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Secrets of a Search Engine Coal Miner

Jun 13, 2008
My company is involved in the business of search engine marketing - high tech stuff involving computers, mathematics, and lots of analysis. But in many ways, I'm a lot like a coal miner. I am often put in the position of having to promote my client's web site against much larger companies with much larger budgets. So I can't just go out and bid for top positioning for the top keywords, or to spend my time optimizing the site for the same keywords a million other sites are already optimized for. No sir, I have to dig - dig for nuggets.

On the paid search side, there are often keywords that, for some strange reason, are much cheaper than nearly identical keywords. In these situations, we load up on the cheap keywords. Eventually, our competitors catch on and start bidding the keywords up. But until that happens, we ride it like a gravy train. The way to find these keywords is to have a large keyword inventory which you watch closely. One caveat: a lower cost keyword may not convert as well as other keywords. However, the reduced cost may more than offset the reduced rate of conversion.

In the world of natural search, the temptation for a web site owner is to always promote his site for the top, most heavily trafficked search terms related to his business. This may be a big mistake. It can take many months, hundreds of hours of work, and many thousands of dollars to get your site ranked for the very most popular keywords in a particular industry.

A more prudent route is to do your keyword research and find keywords that have a reasonably high amount of expected daily traffic with less competition than the most popular keywords. Optimizing for these keywords will result in achieving high search engine rankings much quicker. The quicker you can get your site highly ranked for a particular keyword, the quicker you will begin driving targeted natural traffic. Again, you're looking for nuggets, not boulders.

You can be successful doing the things the big companies are not doing, and promoting your web site in places where the big companies are not. Look for under-utilized keywords and under-utilized web sites. And focus your budget. If you take a scattershot approach, trying to run your paid search ads anywhere and everywhere, you will quickly run out of money.

At first, it is difficult to know how to allocate your paid search budget. You need data to determine your best keywords, best ads, and best landing page copy; and that data can only be generated by actually running your account. So there is a cost in terms of both money and time to get started. At first, your paid search account may not be profitable, but it will be once you figure out where the profitable nuggets are.

When fighting for search engine visibility against larger and better-financed competitors, remember to think like a coal miner. Mine for nuggets - for keywords that can profitably be targeted. Decide on a niche for your business and a focus for your online marketing and you will be successful.
About the Author
Jerry Work is president of PPC management and SEO firm Work Media, based in Nashville.
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