12 Tips for Keyword Selection to Guide Your Content Marketing SEO
Some content marketers do not take their time in terms of keyword selection for natural search engine rankings. They shirk proper research and analysis, or merely take wild stabs at whether a keyword phrase is worth pursuing in the first place which is a reckless way of approaching it.
If you continually create content without thinking through search engine optimization (SEO) and keywords, you will rank for something (content does resonate with search engine algorithms). Yet, you will consistently run the risk of short changing your SEO strategy — and your company’s ability to gain a fair share of relevant search engine traffic — for branding, conversions and much more.
Every single piece of content on a specific website or in a blog post is not necessarily going to lift a company to number one on Google for a keyword phrase that people use 15,000 times a month. But you can get more out of SEO with just a small bit more effort.
As much as your time and your skills allow, you should consider the following questions and factors that affect content marketing and SEO in every piece of online content you create and distribute. To make the process easy, we have created a short checklist that you can reference when thinking through keyword possibilities for your website or blog content.
Ask yourself the questions in this checklist as you begin your SEO efforts — you can learn a bit more about the details involved in each point below:
1. Have I mined keyword research resources?
It’s not altogether uncommon to go straight to Google for ideas (though your AdWords account provides more in-depth data than this free tool), but Keyword Discovery, WordTracker, and other tools can provide more insights. We are partial to SEMrush, which suggests possible keywords that you may have overlooked in your own pages and posts (it analyzes more than 95 million keywords). You can also tune into the words people use at Social Mention. I’ve even checked the index at the back of a book for ideas.
Here are some keyword phrases we found at SEMrush. Within a few minutes, we had an Excel spreadsheet filled with 30,000 keyword ideas from a Fortune 100 company. Despite some high rankings, it is clear that the company has plenty of opportunities to rank better:
Even if you find keywords among the data that’s available, it is very important to know if people are searching for them or not. Your list might look good, but search counts really matter. Yes, sometimes you should target a keyword phrase with over 1,000 monthly searches. But quite often, you may want something less competitive. I don’t rule out keyword phrases with 50 searches a month, but I also don’t jump at ones with 30,000 searches. If you do go that high, it’s because the keyword phrase is relevant and the website has much going for it, especially in terms of inbound links.
2. Is the keyword phrase relevant?
Does the keyword really match what your business does or who it is targeted at? Years ago, someone told us that he wanted to rank for the word “e-commerce.” It never occurred to him that this term might be a little broad. In a case like this, he should have considered “e-commerce” as part of a keyword phrase, like “e-commerce solution provider.”
It is very important to remember that the keywords you choose must look like a natural part of what you’re writing. Also, it is vital to keep in mind that the spelling can make a difference. “Swing set” may be the preferred term for playground equipment, but many people search for “swingset.” You don’t want to use the “wrong” word and appear like you can’t spell correctly. (Though with something as common as “swing set,” you could probably go with a version on one page and another spelling on a different page.)
3. Are we buying this keyword phrase through paid search?
Paid search, including buying ads on Google, is another source of keyword research that your company may already have on hand. But many companies settle for performance from paid search and skip SEO to their detriment. If you are buying a keyword for paid search, you must make sure that it is also a viable candidate for SEO and content marketing.
For example, a large specialty retailer may invest in the keyword “GE dishwasher.” If it’s working because the paid search conversions are acceptable, then it may also be worth pursuing with SEO.
Conductor, which released “Natural Search Trends of the Fortune 500” in 2010, found that Fortune 500 companies spent $3.4 million a day on paid search with nearly 100,000 keyword phrases. However, only 2 percent of their websites and keywords made it into the first 30 organic (non-paid) results on Google.
Sure, you can buy your way to the top of the paid results on the search engines, and outstanding natural search engine rankings may not come easily. But if you are paying for the keywords, that should be a signal that an SEO strategy must be given serious consideration. It’s not just about ranking so high that you can stop paying for a keyword phrase. Depending on the conversions and ROI goals, maybe you will keep a keyword phrase with both paid and natural search.
4. Are you already ranking for the keyword phrase?
As you start writing, it is good to know how well you are ranking for the topic you are covering. Are you in the Top 10, Top 15, Top 20 or all the way out at 199?
You can use online tools like Web CEO, BrightEdge, and SEOmoz to get ranking data. (To learn more about tools like these, get the “Enterprise SEO Tools: The Marketer’s Guide,” which explores the different platforms that can help you manage, track, and optimize thousands of keywords.)
5. Will my new page adequately mention the keyword phrase?
You can write some incredible material that goes into great detail about a topic with examples and fresh perspectives. But make sure that you incorporate your most strategic keyword phrases along the way. You cannot get by with just one reference in the 13th of 15 paragraphs.
Keyword density “rules” have been debated for a long time. But a top priority should always be to look out for natural opportunities to mention specific keywords. If you are using your target keyword phrase every 150-200 words, you’re probably on track. And don’t worry too much if you use them more often, as long as it doesn’t look like you forced the keyword phrase in where it doesn’t necessarily belong it will be fine. You can always scale back the references after you check on your rankings (which will also be heavily influenced by the page title, page header, the age of the website, inbound links, and many other factors).
