What Can SEO Keywords Tell Us?

Search engine optimization is the hottest topic in marketing for 2016. How can digital marketers build comprehensive search engine optimization strategies to ensure our customers, partners, and prospects can find us? The first step is finding and tracking the right keywords.

What Are Keywords?

A good keyword has search volume. This means it’s relevant because lots of people are searching for the term. It’s popular and there’s content to back it up.

Focusing on long-tail keywords, or longer more specific phrases people search for, allows you to cut through the noise for broader keywords. For instance, in technology, it's tough to target the word “cloud,” as a general term, as it could refer to the weather or to a sophisticated storage technology. Instead, most specific terms like “hybrid cloud computing” make more sense.  If you’re searching for “hybrid cloud computing,” we already know you’re quality traffic and the right broad audience for our content, and therefore worth targeting.

What Do Keywords Tell Us?

We can track keywords, and our performance against them, in SEO tools like Brightedge. Tracking these metrics matter the most:

  • Monthly search volume:

    • How are people searching for the term? Is it popular? Is it relevant?
  • What URLs show up for each keyword:

    • What are the most popular answers to those search terms?
  • Competition:

    • How competitive is the term? How many other sources feed that term?

Determining which keywords to target can be as much of an art as a science. You have to decide what you’re producing if it’s going to be worthy of your competitor’s content. You don’t want to go after something too competitive, because then you’ll get lost in the shuffle (or spend a lot).

The real decision is whether the term is too general, or if there are gaps and openings that our differentiation fits into from a search perspective.

  • Cost:

    • Based on its competition, how much would it take to implement a paid ad?

As with most things, you get what you pay for. Google allows you to boost your search ratings for any keyword---at a price. It’s certainly a valuable tactic, but has some downsides. People know you’re paying for that spot.  Second, cost. The moment your budget goes away, so too does that top spot.

Organic media doesn’t cost anything, but it takes much longer to see results. You have to be very good at it to make a dent in the competition. Think of it like a marathon vs. a pay-to-click sprint: it takes training, detailed involvement from many dedicated resources, patience, and time, but your results pay off—and last longer.

Cost gives us an idea of the investment it would take to win on a particular term and allows us to further assess its popularity and competitiveness: is it worth targeting that term?

  • Seasonality:

When is the term most popular? Is it influenced by specific events, either our own or our competitors’

Every industry has its hot spots depending on its cycle. In IT, for instance, volume tends to pick up at the end of the year as people look to renew their contracts or try something new for the following year. Other events, such as tradeshows and major launches, cause spikes for specific keywords related to those events.

How Can I Use This Information For My 2016 Search Strategy?

Determining the correct keyword helps us increase our search visibility and affects other aspects of web strategy, like the URL and metadata.

Targeting a keyword takes several activities, both in the copy and in the creation of the web page. In the copy, repetition is important, but also placement. Putting the same keyword 10 times below the fold won’t help as much as a few times in the URL, page title, or above the fold wrapped in an H1 Tag.

Second, variations on the keyword work to make you more credible (and also more readable, from a writing standpoint). Google is smart enough to realize that when you’re discussing “big data,” “Hadoop,” and “data lake,” you’re really talking about the same topic—meaning you know what you’re talking about.

Hubspot has a fantastic overview of SEO keywords as part of Hubspot Academy that I would recommend to anyone looking to learn more.