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A Sensible SEO Strategy 1: Keywords

By John McTigueAug 31, 2010

Search engine optimization is a vast and dynamic topic, with many experts and even more myths and urban legends. How can business owners or executives make sense of all the debate that goes on and arrive at a sensible search marketing strategy for their companies? Let's start with keywords, since much of the hype centers around this core topic. What's a sensible keyword strategy for SEO these days?

What Are Your Goals?

how sensible is your seo strategyFor most companies, sales are the #1 priority. Without sales there is no revenue. Without revenue, there is no company. So generating more sales leads is their primary marketing goal. This should also be your goal for SEO. You can spend a lot of money on consultants and tools and pay-per-click and content, but if you aren't generating sales leads from these efforts then your strategy isn't succeeding. Marketing takeaway: your keyword strategy is to generate sales leads, not to rank on page #1 of the SERP's

Who/What is Your Target Market?

You need to understand who will be searching for your products or services and what keywords they will be using to find you. Those are the keywords you should optimize on, not the ones with the most traffic or even the ones your competitors use. The most popular keywords are also the most difficult to rank on, and they may not even be relevant to your business. How do you determine which strategic keywords will drive sales?

  1. Put yourself in your customers' shoes. Then search for your company's stuff. Don't bias yourself by what you already know - think like a complete stranger. If you can't figure this out, go ask them or try some focus groups. Now check the results. Does your company even show up? If so, how far down the list? Are your competitors doing better?
  2. Next, do some keyword research. Start with the keywords you tried in your customers shoes or found from research. Find some variations and long-tail versions, for example "inbound marketing agency" as opposed to "inbound marketing", using a keyword suggestion tool like HubSpot's Keyword Grader. You will have an easier time ranking on long-tail keywords than on the high-traffic core keywords, and over time you can build up your authority on those as well.
  3. Put together a short list of strategic keywords. These are the ones you rate as having the best chance for your target market to find you. Now, we'll focus on accomplishing the mission - getting sales leads via search.

Do This

  • Focus on creating web pages, blogs, advanced content and social media updates that include your strategic keywords and are both RELEVANT and INTERESTING to your target market. Again, put yourself in their shoes. What are they most likely to click on?
  • Make sure your Page Title and Meta Description are not just keywords but real, valuable information that will "click" in the searcher's mind and cause him/her to click through to your page. This is what they see on the search results page. Rank is important, but so is context.
  • Optimize your content, but don't over-optimize. Today's reader knows the difference between a legitimate, well-written Web document and a piece of SEO bait. Focus on one topic and focus your keywords there as well. A really well-done blog post on a popular topic, optimized for the topic itself has a great chance of boosting your keyword ranking.
  • Coordinate paid search with organic search. Use the same keyword strategy and content and see how you do.
  • Measure results and adjust strategy. Which keywords are driving traffic and leads? Which topics, content types and landing pages are producing those conversions? Which social networks are driving the most qualified leads? Focus on those.

Don't Do This

  • Don't focus on keywords with lots of traffic and just try to make your content fit those keywords. No one will buy it. The search engines might rank you highly, but you will not drive sales to your business.
  • Don't worry about traffic and keyword rankings alone. Again, you might get highly ranked, but without click-through's and leads, you have accomplished nothing.
  • Don't try to "game" the search engines with all the tips and tricks you see out there. Remember, your goal is sales, not ranking. People will find you because you are the best at what you do, and your search strategy reflects it.

Next - Part 2 - Content That Will Click

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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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