On April 22, my client sent me a list of keywords to rank in a medium competition manufacturing niche. As soon as I received them, I grouped the keywords using the relevancy clustering method I’ve been using for years and sent him a file containing the page structure information. Per my instructions, the client created pages and sent me 3 URLs a week later. Upon realizing that the URLs weren’t indexed by Google, I submitted the URLs to Google by typing ‘submit url to Google’ in Google. After taking a break for a couple of hours, I entered the keywords into a rank tracking software. Lo and behold, I was able to see that the keywords were already ranking in the top 100 positions. I immediately sent a screenshot of the rankings to my client who became excited with the instant traction the new pages had gained.
Imagine the scenario where you are able to rank a large number of keywords and have them ranked while you work on off-page for stronger rankings. While most SEO agencies struggle to keep 10 or so competitive keywords ranked and often get fired from clients within 6 months, I’ve been leveraging the long-tail strategy on a large scale to grow my agency business with hundreds of clients with a retention rate of over 95% for years. To be fair, long-tail SEO is a really effective strategy but I am not going to praise long-tail SEO and claim that it is the solution to end all SEO issues. The truth is it works better in some industries than others. It is, however, an important weapon to have in your arsenal if you are running a digital marketing agency. Let’s look at some of the aspects long-tail SEO strategy and relevancy clustering.
The Basis for Relevancy Clustering
While most SEO strategies are based on a single word per page silo structure, I started lumping keywords together for stronger relevancy when I learned that Google had purchased multiple semantic web technology companies. The theory behind relevancy stacking is that Google favors relevancy and you can easily leverage this by placing closely related keywords in all SEO elements such as URL, title, description, H tags, and content. Using this approach, you can have a head start in rankings.
If you are an AdWords user, it’s no secret that Google spits out hundreds of related terms based on a seed keyword. You might ask, “How does Google know all these related terms?” The answer is for every keyword, there are related words in Google’s database and each has a relational numeric value assigned. By organizing related terms in clusters for all SEO elements for both on and off-page, you can form a stronger relational presence and help Google to connect relevancy dots.
Matt Diggity has recently shared with us his observation of larger sites doing better in rankings than smaller sites. This reinforces the strategy of relevancy clustering. From an algorithm perspective, Larger sites have more chance to present itself in a topically organized way than smaller sites with thin content. I’m also currently witnessing that smaller sites are losing grounds in the rankings on a day to day basis.
An Example of Relevancy Clustering
For local markets, you need to treat each keyword phrase with geo-modifier in it as one phrase and come up with multiple variations to form a relevancy cluster. Here is an example of related keywords for ‘New Work Lawyer.’
NY attorney, Lawyer in Manhattan, Legal counselor in NY, NYC lawyer, etc…
One major benefit of creating a cluster is that it helps you avoid over optimization penalty. For years, I haven’t had one website penalized by using this technique alone.
Not all SEO strategies are created equal and as an agency, you must think like a strategist and decide which strategy best serves your client needs. Since running an agency is a business, you must think in terms of what’s the likelihood of achieving and maintaining rankings while staying within the budget as there is no such thing as an SEO project with an unlimited budget. So, what’s the ideal strategy? It really depends on your client needs.
For a lead gen market, mass page builders can work well as they are designed to go after lots of super easy-to-rank keywords on a large scale. Platforms like Lead Gadget can launch sites with a large number of pages effortlessly. For highly competitive niches, you need to get a few competitive keywords to gain traction and there is no shortcut for it. For local markets with multiple locations and lots of niche specific keywords, somewhat competitive user intent-based long-tail keyword strategy works well. Since going after all three strategies simultaneously is not practical from a budget standpoint, I’d personally prefer to go with the long-tail with relevancy clustering strategy.
For many agency businesses, long-tail leveraging relevancy clustering is often a golden strategy since it’s not too difficult to maintain rankings and you can target large intent-based keywords with relative ease.
Ideal Client Candidates
From my experience, local clients with lots of niche keyword variations serving multiple locations in a population of over 100,000 or more are ideal clients. I have a client who is serving multiple counties and towns in the home care niche and they have become the number one producer in their franchise group due to long-tail organic SEO. For this particular client, I have identified over 100 niche related keyword variations. Since they are servicing 20 locations, the number of combined keyword phrases becomes 20 times 100 which is 2,000. Once you’ve demonstrated that you can rank a good chunk of the keywords from the start, they’ll see the value and will get hooked on it.
When done right, on-page alone will rank a large number of keywords as soon as the pages get indexed due to relevancy clustering. Even if you were to rank 10% the first month from the example client above, that’s 200 keywords ranked you can present to your client. With proper backlinking, the number of keywords getting ranked will continuously grow and you can always show the result. In most cases, traffic grows as long as the market size supports demand for user intent keywords.
The Logistical Challenges of Relevancy Clustering
Although it’s true that each intent-based keyword is easier to rank than a short-tail niche keyword, it can easily swell to hundreds of keywords. In many cases, it can even swell to thousands of keyword variations. Easy rankability just became a logistical challenge as you don’t want to have to deal with optimizing hundreds of pages manually for each client that comes along. To alleviate this challenge, I’ve come up with several techniques and tools to handle the process. One is relevancy layering and the other is the master content strategy. Both tools are designed to quickly launch relevancy clustering optimized pages while helping with rapid content deployment.
Relevancy layering tool is designed to quickly create pages by forming relevancy clusters from a large set of related keyword phrases. I am currently using this tool to quickly launch hundreds of pages to help rank thousands of keywords for my clients. The master content strategy is designed to help systematize the content creation process by leveraging writers who are good at creating relevant articles. To help with off-page, I’ve built a sizeable network to help with contextual backlinks as well as image syndication and maps embed. As a result, I can maintain a large percentage of keywords ranked and it gives an assurance to clients that the approach they are paying for is working.
Recommended Strategy Going Forward
Since long-tail SEO strategy is only a means to acquire highly targeted traffic, it is recommended that you consider maximizing all traffic potentials such as paid, social, retargeting, and other digital marketing channels. Whatever SEO strategy you opt for, it’s only a method of generating traffic. After all, digital marketing is about creating a well-oiled marketing and sales machine for a business. It’s not about preference or ego, it’s about what delivers an ROI.
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