3 Top Organic Search Questions…Answered: #1.Selection #2.Placement #3.Optimized Use

This is a really big topic, but as I’ve been asked to explain these 3 facets of organic search marketing numerous times, I thought a quick high-level overview might be of use.


1. Which Search Terms to Target

This is somewhat subjective & somewhat objective. It really depends on 4 primary interrelated variables:

i.   the level of competition for the phrase

ii.  the relationship between search query language (phrase), search query intent (expectation/anticipated result), and the relevance of the search phrase to your offering (perceived or real match/deviation)

iii. your search marketing objectives

iv. your resources


Example #1. If the query language is very exploratory (generic; e.g. ‘laptop computers’ = 9.1m searches/mo [US]), the competition is relatively high (46m results), and the expectation is more specific (e.g. ‘small dell laptop’ = 2.5K searches/mo [US]) – then you can assume that your primary target audience is not search savvy, and that it’s going to take some work. So you refer back to your other variables:

– Does achieving a good rank for a generic term fit with your objectives?

– Do you have the resources (time, people, money) to commit to targeting this type of phrase set?


Example #2. If your search marketing objective is to generate brand awareness, then targeting more generic, high volume terms makes sense, assuming you have the resources, but; if your search marketing objective is driven by a purely conversion based metric, and you have limited organic pages (by design/default/intent/limitation/whatever), it may make sense to target a more specific set of phrases.


2. Where to Place your Selected Key-Phrases

Most old-hats will know these points, but to continue with the high-level overview, the first thing you need to do is audit your existing URL structure once you have completed the keyword research:

  • Get rid of unnecessary folders e.g.:

– yoursite.com/product1group/product1a/overview/product.htm

  • Create meaningful keyword rich folders e.g.:

– yoursite.com/dell-laptop-computers/product.htm

– yoursite.com/hp-laptop-computers/product.htm

  • Create meaningful keyword rich files e.g.:

– yoursite.com/dell-laptop-computers/small-dell-laptop.htm

– yoursite.com/hp-laptop-computers/hp-business-laptop.htm

  • 301 redirect all old files to the most relevant new file. Depending on objectives this could be to the new file for which you anticipate the highest volume of traffic, or for which you anticipate the highest number of conversions (e.g., based on web analytics of the existing site)

Then place the selected keyphrase per page:

  • in the title tag (sticking to 70 characters with spaces) – for SEO. Make the title short and match the anticipated search query language & intent as closely as possible e.g.:
  • in the META description (sticking to 155 characters + spaces) – for usability, click-through and some SEO effect e.g.:
    • Easily compare HP business laptops. 1 year factory warranty + 18 months from yoursite.com. Easy payment terms. We get you started – Fast! Find out more…


  • in the <h> tags; use the specific term in the <h1> and the more generic term in an <h2> where possible – for SEO and usability e.g.:
    • <h1> Looking for Your Next HP Business Laptop?</h1>
    • <h2> Easily Compare & Choose from our Comprehensive Selection of HP Laptop Computers</h2>
  • in the ALT attributes and image names; keep your image naming protocol clean, and remember to title your images as well (see ‘Accessibility and ARIA’) – for SEO and usability
  • in the content. Many SEO’s say that keyword density is not important. I disagree – with a caveat; keyword density is vitally important – within reason… If the target keyphrase does not appear in the copy more than a few times in relevant areas, then the page may not actually be relevant to the term regardless of being placed in other key areas. I’m not saying there is a keyword density limit – max or min. What I am saying is:
    • write your content thoughtfully bearing in mind your <h> tags and your actual intent, assuming your intent is to arm people with more information around your core targeted phrases
    • never go back and insert keyphrases into copy once it is written
    • never write copy simply to target keyphrases
    • keep it natural, readable, usable and relevant.
    • it’s simple, yet it’s not. Experienced web copy-writers are worth their weight in gold.
  • in the navigation and in your internal linking practice. This may cause some ructions with legal/branding/usability, and if you want to find out how you might get around these challenges, come to my session at Pubcon :)!


3. Optimized Use of Your Keyphrases

I’ll mention Pubcon again, but in the interim… make sure:

  • you know what tag-lines are being used by offline marketing, and create pages
  • you connect with PR (press release, not page rank – y’sll have a one track mind)
  • you connect with social and help with blog posts, asks and answers and with creating pages around key positives or negatives regarding your offering to speak to detractors and support evangelists. More than 20% of search results are now UGC based. Don’t miss out by ignoring commentary, forums and the social space (a topic I have exhausted in previous posts and nearly bored my lovely readers to death – check them out if you missed them)


Come follow me on Twitter! And please come back soon…

~ Laura 🙂


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