Top 5 Keyword Choice Factors

August 23, 2012

Keyword Choice!!! (followed by dramatic music)

I have to choose keywords?!!! Noooooooooooooo!

Choosing keywords at the beginning of an SEO campaign is freaking terrifying. The keywords that you choose at the beginning and spend tons of time and energy ranking for had better deliver the kind of qualified traffic you need on the landing pages of your choice — or else.

If you find yourself ranking highly for the keywords you have chosen, and you’re still not seeing the traffic you expect (or is expected of you) things are looking down. If you see a huge uptick in traffic and no consonant uptick in conversions, things are looking down. So down that this puppy got really, realy sad when his keywords didn’t deliver the right kind of traffic.

The worst thing about keyword research is that you have this list you come up with and end up using over the following 3-6 months and every time you look at it you wonder “Really? Is this really the right phrase? Should it have a call to action included? How about the location? Is it too specific to really drive a decent volume of traffic? CAN I CHANGE IT NOW?” and the answer to that last question is always: NO. You can make slight changes, but once you have started the optimization and link building process that is focused around a core set of keywords, deviating from your path will lead to disappointment.

I chose the wrong keywords? Nooooooooo!

I chose the wrong keywords? Nooooooooo!

So, in an effort to help all the people out there who loose sleep over keyword lists regularly (and I know you’re out there! It’s not just me! Right?) I am about to shove some Keyword Research Strategy your way. We’ll talk about the top five factors I take into consideration most of the time when choosing keywords for my clients. I would LOVE for the comments section to fill up with opinions, because I always feel that this area of SEO always needs revamped. Here goes:

1. Keyword Relevance

The relevance of a keyword or phrase to the subject matter on the page is positively the MOST important factor in keyword choice.
Remember that terrifying scenario up there where you drive boatloads of traffic and conversion rate plummets to like, .000000009%? Yeah, you don’t want that to happen. Even if it means sacrificing search volume, make sure the keywords you’re trying to rank a specific page for match the content on that page.

2. Keyword Search Volume

Obviously, if no one is searching for a keyword or phrase, optimizing for it won’t help. It is vitally important that you research search volume and make sure your keyword choices will drive traffic. “But Christina,” You might say, “What if the content on my page reflects search terms that have low search volume? Google Keywords Tool doesn’t show any search volume at all for Pittsburgh Wild Pants Museum of Stuff!” At which point I would condescendingly put my arm around your shoulder and point up, referring of course, to my first point about keyword relevance and how it trumps everything else. However, I would also point out that there is such a thing called a synonym, a word that is different yet means the same thing and might have higher search volume. I would also go on to say that Bing Webmasters tools give more accurate keyword data followed up by the tried and true statement that, although no one is searching for the full term Pittsburgh Wild Pants Museum of Stuff, they might be searching for Pittsburgh Wild Pants or Museum of Stuff and those might be legit key phrases to go after.

3. Keyword Competition

Who the heck is outranking you for the keyword or phrase of your choice? Do you have a prayer of beating the pants off them at some point? How do you find out? See how I’m teaching by asking you questions? That’s annoying. The best way to find out who is ranking for keywords of your choice is by doing a Google search for them with personalization turned off and seeing what crops up. Is it the most scientific way of doing things? Not by a long shot, but it gives you a general idea for who is your online competition. Tools like Spyfu also do a great job of helping you do this competitive analysis and almost all of them have a free version that gives you the top five results. SEOMoz’s keyword difficulty tool can be good in some situations but what you should not really ever rely on is Google Keywords Tool’s competition metric because it’s based on Adwords data.

4. Keyword ROI

Is the keyword valuable? Will traffic through it result in the conversion you want on the page you optimized for it? Traffic from long tail keywords converts at a substantially higher rate than traffic from short tale keywords. These are things you need to take into consideration when deciding which pages to optimize for which keywords.

5. Keyword Intent

You can control the type of user you bring to a certain page by controlling which keywords that page ranks for. If your intent is to encourage a conversion, you may want to include calls to action in the key phrases for which you will optimize that specific page. If you want a user who is at the beginning of their research process, a different, broader or less action oriented phrase should be used.

Did a search for “Apocalypse dog.” Actually found something. Awesome.

Remember, in the end, traffic could skyrocket and you’ll still get canned if your client is not making money off that traffic. Or you’ll get canned if you’re working in-house. Or you’ll second mortgage your house because your business isn’t rising as it should. Choosing the wrong keywords could trigger the apocalypse.

Sleep well.