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What most people consider to be the “top keyword phrases” (related to any given industry) are those phrases that make up over 80% of all the online searches related to that industry.

These “top keyword phrases” are generally the most sought after because they generate a lot of traffic, but does more traffic equate to more conversions or an increase in sales? Not necessarily.

The Value of a Top Keyword Phrase

These top keyword phrases that generate 80% of the traffic tend to be the generic forms of products such as gardening tools or car parts. Although they are topical and related to that particular industry, they are not specific; at least not specific enough to attract highly qualified, highly motivated visitors who will purchase your products or services.

The term “car parts” for instance, is an all-encompassing term (with over 38 million competing pages – as of this writing) and while it may attract much more traffic the likelihood of making a conversion or sale is a lot less than with a specific term like “Nissan sentra parts” (which only has 242 thousand competing pages as of this writing).

The term “Nissan sentra parts” falls into that other category of terms; “specific” keyword phrases that tend to generate only about 20% of online traffic but (and this is a big “BUT”) that traffic is usually a lot more targeted, qualified and motivated, which means a higher likelihood of a conversion or sale..

The Quest for More Traffic

With Google Adwords Click-thru information, WordTracker’s search estimations and Yahoo! Search’s Monthly Search data readily available, it’s easy to see the more generic types of top keyword phrases can and do drive massive amounts of traffic to a website; especially if that website is on the first page of the search engine listings for these more generic top keyword phrases.

Equipped with this information, each year hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into targeting the top 10 to 30 highly competitive, industry related (but not specific) keyword phrases through:

Pay Per Click Top Keywords

The quickest way to be found for these more generic top keyword terms is by setting up a pay per click campaign or another form of online ad purchase, but it can be pricey.

With PPC advertising, it doesn’t take very long for a new/inexperienced PPC advertiser to realize that a pay per click account targeting these generic top keyword phrases can quickly burn a hole in your advertising budget, sometimes within just a few hours and still not generate many sales.

If this has ever happened to you, you knew that you had to do something, and quick!

Some PPC advertisers will put a limit on their daily budget. Some will simply exhaust their budgets on 20 keyword phrases until they realize their sales are not showing a profit. Others will find alternative ways to control their budget by using brackets, quotes and related phrases. Then there are those who insist that they simply must have these “top keyword phrases” but realize that PPC may not be the best method to achieve this.

With PPC advertising, targeting specific keyword phrases may produce more sales but these “specific” keyword phrases can be quite competitive and quite costly and exhaust your budget that much faster.

Many PPC advertisers eventually turn to an SEO consultant or an organic search engine optimization company in order to pursue their goal of attaining page one listings for these genric top keyword phrases.

Top Keyword Phrases & Search Engine Optimization

While pay per click advertising may be a quicker way of attaining first page listings, a more economical way to get to these top generic keyword phrases would be through search engine optimization.

In fact, it’s possible to accomplish top listings on the major search engines within 15 minutes with an Adwords PPC account, whereas an organic search engine optimization approach may take months (or a year or more) requiring the creation of dozens (if not hundreds) of content rich pages that must meet a baseline set by your top competitors.

So What’s the Difference Between PPC and SEO?

PPC can add up quickly and be quite costly, and once you stop paying the bid amount, your top listings disappear instantly.

With organic search engine optimization, the process may take a lot longer and achieving the top listing results for those top phrases may require a lot of work, however, the cost can be a lot less and the effects can be quite long lasting, especially if your SEO strategies adhere to search engine guidelines and are more relevant to a searchers request.

Additionally, good quality inbound links will be necessary to improve your link popularity and page rank. They take time and would need to be obtained in comparison to what your competitors have achieved; the only issue is that your competitors may have built up these quality links over an extended period of time (sometimes years) so your effort may have to be great in order to match or better your competitors link popularity.

While this may seem discouraging, don’t let it be. In the end, with good professional search engine optimization and quality inbound links in place, your web pages will be improved and will be far more user friendly and search engine friendly and as mentioned, the benefits can be quite long lasting.

Use a Balance of
Generic and Long Tailed Keyword Phrases

Targeting only generic top keyword phrases may not be the best strategy however.

As mentioned, they can bring in a lot of traffic but may not necessarily convert well or increase your sales.

We recommend targeting a mix of keyword phrases, since specific keyword terms tend to have higher conversions even if they don’t attract as much traffic as a generic keyword term.

Eventually, if done properly, your optimized website can be an industry leader but it doesn’t happen overnight. Depending on how well your pages are currently, and the amount of effort it will take to make them more search engine friendly (and more user friendly), it may take years to accomplish.

In the end, the path you take with your website all boils down to the same thing.

Do you want traffic or sales?

Carissa Krause

Carissa Krause is currently a marketing and project specialist at 1st on the List. Over the years she has worked with clients on a wide range of projects that include areas like local SEO, backlink profile review, content development, social media, and more. Whatever the project may be Carissa focuses on achieving greater efficiencies and putting plans into action.