Part 3

Forming a SEO Strategy

Putting together an SEO Strategy is a crucial part of any SEO campaign. It’s where you put together a game plan for what terms you want to target. And, it’s really hard to do any SEO without knowing what terms you are targeting.

Intelligently picking which terms to target can make or break your SEO efforts. Optimizing for terms that are simply too competitive will leave you disappointed with your results. Optimizing for terms that get next to no searches will also leave you disappointed. And, optimizing for terms that bring traffic to your website that doesn’t convert will leave you disappointed as well.

Therefore, you’ll want to put together a strategy to target terms that will bring you the highest amount of qualified traffic. Remember, the end goal of your SEO efforts is not simply to rank higher or to get more traffic, it’s to make money off that traffic through conversions – whether that be through more bookings or through growing your inventory.

Picking Keywords – What to Consider

So, when picking terms to target, you need to pay close attention to the following factors:

  • Is the term related to my website? If the term isn’t related to your website, even if you succeed in ranking for it, the traffic it brings in probably won’t do you much good. In theory, unqualified search traffic can even hurt you if search engines see it bouncing at high rates. You don’t just want to bring in traffic; you want to bring in qualified traffic that converts to bookings and makes you money.
  • How often does the term get searched? Every time a term is searched, it provides an opportunity for one or more of the pages listed in the search results to get traffic, should the searcher choose to click on them. But, if a term is not searched very often, the opportunity for traffic is much lower.
  • How competitive is the term? Some terms are going to be harder to rank for than others, especially terms that get a lot of traffic. As you get more adept at SEO, you’ll be able to determine how competitive a term is and how much work you’ll need to do to rank for it. Later in this section, we’ll show you a few ways to determine how competitive a term is.

Generating a List of Potential Keywords

So, now that you know what to consider in picking a keyword term, you’ll want to dig in and get the answers to some of those questions posed above. But, where do you start?

A great place to start your keyword research is to look at the terms you are already ranking for and the terms your competitors are ranking for. You can find the terms you are ranking for in Google Search Console under Search Analytics. For finding the terms your competitors rank for, there are a numbers of tools online you can use (and we’ll cover those later in this white paper). These terms will most likely be very relevant to your business and likely help you bring in qualified traffic that converts.

Another place to start is writing out the main types of homes you rent out. You’ll want to consider all the categories your homes could fall within. Here are few examples of categories:

  • Location – Where is the property located? In what city? In what resort? What’s it close to? A beach? A golf course? A ski resort? A theme park?
  • Type of Home – Do you have large homes that sleep multiple people? Are they condos? Are they villas? Are they luxury homes or budget homes?
  • Amenities / Services Offers – Do your homes have specific amenities that are popular with guests? Hot tubs? Pet friendly? Ski-in/Ski-Out? Waterfront? Beachfront?

This exercise will help you come up with a number of additional terms. For example: “Orlando Vacation Homes Near Disney” or “Luxury Ski-in/Ski-out Homes in Park City, UT.” These longer terms are considered “long-tail search terms.” Generally, they don’t get searched as often, but the traffic they bring in is more targeted and converts at a higher rate. Additionally, these terms are generally easier to rank for.

Once you have a list of your main terms, throw them into a Google Search and scroll down to the bottom of the page to the related search terms. This will help give you ideas to expand your list of keywords to investigate. You’ll want to gather a lot of potential keyword terms to target, because in the next few steps of the process you’ll mostly be trimming down this list.

Estimating Search Volume

Two of the best places to estimate how often a term is getting searched are Google Search Console and Google Keyword Planner.

Google Search Console can show you what terms you are ranking for and how many impressions each term is generating. The impressions are going to correlate with search volume. If you rank for the term “Vacation Rentals in Orlando” and Google Search Console is telling you it generated 1500 impressions last month, you can assume, generally speaking, that the term was searched around 1500 times. This means that if you rank for that term, you’ll have that many opportunities to get a click through to your website. Of course, this will vary dramatically based on where you rank for that term (more on that below).

The second tool you can use to estimate search volume for a term is the Google Keyword Planner. It allows you to type in a term and get an estimate from Google on how many searches that term gets a month. You can even filter by things like the location where the term is being searched or the language used to search the term.

Between these two tools, you’ll have a good idea of how much each term is getting searched. Now, you just need to figure out where you stand to rank for that term and how much traffic you could get as you move up the ranks.

Estimating the Competitiveness of Terms

There are a number of ways you can estimate how competitive a term is. Doing this is important because the more competitive a term is, the harder it will be to rank for that term. In some cases, it may even be unrealistic for you to rank for that keyword in the short-term.

