High speed keyword research

The basis of keyword research

The basis of keyword research

Keyword research is the basis of all search marketing. It is the art of explaining what you do in the language that people use, and thus it should probably be the basis of all your marketing activities, both on and off the web. As an SEO, I use keyword research to determine what we should be ranking for. The issue is that I’ve often found that part to be a bit annoying, as people tend to want to rank for entirely impossible terms. Last week, I’ve found a solution, and that’s what I’ll show you today: the basis of keyword research. Keep on reading, as we’ll get you started in the comments of this post.

Answer this question: Who are you? What promise do you make?

Now, as you might know, I’ve been in the SEO business for years. It took me all those years to find out what it was that I disliked about keyword research and what I was doing wrong. It also took someone who’s actually not in our business, but who’s in the business of business advice, to discover it. The guy that – unbeknownst to him – changed my perspective on keyword research was Doug Richard, at last week’s Made in 48 hours. He graciously allowed me to use some of his slides for this post, for which I thank him.

Doug spent (and still spends, during his small business seminars) quite a bit of time on asking people: “Who are you? What promise do you make?”. Turns out, not a lot of people can answer that question effectively at first. However, the minute you become good at answering that question, you’ll be on your way to being found more easily.

You are a secret waiting to be discovered by customers who are looking for someone to make that promise to them.You see, businesses are born out of ideas, some of these are great, some are not. But they’re all born out of the idea that what you have to offer is special, and adds something to the market. That benefit, that advantage, that promise, is bound to also be reflected in the keywords people should be finding you for.

In fact, it’s as Doug put it:

You are a secret waiting to be discovered by customers who are looking for someone to make that promise to them.

He then showed this clip from Mad Men which I’m not going to withhold from you, as it’s entirely too genius. Go watch it on Youtube now, as embedding is unfortunately forbidden. Go on, this post will still here when you get back.

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Now let me give you an example. During the event we talked to Dave Fairbairn. Dave is just starting up his new business, and he’s going to sell motor apparel. Now, as it happens, the motor apparel business turns out to be quite competitive. When we went more specific though, we found out that Dave makes motorcycle jeans, jeans that are both well designed and fashionable. Dave doesn’t just sell motor apparel, he sells designer motorcycle jeans. Now there’s something you can both brand, and rank for.

You see, this is not a numbers game. Let me repeat that: this is not about numbers. It’s about relevancy, and relevancy only. If Dave at some point thinks that he should be relevant for motorcycle clothing, he’d better get working on a new business strategy to become relevant for that term. But you know what? He’s better off dominating his own little niche first.

Try and see if you can describe your company as eloquently and succinctly as Dave:

Maple Motorcycle Apparel are a feedback driven, design led, fashionable motorcycle jeans startup.

So, do you have a promise like that? If so, what is it? You might have noticed mine on my homepage:

Tweaking websites is what we do here at Yoast, from search engine rankings, to speed to user experience.

That’s what I do. It’s what I do for my clients, what I blog and speak about, it’s what I’m good at. What are you good at? What are you offering people? Figure that out, and keyword research becomes a whole lot easier. There’s always a niche you can win at, find that niche, own it, and then go up one level if you still want to.


Doug is the guy that runs the mentoring club I spoke about in an earlier post, in which I am also one of the mentors. If the idea of getting advice from him, myself and other experts in the fields of HR, Social Media, Law etc. with the sole goal of improving your business appeals to you, you should sign up, we’re starting in October.


The day to day manager of the mentoring club is Nancy Fulton, one of the best writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and very experienced at what I’ve just been talking about. For the coming few days, Nancy and myself will be monitoring the comments on this post, and helping you craft your identity. So, fancy some free help? Get into the comments and give us the best you’ve got.

103 Responses to The basis of keyword research

  1. Tony Balthazar
    By Tony Balthazar on 11 October, 2010

    Hello to you all ad hi there to Joost & Nancy :)
    I’ll be totally honest, I am a bit of new guy to your blog and gutted that I haven’t actually taken the time to investigate it before.
    A great post and I really love the video, So clear when you see the post and video that the perception of what you promise is indeed where many (like me) have fallen short.

    I started “trying” to make money online a couple of years ago. I’d love your take on the promise I should deliver on my site YourAffiliateBuddy I wanted to just be a buddy to those starting out in AM – have I lost my way? well what i have read and seen 2dy hopefully nudges me back closer to my promise!

    Any feedback of course wil be gratefully received and appreciated…

    Tony B.

  2. Darius
    By Darius on 3 October, 2010

    Hi, In this article you posted a link for a youtube video (the clip from mad men). Can you tell me in a few words what that guys are talking about? My english is not so good and I don’t understand their words. Thanks a lot!!

  3. TelecomAndy
    By TelecomAndy on 28 September, 2010

    Joost & Nancy,
    Just recently came across your site but extremely glad I did as you’re streets ahead of any comment I’ve read for years! May I ask your advice about my sole trader website… Is using an acronym ok or not? I’m new (and a bit clueless) to SEO and don’t worry about traffic volumes, just about generating a proper business impression that will prompt customers to get in touch.

