Where to Put Your SEO Efforts for Business Gains

In this episode, Sue and Jesse explore how to narrow down your keyword targets for your SEO work. Is it best to dive into high-volume keywords, or is there a benefit for targeting niche keywords with room to grow? This episode highlights the value of keyword research for your industry and gives you great insight into helping your business know where to direct your SEO efforts.

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What you’ll learn

  • What factors to account for when identifying keywords to work towards.
  • When to “go where the fight isn’t” and target niche keywords related to your industry.
  • Why keyword research is so vitally important to the process of SEO.

Transcript For Should I Focus On High Volume Keywords for My SEO – 121;

Caleb Baumgartner: Welcome to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I am producer Caleb Baumgartner. In this episode, Sue and Jesse discuss the value of keyword research for your SEO process. Do you target high volume keywords in your SEO efforts? Where is there value in a different route? With this episode, you’ll learn more about how to pick your SEO battles to reap the most rewards for your efforts. Got a question for our team? Visit us at and let us know. Thanks for listening and enjoy the show.

Jesse Dolan: Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan, joined today by Sue Ginsburg. How’s it going, Sue?

Sue Ginsburg: Doing great.

Jesse Dolan: And I got one question I always ask first. I feel like sometimes I get in a rut with this, but it’s just there. You got to ask-

Sue Ginsburg: Where are we today?

Jesse Dolan: Where are you today? What virtual city are you hanging out in?

Sue Ginsburg: Coming at you virtually from Hotlanta, Georgia.

Jesse Dolan: Nice.

Sue Ginsburg: And I thought that this skyline was appropriate because it shows a lot on the highways, which anybody who lives or has been in Atlanta in the last however many years knows, spend a lot of time on your highways when you’re in Atlanta because traffic is not great or traffic is the furthest thing from great.

Jesse Dolan: I’ll tell you what, Sue. We went through Atlanta a few years back. I don’t know if you remember, I forget which bridge it was, but they had a bridge there’s like a fire under it. And it kind of like melted the bridge. It was one of their main arteries. And we were driving to Florida from Minnesota here and went right through Atlanta, at rush hour in the evening. And this bridge was out. And we just need to sneak around the loop, no big deal. Oh my goodness. It was like the worst rush hour traffic that we’ve ever had. It was so horrible. So, yeah, I can feel what you’re talking about there from own experience.

Sue Ginsburg: Lots of great things about living in Atlanta. The traffic is not one of them.

Jesse Dolan: Right. Not that we have great traffic in Minneapolis, don’t get me wrong. We’ve got winter and road construction, right? RT seasons, like we say.

Sue Ginsburg: Right.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah, yeah. That’s a big memory I have of Atlanta. And the best part was, my son, I don’t know if he was, gosh, what was he eight or nine at the time, he had to go to the bathroom. And we’re like, we’re in one of these stretches where there is no exit. There’s these big walls. And I’m like, “Dude, I’ve got a Gatorade bottle back there.” And he’s like, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” So, yeah, it was almost, almost a very bad situation there. But we finally got to an off ramp and took care of business there, but any rate, any rate.

Sue Ginsburg: Yeah. And the reason that I am in virtual Atlanta today is the question that we will be discussing. Should I choose keywords to focus on that are the most popular one searched comes most recently from our great client in Atlanta. And it’s not an uncommon question to get the keyword list and you want to know why wouldn’t I just choose the keywords that the most people are searching on. So, really good question. Really, really smart question. And we all will learn from what you tell us about the strategy today.

So, the quote for today, JK Rowling. Is there anybody who doesn’t know who that rags to riches author is.

Jesse Dolan: Game of Thrones, right?

Sue Ginsburg: Hmm?

Jesse Dolan: Game of Thrones?

Sue Ginsburg: Harry Potter and the rest.

Jesse Dolan: I know, I’m just kidding.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s right. “If you’re holding it up for a universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.” Isn’t that the truth? So, again, the question, should I choose the most popular keywords, the ones that show up in the most number of searches or is there another strategy? And just a little backfill on this, so our SEO process starts with or includes determining keywords for the business that are the best ones for us to focus on and focus on working to increase the rank for those keywords.

