How do I know if the keyword I’m targeting is best for my business?

A reader wrote in with this great question

If I have a particular keyword in mind to target for my business (i.e., web design in Phoenix), how will I know if that keyword is best for me to use or not? What factors are important to look at to determine if a keyword is suitable for my business? What tools should I use for this audit?

It comes down to three factors:

  • How much traffic can you expect from ranking for a keyword? (Traffic)
  • Is this keyword relevant to your business? (Value)
  • How well are the currently ranking sites optimized already? (Effort)

Estimating Traffic

For the first factor, Traffic, I like to use the Google Keyword Planner to check how much traffic I can approximately expect from a keyword. Google doesn’t show all the data, but this gives you a rough approximation.

When we look at your keyword — Webdesign in Phoenix — we can see how much traffic Google estimates you’d get from this keyword.
We can see that, on average, this keyword gets ~50 searches every month. Now, while this is on the lower side, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Local Searchers — These are local searchers (people in Phoenix), so it’s a much smaller population than people who might be searching for a phrase like “Website SEO Audit”.
  • Qualified Prospects — People searching for this phrase are high-value qualified prospects. People who are searching for “Web Design in Phoenix” are searching for web designers in Phoenix. I’d venture that a good 75% of the people who search for this phrase every month go on to purchase web design.

We can also see that Google ranks the competition for this keyword as ‘High’. What’s that mean? A quote from the Google Tooltip:

The number of advertisers that showed on each keyword relative to all keywords across Google.

So, Google is saying that this is competitive in terms of the number of ads displayed for that keyword. Not that there’s a lot of competition to rank for the term. Sometimes there’s a correlation in competition, but for local search terms, I wouldn’t wager on there being that much competition.

Based off of this, I’d venture that this is a valuable keyword for to target. There’s a good amount of qualified, local traffic. Next, let’s take a look at the competition.

Local Search Results

Because Google is showing the ‘local search results’ at the top of the page, that means that local search engine optimization will be a factor in your optimization. You should build out a plan to acquire local reviews from your customers for your business.

Let’s look at the difficulty of ranking in the ‘local search box’:

Of the top 3 local search results, we can see that o

  • The first one has nine reviews, and the other has five reviews.
  • The middle two have no reviews.
  • The 4th ranking site has five reviews.

Note that the 4th ranking site with five reviews has an address in Scottsdale, AZ, not Phoenix, AZ.

Google ranks a site higher in the Local Search Box based on the city that they’re in. That makes a lot of sense. A searcher probably prefers a store that’s closer to them (in the same city) with fewer reviews than a store that’s one city over but has a higher number of reviews.

All other things being equal, if you dial in your Local SEO, you’ll need ten 5-star reviews to outrank the site currently ranking #1.

That’s pretty achievable. Do good work. Provide a handout explaining how to leave a Google review. Ask your customers for reviews. Simple. Done.

Organic Results

Let’s take a look at the Organic results.

  • The number 1 ranking site is
  • The number 2 ranking site is

Ranking on the first page should be a great first goal, but you should be gunning for ranking #1 or #2. The first two results account for 45.28% (nearly 50%) of all the clicks.

When it comes to ranking, there’s two factors that you should be optimizing for — and that you can analyze your competitors’ websites for, to assess competition:

  • On-Page / On-Site Factors like Page Title, URL, Headline, and Content.
  • Off-Site Factors like the quantity and quality of websites linking to the specific page and the site overall

On-Page Factors

(I used Moz’s MozBar to easily extract this data from the pages)

  • Title: Web Design Phoenix | Custom Responsive Websites Arizona
  • URL:
  • Headline: Web Design Phoenix Website
  • Content: Has the word ‘Phoenix’ 11 times, ‘Web Design’ 10 times, and ‘Web Design Phoenix’ six times

I’d rank this site as being well optimized. The keyword is in the title, URL, headline, and in the content.

  • Title: Avenue 25 – Best Phoenix Web Design, Arizona Advertising Agencies
  • URL:
  • Headline: Phoenix marketing, graphic & web design studio
  • Content: Has the word ‘Phoenix’ 2 and ‘Web Design’ 1 time

I’d rank this site as being minorly optimized. They have the keyword in the title and (split up) in the headline.

It’s interesting to compare and contrast the two. You can see the top ranking site is well optimized for on-page factors. The second site hasn’t been thoroughly optimized.

Off-Site Factors

(I used Majestic to analyze the backlinks for these sites and pages)

  • Number of domains linking to the site: 78
  • Number of individual links pointing to the site: 4,993
  • Number of domains linking to the page: 61
  • Number of individual links pointing to the page: 3,923

  • Number of domains linking to the site: 145
  • Number of individual links pointing to the site: 180,000
  • Number of domains linking to the page: 44
  • Number of individual links pointing to the page: 988

Don’t be discouraged by the number of individual links pointing to the site. That’s not that relevant of a metric. What’s more important is the number of domains linking to the page and the site.

We can see that the top ranking site has links from 78 unique domains pointing to their site and links from 61 unique domains pointing to the page in question.

What’s interesting is that the #2 ranking site has almost twice as many overall unique domains linking to them and nearly 50% more unique domains linking to the page and they’re still only ranking #2 for the term.

Looks like that on-site optimization that did paid off. 🙂

So, is this a keyword that you should compete for? I say yes. You’ll need to do a few things (and I include a short roadmap below), but I think that this is a term that you should optimize for. Within six months, you could be ranking 1st.

Your SEO Gameplan

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Match or exceed’s on-site optimization. Use your relevant keyword (“Web Design in Phoenix” or “Web Design Phoenix”) in the page title, URL, headline, content on the page, and internal links pointing to the page.
  • Get ~10+ reviews from customers. Give them a handout that explains how to leave a review on Google. Make it a standard operating procedure to ask every client you work with to leave you a review.
  • Earn ~80 high-quality, relevant links to your site. No matter how great your on-site optimization is, you’ll need to have high-quality, relevant links pointing to your site.

Link Building

The question of how to earn links can be an article in and of itself. In short:

Here are a few strategies to evaluate:

  • Ask past clients to link to your site (link in a link on an ‘about’ page linking to your portfolio or case study page for that client)
  • Ask vendors and partners that you work with to link to you
  • Ask friends and family to link to you
  • Join local industry organizations and ask for them to link to you
  • Contribute to local events and ask for them to link to you
  • Participate online by contributing articles to industry sites or participating in podcasts and ask for a link back to your site
  • Launch a scholarship and contact relevant school, colleges, universities, and student organizations and ask them to link to your scholarship

If you add two links from each of these strategies every month, in 6 months you’ll have links from 84 unique, high-quality, relevant domains.

We started off by talking about three factors:

  • How much traffic can you expect from ranking for a keyword? (Traffic)
  • Is this keyword relevant to your business? (Value)
  • How well are the currently ranking sites optimized already? (Effort)

When deciding if you should optimize for a keyword, you can think of it link this: If (Traffic + Value) > (Effort) you should compete for this keyword.

Let’s reviews each of these factors:

  • Traffic: Good! While 50 searchers/month is light, these are high-quality local searchers.
  • Value: Good! This keyword is high-value and indicates a potential lead for your business.
  • Effort: Medium! The #1 ranking site is has a lot of on-page optimization, but not that much off-page optimization. The #2 ranking site has barely any on-site optimization, but has much more off-site optimization and is ranking 2nd.

I’d recommend optimizing for this keyword. The Traffic and Value both are good, and while some effort will be required, it won’t be that much to rank #1.