Limiting Keywords Limits Your Traffic

Some site owners try to target just a few powerful keywords. Often these keywords potentially bring lots of traffic; unfortunately, lots of other sites are trying to win that same traffic, using the same magic words. Where does that leave you?

Nick Stamoulis, writing for Search Engine Guide, notes that he runs into that situation all the time. A client wants to rank number one in Google for a particularly competitive keyword because “that’s where the money is.” He tells them that it may be a good long-term goal, but with the level of competition they face, they should consider trying to rank for other, related terms. They’re less competitive (and therefore less lucrative), but still offer good potential. More often than not, the client comes back saying they just want to rank for that one competitive, money-making term, and don’t understand why they should “waste” their time with anything else.

As it turns out, it’s not just individual keywords that are important to making money with a website; it’s keyword diversity. Let me give you an analogy. Say you want to hire someone for a programming position. You’re looking at two applicants. One lists Java, JavaScript, PHP, and HTML among their skills; the other lists these languages plus C, C++, and experience designing smartphone apps. The position you have in mind calls for a diverse range of abilities. You’d be more likely to hire the second one, right? Using more keywords lets searchers know you can do more things for them.

“That’s not realistic! Searchers just do one search to find something, and I want to be at the top for that term!” I hear you complain. Okay, assume for the moment that this is true (which it often isn’t). Say that you’re the first applicant, and you’ve figured out that more employers are looking for PHP programmers than anything else. So you optimize your resume for PHP, and emphasize that over everything else; you don’t even list your other skills, because you really want employers to notice your PHP programming – after all, that’s where the money is, right? That’s fine, until you hit the employer who’s looking for someone skilled in JavaScript. You know JavaScript; you know it well, in fact. But this employer has no way of knowing that because you’ve optimized your resume for PHP and neglected everything else!

Locking yourself into one or just a few limited keywords is like optimizing your resume for only one talent; you miss lots of opportunities for which your services could easily have fit the bill. If you go after a wider (but related) range of keywords, you’ll reach a wider audience. And it doesn’t have to be as different as two different programming languages; it could simply involve using both “cell phones” and “smartphones” to describe a particular kind of mobile device. Remember, searchers looking for the same thing might use slightly different terms; cater to this, and you’ll capture more visitors.

“Okay,” you’re wondering, “but I want to rank number one for ‘widgets’ and there’s not a lot of different ways to say it.” Actually, there are: there are red widgets, blue widgets, articulated widgets, steel widgets, virtual widgets, solar-powered widgets…the list goes on and on. What’s more, someone shopping for a widget may have already done their research, and decided they want a steel, blue, articulated, solar-powered widget. How will they find you?

What’s my point here? Shoppers who are closer to making a purchase use long-tail keywords. If you’re trying to rank for just the word “widget,” you won’t capture them. You serve both them and yourself better when you include the more descriptive terms; they get a better idea of what your products and services are actually like, and you get more targeted traffic.

Finally, let’s take a detour and talk about every SEO’s least favorite flightless bird. Google’s Penguin pecks the heck out of websites “with unnatural link profiles and an overuse of exact-match anchor text,” according to Stamoulis. Well, guess what? If you’re optimizing your link building for very few keywords, the anchor text of your links will look redundant and unnatural. You may have a few hundred links, with four-fifths of them using “widgets” for the anchor text. That’s sure to attract Google’s tuxedoed filter.

If you optimize the anchor text on your links for a greater variety of keywords, however, you diversify your link profile. That makes it look a lot more natural. So instead of 500 links mostly using “widgets” for anchor text, you have 75 that use “widgets,” 30 that use “solar-powered widgets,” 46 using “stainless steel widgets,” five using “widgets and whatchamacallits,” 12 using “measuring widgets,” and so on. You may even include several keywords that don’t mention widgets at all, but use a different word that means the same thing (like notebooks and laptops, or soda and pop).

I hope I’ve convinced you to at least consider expanding your keyword list a little. Limiting your keywords limits your traffic. Limiting your traffic can limit your website’s earning power – and nobody wants that. Good luck!

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