Keyword Research

SEO: How to Target High-demand Keywords (or Not)

Search engine optimization often has lofty goals, such as ranking on page one for a high-demand phrase. How can you reach a seemingly impossible objective?

The sites that rank on the first page of the search results are Google’s assessment of the best options.

Meeting your goal means pushing one of those sites off of the first page and taking its place. That means understanding what Google values for that phrase and then delivering it.

True Ranking Set

Remember that the sites you see when you search a keyword may differ from what others see.

Search results are personalized by many factors, including your search history. What you query and click influences your future search results. If you search your target keyword and frequently click a competitor’s listing, Google will show you more results from that company, even if it might not rank as well for other searchers.

Find your true competitive set with Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool. If you don’t have access to Google Ads, use a rank checking tool, such as Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and many others. Call a friend outside your industry and ask him to search the phrase on Google.

In short, don’t rely on your personal Google results to set SEO strategy.

What Does Google Want?

Learn everything you can from those page one listings. Don’t just assume that they’re there because they “rank for everything” or due to a trick. Discover what they’re delivering that Google values so highly, such as:

  • The ranking page’s and site’s intent: informational or transactional;
  • The keywords used on the ranking page as well as the related words and phrases;
  • Whether other contextually relevant pages boost the ranking page’s overall theme within the site;
  • How the ranking page is linked within the site: Does it benefit from a link in the header or footer navigation, or perhaps a permanent home page or category page feature?
  • Third-party sites that link to that ranking page;
  • The third-party pages that link to that ranking page;
  • The number and quality of the sites that link to the ranking competitor’s domain overall.

Apply the list above for every competitive ranking page. Be specific in your observations. You’ll need to improve on their efforts to outrank them.

Satisfy Google

The hardest part of ranking for a high-demand phrase is accomplishing it. There are no shortcuts.

If only informational pages rank for a search query, you must have informational content on your site. Slapping 900 words on the bottom of a category page about how your business is the best will not cut it. Depending on the competitive set, you may need professionally researched and written content that speaks to the topic independently.

If only pages that have amassed many quality links rank, start ethically acquiring new links. Begin by stalking the link profile for the ranking pages, but remember that you’ll need to exceed their links, not just duplicate them.

Likely you’ll need both — content and links. You may also require changes to your page templates and your site’s navigational structure to boost the relevance and internal link authority signals.


Once you understand what it takes, calculate the return on investment. Will the cost of ranking for that difficult goal be worth the reward?

Calculate your potential revenue gain:

SPM * Google CTR * Conversion Rate * AOV = Revenue


  • SPM: Searches per month, the number of times the keyword is searched on Google.
  • Google CTR: The click-through rate that the page one position typically drives.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of your organic search traffic that converts to a sale.
  • AOV: The average order value from your organic search traffic.

Then compare that expected revenue to the cost of optimization.

For example, say that consumers search your dream phrase 100,000 times a month. In the best-case scenario, ranking number one in the search results typically drives about a 30-percent click-through (depending on factors such as brand recognition and preference), which brings your potential traffic to 30,000 visitors. If 10 percent — 3,000 — buy something, and your average order value is $100, your revenue will be about $300,000 a month for that keyword.

Those numbers would plug into the formula like this:

100,000 * 30% * 10% * $100 = $300,000

Is the profit from $300,000 in revenue worth the SEO investment?

Build Up

It’s always challenging to take a page from ranking zero to ranking hero. You may need to target lower-demand keywords first to achieve some relevant success with smaller search audiences before pushing into the high-demand rankings. If searchers select your page from the rankings for lesser keywords, there’s a better chance that Google will consider the page for larger ones.

However, remember what matters most in ecommerce SEO: traffic and revenue. Rankings don’t pay your bills — not even number-one rankings in Google for your favorite keyword.

Often, the best SEO strategy is to target a wide variety of keyword themes across your entire site to rank on many search results pages. Your ability to drive revenue from organic search increases as more pages produce traffic. But if you’re focusing your time and money on a single keyword, the rest of your site will suffer. Overall performance will likely drop.

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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