by Chris Horton
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to assume that they know what keywords people are searching for to find them. 9 times out of 10, when an SEO client provides a list of keywords that they wish to rank for, they’ve missed a huge chunk of their biggest draws. For a dealership to chase the term “cars” or “automotive” is suicide. And when you ask why they’re striving to chase that word, they say, “Google says that 5 million people search for the word cars every month and I want that market.”
To start, that’s not what Google is saying . People often get confused when they see the Google Adwords tool tell them that “cars” is the highest search term. That number also includes a lot of words that include the word cars (i.e. – classic cars, used cars, new cars. etc.), so don’t let that skewed number entice you to throw money somewhere that you shouldn’t. Your best bet is to look for more specific 3 word terms such as Atlanta Chevy dealer, Chevy dealership in Atlanta, etc. that a searcher will actually use to find your business.
If you’re not locked into a location and have a site such as a movie review site or something similar, use Google’s Keyword Tool to look for 3 word terms that contain the word movie, movies, theater, etc. Make sure that you choose the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” checkbox and sort the results by Global Monthly Searches. You’ll find tons of ideas that thousands of people search for every month and where competition is little to none.
Make a list of your top 20 keywords and then make sure that you have good landing pages on your website that actually use those terms in the text, title tags, etc. Once you have those terms, use a program like IBP to find out what you can do next with your site to start ranking for that keyword or hire an SEO expert (with a proven track record) to tell you what you need to do next. They can even help you with the keyword search process if even that frustrates you. The trick is to not chase only the terms on the top of the list (when sorted by Global Searches), but to also make sure that you actually have a page on your site that clearly and definitively talks about the search term.
That’s the biggest mistake most people make. They say something along the lines of, “I want to rank for cookies.”, but they only have one page on their site that has one recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies. You might be able to rank for “peanut butter cookies”, but not the broad term of cookies unless you had some more pages with a proper silo to support that term. Understanding customer intent is very important and Google has made a business out of it. Someone searching for photography is not looking for the same thing as someone searching for photographer. One is most likely looking for photography tips on how to take photos and the other is looking for the person to take the photos. That’s a big difference. And it’s also the main reason why people get frustrated choosing the right keywords and get annoyed when they don’t appear on the rankings for those terms. Get real about what you’re chasing.
So spend some time going over your main site pages and see exactly what you should rank for and more importantly make sure that your site has a good content silo to support it.
by Chris Horton
Siloing is a term that simply refers to how a website organizes its information. Websites that have a ton of information but that lack any structure will spend their days struggling to attain rankings. It can be very frustrating if you know that you have better content than your competitors, but they still manage to outrank you. If your site is a diluted mess, expect a long haul of disappointment until you eventually and in most cases accidentally add enough content to an area to warrant Google ranking you.
If you have a hundred pages that talk about Barbie dolls, you would expect to rank well for those related terms. But if those hundred pages are spread out, scattered, and buried among hundreds of other pages that are not related to Barbie dolls, your pages won’t see the light of day in the rankings compared to even someone who only has 10 pages that are well organized in a Barbie doll area and all neatly tied and linked together.
Take a look at this graphic below that is a representation of what a good silo’ed site would look like;
In this example we have a kids site, which silos down to a toys area and a fashion area separately. Then each of those areas silos down into even more specific areas (girls and boys, etc.). This may seem like an obvious setup, but in companies where the lines may appear to be blurred, you can miss it. For instance if you have a heating and air company, you would be wise to keep your heating services pages away from cooling services pages. Even though it’s very common to see them together, they have very distinctive sets of keywords. Heating has furnaces, heating, etc. and cooling will have air conditioning, freon, cooling, a/c, etc. Keep them separate so that you can build up those areas with the respective keywords. Keeping them together muddies up the relevancy of the pages and dilutes your page strength. Just like in the above example, boys and girls pants could share a page but boys don’t wear capris. Stop diluting your message.
I’ve personally worked on sites that have had this problem and when you get into thousands of pages that are all a convoluted mess, it’s extremely difficult to fix and if there are other forces involved that refuse to organize the site the way it needs to be, it’s very frustrating since rankings are few and far between. If you’re in this position, you can slightly overcome it by doing what’s called Virtual Siloing where even if the content isn’t actually residing in neatly crafted directories, you can still present them and link them in that way. It’s second fiddle to directory siloing where not only is the linking structure that way, but also the site directories.
The last thing to note about silos is the interlinking patterns. For instance, in the example above, avoid linking the “Dress Up” page to the “Boys Toys” areas or even worse, another branch of the silo like the “Kid’s Fashion” branch. Cross link to pages on the same level and in the same branch. But if they’re not really relevant just avoid it since it’s not really necessary (like linking video games to trucks, for instance. Same branch, but not really relevant).
If you do decide to cross link branches, make sure that it’s somehow relevant and that it links to the broadest relevant silo possible. In the example above, if you were to link the “Dress Up” area under “Girl’s Toys” to actual “Girl’s clothes” on your site (a stretch I know), link to the “Girl’s Clothes” area and not to the “Girls pants” or “Girl’s Shirts” area. Go as broad as you can and stay relevant.
Apply this linking strategy externally also. If you find a kid’s clothing site that’s willing to link to you, have them link directly to the Kid’s Fashion branch page and NOT directly to your home page. If it’s a boy’s clothing site, have them link to the Boys Clothes branch and not Kid’s Fashion since that also includes a Girl’s Clothes branch that stems off of it which isn’t relevant.
The larger the website, the messier this gets, but once you get it under control, your rankings will move up the charts quickly and you’ll continue to get more powerful the longer you keep this practice moving forward and stay true to it.