Keyword research was, is and will continue to be an integral part of SEO. Though some marketers believe keywords are no longer essential for SEO, the majority still include keyword research in their optimization checklist.
Selecting campaign keywords
Anyone with a shred of knowledge in SEO would agree that ranking a site against top keywords is incredibly difficult (if not impossible). Because of the cut-throat competition, many companies pick from medium and low competition keywords.
They inform their clients well in advance the number and nature of the campaign keywords. If clients are okay with the list, they beckon the SEO firm to go ahead. Or else, tell them to include new keywords. The campaign budget goes up and down depending on how competitive the keywords are.
The actual calculation of ROI is different from the way most SEOs calculate it. If a site comes in the top ranking against a selected keyword, they shout hooray and insist the clients to increase the duration of the contract. And the clients, being naive, equate first page ranking with winning a lottery.
A top ranking is not an indicator of a handsome ROI.
Let me explain why.
Keyword conversion rate
Imagine a site has ranked against keyword A and keyword B. Keyword A brings traffic, 20% of which turn into sales, whereas keyword B brings traffic, of which only 2% turn into sales. Outwardly, the two keywords may look same according to monthly searches and level of competition, but when someone weighs them according to conversion rate percentage, keyword A outperforms keyword B.
You might wonder how to estimate a keyword’s conversion rate before using it. Well, estimating it is not possible. But Google gives you hints, which you can use to serve your clients better.
Competitive keyword shortcomings
It’s a myth that ranking against competitive keywords is enough for a site. Most generic keywords are highly competitive. For example, the keyword “web design” is very competitive with average monthly searches clocking at 165000. So is the keyword “life insurance.”
You need to put a lot of money and effort to rank your site against these keywords. Even if you manage to get your site coming in top ranking, what will you get in return? Plenty of non-targeted users with no intention to buy web design services or life insurance policies.
Competitive keywords amount to poor conversion rates.
Specific keywords benefit
Specific keywords, on the other hand, account for better conversion rate. The keyword “toner cartridge” is a generic keyword; “laser toner cartridge” is a specific keyword. The keyword “cheap laser toner cartridge” is even more specific. You can see the search volumes of each of them below:
People searching with the third keyword are most likely to buy laser toner cartridges at an affordable rate whereas those searching with first two keywords may be seeking some quick information. If you sell laser toner cartridges, the third keyword (the most specific one) is the most likely to get you some business.
Long tail keywords
The specific key-phrases with three or four words to them are called long tail keywords. Among a slew of benefits that they bring with them, one is they help to identify niche-specific audiences. The audiences visit a site with the purpose of buying or, at least, inquiring about a product. Identifying them can reduce the volume of landing page optimization efforts. Another benefit of long tail keywords is they are not as costly as generic keywords are. As a matter of fact, it won’t be an understatement that long tail keywords have leveled the playing field for SEOs.
Most geo-targeted keywords are long tail. A geo-targeted keyword is like any other keyword in the absence of location-specific references. For example, “rental apartments” is a standard keyword. But “rental apartments in Milwaukee” is a geo-targeted and long tail keyword.
Restaurants, car repair services, floral shops, etc operate from fixed locations. Long tail keywords are essential to promote such businesses. Sometimes, more than one place have the same name. For example Wisconsin and New Jersey all have places called Sussex. Sussex is also a county in South East England. Google’s Keyword Planner prevents confusions from arising by allowing the marketers to specify the location.
Anchor text proxy
The Hummingbird update was the beginning of Google’s ongoing efforts to frame content based on questions from users instead of campaign keywords. The update showcased the importance of long tail keywords. As long as marketers followed the former method, the campaign keywords were the anchor texts. In Google’s eyes, it was an outright promotion. But the long tail keywords were the proxy for anchor texts. In other words, there was no anchor text. The hyperlinked part looked perfectly natural.
Death of keywords
Those who believe the death is real point at the handheld interface, and how its search interface differs from the desktop based search interface. They claim features like voice search will replace the traditional way of searching. Such claims are not convincing.
It’s true that voice-based searching has its uniqueness, but there’s no structural difference. Users utter search queries instead of scribbling them down. Voice-based searching appears to be more interactive because personal digital assistants like Siri and Cortana have a human-like persona.
To put it simply, there are differences between the mobile web and the desktop web. Such differences owe to the mobile screen being small and low-resolution, difficulties to type relentlessly in the mobile search-box, etc. We can observe the presence of keywords in both web types.
Keywords, more specifically, long tail keywords will continue to be relevant. Through its updates, Google is paving the streets for a web where search engines will interact with users.
Long tail keywords are the building blocks of interaction and in the future, anchor text-esque campaign keywords may vanish altogether, and long tail keywords may become the norm.