Competitive Benchmark Keywords – The Slow Rise

HitTail Best Practices Sep 17, 2006

This article is about the flip-side of HitTailing: boosting a large head instead of chasing a long tail. SEOs often talk about the hierarchy of keywords you need to target: a website-wide term, a website sub-area term (often for the directory), and a page-specific unique term. HitTail is about those page-specific unique terms. But it’s also nice to get those coveted top-terms. I’ve done this over and over as an in-house Webmaster in past jobs, and these results tend to take a long time to produce, and have staying power of years (over a half-decade in at least two examples).

When I came onboard Connors 2 years ago, one of the responsibilities that landed on my plate was overhauling the website. I did that about 6 months into my stint. About 1 year later, we landed one of the coveted 2-word combos we sought: pr firm. Now, this isn’t the windfall victory it may seem, because it’s the singular-form of only ONE of the general ways to refer to our industry. And because everyone can see Connors’ data through the HitTail guest login, you can see that as of the time of this writing, it only generated 100 (unique) search hits since I put the HitTail code on the tracking site in June.

In those months, the terms connors, connors communications and public relations case studies have all outperformed pr firm. But the fact remains, we’ve crept the first page of search on the term PR firm, and have inched our way over some of the largest PR firms in the industry. This illustrates several points…

  1. You much choose these 2-word overarching keywords carefully. You won’t get them if they’re not closely aligned to what you really are and how people talk about you.
  2. You have to be pretty committed to these words, because they may take years to conquer and you can’t change your mind midstream.
  3. The honest-to-goodness traffic really needs to already exist on these words to tap into. You’re wasting your time if you choose a loser benchmark keyword. Google Trends is an invaluable tool in making this evaluation.
  4. Even once achieving these words, they may not be your top producers. 3 or 4 word combos that are less-expected and more searched-on can still be the cash cows.
  5. Even achieving your 2-word combo is not the end of the journey. You’ve only just plugged one “lead leak”. There are many more equally valid ways referring to you. And then there are the singular and plural forms to think about.

So, my piece of advice on coveted benchmark keywords for the rapidly growing HitTail audience is to get your short-term satisfaction of achievement from the prescribed HitTailing process, but to always have this background task in your mind. Choose your one most-important 2-word combo that’s challenging enough (and valuable enough according to Google Trends) to be worth pursuing, but not so challenging that you’ll never achieve it. Add that keyword to your templates so it’s automatically on every page in your site in many of the important elements, so you never have to consciously optimize for it again (on-site). Get that keyword in your Yahoo and other directory descriptions if you haven’t already. And get ready for a long wait.

And as the final point, know where you’d like to be in an ideal world, and check your current status. Connors would like to be in the first page of results on the term public relations, but currently, we’re buried on page 9 of results. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, and not bad for a “boutique” PR agency. And there’s virtually no way to HitTail such a competitive term onto the first page of results. It’s a perfect example of where bringing out the heavy guns is required. Over time, we will probably bring ourselves to page 1 on the term public relations because of HitTail. Think about that PR strategy for a moment.

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