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How to compile a list of terms to target for SEO

It can be argued that there are two basic strategies in Search Engine Optimisation. One is to try to improve the site’s performance as a whole – sorting out all the titles and tags, getting general links, that sort of thing. The other is to focus on specific searches and targeting those. If we choose this approach, where do we start?

Inevitably – and rather sadly – many marketing managers start off in the wrong direction. I’ve heard a lot of people over the years saying: “My Sales Director reckons that we really need to be top of the Google results for ‘blue widgets’. I need to get this moving.”

Whether or not being top of the Google results for ‘blue widgets’ is actually of any business benefit doesn’t come into it. Often we can quickly see (using Google Search Console, perhaps) that there are hardly any searches for ‘blue widgets’. Common sense might also tell us that what searches exist are more likely to be from people learning about the subject than from prospective buyers.

I would argue that instead of this arbitrary approach, you need to identify the best terms for improvement. The best place to start is by investigating the high volume searches which look useful and where you already rank, but not very highly. Google Search Console is your friend here. Under “Search Traffic” and “Search Analytics”, you can see the searches for which you’ve been ranking over recent weeks in the Google results pages. Tick “Impressions” and “Position”, and possibly filter by the most relevant country too.

Now sort on impressions to see the search terms where you’ve been appearing the most frequently. What you’re looking for are terms where:

  • There are a decent number of searches;
  • You’re appearing in a position where an improvement could make a big difference, such as between 4 and 12; and
  • There could well be commercial intent behind the search.

Now you can compile a hit-list of a few terms on which to concentrate your SEO efforts. Armed with that, move on to the SEO implementation which I outlined last month.