So, after we do our research and the competitive research, we ask the client for input and the list that we show them and share with them has the number of searches for the past month on that keyword. So, it’s easy to see how somebody who isn’t working in SEO all day and night wants to know, well, why wouldn’t I just choose the most popular ones? Really, really good question. Really good question.

And through work and through talking to you, I’ve learned why and think it would be a great thing for everybody out there to learn and understand and know because it does come up. So, today, Jesse, we’ll be asking you to share your expertise with us on choosing keywords you want to rank for and we found in searches for and share with us why that is a good idea or why that isn’t a good idea.

And I think bigger than that, what are the factors when you are choosing keywords? Okay, if it is or isn’t popularity, what are the other things that you want to consider? I think the intuitive action is, oh yeah, these are the most popular, let’s go for those may or may not be the right thing to do.

And then, we’ll all know whether we’re choosing keywords for the first time or we’re going through and changing what we want to focus on. How do we consider the number of searches and their popularity in looking at which ones to choose? So, tell us what you know.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. I think it’s a great question. Definitely one of these it depends type answers for SEO, because I mean just point blank, like yeah, you do want to go after high volume searches. That’s where all the people are. But it’s just a matter of when and the level of competition. There are some it depends type answers here.

But make no mistake ultimately and eventually, you want to be going after the keywords with the most volume as much as possible where it makes sense for your business. This is more people. More people, ranking higher, more leads, more opportunity, more business, it all makes sense. I think that’s some pretty easy math to follow.

That being said, usually this question comes up in the context of somebody who isn’t dominant in their SEO, they’re needing SEO. That’s where we deal with it. That’s when people come to us to hire us, to make some improvements for them. So, I wouldn’t say that we always just jump to the high volume keywords. One thing that you definitely want to look at is there’s really two factors to these decisions on keywords, it’s volume and level of competition.

Usually the higher the volume of the searches on the keyword, the more people are looking for it each month, the more competition there’s going to be for people that want to rank for that keyword to then get in front of those people that are doing the searches. If you can find kind of that magic mix of a high volume keyword but low competition, then you’re in pretty good shape for that high volume or those high volume keywords.

Now, you can gauge the competition. A lot of the keyword research tools that are out there are going to have some kind of a ratio or number or score that they put on how competitive this keyword is. And that’s great. We’re talking local SEO here. So, again, you’re in Hotlanta. If it’s auto repair, Atlanta is the keyword. That’s going to be a pretty high volume keyword in the niche, in the industry of auto repair.

Now, Atlanta versus Alpharetta versus some of those smaller suburb, I wouldn’t just go off the numbers that these tools are giving us for the level of competition. Do some check-in. Do some searches for auto repair Alpharetta and things like that and see what other results that are coming up. Are these other auto repair shops or is it pretty sparse in that suburb and Google serving up people from farther away? Especially if we’re talking Google my business, proximity is a big factor.

So, I would not be scared away from high volume keywords if the competition was relatively low. However, if it’s something that’s very high competition and if your website really isn’t optimized yet, you don’t have a lot of authority, then you may want to go where the fight isn’t like we say, maybe niche down again. If it’s auto repair or just very broad, what about, and I use these examples all the time, so I apologize everybody, but what about radiator repair or transmission repair or brake jobs or individual services within the overall umbrella of auto repair, those are going to be lower volume because they’re just individual services.

But there’s probably going to be less competition for those. So, like you’re saying, Sue, when we present our clients with the keyword research, we’ll show them high volume and low volume keywords. We work with them to pick what their targets are. We’ll usually do a mix of going after high and low volume. I wouldn’t say that you have to do one or the other, but I do think you have to have some realistic expectations, which ones are going to rank faster.

Usually you’re going to find the lower volume, lower competition keywords are going to be easier to rank for. Unfortunately, you’re just not going to get as many leads or sales through those because of the lower volume. But I think the best strategy is a mix of the two. And if you needed to have a bit more strategy on this, again, if you’re kind of lacking in your SEO and your authority, you can build some confidence within Google, so to speak, like totally a phrase I just made up. There’s no stat for this.

But I think you can build some competence within Google, gaining some rank on the low volume keywords, really niching down into your local market for that particular service. And then Google starts to draw relevancy and understanding, and it gives you some authority. And you can then build on that to go after some things that are more higher volume, where you wouldn’t have stood a chance to crack into that before because of how steep the competition was.

