weak competitors” currently showing up in the top 10 search results. Using these tools as part of our SEO services, and selecting “the right” keywords using the keyword strategies outlined above, we can often quickly accurately create a recipe that places a post or podcast episode into the top 10 search results on Google and other search engines.