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The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

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Thank You, Readers!

Monday I posed an online marketing problem. If you are in business and launching a blog, upgrading a website, or creating a new website, what is the first question you need to ask yourself? We got great responses from brilliant people like Andrew and Joanna Young and Cath Lawson and Tara Joyce and Alina Popescu and Karen Swim and Barbara Ling and Dennis Salazar and Steve Sherlock and Mary-Lynn Foster and Dennis and Fred H Schlegel and George Ajazi.

These responses were so good, in fact, I will reprint them as part of a post on the branding and marketing discovery process on Friday. For now, I hope my Word Sell respondents will see why my question ought to come first; how my question immediately puts all other discovery questions into crystal clear focus so that issues that must be addressed before launching or upgrading a website or blog are in fact addressed.

The Answer – What Are My Keyword Phrases?

Business questionPretty anti climactic, eh? Mundane though it might be, until you know your primary keyword phrases, you cannot create content that will impress the search engines (search engine optimization) or attract human readers. Whenever one of my business blog consulting clients or prospective clients tells me s/he wants a blog or a new website, I ask, What are your keyword phrases?

What Is a Keyword Phrase?

Hey, not everybody knows the answer – especially entrepreneurs, who have other things on their mind like running their business. Simply put, a keyword phrase is a phrase a potential customer would use when searching online for your products and services. There you go – nothing to it, right? Well, when I ask people, What words do people use on Google when they’re searching for your products and services?, I generally get anything from a blank stare to a tentative guess. Fact is, few people have a clear grasp of what words searchers use to find their companies online.

This is why determining keyword phrases is so foundational to any online marketing effort. Without knowing the right keyword phrases, it is not possible to write content for a blog or website that speaks effectively to human readers – and to the search engines that make your words visible to them. My one, simple question about keyword phrases opens up a much needed (and long overdue) discussion of fundamental marketing and branding issues.

  • What niches do we serve?
  • How do we describe what we do?
  • How do our customers describe what we do?
  • What do our customers want?
  • How do our competitors answer these questions?

After framing the discussion around my initial question, we are in a position to ask penetrating discovery questions, and I’m hard pressed to think of better ones than those my readers offered on Monday. We can ask our questions with assurance that the discussion will center on the task at hand – determining precisely where customer needs and company value intersect. The intersection’s coordinates? Keyword Phrase & Central.

If, instead, we launch into a generalized discussion about objectives and value propositions, we wind up with web content that reflects just that – a lot of verbiage about value and benefits and corporate philosophy. At its worst, such content can best be described as what David Meerman Scott calls Gobbledygook. At its best, the content is useful and persuasive, but nobody sees it because the pages that it resides on are not built to attract the desired readers. Start with what gets people to the site (keyword phrases), and then move to the issues of why they should do business with you once they’ve found you.

Why It All Starts with Keyword Phrases

"Start Connecting"

"Start Connecting"

When you start with the right group of keyword phrases, you build web pages that attract human readers and raise your visibility on the search engines. Yet by and large, entrepreneurs and small and midsize companies don’t start with keyword phrases, even though they come into play in the earliest stages of programming a site.They probably don’t select a web developer based on its SEO capabilities. They seldom hire a professional copywriter, much less one experienced in writing optimized content. Companies might sign up for their developer’s SEO (search engine optimization) package after the blog or website is built, or they might get the idea a year or two down the road that maybe they should tune up their site for Google. In the meantime, their web pages languish in Google oblivion – and the few human readers who find these pages find little if anything to get excited about.

You can do SEO after the fact, but it’ll be a clunky vehicle: you can’t change a tractor into a Corvette just by swapping out a few dozen parts. Optimizing a website or blog is not just a matter of rewriting a few paragraphs of page content. It involves things like incorporating keyword phrases into meta descriptions and page URLs, and building internal and inbound links with keyword optimized anchor text. It’s easier, faster, cheaper, and more efficient to build the proper content in up front rather than try to slap it on later.

Blogs to the SEO Rescue

Most folks already have a website, so starting at the beginning with their keyword phrases is not always practical. However, most folks do not have a business blog. Here’s an opportunity to start from scratch and start optimizing for the search terms that count for you. You have to take advantage of blogs, because if you’re out of sight on Google, you’re out of mind with customers. And blogs are a search engine’s best friend. To carry the transportation – SEO analogy a little further, if you add a blog to your website domain, it’ll be like strapping a jet engine to your lawnmower. Harness that blog power with the right content and you can mow down the competition without breaking a sweat.

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27 Responses to The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

  1. Hi Andrew, Your analysis may be correct in particular cases, but there are a lot of situations where the traffic patterns are much different. For some business blogs, an enormous amount of traffic is referred from Google. Subscribers may represent only a small percentage of readers. I would argue that regardless of the mix, it pays to stay focused on keyword phrases for blog posts. You never know when a large customer might be searching for exactly what you have.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

  2. Terry, Amen to that! I’ve been writing about the long tail versus short tail keywords on the SEM blog I manage … a fascinating topic in and of itself. So you establish 100 as a minimum daily search … do you have a maximum? Thanks for your great input.

    JV, Yes, you stated that very well. Understanding the competition’s keyword strategy is sometimes overlooked even by fairly sophisticated marketers, don’t you think?

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

  3. Brad,

    I guess this highlights one of the key differences between a commercial web site and a blog.

