I am asked sometimes by potential clients why it is important to come up with a list of target keywords before we come up with a plan of action for their site. I often say that it is worth spending several days if you have to before starting a campaign to nail down the right keywords. When it comes to Search Marketing “keywords”, your search traffic is going to come from either strong high traffic keywords or a large amount of “long tail” keywords. Either way figuring out the keywords that people use to find a site/business like yours is key. Any good plan will start with keyword discovery. Keyword discovery is a process by which the SEO Company helps determine the best keywords to target based on your site’s current condition in the market. How can we determine the market and your position in it?
First we look at the Market. Everyone’s business is different and so is the market that they are in. While some industries are entirely focused around one concept, others have a broad range of services or ways of saying the same exact thing. While 90% of traffic for a dentist is going to come from the word “Dentist” a lawyer site for example has to deal with the different ways people refer to their business when searching,(lawyer, attorney, lawyers etc.). This has to be taken into account during the planning stage. What if the market is showing that it will take 5 months to come up for “(city) lawyer” but would only take 3 months to come up for “(city) attorney”. This is an important factor to consider. What if the site itself proves many different services? What if the firm specializes in a certain niche area where it derives 80% of its real world revenue. Then we have to determine the market for that alone and make sure the plan reflects that. This can also be true with ecommerce based sites that do not have the luxury of targeting geographically. They also all must target on a national level. In that case we have to look at three types of keywords.. Action Based (Cheap shoes) Brand Based (Nike Shoes) or Description Based (Red Shoes). The market must be researched to find the places with the most likely success.
Your Site: Your site is the real determining factor for what keywords to target. Your site has a structure and a history. First lets talk about the site’s structure. When a person comes into your home page they will find that it has a theme.. it is targeting a certain segment of the population (either the customer service, innovation, or price point shopper) it will also be highlighting certain aspects (a sale, a important figure in the company, a new product etc.) This plays into what keywords should be chosen for the campaign. If we choose keywords that are the opposite of what is found on the site we are likely to fail to convert that traffic. For instance if we choose Description based keywords (like red shoes) and the home page is structured to feature brands.. we could be very successful in ranking for “red shoes” but not convert. Also if the site structure does not have a page features for “red shoes” then the amount of work needed to rank that keyword becomes higher. This is turn will create a greater cost based on the amount of work needed to achieve the keyword. Also your site history, domain age, and amount of external links (authority) also play important factors. While a site with high external authority might be able to jump right into targeting high traffic or high competitive keywords (like Nike shoes) a site without that authority would be spinning its wheels for months in a wasted effort.
Why target from the beginning? Well you can see from above that your budget and time factors are both tied to the keywords that the campaign will be targeting. If you are gearing up for a big keyword you will need to increase your off-site authority for that keyword. If you are changing your keyword focus then you will need to change your on-site focus as well.
So you can see that coming up with a plan without the keywords and budgeting for that plan is disingenuous. You are setting the plan up to fail if several weeks in you realize that the plan that was created without the keywords simply is not effective based on the keywords that are now chosen.
This also plays into the time factor. The only thing more valuable than time is time you are paying for. If you are paying an SEO Service to do work for you and you are still proving them the initial keywords several weeks into the relationship… this has delayed the process of ranking improvement drastically. Although you might not realize it the clock starts for ranking improvements from the moment the keywords are finalized not the moment you finalize a contract.