An SEO Keyword Research Tip – To Ing or Not to Ing?

Keyword Research for GardeningWhen you are deciding on a keyword phrase format that will be repeated for a series of articles or for a site section you must conduct thorough research. Failure to do the proper keyword research can result in thousands of missed opportunities. For example, while working on a Home & Garden section of a very popular website I stumbled upon a twelve gardening articles. Each article was a checklist of gardening activities for each month of the year. An editor reached out to me and asked why these pages were performing poorly and netted very low search engine referral numbers.

I reviewed each page and noticed the editors of this site section choose the following keyword format:

Title tag = Month + Gardening Checklist + Website Brand
Article title = Month + Gardening Checklist
Internal linking anchor text = Month + Gardening Checklist

So it would appear as the following for the month of October:

Title tag = October Gardening Checklist + Website Brand
Article title = October Gardening Checklist
Internal linking anchor text = October Gardening Checklist

I quickly discovered the use of “Gardening” as part of the keyword phrase was a very poor choice. Instead the keyword phrase should have been “month + garden” or October Garden Checklist. I utilized the Google Keyword Tool and tracked each keyword phrase on a monthly basis. Remember the Google Keyword Tool only shows data from the previous month, so a keyword will see different search volumes from month to month. That is critically important with these particular keywords because obviously people will search for the May Garden Checklist more frequently just before and during May than they would in December. After tracking this for six months I estimated the “month + garden” format would have netted over 215,000 annual search queries. Whereas the “month + gardening” format generated just over 20,000 annual search queries. That is a 10x difference in annual search volume. I pulled the data below for each keyword on the date of this post’s publishing so you could review the global monthly search volume differences:

April garden                      3,600
August garden                  2,900
December garden           1,900
February garden              2,400
January garden                1,900
July garden                       4,400
June garden                     4,400
March garden                   3,600
May garden                     18,100
November garden           1,900
October garden                2,400
September garden          2,400
Total                                 49,900

April gardening                           590
August gardening                      480
December gardening                210
February gardening                   720
January gardening                     590
July gardening                            390
June gardening                          390
March gardening                        880
May gardening                         1,600
November gardening                320
October gardening                    480
September gardening              480
Total                                           7,130

As you can see the “month + garden” format clearly will drive the most search volume annually. The site I was working on would easily rank in the top 1 – 5 SERP positions for both Google and Bing had the editor changed to the “month + garden” format. The site we were working on had that kind of authority and power where a simple tweaking of a page’s primary keyword would rocket them to the top positions. In fact they rank in those positions today for the “month + gardening” format. Why are they still using the format that generates the lowest search volume? Of course I advised they adopt the “month + garden” format for the title tag, article title and anchor text of the internal links. However, a senior staffer felt the “month + garden” format would hinder the User experience and would denigrate the journalistic integrity of the entire website. When asked if I could review the usability testing data on that assumption there was none. Testing on those matters is not conducted and it was a “gut feeling.”

My team’s goal was to increase eyeballs which in turn would be able to increase ad revenue. See the ROI model of executing proper SEO on this kind of website?

Teams execute advised SEO work + increased traffic = increased advertising revenue

Sadly, proper English and a gut feeling defeated actual data and still those great webpages languish today with minimal search referral traffic numbers. It looks like to ing or not to ing was answered, but that answer was ignored. My advice is to keep pulling the data and keep reporting the missed opportunities. One day someone higher up the food chain will ask and you will be better prepared to respond with data versus a gut feeling.


Author: Garth O'Brien provides SEO, Social Media and Community Management consulting services. He can help boost the online presence of a small local business or global enterprise corporations in both Google and Bing.

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