Delve into your site’s keyword past, and uncover the path for its future

Posted by Ali Moghadam on 12 Feb, 2014
View comments Keyword Research
Ali Moghadam discusses the make or break for online businesses in 2014

All internet marketing has one real goal: conversions. Whether that comes from blog or email subscriptions, contact form submissions or getting past the payment screen - site owners want to get people on board with them.

SEO has changed an awful lot in short amount of time. The days of “hit and hope” or “rank for anything” are long gone. The playing field is no longer level. Those old, loosely relevant target keywords are not going to cut the mustard anymore.

In this post, I’m going to be discussing something I believe is going to be the make or break for online businesses in 2014. What is it?

It’s “relevance”.

So many words, so little focus

This is by no means a new topic of discussion; relevance has been a byword for SEO for (what feels like) a long time now. What really needs to change is the mindset behind it. Being relevant doesn’t mean manufacturing areas of your site to target things and It doesn’t mean mashing as many keywords as you can into a single page or title tag. The culture of “throw enough mud and some of it will stick” is old news now – but I still see cases where swathes of keywords are being targeted.

Should you be worried?

It’s come to a point now where site owners are starting to panic.

“Why doesn’t my site rank for that keyword anymore? It did last year!”

Assuming all of your off-site SEO work has been above board, there are two things you need to focus on:

  • Whether your site is the most relevant one for that term anymore
  • Do you really want it to be?

The second point is the most important. Let’s say you sell watches and your site was ranking in the top 3 for “watches London”. It’s so easy to revel in the feat of being top dog for a particular widely searched term.

But did that term drive a huge amount of real business to your site? Did every user searching for “watches London” land on your site and convert? Is your business even located in London, or are you in a suburb and hoping for the volume? With keyword data dropping out of cookie-based analytics, it may take delving into your site’s past to uncover the path for its future.

Start fresh and stay on top

If your site is starting to drop in rankings for some keywords, but traffic is good and conversions are steady, there’s likely nothing wrong with your targeting – it’s probably your monitoring that’s to blame. And you’re quite possibly fixating on things that aren’t relevant anymore. Maybe it’s time for a fresh start and a fresh set of keywords!

The way people search for things might not have changed, but the way results are displayed sure has. Google wants rid of the aggressive keyword targeting of old. Hummingbird might want to move search into more of a Q and A session, but users around the world are already well-versed in the art of keyword searching. This won’t change overnight, or even in the coming year. So what will change? Search term popularity, competition and industry trends – stay on top of these and not on top of last year’s.

How to pick keywords that convert

If conversions are what you seek, you need to start thinking about keywords in two ways:

  • What is your overall topic? (your site’s story or theme in one keyword)
  • What do you actually offer?

You need to be able to define what you do as a theme so that users and search engines can instantly see what you’re all about. If you’re targeting “watches London” but your address details are for a warehouse in Kingston upon Thames, this isn’t painting an accurate picture.

Instead, establish the theme of watches using tightly related key terms and enthusiastic content that's intended to be read. Don’t reel off brands and locations in the hope that search engines will put the two together – it may well do, just not in the way you had hoped!

Then you need to drill down into pages focused on brands, and from there on to models… Then it all gets very specific!

Refining the Specifics

Here’s an example that I encountered a while back. I blew out my guitar amplifier and needed to find replacement valves (that ancient technology of glowing glass tubes to make stuff loud). I’m a music geek and proud of it, but when it comes to the techy serial numbers and all that jazz, I’m lost…

So, I decided to pull the busted valve out and look at the make/model etc. No make, no branding. Just “EL84” printed on the glass. So, I Googled it! Even searching for this now won’t get you much more in organic results than a Wikipedia page, some circuit diagrams and poorly optimised results for stores clearly shooting for this term.

There are plenty of reasons to go down to the level of detail of product numbers and codes with your targeting. The most important one is that it’s ultra-relevant – you can’t get more specific than a unique code!

Use site search terms in keyword plans

Knowing what people looked for whilst on your site can be a clear indicator of what your audience wants. Install your site search feature and Google Analytics will let you see this data. You may find a very small percentage of users go for site search (especially if your site is super easy to navigate) and you might find out what you’re missing out on too.

Google Analytics is not a replacement for full keyword research –  but it’s certainly a good base to have covered, as this Marketing Land post from last October explains.

The road ahead

I think it’s going to be tough for businesses that don’t get with the times. Old school SEO just doesn’t make the cut. Part of that old school way of thinking is the old keywords that those campaigns were built upon. It’s not about traffic for the sake of traffic anymore – but then, it never was. A lot of people just lost sight of their aim – to get conversions based on targeted, relevant visits.

You can look at things in two ways – either it’s the end of an era, or the dawn of a new golden age of ethical and relevant targeting. I know which one I’m up for!

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