Is there an alternative to keyword targeting?

  • News
  • 27th April 2017

Keyword targeting has always caused a lot of discussion, especially since Hummingbird came out back in 2013.

With marketers split over whether to ditch the idea of keyword targeting completely, and others campaigning for a balance between the two old-school keyword targeting and new concept targeting – in this article we will review them both so you can judge for yourself which is the right path to follow.

Should keyword targeting be ditched entirely?

The biggest question this idea poses is the amount of damage cutting keyword targeting can have on your rankings.

At its core, keyword targeting is based on research where a products/companies services, benefits and locations are formulated into targeted keywords/phrases that are likely to be typed into Google by prospective clients.

For instance, if a client was looking for a web designer in Nottingham, a common targeted keyword you’d encounter is: ‘web designer Nottingham’ or ‘Nottingham web design.’ Every phrase and keyword is deliberately chosen and integrated into the sites copy, based on common search terms used by clients.

Yet this is all beginning to change, with many SEO providers making the active decision to move away from keywords – in some cases eliminating them from their strategy completely – and instead are focusing on topics, ideas and the broad concept.

But is this wise?

One of the biggest dangers to cutting keyword targeting completely from your strategy is the losses it will create in search engine traffic. By removing these search options, audiences will lose the chance to more broadly search for your product/services, which in turn will cost you money and revenue.

Take the following scenario. You have been asked to create an SEO package, where you are promoting a travel website. In the past, your research would have begun with the question of ‘what to target’ so you can create an on-page targeting model.

Once you’d chosen a topic i.e. ‘ways to travel’, you would have begun checking the volume and metrics surrounding this phrase before formulating a list of potential keyword options you could use e.g. ‘travelling by trains’ or ‘best ways to fly’ etc.

Now in the past, your client would have taken this list of keywords and drawn up plans to make individuals pages based on each of these targeted keywords – pages upon pages which would have been similarly written but still achieved their plans of keyword targeting.

Simple right?

Well, concept-based targeting takes marketing to whole new level as it challenges SEO providers to think bigger than keywords – even forget them – and instead focus on targeting searchers intent and concepts.

And whist it is pretty effective, as you’ll soon see – it comes with its own set of limitations.

How does concept-based targeting work?

Similar to keyword targeting, concept-based targeting begins in the same way with SEO providers researching into what audiences are looking for. However instead of compiling keywords, this technique differs as it greatly relies upon Google to recognise your content and work out your keywords, without you specifically targeting them.

So if we were to go back to our previous example about travelling; under this new concept an SEO provider would aim to look at the idea more broadly. They would first research all methods of travel, before moving on to: the best times to go it; costs; types of companies, and the best places to travel to; before compiling it all together to create great content.

And there is no denying that this content would be fantastic as the amount of research that has gone into it, would ensure audiences can find out everything they need to know.

But would it rank?

No.

Not because Google can’t map your content and highlight keywords. No, your first problem would stem from the fact your content title does not match the search terms for your audience.

For instance, your original goal behind this content was to discuss the best ways to travel. However, if you were to name the article ‘A Smart Guide to Travelling’, you would instantly lose those searching for ‘best ways to travels’, as in the long run, people discussing and linking to/from your article won’t be describing it in this way.

In other words, how the web talks about your content, would influence the terms and phrases that are associated with it.

What is to be done?

Alone, each of these methods have their merits and limitations. For keyword targeting, this classic model is slowly becoming dated as Google continues to evolve. However, concept-based targeting is equally limited as the loss of keywords can cost you audience reach.

Instead we strongly recommend creating a hybrid of these two methods so you can harness the strengths of both and get the best of both worlds.

By being intelligent with your titles, headlines, sub-headlines and your content, you can still incorporate the concept and topic model (ensuring you meet different searcher needs), whilst benefiting from greater audience accessibility and search volumes that comes with keyword targeting – which in turn will boost your rankings.

You simply need to pick and choose between your audiences intent; find overlapping links, and use them to integrate targeted keywords into your content that fulfil concept and topic matches.