Of course, you want to improve your rankings for a specific, target keyword.
While some aspects of SEO, including link building and quality content creation take time and effort (which has a huge cost), the following three tips are quick, easy and can yield results VERY quickly.
Table of Contents
1. Internal Links
Internal link building is perhaps one of best ways to boost and target for specific keywords and the good news is that it is immediately in your control. Don’t be afraid to target specific words or phrases with your internal links.
2. Title, Meta & H1
If your web pages aren’t performing for the keywords you want, try A-B testing tweaks on your titles, meta descriptions and H1 headers to include direct targeting of your keywords. We have seen as much as 80% traffic improvement from this alone.
3. Backlinks From External Sources
While less in your control than some of the other sources above, you can still engage in white hat link building services or perform link building outreach on your own to target publishers that are relevant to your niche and who have sufficient domain authority to move the needle.
But, What Keywords Should You Target?
Ultimately, you’ll want to narrow down your target keyword list list to the top potential candidates, zeroing in on a dozen or two strong keywords with the highest potential return. You’ll want to look at three factors here:
- Relevance. Realistically, how close is this keyword to your client’s products, services, and target niche? This is going to be a subjective question, but you can ask more critical questions here; for example, how far along in the buying cycle would a customer be if they were searching for this? How informed is a customer who is searching for this? Who wouldn’t be searching for this?
- Volume. The volume is another important factor, as it controls how many people could ultimately be influenced by a high-ranking site for this query. However, there’s one limiting factor that could compromise volume’s effectiveness, and that’s competition.
- Competition. A keyword with a lot of competition will be nearly impossible to rank for. On the other hand, lower competition keywords tend to carry lower volume. You’ll have to find a balance if you want your strategy to work.
Now, let’s consider a few other factors when it comes to targeting specific keywords in SEO.
You’ll want to include keywords in your blog posts, and meta data, and really, throughout your site. But thanks to various Google updates, if you include too many, you’ll end up getting your client’s site penalized. What’s the solution? The old method was one of percentage, making sure your targeted keyword phrases don’t appear more than 2-3 percent of the time. However, a better solution is to avoid stuffing keywords at all; the less you think about it, the more naturally you’ll write, and the less you’ll have to worry about a penalty.
For starters, only choose keywords that you can work into your content naturally, and then, work them into content titles only when they’re appropriate. From there, they’ll probably appear naturally as you complete the content work. For some keywords, this is easier said than done, but your first job is choosing the right keywords to begin with. Your keyword density should mirror the purpose of the miniskirt:
Long-tail Keywords vs. Head Keywords
First, you need to know the difference between basic keywords (sometimes called head keywords) and long-tail keywords. These are long phrases, sometimes colloquial, like “where’s the best place for chicken tacos” instead of the basic “chicken tacos.”
Generally, the longer the query becomes, the lower the volume and competition become. This makes them easier to rank for but also makes them yield a lower potential traffic rate with a high rank. Compared to head keywords, they offer fast-paced gains, but a lower long-term payoff (assuming you invest sufficiently in the basic keywords). They’re also great material for topic-based optimization.
The biggest risk between the short and the long tail in keyword targeting is keyword cannibalization.
Why Too Many Keywords is Killing Your SEO Strategy
In many ways, “more is better” is an ideology that dominates the SEO world. If you have more high-quality links pointing to your domain, you’ll have a higher authority. If you have more content on your site, you get more attention. In most cases, if you invest more time and money into a strategy, you’re going to see better results.
Applying this thinking to the realm of keywords, many businesses select a broad range of subjects and key phrases on which to focus their campaign. However, the “more is better” philosophy can actually be counterproductive when applied in this context; in the majority of cases, focusing on fewer topic keywords is going to yield the best results.
There are many factors responsible for this dynamic.
How Keywords Have Evolved Over Time
Today, Google operates under an entirely different algorithm. It uses a process known as “semantic search,” which analyzes the intent behind a search query, then tries to find the most relevant answers for that query.
Because of this, being relevant is no longer a matter of direct keyword frequency—for example, to rank in search engines for “cheap sleeping bags,” you no longer need to focus on “cheap sleeping bags” specifically. Instead, you must focus on topics for your content—for example, “sleeping bags” could be a broad topic keyword, and you could use that keyword to generate articles like “The best sleeping bags for camping” or “10 qualities every sleeping bag needs.” Your keyword choice doesn’t have to match on a one-to-one basis; instead you can focus on generalities.
