I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I call “the economics of keyword phrase targeting” for search optimization. Which means for any given business, product, or service, you can generate a long list of keyword phrases to target and optimize for search. But out of that list, more than likely only one or two (probably one) keyword phrase will drive more traffic, leads, and sales than all other keyword phrases combined.
(think the “80 / 20 rule” for keyword phrase targeting)
I’ve realized, as our SEO consulting business has grown and we work with more enterprise / corporate level clients, the selection process for keyword phrase targeting becomes more intense. And the downside to bad keyword phrase selection, and the inter-mingling of themes, becomes more costly.
This is what’s leading me to think in terms of, and consult clients on, the economics of keyword phrase targeting and selection.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you are a $20 million a year sports camp business. Throughout your website, you present content related to both “sports camps” and “sports training”. Logically (you tell yourself) it makes sense to target “sports training” because anyone interested in attending a sports camp would likewise be interested in sports training. So throughout your website, and even within the same pages of content, you develop themes around “sports camps” and “sports training” simultaneously.
Because you are an established brand, your website carries a substantial amount of domain authority which means, any theme you develop within your site will carry relevance with Google and your pages are more likely to be considered to compete in the search results. As such, by optimizing your website (and subsequent pages) for both “sports camps” and “sports training”, you actually create a dilution effect across (or within) your domain.
Most importantly, this suppresses the ranking potential for the upper echelon in search results for your most valuable landing pages – those that convert visitors into customers. And it’s a problem I’m seeing more frequently, especially among established, corporate level brands.
All of this is points to the relevance of the economics of keyword phrase targeting.
In the example above, by optimizing for both “sports camps” and “sports training”, you actually dilute the relevance of these phrases individually, as both are established business categories in search. In essence, Google sees conflicting themes developing within your website. And the algorithm is unsure exactly what your website and pages are about — an important distinction in hyper competitive environments.
And let’s say further research shows the keyword phrase “sports camps” carries 10x the number of searches annually, drives 10x the number in revenue for your business, and your client base associates “sports camps” as the main theme with your brand. The economics of keyword phrase targeting would then show the benefit of moving away from “sports training”, and the value of pouring all your time, effort, and resources into optimizing for “sports camps”.
Or if you had clearly defined business paths for both “sports camps” and “sports training”, you would want to create silos within your website where each segment / theme is clearly defined and independent of each other.
But businesses are proving to be more inclined to intermix themes; which again, creates a dilution effect across your entire domain.
Our experience shows that by zeroing in on your most relevant and authoritative keyword phrases, your business can experience a 10x growth in search (traffic, leads, sales, etc..), versus declining growth by mingling the themes of multiple related keyword phrases.
The Power Law of Keyword Phrase Targeting
Peter Thiel uses a similar analogy in his book Zero To One where he talks about the power law of venture capital investing. He talks about how VC firms make the mistake of focusing on the most problematic companies in a fund (which are the majority), instead of pouring all of their resources into the one of two companies that will return more than the entire fund combined.
Relating this back to keyword phrase targeting, a business can experience exponential growth in search by optimizing intently for their most relevant keyword phrase(s), instead of attempting to optimize for multiple theme related keywords simultaneously.
I believe Google’s search algorithm favors this level of focus around themes within a website. One look at Wikipedia’s presence in search, as well as Amazon.com, will show you the impact of this hyper focused effort in site structuring, keyword phrase targeting, and optimization.
You’ve probably heard the value of “long tail phrase” targeting in SEO. But I would argue, that’s a strategy to use initially for identifying your most valuable keyword phrase. And then proceed to pouring all of your resources into optimizing for that phrase.
So identify your most relevant and profitable keyword phrase for your business, then pour all of your resources into becoming the category leader in that space. And if you have multiple themes (products, services, geographic markets, etc…), be strategic in the segmentation of your website in order to shore up relevance and authority around those themes.
What do you think about the “economics of keyword phrase targeting”?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.