Here are a few things you can use to determine how competitive a term is:

  • How many search results are there? When you search a term, Google will tell you how many results it brought back at the very top of the results page (right above the ads at the top). For example, the term “Orlando Vacation Rentals” brought back 19 million results, but the term “Orlando Vacation Rental Homes Pet Friendly” brought back 219,000 results. Generally speaking, terms with more results are harder to rank for.
  • How strong are the websites that are already ranking? When you search that term, are the websites in the results strong websites? Have they been around for a long time? Do they have a lot of back links pointing to them (we’ll show you how to find that later in this white paper)? Do they have a lot of content? In addition to this, you can download plugins like the “SEO Toolbar by Moz” that give metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority, which can give you some insights on how strong a website is comparably.
  • Is the page geared to that term? Sometimes a powerful website will rank for a term just on its authority alone. So, it’s good to look at the content on the page that is ranking, and see if it’s been optimized for the search term. If it hasn’t been optimized for that term, you might stand a chance of beating it out by optimizing one or more pages on your website for that specific term.
  • Where do you rank for that term? Whether you look in Google Search Console or just do your own Google Search, you’ll want to see where you currently rank. For example, if you rank on page two and really haven’t even optimized yet for that term, you could stand a good chance of moving up with a little effort.

You should also consider that moving up in the search results generally becomes harder and harder as you approach the top result. You might be able to do some quick optimization and move all the way from page five to page two. But, it might require twice as much effort to move from position No. 6 to position No. 2 on the first page. It all depends on how competitive the search term is, who is ranking for it and how much authority your site already has.

There’s really no hard and fast rules for determining how much work it’s going to take you to rank for that term. Sometimes you won’t know until you try. But, as you learn more about SEO, you’ll start to develop a better understanding of how hard it will be to rank for a term, and you’ll be able to better estimate where you could potentially rank once you put in the effort of optimizing your website.

Estimating Potential Traffic from a Term

Once you know how many times a term is getting searched and you have an idea of where you might be able to rank for that term, you can start to estimate how much traffic you could get from that term. You can do this by looking at the average click-through rates at different ranks (or search positions). Click-through rates show how often something is clicked. It’s calculated by taking clicks divided by impressions. Once you know what the average click-through rate is for different search resut positions, you can estimate how much traffic that result will get based on how many times that term is searched.

There are a number of studies out there that can give you an idea of what percentage of total search traffic you can expect at different ranking positions, but one of the better ones comes from SEO software provider Moz. According to their 2014 study, the average distribution of clicks across ranking positions is as follows:

Click Through Rates at Different Ranks

  • No. 1 – 31% of traffic
  • No. 2 – 14% of traffic
  • No. 3 – 10% of traffic
  • No. 4 – 7% of traffic
  • No. 5 – 5.5% of traffic
  • No. 6-10 – 4% of traffic (combined)
  • Second Page – 4% of traffic (combined)
  • Third Page+ – 1.6%% of traffic (combined)

NOTE: Remember that not all search traffic will go to the organic terms. Some will go to paid searches, and some searchers will do a search and choose not to click on any of the results. Another thing to consider is that the figures above are just averages. They may not hold in terms relating to your industry or your specific niche. They’re just general guidelines based on observable results.

Using these numbers you could estimate that if you rank No. 1 for a term that is getting 1,000 searches a month, you’d likely get around 310 visits from that term alone.

Then, based on your overall conversion rate (or better yet the historical conversion rate for organic traffic or even that particular term), you’ll have an idea of how many bookings and about how much revenue that term can bring you each month or each year. This is another reason why tracking is so important.

Picking Keywords Based on Data

Knowing that almost 67% of traffic goes to the top 5 results in a search, generally speaking you’ll likely want to pick your keywords based on which terms you think you can rank in the top 5 results (or at least page 1) and which of those terms is bringing in the most searches.

Remember, the end goal here is getting qualified traffic that converts to bookings. So, you’ll want to target the terms from which you can realistically get the most qualified traffic.

You have to consider how much effort you’ll need to exert or how many resources you’ll need to dedicate to rank for a term and balance that against the potential return. Initially, you may want to target a number of long-tail results that are easier to rank for.

It’s important to have both long-term and short-term strategies. Over time, your SEO efforts will start to compound and keyword terms that at first were unrealistic to rank for might become more of a viable possibility.

Part 3: Review

  • Make Sure You’re Choosing Relevant Terms
  • Pick Realistic Keyword, Based on Competitiveness
  • Use Ranking Position and Average Organic Click Through Rates to Estimate Traffic
  • Remember, 67% of Traffic Goes to the Top 5 Search Results