So you've got a brand new SEO client and they want you to take them to number 1 for the biggest keyword in their sector. If you can achieve that ranking, it will generate brain-meltingly vast numbers of visits, and you reckon it will convert pretty well too. No other search query will deliver the volume of traffic this elusive keyword promises.
The client asks you to propose a strategy for getting them to number 1 for [totally awesome keyword], and they've got a very generous budget to help make this happen. All you need to do is optimize their site, improve their link profile, sort out their social and, a few months later, you've got yourself a super happy client and a case study your business development team will love you for. Right?
Monomania – derived from the Greek monos (meaning one) and mania (meaning, erm, mania) – is a pathological obsession with a single idea.
In the outside world, such fixations are linked to everything from eating disorders to arson. In the world of Internet marketing, monomania could ultimately starve a site of traffic and burn an SEO campaign to the ground.
This article explores the dangers of basing an SEO campaign around a single keyword, and outlines the benefits of a strategy that embraces the value of long-tail traffic.
Why Is Focusing On A Single Keyword Such A Bad Idea?
Keyword monomania is at best risky (and at worst completely destructive).
Putting all your search eggs in one rankings basket simply doesn't make sense for a number of reasons.
The first question to ask yourself is what happens while you're waiting for your show-stopping number 1 ranking to materialize? Is your SEO campaign delivering any significant return on investment for your client in the short-term? Or are you just happily cashing their cheques each month, blinded by confidence in your own ability and sustained by the misguided patience of your client?
If you do a good job, 6 months down the line you might actually secure the ranking you've been working towards. Traffic will go through the roof, revenue will soar, and you'll give yourself a big pat on the back, vindicated by the results of your laser-guided approach to keyword targeting.
Or, if you really understand SEO, you'll realize what an insanely precarious position this puts you in.
What happens if domains that link to your client lose authority, or disappear completely?
Can you ever hope to build a good, natural link profile purely focused on one keyword phrase, pointing to one page on your site?
Even if Google doesn't seem too bothered by your transparent and non-natural approach to SEO right now, can you really count on the next algorithm update working in your favor?
The reality of keyword monomania is that if any single factor influencing your one big ranking changes in some way, your entire campaign may fall flat on its face.
But even if that doesn't happen, focusing on one high-volume keyword at the expense of all the lower-volume, long-tail keywords just doesn't make sense.
Of course you should aim high and go for the big-money keywords, but that shouldn't stop you targeting quick wins and keywords that will convert well.
Embracing Long-tail Keywords
A number 1 ranking for your client's biggest keyword is a great thing to have.
But, whilst it may be the case that no other keyword can generate anywhere near as much traffic, it's very likely that the accumulated visits you could generate by ranking for plenty of smaller keywords could far outstrip what you get from the headline keyword alone.
The work required to secure those rankings will be nothing like what was needed for the big-hitter; on-page optimization alone may do the trick in many cases.
And best of all, long-tail searches are performed by people who know what they're looking for; if your site provides what they want, there's a much better chance of conversion than with visitors referred by more generic searches.
Back in December, Conductor published a study which quantifies the benefits of ranking for long-tail keywords. They found an average 'head term' conversion rate of 10.6%, compared with a long-tail conversion rate of 26.07%.
They also found that on-page optimization improved rankings by an average of 5.28 positions for 'head' keywords, compared with 11.24 positions for long-tail keywords.
However seductive a keyword may be, there is always a bigger picture. Embrace long-tail keywords to build a sustainable campaign, dominate a niche and maximize return on investment.
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- Better Content and the Keyword Long Tail