SEO: How to Rank against the Heavyweights

Merchants want to rank number one in Google for search terms that are seemingly important to their business, such as “dog food.” Or “office supplies.” Or whatever popular term describes their products.

The problem, however, is that not every company can rank for high-demand keywords. The workaround is to be realistic about ranking potential and develop search engine optimization strategies accordingly.

Relevance and Authority

Ranking well in any search engine takes a strong combination of relevance and authority. Relevance is determined by the pairing of the search phrase with the context and authority of your site. Authority is based on the quality and quantity of links from other sites to yours, as well as mentions within relevant content communities.

Say you want to rank for “auto parts.” Is your brand known for auto parts, or does it only sell replacement wheels and hubcaps? If you don’t all types of auto parts and focus instead on a few subtypes, your site will almost certainly not be considered relevant for a broader search for “auto parts.” Don’t fight it. Work with your strength.

Conversely, assume you sell all manner of auto parts. Your site could, therefore, be considered relevant for a broader search. Evaluate the content on your site. Do you have critical text content anywhere besides the navigational structure of your header and footer?

Descriptive, plain text content is essential to relevance. And it must be unique, high-quality content that shoppers want to read. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

Which brings us to authority. You can’t buy authority without risking penalties. You can’t manufacture it, either. You have to earn it. That’s why authority is so valuable. It’s difficult to accumulate and requires the agreement of others in the topical community.

Links and mentions from any (reputable) source will have some value, such as from the chamber of commerce in your hometown, or a random blog with a single car restoration post linking to your wheels and hubcaps. The most valuable links, however, will come from sites with a large amount of authority in a topically relevant area.

How much relevance and authority you need is based on your competitors. If their sites are highly relevant to high-demand keyword phrases, you’ll need more than they have. And if their backlink portfolios number in the five- or six-figure range, yours will need more, as well.

Be realistic. How strong is your competition — the real competition, not who you prefer?

Realism Required

It’s important to be realistic. If you’re a flyweight boxer, it’s likely impossible to win confronting a heavyweight head on. Instead, look for the opening to dodge that powerful punch and attack swiftly where he is unprotected.

Perhaps you are an SEO flyweight. Amazon, eBay, and other category leaders are the heavyweights. Can you really win top rankings for the highest-demand keyword phrases? They have the ranking power, but you may have the advantage of targeting smaller opportunities more quickly.

After all, 0 percent of high-demand keywords such as “laptops” is less than 20 percent of long-tail keywords such as “laptops with backlit keyboard.”

In November 2017, 10,000 searches on Google were for that phrase, “laptops with backlit keyboard.” That’s 10,000 impressions and thousands of chances to sell laptops to people who know exactly what’s important to them. Moreover, those long-tail searchers convert more often because they’re farther down the purchase cycle.

It took me 15 seconds to find that example (“laptops with backlit keyboard”) in Google’s search bar autosuggest list. It took another 45 seconds to log in to AdWords Keyword Planner to check the search volume, to determine if it’s worth writing content around. The process is not difficult, in other words. And it’s quick enough for a spot check, for content ideas.

However, use a more concerted effort if you’re forming a content strategy for your site or a plan of attack against a major SEO competitor.

Make sure you’ve captured as many of opportunities as possible that have a sufficient demand to matter to your business, with little resource expenditures.

That calls for organized keyword research. Learn more about how to plan and execute a keyword research project in my “SEO How-to” series, at “Keyword Research Concepts” and “Keyword Research in Action.” It will walk you through the process of brainstorming keyword ideas and using the Keyword Planner to extract and analyze keyword data.

Mining keyword research is a valuable exercise no matter the size of your business. We all have competitors. Some we want to attack and others we want to maintain our leads on. Content that targets long-tail keyword themes will accomplish both goals.

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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