6. How much traffic is my website receiving for the keyword phrase?
As you look in-depth into your own website analytics, you should see a lot of keyword data. You can dive deep a couple of ways, including analyzing the initial keywords used to reach your website and your internal site search data when they arrive. For example, you might discover that someone searches for “construction loan financing,” but that may prompt you to look at some options like “construction loan requirements” or “how construction loans work.” You may also need to change your content strategy to work the new keyword phrases into existing or new website pages.
Do not be too discouraged if you find that a keyword phrase is not searched that often, as it may still hold a lot of value. We look at the keyword traffic in light of rankings. For example, a keyword phrase may have only 30 or so searches a month, but that 30 may rank poorly only as a result that no one gave the keyword a boost with serious SEO. On the other hand, a keyword phrase might rank as number two on Google and still bring only a couple dozen visitors. However, this would be okay if the keywords are a good match for the services or products that you are selling. You do not need over 1,000 visitors to connect with good prospects.
We always keep an eye out for multiple keyword phrases on a web page that rank highly in terms of SEO. You might find that a single page could support “free online checking account” and “free checking accounts online.” However, sometimes you cannot get both phrases to rank among the top three positions (maybe one keyword phrase ranks number six and the other ranks number thirteen). You might need a new priority page that just focuses on one of the phrases in order to get it to rank much better.
7. Am I getting website traffic for similar keywords?
I constantly check website analytics to see what relevant keywords people are searching for that I didn’t even include on my list of the most strategic keyword phrases. Existing and new content created in conjunction with SEO efforts can give life to a wide assortment of related keywords and phrases. For example, I may have originally targeted “laptop computer” for a given piece of content, but the way you write your content may give rise to a number of other keyword phrases like, “buying a laptop computer.” You can take credit for the impact by charting search engine traffic growth for those keywords, page views, and more.
8. Is this keyword phrase (or similar phrases) already converting?
You can track keywords through your website analytics and conversion funnels, including e-commerce (associating the keywords with the product sales). Some companies gain greater insights with call tracking services like those offered by Mongoose Metrics and Marchex and others. Call tracking technology has does have many benefits. For example, at keyword level, when someone uses a keyword phrase on a search engine and then reaches a website, a unique phone number temporarily appears in the content (replacing the regular website phone number). The phone call, which is associated with the keyword phrase, can be tracked and recorded fairly easily.
9. Are there calls to action on the page?
It is very important that you target keyword phrases in your content by including very effective calls to action. What is on offer? What exactly does it look like? Is it buried? If you drive traffic through SEO, you do not want the visitor to have to struggle in order to figure out what you want him to do as a result of viewing your content. Make it easily apparent that readers should call a toll-free number, request a demonstration, download a guide, or request more info, and then make sure you’ve made it easy for them to do it. It is also vitally important that you test the placement and colours of forms, phone numbers, and assorted offers. Many people think of SEO only in terms of keywords, but website usability and conversion opportunities can also help ensure that the SEO traffic pays off, rather than be wasted if too many people leave moments after they arrive at a website.
10. Are there related pages that could support an internal link strategy?
You can get high rankings for a single page, but your content marketing strategy will get a boost through SEO if you have related pages created to support internal cross-linking. In simple words, ensure that you create opportunities to cross-link the strategic keywords in the anchor text on several of your pages or posts to improve your odds of higher search engine rankings. It is very important not to forget to include the targeted keyword phrase within your links (or at least near the link). For example, maybe one page mentions “low cost car insurance” in passing, but those words could be included in the text of a link to another page on your site or blog that goes into more detail about the pros and cons of low cost car insurance policies.
11. How will this keyword phrase choice fit into future content?
The keyword selection options for SEO and content marketing should be based on planned content for the upcoming weeks ahead, not just the content you’re dealing with today. With a content calendar, you will start thinking about keyword possibilities even before someone writes up an article, describes a certain service, or creates a blog post. If you have a main set of keyword phrases, your content planning strategies should then reflect your keyword phrase priorities and deficiencies. For example, if you are already ranking very high for “riding lawn mowers,” maybe that doesn’t need your attention. However, you may be ranking poorly for “self propelled lawn mower,” and want to create content to address this in the near future, your keyword plans should keep this in mind.
12. Is the keyword phrase in our domain name?
Google announced in 2012 that it would drastically cracking down on low quality exact match domains (EMD) for websites that want to rank primarily on the merits of their domains. It is certain that Google wanted to deal with obnoxious domains and small websites (like this pretend domain: seocontentmarketingtipsideasforonlinemarketers.com). However, for respectable websites, the domain name still seems to influence search engine rankings.
We are sure you will want to weigh some other factors as well before selecting keywords, but the above list gives you a good starting point.
At a minimum, leverage the keyword research tools available to see if people are actually using the keyword phrase that you are targeting. It is inevitable that you’re going to create content that people aren’t searching for at a rate of 10,000 times a month (maybe you will need to settle for 100 in some instances when you look at alternative keyword phrases). But any new content can be a good opportunity to include your most strategic set of keyword phrases and cross-link them with your existing content.
What methods work well for you as you select keywords as part of your content strategy?