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How much do keywords matter?

Carrie tackles the question, “Just how much do keywords matter?” Well, only if you want to bring in leads that are pre-qualified before they ever hit the website by virtue of the search query they were using.  Just think what that does to conversion!

Do keywords matter?On January first, I sat down to write my goals for the year. I do this every year, because I’m a huge believer in the power of intention and writing things down. Anyway, one of my weekly goals was to learn something new – such as a new tool or marketing tactic – and to implement at least one marketing task for my own fledgling business as a keyword analyst. Today, I’ve managed to bundle those two things into one: I am creating a blog post, but not by writing. Instead, I’m testing the voice typing tool in Google docs to actually transcribe my voice. I’m standing here in front of my desk talking, and watching the written text appear. It’s fantastic. A win-win!

My goals this year are very tied to the recent shift I’ve made in my business from being a digital marketing consultant to specializing as a keyword analyst. Instead of content creation, pitching media, writing Instagram and Facebook blog posts, or creating CRM automations for clients on a retainer basis, I’m transitioning to project work that helps brands and agencies identify their ideal keywords, then create a plan to wrap them into their content or website. 

As they’re creating a new blog post, or wrapping on-page SEO into a website, they’re leveraging  the most powerful keywords possible. I love this, because it helps them bring in leads that are pre-qualified before they ever hit the website by virtue of the search query they were using. The very process of identifying their priority keywords walks some clients through a level of strategy, market positioning, user experience and critical thinking that some have never done. It also helps them take a close look at their sales funnel, and the kinds of content a prospective customer needs to make a decision. 

Why do keywords matter?

Here’s an example. Say I’m working with a Windows and Doors company, which is my go-to example because it happens to be a current client. When they first approached me, their website website targeted the keyword “windows.” When you think of that as a search query – the word that someone is searching online, it’s a pretty generic word that could be relevant to multiple products and services. Are they looking for home windows? Microsoft Windows? Car windows? Glass repair? There are eight billion search results for the word “windows.” Now if I were a small local business, would I want to compete with that? And would anyone clicking through from that search to my website be ready to purchase new windows for their home? The odds would be pretty slim, and my website would have to work REALLY hard to make that conversion happen.

The search query that brings in a lead determines conversion success

How much more effective would it be to center their content marketing around questions people are asking that show buyer intent? They’re shopping for a local window company to give them a quote for windows at that moment, or asking a question about how to buy replacement windows for their home. Their search identifies exactly what they are looking for, and a window company that’s created and optimized content around these questions gets the click. The lead comes to their website.

They’ve pulled in someone actively shopping on their laptop or phone at that moment, looking to find out who sells home windows and installs them. It’s an ideal lead. 

Obviously if it’s someone searching “windows” that comes to their website looking for Microsoft Windows, that’s not a lead for that company, so if SEO is built around that keyword and it actually brings someone to the website, they’re not going to click on that search result, or they’re going to immediately bounce. It’s not relevant to their search. 

Seriously, though, what local window company has a hope of ranking above Microsoft Windows? They have no chance, unless that person’s immediate search activity included other terms giving Google context for what they were looking for, and in the algorithm’s struggle to find context, it serves up a smattering of various things related to windows, which can happen. But in a normal context, they would never rank above Microsoft, or other brands with stronger SEO than that small window company.

If the search query that brings in a lead determines conversion success, then it makes sense to know what those search queries are, and create content around those keywords, right? It just makes sense.

For a generic search query for “windows,” it’s likely Google will bring a wide assortment of generic listings, such as shopping options for windows from Home Depot or Lowe’s, local showrooms for big brands like Andersen and Pella, and even window maintenance or tips on installation—maybe even auto glass repair.   

Yup, take a look. The search results are all over the place.

Other than Microsoft Windows, who has the manpower and budget to own that ranking, a small local window company has little chance of success. They’re throwing away those SEO or content dollars. There is too much competition, and even if they rank well, it likely brings in an audience too generic to convert. 

How keyword analysis helps

So here’s what I do for clients as a keyword analyst. After a deep discovery process to learn about their customers, sales funnel, and the nuances of their products or services, I perform very detailed keyword research. By segmenting that work into smaller, relevant buckets around specific groupings, I take a close look at the online search behavior for each cluster.

Then, I segment out those keyword phrases that signify buyer intent, and work with the client to identify their priority keywords. Before the project wraps, they have a detailed plan for how they should integrate those into their on-page SEO, or their content editorial calendar. 

They know exactly who their audience is, what specific keywords and phrases they’re searching the most, which ones signify they are ready to convert, and what to do with that data.

So many companies investing in SEO and content marketing are spending a ton of money on content creation but they’re guessing on the keywords they’re using. They don’t really have an understanding of what their ideal customers are searching for online, what that search activity is, and how it matches up to their own sales processes, so help companies align this can do incredible things for their conversion.

Going back to that window and door company example, if I can help them bring leads to their website that are shopping for someone to install new windows in their home at that moment, that’s a pretty hot lead. Once they come to that client’s website, they’re highly likely to schedule an appointment, so bringing that kind of audience is very different than bringing in a much bigger audience around the keyword “windows,” then relying on that website to appeal to the right person out of the crowd, and convert them to something useful, like a subscribe, a request for a quote, or a phone call. It shortens that cycle of conversion and it reduces the bounce rate on the website.

It makes the money they’re spending on content and SEO much more effective because it’s really tightly aligned. 

It does amazing things for relevancy, too. That individual person searching for something gets exactly what they’re looking for. The client’s happy, the new lead is happy, and Google is happy (meaning the client ranked well because the content or website page was extremely relevant to the search term.)

This kind of transformation with a brand’s content and on-page SEO can revolutionize their business. It makes their website become a lead generation tool, instead of a brochure that doesn’t add to their bottom line. It also helps that business change their thinking from production to outcomes. Instead of solely focusing on creating content around topics they assume people want to read, watch or listen to, they create content that addresses the specific questions their leads need answered to make a purchase decision. 

It’s eliminates keyword assumptions and guesswork, and replaces it with real data. 

So if you’re wondering if keywords still matter, then my answer is absolutely. Even if in some strange world, Google ignores keywords as signals in a meta title or meta description, the value of understanding search behavior, search intent versus buyer intent, and how to create content your leads want will NEVER become less important.

And for the more experienced SEOs out there thinking actual keywords don’t matter, just building out the right topics, then think of deeper keyword research as a way to define what those topics are that you build context around. It’s your roadmap.

How much TIME can you save knowing exactly what topics to cluster your content around, versus making the wrong guesses and being too generic? You can spend years creating content that converts poorly, or months creating content that resonates and converts. It accelerates your results.

Do you have feedback on this blog post, a tactic related to this topic you’d like to share, or thoughts on whether keywords still matter? Click here to chat with me on Facebook.


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