Keyword Phrases & Difficulty

by Brian Toomey, JB Analytics CEO

What can keyword research tell me about target terms?

As the choices made at this stage will underpin all future on-site SEO efforts, high quality research is vital. For example, we would seek to understand the way geographical terms are used by the target market, and at what level. Do people search for ‘chocolate donuts usa’, ‘chocolate donuts new york’, ‘chocolate donuts in brooklyn’,  ‘chocolate donuts near me’, or none of those?

Potential target keywords should be evaluated against field relevance, competitiveness, associated search volume, and conversion probability. Typically we evaluate up to 600-1200 keywords for suitability, building out from a list of candidates supplied by clients, competitors, and our own research before making optimal selections for use on site.

JB Analytics has partnered with us on a number of projects to help with SEO and complex Google analytics and Google Tag Manager installations. They are experts at analyzing data and translating that into a winning strategy that leverages the latest web marketing best practices.

Keyword phrases & difficulty

Why it matters

Understanding the competitive landscape for keywords and phrases can provide a good proxy for cost when considering what keywords to compete for and how to generate content for them. Our experience shows that when combined with robust keyword research with a focus on the long-tail, common outcomes include: 

  1. Identifying unexpected, low-competition niches that represent significant potential business value.
  2. Preventing misallocation of budget on seemingly valuable keywords that are expensive and potentially low ROI.

When working through keyword and content strategy, it is critical to understand the competitive landscape for candidate words/phrases. A key metric for this is “difficulty” (i.e. how competitive or difficult it is to rank for a given keyword or phrase.) Below is a comparison of two sample keyword phrases for reference:

Keyword / phrase: “best private boarding school for math”

Graphs showing difficulty, organic CTR, and priority for keyword phrase

Keyword / phrase: “independent school for math”

Graphs showing monthly column, difficulty, organic CTR, and priority for keyword phrase

What can competitor research tell me about target terms?

The best keywords are not necessarily the obvious ones. For example, if you have very strong, well-established competitors ranking for ‘chocolate donuts’ and you’re just starting out, it might be better to go for ‘chocolate-covered donuts’ instead. It’s less popular, but 40% of the ‘chocolate-covered donuts’ traffic might be better than the minute share of the traffic for ‘chocolate donuts’ you’d get when entering into direct competition with well-established, well-optimized sites.

Competitor research tells you who is dominating the search landscape in your field and uncovers niches your competition isn’t owning. 


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