1. Use Unique Long Tail Titles + Content on Every Page (drop the site title!)
In highly competitive markets, generic title tags just don’t get it done anymore. Title tags are the most important element that the search engines look at to identify and categorize your page, thereby determining your competition and your position in the search engines.
Get rid of these types of titles: "My Company – Buy Blue Widgets at My Company Cheap"
There are several problems with using this kind of title.
First, using ‘My Company’ over and over again on every page may have been what someone told you was the best way, or a best practice, but when it comes to search engines it looks like duplicate content. Now that search engines are not really putting much weight on Meta tags and descriptions, the title is the first thing that they look at; it is critically important to ranking.
Second, that kind of title is loaded with too many words. It washes down the primary keywords.
Finally, it targets too many keywords, unless you have built enough pages on the web site to also create a single page for "cheap blue widgets." On a side note, I highly recommend this approach; but in your initial SEO rework of your site and its structure, start small and build your way forward. Later I’ll tell you about keyword research and its importance in this technique, and you will have a road map to follow using both. Too many keywords will dilute the benefits of the important ones.
The way this title should be structured is like this: Buy Blue Widgets.
Add a "buffer word" before your keyword set.
Now let’s talk about the reasoning behind why this is the preferred method for search engines.
End users are becoming more and more educated about how search engines work; the more descriptive words they use, the more likely they are to get the results that they are looking for. What this means is that last year the key phrase for My Company was Debt Help. This year their top key phrase is Get Debt Free. I don’t know why, maybe there is a major company out there doing massive debt consolidation ad campaigns that have "coined" this phrase to make it more memorable than debt help. Who knows?
The point is that they are using a completely different search phrase, and the phrase is three words rather than two words in length. This creates the need to build individual pages for your primary keywords, then your niche keyword phrases, and then finally for your long-tail phrases. Generally speaking, "the lower number of words the better" has been the overall suggested recommendation to target because human nature is the path of least resistance. To a point it still is, but the people using longer phrases (based on extensive analytics) know what they are looking for, because they convert at a significantly higher rate.
Once I have identified these phrases I start building additional pages, or even microsites (for purposes of A/B, funnel, and conversion testing) and I target the three, four, five or even six word long-tail phrases.
Use these longer keyword phrases within your content as well. If possible, replace enough of the current keywords on good ranking pages with the niche and long tail version of the keyword string. So if you are ranking well for "blue widgets," add "cheap" to each instance of "blue widgets," both on-page and in the code. This method can be used in several different ways. Use it to transfer page rank or boost a niche phrase, while the original rank for blue widgets remains. (You may see a temporary slip in your rankings, but this is only temporary).
If you are in a highly competitive market, this could be the answer that you are looking for to attract the middle 40-80% target audience, plus get great conversion rates.
This has been covered over and over again, but it is a very important element and the importance of ongoing research cannot be overestimated when it comes to staying ahead of the competition. There are several tools out there, most of which are free, or offer free trials. I typically use several different tools.
Google Trends – According to Google, "Google Trends aims to provide insights into broad search patterns. As a Google Labs product, it is still in the early stages of development. Also, it is based upon just a portion of our searches, and several approximations are used when computing your results. Please keep this in mind when using it."
This is great if you are in an industry that has seasonal traffic. It identifies the seasonality of keyword searches. Google also has a keyword tool that will take a large list of keywords and, when filtered by Search Volume Trends, give you a list that contains 12 months data and tells you the highest month of occurrence.
KeywordDiscovery collects search term data from just over 180 search engines world wide. Their database contains approximately 32 billion searches from the last 12 months. Their Premium Database contains over 600 million results.
What I like is that they cover a wider demographic than the other paid tools available. Although the new Wordtracker UK version is a great addition for our company, because it is based in the UK, KeywordDiscovery seems to be a better choice for those in a European market. Major differences are the databases from which they pull their results. WordTracker uses four or five sources (e.g. MetaCrawler, DogPile and Overture), while KeywordDiscovery uses Google, Yahoo Groups, DMOZ, MSN, Teoma, Miva and over 50 other databases. They also pull from databases in Japan, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Australia, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Israel, South Africa, India, and Norway. In the UK alone they use 11 different engines including google.co.uk.
SpyFu is a neat (and free) tool that can eliminate keywords that you may think are good to use, but may not convert well. It is a tool for Google Adwords and helpful if you are trying to determine an estimated spend for individual keywords.
I use this keyword tool to see how much money companies are bidding on terms related to my terms. Chances are, if they are bidding on it, then it’s probably converting. This helps me eliminate broad terms as well (e.g. parts, cars). I guess you can use other tools to base KEI (keyword effectiveness index) on and do close to the same thing, but SpyFu makes it a little easier and faster.
It will also show you misspelled terms. Of course many of these tools have this function but again, this tool does it quicker. Here’s an example of what SpyFu came up with when I searched for "advanced auto parts:"
advaced auto parts
advancd auto parts
advancded auto parts
advence auto parts
advenced auto parts
after market auto parts
aftermarket auto parts
anvance auto parts
So it doesn’t just show ergonomic misspellings, it also shows "stoopid" misspellings.
HitTail is a tool that I hold near and dear to my heart because I had some input into its development, and they added a few features that I requested while using it for Pay Per Click keyword research. (Well, that and the fact the tool saved my client £90,000 a year).
The tool was originally designed to do what log files can basically do, but quicker and easier. HitTail gathers the keyword and keyword phrases that brought your visitors to the site and graphs them to identify niche phrases that have high KEI so that you can use them in articles or online content. They added an XML export feature that I love because I can use it while creating AdWords campaigns and save myself a ton of time.
The reason I use it for keyword research is threefold.
It’s quicker and easier than log file data mining and does it in real-time.
I can quickly identify the long 4-6 keyword phrases to use in my content.
I get to create AdWords campaigns quickly.
Search engine users are becoming more savvy and their knowledge increases every day. They know that the more words they use to target their query the better the results will be. I see 20-30% of my visitors using 4+ keyword strings. Two years ago it was around 2-3.
So to finish this section off I’ll say that this is probably one of the most important databases that you will build. Spend a few days and dollars/pounds on it.