Of all the lessons I can offer on SEO, one of the most important lessons is about greed. And while it is an important SEO lesson, it is a simple one.
My SEO lesson is merely this –
Don’t be greedy when selecting keywords.
I learned this lesson through trial and error, through hard work, and through years of working on real-world search engine optimization. I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly or even quickly. It is something I learned over time and as I advanced forward in my SEO education.
As with many things in my life, I find the most simple and important lessons tend to be rooted in my childhood. These valuable nuggets were given to me by my Grandmother, a smart and matter of fact woman, who gave uncomplicated bits of wisdom that were delivered with great care and purpose.
This lesson is no different. My Grandmother counseled me on greed many times and made sure I understood the value of giving and the danger of taking.
Those who have a tendency to pursue greed will undoubtably find failure, frustration, and disappointment.
I believe that greed has no place in life, business, or in SEO.
A Real Life Example of Greed and Self Control in Selecting Keywords
Prior to starting Web Savvy, I worked for an ERP software company. The ERP industry is highly competitive for both SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click advertising). This strong competition is a result of high dollar sales. An individual ERP software sale will range between $50,000 and $1,000,000.
Such large dollar sales mean that a single user click in Google Adwords (advertising) can cost between $25-30. This also means a PPC budget doesn’t go far and website traffic driven by natural SEO is priceless.
Winning in organic SEO was difficult then and it’s still tough today.
When I say difficult, I mean really rough. Picture David versus Goliath and know that I was little David.
My website had to compete against enterprise software websites for companies like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft. These are all very large organizations that spent millions on SEO and pay per click advertising. Against their multimillion-dollar marketing budgets was me – the self-taught marketer who had an interest in SEO and web design.
I competed against these large firms in both SEO and in sales. I won without much bloodshed or battle wounds. Along the way I learned a valuable lesson.
My lesson was not to be greedy. Whether in sales or SEO, you need to be realistic and you need to set greed aside.
To illustrate my lesson, lets look at the way ERP buyers searched for possible software packages ten years ago. There were a variety of phrases they could use and at the time, many would start with accounting software, distribution software, or manufacturing software. ERP was a newer term back then, so people had to discover it. Once they did, they realized ERP was the proper search and they would also discover that there were multiple variations of the term.
Here are some top keywords and their current monthly search volumes in the US:
ERP = 60,500
ERP software = 12,100
ERP system = 8,100
ERP systems = 8,100
ERP solutions = 720
ERP solution = 260
ERP software solutions = 70
Ten years ago the volumes were different, but the concept remains the same.
I knew I wanted search traffic for all of those terms and I knew I was competing against Goliath and I only had so much time available. I was also painfully aware that I had zero funds to allocate to outside assistance or pay per click advertising.
To win my battle against Goliath, I was careful when selecting keywords and I focused on ERP software, ERP systems, and ERP solutions. In doing so, I ignored the term of ERP.
Most people want to go for all terms and certainly want to go for the highest volume keyword. But that, my friends, is a mistake. It’s like shopping at a Lexus dealership when you know you can only afford a Ford Fiesta.
In hindsight, I know my self control and focus was a very wise decision on my part. Thank you Grandma!
Back then large publications and massive websites dominated page one for the search term ERP and I knew it would take me forever to win.
I also knew that serious buyers would search for ERP software and not just stop at the acronym ERP. ERP was just a route to the true and more narrow search phrases that involved software, system, or solution.
My process was focused on selecting keywords I knew I could win. I stayed true to my approach and plan. And I won. For years my company’s website was on page one of Google for top terms and the website was above that of the large competitors.
Was I smarter than their massive marketing teams? Honestly no. But I was one person who had control of the website and the sitemap. I wasn’t a team of people who didn’t know what the other members were doing or targeting.
By being a single person, I had better control of my destiny. I could make sure our pages and posts didn’t compete against each other and I worked hard at building up our authority on the internet for these terms.
I didn’t try and go after every possible keyword scenario. Instead of reaching for every option for a given keyword, I carefully selected which battle I wanted to fight and I went in with heavy armor.
Everything Old is New Again
This lesson of focus hits home for me this last week. I’ve been trying to counsel an SEO client on this subject for over a month.
Our client wants to target every variation of their top keyword phrase and I’m against it because I know it is a futile effort. My knowledge isn’t an assumption; it is based on trial and error and actual real-world experience.
I know my client is much better off picking the best keyword variations that work for them and ignoring the rest, even if only temporarily.
My advice has been to focus on a few of the best terms and once those terms are obtained, branch out and focus on additional terms. My advice is to let go of the greed because I know greed in SEO is disastrous. You confuse yourself, your visitors, and the search engines if you go after to many terms to quickly.
In SEO it is best to let go of the greed when selecting keywords.
Pick the right keywords based on your offering, your target market, existing competition, and search volumes. Stay focused and be selective. Know that slow and steady wins the SEO war.
That’s how you win today, it’s how I won ten years ago, and I’m betting it is how you will win ten years from today.