If I was writing this post 6 or 7 years ago, I’d be spelling out golden rules that would completely tank your website in today’s search environment.
AI (in this case, search engine algorithms) have come on such a long way that it’s become almost impossible to deceive them and hack your way to the top of the SERP’s (search engine results pages).
A great example of this is the use of keywords. Many moons ago, Google would reward a website for repeatedly mentioning a queried keyword…fast forward to today and we refer to that technique as keyword stuffing (doesn’t sound pretty, does it?).
Nowadays you can’t simply pick out a high volume keyword and ram your content to death with it…
…but that doesn’t mean you should give up on them. We can chase keywords in a different way and generate the same results as all those years ago.
In the remainder of this ‘keyword strategy’ article, I’m going to explain exactly how I find appropriate keywords and use them to generate more organic traffic.
Keyword Strategy vs Content Topic
From here on in, I don’t want you to look at ‘keywords’ as short phrases that rank on search engines. The search algorithms have changed and your perspective needs to shift alongside them.
A keyword is a content (or webpage/website) topic that generates organic traffic.
This minor shift in attitude (that some of you are probably shrugging your shoulders about) will make a huge difference to the type of content you produce, and thus, how well your keyword strategy will perform.
To help me explain, let’s take a look at ‘content topics’ that generate organic traffic from your target audience.
The Two Main Things
Content that ranks well on search engines (and helps you achieve your aims), must do two things:
- Have a direct relation to your website’s offering (the purpose of your website)
- Is regularly searched for by your target audience/market
Before we go any further, if you don’t know what the true purpose of your website is (no.1, above) you should leave this article and go back to the drawing board. Learning how to use keywords isn’t going to help you!
For example, let’s pretend I have a website that sells wind-up desks (because we’ve all just got these in the Einstein Marketer office) the purpose of my website is to sell desks. It’s that simple.
BTW, a wind-up desk allows you to adjust the height of the desktop, from sitting to standing.
The problem for 99% of you lies in no.2: finding keywords that are regularly searched by your target market.
The first (and main) reason for this is the way you’re looking at your keyword strategy. Keywords aren’t the commodity that they once were and search engines (particularly Google), don’t look at them like this anymore…
…this fatal error leads to a whole host of mistakes.
Keyword Strategy Mistakes
If you don’t have a keyword strategy for generating organic traffic from your content and you’re blindly targeting queries, it will (probably) lead to one of the following errors:
- Guesswork: effectively taking multiple stabs in the dark until something works
- Creating content for the sake of it: everybody else is doing it, so it must work, right?
- Following keyword research tools to the letter: using lists of keywords to create content centred around the highest search volume or lowest (depending on what you’ve been reading)
It’s time to break free from the guesswork and the hopeless keyword chase, and start doing things differently.
The first thing I want you to do is stop starting with keywords (or content topics) as your beginning point. In fact, from now on, I want you to see this as the final step in your keyword strategy.
When you begin at this point, everything else you do is built out from it. This means that your content and every tactic you employ in this strategy, is effectively based around a short phrase found on a keyword research tool.
I want you to flip the entire process on its head and do things the other way around.
This process begins with audience and ends with keywords, and since I’ve employed it on the Einstein Marketer website (throughout the course of the last year) we’ve seen organic traffic increase by 1,312% (Feb. 2018 compared to Feb. 2019) …
…not bad right?
A regular keyword strategy looks something like this:
Keyword selection-> Form content around keyword -> Make content fit the audience
My keyword strategy looks like this:
Understand audience-> Create content that solves problems -> Optimise it for search using keyword research.
When you use this reverse approach, not only will it help you rank higher, but you’ll be able to effectively reach your target market when they’re most in need of your website (when they’re searching for answers).
Let’s take a look at each one of the steps (in order), so I can show you how and why it’s worked so well for us:
Content marketing is a highly competitive environment and by performing this singular adjustment in your organic traffic strategy, you’ll be able to beat 90% of the competition.
Most content marketers and SEO experts write for themselves. They create content that they think will rank high on search engines and generate loads of traffic. They don’t think about their audience, or care about the person it’s reaching…
…even though every Google update penalises these strategies (more and more) and rewards content strategies that achieve good user behavioural metrics.
If you really want to rank high on the SERP’s, you need to understand your audience and in particular, their pain points.
