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SEO: Why Main Keywords Do Not Exist



Keyword Growth


A common statement from website owners when discussing Search Engine Optimisation with an SEO professional is often:

"I'd like to rank for {Insert Keyword}" in Google.

It's understandable and perhaps logical that you would believe there is a single or group of keywords which if ranked in position 1 would lead to great success. You've probably come to this conclusion after thinking:


"What would I search for if I wanted to buy my product or service?"


And again, to a webmaster that seems like a very logical approach. You've even probably performed some research using Googles Keyword Planner or other third party tool and discovered this term (or terms) have a few thousand searches.

This week alone I've had clients and potential clients say: "if only we could rank number 1 for this term our business would explode" and "This term is the holy grail." They may be correct in a sense, but a handful of specific terms will only represent a handful of potential customers.


So Why Isn't This The Best Approach?


Well, you are not your customer and your customer isn't you. Every one of your customers are unique, they think and search in different ways so search terms will always vary hugely. Sure, there will be common keywords but these will never send the majority of your potential traffic.


Why "Main" Keywords Are Not Your "Main" Keywords



The easiest way to demonstrate this is to look at a couple of examples. I'm going to use SEMRush for data here, it's a brilliant tool for SEO research and their database of 95 million keywords and 47 million domains gives us ample data to work with for this purpose.

Let's look at mobile phone network Vodafone for this first example. Now ask yourself: If you were Vodafone what would your "main keyword" be?


Most would probably say "Mobile Phones" 


Would it surprise you to learn that only 0.24% of traffic to is from the term "Mobile Phones"? Even though Vodafone ranks at position 5 in Google for this term?

According to SEMRush, Vodafone as of this month, has 35,413 keywords sending traffic. If Vodafone simply focussed on a handful of search terms such as "Mobile Phones" they'd be focussing on a minuscule portion of available traffic. Quite a silly thing to do right?

Take a look at this SEMRush screenshot showing the % share of keywords sending traffic: Only 1 branded keyword sends above 1% share of traffic to the Vodafone website.


Vodafone SEMRush


What About Smaller Companies?


You could potentially argue that Vodafone is a huge corporate and has certain advantages so let's look at a small firm. In this case I've picked an online retailer that isn't as well known as Vodafone. sell discounted branded clothing. You may think the term "Cheap Designer Clothes" would be their "Main Term" but it only sends 1.10% of their traffic and it ranks at position 2. (6,660 average monthly searches). What about just "Cheap Clothes"? This term has 18,000 average monthly searches and they rank in position 9 and only 0.69% of their traffic comes from this term.

The majority of their traffic comes from the other 3,384 terms they rank for. Again, a smaller firm this time but just like Vodafone they rank for thousands of terms and clearly understand why this is crucial.


Take a look at this screenshot. Again, just like Vodafone most terms that send above 1% share of traffic are branded:





Your Main Keyword is Likely to be Your Brand.


Don't get me wrong here: I'm not saying these broad high volume keywords won't get sales, far from it. I am saying that these types of keywords are just a part of the picture: There are always thousands of variations and alternatives which collectively will send more traffic than these perceived "main keywords." In fact, if there a "main keyword" for any website it's going to be a branded keyword.

Small or Large Company, The Same Principle Applies.

It doesn't matter if you're a small company in your local town or a large corporation the principles are the same where SEO is concerned: Rank for as many relevant terms as high as possible. They don't all have to be number 1 - that's incredibly unlikely (impossible practically) but the more relevant terms you rank for, the more visitors and conversions you'll likely enjoy.

So if you're thinking about marketing your website by way of effective use of SEO, don't enter it with a mindset that you have to rank for a particular term only: think bigger because the most successful businesses (such as those above) are already doing this well.

Never put 100% of your SEO effort / budget into a tiny proportion of your potential traffic. Think big and create a website that appeals to your entire audience, not just you.

(Note: This post a version of the orginal article I posted on my own site: the DPOM Blog)


Join The Conversation

  • Brett Dixon's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago Brett Dixon

    Hi Belinda


    Brand name and the thousands of phrases a user searches for! Remember, something like 20% of searches are incredibly "long tail" to the point they've not been searched before. To rank for these you need to have a content creation strategy deisgned to rank for long tail keywords.

    And everyone forgets about branded terms!

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Brett Dixon's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago Brett Dixon

    Hi Dave!


    I'm not saying we need to focus on each individual keyword in order to rank, far from it - SEOs and webmasters need to stop looking at individual keywords and look at the bigger picture and rank for 100's or 1000's of keywords that will naturally occur from expanding a site's content. As far as strategising, it's not that i've ignored it as such - it's just it would make for a good follow up blog of it's own! :-)

    Your right in what you say, you need a focused strategy based around content creation to rank for long tail variations of head terms and indeed, it's not practical to consider each term individually - and you shouldn't. Good (quality & relevant) content creation will lead to the ranking of more long tail high converting keywords. Thanks for comenting!

  • belindasummers's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago belindasummers

    Interesting thought, Brett. It’s better to look at a bigger picture and aim for a higher goal: and that is to make people search for your brand name on Google instead of a common keyword. The next time they will search for “this product” it will be “Your Brand name + product”. Great article!

  • chungchiquocgia's picture
    Oct 20 Posted 3 years ago chungchiquocgia

    "Think big and create a website that appeals to your entire audience, not just you" . This is awe some quotation! I will remember that

  • Oct 19 Posted 3 years ago nugit

    Great article and the facts are spot on.



    However this ignores the practicality of implementing strategies.  

    Your strategy needs to be focused somewhere, be it Vodafone targeting searches containing Mobile Phones, and then using their breadth of pages to achieve rank for long tails related to this, or 'cheap clothes' and variations of this. 

    Its simply not practical or effective to have bespoke strategies for 1000s of kws. 

    So my advice, find your important clusters, and base your content aaround the head terms + longtail qualifiers that appear within these, together with having a best practice site with good crawlability and internal linking, and you'll see good visibility for the long tail.



  • top5seo's picture
    Oct 19 Posted 3 years ago top5seo

    Great post Brett and 100% accurate. Those coveted keywords are good for the ego, but it's the long tail phrases that provide 90% of traffic and more importantly, convert. I was just saying this exact thing this morning in answer to a comment on my blog.

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