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July 5, 2007

Optimizing Beyond Branded Keywords

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I know that just because you read the Bruce Clay blog, doesn’t mean you’re reading our SEO Newsletter (however, we can totally fix that), so in case you’re not, this entry’s for you.

Senior SEO Analyst Bradley Leese is midway through an impressive 6-part siloing series where he’s telling readers everything they’ve always wanted to know about siloing and probably some other stuff they wish they didn’t have to know. His most recent article focused on building silos using a folder/directory structure and illustrates the importance of looking beyond branded keywords when crafting the keyword list for your search engine optimization campaign. Part of keyword research means being able to mentally silo your site to determine what keywords are going to be important to which pages and relate to which themes. (Don’t give me that face; no one said search engine optimization was easy. Okay, maybe Jason Calacanis did but no one listens to him anyway.)

Bradley uses the nonprofit organization Heifer International as the case study for his series so I’ll stick with that here. Heifer International donates livestock to needy families in third world countries. They teach the recipients of these donations how to care and nurture the animals to pay forward the knowledge of animal husbandry to other families within their community. They’re a great organization but let’s be honest, they’re probably not at your top of mind recall when you’re looking for a worthy cause to donate to, am I right? Of course I’m right. So, in this case, optimizing for branded keywords really isn’t going to help them attract new visitors.

So what do they, and you, do to attract new visitors?
Obviously, you need to know what terms your visitors are searching for to find you and optimize your site around them, but it’s really far more complicated than that. Your site is more complicated than that. This is why theming is so important to optimization in the first place.

When you’re performing your keyword research, you have to pay attention to the natural silos that exist within your site. Going back to Heifer International, they’re a charity site looking for donations to held world hunger. In order for them to gain the most exposure and to be seen as an educational resource for their audience, Heifer International would be wise to create different silos to further break down their donation pages. Why? Because independent donators, corporate donators, governmental agencies, philanthropic groups, estate lawyers, etc don’t speak the same language, you’ll need to create different site sections to target each individually.

For example an individual contributor might query terms like "giving", "charity", and "volunteer", while a governmental agency would query "humanitarian aid", "poverty" or "advocacy". In the end, everyone wants the same thing, but the vocabulary is quite different. If you want your site to become an educational resource for each group, you need to create site sections (typically 5+ pages) with keyword-rich content to address each topic. Trying to target too many keywords in one silo will dilute the entire section and leave you ranking for nothing.

In the case of Heifer, they could create a governmental giving section to discuss the economics of charities, explain why governments can give more or what inherent problems are associated with charitable donations. The pages regarding corporate donations could discuss the reasons for corporate giving and corporate social responsibility or tax deductions. The sections on individual giving can be written to highlight how good it feels to help others. Creating these separate sections gives them enough room to use the terms that they need to rank for in each silo.

The same is true of your company. Siloing your site and targeting the appropriate keywords for each silo will help you to target the many different types of visitors interested in your site. It’s important that your branded keywords are part of your search engine optimization campaign but realize those terms will only help the people who already aware of your brand. If you don’t also focus on the long tail terms you’ll be missing out on major traffic and conversion opportunities.

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One response to “Optimizing Beyond Branded Keywords”

  1. Internet Marketing Pakistan writes:

    I think the comparison of keyword selection by an individual in comparison to a governmental agency is very important.

    I was doing an SEO/SEM project and faced a similar problem where B2C and B2B keywords had a hair-line difference. Our focus was B2B but the traffic generated was B2C.

    Trying to learn more on how to improve on this technique!



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