Advanced Keyword Selection Strategy for SEO
When I teach CEOs and marketers about SEO, the main strategy I advocate is to identify your highest value keywords and build readable, conversion-optimized pages around them. The pages you create can be static landing pages or thought leadership content such as blogs, white papers, reports, and compendiums. Above all, they must focus clearly and succinctly on their target keyword and include it in the title of the page.
This strategy makes perfect sense to most marketers. And yet, there’s an inevitable question that springs from it: Given the near-infinite number of valuable keywords for most businesses, how do you choose which ones to create pages around? For example, if you’re a national closet company and you’d like people to be able to find you for local searches like “custom closets greenwich ct,” doesn’t that mean you have to create a page for every populous local area in the entire United States?
In short, the answer is “yes.”
The Endless Need for Keyword-Targeted Landing Pages
In a theoretical world, publishing a unique page for every keyword someone is likely to type in that would bring revenue to your business is a good idea. Of course, limited resources make this impossible; but before I give you the practical solution, I want to make sure you understand the full scope of the number of landing pages every business could use — theoretically.
Back in our example of needing a different “custom closets”-targeted landing page for every city in the United States, we are not yet finished enumerating all the pages that would be helpful to the company. After all, “custom closets” is only one keyword local homeowners might type in when looking for a closet company. Some will type in “closet company greenwich ct”. Others will search “closet consultant greenwich ct”. Still others, “closet specialist greenwich ct”. All of those keywords contain good, transactional phrases and warrant placement in the title of the landing page.
One solution would be to have a single geo-targeted page for each location and create a rich title tag, something like:
Custom Closet Company Greenwich CT – Consultants, Designers & Specialists
The problem with this strategy is that the title is now a bit unfocused. It could be worse, of course. Some titles include so many keywords, Google is not able to determine which one is the most important. I call these mish-mosh titles. Here’s an example:
Best Custom Closet Company Greenwich CT | Closet Specialists, Designers, Consultants, Installers
While the first title isn’t a mish-mosh title, it could still improve its focus. I bring this up because, to Google, title tightness is crucial in determining which pages to rank on the first page: generally speaking, those that contain the keyword phrase the searcher typed in and as little else as possible will rise to the top. This fact leads us to the conclusion that, in a perfect world, our closet company would have multiple landing pages per city — one for each major keyword phrase.
If you think creating a landing page for every populous city is a tall order (~50 cities multiplied by 4 keywords per city = 200 pages), keep in mind that a closet company could benefit from many other types of landing pages in addition to geo-targeted pages. To name just a few:
- FAQ pages covering all the questions people type in about closets, e.g. “How much does a custom closet cost?”
- Closet “type” pages, e.g. walk-in closets, reach-in closets, modern closets, attic closets
- Superlative pages covering high value searches, e.g. “best custom closets,” “luxury closet company” “top rated closet installers”
- Long-form guides on the latest closet trends, organized by home style
If you created all, say, 1,000 landing pages suggested here, your company would be a paragon of SEO success – you’d have more customers than you could handle. But alas, creating that many pages is too resource-intensive for most companies. So, what’s the solution?
Narrowing Down Your Keywords & Ranking Them
To me, the best solution to the infinite-keywords problem is to rank your keywords based on a) their value to your business and b) their possibility of ranking. Then, go down your list of keywords and create as many excellent, custom-written pages as you can around each keyword, knowing that the leads you generate from doing so in the first 6-12 months will justify the next few years of creating even more pages.
Let’s break down the process of creating a ranked list of keywords and publishing them within landing pages:
- Define the bullseye keywords for your industry. A bullseye keyword is the one typed in by the customer who is most ready to purchase your service; it’s the low-hanging fruit. For my company, one would be “thought leadership marketing company” (which, I’m happy to say, our landing page ranks #1 for). For the closet company we’ve been using as our example, one might be “best closet company”. For my local haircutter, Carlos, one might be “hair salon pacific heights san francisco”. If your company is locally-based, you probably want to include a location in your bullseye keywords. If your business is national but people tend to search within their geographical area like the closet company, you might want to include the most lucrative local markets in your list of bullseye keywords.
- Expand your keyword list with keywords that are related or similar to your bullseye keywords. For First Page Sage, I mentioned “thought leadership marketing company” as a bullseye keyword. I’d use that phrase to come up with several other keywords such as:
thought leadership marketing firm
thought leadership company
thought leadership content firm
thought leadership content marketing
thought leadership content marketing firm
I’d also think of some other bullseye keywords like “seo company” “content marketing firm” and “seo expert” and derive related keywords from those. Soon I’d have a list with ~15 – ~100 keywords in it. Every keyword you come up with will have its own landing page, so this list determines the number of landing pages you’ll be creating.
