I was speaking with a new client the other day about their former SEO efforts. Their previous SEO firm had outlined in their contract exactly which ten keywords (10?!) they would target on the site and include the content marketing efforts. This client owns a local business so most of their keywords were localized (think Boston SEO firm vs. SEO firm). Interestingly enough, and frustratingly so, their previous SEO firm flat out refused to target the more competitive terms! Imagine you owned a pet store in Chicago. Wouldn’t you want to target “Chicago pet store?” Of course you would! But this SEO firm flat out refused to invest any time in more competitive keywords and instead went after the low hanging fruit and long tail keywords.
For the record, I think it’s very important to incorporate long tail keywords into your SEO efforts. Even though they may not have as big a search volume they still send incredibly relevant and targeted visitors to your site. And “low hanging fruit” keywords are the ones that are easier to win (maybe you’re already situated on page 2 in the SERPs) so you can get a little bit of momentum going while you work towards performing well for those broader, more competitive keywords. I couldn’t believe my client’s former SEO firm wasn’t willing to go after those competitive keywords. Yes, it’s a bigger time investment and a lot more work, but that’s part of SEO! Not to mention the whole reason a business owner would hire an SEO firm to manage their campaign.
The search term “SEO company” is a ridiculously competitive keyword. I started my company over 5 years ago and I am still crawling my way up the SERPs for that one. I know that I’ll probably never unseat the #1 ranked company, but I’m going to do my best to get as close to the top as I can! You can’t be afraid of competitive keywords when it comes to your SEO. The long term potential of them is simply too great to ignore. If you want to grow your business you’re going to have to break out of your small niche sooner or later and try to take on the big players in your industry by going after those more competitive keywords. You are not going to win them overnight, but you have to at least work them into your SEO efforts so you start the process.
At the same time, you have to be realistic about the short-term success of your business. If I were to go out of business in the next year because I failed to take advantage of any low hanging fruit that puts a pretty effective end to my long term goals, right? That’s why the keyword research phase of an SEO campaign is so important. You want a good mix of those highly competitive keywords and long tails so you can keep your business afloat while working towards greatness.