Keywords are the unsung, behind-the scenes heroes of the marketing world. Optimizing your keywords is the secret to ranking higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Your keyword strategy is a building block for all of your online marketing efforts, which means the keywords you choose need to be optimized for prime performance.
What Makes a Well-Optimized Keyword?
When it comes to small business SEO, there are three main factors that define a strong keyword. If your keyword doesn't meet all three criteria, it's not going to perform as well as you might like it to.
All three of these criteria can be assessed with your helpful neighborhood keyword tool and a little bit of common sense. Most people use Google's built-in Keyword Tool or Keyword Planner. HubSpot, Moz, SEMrush, and WordStream are popular alternatives.
Here's how the HubSpot tool is organized. Most keyword tools will follow this same general layout:
For your purposes, the most important values are Monthly Search Volume and Competition.
One more thing: remember that the numbers you get from any of these tools are an approximation - not an exact science. Google keeps its keyword and search data guarded like the Secret Service. Google's secrecy regarding what exactly people are searching for, the engine's algorithms, and other factors are one reason why it continues to be so successful. Therefore, a third party SEO tool can't possibly give exact data, and Google's own keyword tool gives basic estimations.
Without further ado, here are the three crucial criteria of a well-optimized keyword
1. Low Competition
Competition = difficulty & cost.
As a small business, you probably don't have the time or resources to fight multinational corporations for the top rankings. Short-tail, industry specific keywords can end up being upwards of $50 per click. That’s not a sustainable rate for smaller businesses to uphold.
Major businesses have the resources to make ad spend like this work. Google is making billions of dollars a year in ad revenue from these big companies. But realistically, you can't compete with that.
The solution? Take the road less traveled. Target less competitive keywords - but make sure they also meet the other two criteria on this list! Typically, less competitive keywords will be long-tail, location-based, or directly related to your business's name.
What's a decent competition level? Anything under 70 is decent, anything under 50 is awesome.
2. Monthly Search Volume
Some keywords have little or no competition for a reason: no one is searching for them. It doesn't do you any good to rank #1 in Google for a keyword no one is interested in.
How do you analyze monthly search volume? Your handy dandy keyword tool should have a column called "Monthly Search Volume," "Local Monthly Searches," or something similar. Each tool will have a different metric to judge search volume, so read up on how to interpret the results your tool spits out.
What's a decent monthly search volume? Anything higher than Low is great!
3. High Relevance
Above all, the keywords you choose should be relevant to your business, product, and content. You certainly are able to rank for irrelevant terms, but why would you want to? Some people operate on the assumption that "any traffic is good traffic!" but that is false and can actually do great harm to your business.
Targeting irrelevant keywords will decrease your traffic quality immensely. That means higher bounce rates, few conversions, and even fewer sales made through your website. Also, targeting irrelevant keywords counts as a "black hat" SEO tactic. Google does not appreciate these kinds of shenanigans (ranking for irrelevant keywords, keyword stuffing, shady link building practices, etc.) and it will happily sink ALL your rankings for these infractions. When you're not ranking in Google, your business suffers.
On the other hand, highly relevant keywords bring high-quality traffic (people who are very likely to convert and make a purchase). High-quality traffic means low bounce rates, longer session durations, and more pages viewed per session - all important factors in your overall SEO.
Your Google Search Console will show ALL keywords that you're ranking for, and you can do your own keyword research to identify relevant ranking opportunities.
The "relevance" of a keyword isn't easy to quantify beforehand, but you can assess it later through bounce rate and conversion rate. If your bounce rate is high or your conversion rate is low, you can modify your content to make it more relevant.
Are Your Keywords Well-Optimized?
Remember, stong, well-optimized keywords:
- Aren’t very competitive
- Receive a moderate amount of monthly traffic
- Are highly relevant to your product and content
Are you having trouble distinguishing a strong keyword from a weak one? If you're struggling with your keyword strategy, don't panic! We have a ton of SEO resources on our blog, and we are always happy to chat if you need an expert.