What do you do when you find the perfect keyword but according to Google the keyword has no search volume?
According to Eilish Hughes, there are times when you should target those keywords.
Should you try this approach?
In this episode, Eilish gives you 5 reasons why writing genuinely relevant content beats targeting high-volume keywords.
David: Hey, it’s David. How important is it to target keywords with a high search volume? Today, I'm chatting with a lady who has the ability to headstand in yoga. Who believes that writing content that is genuinely relevant will often beat targeting high-volume keywords. She’s talked at Brighton SEO on the topic of planning content strategies where there's no search volume. And she's currently an SEO account director at Tug. Welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Eilish Hughes.
Eilish: Hey, David. Nice to meet you.
Targeting Keywords with No Measurable Search Volume
D: Thanks so much for joining us today. Well, you can find Eilish over at tugagency.com. Eilish, How do you persuade a client to target keywords with no measurable search volume?
E: Slowly. If you say to someone this keyword is really relevant to you. And according to Google, which is the Oracle of all information, no one's searching for it at all. That doesn't really sound that attractive to someone who's going to be paying for people to write that content, and paying people to manage that content. So it is about having a really good business case and understanding the brand and showing that you understand the client and who their audience is. So it really helps to have already had some content go live for them, have already tried some higher volume content strategies, and be able to say that traffic might be coming in but is this really converting. So it's really good to be able to say that we've tried the traditional way and the old school way of going after higher volumes. Now let's try something different. Let's really get into the data. And let's try and see what people are actually searching for.
I think it's always really useful. And I think clients find it quite interesting when I show them the difference between the impressions that you see on Google Search Console versus what search volumes that Google gives you are because there might be a keyword that really niches that Google is just thinking that they can't be bothered to register search volume for this because it's not that important in the world where people are searching for black ankle boots 1000 times a day. But then to be able to show them that actually, in terms of your website, in terms of your little corner of the internet, this is actually getting 500 impressions every month. And you're maybe making two conversions a month, but those two conversions are worth 50 grand each. That's where you start to see where the money is.
D: I love what you're doing here. Because I thought years ago when Google started withdrawing keyword data from Google Analytics, that it was obviously withholding certain information. It was, I thought, trying to perhaps even encourage people to use paid search as opposed to SEO because there wasn't all the data available to SEOs. And obviously, people think that if data isn't available, then something doesn't exist. But that isn't necessarily the case. So are you approaching it from the perspective that the data isn't available but the search volume is there? Or are you also talking about keyword phrases that perhaps are going to have search volume, but don't have search volume yet because a particular product or service hasn't launched yet?
E: Yeah, definitely both. On the one hand, that is why Google just isn't giving you any data on it. But then there is the other side, where if you are at the forefront of product development if there's something that people don't know they need yet obviously, there's not going to be a search volume around it because people aren't searching it yet. I mean, 15-20 years ago, was anyone really searching for oat milk? I wasn't, but it was a thing that was slowly being developed. So if I was working at an unnamed, really cool oatmeal company, I wouldn't just not create content around my product, because I wasn't searchable. You have to believe that people will eventually start searching for you. And make sure that you have those landing pages, make sure that you have the FAQ content and everything for when people do realize that actually oat milk is delicious, and they do want to search and learn more about it.
D: And of course, the wonderful thing about creating content first is that you're giving yourself the initial opportunity to get that notoriety to develop those links to give yourself the better opportunity to be that long-term, authoritative piece of content for that particular keyword phrase.
E: Exactly. And we know that the longer your content is up the more people can see it. You can tweak it, you can refine it, you can build on it. And never shy away from creating that piece of content if you think it's too soon because you're saving yourself work in the long term against competitors who might beat you to the post.
1. To Write Great Content, You Must Know What You're Talking About
D: So today we're sharing your five reasons why writing content that's genuinely relevant beats targeting high-volume keywords. So starting off with number one, to write truly great content, you need to know what you're talking about.
E: Yeah, so I think this should be the foundation of all SEO content and all content marketing. You can only really write about what you know. I was watching a musical called Tick, Tick, Boom, it's great. And the creator of the musical was told by so many people that your musicals aren't doing very well because you're writing about things that you don't really know. Write about what you know and it'll be amazing. And that is true for authors. It's true for marketers, it's true for comedians. And if you're a home security software company, and you want to really grow your audience base, you can't just start writing about home decor. Yeah, you both have home, and you're both dealing with houses, bricks, and mortar. But do you really know what colors are in fashion now? Do you really know how to put a throw on and karate chop a pillow? Leave that to the home decor people to write that content. Let them put that into the Google sphere. And you just write about what you know, because no one's going to be able to write about home security systems as well as a home security company.
