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The Single Most Misunderstood Concept in Search Engine Positioning

By Michael Buck
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2004

On April 27th, we shared with you our article entitled "Is Search Engine Positioning Dead?" (If you missed it, visit for the archive) In this article, we presented several compelling 3rd party statistics suggesting that search engine placement remains by far the most powerful method for driving large amounts of targeted traffic to your web site.

As a result of this article, we received lots of great feedback, and many pertinent questions. But when the dust settled, one topic rose to the top of the list and seemed to cause a great deal of confusion and mystery:

"Why is keyword selection so important and how do I select the best keywords for my site?"

Let's break this down into bite-sized pieces and clear up the mystery, by answering our most frequently asked questions regarding keyword selection:

"What's the difference between a keyword and a keyword phrase? And which should I use?"

Put simply, a keyword is a single word such as "Maui." While a keyword phrase is a more descriptive string of two or more words such as "Maui vacations." Your specific approach to keyword selection will vary, depending on your industry. For certain niche markets, single words can be a good strategy (as long as they are specific to your product or service). But regardless of your industry...

Well-researched keyword phrases will attract quality, targeted visitors to your website who *specifically* want what you are selling.

Let's assume you sell Maui vacations, and your website is listed at the top of the search results for the keywords "Maui" and "Maui vacations." Let's look at the characteristics of two groups of visitors you'd attract.

Those who perform a search on "Maui" are searching for a wide variety of topics. Such as Maui's history and culture, snorkeling, botanic gardens, hiking trails, sailing, golfing, and yes - some will be looking for Maui vacations. But only a small percentage of the people who perform a search on the keyword "Maui" are qualified prospect for your vacation packages.

Now think about the prospects who find you by searching for "Maui vacations." Every prospect who performs this search is a qualified prospect for you. And by getting a top ranking with this more descriptive keyword phrase, you attract people who are more likely to become paying customers!

You see, someone who wants to take a vacation to Maui is not likely to search for "Maui." They're not going to search for "Vacations." And they're not going to search for "Hawaii" either. They're much more likely to enter a keyword phrase like "Maui vacations."

Today, more than ever, your ideal prospects are going to enter precisely what they want to find, rather than general, open-ended terms. Which means your keyword selection must target your ideal customer with laser-beam focus.

At the same time, the search engines and directories themselves are also becoming much more strict with the pages that they'll accept and index. They'll be watching your submissions like a hawk to make sure that they're completely relevant to the topic reflected by your keyword phrase.

In our last article, we weighed the pros and cons of doing your search engine positioning yourself versus hiring a reputable company to handle this time consuming task for you. Many of you have wisely realized that it can be much more time-effective and cost-effective to leave your search engine placement in the hands of experts, so you van focus on your core business.

So the most important question of all now becomes:

"If I hire a company to do my search engine placement for me, should I be expected to provide my own keywords and keyword phrases, or do they have a responsibility to advise me?"

Frankly, any company that doesn't provide hands on consultation in this area is not helping you to maximize your search engine rankings. Keyword selection is the entire foundation on which your search engine campaign is built. Can you imagine hiring a contractor to build your house... only to have him say, "Okay, YOU lay all the bricks and pour the concrete - then I'll do the rest?"

If you're going to hire someone to achieve top ranking for your website, be sure that they take on the full responsibility - not just bits and pieces. Otherwise you run the risk of your entire promotion falling apart.

I hope it's now clear how vital it is to target the best possible keywords and keyword phrases for your web site. And you now have the burden of proper keyword selection lifted from your shoulders.

Sure, your expertise of your business warrants your input. But at least you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that the search engine specialists are doing their job, and not leaving your keyword selection to chance.

After all, isn't that why you hire them in the first place?

About the Author
Michael Buck is a marketing consultant & Director of Marketing for To find out more about top search engine placement and how you can attract targeted traffic with multiple Top 20 rankings - visit ( You may also call Mike at (310) 798-0467.


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