Many of my clients come to me with preconceived ideas about what phrases they want their website to show up for on the search engines like Google. Sometimes they hand me a list, and say, “I want to be number one for these words, how much will it cost?”
Before jumping into that conversation, I always explain that we have to step back a little bit and look at the forest for what it is, rather than focusing on the trees. If you focus too hard on the trees, you’ll miss the big picture, and really waste your time and effort.
What is your competition?
First and foremost, Google grades on a curve. There are over 1 trillion (yes, “trillion” with a “t”) pages in Google’s index. Your job as an online marketer is to beat out the other 1 trillion pages to get to the top. Piece of cake, right?
Do a search on Google, say for the phrase pomeranian puppy training. Right below the search box, Google will tell you how many results there are. In this case, Google reports 234,000 results. That’s your competition for that phrase, and gives you a good indication of how hard it is to get to the top. In other words, you have to do better than 234,000 other web pages to get to the #1 spot.
Another example someone wanted recently, was san francisco dentist, which returns nearly 3 million results. That means there is a lot more work to get to the top.
It’s far easier to optimize for niche phrases than trying to go after the big ones. It’s true that the niche phrases will have far less search traffic, but the reality is that they convert better. Consider the phrase, san francisco britesmile dentist which only returns 1/5 of the results. It’s therefore far easier to optimize. If your landing page then tells the searcher all about your BriteSmile™ services in San Francisco, they are much more likely to pick up the phone and call you too.
- dentist – 47,400,000 results
- san francisco dentist – 2,940,000 results
- san francisco britesmile dentist – 434,000 results
- san francisco britesmile cosmetic dentist – 289,000 results
Generally speaking, the longer the phrase, the less competition you’ll have on the search engines. The longer phrases also are much more specific, and someone who types it in, is looking for something very specific. That means it will typically have a higher conversion rate – if you answer their needs.
What Do People Really Search For?
Another problem we face is that most of us have preconceived notions about what our customers really want (and thus search for). Chances are, you’re wrong – very wrong.
Using free keyword research tools will help you to hone in on these high conversion, low competition phrases, and you’ll be surprised by what people really search for.
An excellent tool is Google’s Insights for Search. Enter up to five phrases, and you’ll get a great chart comparing the search volume over time. They’ll even suggest other related phrases that people are searching for. Look for “breakout” phrases at the bottom. These are the phrases that are rising quickly that you might want to consider.
Google Suggestions in the search bar is also an excellent way of honing your possible choices. Start typing in the search bar, and Google will try to anticipate your search phrase by suggesting other things that many people search for. Once you select a phrase that makes sense, see how many competitors you have for it, and that will give you an idea of how much work you need to do.
In conclusion, do your market research first, then put the efforts into what the data tell you, rather than shooting in the dark. The reality is that you couldn’t possibly serve the needs for everyone who is looking for a more generic phrase, so go after the longer, more niche phrases instead.
They are far easier to optimize for, have far less competition, and will have a higher conversion rate.
Thomas Petty is a Certified Internet Consultant and owns two businesses, WSI Smart Solutions (a web and internet consulting company) and the Bay Area Search Engine Academy (a search engine training company). He is a Certified Usability Analyst™ trained at Human Factors International . He has been in the information technology field since 1989.
Great advice! As I learned in the clickminded seo training course I just completed, it’s important to remember that although being #1 in search results is the goal the process takes time.
Sydni Craig-Hart says
Thanks for the feedback Jennifer! What else did you learn in your SEO training course?
Thank you for responding, Sydni! One of the most interesting things I learned was that using natural and descriptive language in keywords, file names, and on-page content leads to higher rankings. I’m new at this, so expected the technical stuff and was pleasantly surprised at how much of an art it really is.