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Pie Chart Showing AdWords Keywords

(Note: the blog post below is about keyword research as it relates to SEO, and not AdWords.  Keyword research is definitely not dead when it comes to paid search.)

I spend about an hour or two each week optimizing this website for SEO, but I don’t target any specific keywords.  You may find this surprising, but I’ve been able to successful pull in the targeted traffic that I want without spending ANY effort on targeting individual keyword phrases.

Topic Targeting Is the New Keyword Targeting

I pulled the colorful piechart on the right from Google Analytics for this website.  It shows the breakdown of all the keywords that contained the word “AdWords” that generated an impression for my website over the last two weeks.  As you can see, the phrase “Google AdWords Certified Partner” triggered 600 impressions, for 24.3% of the total.  The remaining 2,000 impressions that included the word “AdWords” were things like “AdWords Manager,” “AdWords Qualified Individual,” and “AdWords Professional.”

But instead of doing traditional keyword research, I did “topic targeting” to get these results.  Topic targeting is a lot easier than keyword research, because it basically consists of asking the question: what topic do you want to be known as an authority on?  For me, that’s simple: search engines, AdWords, PPC, and and several others.

Then, within those topics, I started writing useful content that explores specific aspects of each.  As a force of habit, I will still refer to the Google Keyword Tool in many situations to see if a blog post should be modified slightly to hit a more strategic keyword, but 90% of the time, doing so isn’t critical or even helpful.

As Google’s SEO Oracle Matt Cutts says in this video, Google is starting to care much, much more about websites that are authorities on a given topic, and this means that keyword research in the old-fashioned sense is going to be less and less relevant for most businesses.

Will Marlow is a search engine marketing professional, and holds three certifications from Google (Google Analytics and Google AdWords) and one certification from Microsoft as a Bing Ads Professional