I remember hearing this phrase a long time ago and it totally stuck with me. You may use one of the many others (trying to boil the ocean, etc.) but the concept is really the same: what little you are doing is really not going to have an impact.

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), or getting found because you ranked high on Google/Bing/Yahoo, many of us are unfortunately in this situation. We’re trying to rank for terms and want to see results, but we’re up against some pretty hefty competition.

For instance, if I wanted to target “website design” as a keyword and rank for it, there are 110,000 average monthly searches for that term. Sounds sweet right? There’s a TON of people looking at that term. But there are (at last count) about 923,000,000 results they can choose from. That means I am competing with almost a billion – with a B – other websites. Flashlight at the sun. If I wanted to post an ad on Adwords, my starting bid PER CLICK (PPC) is $10.41. Every click. I would have to have some pretty steep pricing to make that sort of investment worth it.

So until I have millions to throw at my site to rank higher for that broad of a term, let me look for something that is maybe not as highly searched as 110,000 people a month, but still has a good volume and is more within reach. Maybe I can come up with a variation that is more specific or more local so as to not compete with ALL the results of the world.

Maybe there is a keyword that I could come up with that would be a way in, even though it’s not the exact term I’m looking for. For instance, the keyword “how to make a website” has on average 74,000 searches a month. If I wanted to do an Adwords campaign it would be $3.40 a click. Already I’ve saved a good bit of money. What if I could produce a video or an eBook that would take on this topic with links back to me for help should they need it? It’s a win-win as you are providing a solution and showing your value and now they have a point of contact for their problem and will come back to you for more. This is known “in the biz” as content marketing – someone always needs to assign a term to things!

If you’re not ranking on Google for something you think you should, the answer is not to go find some company that will charge you the lowest amount possible. However, it’s also not right to just throw tons of money at it. Focus your target. Find variations and build content around that. Dominate a niche concept and then cross/up-sell the rest of what you do.

Photo credit: archeon


With over a decade of experience, I have managed online marketing for a wide range of industries including biotech, high-tech, financial, higher education, non-profit, manufacturing, hardware providers, and startups. My specialty is helping business make the right turn with their online efforts focusing on lead generation and analytics.

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