It is common for people to focus on a core set of terms when performing SEO for their website or a client’s site. However I have seen many examples where people continue to beat their head against a wall trying to rank number 1 for a key phrase that is simply not worth the effort. As an SEO your ultimate goal has to be increasing traffic to the website, which in turn usually increase the money you or your client makes giving a positive ROI. With that in mind you will want to focus your efforts on the key phrases that have the most potential for improvement.
When I talk about allocating your time properly what I am really talking about is finding the keywords that have the most potential to increase the traffic to your site. To do this take the top keywords that you are targeting and have a look at the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) that comes up. From an analysis of the SERP you will be able to prioritise, which key phrases need targeting the most. You will also want to factor in the amount of traffic a keyword gets when it comes to prioritising your link building activities.
Analysing the SERPs
What authority sites appear in your search results? Wikipedia seem to rank well for nearly everything and seeing a Wikipedia page top when I’m second usually tells me that we ranking as highly as we can for that term. People are constantly linking to Wikipedia and even pages that don’t have many external links still have a lot of power due to the excellent internal linking structure that Wikipedia uses. There are cases where Wikipedia pages aren’t quite as strong but in general if Wikipedia top the SERP then I would look elsewhere for improved rankings and traffic gains.
In addition to this if it is a branded key phrase that you want to rank for then it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to beat them in the SERPs. For example search for any almost any car manufacturer (Ford, Ferrari, Audi to name a few) and you will see a double listing for the manufacturer followed by a Wikipedia result. I have seen this for many other, less well known, industries as well and would be satisfied with ranking 4th in these situations.
Is there any eye candy on the page? Local listings, videos, images, Google news, Twitter results and reviews (or any other rich snippet format) all detract from the value of rankings in the case where these universal search results are included in the SERP. This is simply because videos and images are far more attractive to click on than plain text. The problem here is that if you are not likely to get much in the way of traffic from these SERPs until you rank above the universal search results being included. All this means is that when you are aiming to rank for a term that includes additional results from universal search then you need to be sure you will be challenging for the top spots. It is also worth noting that, depending on the query, the inclusion of universal search results in the SERP can change over time.
Once you spot the best opportunities for increased rankings make sure you weight the potential opportunity according to the amount of traffic you expect to receive when ranking highly for these terms.
The idea here is to focus on which set of results provide you with the most potential to increase rankings to your site or the site you are working on. Remember that whilst it is nice to rank 1st for a massive ‘glory term’ is it actually going to provide you with more traffic than if you spent your time increasing rankings across the board for another 10-20 popular key phrases?