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  • John Walker

Four Steps to Target the Right SEO Keywords

You want your website to start getting more traffic from search engines so you’re embarking on a search engine optimization program. But the first question you have is- “How do I pick the right keywords to optimize for?” Here’s a four-step guide for picking the right ones.

Step 1- Get real about what you can achieve: There’s a joke that says, “Where’s the best place to hide a body? On the second page of Google. No one will find it there.” This illustrates that when it comes to search engine optimization, your goal is to get your website onto the first page of Google.

But how hard is that to do? It’s very hard because there are just 7-10 organic listings on that first page. So that means that among all the web pages that exist, your page has to be in the top seven most relevant pages for a given search. That’s an ambitious goal!

But don’t despair, even if you don’t think you can attain page one rankings, improving your search engine optimization can help you gain more website traffic.

Step 2- Understand your target audience: Many B2B marketers have products that require research and consideration before purchase. If you’re selling one of those, then your target audience is going to be Googling questions about their needs before they start researching specific branded products.

Take “cyber security software.” A future buyer of software may start by researching threats. So their searches may start broad like “cyber attack” or “what is a cyber attack.” So broad searches like these could be an opportunity to reach target buyers early in their product research. But check search volumes to be sure.

Step 3- Check search volumes for potential keywords: Let’s check the search volume on the phrases above. To do this, I use software called SEMRush which provides estimates of monthly search volume in the U.S.. It turns out "Cyber attack" has 40,500 monthly searches and "cyber attack" has 8,100.

Whoa! These terms have a lot of searches. And not only does “cyber attack” have lots of monthly searches, it has loads of search results: 148 million! So to get on the first page of Google for this search term, your website page would need to be the most relevant among 148 million pages. Not gonna happen. So we have to get more specific. Here are some search terms that have lower volumes.

- Cyber security software:1,000

- Cyber security audit: 880

- Cyber security protection: 480

- Cyber security audit checklist: 260

“Cyber security software” is a no brainer because it’s what you’re selling, right? True, you should optimize your website for this term since it’s your core product, and you'll probably do so by default. But 1,000 monthly searches is still pretty competitive, plus there are nearly 500 million web pages indexed for this term.

Of the other three terms, the one I really like for SEO is “cyber security audit checklist.” I like it because it has a manageably small number of monthly searches; it’s not going to be hyper-competitive. It also could make for a very interesting piece of website content or even an interactive tool for users that would attract clicks.

Step 4- Identify where your audience is: Identifying where your target audience is located can help narrow the search terms to target and help you avoid the most competitive, broad terms. If you’re selling cyber security software, customers can be anywhere so this doesn’t help much. But if you’re selling building materials that are expensive to ship, local targeting could help a lot. For example, instead of targeting “commercial building materials,” try targeting “commercial building materials, New York.”

Identifying the right search terms to target is a critical first step for your SEO program because this decision may determine success or failure for the program overall. The best content you can create has little chance of attaining first page rankings if the competition is too fierce. So pick wisely.

This post was written by John Walker, Principal at J. Walker Marketing, a marketing consultancy focused on Search Marketing, Google Ads and analytics. Contact John directly to discuss your marketing challenges.

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