These “topic keywords” are generally more extended phrases than traditional keywords. “Long-tail keywords,” which are search phrases consisting of several words, can be ranked for naturally because of the types of content titles you choose pertaining to those topic keywords.
Overcrowding and the Power of Niches
SEO is a powerful, cost-efficient strategy. The problem is, almost every company in the world is starting to realize it. As a result, the SEO landscape is becoming more competitive, and fewer companies are able to rank in the top positions for general keywords.
When Google determines your level of authority, it considers your authority for specific topics and industries.
For example, The Home Depot is a major authority in “home improvement,” and because they have become so prominent, it’s unlikely that any new company will be able to displace it without a huge budget for everything from content marketing, PR, keyword research for the longtail etc.
However, more specifically targeted niches—like “DIY plumbing in Chicago,” are much narrower in scope and are therefore open to less competition.
It’s far easier to become known as an authority in one of these segments than for a much broader topic.
Conclusion: do proper keyword research.
Under this logic, the best approach might seem to be becoming known for as many of these niches as possible—however, this isn’t necessarily the case. Trying to become known as an expert in “DIY plumbing in Chicago,” “Garden care in Illinois,” and “Ice cream recipes for children” will be counterproductive because each separate niche draws away from your power in the first niche. This is an extreme example, since these niches are so drastically different, but the principle is the same. Think of it as trying to work at multiple jobs—you can probably manage two, maybe three if you push yourself, but any more than that and you’ll be pulling your hair out and getting confused.
The Visibility Tipping Point
It’s also worth considering that 58.4 percent of all clicks go to the first three results on Google. The average click-through rate for page one results are 8.9 percent, with the top spot getting 36.4 percent, while page two results average only 1.5 percent. Essentially, that means:
Even if you work your way all the way up to rank 15, you still won’t start seeing an influx of traffic until you reach page one.
Considering these metrics, 1 page-one rank is worth nearly 6 page-two positions, and 1 number-one rank is worth more than 24 page-two positions.
Apply this landscape to your topic keywords—you only have a finite amount of effort to spend across all your keywords. If you work on 10 keywords and get them all to page two, it still won’t amount to half the traffic you’d get by taking 1 keyword to a number-one rank.
The Ideal Number of Keywords to Target
Obviously, there is no “ideal” number of topic keywords to have, since there are several factors that must be considered:
- Your budget. The more money and resources you can spend, the more keywords you can comfortably target.
- Your competition. Lower competition topics can afford a greater quantity.
- Your related niches. Choose one core niche and branch out only into related niches—the number and relationship of those peripheral niches should determine how many you target.
- Your keyword research. What does your keyword research reveal about the low-hanging fruit you can target?
For most startups and new companies, two to five topic keywords is plenty. For small- to medium-sized businesses, up to 10 can be comfortably managed, depending on the above factors. Only when you get to a large scale with an equally large budget do you have more flexibility to tackle a greater number. And as a general rule of thumb, if you’re in doubt, fewer is always better.
Observing Rank Changes in Your Target Keywords
Reporting is a big deal for agency-client relationships, and keyword ranks tend to be a sensitive issue. You’ll find your clients want high ranks, as fast as possible, and may grow irritated if they aren’t getting the ranks they want (or overly complacent if they are).
First, set the expectation that ranks aren’t everything. Yes, you have target keywords and your goal is to rank for them, but you’ll be rising in rank for dozens of long-tail keyword phrases you didn’t even know you were optimizing for (thanks to your brilliant content marketing strategy). Plus, keyword rankings can only tell you so much—what’s really important is your inbound traffic.
Second, set the expectation that ranks are volatile, and aren’t entirely predictable. Your rank may change from day to day, and may appear differently for two different people in the same room. There’s a degree of relativity to be expected in the modern realm of keyword-based optimization, so try not to let your efforts be judged too precisely, particularly if you’re operating under a white label SEO services program.
The Future of SEO Keyword Targeting
It’s hard to say exactly what the future holds for keywords (or SEO in general). But I suspect that the world of keywords and topics is only going to get stranger.
Technologies like Google Analytics, Google Keyword Planner, RankBrain, the Knowledge Graph, digital assistants and even ChatGPT/AI are evolving at a remarkable pace, and all of them are, in some way, making it harder to get your site or specific web page ranked for a specific keyword term.
Overall, keyword focus is only a part of SEO—building your authority, earning links, getting inferred links and brand mentions, providing great content, and offering the best user experience are other fundamental pillars you need to worry about.
So instead of trying to perfect the keyword side of things, hedge your bets, and try to develop the best overall strategy you can with your clients.
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