Before we go any further, I want you to think about the most common reasons YOU use search engines (look back at your last 5 searches, why did you perform them?)…
…for the majority of you, it’s because you wanted to find the answer to a question, following that, it’ll be because you wanted to discover more about a particular topic.
Now, ask yourself, why did you want to find the answers to that particular question?
For most of you, it will be because this was a pain point or problem in your life (small or big, it doesn’t matter, even a search to fill an information gap can be considered a pain point).
With that in mind, before you start thinking about keyword research, content creation or keyword strategy, ask yourself, what are your target market’s pain points? What are their biggest problems? What answers would they search for on a search engine?
Forget search volume for now (it’s all based on historic data anyway!)…really try to understand your audience’s pain points.
For example, if I started that website selling wind-up tables, I’d use my target market’s pain points as the starting point, these might look something like this:
- Pain point: concerned with the health implications of sitting down all day
- Pain point: painful back/bad posture from sitting all day
- Pain point: not healthy enough sitting down, want to burn more calories every day
- Pain point: want to lose weight while at work
Notice that none of these pain points mention wind-up desks, they just relate to them.
The better your know your target market, the easier this will be, use a Customer Avatar to help create more ideas.
Content that Solves Problems
The hardest part of this organic traffic strategy is already complete. After you’ve discovered the pain points and done a sufficient amount of research about your target market’s profile, everything else should fall into place.
The next step is to build these pain points out into content that solves your target audience’s problems. Not only does this type of content do well on search engines, it also draws lots of traffic from social media and other content distribution points.
The key here is to not be too promotional. For instance, referring back to my wind-up desk business, I wouldn’t create a piece of content that ONLY tells visitors that my desks can fix their bad back. Instead of this, I’d create a piece of content about how bad backs are caused, and list a few helpful ways to remedy the problem including a wind-up desk.
(Just the mention of the wind-up desks in this article about keywords, might even inspire some of you to buy one!)
This is an incredibly powerful way to build awareness of your brand and the problem that your product solves using search traffic.
And because I’ve actually considered my target market first, I am much more likely to reach the right people, rather than spending loads of time creating content that draws the wrong people.
At this point, it’s so crucial that you understand the importance of that last sentence. I would much rather have 50 visitors a day from search engines that are actively seeking a solution to their problem (which I offer), than 500 who aren’t.
Create content that solves your target audience’s problems, and you’ll take serious strides towards the goals of your website.
Keyword Research and Search Optimisation
The final step is to decide on the best keywords for your content and optimise it for search.
Don’t let your keyword research distract you from the first two steps in this process. The keyword must fit the content, not the other way around.
As a general rule of thumb, I target the highest volume keywords with a high CPC value. I know that there’s value in chasing low volume keywords, but I’d much rather be persistent and reap the big rewards when (or if) my content makes the breakthrough onto the top page.
The main part of my keyword research is done using the (Free) Google Chrome extension, Keywords Everywhere. This extension automatically analyses every Google (or YouTube) search you perform on Chrome, showing the Volume, CPC (cost per click, if advertising) and Competition of the search query.
When this extension is turned on, it also displays ‘Related Keywords’ and ‘People Also Search For’ sections on the right hand side of the Google page. This is where I analyse the keywords and search for appropriate terms that perform well and fit my content.
Whilst ‘volume’ definitely has its value, you’ll almost always find that the keywords that perform best (in terms of your website’s goals e.g. make sales) are the highest CPC…
…when advertisers are prepared to pay more for a keyword, it’s usually because it aligns with qualified buyers.
As somebody who is producing content, try to find a sweet spot between these two.
When you’ve finished your research, you should have a keyword strategy that does ALL 3 of the following things:
- Fits the content topic that you’ve derived from your audience’s pain points
- Has a high search volume
- Is proven to work for Google advertisers (high CPC)
You will then need to prime your content for this keyword and optimise your page for search. If you’d like to learn more about that, check out Page Optimisation: How We Optimise Every Page and Blog for Search.
Ranking high on the search engines is one of the biggest challenges for a new website. And there’s no doubt that it will take some time.
Google has made our lives increasingly complicated, penalising websites who adopt ‘quick hacks’ and ‘shortcuts’ in favour of those who actively seek to inform and engage their audience.
Their shift in attitude must result in a shift in your attitude.
Look after your target market/audience with this keyword strategy and Google will look after you.