Why Your Business Blog Should Target Keywords that Make Money, Not Traffic

by Marcus Sheridan

Have you ever taken a moment to look at the keywords people are typing in to land on your website? If so—and this is where the rubber meets the road—what percentages of those keywords being typed in are the kind of word(s) that would denote the individual is looking for a product or service your business offers?

If you haven’t done this, please stop reading and go to your Google Analytics for a second. Once there, look at the top 50 that are driving traffic to your site and ask yourself how many of these keywords would be typed in by your “ideal prospect.”

Here is the thing—We all love traffic. Me. You. Everybody. It’s the ultimate Golden Calf of the internet, an idol we often worship despite the fact that we generally know better.

“Money Keywords”

This is exactly why many have come to understand web traffic does not pay the bills. And if you’re a business, once the initial euphoria of blogging and traffic growth has subsided, you’re often left wondering how much of all that “traffic” equates to actual sales.

Truth be told, this is a very difficult question to answer. When it comes to keywords and content, there are those that help prospects into the sales funnel, and then others that push them down (or out) of the funnel.

This being said, often times businesses produce content that has very little impact on either of these two goals. To give you a real example of what I’m talking about, let’s look at the main keyword traffic for The Sales Lion this past month. If you look at the following photo, the red arrows indicate what I refer to as “money keywords”—keywords that fit my ideal paying client. You’ll also notice black arrows in the photo, which show the correlation between the less ideal keywords and the average time on site of each visitor, something I refer to as “false traffic.”

Money Keywords

By taking a hard look at your website and blog traffic, you can get a much better feel for what words are and are not helping your business grow.

As you can see from the black arrows, those persons typing in phrases that don’t fit my business model at TSL (inbound and content marketing consulting/speaking) generally don’t hang around the site very long– hence the “false” description. But for the money keywords, the average time on site for the visitor can be quite substantial. (Note** Although it varies by industry and business, any keyword that leads to an average visit time of 2 minutes or more is a very good sign. )

You may be asking yourself why I’m ranking for so many keywords that don’t quite fit my ideal client, and here are a few answers to that question:

1. Like any business, this blog has changed and developed over time. In fact, when TSL started, it wasn’t a business at all.

2. Google has a funny way of optimizing content. For example, I once wrote an article on why McDonalds kept kicking Burger King’s butt year after year after year. The article did well from an SEO standpoint (McDs vs BK) and has generated thousands of visitors, but the keywords it’s optimized for have nothing to do with the services I offer at TSL, thus bringing in zero direct revenue to the company. I’m not saying this is necessarily bad, it just is what it is.

3. I like talking about diverse subjects here at TSL. Because I write about diverse things, I end up attracting many visitors that couldn’t care less about blogging, content marketing, etc., which is fine. That being said, if I were in a financial crunch with my business and had a need for immediate leads and sales, I would spend all my focus on targeting those “money keywords” that might bring in immediate leads and sales.

Targeted Keyword Strategies

Speaking of a clearer focus, let’s take a look at my swimming pool blog for a second. Here are its top 20 keywords for 2012. The difference from this list, as you can see, is that almost every single one of these phrases would be typed in by an ideal client:

Targeted Keyword Strategy

Because of a targeted blogging and content marketing strategy from early on, almost all organic search visitors to my swimming pool site would make for an ideal client.

The key behind a targeted keyword strategy is that it doesn’t happen by accident, as the content needs to be strategic. And if you’re looking to be more strategic and targeted, here’s what I would suggest:

1. It always comes back to consumer questions: You’ve heard me beat this horse again and again, but if we’re solely focused on producing content that answers the questions we get everyday from prospects and customers, we’re going to be outrageously successful. To make this even more plain, ask yourself what are the questions you receive in the first 10 minutes of a meeting with a prospect. Because prospects tend to ask the questions on the forefront of their mind at the beginning (showing their biggest concerns, issues, problems) this group of questions is loaded with “money keywords” you should be producing content around.

2. Focus on the Big Five: I call it the “Big Five” because it represents the five subject areas that people search for aggressively online, no matter what the product or service is. Those five subjects are:

  • Cost/Price
  • Problems/Issues
  • Vs./Compare
  • Best of
  • Reviews

Just by focusing your company content around these keywords, you should come up with dozens if not hundreds of targeted content pieces that aggressively go after your best type of client and customer.

3. Use Tools: Although listening to customers will always be your best solution to consistent content that gets results, sometimes keyword tools to help generate blog article ideas are a tremendous help. I’ve studied the area of keyword tools quite a bit and am a very strong proponent of Long Tail Pro– a tool that I use weekly with my clients in helping them identify great keyword opportunities with their content.

