By Brian Watkins, The SEOptimist

Having a decent grasp of keyword strategy is important for all types of business scenarios — whether you’re a business owner working on your own SEO or trying to understand what another pro is doing.

These days the basic tools for doing keyword research are less mysterious, but most of what goes into a winning SEO campaign is properly prioritizing.

What I’m sharing today will help you avoid wasting time optimizing for the wrong search intent (informational versus buying), go for quick wins instead of spinning your wheels at unrealistic goals, and systematically build search clout.

The Power of Informational vs. Buying-Motivated Searches

The main idea here is to understand what is driving someone to perform a given search, whether that’s on Google or a social platform. Are they trying to answer a question, or are they shopping?

There’s a temptation to chase buying-related keywords because that’s where the money is, but quite often those searches are competitive and fluctuate more than others.

Creating informational content allows you to showcase your expertise, tell stories, and show up on someone’s radar as they begin their buying journey. Early on, this is a fairly straightforward way to build general ranking clout.

Answering questions helps you rank for queries related to those questions, but also builds general, wider credibility. You will often find that building out this kind of material improves your rankings in all (or several) industry rankings.

For instance, if you’re a home remodeler who has blogged extensively about finishing basements, home additions, kitchen cabinetry, etc., your general rankings for broad searches like “home remodeling” will also improve because you’ve demonstrated your industry expertise extensively.

Google also seems self-referential, meaning that the more things it ranks you for that are related to main topics the more carefully it will consider you for those other ones.

This can be a good strategy to build toward longer term keyword goals. Maybe there are a few phrases that are super competitive, that you from the onset will take time to rank for. But the more you rank for easier-yet-related queries, the better shot you will have at being a contender for the tougher words because at that point Google will acknowledge how many times it’s already considered you for other things.

That’s been my experience.

This is also a reason to sometimes prioritize keywords with low search volume. Ranking for one of these won’t necessarily produce a big jump in traffic, but it might be quick to rank for and contribute to a larger plan.

Ranking for buying-motivated searches is leveraging your brand clout. These are often tougher to rank for searches, but ones where the searcher is ready to make a decision. If you can capture that traffic and properly handle it on-page, those can be quick sales.

But quite often these searches are tricky to rank for with newer websites, so they aren’t always the best place to start outside of making core service pages on the website.

Basic Content Strategy (Building and Harvesting)

To keep things simple, a basic strategy that works is to make a page for each of your major products or services. Those pages should answer basic questions and be more sales-driven.

Assume that most folks that end up on these pages already have enough info to know they want your service, so they are at least midway through the sales journey. You don’t need to persuade them why that service is worthwhile.

If they’ve made it to this page, especially through search, they already want it. You only need to overcome the final hurdles that would prevent them from making a decision to call you.

From here, you can create blog posts that answer major questions and cover different aspects of your services people may not have considered, or often ask. Where appropriate, link these posts to your core service page they relate to. This reinforcement is useful over time, and the informative blog pieces build clout that helps your sales page rank.

Even before your sales page ranks for buying searches, if you’re clever when you write your blog posts you can sometimes take a reader straight from the info gathering phase (searching for the blog post) right into a buying phase by linking them at the right time to a sales page.

That way, your sales page can do its job leveraging your informational content, even before you necessarily rank for buying keywords.

Studying sales funnels can lead you to believe that each of those phases are a distinct experience, like if someone does an info gathering search today they won’t be ready to buy until weeks from now. But there are actually a lot of cases where that reader can go all the way through the “funnel” in one sitting, if you have content set up for it correctly.

Don’t Be Afraid To Share What Makes You Nervous

A lot of business owners I’ve talked to over the years are reluctant to share tips and expertise beyond a superficial level, worried that giving too much away would give a prospect no reason to call them.

My experience has been the exact opposite.

Creating same-y content that covers the same ideas in the same way as 50 other websites gives Google no incentive to choose you, nor does it stop a reader in their tracks and give them a reason to think you’re a better solution to their problems.

I remember a piece of writing advice I got years ago that went something like this: “If hitting ‘publish’ makes you nervous, it’s exactly what you should publish.”

Years ago when I worked for a tax resolution firm I saw my first real dose of this. At that time, most of our competition were giving quick, surface level advice and then urging people to call. They, too, felt that if they gave too much away a reader would feel they could simply do it themselves.

Instead, we wrote a couple posts walking readers through the entire process of getting an installment agreement with the IRS. We provided enough real information that a person could indeed conceivably walk away and try doing it themselves.

And you know what happened?

That post ranked #1 in our area, and drove a huge number of sales calls.

Two things were at play there:

  • Once the reader actually saw the whole process, without holding things back artificially, they appreciated how complex it was and what the value of hiring professionals would be.
  • Because we were one of the few firms that actually took the time to explain the whole process and answer questions, we came off as more trustworthy than competitors — in an industry where people really need to know who they can trust because of what’s at stake.

If someone else is ranking better than you but has superficial content, they’re ranking because of other factors — such as links, domain age, other successful marketing channels, etc.

This is why it can be a mistake to “spy on” or copy your competitors too often, because it can lead you to think that because they got away with shallow material, so can you. But odds are, you probably don’t have those other factors going for you that allowed them to win in spite of unideal material.

Are you ready to level up your content game? Let’s talk.

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