Posted on November 17, 2014
With limited resources and a vast sea of keywords and content that need optimization, some marketers need to prioritize the search engine optimization work they do to focus solely on the areas that will yield the highest return. Fortunately, the data will tell you exactly where to start.
Research and optimization are a means to an end: getting more organic search performance from your site. The areas you focus on and depth to which you go in your research and optimization efforts will naturally impact your level of success.
The areas you focus on and depth to which you go in your research and optimization efforts will naturally impact your level of success.
In addition, the end goal of increased SEO performance has zero chance of success until the optimized content is pushed live on the site. Therefore, the combined speed and precision with which you complete the keyword research, keyword mapping, and content optimization determines how quickly you could see the performance impact of that work.
Determining which content sections to prioritize for optimization determines where to start with keyword research. However, the keyword research itself can also highlight the most fruitful places to begin optimizing. But you have to have done some keyword research first to know which areas to prioritize for content optimization, which will then require deeper keyword research, which in turn will probably identify additional areas for content optimization, and so on.
This sort of cyclical process prevents some marketers from doing keyword research and content optimization at all.
When I’m mentally stymied by the enormity of a project like keyword research and content optimization for a major ecommerce site, I remind myself of physicist Albert Einstein’s far-reaching observation: “Nothing happens until something moves.” Here’s how to start.
Prioritizing Content to Optimize
Estimate the highest priority section of content based on the value that increased organic search visits can provide.
- Do some quick, high level keyword research on the categories in your navigation in the Google Keyword Planner to identify the approximate search demand for each.
- Analyze each section’s current SEO visits and conversions to identify which sections are underperforming based on the search demand.
- Consider business drivers like profit margin to focus on product areas that will yield the highest return.
You’ll likely also face high pressure to optimize for the product lines currently being heavily marketed by other marketing channels.
On the one hand, combined marketing support from multiple channels, especially offline channels like television and print ads, tend to increase the likelihood that people will search for your brand.
On the other hand, those searches tend to be navigational searches intended to reach your brand’s home page. In most cases, the site should already be able to win those searches. Very few consumers will search for characters and catchphrases in advertising, unless they’re either vintage or viral. Yes, you should optimize the landing page in the ad’s call to action, but typically not the whole site or even major categories or product pages unless they’re also the landing page.
For example, this memorable 2011 print and online ad campaign from Zappos featured models who appeared nude with strategically placed banners bearing the catchphrase “More than Shoes.” The world didn’t suddenly begin searching for the phrase “More than Shoes,” and Zappos didn’t switch its optimization targets away from product type phrases to this catchphrase.
Prioritizing Keyword Research
Even with the scope narrowed to a specific section of content or products, the amount of keyword research involved can be staggering.
Choose ways to gather this data that are the least daunting to you, but that will still yield a deep and varied set of keyword research. The method outlined in “SEO 101, Part 5: Google Keyword Planner,” combining keyword stems to create lists of potential keywords to research, is one way of mining for new keyword opportunities. Others ways to identify phrases to research include the following.
- Landing page URL. In the Google Keyword Tool, enter the URL for the page you want Google to find keywords for in the “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas” option. Keep in mind, though, that the tool won’t tell you what phrases to optimize the page for. It’s only telling you what the relative keyword value is for the phrases already on the page, and suggesting related phrases. Do not rely solely on this option, any more than you would rely solely on any other keyword research tactic.
- Competitors’ landing page URLs. Same as the above, but using competitors’ URLs. Broaden your definition of “competitor” to include any site ranking in search results for the phrases you need to rank for. Consider other brand sites, other ecommerce sites, Wikipedia — anything that’s ranking. They’re ranking for a reason, and researching the phrases on their pages can identify optimization targets you can use, as well.
- Top paid search phrases. Paid search is different because you can pay to rank for keywords that you can’t rank for organically. But both forms of search marketing rely on keyword data. Analyze the top phrases that drive paid search traffic to the site, paying special attention to the ones that convert well, and feed those through the keyword tool.
- Keyword analytics data. Analyze the keyword data in your web analytics and Google Webmaster Tool reports to identify the top phrases that drive paid search traffic to the site, paying special attention to the ones that convert well, and feed those through the keyword tool. Keep in mind that optimizing your site based on the keywords you already receive visits for will only reinforce the keyword themes that drive your current SEO performance. These need to be one data source, not the entirety of your keyword research.
The resulting lists of keywords will still be quite large and tiresome to sift through because that’s the nature of keyword research, but the act of collecting the initial data may be easier for you to complete.
A commenter on my previous “SEO 101″ post indicated that she had come to 216,000 potential keywords after using the method outlined in “SEO 101, Part 5: Google Keyword Planner.” This is not uncommon and with focused attention could be done in about three hours in 270 batches of 800 keywords each, but it is undeniably tedious. In addition, that’s just one phase of the keyword research complete, with additional research needed to identify keyword suggestions on the higher value keywords in the data set.
Frankly, all methods of deep keyword research are tedious, but they’re worth it as discussed in “SEO 101, Part 6: Going Deep on Keyword Research.” Still, if the highly repetitive nature of the work keeps you from doing keyword research en masse, find ways to narrow the scope to a more manageable level and schedule it out over a longer period of time. Or contract with someone you trust to do the job thoroughly. It’s in large part a mental battle and you need to find a way to approach it that enables progress vs. stagnancy.
Use the keyword research techniques that feel least daunting to you and that you find yield the most valuable data sets. Prioritize the keyword and content sections that have the most value to your business. Get started today and you’ll be that much closer to improved SEO performance already.