The Importance of Keyword Specificity in SEO Keyword Research

April 28, 2011: It is easy to stop performing keyword research when you find a set of keywords with reasonable (or even unreasonably high) search volume estimates. The challenge is in making certain applicable content and keyword targets match as best as possible, truly applying to the potential search intent of the user.

This process is known as keyword specificity. The more specific a keyword matches the content on the page, in coordination with the objectives of applicable search engine results, the more likely the page would have a chance to rank well for that keyword search.

Here is as example of keyword specificity in action. I pulled this example based off of a random conversation with a colleague (IE, it is not client related; high-level at best to illustrate an example).

Screenshot for the content in question:

car insurance search engine result

What keywords come to mind with this type of content? Here are some obvious examples:

  • car insurance
  • car insurance online
  • car insurance quote
  • car insurance quote online
  • online car insurance quote

Here is a screenshot of search estimates (showing broad and exact match types) from Google AdWords Keyword Tool:

keyword research example

To the novice search engine marketer, these results certainly present a great opportunity for search engine traffic, IF a web page would rank well for any of these particular keywords.

The experienced search engine marketer knows you need to drill deeper; especially for competitive keyword themes like “car insurance”. Here is another screenshot, taking a look at more specific keywords, better matching the headline of the page.

another keyword research example

“instant car insurance quote online” or “instant online car insurance quote” (at the bottom) both contain lower, but measurable search volume estimates; in particular for exact match keyword targeting. This type of longer-tail, keyword search opportunity seems more appropriate for the content in question.

This is the first step in identifying keyword specificity.

Evaluating Search Results for Keyword Specificity
Before making the assumption that keyword is appropriate, it is also important to evaluate search engine results, to determine the type of content currently ranking for that keyword target.

It appears “instant car insurance quote online” is probably not be the right keyword strategy in coordination with the content on the page. Why is that?

  • Only 4 of the top 20 results are NOT domains (one being a fairly questionable redirect)
  • None of the top 20 results include article-related content.

The search engine marketer would want to drill even deeper, possibly even looking at keyword opportunities that do not show actual search volume estimates but could still drive a small amount of traffic.

The SEO strategy for this page of content requires another round of keyword research, looking for greater keyword specificity.

Final Thoughts
I like to challenge people in the office to think of the question that a client’s web page tries to answer. Being able to find questions people would ask, and be happy with the result one’s web page provides, is often a good indicator of keyword specificity.

Lastly, keyword specificity seems simple in theory but is much more difficult in practice; particularly when dealing with a high volume of content (existing and new). It is critical to keep specificity in focus, as the most appropriate keyword strategies can really boost overall SEO performance.

What do you think? Hopefully this gets you started down a deeper path of keyword research for your organization’s web pages. Feel free to add your thoughts and opinions via the comments below.

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  • http://www.headstormstudios.com Emily P

    Very nice article! Is there are minimum search volume a key phrase would have for you to stop considering it worthwhile?

  • Derek

    Hi Emily – thanks for commenting and asking the question. I don’t think there is ever a minimum. In fact, a lot of times (particularly for deeper page content), tools like Google won’t show search estimates at all (see my other link in the post). Hope this helps!

  • http://twitter.com/#!/DRosenhaus Daniel Rosenhaus

    I totally agree with your point about checking search results to see the type of content that ranks well. Article, e-commerce and actual tools or services (like an actual car insurance quote) are all very different and Google ranks accordingly.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    It’s always a good idea to do comprehensive keyword research, which includes finding good long tail phrases. Long tail keywords are much more specific, so you are targeting people that are farther along in the decision process. It’s OK to target some broad keywords, but it’s important to incorporate the long tail as well, especially on internal pages.

  • http://www.upcomingentrepreneurs.com/ Terje Sannarnes

    Keyword research is the most important stage of any search engine marketing strategy. So, if you select wrong keywords you will not get targeted users to a website in the end. Thus, onsite optimization and link development will be just a waste of time.

  • http://www.dpfoc.com/ DPFOC

    I really appreciate the way you tell us how top specify the keyword while targeting some particular page. It is really helpful content for the beginners like me in the SEO field. Thanks for sharing such and informative blog. Looking forward for some other useful information from your side.

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