If you haven’t heard or noticed, Google is now throttling search volume in keyword planner for users who have a “lower monthly spend” paid search. What this means is that if you aren’t spending enough on paid search, the “free” tool is effectively useless for determining how many people search for a particular keyword.
It’s a blow to many small businesses who use the tool for research but don’t have the money to wage expensive paid search campaigns. There is an opportunity in this situation, however: the opportunity to change your mindset about what metrics you use to determine your SEO strategy and measure your success.
Share of Voice is Important, Not Volume
Trying to target a few keywords that get the most traffic is no longer a viable strategy. Rather, you should be focusing on ranking on page one or in the top three for large swaths of keywords. Rather than a few dozen focus keywords, focus on generating what I call a keyword universe: hundreds or thousands of non-branded keywords that relate to your products and services.
An example I used with a client recently is in the image below. If you are in the brush industry, you should be less worried about ranking number one for “brushes” and more worried about the fact that Gordon Brush is dominating the share of voice.
They are ranking for tons of keywords, some of which overlap with keywords that the other major players are ranking for. However, they are also ranking for a lot of keywords that competitors are missing.
Like these three competitors to Gordon Brush goal should be to build out content to help your site rank for more competitive terms and snag a greater share of voice in the keyword universe.
Write for Topics, Not Keywords
Hopefully, you aren’t still targeting one specific keyword with your content. Keywords aren’t dead by any means, but it’s always a better idea to write pieces that target topics using a variety of semantically linked keywords.
Search engines are advanced enough at this point to build a bigger picture of your webpage without you ramming a specific keyword down their throats over and over.
Instead you should focus on writing in specific, rather than generic terms and using a wide variety of related keywords. Instead of “cutting-edge solutions” you should use a phrase like “cutting-edge document scanning services.” Instead of a broad term like “marketing services,” use more descriptive terms like “digital marketing services for small businesses.”
Building a strong semantically optimized article around a topic potentially helps the article rank highly in SERPs for multiple different queries. This greatly increases your odds of landing in SERPs that don’t feature paid search results at the top of the page. Additionally, you will increase your chances of landing in the answer box.
You Don’t Want the Most Organic Traffic, You Want the Right Organic Traffic
Avoid a strategy that focuses on driving as many people as possible to your site. This leads to a focus on keywords that may or may not be relevant to your core audience. For example, I had a bank as a client who stated that their SEO goal was to rank #1 for “finance.”
Sure, “finance” gets a ton of searches. However, this is a nonsense strategy for two reasons.
First off, this is a very difficult keyword to rank for because it is so general. Just look at the SERP for “finance.” Do these look like bank competitors? When your search terms become too general, you begin competing for rankings with the Wikipedias and New York Times of the world – a competition that you can’t win.
Secondly, ranking #1 for “finance” isn’t going to bring your website qualified traffic. If anything, it’s going to bring in people who are not interested in what your site has to offer and who leave right away, thus boosting your bounce rate and damaging your site’s authority.
You would be much better off focusing on services like “new car financing” or “no cost checking” and on locational searches like “best banks in Charlotte, NC.”
These are phrases that are going to deliver traffic that has potential to convert. Focus on quality of visits over quantity.
Secondly, when you put the focus on the rankings of a few keywords, you are setting yourself up for failure. It is going to cause agitation in the C-Suite when you drop from #4 to #6 for “retirement home,” even if that term doesn’t bring in qualified visits. Secondly, focusing on specific high-volume keywords leads to a focus on quantity of pageviews, which is a worthless metric.
Focus On Conversions, Not Just Sales
Like visits, sales are a metric that gets too much weight. A visit to your website that doesn’t end in a sale is not a loss, but you have to expand your definition of a conversion.
Place cash values on conversions like newsletter signups and contact form submissions. By assigning these values, you can track your high-value pages in Google Analytics; pages that may not lead directly to a sale, but are bringing customers into your orbit through direct contact or thought leadership.
Time for a New Strategy
As the era of Keyword Planner draws to a close, the time has come to take a hard look at some of the former pillars of SEO strategy, including keywords.
Take the changes in stride, follow these tips, and you will be better positioned than competitors to navigate the post-keyword world.