You have keywords you absolutely HAVE to rank for. Admit it. They may be your company name, your name, a very vague, and broad subject related to your industry, or something absolutely arcane that no one searches for.
Occasionally these terms matter enough that you absolutely need to own them, often you do really need to have some sort of presence for them, and probably more often than not they really don’t matter at all*. So how do you know?
* That seems pretty vague – “occasionally”, “often”, “more often than not”. It probably works out to 10% – 30% – 60%. I’m trying out a new format here because I like footnoting and often want to do multiple footnotes within a longer post. Recently I’ve become enamored with Joe Posnanski’s blog, which you would enjoy if you like excellent writing, humor, and baseball. Or try this if you like baseball, but prefer incoherent logic in a vacuum of humor. Anyway, Posnanski employs this asterisk-throughout-the-body technique and I’m going to rip him off.
These ‘must have at all costs’ keywords are called ego keywords. They result in the emails you get from the president at 1AM wondering why you’re not coming up at all or high enough for “___” on [fill in the blank with your boss’ favorite search engine – was likely AOL up until a couple years ago].
I have a friend and 2 clients who probably all think I’m writing this post about them. Well I am, sort of. But only because it’s come up with each recently. The truth is I’ve wanted to do this post for some time because ego keywords are an issue all the time.
If you have an unlimited budget, ego keywords aren’t a problem with paid search. If you have a huge or really well trusted site and the keyword doesn’t have huge search volume, you’re probably okay with search engine optimization, too. Most of the time, though, people don’t have either let alone both of those items on their side.
So what to do for the rest of us? Look at the numbers.
Web Analytics: Are Your Ego Keywords Converting?
If you have an existing site that’s been around for awhile, you didn’t take SEO 101 and do everything exactly opposite, and you have any right ranking on the keyword, you probably have some kind of ranking for your ego keyword on Google, Yahoo!, etc.
You also should have some Web analytics on your site. With free and cheap options, there’s no reason not to have something.
Go in there and look at the keyword* in question. What do the numbers say? How much traffic are you getting? Is there a high bounce rate? Are those searchers converting to whatever conversion goal you have?
* I usually use the term “keyword,” which sounds like it means just one word. “Keyword phrases”, “key-phrases” or “stuff you type into the Google box” would probably be better.
If you have low traffic, a low bounce rate %, and high conversion rates, you probably do want to put more effort in climbing search results for that keyword.
Otherwise, your next step should probably be to look at your Web content. Do I provide information about that ego keyword? Do I give incentive for folks interested in that subject to convert? Do they have to jump through hoops to convert?
If you haven’t done a very good job with that, clean it up and then take a look at the numbers. If you’re still not converting well, you may want to think about putting your resources somewhere else. If you are you converting better but still not getting a ton of eyeballs, pump up the volume.
My first recommendation would be paid search. You can jump up on the page automatically. Do that as a continued strategy or just in the beginning while you also implement search engine optimization (seo) and wait for those results to kick in. With only one exception in my professional experience has seo in a competitive field moved quickly. That’s not a knock on us or the advertising technique; seo is just a mid- to long-term proposition.
Once you’ve determined it’s worth it, just implement your standard best practices for seo and paid search and you’ll be on your way to better rankings.
If you’re a new site, just go with some keyword research, then start building content, links, and trust. Paid search will be automatic (unless you’re a local or regional firm wanting to rank for “insurance”); seo will come along if you know what you’re doing and are persistent. Or have an seo firm that does it for you.
The Pitfalls of Ego Keywords
The real problem with ego keywords is that they usually aren’t that important and cause at least the following problems, broken down by search engine marketing type:
Paid Search Problems caused by Ego Keywords
- Budget could be used somewhere else
- Drive up the cost for those keywords
- You give me gray hairs. I try to explain numbers, but eventually I’ll just concede to keep some form of sanity.
SEO Problems caused by Ego Keywords
- Time loss. Really this is a problem for paid search, too, but at least the time spent on ranking for a specific term with paid search is finite. It can go on forever with seo due to content and link building.
- Especially for more competitive keywords, it’s difficult to rank #1 or in the top couple with one, let alone with the top 3 or 4 search engines at the same time since they run different algorithms.
The Rock’s bottom line?* LOOK AT THE NUMBERS!!!!!!!! If they support your time and monetary efforts, go for it. Otherwise, consider going after what will bring you more money and recognition.
* I can’t help that my pop culture references don’t include the last 3-4 years. I’m going to see the Dark Knight this weekend for my first theatre movie experience I think in a year and a half. Once you have a kid, you kind of go through an Elmo-Backyardigans-Little Einsteins haze for awhile. Or if you tortured baby pandas in a past life, the Wiggles. Hopefully you can continue blissfully through your life without the life-shattering daymares that inevitably follow from even just one viewing.