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Think Beyond the Keyword Short List

Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Keyword Research


Keywords are at the foundation of an SEO campaign. When a search engine user types a keyword or keyword phrase into the search box that is related to what you have to offer, you want your site to appear on the search engine results page. That, of course, is a very high level overview of what the goal of an SEO campaign is. Of course, if you want your website content to appear for a related search, you will need to be targeting the correct keywords, which is why the keyword research phase of an SEO campaign is so important. However, what’s important to understand is that ALL relevant keywords are important to the campaign. This includes long tail keywords that might not have a high search volume, but can bring a very good prospect to your site, since they are looking for something very specific (as opposed to looking for broad information). Many site owners make the mistake of focusing too much on their “priority” set of keywords, maybe 5 or 10 of them.

Think Beyond the Keyword Short List

By merely focusing on this keyword short list, a website owner is losing sight of the bigger picture and may even think that the SEO campaign isn’t working. Why is that? Well, the keywords that website owners often designate as the priority keywords are the ones that are the most competitive. If they are your priority keywords, there is a good chance that they are also the priority keywords of all of your biggest competitors. Especially in a large or competitive niche, it can take a very long time (years even!) to begin to see traction for these types of keywords. But that doesn’t mean that your SEO campaign isn’t doing anything for you or that it’s a waste of time or effort.

To see the more “short term” gains of your SEO campaign, you need to shift the focus away from the priority keyword short list and zero in on how your long tail keywords are performing. Long tail keywords are often natural variations of your priority keywords. For example if “accounting software” is a priority keyword, a long tail variation might be “accounting software for small businesses”. When a site is properly optimized and a variety of keywords are targeted on the site and within link building content, these long tail entrance keyword variations will occur naturally.

Focusing on a variety of long tail keywords also helps to keep your SEO strategy white hat. If you are targeting the same 5 or so keywords over and over again, it can cause a red flag with the search engines and it will definitely cause a red flag if you are using them as anchor text! With recent changes to the algorithm and updates to the Google Webmaster Guidelines, it’s clear that this type of behavior isn’t acceptable. Google wants you to market your website to potential clients or customers, not to Google! Potential clients and customers are also searching using long tail variations. If you see that the number of entrance keywords to your site is increasing, it means that the SEO campaign is on the right track.

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