Do you know what you should be optimising for? [SEO Wednesdays]

We all know that getting a decent rank in the Google results requires good “on-page SEO”, and good external linking to the page. If you’re not sure about that bit, re-read the articles here, here and here. But there’s another critical question to ask yourself, and that’s am I targeting the right search terms in the first place?

To give you some examples, there’s no point in being top in Google for “blue widgets” if nobody ever searches for that term (perhaps because your customers all refer to the product by another name). There’s no point in trying to get top position for a term if it has irrelevant alternative meanings (e.g if Justin Bieber’s latest hit was called “The Blue Widgets Song”). And without wishing to be defeatist, there’s no point in trying to dominate the search results if your competition is BP, Tesco and Lloyds.

The key is to find the search terms which provide the lowest effort to reward ratio. And one of your best friends here is Google’s “Keyword Tool”, designed to help AdWords advertisers (who, don’t forget, are targeting hundreds or thousands of search terms permanently). This suggests search terms which might be related to your subject, and shows you how many searches there are globally and “locally” each month. Now, I’d take these figures with a pinch of salt, especially for those of us not in the US, but they will give you an idea of what the world is searching for. There’s also a column labelled “competition”, but this is to do with the number of AdWords advertisers, not the number of websites you’re up against in the search results.

Screenshot of the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

By following up on these searches, you might be able to spot some opportunities where there are a decent number of searches being made, but where the results being served up look poor, and in need of someone to provide an authoritative page on the subject. Look for a first page of results where several of the titles shown don’t include the search term (in bold), where there are no alternative meanings for the term, and where the sites which do appear aren’t from well-known companies.

If you find something, pursue it ruthlessly: commission a definitive article on the subject, get it on your site linked from the home page, and work really hard on generating external links directly to the page, using the search term. It should be a very valuable marketing exercise.

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