Once you get a little bit of a name for yourself, you may find that’s a little bit easier to do. So, I don’t think again that it’s necessarily one or the other. In some cases, there can be a strategy. In some cases, you can just shotgun and do a mix of all of them. I would definitely say though, the one thing that’s pretty hard and fast is we never would just focus on volume and then down. That’s something that’s going to be very challenging for you.

One more piece to add on here I think that is important is everything we’re talking about here is really based around volume of those keywords. The other thing to keep in mind is how profitable this particular niche may be for you. Again, if we’ve got auto repair and then radiator and transmission and oil changes, add this other layer to it if you’re trying to decide between multiples, which one makes you the most money or which one maybe pumps the fly wheel of the right type of client.

If you’ve got certain keywords that are just like tire kickers, people that aren’t going to patronize you or maybe they can be confused with do-it-yourself informational type searches, think about what the intent of that keyword is. Is this a buying keyword? Assuming your website is selling a product or a service, if you’re a website, if you’re listening, if you are providing information and resources, then different context for you here.

But again, if you’re that auto repair shop, don’t chase keywords of how to replace brake lines. Nobody’s going to come to your shop and pay you for a keyword like that. They’re just looking for how to do it themselves. That’s a DIY type of intent term. So, I would analyze my keywords with that kind of a perspective as well.

Are these going to be DIY searches? If you’re selling high end products, is this the kind of phrase somebody would use that is going to try to peg me down on price? I’m never going to agree to the price anyways if I’m premium. Just kind of filter through them and pick the ones that you say, yeah, this matches up with my profit center. This matches up with the type of client I know I can build on an upsell later. Find where that alignment is. And then within that, again, pay attention to the context of the volume and then the competition in that market.

So, it can be a little complex. It depends on you out there listening. If you’re going to dive into these strategies, how far you want to take it with what I just listed out there. In the most basic way, I would have for sure get a list of keywords, rank them by volume, and then just start like we tell, Sue, clients. Grab 10 or 15 off this list that you think are the best leads for you almost regardless of volume. Don’t get caught in that too much. Just if I can pick 10 or 15 search terms that I’m going to attract people searching for these things, what are the best search terms on here?

I truly believe that’s the best place to start the volume, the competition, and some of those other things really kind of build on that because at the end of the day, when you’re using SEO as a means of marketing, you’re trying to attract clients. The beauty part of SEO is you can, through these kinds of tactics, dictate what you’re attracting. It’s not that different than fishing. I use this metaphor from time to time with our clients.

We’re in Minnesota here, so this would be some Minnesota type fish, even though some them be nationwide. If I’m fishing for a muskie, a big old fish, I got to have a big old lure. And it’s just different things I’m putting in the water to attract them versus a little crappie or a sunfish. Same thing with SEO here, depending on the keywords you’re putting out there, even within your niche, make sure you’re choosing the keywords that are going to be attracting the right client, that these are the people searching for it and have some thought into that, which kind of leans on your overall marketing in general.

People always talk, establish your avatar. Who’s your ideal client? We talk a lot, Sue, you have expertise in the voice of client, voice of customer. I would say if I could only have one piece of advice in this, kind of twisting that question around a little, I wouldn’t focus on the volumes as much. Again, focus on that intent and matching the keywords with the type of clients you want to bring in within that list. Then I would, for sure, start at the top of my volume and work down from within that.

So, no clear answer. Again, it depends. This is one of those traditional SEO it depends type answers. But using a mix of those strategies, you should be able to do some keyword research, come up with a short list of keywords that you want to attack and start developing some kind of optimization or content strategy around that.

Sue Ginsburg: Jesse, is this true, accurate? Does this make sense? If you have a keyword that has much less searches but is exactly what you do, isn’t it more likely that of those 125 people who are doing the search, maybe all 125 will click through to your site as opposed to the most popular keyword term that you’re going after because of the number of searches that may or may not be your ideal avatar people will throw to you all the time.

Jesse Dolan: Yup. Again, that’s why I think that kind of leans on that whole intent type deal again. If it’s more aligned with what you do and more specific, yeah, you’re going to have a better shot hopefully of ranking for that, because that’s what your business is about. That’s what all your content is going to be about. And then when the prospect or client lands on your website, they know they’re in the right spot. This is somebody who specializes in this thing, not just, this is an add-on for what they do. And if your positioning matches with that, yeah, then you should be in a pretty good shape.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s great. And I always tell our clients when they’re considering the keywords to choose, put yourself in the mindset of your ideal client avatar and what might they be searching for that you know you can help them with 100%. What words are they searching for? And those are more of the keywords getting into the mind space of your ideal client, then popularity of you don’t even know who is searching for that keyword.