    With a commercial web site, the vast majority of viewers (and prospective customers) would be unique, once off visitors, and I could not imagine that the proportion of viewers which are likely to become repeat visitors (let alone long standing customers) is particularly high for these types of sites.

    Accordingly, the site should be designed primarily with once off viewers in mind, and in this regard, SEO is everything with respect to site traffic the use of the site to generate sales revenue.

    This is in contrast to blogs, where (not to dispute the importance of SEO in blogs) a much larger portion of quality traffic comes in the form the development of a sustainable readership base, and a significant portion of new readership comes in the form of links from other readers.

    Andrews last blog post..Should the illicit drugs industry be legalized?

  4. Hi Karen, Getting your stamp of approval, all I can say is, WHEW! You have obviously traveled many the same roads as I have. Selecting a web developer is an extremely important topic in and of itself.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

  5. It’s important to note you don’t just want any old keyword phrases; you want to optimize for those that: 1.) Are actually getting searches – I like them to have at least 100 searches a day if possible, and 2.) Don’t have too many other sites competing for the same keyword phrases, so you have a good chance of placing well in the SERPs early on.

    Terry Heaths last blog post..Winning the Game

  6. You need those keyword phrases in order to drive traffic to your site. Hence, you need to have a specific and good keywords for your site. Many suggested keywords are provided by keyword providers such as Google AdWorkds or Wordtracker and many other providers. But be aware of the competitor rate. Go with the keywords that has less competitor to have no difficulties in campaigning your site!

  7. Brad, yes, I agree great starting question! I often work with clients who already have first or second generation sites. Very often they assume their web designer knows SEO. Very often they are wrong. It’s not a knock on web designers but they are different skill sets and not every web design firm has SEO/SEM expertise. I agree with Terry that the keyword selection should be carefully researched – you don’t want to choose keyword phrases that are overly competitive, or you cannot dominate that niche but you also need to pick phrases that have enough traffic. I’m a huge advocate of spending the time upfront on keyword/phrase selection. This has been an excellent discussion and I look forward to the next one!

    Karen Swims last blog post..Clear as Mud

  8. Hi Joanna, Yes indeed, this approach does siphon off a lot of extraneous pontificating, as well as interesting but irrelevant discussion that ultimately confuses what in essence are fairly simple concepts.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

  9. Very interesting Brad, and I’m really enjoying the multiple strands to this conversation.

    The bit that jumps out at me is not so much the search engine benefits as the fact your question forces your client to get to the point, which will help clear the mind and get rid of a lot of the verbiage. Which sounds like an excellent place to start!

    Joanna Youngs last blog post..Are You Tuning in to Positive Feedback?

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  11. Hi Barbara, Nice case study! Can we assume your client’s business increased by a fairly significant amount?

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

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  13. Ah, web designers and SEO! A topic near and dear to my heart. Last year I overhauled my karate dojo’s site and it now shows up in the top 10 searches for anything local and relevant – ie, “(name of town) karate” or “(name of county) karate” etc.etc.etc.

    Prior to doing that, it was invisible in search engines. It’s amazing what a little bit of planning can achieve.

    Data points, Barbara

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coachs last blog post..Twitter Affiliate Marketing

  14. Hi Elaina, Thank you so much for reading, and for your comment. It’s always nice to get positive feedback. If you have topics you’d like to hear more about, please let me know!

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

  15. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  16. Ok Brad, Not quite out of left field, but it does make the rusty wheels turn a bit. Since I’m not a SEO guy I have to imagine that when you work your clients through this exercise it creates the same kind of stress as when I’m trying to get them to focus on a limited number of product features for their product development efforts. The fear of not satisfying everyone who has a buck to spend can destroy your chances with those who might actually spend it.

    Is there a maximum number of key word phrases per blog that seems to make sense? In other words – if you don’t limit yourself pretty tightly does that reduce your relevance?

    Fred H Schlegels last blog post..Staying Power

  17. Hi Fred, It’s finally dawning on me there’s a bit of a disconnect out there in the online marketing world. Every entrepreneur/small business wants a website to be productive, yet very few understand exactly what it takes to accomplish that. My post was somewhat intended to be shock therapy. It’s my view that until a company understands the foundational importance of SEO, its site will under perform. Inevitably. With regard to a keyword phrases and blogs – great question. I would say in theory there is no limit, since every blog post is an opportunity to optimize for whatever term(s) you want. Practically speaking, most people are better off sticking to a reasonable number of terms unless they have lots and lots of time to post daily or multiple times a day. Over time, a blog can support many, many phrases. Generally speakding, on a particular blog post or web page, it’s difficult to optimize for more than two or three phrases.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Mark Heuer Puts Face on Billboard to Find Job

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  22. The most important thing is to optimise for searchable keywords, if no-one is going to search for your phrase then there is little point in using it!
    [rq=13625,0,blog][/rq]Website Headers And Footers – June 14, 2009

  23. When posting video I wasn’t aware of the importance of keywords. Which goes to show you keywords kind of hold the internet together. I create short teaser videos designed to lead viewers back to my website for my offer. Getting traffic to the video is not a problem, like most video marketers I post my videos free to and there targeted keyword campaign helps increase traffic. The moral of the story is that keyowrds are imperial.

  24. Hi,
    Keywords phrases are those word searcher write in Google bar to search different website.SEO expert always tries to optimize the website according that phrases.

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