Keyword Strategy Vs. Tactics

Keyword Research Jul 26, 2006

If you’re establishing a domain from scratch, HitTail is not for you… yet.

One of the interesting points that came up at MediaPost’s Search Insider Summit is the difference between strategic and tactical keyword selection. Strategic keyword selection comes at the beginning of the website planning phase. What keywords MUST you attack in order to be living up to your marketing responsibilities?

In a product or service model (not an advertising model), you must obviously optimize for the company and product’s name. When appropriate, you also optimize on keywords associated with the features and benefits. And so goes the initial strategic brainstorming process, where you pull in such tools as the Yahoo Search Marketing and AdWords keyword suggestion tools, and WordTracker. All these tools by definition are giving you a sampling of what’s available. And they give everyone the same sampling based on the same seed words. They are not uniquely customized to your site. And they are perfectly appropriate for the first round of strategic keyword planning.

After a site has been in existence for a few months, hits that you never expected are going to start occurring… highly significant events that you would have likely overlooked were it not for HitTail. And that’s where the strategic keyword startup strategy transforms into an evergreen tactical keyword strategy.

Huh?

Simply put, after all your planning and execution of a website, it’s time to start filling in the blank spots, connecting the dots, and spiral your way to dominating a conceptual niche.

Did I say simply put?

OK, second try: once your website has been out there for awhile, it’s trying to tell you something. That something sounds a lot like “Hey, did you know that some very determined S.O.B. found you on the term ‘best blue widgets’ and they needn’t have been so determined if only you targeted ‘best blue widgets’ a little better.

And your website’s attempt to tell you this valuable information is ironically muffled and obscured by today’s analytics tools, which don’t zero in on and isolate  the truly most important “keyword events” that occur on your site.

Putting these keyword events to work for you is the underlying premise of HitTail, and why HitTailing is so effective. Markus Merz of the popular Performancing site colorfully characterizes us as the SEO Mafia, leaning heavily on our users to do what we tell them too.

Markus humorously warns people away from HitTail based on the tickling notion that you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. It is perhaps the most colorful and “on the mark” review of HitTail that I have read–even giving David Stockwell a run for his money. It’s sometimes hard to infer Markus’ meaning, and is written for the ultimate search insider, but is clear once you understand that he’s telling you we’re the exact opposite of analytics (an accountant diligently tallying your books), and more like the Mob (ensuring you X-amount of the business in the neighborhood).

It’s very flattering. I just wish we were getting a percentage of the take. Happily for HitTailers, the HitTail creators are taking a much more altruistic approach. HitTailing is the God-given right of every blogger. If we don’t provide it for free, we give you incentive to find other ways. And we want the relationship with you, even if we’re not extracting the dough. So, what’s in it for us?

Simple: value-add. Yes, we’re and SEO firm. Yes, we’re a PR firm (the one that launched Amazon.com and Priceline). And we’re always looking for the next Amazon.com. This may end up being the littlest HitTailer (you?). And once you start using our service, you know we exist. We know you exist. We’re planting 1000 seeds, and seeing what blossoms.

And there are many other value-adds. We’re going to have to start deleting old Search Hit data, but won’t in the premium service. We’re not capturing enough data for detailed trending and conversion tracking, but we can in the premium service. We can’t serve, say perhaps 500,000 hits per day for a single site, but we could in the premium service. And there are a variety of other possibilities for the premium service.

But before talking about what and how we’re going to get you to pay for something in the future, let’s talk about how dramatically different HitTailing is from anything else out there on the market right now–even services people are claiming to be “similar”.

They’re not.

Any analytics package worth their salt can pull a very, very long and inclusive keyword list. It can be called the long tail keyword list. And it might even throw the hit count, and which engine produced the hit into the list.

But they miss the key time-saving point.

HitTailing saves you time by getting rid of the need for analytics software. Analytics is a crowed software space, varying from free to extremely expensive, with capabilities as diverse as the pricing. And there are entire professions dedicated to configuring analytics, generating the CORRECT reports to get MEANINGFUL data, and then requiring further processing to figure out what to do with the data. In other words, how to make analytics data actionable?