    I’m trying to portray a WYSIWYG offering (hence basic TelecomHelp name) to a local market in a competitive sector with a tiny budget. “TelecomHelp provides SMEs with help, support, and installation of high quality, low cost telecoms and IT networks. We cover Twickenham, Richmond, Kingston…. ”

    Like the Dutch I try and be to the point! Any advice is greatly appreciated. Andy

  4. seo manager
    By seo manager on 28 September, 2010

    thanks for the useful tips as always :)

  5. Stefan
    By Stefan on 28 September, 2010

    Great post! Sometimes the things you look for, are right in front of you, huh? But still, the example of the designer jeans is pretty good, however, we are selling wines, which is pretty competitive as well.

    Our wines are not unique, though we try real hard to find the best priced quality wines. We have them in stock, and can deliver fast. Still, we are not the only ones doing so. Nancy, Joost, could you help us out?

  6. Barstole
    By Barstole on 27 September, 2010

    Hi Yoast!

    Thanks 4 the great blog, I have quit a few of UR post, and learned a LOT! Thanks.
    I have a lot of work to do on my site a lot of small change.
    U have provide me with both wisdom and hardwork.

  7. jocelyn
    By jocelyn on 26 September, 2010

    Hi Yoast,
    Thanks again for sharing this. I’m still a newbie in internet marketing but I’m already generating
    results for my clients. The thing is I still wonder how do I call myself. But anyway, this is great. I’m learning a lot .

  8. Thompson
    By Thompson on 24 September, 2010

    Market Samurai has a free keyword tool that I used before building out my site structure. Though I still need to write a mission statement. I mention it b/c it’s free if you download the trial–even if you don’t buy it, that module stays free. So that’s what I used to find kwd’s to target before building out my site structure. Oh and Joost…I know you recommend seo powersuite’s rank tracker tool, have you ever tried MS for rank tracking or kwd research? Love to see a post comparing these keyword tools.

  9. Didier
    By Didier on 23 September, 2010

    Soon I want to launch a e-commerce site in the highly competative market of food supplements.
    My product ( I don’t reveal the name ) is a natural supplement , originates from a shrub wich is
    cultivated organically. It has a lot of versatile health benefits.
    it’s rich in vitamines , amino acids , minerals.
    Actually ,it’s relatively new on the market in Europe.
    One should obtain a license to be able to sell those supplements. This takes up to six months or
    longer and it not cheap. I’m going to register mine. The competitors are still operating illigal by European food laws. Maybe I’ve a USP here ?
    To get my promise across , I was thinking of : Natural food supplement for healthy living.
    What’s your opinion? Thanks for the great topic and the contribution.

  10. scialamigo
    By scialamigo on 23 September, 2010

    The promise is wonderful advice and, like nostalgia, it’s easy to make, but delicate to get it right. It’s much harder to deliver on the promise to each and every customer.

    Problem is – that on most websites, the promise is on the About Us page instead of being front and center on the banner or across the space that usually is populated by stock photos of landscape scenes or “fake” office folks. I always tell customers, “Leave out the ‘striving for excellence’ slogans and get to the promise of what it is your visitors will come to expect from you.” Your post does a great job of backing me up – thanks.


  11. Isabella
    By Isabella on 23 September, 2010

    Hi Yoast ! its a great post. your suggestions for keyword selection are surly help me as I have just started seo work. Thanks for sharing again..

  12. NYC SEO Service
    By NYC SEO Service on 23 September, 2010

    nice article… I relay like it. Most of part P S and PPS are marvelously illustrate..

    thanks for sharing with us.

  13. Bill Tamminga
    By Bill Tamminga on 23 September, 2010

    Nice post. What a great start for keyword selection. It truly is the foundation of SEO and it’s critically important for any business owner who wants their site to rank on the first page of the search engines. One of the exercises we have our clients do is a ranking of keywords based on quality of the prospect who would search the term and a few other factors. It’s a powerful way to make sure each website is optimized for the right words or phrases. Many thanks…

  14. Dr. Marika Zoll
    By Dr. Marika Zoll on 23 September, 2010

    having just been notified in the nick of time over this last post:

    I would agree that using different sites to target a variation of the niche can work well. It can
    be useful to cross link to one another as well. Try targeting variations of your keyword phrase
    on different pages of the same site. A tip for everyone: I am doing an experiment taking FREE
    content as desired from SEO LInk Vine. I let the links “follow”. I give a quick thanks to the author.
    One of my sites that I don’t do anything to, the experimental site, has climbed to position 3
    against my main site, the one I do all the sweat equity on, which is number 2. The competition for this term is about 15K other sites trying to rank for this term. It makes a point for “activity”. And it doesn’t have to be your own always. Just a tip. Oh, and by the way, the #3 domain is NOT keyword rich for that phrase. It may have taken 2 months longer, but I find that on page SEO is HUGE. I don’t affiliate this product, but I must say that a pluggin called seopressor is my favorite find for this.

    All the best.

    Dr. Marika

  15. Jym
    By Jym on 23 September, 2010

    Brilliant and useful as ever Joost.
    Love the video clip too!
    Identifying your niche is really fundamental to the whole process of successful marketing, and for many, easier said than done. I’ve found that my broader niche is already fairly saturated, and it’s a huge challenge to boil it down further to a specific area that can be dominated successfully. Perhaps one answer is operate multiple sites with different focus?

    Anyway thanks for the inspiration,

  16. Janet
    By Janet on 23 September, 2010

    How about this one?