Jesse Dolan: Completely right. I’d throw on there one more thing for you, Sue, in that same vein is a lot of this is predicated, before you know the volumes, you have to do the keyword research. You have to come up with keywords. Going back to things we’ve talked about all the time is don’t rely on just what’s in your head. The industry speak, the shop talk, the phrases you’re familiar with may not be what people are typing in.

Even in a different city, if you’re a rural versus urban, if you’re old versus young, depending on any other demographic, geographic or psychographic traits, there’s a slang. There’s different ways of saying things. Do some keyword research, use multiple tools, go to things like, is it to find out what questions people are asking.

Pay attention to the stuff on the Google SERP, the search engine results page. At the bottom, they’ll put people are also searching for or people ask questions about, or just different things. Expose yourself to all of those. Don’t just be locked into what you’re thinking people are searching for because I’ve never come across a scenario where anybody’s jotted some words down on a list and they’ve captured all the variations.

And I’m talking if someone is popular variations, one classic example I use a lot, we’ve talked about doing SEO in iPhone repair or cell phone repair for a client many times. And let’s just say iPhone repair is a term that you’re going after. It seems natural. As marketers and business owners, we want to be ranked for iPhone repair. There’s a lot of people out there that search for fix my iPhone as a search term. I guarantee you, you never would’ve sat there, let me list all the keywords I want to target.

As the owner or the proprietor of that shop, you would not have thought about fix my iPhone as a keyword to go after, but people type that in. And unless you’re doing the research and exposing yourself to these different areas, you wouldn’t come across that. And thus, you’d never give yourself a chance to even consider having that on your list, let alone trying to get ranked for it. And I think that’s a great example. As you are diligent in your keyword research, that’s how you’re going to uncover some of these niche keywords.

Again, going where the fight isn’t and then circling back to what you just said. And you can then be more of an expert or specific resource for those keywords when to land on those pages because usually those more niche-y keywords that you didn’t think of are very specific for what the intent was. And if you can match that on your page, you’re going to rank quicker and you’re going to convert those clients once they land on it, so.

Sue Ginsburg: Beware the ivory tower syndrome where it’s your business. So, you think you know everything-

Jesse Dolan: Completely.

Sue Ginsburg: … when we hold, you need to think of it from your customer’s perspective, not just in your own head.

Jesse Dolan: Yup. They’re the ones you’re trying to get in front of. They’re the ones that are typing in the terms.

Sue Ginsburg: Exactly. So, okay, quote, again, if you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time. Thank you, JK Rowling. And if he remember one thing and one thing only, remember this, choosing the keywords with the most searches is not the way to choose the best keywords for you to get found online. Maybe a factor. It is not the only factor.

Jesse Dolan: Correct. Great question. Hopefully, everybody listening was able to pull a nugget or two out of that. There was no right way to do it. We walked through, just some different ways to look at it, some different contexts. And hopefully, everybody kind of maybe has another idea or two in their head on how to do some keyword research and then how to prioritize them and maybe to revisit this topic.

If you’re listening and you got another question, a follow-up question to this, something maybe tangential or parallel, whatever it is, we’d like to know. If you’ve got a question that we can help with, reach out to us. Go to, scroll down to the bottom, click the link for submit a question. You can fill out the contact form, send it off.

Sue will get it. Maybe trade an email or two with you to clarify some things or expand on it. Even better is if you can call in and leave us a voicemail and we’ll play the audio on the show. If we do that, we’re going to fire off a fresh brand new T-shirt, a never been worn before. T-shirt, I promise. It’ll be brand new.
And we appreciate if you do that. So, yeah. Check us out, Scroll down the bottom. Click on submit a question. All right. Sue, any other parting thoughts or does that wrap it up for this one here today?

Sue Ginsburg: That wraps it up on my end.

Jesse Dolan: All Right. Thanks for hanging out, Sue. Everybody else, thanks for listening. And we’ll catch you on the next episode. Take care.

Sue Ginsburg: Thank you.

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