If anyone tells you keywords don’t count, ignore them. True, as search engines have evolved, they’ve got wise to the fact that less scrupulous publishers top-load their posts with catch-all phrases in the hope of attracting a steady stream of clicks, and they’re constantly adapting their algorithms to compensate.
But that’s good news for more professional publishers – like you.
The best way to attract a loyal audience is to publish content they care about at regular intervals. Maintain a light touch where keywords are concerned, being careful not to overload your post with them, as well as to only use those that relate to the topic in hand.
An effective keyword strategy balances exposure and expenditure. The most popular keywords are already well served, and you’ll likely be competing with paid advertising for the top results in any web search. Becoming more specific will often deliver better results at low cost and, because the most likely viewers of the associated content will be qualified buyers, the payback will often be higher.
Google’s Keyword Planner tool calculates likely impressions, click through rates and cost per click for any term you feed it, allowing you to stack up several variations to compare potential performance.
Naturally, it’s primary focus is helping marketing teams to develop effective advertising campaigns on Google properties – and using it requires a Google AdWords account, but it can still deliver effective and accurate insight for content creators who would rather rely on optimising for organic search. It can be particularly effective when used in conjunction with Google Trends.
Trends reveal how different terms are used in discrete territories, and how their popularity changes over time. If you’re setting up a mobile home rental business with a variety of classic and new Volkswagens in your fleet, Trends reveals whether ‘campervan’ or ‘camper van’ is more popular, and which of ‘VW’ and ‘Volkswagen’ will perform best.
VW outperforms Volkswagen, and campervan comfortably beats ‘camper van’ in the US, UK and in worldwide search volume. In Germany, VW’s home territory, campervan and ‘camper van’ are at parity. While you might have been able to take an educated guess and get most of that right, the chances are you’d have fallen at the last hurdle – the German differentiator – which demonstrated why relying on objecting facts rather than opinion is key.
Champion the underdog
As we’ve written elsewhere, it’s important not to forget that “if a term is rising you may have more competition to get noticed for it. You can therefore experiment with long-tail keywords for a rising idea or answer questions related to the rising keyword to approach the topic indirectly.”
Effectively, you’ll be targeting a smaller proportion of your potential audience, but just as a line and pole fisherman can tailor his bait to the type of fish he wants to catch – which the net-based trawler could never do – this presents an opportunity for dynamic brands to segment their audience and use content intelligence tools to deliver more click-worthy material.
Most web searches start with a question. Web users want to know how to solve problems, where they can buy a specific product, or which sites are hosting the kind of content that interests them. The more specific you can be when answering these questions through your use of relevant keywords, the less competition you’ll face, and the more likely it is that the visitors you attract will identify with your brand.
Known as long tail marketing, producing content that attracts low numbers of highly specific recipients, is effective, as the most likely consumer of that content will be actively searching for what you’re providing. In effect, they’re engaged before they even land on your site, advert or blog post.
Tools like Keyword Planner can play an important role in ideating such content. Where Google Trends is great at providing historical data related to the keyword questions you ask it directly, Keyword Planner supplements those results with suggested related keywords. While not all the terms it delivers will be the perfect fit for your marketing persona, treating them as jumping off points is an excellent way to identify related but none-core topics during content ideation sessions. It’s up to you to craft that content in such a way that it engages the most relevant audience for your product or service.
How? Consider using a mix of core keywords, and terms related to your more specific content not only within the opening paragraph, but in crossheads throughout, which will act as navigation hooks as the reader scrolls lower.
In every instance, though, choose and use your keywords with care. They’ve had a bumpy ride over the last few years, largely through misuse, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less effective than they ever were. Rather, we should use them effectively and with consideration. Doing so will repay your efforts many times over.