    ‘Connecting the Greater Phoenix gardening community with information that helps put xeriscape principles into action.’


  17. Dr. Marika Zoll
    By Dr. Marika Zoll on 22 September, 2010

    What a refreshing read to start my day with. As a new SEO consultant, I felt vindicated by this.
    Now I know I am doing it right. I will save this and share it with anyone that I trying to explain
    just this to. Works well when someone other than me tells it like it is. I would love to be a part
    of your group. I love learning that I still have much to learn. At the moment I want to know if a
    fancy wordpress template might be effecting SEO for a static home page. Might simpler be
    Better? I am bookmarking this place and thank my friend Edward for sending me here.

    Dr. Marika Zoll

    • Glenn Kilpatrick
      By Glenn Kilpatrick on 22 September, 2010

      Is this one of those well disguised spam comments that are doing the rounds these days ?

  18. Gregg
    By Gregg on 22 September, 2010

    As a brick and mortar store, we’ve been struggling for years with how to break into ecommerce. We simply don’t know how our real-world niche (home furnishings, lifestyle, feel-good shopping) translates on the web, where many of our products are available elsewhere and heavily discounted. We’ve developed a nice local following for our blog and have just launched our ecommerce shop, featuring products we really feel strongly about, are unique and reflect the character of the business owner, who is a large part of the brand…”Joan’s Picks” is big on our blog, but not sure about how that translates to the broader SEO world, where someone doesn’t know Joan from Jane. So, we currently have a blog at hammertown.com and shop at shop.hammertown.com — can one help the other? Do we need a new niche out there in the wide web of internet sales?

  19. Glenn Kilpatrick
    By Glenn Kilpatrick on 22 September, 2010

    Well Im struggling and not even sure I should be putting so much time into the website I am trying to create. Not such a good start I guess, If I cant speak positively about this should I be bothering right.

    Anyway I aim to build a site which is a directrory, inventory about my home town. Its been done many times already and the main keywords may be difficult to compete on, but having said that I have found a couple of keywords with low to moderate competition and they provide decent traffic. I just need to rank for them.

    What is different about my site. Well firstly so many of the other sites are clearly made by people who dont live in the town. I should in time be able to build up local links with people in my town who can help me add unique information to the site. Also as Im local I should be able to get quality upto date images for the site. My site also aims to have amazon style star reviews of local services such as restaurents, campsites, pubs, etc etc. Another part of the site aims to focuss on local people, with interviews of prominent local people and information about their lives and what makes them tick.

    Another niche of the site will be local politics, now this hasnt really been done anywhere else. There will be a category of the site specifically for local politics, with several sub cats. There are 2 councils and I aim to publish council news and have people debate it. There will also be a specific category for burning issues that people want to get off their chests. I have already drawn in several critics of the local council who love to debate everything the council does. I now need to draw in people who are pro-council to also debate the topics and put across an opposing point of view.

    Im pretty good at creating topical debate so it shouldnt be too difficult.

    Anyway, thats me.

  20. Joe
    By Joe on 22 September, 2010

    Great post Yoast!

  21. Tim
    By Tim on 22 September, 2010

    Thanks for the great article, Joost!

    I’m with jimmyp above in that I’m involved in the remodeling industry. Right now my website says “A residential design firm bringing homeowners and contractors together for efficient, effective communication.” My blog gives thoughts, stories, examples, and ideas of how said communication can improve anyone’s remodeling project.

    I’m assuming your info can be applied to _any_ type of business, web-based or not. So, am I too oriented in what I do instead of what I promise?

  22. jimmyp
    By jimmyp on 22 September, 2010

    thanks for the info. owning a residential construction and remodeling company makes keyword research hard! so many different terms.

    that’s why I’ve been focusing recent online efforts on my rustic wood railing this is a very specific niche that is easier to target.

    here’s my pitch:
    I help discerning homeowners complement their home’s rustic mountain charm with preassembled rustic wood railing that is easily installed and available for nationwide shipment.

    thanks for any feedback! and a cool blog!

    • Robcarl
      By Robcarl on 22 September, 2010

      Since I’m also in the home improvement space as well…how about this. One too many “rustics” in the statement and “discerning” is a high falutin’ word that tends to go with high fashion/high end/high price…and that’s if folks really understand it. Just seems to me to clash with “rustic”.

      Rewording your interesting idea…”Supplying Top Quality, EZ-to-Install Rustic Wood Railings, Factory Direct. If you want to get cute and borrow recognition from current TV ads…add this tag line somewhere to your copy. “Even a Caveman can install it”.

      Everyone wants the best quality for the least money and hassle. As a lead-in idea…perhaps “curb appeal in a box”, “set yourself apart”, “how much more would your home be worth if you could show off these railings”… If you can tap into people’s emotions, you have a much stronger stickiness to whatever you’re saying. That’s the point of the Mad Men vignette.

      Just my 2cent brainstorm

  23. Steve Sapato
    By Steve Sapato on 22 September, 2010

    An excellent and thought provoking process. You have piqued my desire to improve my keywords. But are you telling me that my keywords should be a sentence? Can you put sentences in and they will still find you? So my keyword should be, I promise to excite and motivate an audience to want to become better employees and people. or I promise to show you that lasting love is possible. Am I understanding this correctly?

