SEO and the next big optimization

What is SEO all about?  I’ll bet nine out of ten webmasters will answer, “It’s about my Google rankings.”

Well, yes, that’s the result you are shooting for.  But what is the process?  What does SEO do?

And that’s where nine out of ten webmasters will say, “Ah…um…well…I dunno.”

SEO is about optimizing.

There is no such thing as over-optimization, despite almost 70,000 mentions in a Google search. When something is optimized, it is the ideal.  It is the very best it can be.  It is at the very summit of the mountain. Take one more step, and you are not over-optimizing.  You are de-optimizing.

So what happens once you’ve optimized?  Is your work done?  Can you take any steps in any direction?  Or are you on the pinnacle of the mountain, where any step will just take you down?

Climbing Mountains

Funny thing about mountains.  I’ve been on a few pinnacles in the Adirondacks.  When you reach the top, you can see far and wide.  You see the valley below.

You see a city an hour’s drive away.

You see another mountain.  A higher mountain?  Yes!  A higher mountain. A new mountain to climb.  New hiking optimization.

When you’ve optimized your website, you might still have work to do.  Not to over-optimize.  Not to de-optimize.  But to optimize more.

Do all your pages rank #1 for all the keywords you are chasing?  If not, there is still work to do.

Before going any further, let’s keep in mind that ROI is always a factor. If you wrote a spy novel, you might well be able to get your website to the top spot for “spy novel”, but is it worth the 13 million dollars it would cost you?  Probably not.  But chances are that there are some search terms that you could rank higher without breaking the bank.

Let’s find out.

Choosing the best search terms to focus on

The first thing to do is to find out where you rank for all your favorite searches.  You might already know this.  But there might be other terms you are ranking for that you were not even aware of. You can identify these words with a tool like Serpstat to quickly find all the searches where your website ranks in Google’s top 10, 20 or 100.  This is your keyword universe.

If you rank number one for some of them, congratulations.  You are optimized.  For the others, you might have work to do.

In the spy novel example above, you would expect to rank below Amazon and GoodReads and Wikipedia.  You might see a few other heavy hitters you are unlikely to outrank.  However, if you are on the third page of Google for “spy novel”, that tells you a few things:

The quest for the first page is not hopeless, because you have a pretty strong page to rank that well for a fairly short-tail term.

There is work to do to push this strong page to the second page of Google, and possibly even to the first page.

There might be long-tail variants of “spy novel” that the page could rank even better for.  So let’s find those.

However, “spy novels” might not be your lowest hanging fruit.  The money to be made is from the first page, not the second.  Fewer than 10 percent of people advance to the second page. This means that the biggest bang for your buck, or your effort, would be to find those pages ranking 11, 12 and 13 in Google, and do whatever tweaking is needed to make that jump.

So set a filter to view just those keywords that show up on the second page, or even better, set a filter for just 11 – 13 and see what comes up.  If you have keywords in that range, and they are keywords likely to convert, you have identified the next peaks to climb.

But wait. Did you know that four times as many people visit the second page of Google as visit the third page of Google?  And that in many cases it is easier to push a website from the third page to the second, than to push it from the second page to the first?

In other words, the lowest hanging fruit might actually be the keywords ranking 21, 22 and 23.  Yes, pushing your site to the second page for “spy novels” might be the easiest short-term effort to give your site a boost.

Filter your results for these numbers and see if you have any keywords likely to convert in these positions.  They might be the quickest hits to start earning more paying customers right away.

SEO is all about optimization.  If you can take a successful asset that you have already developed and make small tweaks and give it a small push, you can optimize that asset for higher revenue.

“Ah…um…well…now I know.”




  1. Knowledge about online marketing is neither easy to gain nor to deliver, but I think this post has done it perfectly.I will use these tips in my coming project

  2. Great information to use. I’ve spent the last hour looking through your blog posts and I have got so much value from it. Thank you. I’d love to hear about your thoughts on AMP pages and how that ties into SEO in the future.