D: So are the days of outsourcing content writing to big generic content production houses for $10 for a 500-word article finished?
E: Oh, that's spicy. I wouldn't want to put anyone out of a job. It's just the case of that if you are one of those big companies who does have lots of content writers, you need to make sure that into the time that you're allocating to those projects, you need to give your writers a time to do the research, you need to give them time to talk to the subject matter experts at the client-side. So it may be the case that 10 pounds an hour isn't enough for truly great content. And your content writers should be being paid for not just the words they write, but also their brainpower and their thoughts and their research time as well. So yeah, I do think that there does need to be a more considered approach to content creation.
D: Absolutely, completely agree. I love more progressive ways of producing content, such as doing live streaming, or doing a podcast, and then maybe producing something as a result of doing that. And you can produce many blog articles from that thought leader as a result of doing that. So you don't necessarily need to take people's time to write all the articles themselves personally.
E: Exactly. And that's more fun as well, talking to people and going back over things and getting under the skin of something. It's just a more enjoyable experience. And we should all be trying to enjoy our jobs. So make it better.
2. Make Sure Your Site is Relevant When Building Links
E: Yeah, link building is so competitive. We've got a dedicated outreach team at Tug, and they're amazing. They work so hard, and it is just becoming a really competitive environment. Gone, I guess, are the days where it's a bit of a quid pro quo of getting links. Google is being much much stricter on the kinds of links that you can build. And people who are at the receiving end of the link-building emails are asking why am I going to take 20 minutes out of my day to put a link to your website. What is the real value for me? You really need to be offering something that is truly relevant. That person who's going to be going into the CMS or having to get a sign-off of that link so that they can be able to say that this website is really good. People from our website, who go to this website, potentially, are going to have a positive experience, and they're not going to be annoyed that they've been sent off. They are on a travel website and they've clicked on a link that is about all the best restaurants in Italy. But then they see that this website they've clicked on isn't to do with Italy. It's not really to do with restaurants. It's to do with plants. And they might wonder what these plant people know about restaurants in Italy. You need to always be thinking at the end of the day that everything we do as much as it's about algorithms and bots and ranks, it's all about humans. And it's humans who are emailing each other and talking to each other. And it's humans who are experiencing the web.
D: That’s a great point there. If a blogger is proud of the content that they're creating, why would they want to link to you if you're completely irrelevant for their target audience? You've got to be thinking about that kind of stuff as well. I remember starting off with link building way back in about 2004 or so. And back then, I used to build link directories of any generic random products on my own website as a simple way to swap links. Obviously, that doesn't work nowadays and it’s a silly way to do things. But it's a way to emphasize that you need to think of the relevance of the listener, of the relationship that you're trying to build with the prospective link partner or the person that's going to link to you. And it's crazy if you don't think of them as individuals, and you just think of search engines.
And, thirdly, internal links are key.
3. Internal Links Are Key
E: Yeah, so I kind of wish I'd put this one first or last, because to me, it is one of the most important things you can do to improve the ranks of your site. To give people a positive experience, to pass that juicy link juice through the site. Because they build your content pillars, they build your silos, they tell people, this is the most important page on my website about this topic. But all of these things are all related to it. And you can go around the houses and click and read everything. But then you can also diverge and digress and find inter-linked topics as well. And that's so important. And if you think of internal links like that, it really makes you think about where your proposed piece of content is going to sit. Because if you have to sit down and think that I'm writing a piece of content, so I need this piece of content to be able to boost and link to the things I'm trying to sell or the things I'm trying to convey in a really meaningful way, not just in a way that says thank you for reading this article, please click through to this product page and buy things. That's rubbish. Google doesn't like it, people don't like it, and I don't like it. So you need to think of it like that. And you also need to think that this piece of content can't just link to that product page, because that's really salesy. And it's not a good user experience. And it's not that relevant, it needs to link off to other articles as well. This needs to talk about other solutions that we offer. And when you start asking yourself those questions and being really honest with yourself, you might realize that the content isn't that relevant, or that it needs a new hook or a new angle to make it fit into your content ecosystem.