  24. Alex
    By Alex on 22 September, 2010

    I’ve been puzzling over keyword research for years and you’ve shone a new and very welcome light on this murky subject!

    Thanks for such an awesome post – I love the notion of going back – away from the software and databases and asking the identity questions and USP questions.

    I used to phone my biz partner and ask her, “Who are you Kathy? Are you a publisher, a marketer, a writer…?” All good fun and deeply relevant too, so I was struck by the 2 slides you used Joost.

    So who am I? What do I say when the tables are turned? Frankly I grope for words, this stuff is hard. I guess more people would do it, if it easier.

    In Myers Briggs terms I am a teacher, Counsellor and I’m working on creating a series of health websites (WP blogs). I am a Naturopath who likes to help people take control of their lives and their health using my own mix of long experience with lifestyle changes, diet, supplements and natural nutrition.

    How to “uniqueify” that I don’t quite know!



  25. Mark
    By Mark on 22 September, 2010

    A simply fantastic post

  26. Susan Gertz
    By Susan Gertz on 22 September, 2010

    Love this article! I really need to work on everything said here. The tagline on my website is “Transform your pet photos into cherished art!” but if I search on terms like pet art, pet photography, or pet gifts, there is tons of competition. I’m also just developing a line of pet-themed jewelry using vintage illustrations or your pet’s own photo. Pet “parents” spend a lot of money, and i want to tap into that, but so far, I am not. I’d love any thoughts.

  27. Jeremy Walker
    By Jeremy Walker on 22 September, 2010

    Wow – that hit the spot! Plenty to think about, and with feedback just the way it should be.

  28. Mary Lou
    By Mary Lou on 22 September, 2010

    Hi – I find your newsletters of great value and thanks for all the good advice you give out…
    I publish an international site for film students http://www.reelshowint.com. We have been going for a few years now. Our growth has been ‘organic’ as there is no money to spend on marketing. I love running the site and feel good about the support and encouragment we have been able to give some our student members but we just can’t get the traffic up to take us to another level. Could you take a look at our statement on the homepage..any advice would be good..:-)

  29. Abhijit V. Chaore
    By Abhijit V. Chaore on 22 September, 2010

    I read your every article. The tips you have given here are useful though not new. Its an old wine in a new bottle. But old wine tastes good indeed! Thanks for the article Joost.

  30. Dan
    By Dan on 21 September, 2010

    Thanks Yoast another great post and very relevant to SEO. Difficult to SEO when you don’t know what a company stands for (many companies don’t know).

    In a broader sense it’s like it says in Rework, stand for something, decisions become much easier from then on including SEO.

  31. Mike
    By Mike on 20 September, 2010

    Hi Joost and Nancy!

    This is my first time to comment in Yoast, but I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time. :) Let me just say that it’s my favorite SEO website, and I’m not just saying that! I love it that Yoast practices what it preaches, and one can see that the site is doing great SEO-wise.

    Yeah, consider me a fan!

    So now, my question. I’m about to open a new blog about video games. It’s my second, actually. My first foray was a learning experience, and I hope to apply all that I’ve learned from the experience (and from Yoast, of course!).

    My value proposition is still tentative (just bought the domain but the blog is yet to be constructed), but I would say it would focus on discussing video gaming topics and news that actually matter to ‘core’ (ie hardcore) console gamers. You see, I observed that a lot of sites/blogs don’t really have much focus. They put in a hodgepodge of stuff about games for kids, casual games, anime, geek stuff, mediocre games, etc. I was thinking of focusing on the stuff that matters to core console gamers, such as the highly anticipated games for their demographics, the games that are worth their time, issues that directly concern them, etc.

    One thing I’ve observed about the video games niche is that it’s much more competitive than other niches because so many people write about it (everybody wants to be the next Kotaku or Joystiq!). In addition, the niche is pretty hard to rank for because using geographical qualifiers in articles are near useless (what’s the point of putting a country or city for game reviews?).

    I would really like to hear your thoughts on the matter. I really want to succeed this time, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can.

    Have a great day!

  32. Mark
    By Mark on 19 September, 2010

    Thank you! Great post. Learn Something new…Thanks.

  33. Greg Preite
    By Greg Preite on 18 September, 2010

    Hey Yoast, great post! This is so true, keywords are the “key”. I’m also a HUGE believer in mentoring groups. I joined one about 6 months ago
    and it has completely changed my business. You are right on the money.

  34. Nancy Fulton
    By Nancy Fulton on 18 September, 2010

    Hi Darren:

    I think that’s mostly right. Except, maybe you should itemize the value in a “local view” and assume anyone reading what you wrote is a reader.

    We you where to eat, dine, drink, listen to music and shop in Leeds.

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 18 September, 2010

      Sorry, typo . . .

      We tell you where to eat, dine, drink, listen to music and shop in Leeds.

      • Darren Cronian
        By Darren Cronian on 18 September, 2010

        Thanks Nancy, that’s really helpful! :)

  35. Darren Cronian
    By Darren Cronian on 18 September, 2010

    Great post Joost, been reading your blog for a while.

    I tried to think of something that would describe my business, but I am struggling.

    I suppose it’s something on the lines of “we give readers a local view of the city of Leeds’

    Basically, it’s a guide for tourists and locals written by local people.