Now, giving analytics software its due credit, its going to tell you many more things than HitTail ever will, such as drop-off pages, and where your site is desperately broken and needs help. HitTailing sort of assumes that every one of your pages in your site is a legitimate landing page with an encapsulated call-to-action. This is usually something like a slogan plus an 800-number, homepage or contact link that’s on every page of your site via the navigation graphics. Every page should be exactly 1-click away from a call-to-action in order to get the maximum value out of HitTailing, and this will be the subject of another post. But yes, analytics software is valuable stuff, and we’re not saying don’t use it.

We’re just saying you don’t HAVE to use it in order to seize your share of what Wall Street analyst Jordan Rohan called the most valuable commodity on the Internet: natural search traffic. It’s what ClickZ editor and SearchWise president Chris Sherman called the top priority for search markers, but where there is a disconnect because the industry is centered around paid search. Natural search is the elephant in the corner of the room of any search marketing discussion.

And HitTail leans on you, telling you what to do in a clear and methodical way that we haven’t seen since… well, since GoTo.com taught Google how to monetize their traffic through paid search.

Yes indeed, HitTailing is THAT BIG. And just because we’re not launching a 7-billion dollar paid search industry with HitTail doesn’t make it any less significant to the world of marketers. It completes the unspoken incomplete online marketing campaigns of companies, non-profits and “causes” of all sorts around the world, simply by making the tackling natural search predictable, systematic and incremental. Advanced folks can HitTail with content management systems. New folks can HitTail with blogging software, and also solve their corporate blogging strategy in one genius stroke. It is the other half of the online marketing equation.

So, if it’s potentially AS BIG as AdWords and YSM, then how are the HitTail creators going to benefit? Well, PR has never been as big of an industry as Advertising. But PR has none-the-less been massively influential in business. Similarly, HitTail will never be the financial juggernaut that paid search is, but we have our ideas. Whereas PPC business models remain eerily similar to the classified advertisement business of newspapers and yellow pages, the business models on the natural search side have the opportunity to break new ground and become socially transforming.

I don’t think we’ll tip our hand just yet about what we have in mind, suffice to say it’s no less ambitious than the goals of Connors’ clients of ages past: become the largest bookseller in the world, provide the IT plumbing for all eTailers worldwide, allow buyers to name what they’re willing to spend for product, create the very paid search industry, and revolutionize the telecommunications industry by making long-distance calls for almost nothing. Yes, Connors clients have not only had these ambitions, but accomplished these very things and become the category killer in each of these spaces. And the same strategic thinking is going into the field of natural search… finally!

So, if you’re a publisher, webmaster, AdSenser, evangelist, or otherwise have any story to tell that you would like heard, then HitTailing is for you–but not at first. Your first goal is to thing strategically and build up your core website. Install the HitTail code, and use it for what its worth in the early stage: watching for the first inbound links to be established, and the first hits to occur. While not HitTailing in the purest sense, it is addictive none-the-less.

Once your site builds enough initial strategic content, it will feed the HitTailing process, and the suggestions will start to dribble in, at which time you can think about switching into a much more tactical keyword mode. We called this tactical mode “evergreen” at the beginning of this blog post. Evergreen stands for media content that is always appropriate, no matter when it is run (or found). It fills in broadcast time and column space when there is not enough going on in the news. The same applies in blog publishing–even more so because of the long tail SEO factor (whoops, I used that bad word, SEO).

HitTailing is your road to super-charged evergreen blogging content. It’s a tactical thing, which fits under the broader strategy category: “No matter what, keep quality content flowing that is assured to drive incrementally more qualified traffic.”

One response
  1. Jim Cronin

    Mike,
    I stumbled across your site this morning while I was doing a little research on the long tail and its affect on real estate. I had most of the article written, and then I watched your video. It was so on the money. I am very excited about finding the hittail and plan on keeping a close eye on y’all.
    If you want to see the article that inspired me to find you in the first place: http://realestatetomato.typepad.com/the_real_estate_tomato/2006/07/riding_the_long.html

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