It is very easy to get caught up in a world of constantly checking a handful of rankings to see how your SEO campaign is progressing; however, you’d be foolish to think your SEO campaign depends on just a small number of keywords.
The reason we say this, is that there is no real value in checking a bunch of rankings and the traffic they generated, no sir! Sure, it’s a good snapshot of how your site is progressing and measuring up against your competitors, but it is not a tangible indicator of how successful your SEO campaign is. In reality, web searchers use hundreds of combinations of keywords and related extension phrases to find your website. In fact every day 25% of all the queries that Google sees are for searches they have never seen before. Much of this has to do with the fact that queries are naturally getting longer and more specific, with over half of search queries in 2012 being 4 words or longer.
This is where the concept of “keyword clusters” comes into play. Keyword clusters are as the term suggests are a group of keyword phrases that contain your “money” terms.
How to identify a keyword cluster:
Let’s say you run a hotel in Sydney and you figure the term “Sydney Hotels” is likely to generate significant traffic, so naturally, you will want to rank well for that key phrase.
What you might not realize is, that your website will also be ranking for variations of that keyword phrase – what we call a keyword cluster.
To start building up your keyword clusters, go to Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, set the settings to “Phrase Match”, as we want to find keyword phrases that contain our main keyword phrase “Sydney Hotels”. (Make sure you are searching within Australia).
Some of the variations that come up are: “Sydney Hotels CBD”, “Cheap Sydney Hotels”, “Best Sydney Hotels”, “Sydney Hotels 5 Star” etc.
What you will quickly find is that these variations of your original keyword quickly add up and most of the time exceeds the search volume you might receive from just the one keyword phrase.
What next? Well, now that we know there are many more variations of your original keyword, let’s look at your analytics to see what keywords have been receiving traffic that include “Sydney Hotels”.
Looking at keyword clusters already generating traffic
In your Google analytics account, venture down to your “Organic” search traffic section and select the “Advanced” button on the right hand side and “include” the keyword “Sydney”, and add a second “include” for the keyword “Hotel” (as we want both Hotel and Hotels to show up in our data).
After selecting “Apply” the data will be filtered to only show keywords that contain “Sydney” and “Hotel” that have generated traffic to your website.
In this particular case, even if the rankings for “Sydney hotels” weren’t ideal, we can still see that the website is generating traffic from a whole “cluster” of keywords that are derived from the original keyword phrase.
In this example, “Sydney hotels” generated 338 visits however the total visits generated by the rest of the keyword phrases in the keyword cluster was 8,236.
Why Tracking Keyword Clusters Is Essential
So why should you use keyword clusters rather than just focusing on single keyword phrase rankings? In simple terms, similar to an iceberg where 90% of the bulk is below the water line, targeting just a single keyword phrase means that you are missing out on valuable traffic and conversion opportunities.
A Better Benchmark
Over time, keyword phrase trends come and go, sometimes due to seasonality or economic or psychographic reasons. Tracking keyword clusters smooths out such variations. Also, there is less reason to panic if a specific keyword phrase temporarily drops a few places; you can gain some comfort in knowing that the rest of your keyword phrases in the clusters you are tracking are still working hard for you.
Longer keyword phrases are by their very nature less competitive. It does take a little more time and thought to target keyword clusters around your core keyword phrase, but once you have identified each cluster, inserting them into your content and link building activities is actually quite easy and will start becoming a natural part of your content marketing.
The longer a keyword phrase is, the closer customers are to making a decision and are ready to buy. Think of keyword clusters as qualifying questions in the sales process, allowing you to tailor your content to best fulfill your customers’ needs once they land on your website. So often we see keyword clusters outperform a specific keyword phrase when it comes to conversion, sometimes four or five times.
Related to conversions, creating pages for less competitive keyword phrases allows you to very specifically target extensions of your core keyword phrase. In a recent case, there was an increase in search activity around the keyword phrase “hotels in Sydney Australia near the opera house” albeit not a whole lot of search volume, but very targeted nonetheless. Creating a simple page about the location of the hotel and its distance from the Opera House and perhaps some information about the Opera House would do wonders in increasing the visibility for this particular keyword phrase.
Higher Rankings For Your Core Keyword Phrase
Today, the Search Engines look not only for a specific keyword phrase but also evaluate the overall page for the “theme” of the content. Including related phrases within your content will also enhance the overall ranking for your core keyword phrase.
Keyword clusters that surround the obvious “core” keyword phrases as opposed to a list of separate keywords by themselves gives you a much better picture of your website’s overall performance for the myriad of variations that searchers use every day to find you – remember that every day, 25% of the searches have never been seen by the Search Engines before and that 61% of searches include three of more keywords. So, to get a real picture of your website visibility and a genuine benchmark for traffic and conversions, start developing your keyword clusters and start targeting them and watch your results grow.