    Any thoughts for improvement? :)

  36. Seth
    By Seth on 17 September, 2010

    Hi Joost,
    Powerful piece you’ve written. It seems that it’s easier to help others determine their core statement
    than it is to craft one for myself. Trying to keep it concise, to the point, and explain exactly what we
    do is the difficult part. For instance, my business, Spears Marketing, helps small businesses and local professional services to get found online by targeted customers through local search marketing. Trying to convey this message to people who don’t even understand basic internet terminology is difficult. Any suggestions?

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 18 September, 2010

      That’s pretty good . . .

      I think I’d class local professional services as small business owners or entrepreneurs.

      We help entrepreneurs and small businesses find lots of local customers through effective search engine marketing & social media campaigns.

      Something like that maybe?

  37. Anthony Piwarun
    By Anthony Piwarun on 17 September, 2010

    Joost this is a great tip, more so on the personal branding side than keyword research. I recently relaunched my own personal brand as a local wordpress designer and SEO and your advice of having a succinct, clearly defined value proposition is something I am lacking. Time to go back to the drawing board.

    P.S. Are you coming to the states with the Made in 48 Hours Tour?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 17 September, 2010

      Thanks Anthony, glad you find this useful! I don’t know whether we have plans to go to the States but I sure would love to.

      • Nancy Fulton
        By Nancy Fulton on 18 September, 2010

        Tell Doug :) Its just finding an audience.

        Get a few hundred businesses to pay a few hundred dollars for two days of training and you can probably get made in 48 hours.

  38. Louise
    By Louise on 17 September, 2010

    This is great advice. As soon as I read it I realised what my blog was missing. I’m going to my dashboard now to change my concept!

    I think it’s important to remember that although you know what your site is about, nobody else necessarily does. Keeping an objective view is paramount.

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 17 September, 2010

      Actually . . . Here’s the epiphany I recently had . . .

      That message really does have to be very clean and very sharp. It has to be something your target market sees and says “Yes! Finally! I’ve been looking for that!”

      Why? Because there’s such a sea of data in the world now. People don’t have the mindshare for a complex message. They don’t even have the microsecond it takes the read the damned thing. Really, 140 characters is about the max you can get in their heads.

      Doug Richard has this concept that insanely powerful that goes with this.

      Your product or service (to start) should have ONE feature. Maybe too . . . but really just ONE is optimal.

      Twitter — sends group text messages to phones.
      Google — search a database of all the the sites online
      FEDEX — Gets it there overnight (from the US :)

      Don’t add a bunch of features to your products or services trying to make people like your business better. Get the one thing right . . . cause people can “get” that.

  39. andrei chira
    By andrei chira on 17 September, 2010

    Hi, I’m trying to get off the ground a graphic t-shirt store. The main idea is the character called Le Createur. They say
    Le Createur is the infamous bastard son of Coco Chanel and Darth Vader.
    Coco met Darth on a beautiful sunday morning while cruising the Milky Way on a gay spaceship.
    Fruit of their forbidden love, abandoned and raised by the gays in outer space with Fashion TV and disco dance mega hits,
    Le Createur has returned to Earth to find his roots and to follow his true calling.
    Kinda long, I know…
    I would appreciate your advice.

    • Richard
      By Richard on 17 September, 2010

      My first advice would be: stop using LSD :)

      On a more serious note; I don’t get what your USP is based on the description of your main character. Do you sell designer t-shirts with a specific market in mind? If yes, focus on that. If not, please clarify.

      • andrei chira
        By andrei chira on 17 September, 2010

        We don’t have a specific market in mind, just young people that enjoy graphic t-shirts, humor and a positive attitude, not taking it too seriously. The designs are mainly typographic. We don’t really have a USP figured out yet that’s why I wanted some feedback. The difference between us and our competitors ( other tee stores in Romania) is that we use premium t-shirts and our designs are not the usual funny slogans type but we would like to go in a streetwear direction, more fashionable and urban.

        • Richard
          By Richard on 18 September, 2010

          The streetwear angle is a start. Think about ‘premium streetwear’ for instance, or even better, create a design to which Romanian people can relate. For instance; one of my sites is a t-shirt store that only sells one design, which is a t-shirt based on a (very chauvinistic) Dutch province. The whole site is built around this and it ranks, and sells. I put the link under my name in this reply, you’ll see what I mean even though it’s Dutch. Sure it would be better to have a broader angle, but there’s also more competition.

          • Andrei
            By Andrei on 19 September, 2010

            Thanks, Richard. I appreciate it.

          • richard
            By richard on 18 September, 2010

            ah, noticed that I forgot to put the link in there; it’s http://niefokkemeebrabant.nl

            The key is to find something that you can build your name on. It would be best to get the “Le Createur” brand well known of course, but I don’t know if your promotional engine is good enough for that. If it isn’t, find something popular on which you can base a shirt(line), and get THAT out there.

        • Nancy Fulton
          By Nancy Fulton on 18 September, 2010

          The latest & greatest Trendy T-Shirts for the Urban Hipster available online 24-7

          Urban Hipster has to be replaced with what these cool folks call themselves, urban heroes, urban hip, urbanites, savvy urban, etc.

          That phrase has to be keyword people actually search for when they want to buy clothes I think . . .

