You can’t rely on your hunches for keyword choices. You also can’t do keyword research , plug-in data based on some formula, and run with the results. Examine the data and decide what it’s telling you.
Don’t dismiss outright
If your site is ranking No. 99 now for the keyword, it probably won’t be No. 1 or No. 11 even eight months from now. But don’t rule out the keyword. Other variables will make it clear whether to scratch it from your list.
Search for your sweet spot
Look at how well your website performs for keywords and add keywords related to those that do the best. (I go into more depth in 21 SEO Tips, Tactics, and Trends for Website Content in 2021 .)
Identify current ranking drivers
Say your site page ranks No. 3 on Google for a favorite keyword phrase. Likely, the keywords in the page content header influenced that top ranking. Now, if your page ranks No. 67, maybe a preferred keyword phrase is only mentioned one time in the 18th paragraph. Tweak your page accordingly.
See the value in low search volume
Precise keyword phrases (long tails) may be great options. For example, if your product has a high price tag, say $30,000, your prospect audience probably isn’t that big. So even 20 searches a month is worthwhile. Be patient. Low search volume keyword phrases can bring the right prospects over time.
Be patient. Low search volume keywords can bring the right prospects over time, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet
You also can examine the search volume for your non-branded keyword phrases that rank in the top 10. You don’t need to pursue a keyword phrase with 1,500 monthly searches on Google if the keywords for the top 10 sites typically correspond to monthly searches in the 50 to 200 range. It’s the correlation that matters.
Identify how SEO performs beyond rankings
People are still fascinated with rankings. They’re a measure of success, I guess. But how your website ranks on Google shouldn’t get so much fanfare.
What should be celebrated is how well natural (organic) traffic influenced leads and sales. Evaluate old and new website content to see which pages should get the most credit. Is it the primary text on the page or the clear call to action ? Maybe they work hand in hand.
You can track all this in Google Analytics , including conversions (ranging from completed forms to product demos). Start by creating goals that can be traced to natural search engine traffic and other website visitor data.
Be sure to take advantage of the Google Tag Manager (GTM) feature. It enables you to track PDF downloads, on-demand webinar views, and even clicks on any email addresses listed on your website.
How to Create 5 Custom Metrics in Google Analytics [Infographic]
Know when to make adjustments
You should never have a set-it-and-forget-it mentality. Too often, marketers “optimize” one page at a time and move on. If you manage a large website, you’re hardly going to revisit and update 5,000 pages over three months.
Instead, rely on your ranking and natural search traffic data to help you pick priority pages to review. Of course, you can go back to the same page more than once. I tweak some pages several times a year, including:
Page content headers
I also focus on internal linking and send some love from existing pages to the new content.
Sometimes you need to be careful making updates that could affect successful SEO tactics. If a keyword phrase ranks No. 25 on Google, you might be happy when it ranks No. 6. But did your changes displace another critical keyword phrase? I safeguard against problems by making baby changes.
Essential tools to accelerate SEO work
Though no magic formula exists for SEO, some tools can help make the process easier and more effective.
Sometimes I think of keyword phrases long after I develop a strategy for a client. I focused on “CNC machining service” and later want to explore “precision CNC machining services.” By that time, I could be knee-deep in SEO and tactics that could already affect rankings on certain website pages.
How will I know whether my efforts influenced search engine rankings for “precision CNC machining services?” Semrush always comes to the rescue. The company can show me nine years of history. While it doesn’t have all historical data for every keyword phrase, I usually can check to see how the keywords ranked just before I started making SEO updates.
Use @semrush to check to see how keywords ranked just before making #SEO updates, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing #Tools Click To Tweet
The Keyword Mixer Tool from SEO Scout creates keyword phrase variations. Input your keyword lists (A, B, and/or C), then SEO Scout creates some new combinations to consider. You can search for broad phrases, exact matches, or phrase matches.
Page titles and content headers
Screaming Frog does a great job of aligning SEO page titles and page content headers data to URLs. The report indicates the page URL that corresponds with both the page titles and headers, making it easy to assess the data. I don’t need to worry that the URLs may vary from the page titles to the headers.
[email protected] does a great job of aligning #SEO page titles and page content headers data to URLs, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing #Tools Click To Tweet
Get to know search operators – those commands that help you pinpoint SEO data you may need. For example, if you want to use Google to search a site, your search operator is “site: topic.”
It’s useful to see if your website content reflects the keywords. Are they prominent or just mentioned in minor ways (like a passing reference far down a page)?
Here’s how you could conduct that operation:
site:example.com “text goes here”
site:example.com intitle:”text goes here”
I also use search operators to identify link-building opportunities. For example, you could try these and other combinations to track down industry directories:
13 Link Building Search Operators (Updated 2021)
In some cases, I’ve improved rankings by cutting back the number of times a keyword phrase appears on a website page. You can’t follow a magic formula. But you might revise the content and limit keywords packed into some photo captions, subheads, and other page elements. The Keyword Density Analysis Tool from Internet Marketing Ninjas offers a useful breakdown of keywords on each page.
The Keyword Density Analysis Tool from @NinjasMarketing offers a useful breakdown of #keywords on each page, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #SEO #Tools Click To Tweet
Match keyword rankings with related data
I like to get a sense of the data beyond the keywords, rankings, page URLs, and search volume. I track how many keywords rank for each URL. Although I always have a strategic set of keyword phrases, this data tells me how many other keyword phrases compete for top spots on the same page:
Other tactics that can ensure success
There are few more pieces to consider adding to your SEO puzzle.
Content creation: Introduce new content ideas that can support keyword strategies. Develop a detailed FAQ , how-to guide, glossaries, and evergreen content.
Content clusters: Elise Dopson provides many ideas in How to Get Ranked and Read With a Topic Cluster Model . The approach involves picking a pillar topic and relevant sub-topics around which several content pieces are created.
Video transcripts: The extra text below a video can be indexed by Google and support search engine rankings.
You can start using some of these ideas today. What tactics and tools do you typically rely on to save time while maximizing your SEO decisions?
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 5 Mistakes That Google Doesn’t Like and How to Stop Making Them
All tools in the article are identified by the author. If you have a favorite tool to share, please add it in the comments.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Author: Mike Murray
Mike Murray has shaped online marketing strategies for hundreds of businesses since 1997, including Fortune 500 companies. A former journalist, he has led SEO studies and spoken at regional and national Internet conferences, including Content Marketing World. Founder of Online Marketing Coach, Mike is passionate about helping clients identify their best opportunities for online marketing success based on their strengths, his advice and industry trends. You can find him on Twitter @mikeonlinecoach .
Other posts by Mike Murray
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