Let me preface this article by saying this pertains heavily for businesses that offer services contingent on certain geographies. Anyone looking for assistance on keywords for e-commerce and services not contingent on geography (online tutoring, fitness coaching, or insurance) may find some merit within this article, but it should be more specialized. The example we’ll be using is a personal injury law firm in one state, as they offer a service catering one large but specified area.
We acquired a great client by promising to deliver on an interesting KPI they had developed, essentially the following if they were reading it out to me like a decree: “You will have 6 months to get 20% of the keywords on our list (183 keywords) on the first page of Google. If 20% aren’t on the first page of Google, you will work for free until they are.”
Seems like an interesting arrangement, right? Especially since we know that most clicks by far go to the first three results, MAYBE the top five:
(This graph is roughly five years old, but I guarantee the sloping result is still the same trajectory)
I figured we’d do them one better and ensure the majority of those that hit the first page would also be in the top 3 results as well (getting 20% of the keywords on the homepage successfully but in the 5+ spot seemed like an unscrupulous and unyielding approach). While most of us would say “duh” to the notion of wanting all of these proposed keywords in the top 3 spots opposed to the bottom of page one, what about the keywords themselves?
Flash forward, and we certainly did get many more of the proposed keywords in the top 3 (25.4% from 7.8%) BUT now we face a matter of if those keywords matter, mostly derived from if they actually get monthly searches, and if they do, if those searches come onto the site as qualified traffic that can be converted into the kind of leads we’re looking for. The following tool SerpBook is what is enables us to see our rankings reports as well as the monthly searches, both of which are quite accurate.
“MS” is monthly searches, and the corresponding emoticons mimic the grimaces made with the appropriate revelations.
What we have here is a classic instance of the departure between what an individual perceives to be a viable keyword and a keyword that a person actually searches for. In the digital marketing industry, it is important to always act as the expert in this situation, proposing what keywords will work based off research and data. An act of “appeasement” is nice for a prior decided KPI, but if this is all the relationship will be based on, you’ll have a company employing your services with a lot of keywords they’re content with having ranked for but no additional business to show for it.
Now we’re on track to seeing this client getting keyword results with actual monthly searches, and we know that anyone that uses these search terms are very likely to need the professional in question. This traffic would be considered qualified traffic, and we’d be on the right track for selecting keywords to focus on (and we’d want that “Michigan Personal Injury Lawyer” keyword to jump another 18 spots next month too).
So far, we’ve only really looked at short-tail, “vanity” keywords which we know has a high likelihood of being qualified traffic, but of course that is not the only source of the traffic you’re looking for.
Typically, the short-tail opportunities are going to always have traffic if the geography isn’t too small and the service area isn’t too slim. The construct is:
(city) + (service area) + (purveyor)
We could do Atlanta + Personal Injury + Lawyer, and we’d know without a doubt this is not only a phrase that delivers traffic but is insanely competitive.
If we did “Sandy Springs” instead of Atlanta (right outside of Atlanta) we’d expect less traffic and less competition.
If we kept Atlanta and switched the service area with “Trip and Fall”, again, less traffic and less competition. These are more opportunities you can take advantage of. For another industry, perhaps plumbing, we could have the same success with a smaller city in a metropolitan area, but we’d have to be careful about the service area. There many be searches for (city) + (plumbing) + (company/expert/specialist) or just (city) + plumber, but if you tried going into “clogged pipes/drains”, you may be spending time on irrelevance.
You must be wondering at this point – what tools can I be using to verify my short-tail keywords? If there are short-tail keywords, there must be long-tail keywords?
Long-tail keywords are going to be your other opportunities for organic traffic, mostly either modified short-tail and inquisitive queries.
Modified short-tail would be more like:
- Best Plumbers in Atlanta, GA
- Lawyers with payment plans NYC
Inquisitive would be:
- What plumbers are 24/7 by me
- Who is the best Atlanta lawyer to handle my criminal case
There are many content strategies surrounding the ability to capture this traffic, but that’s another story. Lastly, we must see how we confirm the keywords that will benefit our business the most.
There are plenty of tools out there that will assist with “Keyword Research”, meaning they will use search trends, suggestive search on search engines like Google, competitive analysis to spit out great keywords that you could optimize for on your website. We use SEMrush which both successfully offers good keywords along with the monthly searches we should expect (AND an idea of the competition going after the keywords).
Once you have your short-tail verified and your long-tailed suggested, you officially have your titular Keywords That Matter, and you could be confident that with these in focus, you’ll be driving the traffic that also matters to your website.