SEOmoz's Rand Fishkin on “Chunky Middle” SEO

There are few people in the world that know SEO as well as Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz. While attending the Hubspot Inbound 2012 conference, over a couple of glasses of iced tea, I sat down with Rand to discuss how businesses can grow their online presence.

During his keynote address, Rand covered an online marketing concept he refers to as the “chunky middle” of SEO. This middle ground is between the most competitive keywords in your market and the least competitive. The problem is too often company executives march into the marketing department’s office and demand to know why, when their spouse did an Internet search on “insert most competitive keyword,” their company didn't rank No. 1. This results in a crusade full of meetings, budget dollars being relocated and strategies being put into place all aimed at finding success with some holy grail of keywords.

The truth is the biggest missed opportunity is right in middle. Those keywords and phrases that real potential customers are typing into search engines everyday in effort to find you. These phrases are not always easy to find. My interview with Rand focused on what you should know when searching for the chunky middle.

First off, how should we think about keyword research?

Rand Fishkin: Whether it is chunky middle or long tail, there still has to be a value creation inherent in the keywords you are targeting, meaning that people who search for those terms are either likely buyers or influencers of likely buyers. Unfortunately, that latter one gets ignored too often. From that perspective, your best keyword research is going to be done with your sales people, your marketing people, or your customers themselves.

You mentioned in your presentation that building a profile and knowing your customer’s interests outside of your exact product can lead to a lot of business. How does this work from an SEO perspective?

Rand Fishkin: Maybe a person is a huge fan of iced tea and they are constantly trying to find the best iced tea. I might ask, "What are the 50 or 100 questions this person might type into Google? What are the other interests and pursuits they might have?" If I know that many people who are interested in tea travel to Cuzco, Peru looking for a particularly rare tea leaf, you know what, it might be great to have a travel blog on my tea website. You could include: "Where do you eat in Cuzco? Where do you travel? Where do you stay?"

If you're looking at a really broad range of questions that your potential customers might be typing into Google, you are focusing on things other than your exact product. What is the goal of targeting all these different questions and phrases from an SEO perspective?

Rand Fishkin: It’s about getting to a point of potential customer interest. If I write a great travel guide to Cuzco with a page on where to eat, where to stay, a page on what else to see while you are in town, I know that even if the AdWord search tool doesn’t show me specific keyword volume for those terms people are going to be typing those terms in search. If I already have an audience of tea fans, and they know people that are going heading to Cuzco, then that is something they are likely to send to their friends. It is that value creation through broader content marketing with inelegance around SEO that really wins [in the] long term.

You also spoke about knowing your metrics. It is going to require some online tools to know how your webpages are performing and what keyword phrases are working. You mentioned Google’s AdWord tool. What tools should people be using to find the chunky middle and monitoring their results?

Rand Fishkin: Let me start with the very basics. This is the free stuff that I require that you use if you are interested in SEO. The first one would be Google Analytics. It tracks where people go [and] what search terms bring people [to your website]. If you don’t know those basics it is going to be difficult to measure how your content is performing.

The second I strongly encourage anyone with a blog to use is FeedBurner. It will help you measure all your feed activity [of your blog].

The third one I strongly suggest using is Google Webmaster Tools. This is different from Google Analytics. It is specific to the search engine. It shows you [links] that are broken, things Google had trouble finding [on your website], it shows you different statistics than analytics.

When you are looking to really dive into your SEO a tool like SEOmoz does a few things. It crawls your site every week, finds things that are broken, missed opportunities, it will find pages that you may have forgot about or have not put much energy into. And it is not just for search analytics, but also social. Showing you the connection between a webpage that performed well on Twitter or Facebook and then did well on the search engines. It also includes some useful link-building tools and information on your competitors.

In the end, I don’t care if you use SEOmoz, what I care most about it that you use tools and start tracking your SEO efforts. If you don’t know what is working and what isn’t you can’t make the changes to you online presence that you need to.

Jabez LeBret is the author of the Amazon No. 1 bestselling law office marketing book How to Turn Clicks Into Clients. As a partner at Get Noticed Get Found, a legal marketing agency, over the last nine years he has delivered over 800 keynote addresses in six countries. His main area of expertise is managing Gen Y in the workplace, advanced Facebook strategies, LinkedIn strategies, Google+, SEO, local directory optimization, and online marketing.

Contact Us