          Urban Hip? Is hip hip? I’m old . . . . I know.

          • andrei chira
            By andrei chira on 18 September, 2010

            Thanks Nancy. I’ll just have to translate and adapt that to Romanian.

        • Joost de Valk
          By Joost de Valk on 17 September, 2010

          Richard is in your industry andrei, so he probably knows your challenges better than I do, even though he has his typical rough Dutch way of addressing people ;) so something like:

          <brand name> makes fashionable urban t-shirts of premium quality.

          Now I don’t know whether people are actually looking for urban t-shirts… Are they?

          • andrei chira
            By andrei chira on 17 September, 2010

            I sure hope they’re looking. Usually people buy them offline from malls so offline is probably the competion here.

  40. Donatas
    By Donatas on 17 September, 2010

    Thank you! Great post. Learn Something new…Thanks.

  41. SenseiMattKlein
    By SenseiMattKlein on 17 September, 2010

    Thanks very much Joost and Nancy. You are right Nancy, classes is a very good keyword, so I’ll add it in. Joost, I had a look at the heading post you wrote. Still not sure how to amend the h1 tag without making it not fit in the navbar. If you can give me any hints I’d appreciate it. Admit “Kids Karate Homepage or Central” would be better.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 17 September, 2010

      Just had a quick look, you’re on Thesis, might actually be harder then it should be :) So much for SEO Optimized themes, right? :)

      • SenseiMattKlein
        By SenseiMattKlein on 18 September, 2010

        I hear you Joost, not happy with the way it handles the h1 tags or how it throws the blog name on the end of the title whether you like it or not. Like Thesis overall, except these two issues. Any theme you recommend?

  42. Simon
    By Simon on 17 September, 2010

    I kinda lost the point of this post. That Mad Men clip was so freaking awesome. Who said something about SEO?

    Back on topic, I heard this same idea before described as an elevator pitch. Can you describe what your company does in a conversation you’d have with someone on an elevator before the ride’s over?

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 18 September, 2010

      It is an elevator pitch . . . but folks get those wrong pretty often as well. They come up with a phrase that only makes sense if you know what they do already.

  43. Kate
    By Kate on 17 September, 2010

    Thank you so much for writing this post, and providing feedback in the comments. As a small business owner, I find this one-liner very difficult to create. I have been in SEO for 5 years, first in an agency, then as a freelancer. As a freelancer, I work with my clients long term, helping them ‘tweak’ and grow their websites in search engine friendly manners, to increase relevant traffic.

    I thought my line should be something like
    “Increasing relevant traffic to your website – ethically, sustainably, professionally. ” Because I do it all white hat, and because of my belief that SEO is about the long term health and relevancy of your site.

    But in a new marketplace, (i.e. clients don’t always understand the technicalities of SEO or what it is about) is this too wishy-washy? Unfortunately, in the market where I operate, a lot of the more visible SEO providers use things like “Guaranteed Page 1 Rankings” or horrible things like that. I am not sure how to compete with them.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 17 September, 2010

      Focus on what you do, not on how others promote their services :) I’ve always found “Relevant traffic” to be an enormously important part of any SEO project, so I think you’re good there. Let’s take what you say apart a bit more:

      – Most people that buy SEO services don’t have a clue that there’s a difference between ethical and non ethical, and why should they?
      – What makes your results more sustainable than others?
      – Professional? Heck, I hope so, otherwise I wouldn’t be giving you money :)

      Remember, there’s no good or bad here, I just want to challenge you on this and see if you can come up with a good defense :)

  44. Raman Minhas
    By Raman Minhas on 16 September, 2010

    Thanks, Joost, great article.

    Following the MADE in 48 event, my statement is: “Support biotech funding through VC, big pharma investors and partnering. Assist introductions, negotiation and closing”. As you know this was done through a live “dissection” at the event, and using keywords and wonder wheel tools afterwards.

    The strange thing is, since developing this promise my business feels much sharper. I’m already communicating the message better both on AND offline. And I’m finding it ties everything else together – social media tools, website (to change under wordpress) and my pitch to potential clients.

    Any other wording changes you or Nancy can suggest?

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

      I think I’d just say

      We support biotech funding through VC, big pharma investors and partnering. We enjoy making introductions, supporting negotiation and closing funding.

      Only because having a good clear english statement makes the humans happy. All Google cares about is the keywords.

      And it DOES make your business sharper. Frankly it lets you admit to yourself, and your customers, that there’s stuff you don’t do. That’s a huge relief isn’t it.

      We all take on clients that we _can_ service, but we would just rather not. Having a clear business statement lets us just stop doing that . . . we know who we want, who we can help, what we want to do and we can stop accidently collecting the wrong people. Furthermore, we are better positioned to send the wrong people to someone else who wants them . . . in return for folks they would rather not help.

      Everyone wins.

      As long as you and your best customers agree that your statement sums up exactly what you do best and why they love your business so much . . . there’s only upside in using that message to define your business and therefore all your marketing efforts.

      • Raman Minhas
        By Raman Minhas on 17 September, 2010

        Nancy, thanks very much for the wording changes. I generally prefer to keep it punchy but your human touch makes it less “corporate”. Will try it out.

        And yes, it’s a HUGE relief – I’ve taken on clients more than a few times that pay but are not our core focus. Looking back you realise the opportunity cost can be steep.

