Did you ever play King of the Mountain as a kid? I spent many recess periods trying to shove my way to higher ground for a few moments of schoolyard glory. Getting past a dozen other boys was no easy feat; it required strategy and perseverance (and occasionally gave me a few bumps and bruises to boot).
Similarly, an SEO campaign requires its share of strategy – except that Search Mountain has much greater stakes than schoolboy bragging rights. And the “mountain” is much higher. That’s why your initial strategy in this virtual struggle – and your selection of the right keywords, in particular – should prove critical in determining whether you ultimately join nine other climbers at the summit.
That SEO summit, of course, is the first search engine results page. Fail to reach the first page and few people are going to find you. There are many reasons you can fail to reach those heights, but one common reason is that you selected the wrong keywords.
Smart companies perform time-intensive research using tools like SEM Rush and Google Analytics to determine what SEO keywords to target. This research involves tons of data such as keyword competitiveness, viewing trends and search volumes.
Slingshot SEO’s new SEO Keyword Research Guide provides an in-depth explanation of the keyword selection process.
One lesson we’ve learned from experience is that it’s easier to win with keywords for which you already rank. It’s like starting your climb halfway up the mountain.
Of course, sometimes you want to target keywords for which you’re at the bottom of the mountain (not in the first 200 ranking results). Perhaps that keyword has much higher traffic or will convert better than other keyword options. You’ll want to use tools like the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool to judge the steepness of the climb and whether it makes sense to mount an attempt.
Here’s a screenshot for the keyword phrase “SEO Indianapolis.” The SEOmoz tool rates the phrase as “Highly Competitive” with a 56% percentage.
Compare that to the less specific keyword “SEO”, which shows a Keyword Difficulty Score of 80%. Trying to rank for SEO is going to take a major commitment of resources. Think of this in terms of geographic scope: you’d be competing with SEO firms around the globe that are trying to rank for that term. Ranking for “SEO Indianapolis” would involve a much smaller set of competitors.
As you go through this process, you’ll want to determine what keywords your competitors are targeting. Take a look at some existing SERPS for some of the keywords you’re interested in.
A quick peak will give you a good sense of who you’d be up against in the virtual competition of King of Search Mountain. Keep in mind that SERPS will change over time; today the top competitor for a keyword might be Jimmie’s Taco Shack and a year from now it might be Taco Bell.
But one thing is sure in the world of virtual mountain climbing. Pick the right keyword and you’ll be much more likely to plant your flag at the summit.