“Hi, my name is Bob. I want you to help me with SEO so I can rank on the first page for [X] keyword term.”
For a client to sign up for a contract and request that they want to be on the first page for a specific keyword is someone that needs to have their keyword expectations redirected slightly. There is no one all-encompassing way to guarantee that your website will sit on the first page of search results for a specific keyword especially for a competitive term that has paid and organic efforts targeted by your competitors. It is important that you do some research at the outset to provide SEO benchmarks and paid competitive comparisons as well as educate the client on ranking factors that we can affect and point them to long-term digital marketing goals and KPI’s and how you might strategically attack them.
The first critical step to setting SEO expectations is to provide effective keyword analysis at the beginning. Here are the steps to setting a general expectation at the beginning of your SEO contract.
The first step is reviewing search query ‘volume’ for specific keywords and the best place to do this is through Google Keyword Planner. This should be taken loosely, not as a matter of fact but as a general understanding of traffic and the competitiveness of the search query as a paid keyword term in any given month. You also want to review what area your client is looking to target, are they focusing on a local reach, multiple markets, or a broad national campaign. These will help way some of the challenges of the campaign as a starting point. Google Keyword Planner will give you an exhaustive list of keyword ideas that are relevant to both your search engine optimization strategies as well as your paid search campaigns.
Paid Search Keyword Competitiveness
Take this massive dump of general keyword traffic volumes with general paid competitive measures and do some research into what your competitors are ranking for as well as what the client is currently ranking for. This can be reviewed through many tools but some of the ones I am familiar with are SEM Rush and Brightedge’s Data Cube. SEM Rush provides an ‘organic research’ section once you add the website of your choice showing all of your keyword positions and your top competitors. Data Cube shows similar data but I like to use more than one just to see how they compare. These tools are not going to match 100% of the time as it has to do with how they pull this data. I like to look at Data Cube because it does not show brand terms as part of the search query results and there are a lot of terms that show up in SEM Rush as keyword terms that are not relevant for a focused strategy on industry terms. It shows all of the one-offs and variations that I typically am not interested in focusing on as a ranking factor. Data Cube also breaks up the organic overview page with ‘total organic keywords’, ranked on page 1, 2, and 3 so it is all laid out for me and allows for quick high level observations of what is ranking and where.
Observe Specific Keyword Requests In the Search Results
If there are a few specific terms that I am questioning or that the client wants me to specifically focus on, I might do a specific review within Google’s search results. You can do an ‘incognito’ search to see search results without your specific searching habits playing a factor in the results, or you can use this tool to search for a specific location based result (https://www.brightlocal.com/local-search-results-checker/) which feels a little more exact.
Once I figure out where I stand with my competitors, I can get a better idea of which keywords I want to present to the client as low hanging fruit, a little harder to attain, and those that are going to be really difficult. This helps shed some light on the reality of the situation for the client. It is no secret that no one can guarantee organic search results rankings, we simply are working with different theories and formulas for success. Content that is natural and communicates the needs of the consumer is where you should always focus. But, understanding how you might position your articles for getting more visibility is always a plus. Counter your content approach with making sure your site is indexable, accessible, and authoritative are the other elements for success.
SEO Difficulty in Ranking for Keywords
So, spit out your current ranking that is provided by Data Cube or SEM Rush and then you could head over to MOZ to get an SEO difficulty rating for a specific term as well. I like to show the best data and provide a more thorough understanding of the kind of projections we can make at the outset and setting the stage appropriately at the outset will help understand a basic benchmark for success.
General Observations for SEO Keyword Planning
You want to compare at least 3 of the client’s top competitors to know where you currently stand. You don’t need to necessarily report on this for your keyword planning deck, just gather any insights that might be to have in your back pocket. It is better to take a content approach and show the difference in quality backlinks and the competitors depth as these will show tangible differences in your client’s website rankings and your competitors. Exact SEO keyword rankings are too vague and hard to quantify a lot of times. We are using our pitch to remind them of that!
The SEO Goal of Keyword Research and Planning
The goal is to provide a high level approach and help prioritize the efforts of attack, pointing back to the goals and the KPI’s. We want to outline a program that will indicate growth and improvement over time and remind them that moving quicker requires a heavier approach on tactics and still cannot be guaranteed. We will certainly work to improve your positioning in search if your goal is to increase visibility but we must define those goals first and then create a plan, implement, and report/observe results. There is no getting around this three step approach.
An effective online program is like moving a ship. It requires a very concerted effort in a specific direction in order to make an impact and we don’t want to set our goals as something tactical, we want to shoot for our end goal and then work to see progress toward tactics that benefit those goals the most within the client’s budget.