        I also like your point about referring the clients that are wrong for us to the right people – all good karma – what goes around comes around.

        Thanks again.

  45. The Freelance Geek
    By The Freelance Geek on 16 September, 2010

    Thanks for the advice! I’m working on an e-commerce Project at the moment that has been hard to place. This will be valuable.

  46. Brian Curran
    By Brian Curran on 16 September, 2010

    Hi Joost,
    I really struggled to get my head around the “What’s your promise?” question. I know what we do and what we are good at compared to competitors but expressing it is something entirely different.

    We provide security services such as Alarm Response, Mobile Patrols, Key Holding, Locks & Unlocks for business, public sector and home owners locally in East Lancashire.

    It’s always been a very competitive industry so the only way I thought we could differentiate was to offer a money back guarantee on our Alarm Response service.

    I altered the Domino’s Pizza promise and ended up with:
    “A professional, rapid response to your alarm within 20 minutes or it’s free! Guaranteed…”

    It works well face to face and on marketing literature but how do I convert it for SEO?

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

      I really like your statement :)

      East Lancashire provides a significant niche. It cuts out a bunch of your competitors. I think you need to call your custoemrs and ask — why us and not the other guys. Or, the next few orders you take, ask why you and how they found you. Let your customers contribute to your keyword selection. It might be stuff you never thought of . . . like “off duty police officers” or “friendly service” or “help with my alarm system”.

      I used to get all my sales from my now retired training site not from “autocad training” but from “how to use autocad” I don’t know why that “how to use” mattered as a differentiator but it sure did.

      In any case Armed Response East lancashire or East Lancashire Alarm Systems will drive traffic to you . . . because it is a geographically based business. Also, I hope you’re listed in Google Places :)

      • Brian Curran
        By Brian Curran on 17 September, 2010

        Hi Nancy,
        Thanks for your suggestions and yes, we’re listed in Google Places ;)


  47. George Gill
    By George Gill on 16 September, 2010

    Hey Yoast,
    excellent article. We help businesses climb the ranks to page one of Google and have been doing it for quite a long time now. We’re very successful at it (our customers are happy to reach the top). However one of the big challenges is getting people to take the time to answer the tough questions..and this is a tough question for most. Therefore when they get to page one they’re not always happy with their results. If you take the time up front and participate (in fact have your whole team, customers, and vendors participate) to find those micro niches – the traffic will pay off tremendously.
    Keep up the great work!
    -George Gill

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

      It is strange how often people assume that “high traffic” means “high sales”. There is no such guarantee . . .

      One can advertise that a business delivers “free money”. This generates lots of traffic, and lots of angry campers when the promise isn’t fulfilled.

      The trick is how to identify what you can deliver that generates both sales and happy customers. That’s the true art of great Search Engine Marketing :)

      • George Gill
        By George Gill on 16 September, 2010

        I agree from an end goal Nancy, I would probably add the need to ensure when that traffic lands that was identified by what you can deliver, their expectations are met with a clear web presentation communicating that message.

  48. Nancy Fulton
    By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

    Actually, I might even run a very cheap ad on google for the search term “I build choppers” and the ad would link to the the domain which has a message that says its for sale to a loving home. I bet someone would really like to buy that thing . . . Might sell for five figures cause its a .com to the right guy.

    • richard
      By richard on 16 September, 2010

      great suggestion!

  49. Nancy Fulton
    By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

    Yeah. If I were you . . . I’d put ibuildchoppers.com up for sale and get a domain and go get ToyChoppers or ChopperGifts or ChopperArt.com or something that tells people its a toy or a gift or a decoration. In a way it’s a great thing to do cause you’re the only one who does it. You are the single source for something online I do believe.

    So . . . your domain should say that.

    And someone else really does build choppers. You should give them their domain name (for a reasonable price).

  50. David
    By David on 16 September, 2010

    I have a website ” ibuildchoppers.com” this site is not about building the real chopper motorcycle
    but small models using recycled parts… from computers, VCR’s, etc.. how would I describe my site…what keywords would I use.. could I use keywords related to a hobby, as this is a hobby of mine…
    or use words related to recycling.. I am getting a lot of hits related to the real motorcycle
    choppers.. Could it be because of my domain name..

    Your thoughts are most welcomed..

  51. SenseiMattKlein
    By SenseiMattKlein on 16 September, 2010

    Got a lot of great information from this post. Seems like a smaller, more narrow niche is both easier to protect, and easier to rank well for. Mine is “We specialize in fun, affordable, karate for kids in the Sydney area”. My only question is it seems google uses martial arts and karate interchangeably in many cases. Martial arts is a bit more popular as a search term, but not by much. Which do I use? Both?

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

      “We specialize in fun, affordable, karate for kids in the Sydney area”.

      is great.

      I might make it “We deliver fun affordable classes in karate for kids in the Sydney Area” cause I think having classes as a keyword is important.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 16 September, 2010

      If what you do is karate, I’d go for that. BTW: the “Home” header on your homepage is a waste of the H2 heading… You should read my recent post on heading structures :)

  52. Simon
    By Simon on 16 September, 2010

    Excellent article Joost! I have always worked on the premise of “quality not quantity” and in the online world I believe there are sufficient tiny niches that we can all be succesfull in.