- Score each of your keywords. You should create 2 scores for each keyword. The first score is how close to the bullseye — that is, how transactional — each one is. The second is how easy it is for each one to rank on Google. I like to use a 1 – 5 scale, where 5 is the closest to bullseye and easiest to rank on Google. Add the numbers up and order the list from highest to lowest score.
For example, “thought leadership content marketing firm” would be a 5 + 5. It’s a 5 on bullseye-closeness because anyone typing it in would clearly be ready to do business with a company like mine. It’s a 5 on ranking-easiness because not many other companies seem to be competing for it given its specificity. I like to consider search volume a bit here as well; if nobody, or almost nobody, ever typed it in, even a 5 + 5 keyword wouldn’t be valuable. But in this case, although the search volume is low, it’s high enough to be worth pursuing. With a total combined score of 10 / 10, this would be one of highest keywords on my list.
On the other hand, a keyword like “SEO company,” would be a 4 + 1; while it’s very transactional (not quite a 5 in transactionality because someone typing in “SEO company” could be looking for a definition), it’s incredibly difficult to rank for. With a total combined score of 5 / 10, this keyword would be somewhere in the middle of the list.
- Determine what types of landing pages would make the best “homes” for your keywords. Of the many varieties of landing pages out there, which ones would be the best vehicles for you to create content around those keywords? In other words, what is your content strategy? Here are the most common types of landing pages:
a. Service or product
c. Client type (e.g. residential, commercial, government)
d. Geographic area
e. Use cases
f. FAQ / Problems & Solutions
g. Case studies
h. Thought leadership content
To keep organized, you should choose 1-3 landing page types to publish on your website; any more would be logistically overwhelming. You may even just want to stick with one at first, likely a blog (which I’m lumping into the “thought leadership content” category). However, it would be reasonable to to have a content strategy like the following:
Each month, publish:
4 geo-targeted landing pages in an “Areas We Serve” section
4 “Industry” landing pages in an “Industries We Serve” section
4 blog entries
- Assign the keywords on your list to landing page types. For example, if I were using the content strategy above, I might choose the following 4 keywords for my first month’s allocation of 4 geo-targeted landing pages:
thought leadership marketing company san francisco
thought leadership marketing firm bay area
seo company san francisco
seo company bay area
For my 4 industry landing pages, I might chose the following 4 keywords:
automotive thought leadership content
insurance thought leadership content
law firm seo company
medical seo company
And for my 4 blog entries, I might choose these 4 keywords:
how long does seo take
thought leadership strategy
seo company cost
thought leadership marketing
As you can see, I’ve assigned keywords to each type of landing page that naturally fit the theme of that landing page. “How long does seo take” is a good keyword to write a blog entry about, but not a good keyword for an industry landing page or geo-targeted landing pages. (It would also be great for a FAQ landing page if I had chosen that type of landing page to create.)
Making Your Content Sparkle
Once all your keywords have been given a good home, you’ve finished your strategic work. Now, it’s time to get creative. That means coming up with titles and content for each of the landing pages. Only thought leadership landing pages (blogs, white papers, guides, reports) need truly creative titles. A geo-targeted landing page for our closet company might simply have the title:
Custom Closet Designers in Providence, RI
And an industry landing page for my own company might be entitled:
Automotive Thought Leadership Content
As you create content for each page, it’s essential to try to picture what the searcher was looking for when they typed that phrase into Google. Someone who typed “custom closet designer providence” probably wants a page presenting a local Providence company that contains beautiful photos of closets. A person who typed in “how long does SEO take?” probably wants a clear, brief explanation of how long SEO takes on average. Don’t just pitch people – give them what they’re looking for. That’s a key part of conversion; if you sell to them too early, they’ll just bounce off the page.
But once you have your user engaged, you do need to sew a call to action (or two or three) into the page so that they remember that your company offers the product or service related to the search they typed into Google. I’m not opposed to clear calls-to-action at the end of a piece, e.g. “If you would like one of our closet designers to pay a free visit to your home, contact us here” but I’m an even bigger fan of subtly reminding people that you offer the product or service they searched for throughout the page without doing a direct pitch.
If executed with care and precision, this keyword selection strategy will grow the seed of your most important keywords into its full expression: new revenue for your firm.