I’m not saying with this post that every blog article you write from this day forward should be solely targeted on the “ideal customer.” Frankly, it’s your job to assess that question. Notwithstanding, if you’re a business, and you want to build your brand while increasing traffic, leads, and sales– then a clear keyword strategy is ideal. And the more focused and strategic it is, the more “real” your traffic will be.

Your Turn:

I’d love for anyone to share what percentage of your content marketing and blogging efforts are clearly directed to your ideal client/customer? Has your strategy been intentional up to this point? What other suggestions would you offer on generating content with targeted keywords that produce results?

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Brent Carnduff December 28, 2012 at

Great article Marcus. There seems to be a lot of talk about the death of SEO, or content marketing as the new SEO, when in fact I see content marketing as a tool for SEO. I think that SEO is generally misunderstood. It is not about writing for the search engines, but instead about making sure that the search engines understand what the article is about, so that it can be delivered to the target audience. A good strategy requires that the target audience is identified and that the content is created to meet their questions/needs. Happy New Year my friend!

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Marcus Sheridan December 28, 2012 at

Brent, AMEN to what you’ve said here buddy. It’s uncanny how similar you and I view SEO. I’ve never understood why so many make it out to be the enemy. How else are the engines going to know what the heck we’re talking about??

Keep spreading the sound wisdom my friend. :-)

Marcus

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Jason Hull December 28, 2012 at

Don’t get SO focused on the keywords at the purchase part of the sales funnel that you forget the awareness stage. According to Dr. Jim Jansen of Penn State, the actual highest average amount of sales per visit comes from the awareness stage of the sales funnel compared to the purchase phase, although the standard deviation is much higher too. You can read his research here: http://faculty.ist.psu.edu/jjansen/academic/jansen_buying_funnel_jecr.pdf

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Chris January 1, 2013 at

Jason, That was a fantastic study on the sales funnel. Thanks for sharing. It makes total sense when you think about the stages.

When as a copywriter, marketer, product creator, or entrepreneur, – you first enter the conversation with your prospective clients as they are discovering their problem or issue, that is precisely when they need the most help. After that it’s just “shopping around.”

If you were able to reach them during the awareness stage and they are in fact shopping around for other solutions, you as the marketer or entrepreneur may have room for improvement in your messaging and sales presentation.

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Ryan Hanley December 28, 2012 at

Marcus,

It’s funny how it always comes back to answering client questions… What we as business professionals have done for 150 years, check that, for as long as business has existed we’ve been answering client questions.

It seems to make too much sense that answering client questions online would be so incredibly powerful.

Happy New Year buddy.

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan December 29, 2012 at

Common sense ain’t so common, is it Hanley? ;-)

Thanks bud, we’ll catch up soon.

Marcus

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Jon Loomer December 28, 2012 at

Good reminder, Marcus. I admittedly spend little to no time worrying about keywords. I write based on the questions I hear people asking.

That said, diving into my analytics just now was an eye opener. Too much “false traffic.”

I also wonder, though, how much of this isn’t necessarily about the keyword but the way your content is presented. Someone may find my site based on a Google search and ditch within a minute. Does that mean the keyword wasn’t relevant? Or does that mean they found what they needed and I didn’t do an adequate job of keeping them around?

I tend to think there’s more to this than just money vs. false keywords. For my site, I need to find better and creative ways to send them to other blog posts that may interest them. And I also need to find a better way of hooking them to subscribing or signing up for a service.

This is a major struggle for me. It’s not something I ignore, but something I’ve experimented with constantly during the past year+. Still no magic bullet, but thanks to this blog post it’s back atop my priority list for 2013.

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Marcus Sheridan December 29, 2012 at

Jon, I actually thought about you a little bit when writing this post because you’d mentioned that you were doing a keyword audit the other day, which is a great year-end practice by the way.

There is no question that there are many, many factors that will dictate time on site. But at the same time, when you look at the results of keywords over time, the do bear the fruits of truth. They also tell us, if we’re looking at it from a business sense, where we need to focus our content efforts.

One thing this article did not have, which it will in the future, is where leads and customers came from as well. That part is actually more important than anything I mentioned here, but it involves a serious deep dive I frankly didn’t have the time to invest. ;-)

But I think your attitude is the perfect one Jon– experiment, experiment, experiment.

Cheers buddy,

Marcus

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Nigel Rawlins December 29, 2012 at

Thanks for the great article on being focused on your keywords. You are dead right on being focused. I’ve only just been introduced to longtailpro and can’t believe the difference it has made to my website and blog articles. For me it is still early days but the focus on the correct keywords has certainly shaped what I write about.

