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Choosing Keywords to WinOne of the most abstract and difficult tasks when doing search engine optimization for your website is choosing what keywords to focus on. There is usually an obvious first choice – for example, a company selling sports equipment will want to focus on the phrase “sports equipment” – but stopping there will make you miss out on a lot of opportunities. First of all, the more general the term, the more competitive it will be, making it harder to rank for. Although it will bring a lot of benefits, ranking for a common phrase will take a lot of time and effort, and other avenues should be pursued in the meantime. And second, with a more general term, the traffic it drives to your site will likely have a lower conversion rate. Someone looking for a specific type of equipment that you do not have may click on your site, but won’t find what he or she wants.
Choosing keywords can be kind of like investing. Smart investors will tell you that one of the things that is essential to investing wisely is diversification of your assets. The same can be applied to choosing keywords and phrases.
Diversification simply means not putting all your eggs in one basket. With keywords, you can’t rest your company’s online future on the success or failure of one key term. There are most likely many other businesses trying to create their own online reputation based on the same keywords you are using. If you use multiple key phrases, it increases the chances that you will come out on top with at least one of them. Although you may not be able to rank on the first page of Google for “sports equipment”, you may be able to get there for the phrase “sporting goods”.
Pursuing more specific terms is also very productive, for two reasons. First, people are more likely to search for exactly what they are looking for. If someone wants to find baseball equipment, they will type in “baseball equipment”, not “sports equipment”. Focusing on a variety of more specific terms will help drive those people to your site. Which brings us to the second reason: the more specific the term is, the more likely it will lead to more conversions. You don’t want someone to just visit your site, you want them to perform some kind of action after visiting your site, such as purchasing your product or signing up for a service. A specific term that helps searchers find exactly what they want will make this happen. It is infinitely better for 20 people a month to visit your site and buy your product after searching for “football equipment”, than 1,000 people to visit after looking for “sports equipment” but none of them buy anything. And to take it a step further, sometimes it is effective to specifically target the action you want them to take. It may be productive to focus on the term “hockey equipment for sale” because then you will get people coming to your site who are specifically looking to buy hockey equipment. That may not get you as many viewers, but it will definitely get you a much better conversion rate.
Choosing keywords is a combination of art and science, and it is impossible to accurately predict what results a targeted key phrase will bring. Over time, adjustments may need to be made and goals may need to be altered. But keywords are the most important strategic decision to be made when doing search engine optimization for small business and pay-per-click campaign management. The success of your online marketing highly depends on your effectiveness in choosing your keywords.

Jamie Bates
Online Marketing Director