Explore our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Toolkit

Choosing the right target keywords for SEM

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 16 Jun, 2014
Essential Essential topic

How to avoid 5 common keyword research mistakes for Search Engine Marketing

Choosing the right keywords for your PPC campaigns and SEO can be a real challenge. For example, do you target only niche keywords you can gain visibility for or do you concentrate on the more generic keywords that are the most competitive?

The key is balance. You should be targeting both types. To understand why, let’s first look at which metrics we recommend you use to categorize and value a keyword.

1. Volume and Difficulty

  • Volume : Number of keyword searches for the term within a given period.
  • Difficulty: Level of competition between domains for the keyword.

Types of actionable keywords:

  • Common: Usually a one-word keyword with very little context. Let’s look at a search for the term 'Apple'. What information can we determine from just looking at the keyword 'Apple' about what the person was searching for? Not much. He may be looking for an iPhone or maybe he’s looking for an orchard or a recipe for pie? It’s impossible to tell without more information.
  • Transactional: Any long-tail keyword containing a transactional term. These are typically tied to e-commerce queries. Adding 'buy', 'rent' or 'price' to a query tells us that the user is likely searching with the intention of buying something.
  • Informative: Long-tail queries containing the common markers of 'how to', 'why', 'tips' or 'review', are indicative of a user looking for information about the keyword. These keyword terms tend to be dominated by informational sites such as Wikipedia, etc.

Common keywords usually have the highest volume as well as the highest difficulty. Because they lack a specific context and can be applied to numerous results, the competition for Common keywords can be fierce. But the potential traffic you could receive in return makes targeting them worth the effort.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore keywords that fall into the other categories. Those can be low-hanging fruit, which means easy wins when it comes to traffic for your site. You can benefit from both.

2. Not taking conversions into account when choosing keywords

When users arrive at your website via searches for your keywords, you need to make sure they stay there long enough to convert. If you’re not building trust, offering a value-add or reinforcing your brand through the use of effective keywords, your landing pages won’t be able to effectively do their jobs: namely, convert your traffic. Users will arrive, not find what they need, and click that back button alarmingly fast.

If the keywords you’ve chosen aren’t indicative of the entry point within the sales funnel you’re linking traffic to, you’ll wind up with a high bounce rate for your landing pages.

So how do we determine which keywords convert?

That requires a deeper look into analytics. Using Google Analytics, you can determine the path users who have converted took to arrive at your site. Once you isolate that path for your best-performing keywords, you’ll have a good idea of where to start for the rest of them.

However, you can also get a quick and dirty snapshot of the path to conversion simply by looking at the commercial queries as outlined above. When a user is looking for something using terms such as 'buy', or 'low price' or 'delivery', it means they are likely at a key decision point in the sales cycle, so it moves you to maximize their conversion potential.

3. A weak grasp of the importance of volume of keywords

You may be tempted to think that keywords with the highest volume have the most value. But as we discussed above, there’s a reason why you should balance out our strategy. Even keywords with less volume can bring you traffic and leads, especially if they are razor-focused on a service or product you sell.

Searchers closer to conversion will be using longer-tailed keywords. They may be branded keywords or they may be keywords containing commercial prefixes as we mentioned earlier.

If you can convert 50% of 100 users who come to your site for a long-tail variant of one of your keywords, you get the same return as if you were to convert 10% of 500 users who arrived via a more broad term. Which pathway has more value?  

Don’t underestimate the potential effectiveness of long-tail keywords.  Even with the small volume, they can bring you traffic that is more likely to convert.

How to target these keywords by type

So now that we’ve identified the types of keywords and their relative value to an overall strategy, let’s identify for the ideal breakdown of how to target these keywords by type.

  • 1. Common keywords – 5-10%

Common keywords will be the foundation of your research. Find the balance between keyword difficulty and volume for keywords matching your business or service range. Don’t forget about brand keywords.

  • 2. Informative keywords (if needed) – 20-30%

If you provide your readers with some reviews or advice or, even better, if you run the blog, use informative keywords.

  • 3. High volume commercial keywords – 10-15%

Low volume commercial keywords- ‘long-tail’ – up to 50%

Commercial keywords, which will are very useful, no doubts. And the best part about them, that there are a variety of keywords that convert. ‘Car rental’ keyword has a high volume number and competitiveness level for this keyword is quite high. ‘Cheapest car rentals’ or ‘rental car company’ keywords has a lower volume, but they still revealing the intention to use the service.

  • 4. Geo targeted keywords (if needed) – 10-15%

Undoubtedly necessary if you providing some local services. Using geo targeted keyword your consumers are saying that they are nearby and ready to come and make a purchase. If you using rich snippets and providing some additional information like location, phone number, price, ratings and so on, the possibility to convert those consumers into a buyers increases.

4. Not paying attention to competitors

Your site doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You have competitors. Your users know about them, too. Why should they pick your site over that of your competitor’s? You need a competitive research tool.

You should assume that your competitors are engaging in much of the same research you are and are likely targeting many of the same keywords. Imagine if you knew exactly what terms they were going after? How would that alter your strategies? That’s the kind of competitive intelligence SEMrush offers.

Here’s an example of using SEMrush:

  • Let’s say you have a gardening website and you want to rank for the word 'Hydrangea'.
  • Using SEMrush, you enter Hydrangea into the tool.  What’s returned to you is the list of all domains that hold the top positions on this keyword:

semrush keywords

  • Let’s examine the top three results. (We will exclude Wikipedia as it is not in competition with us).
  • From there, we can compare those domains using SEMrush’s Domain vs. Domain tool, which will provide us with the list of the keywords three websites have in common:

semrush domain analysis

  • Now we export all the data and exclude all the words not containing 'hydrangea'. Using SEMrush, we’ve now identified 460 long-tail keyword variants in less than five minutes.

5. Not updating your keyword strategy regularly

You may think that once you’ve come up with a keyword list based on competitive research, you’re done. That couldn’t be further from the truth. SEO is an ongoing process that is never fully completed.

You’re constantly going to be tinkering and adjusting your strategy based on market trends, seasonality, and competition. You should regularly monitor how your keywords are performing to see if any of them are moving up or down and to make changes to your plans accordingly.

At a minimum, you should be revisiting your keyword research methodology at least once every year. Every six months is closer to ideal.





Author's avatar

By Expert commentator

This is a post we've invited from a digital marketing specialist who has agreed to share their expertise, opinions and case studies. Their details are given at the end of the article.

Recommended Blog Posts