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The Funny Thing About Landing Great Keywords for Audience Development

Use blockbuster keywords for every audience development effort you’re banking on

The funny thing about keywords is that you never know which ones are going to hit, but when they do, it’s an ongoing effort to keep them on top. You can spend hours researching a keyword with good search volume and low competition, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll end up on the first page of Google results. And if you don’t make page one, you might as well be invisible.

You can’t even guesstimate with the perfect optimization skills. You can add the keyword to the headline, throw it in the copy a couple times, optimize your images and tag your article perfectly, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be successful.

There are other factors at play, like how good the article is. If it’s good, it will get shared in social media, and the more shares it has, the higher it will rank. There’s also your competition to account for. At the Mequoda Summit this September we heard from Noah Wiener at Bible History Daily that they spent as much time researching competition as they do keywords. In the academic world, they’re often competing with educational institutions with .edu domains who tend to dominate page one in Google. So, if they find a good keyword that, say, Harvard is ranking for, they might choose a different keyword.

One of our first blockbuster keywords was “landing page templates,” although we didn’t predict it to be so big at the time. We built a white paper called 8 Master Landing Page Templates and put up a rapid conversion landing page to collect email addresses. The page took off pretty quickly, and even though “landing page templates” was a small niche keyword at the time, it now gets 1,000 unique searches per month and has more than 3 million competing pages. We held the number one spot for years before other marketers discovered SEO and boosted the spot from under us.

How Blockbuster Keywords Work in Audience Development

A potential blockbuster keyword is a phrase that’s relatively easy to write about and land on page one in Google. It’s typically 3-4 words long, and discovered in the Google Keyword Planner to have search volume. For Mequoda, a blockbuster keyword typically has less than 100,000 competing pages using the same keyword. Those are our own standards of measurement for Mequoda, but bigger publishers can forge an imprint with much higher competition.

I’ve been going around lately, bugging clients and digging through analytics to find out what the best performing landing pages have in common. And what I’ve discovered has nothing to do with design, or even copy, it has to do with the keywords they chose. After all, when you’re giving away something for free, it doesn’t take much copy to convince, and the design is barely noticed. What’s important is that the page gets found and that the call to action is at the top of the page. To get found, you include your potential blockbuster keywords in the title of the freebie you’re giving away, and throughout the copy on the page.

The one thing all of the landing pages had in common was that they were delivering a product titled using a search term that an enormous amount of people are searching for, and that few are competing for.

FaveCrafts – an ad-driven site for crafters that offers free patterns and craft projects – gets more than one million unique visitors per month on average, and they also generate almost 54,000 new email subscribers per month on average. Stuart Hochwert says that 60% of those subscribers come in organically through search, many through rapid conversion landing pages and floaters on the homepage.

They have two leading landing pages, one based on page views and one based on conversions. I don’t want to give away their secrets or keywords, so let’s just say that one of their most successful ebooks that generates the most email addresses is one about making Christmas crafts.

At first, it seems kind of funny to think that their top performing landing page is for an ebook that you think is only relevant for a couple months out of the year, but it’s not. In fact, crafters make gifts all year long, right? As Hochwert put it, “Even casual crafters craft for Christmas, whereas a more  specific book only appeals to a more specific audience.”

Why Keywords Work When They Do

At least half of the top conversion landing pages I discovered among the group of clients were landing pages they created when their sites were new, or, when they first started making landing pages and were supremely dedicated to picking the ultimate, most perfect keyword.

Like our 8 Landing Page Templates success, the keywords were hand-selected for SEO, analyzed against their competition, and came in at a time before the competition truly existed. I know this because we worked with many of them to build those landing pages.

It’s tempting, as time goes on, to try and slide by with a title that sounds more catchy, but doesn’t truly leverage SEO to its greatest extent. It’s important to remember why we create rapid conversion landing pages in the first place – not for one-time PR buzz, but for the longevity. Many of the top performing landing pages I discovered have been up for two to five years and are still bringing in the most leads.

Landing great keywords and getting your page into the first page of search is an artform. The content of your ebooks and the white papers you give away should be amazing, yes. But when you’re building an email list organically, they don’t exist if nobody searching can find them.

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