Keyword selection for fun and profit

Let me begin with a story. We have a client that went through half a dozen Internet marketing agencies prior to working with us. Those agencies did all the standard stuff: social media, PPC, landing pages, SEO… you name it. In every case, the agency added to the costs, but failed to make even a tiny impact on sales. Given that history, it is surprising that we are able to tell this story. Even as we were signing contracts, the client told me point blank that he didn’t believe our experience would be any different that what he’d been through with other marketing agencies. Fast forward a year… In about 12 months, we managed to place about 150 keywords on page 1 in Google. Those, by the way, are just the ones we’re tracking. There are probably another 300-400 top performing, related keywords that we don’t track. I’ll save an explanation of that for another article. Now, with hundreds of page one (most in the top 3) keyword rankings, you might expect tens of thousands of new visitors to the website. In reality, it’s closer to 4,000 per month. Big deal, right? Seems like a lot of work for 4,000 visits. Maybe, but here’s what those 4,000 new visitors mean to our client. From their own numbers, website form fills alone have lead to a little over $550,000 in revenue so far this year (FY17, as of August 1st.). Including web generated phone calls pushes YTD web-generated revenue close to a $million. Here’s the thing. For that $million in revenue, the client pays nothing to Google, and very little to the agency. The obvious question—What did we do differently? How is it that OCG Creative was able to tack on an extra million dollars in top-line revenue, after all the other agencies failed? The answer: Keyword selection. Well, keyword selection, coupled with being very good at SEO. Of course, you also have to provide your website visitors with what they were looking for when they decided to click, but it starts with optimal keyword selection.

Choosing keywords for organic SEO

There are three primary factors to keep in mind when selecting keywords for SEO. Lets examine them. User intent: A good way to look at this is to ask, what kind of problem is the searcher trying to resolve? When asked, clients typically suggest keywords (key-phrases) that are very broad. In SEO terms, we call them “short tail” phrases. An example of that would be “school supplies.” Short tail phrases tend to have the highest search volumes. In fact, 60,500 people search for “school supplies” every month. Compare that with “minecraft school supplies”, which receives about 720 searches per month. That’s just 1.19% of the search volume when you take away the word “minecraft.” It’s what we call a “long tail” keyword or key-phrase, and a virtual guaranteed better performer than “school supplies” by itself. The problem with short tail phrases is that they are nearly impossible to match to the problem your website visitor is trying to resolve. “School supplies” can be anything from soap for the nurses office to copy paper. The individual looking for “minecraft school supplies” probably has a 10 year old boy that’s into minecraft. (That’s a video game for those of you without a 10 year old boy.) The problem the searcher has is her kid wants minecraft themed stuff for school. (We can safely assume it’s a mom, because dad would try to make him get by with last year’s supplies. Let’s hope those karate lessons paid off, because any kid rolling into 5th grade with his 4th grade pencil box is the guaranteed object of ridicule.) The point is, regardless of the tiny relative search volume, “minecraft school supplies” is almost certain to make a sale. That very same mom conducting an initial search for “school supplies” is going to forced to keep searching. To further that point, we can generally assume about half of people searching for any given phrase will click on a result. Roughly a third of those will click on the top result. Number 2 gets about 20%, and #3, maybe 12% to %15. That works out to 120 website visits if your site is number one in the SERP (search engine results page). A highly targeted phrase is also going to have a high conversion rate. I’ve seen conversion rates as high as 70% for some keywords! Let’s aim lower, 25%, which would lead to 30 visitors making a purchase. To make that a little more digestible, I’ll break it down. Search volume, “minecraft school supplies”: 720 Searchers that clicked: 360 Click share for #1 in SERP: 33%, for 120 website visits Conversion rate: 25%, for 30 sales Let’s say the average sale is $50. That’s $1,500 per month in sales from a single keyword. Annualized, that’s $18,000 per year from one keyword! If you can identify 100 key-phrases like that one, similar numbers will produce $1.8M in annual revenue. It doesn’t even have to be 100 products. There might be 20 or more keywords different searchers use to find the same item. Since each searcher is a unique individual, the result is cumulative.

Keyword selection: Key takeaways

Shift your thinking from broad-match, high volume phrases, to long-tail phrases, highly focused on user intent. These are far easier to optimize for rankings, and will provide a directly measurable ROI. When selecting keywords, have a specific customer in mind that will take a predictable action. Know what problem the searcher is trying to resolve when searching that phrase, and provide the solution. Finally, set expectations for every keyword you choose to optimize. At minimum, include your anticipated click volume, conversion rate and average sale for each, and track them monthly. By planning your SEO efforts around specific keywords, selected based on user intent, you’ll be able to forecast their ROI. You’ll find it easier to achieve top rankings, and get a massive jump on your competitors.