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Marcus Sheridan December 29, 2012 at

Glad you found long tail pro Nigel. It gets results my friend. :-)

Continued success,

Marcus

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Tim Bonner December 29, 2012 at

Hi Marcus

My blog’s still pretty new and not really a business but I’d like to build it into one.

Many of my visitors come to my website because of one particular post I wrote a few weeks back according to Google Analytics. So I definitely need to work on the keyword selection a bit more and also focus on questions I’ve been getting from readers.

One of the new year I think!

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Marcus Sheridan December 29, 2012 at

Hi Tim, and thanks for stopping by. It’s very natural, especially at the beginning, to find that a post here or there seems to do well while the others never quite launch. The key is knowing the audience you’re targeting, knowing the stuff they’re typing into search when they have needs, and then being the company to address those “money” keywords.

Hope that helps a little, and good luck sir!

Marcus

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Bob McCarthy December 29, 2012 at

Hi Marcus

I always enjoy your stuff. I’ve learned a lot in a very short time.

But I’m a little confused about this one.

Most of the “money keywords” that you show for The Sales Lion are “branded” keywords for either The Sales Lion or Hubspot.

It’s easy to understand why these are your most popular keywords. This is one way people who already you will try to find you. My guess is that branded keywords are probably the most popular keywords for every website – even those that do no blogging or SEO.

But for blog content, don’t you need to drill down a little further to find non-branded money keyword phrases?

Your swimming pool analytics provides a better demonstration of this because your top keyword phrases are more about pool categories than your branded name.

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Marcus Sheridan December 29, 2012 at

Hi Bob, and thanks for asking. Understand that a money keyword is anything that someone might type into search that would indicate they are a good potential customer. If someone types in a “Sales Lion” phrase, you’re right, it’s not hard to target that because that’s who I am–but it still indicates they are looking for me, likely because they’ve heard about me and are considering my services. Notwithstanding, if someone types in a HubSpot related phrase, this means they are interested, most likely, in the following: 1. HubSpot 2. Inbound Marketing

Currently, there are over 600 marketing companies that are HubSpot partners. Then there is HubSpot itself. All of these companies ideally want to find clients that want HubSpot or have inbound marketing needs–which means they are, in a way, competing w/ each other. But the only way for folks to find The Sales Lion while they are looking for HubSpot stuff is by me producing targeted content around HubSpot itself. And keep in mind that HubSpot was not a “branded” TSL name at all. Although you may see it that way, I had to intentionally make that happen.

Look at it like this: With River Pools and Spas, I had to “brand” or “own” or “rank for” fiberglass pool related phrases because that’s where the customers and business would come from.

With TSL, instead of fiberglass pools, I had to rank for HubSpot phrases because I wanted HubSpot clients. So far, the strategy has succeeded. I also will continue to target inbound marketing and content marketing phrases. They are tougher to rank for, but they’re important as well.

But a phrase is a phrase. Call it HubSpot. Call it content marketing. They’re all words that a potential customer may type in during a time of need.

Does that make any sense Bob? If not, please let me know, because it’s important to understand this.

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Bob McCarthy December 29, 2012 at

Thanks Marcus

Yes, that makes sense. I can see how you would need to compete within the Hubspot space.

But let me ask you this: What do you do with this information? How does it help you create new content for your blog? These keywords are the result of pages and posts you’ve already created.

I have looked at my own analytics and can see what terms were used to find me. But that’s just me – and I’m small. Shouldn’t I spend more time looking at the keywords people are using to find my category or service?

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Rebecca Livermore January 1, 2013 at

Bob,

The main thing that looking at Google Analytics does is it helps you see how you’re doing. So, for example, let’s say that you sell green widgets. If a lot of people find your site when they are searching for green widgets, that means that what you’re doing is working. It means your efforts are paying off!

If on the other hand, you sell green widgets, and no one is finding your site by searching for green widgets, then you have a bit of a problem, because you’d be unlikely to sell many of those green widgets.

Using something like Long Tail Pro will help you see what people are searching for on a larger scale, which is good, too. That may help you to see that no one out there is even looking for green widgets, but a bunch of people are searching for purple widgets. If that’s the case, maybe it would be better to sell purple widgets.

Let’s say that happened, and you decided to sell purple widgets. Then you start writing blog posts all about purple widgets. Then you look at your Google Analytics and you can see whether or not people are finding your site by searching for purple widgets. If they are, you’re heading in the right direction with your content. If they aren’t, but you know that people want purple widgets, then maybe you need to tweak the content you’re writing (e.g. go after the longer tail keywords such as “small round purple widgets” instead of just “purple widgets”), or if it’s super competitive, you may just need to write a larger volume of content all about purple widgets in order to show up better in searches.

