Why You Should Stop Chasing Trophy Keywords for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Many search marketers destine themselves for failure by chasing trophy keywords. They assume that ranking high for trophy keywords will drive the most conversions to their business. While ranking high for them can, in fact, increase your business’s revenue, you shouldn’t excessively chase them for search engine optimization (SEO).
What Are Trophy Keywords?
Trophy keywords are broad, typically well-known, words or phrases that many have a low probability of driving conversions. Also known as “money keywords”, they offer a warm and fuzzy feeling with little or no tangible benefits to your business. You’ll probably feel a sense of accomplishment after ranking high for one, but the organic traffic your website generates from those rankings won’t drive many conversions.
Examples of trophy keywords for a website that sells ergonomic office furniture include “office chairs,” “office desks” and “office tables.” While some users who search for these keywords may be interested in buying office furniture, most will not. Trophy keywords are generic and devoid of actionable intent, so many of the users who search for them aren’t interested in making a purchase.
They are called “trophy keywords” because they serve primarily as recognition. You can proudly say your website ranks on the first page for them. However, they won’t have a meaningful impact on your business’s revenue. Chasing them may actually harm your business’s ability to turn a profit in several ways.
Since they are broad with high search volume, trophy keywords have fierce competition. Marketers realize that trophy keywords generate more searches per month than other, narrower types of keywords. As a result, they base their SEO campaigns around them.
Other search marketers simply want the satisfaction that comes with high search rankings for a trophy keyword. They know that ranking high for trophy keywords may or may not drive conversions, yet they strive for the gratification of having the highest ranking for a trophy keyword. Regardless, trophy keywords are significantly more competitive than other keywords.
With so many websites competing for them, ranking for trophy keywords is difficult. To muscle your website to the top of the search results you must show search engines that your website is better and more relevant than all its competitors.
Depending on the niche, there may be hundreds or even thousands of websites trying to rank for the same trophy keywords as your site. The fierce competition of trophy keywords means you’ll have to spend time and energy on SEO.
Not only is it difficult to rank for trophy keywords; it’s also expensive. SEO is often viewed as a free way to promote a website and generate traffic. While it’s possible to carry out SEO without spending a dime, it generally requires some funds to see positive results. You must register a domain name, subscribe to a web hosting service, purchase content creation and graphic design services and more.
If you’re trying to minimize your SEO-related expenses, you should avoid chasing trophy keywords. You’ll encounter expenses when optimizing your website for any type of keyword, but trophy keywords are more costly due to their fierce competition. So, be tactical with your keyword selection.
It takes time to rank a website for any keyword, but you can expect a longer and more grueling road ahead when chasing trophy keywords. Most trophy phrases consist of just one or two words, so search engines index a wide range of websites and pages for them. The websites and pages might not be optimized for them, but the generic and broad nature of trophy keywords promotes a larger search index.
You may find that some trophy keywords have billions of indexed websites and pages. The trophy keyword “office chairs,” for instance, has over 5.5 billion indexed listings on Google. While Bing’s search index for “office chairs” is smaller with just 54 million listings, that’s still a lot of indexed websites pages.
Of course, the number of websites and pages indexed for a keyword influences the time it takes to rank for that keyword. You’ll probably rank your website more quickly for a keyword with 5 million listings as opposed to one with 500 million listings. With their massive search indexes, it can take years to rank for a trophy keyword. Unless you’re going very aggressive on SEO, you may never see Page 1 for it.
The biggest problem with trophy keywords is that they don’t drive many conversions. They don’t express actionable intent, so they have a low probability of driving conversions. A user may search for “office chairs,” for example, if he or she is trying to identify the type of chair he or she already owns. Alternatively, a user may search for this trophy keyword if he or she wants to research the different types of office chairs.
The keywords you target for SEO should express intent to perform a desired action. Rather than targeting the trophy keyword “office chairs,” you can target “buy office chairs online.” It’s only slightly longer, but the presence of those two extra words completely changes its dynamics. The words “buy” and “online” signal the intent to purchase online. Therefore, users who search for it have a high probability of converting.
Whether your website sells office furniture or any other type of product or service, you should optimize it for keywords with actionable intent. Otherwise, your website will attract unqualified users who aren’t interested in making a purchase or triggering a conversion.
What About Trophy Keywords In PPC?
Trophy keywords aren’t restricted to SEO; they apply to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns as well. Whether used in an SEO or PPC campaign, though, all trophy keywords lack actionable intent, making them ineffective for digital marketing. Bidding on trophy keywords for Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, Facebook Ads or other PPC networks will only burn through your advertising budget while driving few or no conversions in return.
Don’t let your SEO campaign get off on the wrong foot. Avoid chasing trophy keywords and, instead, target narrower keywords with actionable intent.
20 years experience in the online marketing sector, including agency, ecommerce and entrepreneurial ventures.