I play this little contest with myself whenever I’m creating a branded link. It’s like a mini game show, and my challenge is to come up with a memorable link that I haven’t used before. It needs to be unique and meaningful.
Oh…meaningful. That’s where it’s a challenge.
Even before they click, readers can associate your content with an idea — just by seeing it in the slug. That keyword is like a preview of what’s to come. While it’s easy to understand the benefits of a good keyword in your slug, let’s reverse things.
Let good keywords inspire your content from the start.
Where do you find good keywords?
With all good marketing moves, we rely on data. At SpyFu, we’re looking at the most trusted, relied-upon, competitive keywords that advertisers just like you have already tested. Yep, we’re stealing from your competitors.
There’s much to learn from your competition. They’re road testing ideas on the same audience you’re trying to reach. That adds up when you compile insights from multiple competitors in the same niche. When one competitor goes a direction, that’s interesting. When a second or third competitor goes the same way, you’ve got a trend.
Why do keywords matter at all?
It used to be that you’d target a keyword or two that you wanted your site to rank for in a Google search. You would have written your article with that keyword popping up here and there to make it very clear that you are all about landscaping supplies.
When word spread about that practice, people took it to the extreme. We saw web pages filled with lines like “when you want quality landscape supplies, come see us for your best landscape supplies.” That was keyword stuffing, and it’s part of SEO Past.
I say “SEO Past” because smart marketers have shunned that approach. It was awkward and hard to miss. Google flat out says that it hurts your rankings, and they’ve urged content creators to write for humans.
Keywords didn’t lose their importance. Marketers found a better way to use them.
Good keywords should be the inspiration and theme of the content. Google has gotten better at recognizing searcher intent and matching that with the right result. It knows that a search for babysitting information might serve up something dedicated to “nanny services” and “childcare.”
That’s a good thing for all of us. User experience improves, but so does the content. We have the opportunity to be authentic, and that’s going to engage readers far more than any overstuffed article will.
Google rewards natural-sounding, authoritative content by returning it higher in the list of results.
Treat SEO keywords like a target, an aspiration.
The point is, keyword research is still important, but not for the reasons it used to be.
The goal of keyword research
These days, the emphasis in SEO is on creating quality content that answers the questions people have. Good keyword research helps you discover and navigate the topics that people want to know about.
Keyword research includes answering questions like:
- What are the best keywords to target in my industry?
- How hard it is to rank for that keyword?
- How valuable is the traffic from one keyword compared to another?
- What kind of content is ranking for it?
If you can answer these questions, then you can put in the work where it pays off. Here’s why each one matters.
What are the best keywords to target in my industry?
This is your starting point for every action going forward. Don’t worry about coming up with a lengthy list at first. Just gather some core keywords that should help you focus your writing.
How do I find this answer?
Keyword research tools can help. The tool helps you see the keywords that your competitors use, with views to single out the ones that multiple competitors rely on. It helps you start with the best keywords to target in a campaign.
How hard it is to rank for that keyword?
Creating content and optimizing it for search engines is a lot of work. Knowing what you’re up against helps you prioritize that work. Many research tools include a difficulty rating that lets you sort keywords into “easy wins” and “long shots” and everything in between.
How valuable is the traffic from one keyword compared to another?
High traffic is good. What’s better? High value. Keywords like “tile installation” and “web design classes” come from people who are ready to take action. That’s a very general statement. Still, it’s more likely that you’ll get action on those searches vs. searches like “capital of Bolivia” or “HTML tag examples.”
During your keyword research, look for stats like “SEO value” to help you weigh the value of a click from your ranking on that keyword.
What kind of content is ranking for this keyword?
Compare your ideas against the content that Google is currently suggesting as the most authoritative and valuable information on this topic. Consider how long the page is (word count), the types of content that ranks (video, podcast, etc.), and what it is that they’re saying. If you can fill in the gaps with a clearer explanation, deeper ideas, and expanded examples, you can be a new force in that space.
Don’t get caught up in keyword rankings
Don’t try to rank for the sake of ranking. There’s not much glory in having a number one ranking on a term that rarely gets searched.
The point is to get clicks to your page. Those clicks turn into traffic. If you’re aiming for high traffic numbers so that you can earn money from advertising on your site, then go for it! However, for those that have a different goal, the click is just the start.
Your content is the star
Once you get people to your page, it’s up to your on-page content to carry the baton. You still need to answer their search (a product they’re looking for, a solution they need, etc.). Your keyword research and SEO work only pay off when you can convert people on your site to take action.
Decide what that goal looks like. One page owner might want to get email signups on their site while another wants to make a sale.
Whatever you choose to be your goal of the page will be the goal of your clicks.
- Rankings turn to clicks.
- Clicks turn to page visits.
- Page visits turn to conversions.
Use keywords from the start and at the finish
To be clear, a keyword in a link’s slug isn’t going to make your content rank by itself. What it will is clue people into what they’re about to read. The right slug keyword is going to help you earn that click — even if it’s on a micro-subconscious level.
Start with good keywords, and use them to finish the job.
Guest Author: Sidra Condron, Spyfu
Sidra Condron writes about reaching human beings in a digital world. As Marketing Manager for SpyFu, she helps marketers learn about using tools to connect with their audience through content creation, SEO and AdWords best practices.
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