    For example, if i opened a shop selling “green left-handed scissors” I would make no money – but online there is a HUGE audience amongst which I might just find enough people interested in “green left-handed scissors” to make it a viable business proposition.

    What keyword tools do you recommend Joost?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 16 September, 2010

      to be honest, I use mainly Google tools, Google Insights for Search, AdWords Keyword tool etc. That’s also because of the fact that a lot of the languages I need to do keyword research in don’t have any tools that are even remotely reliable.

      • Simon
        By Simon on 16 September, 2010

        I appreciate your situation re the languages! I primarily use Adwords Keyword tool as well as simply seeing what appears – I also like the Google Wonder Wheel

        Thanks for a great blog – keep on keeping on!

  53. Rob Miles
    By Rob Miles on 16 September, 2010

    Hi I attendee the made 48 event and my head is still buzzing with all the information.

    My business sells software to beauty salons and hairdressers and is a highly competitive market with something like 30 plus competitors all of which use the web and google adwords extensively.

    I have great rankings on certain keywords and not so good on others, the problem is the keywords for hair are different from those of beauty so its is always a balancing act. We are open and honest with all our promotions and feel our software is effective salon management that does what it says on the tin. When we have different products for different sectors how do you have a consistent story to broadcast.

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

      You might want to develop two websites, and perhaps even create a second business name (ficticious business name statement/trading as business name) that can have its own website. I think you’ll find having two websites with narrower keywords is easier than trying to run something more complex.

      A single business can have many domains . . .

      • Richard
        By Richard on 16 September, 2010

        I’m at 30 (since today, 29 yesterday :)) though not all of them are pure business.

  54. Nick Pyett
    By Nick Pyett on 16 September, 2010

    “A web developer based in Manchester who makes affordable websites” is what i’ve got so far for my new site (which will go live soon).

    (PS The third sentence starts “As an SEO”, should this be “As an SEO consultant”, or am I missing something?)

    Great post, cheers

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010

      I think Joost is right in asking what “work” means. I think you mean that they are professionally done. All the links work like they should, there are no lost pages. But I suspect for your best clients you do more than that. You give them the site they always wanted . . . maybe you specialize in great easy to maintain ecommerce solutions or implementing great graphics, etc.

      We build the best websites in Manchester. Generate leads, close sales, fulfill orders . . . have the site you always wanted built by professionals who do it right.

      I don’t know your business well enough to know if that’s what you want to say. But every business does one thing better than everyone else . . . you need to know what that is for your business cause it is your competitive advantage.

      Drawing billions of leads to a site that don’t turn into sales just raises your costs . . . You want to put out bait for the folks you actively want to have as customers.

      • Nick Pyett
        By Nick Pyett on 28 September, 2010

        Thanks for all the feedback!

        Balancing SEO and making something that is individual and memorable is quite a challange, but I will spend some more time on it before my new site goes live.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 16 September, 2010

      Your try isn’t half bad Nick! Question though: are you the only one in Manchester who makes affordable websites? If not, what makes you different from the rest of them? And do these websites actually work? :)

      • Beto Frega
        By Beto Frega on 17 September, 2010

        I think that it sums up to “Your statement shouldn’t begin with “A…” but “The…”, right?

  55. Jeremy
    By Jeremy on 16 September, 2010

    That’s a great post, thank you. That almost sounds easy to follow your advice, but gets incredibly difficult when you try to apply it to yourself. I will take your offer then, and ask you some advice about a small website of mine, WereWP.com. There I collect the best of WordPress news and tutorials. I do it so that people can avoid following hundreds of blogs, but follow only one and get all the information they need.
    I still have some progress to do, but I do my best at that.
    The general keywords I have based the website on are obvious: WordPress News
    Now what would be the niche of my blogs: what am I good at? Should I insist on the idea of collecting, gathering, sorting information?

    Of course, I could also decide to change the content of my site instead, and go into a deeper niche, that would be easier maybe :)

    • Nancy Fulton
      By Nancy Fulton on 16 September, 2010


      I think something like “What you _really_ need to know about WordPress all in one place” might be a good summary of what you do. I think readers would understand, from that, what they would find there.

      Or “The best WordPress training, support and information resources all in one place . . .” might work :)

      • Roz
        By Roz on 22 September, 2010

        “The best WordPress training, support and information resources all in one place . . .”

        I’d click on that for sure.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 16 September, 2010

      Your “promise” is a classic value proposition: you save people time. Specifically people who work with WordPress. It’s a bit like the New York Times’ “all the news that’s fit to print”, but then applied to the WordPress world, am I getting that right? Want to understand what it is you want to offer exactly. Also, how does that make you different from, f.i., WPCandy?

      • Jeremy
        By Jeremy on 16 September, 2010

        Yes, that’s a great question, that I still have to find out, probably by narrowing my message to a deeper niche.

        Thank you for your answer! (and thanks to Nancy too!)

  56. Ileane
    By Ileane on 16 September, 2010

    Hi Yoast. This is a great example of what can be done to craft your “mini” mission statement.
    Thanks for the advice, I’ll go and watch Mad Men now and read more about your mentoring club.

    • Kamal Hasa
      By Kamal Hasa on 19 September, 2010

      Marketing needs different faces and different pitch. So I am gonna watch Dexter season 3 now :P

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