Joel Klettke is a Search Engine Optimization specialist at Vovia. Joel's also an experienced writer and local marketing expert.

Other posts by:

#1 Rankings That Suck!

suckThere’s a real danger in SEO of getting too focused on your rankings. It’s true that a top 10 ranking is the coveted holy grail of SEO – without it you’re invisible, but with it your business can go from 0 – 60 in no time flat. That said, there’s such a thing as a top 10 ranking – even a #1 ranking – that won’t do you any favors.

Surprisingly, these are some of the most competitive, sought-after phrases in the world. There are companies with million dollar marketing budgets chasing them and yet those rankings will never be worth the time and money invested.

So, what are these coveted, worthless keywords you ask?

Expensive, Worthless Keyword Phrases

The most competitive, worthless keywords are broad, general keywords, like “Shopping”, “Movies” or “Safety”.

But wait, wouldn’t ranking #1 for shopping be incredible? Wouldn’t a safety consulting company rake in the dough  if their brand was #1 for “Safety”? Imagine the traffic, the brand recognition, the profits!

Three words for you: low quality traffic.

Here’s the fundamental problem: you don’t know what somebody typing in “safety” or “shopping” is actually looking for. Shopping where? Online? Dallas? The Yukon? Safety for what? Operating a lawn mower? Safety protocols for construction workers? Safety equipment?

Even if you were #1 and even if you got a tremendous amount of traffic, your bounce rate (those who come to your site and immediately leave) would be extreme! That’d be okay if it wasn’t extremely expensive to rank #1 for shopping – but it is. You can invest tens of thousands of dollars trying to rank #1 for a general keyword phrase and receive very little ROI.

People get so obsessed with nailing those top traffic drivers that they forget the psychology of search. A phrase like “Shopping” would have been invaluable in the 90’s, (when yours truly was more worried about how to learn long division than optimizing the web) but the way people think about search has drastically changed since then.

Cheap, Converting Keywords

A study in 2010 showed that the most common length of a keyword search was over 3 words long. The fact is that people search in very specific ways. Instead of “Shopping” they’re likely to search “Shopping In Downtown Calgary”. Instead of “Movies”, they’re likely to search “Watch Action Movies Online”. Instead of safety, they’re likely to search “Safety Consultants In Edmonton”.

When someone searches “shopping” and receives a dog’s breakfast of results, they’re not likely to find what they need because their search was too broad. They’re going to refine their search and make it more specific to what they’re trying to find. That means that even if you get less traffic for a phrase like “Rent Movies in Calgary”, having that #1 ranking is more likely to lead to conversions and impact your ROI.

The best part is that long-tail keywords are much easier to acheive rankings for than short, generic phrases. If you’re smart with your strategy you can maximize your ROI without doling out the big bucks for the generic phrases your clueless competitors are chasing after.

The Bottom Line

  • Don’t let anyone talk you into a big-budget campaign that targets phrases that aren’t going to convert.
  • Think about the long tail! Write content that supports keyword phrases people are really looking for.
  • For services, think local! If you only serve one city, why target the world?
  • Quantity does NOT equal quality. You want quality, converting traffic – not sheer numbers.