How Finding the Right Keywords can Build your Online Sales

by John Almberg, Identry LLC, March 2007

Do you know how to use search engines to attract qualified buyers to your website? If not, you're not alone. It's the #1 question I hear from collectible dealers.

The call I got last week from a prospective client was typical.

“I want a top ranking for 'stamps' on Google,” the dealer said. “I added it to my meta tags just like my nephew showed me, but my site isn't even showing up. I'm losing money. What am I doing wrong?”

That's a big question, and an important one. Over half of all buyers start with a search engine. If you're not showing up, you really are losing money. The good news is, it's not rocket science and you don't need voodoo.

It's such a big and important topic that I'm going to devote several articles to it. And at the end of each article, I'll give you a link to additional information and free tools you can use to help improve your search engine ranking.

This month, we'll start with one of the most important—and misunderstood—search engine concepts: keywords.

What are keywords?

Keywords are the 2-5 word phrases that buyers use to find your website, when using a search engine like Google or Yahoo!

They are the words you yourself would use to find the kind of stamps you sell, or the special services you provide, such as expertizing. Examples of keywords are 'stamp collecting' and 'graf zeppelin first day covers'.

Why are longer keywords better than shorter keywords?

The main reason is because, in general, shoppers use short keywords, and buyers use long keywords. And we're mainly interested in attracting qualified buyers.

If you were a cover specialist, who would you rather have visit your site? Someone who types 'covers' into Google (maybe looking for sofa covers), or someone who types 'graf zeppelin first day covers'?

The keywords you use should be specific enough to qualify the searcher and describe something you sell.

What's wrong with one-word keywords?

First, single words are far too general. When a searcher types 'stamps' into Google, what is he looking for? The kind of stamps you sell? Or other specialties? Rubber stamps for a scrap book? Stamps for his next mailing?

Second, single words are far too competitive. As I write this, there are over 85 million web pages competing for the keyword 'stamps' (according to Wordtracker). Your chance of getting to the top of that heap (over Stamps.com, the USPS, the APS, and eBay) is nil.

Think a more specific word like 'fdc' is better? There are over 8.3 million pages competing, including First Data Corp and other large companies that monopolize the top listings. As I write this, the first stamp listing shows up on page 10 (on Google), and it's an eBay listing.

What's the keyword value pyramid?

The keyword value pyramid is used by search engine experts to illustrate how the value is at the bottom of the pyramid. At the top of the pyramid are the most general keywords, characterized by high search volume, high competition, and low value.

At the bottom of the pyramid are the most specific keywords, characterized by low search volume, low competition, and high value.

The paradox of the keyword value pyramid is simply explained: keywords at the bottom of the pyramid are much more likely to convert into sales. So even if you were able to achieve a high ranking for a general keyword, all you'd likely get is more visitors, not more buyers.

The buyers are at the bottom of the pyramid.

Where do I start on the pyramid?

The most obvious way to start optimizing your site is to use the most generic keywords on your home page, and use more specific keywords further down in the web site.

However, if you read last month's column, you'll remember it was all about increasing your sales by narrowing your focus. The keyword value pyramid shows you how you can do that – by starting your keywords lower down on the pyramid.

For example, if your site focuses on First Day Covers, the keywords used on your home page should start at that level, and get more specific as you drill down into the site.

How do I find good keywords?

Here are some of the best ways to find good keywords:

  • guess what words buyers will use to find your site
  • think about what problems buyers may be trying to solve, such as looking for expertizing services, looking to sell a collection, looking for a show or club in your area
  • if your site has an internal search engine, study the keywords buyers use when searching your site
  • keyword tags used by your competitors (viewable using the View -> Source function of your web browser)
  • keywords used in your competitors web site copy
  • keywords suggested by search engines such as Ask, Yahoo!, and Gigablast
  • keyword suggestion tools such as Google Adword Keyword Suggestion Tool, Yahoo Search Term Suggestion Tool, and Google Traffic Estimator

For more details, and links to free tools that will help you find good keywords for your site, check out our keyword selection tools

When I've found them, how do I use them?

We'll look at search engines in detail, next month, so until then, work on your keyword list. Shoot any questions to john@identry.com. I answer every email. And have a great month Selling Stamps on the Web!