I hope that makes sense, Bob. I know exactly what I mean, but I’m not sure that I conveyed it very well!

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Sarah Kohl December 29, 2012 at

As always your post stimulate conversation.
I agree that ‘meanigful’ keywords ie ones which attract an ideal client are best.
In fact this is an issue for me as my blog is now getting a lot of ‘hits’ for long-tailed keywords, but my buisness is local is still in start-up phase. (ie a fan in California is great, but a client in Pennsylvania is ideal—all puns intended!) So clearly some work is needed to capture sales.
However, another way to look at a lot of traffic for long-tailed keywords in a niche industry is to ask–is there a missed business opportunity here? Should the business explore expanding product lines (books, lectures etc) Is there a market for the information outside of the regional consulting? Always best to consider different options.

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Wade December 29, 2012 at

I don’t care what it is, I can always do better! I’m no pro like you, but I write for the reader with the main goal to help the reader. Does that always lead to sales? No, but if I can build up a blog that has integrity like yours, anything I will promote in the future will bring in sales.

I’ll probably get that pro because you suggested it

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Andrea T.H.W. December 30, 2012 at

You’re surely right Marcus. As my blog is monetized mainly through Adsense and given the pathethic revenues it gives unless writing about loans and similar stuff the traffic vs money is something I started thinking about.

It might be easier using affiliate products but they always require to take money out of pockets and it’s not something easy to do these times, or I’m not that good at it. Probably it will change a little when I’ll have my own products.

Anyway for now I usually use a mixture of the two: some articles for traffic and some targeting good keywords in the hope that from traffic they arrive at reading also the other articles.

Then they have to look at ads but that’s another story as Adsense relevance is famous. :)

Happy New Year to you and all your readers!

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Felicity Fields January 1, 2013 at

I have been trying to get this concept across to a client for years. Her version of SEO is “we have to be #1 on Google for XYZ search term, and then we’ll magically have enough clients!”

In actuality, they have a lot of traffic (4 times the number of clients they could serve in a month), but none of them turn into paying clients. XYZ search term is not specific enough for what people are looking for. Maybe she’ll trust that more from your expert blog than from my repeated attempts to steer us in another direction . . .

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Jens P. Berget January 2, 2013 at

Great article Marcus.

I am using Long Tail Pro as well, but since I’ve been writing about a lot of things on my blog for several years, I have a lot of not targeted traffic. I have started to help my clients to focus on what kind of traffic they are looking for. And, by using a strategy for writing content based on a similar approach as you mentioned (what are your customers looking for online?) they’re starting to see results. I haven’t been able to do this myself, but I’m doing the right thing for my clients :)

Happy New Year.

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2013 at

I clearly understand where you’re coming from Jens. In many ways, my content wasn’t targeted for a long time either, but eventually we’ve got to pay the bills. ;-)

Thanks again man,

Marcus

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kristamonroe January 3, 2013 at

This is great, gives me an idea on my business, thanks for this!

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Tushar January 9, 2013 at

Great tactics to earn money based on keywords. Google Analytics helps to monitor the most searched keywords and queries.

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Chadrack January 16, 2013 at

The idea of the money keywords is something that I’ve known and also talk about very often. For this I always encourage bloggers who come to me for help to concentrate on SEO instead of just blog commenting since most of the traffic from comments are from bloggers who are looking for you to return the visit!

Organic traffic on the hand other are those who come looking for a solution for a pain which is more beneficial financially. However, like you mentioned most blogs most times write on a wide range of topics making the traffic even from search engines to be less targeted. But if you will have a plan and concentrate a certain percentage of your content to topics that have to do with your niche market, you can turn things around.

The point indeed is don’t just drive traffic; drive traffic that will pay you!

Thanks for the insight.

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Takeo February 26, 2013 at

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zhainerobenson April 18, 2013 at

Honestly reading this post helps me a lot, this is what I want to read something that is interesting and very helpful, Great post looking forward to your next post well done!

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Gherlash April 19, 2013 at

Wow this is great! I learned a lot here and the tactics are very useful this is what i want to read something that can help me, Nice job!

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Olga July 21, 2014 at

I think exit traffic monetization will be a chance to increase your ROI . You ought to prepare offers that are relevant to your visitor and are seemingly to generate interest. Some visitors is also annoyed by exit offers pop-ups. The challenge is to decide on right offer for exit traffic monetization.

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