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Feb 27, 2008
How To

How to Use Niche Keywords to Boost Search Traffic: 5 Steps to a 20% Lift

SUMMARY: Competition for generic search keywords is stiff. Even if your business revolves around a particular product or service, your website may not make the first search results page.

What to do? Try niche keywords. The simple, inexpensive change boosted one marketer's traffic 20%.
Deborah Busch, Founder, Hello Traveler, had a problem: Her website sold travel journals and scrapbooks but couldn’t make it to the first search results page for a keyword like “travel journal.” She seemed cut off from a valuable source of Web traffic.

“ ‘Travel journal’? Oh my gosh, I would love it. There’s a lot of competition,” Busch says. “There’s a lot of websites that have been around a lot longer, so they’re more heavily indexed, and we aren’t even on page two of the word ‘travel journal.’ ”

Busch and her team looked to see if they could target other keywords. They sold beach picture frames, tropical scrapbooks, cruise photo albums and other niche products -- but their online inventory wasn’t organized or search-optimized for these categories. It was organized by “journals,” “scrapbooks,” “picture frames” and such.

So, they dug into their inventory and made a list of product categories that met the following criteria:
o Products they sold or could easily sell
o Products with less competition
o Products that consumers were searching for

Busch and her team came up with a list of categories, such as “beach picture frame” and “cruise photo album” and placed links on their homepage to category pages that sold these products. They added the links in October and they’re now on pages one and two for certain keywords, which have boosted website traffic 20%.

Here are the five steps they took:

-> Step #1. Look at inventory and site organization

Take a careful look at your inventory. Are your products organized in broad categories like “tables” or “crackers”? Can these categories be segmented? For instance, do you sell more than four types of oak coffee tables? Do you sell six types of low-sodium wheat crackers? Write down these sub-categories.

-> Step #2. Research the categories

- Check search results
See how many results the words receive in search sites like Google and Yahoo! The higher the number, the harder it will be to make it to page one in any search engine. Avoid keywords with lots of results to give you a better chance.

- Check search frequency
There are several free search keyword tools available (see hotlinks below). Most will return how often the keyword is searched. They’ll also give you a list of related keywords and how often they are searched for.

Make sure the keywords are searched for often enough to merit attention. Three or four searches a month is probably a waste of time. Some subjective guess work is required here because not every keyword tool will return exact numbers. Google, for instance, only provides a green bar.

-> Step #3. Select winners and start grouping

Choose the keywords, or sub-categories, that have limited competition but are being searched for regularly. Then, organize your products into the winning categories.

NOTE: You don’t have to change your website’s organization or primary navigation. These new categories can be tacked onto your website.

-> Optional Step: Expand your inventory

Through your research, you may find that people are searching for products you’re not offering but fit your target market. Or you may find that if you add one or two more items to your product line, you could easily add another product category.

For example, after seeing that people were searching for food and wine travel journals, Busch and her team decided to “flesh this out into an actual category. We looked around and found enough in the way of food and wine journals, and some other wine ‘gifty’ stuff, to create an actual category.”

-> Step #4. Create category pages

Create webpages for each of the new product categories. These can be identical in design to the category pages you’re already using.

Each product page, however, should have at least three sentences of SEO text at the top that describes the category. Also, make sure you include short text descriptions for each product. When the page is spidered by a search engine, you want sufficient content relevant to the keyword.

For example, Hello Traveler’s ‘kid travel activity’ section reads as follows under its primary navigation bar: “The unique perspective of children is always worth chronicling,” Busch says. “Because of that, we offer a nice selection of kid's travel journals, travel games and activity books. You'll also sometimes find a travel picture frame or vacation photo album designed for the younger set.”

TIP: These sub-category pages can also be used as landing pages for paid search ads.

-> Step #5. Place links on your homepage

Create links to the category pages from your homepage. Busch has more than 30 of them organized at the bottom of their site. Make sure the display text for the hotlinks is identical to the keyword you targeted for a category.

Busch concedes that some of her links point to broader category pages than the term implies. “We also sell kids travel journals [and clicking that link] should take them to the kids’ travel section, not just to ‘journals,’ and it doesn’t, and that’s not good. It just takes them to journals. That’s something we need to fix.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative sample from Hello Traveler:

Google Adwords: Keyword Tool:

WordTracker - free keyword suggestion tool:

Hello Traveler:

See Also:

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