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Should I stay away from highly competitive keywords?

If you’ve used Google’s Keyword Tool, you’ve probably seen the column called “Competitiveness”–low, medium, and high. The low. medium, and high are based on the competitiveness of a keyword among paid search advertisers. The more advertisers are bidding on a keyword, the higher the competitiveness. By itself, paid search competitiveness tells you nothing about the organic search competitiveness, but in reality they usually run about the same. So, most people ask the same thing about keywords: “Should I stay away from highly competitive keywords?”

Like any good consultant, my answer is, “It depends.” I mean, the tendency is to shy away from that much competition, which could be exactly the right decision, depending on your business. After all, if you have a small business with a no-name Web site, then it is unlikely that you’ll do well on high competitiveness keywords.

But consider this. It isn’t impossible to do well if you have a truly valuable message that is a better fit for that keyword than everyone else. Remember, someone is #1 for even the most competitive keyword around.

So, my advice is to focus on how close a fit the keyword is for your site before focusing on competitiveness. But if you have a local camera store in Akron, Ohio, don’t think that “digital cameras” is a great fit for your site, because thousands of other local stores are equally good fits, and Web retailers and nationwide chains such as Best Buy are even better fits. But “akron camera stores” could be a great fit even if Google says it is highly competitive.

If you know your business is a very strong match for even a highly competitive keyword, go for it. You can always stop if it doesn’t work.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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