D: A big conversation could be had about internal links, such as the hierarchy, perhaps of internal links, whether or not you need to be incorporating internal links within the content or if it's sufficient, perhaps to have it in some kind of footer or other section of your page. And also whether or not it's important to incorporate keyword phrases within internal links. What are your general thoughts about that?
E: I always approach it as you want to have internal links, a higher number where relevant, not being spammy, to the pages that you want to rank. And you want it to be keyword-focused, as long as it makes sense. If you have a page on cupcakes, you don't want every single internal link to that page being cupcakes, because that’s really lazy. And I don't think you'll be able to find that many relevant nice flowing links that contain the word cupcake to that site. I think that a good way to think about it is if you were reading an article… actually, the Guardian did this really well. You're reading an article and you come to a bit where you don't actually know that much about this sentence, and you've been following that this is background to this subject I don't know. Oh, okay. Let me click on this, this might give me the background to it. And then you can then learn more about it. And then great. Now I can either go off and read something else, or finish my coffee break, or I can go back to that original article, but you felt that what you've landed on is relevant, and it has enhanced your experience at the site, and you did not just land on some random cupcake page.
4. Make Blogs Part of the Entire Funnel of Your Marketing
D: And your fourth reason is blogs are part of the entire funnel of your marketing.
E: Yeah. I'm really lucky that when I started in SEO I started at a company called Go Up and we were really content focused and we always thought about blogs and the user. Obviously, everywhere I've worked is like that but I think that it was a really content-heavy agency that really made you think about the blogs you’re writing as being something that introduces people to your brand. It makes people interested in what you're doing and it positions you as an expert, but not in a really kind of a hey, 'it's all about us' way. You need to think about people who are… If we go back to cupcakes. There are people who are at the bottom of the funnel who are searching for, "I want 12 dozen red velvet cupcakes, please” and you want that really targeted audience. And then you've got people who may be considering cupcakes. So then you want to be thinking about comparison pages. What kind of cupcake is right for you. People who are looking for cupcakes and who are considering that. Then you've got people who might not really know they want a cupcake, they might be planning a party, they might be looking for cheap presents to give people and a cupcake is actually the solution. So you need to start thinking about ways that you can again, in a really relevant way, talk about cupcakes to people who don't know that they want cupcakes in a way that is positioning and talking about things that are in their sphere that they are thinking about but that it isn't containing the word cupcake anywhere, or icing, potentially, in the main keyword.
D: I think many listeners after listening to this episode will go off and buy a cupcake funnily enough. I don't know if you're trying to put the idea into their heads or not. So your final reason was that if you're really struggling to find a topic to write about, you're probably not being strategic enough.
5. If You're Struggling to Find a Topic to Write About, You're Probably Not Being Strategic Enough
E: Yeah and I think that this is a difficult conversation to have with yourself. So maybe have with your team to have with whoever you're working with. If you've got your content writers there, if you've got your content managers there, and you're all sitting there going, but that content is not really relevant. If we wrote this blog, and it's not ranked for anything, but it's a really good blog, it’s amazing. That blog has got 1000 visitors, but we've not made any money off it whatsoever. You then need to think, "Okay, well, we're not writing the right kind of content.” You really need to take a step back and get a bit more data-driven in where you're coming from.
What I would always suggest is to don't just think about keywords, think about your customer. If you have these departments in your company, if you've got a sales team, go and talk to them and say, "What are people talking about? What were their pain points today? What are the things that are really coming up in Q4 that you are using as a hook? What are people saying back to you? Using other people and using other people's experiences and then being able to understand what things are we not missing what might be a little bit out of the box. Or also taking it a little bit more product lead maybe and thinking that what we actually do need is to talk about our product more. And that maybe isn't as exciting as we wanted, or it isn't as bells and whistles right now, but the bells and whistles can come later. You just need to really get under the skin of what you're offering to people and what people are searching for and don't leave any stone unturned when actually trying to find those subjects.
D: So let's finish off with the Pareto Pickle, So Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What's one SEO activity you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
The Pareto Pickle - Optimize Existing Internal Links
E: I did a spoiler of this before. I think it's internal linking. And if you look at the internal links on your website and look at your most important pages, and see that they don't have that many internal links or the internal links are a bit rubbish, that's probably one of the reasons that they're not ranking. So take the time to look at that. Optimize the existing internal links, see if there are any internal links you can build that are relevant to any existing piece of content. And then you can start knowing that you need to build those internal links and that can inform the content strategy that you're going to build.