In a previous posting, I’d expressed my support for a recent proposal by Peter Troast of Energy Circle that home energy professionals consider adopting the phrase home performance as their industry’s defining term. I’d also summarized its SEO implications, and promised to present my keyword analysis of home performance in detail. So here it is. (I’ll also introduce you to my comprehensive keyword analysis spread sheet, which might be of some benefit to those of you in the home performance industry who are heads-down in your own SEO efforts.)
Of course, some readers might ask: Why even be concerned about the SEO characteristics of the term home performance? Well, given the critical roles that web-based marketing, local search, and social media now play in selling home performance services, every professional in this industry should be concerned about SEO. Understanding how to drive traffic to your site by embedding industry-standard terms as keywords on webpages or blog posts is important, even if some one else in your organization is ultimately responsible for site optimization or online marketing.
My Keyword Analysis of Home Performance
I maintain an extensive, master list of keyword phrases that are generally relevant to home performance, historic preservation, old houses, and a few other related topics that I frequently write about. Last May, I published an early version of this list, but since then, I’ve expanded it considerably, mainly as an outgrowth of my own blogging and website optimization efforts.
For each keyword phrase in my master list, I track two metrics for search popularity — that is, how often the online public searches for a particular phrase: The worldwide, and U.S., monthly number of searches reported by Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool.
I also track two metrics giving the degree of competition for use of each keyword phrase by online providers of services, products, or information. The first metric is an estimate of the number of paid-search customers bidding on a particular keyword phrase. This estimate is available from the AdWords Tool. The other is the count of extant webpages embedding that keyword phrase in the textual content of their HTML <title> elements. These are the pages that have been optimized specifically for organic (non-paid) search via that keyword phrase. This count is obtained via a Google allintitle search on the keyword phrase.
Here are a few examples of capturing this information. In the screenshot below, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool is used to analyze and compare the phrases energy audit, efficiency upgrade, and home performance. Paid-search competition estimates, and global and local monthly search counts, are returned for each submitted keyword phrase. This side-by-side comparison reveals that energy audit is currently the most popular of the three phrases, for both seekers and sellers:
The next screenshot shows a partial listing of results from a Google allintitle search for “energy audit”:
The first three results are paid-search ads. But appearing just below the ads are the three highest ranking, non-paid pages (for my particular locale) that carry the exact phrase “energy audit” in their page titles. According to the page count near the top of the listing, approximately 288,000 webpages are currently competing for the phrase “energy audit” in this manner.
The next screenshot shows a partial listing of results from a Google allintitle search for “home performance”:
The result count indicates that approximately 118, 000 webpages are attempting to rank well for this phrase. Note that no paid ads appear in the listing; rather, only organic search results (once again, these are the results for my particular locale). This should probably come as no great surprise, given that AdWords has already informed us that home performance has a relatively low level of paid-search.
Finally, these three keyword phrases and their associated metrics are represented in my master list as follows (note that I’ve omitted many intervening keywords for brevity):
The Exact Match column indicates how I did the Google allintitle search. In most cases, I searched for an exact phrase by enclosing the search term in double quotes. In other cases, I obtained results for approximate matches by omitting the quotes. For example, the second row for home performance gives the results for a non-exact match. It indicates that there are about 150, 000 webpages with occurrences of both “home” and “performance” in their page titles as independent key words, rather than components of a single phrase.
There are many situations where non-exact matches are very useful. For example, when an exact match for an important keyword phrase can’t be found, viewing the pages returned by a non-exact match might give you some insight into how people are actually combining the component keywords of your phrase together.
Performing my comparative analysis of home performance against other, similar, industry-describing keyword phrases, involved three specific steps:
1. Perusing my master list, I selected all of the phrases I could find that carried essentially the same meaning as home performance. This included phrases that emphasized energy. However, I deliberately excluded certain phrases, like energy efficiency. Although widely used by home performance professionals, phrases like energy efficiency are far too generic to unambiguously convey the intended meaning.
2. Next, I entered each selected phrase into another spreadsheet, along with the phrase’s local monthly search count, its Google allintitle result count (for exact matches), and its paid-search competitive estimate, which I expressed as an integer value of 1, 2, or 3, in place of the literals low, medium, or high, respectively.
3. Finally, I added formulas to average all three metrics.
The resulting spread sheet is shown below:
Home performance has a local, monthly search popularity of 18.1 (column B), which is very close to the average value of 14.7 for the entire collection. Closer, in fact, than for any other keyword phrase. Hence, my claim of home performance’s medium level of search popularity amongst terms of similar meaning.
On the other hand, the organic search competition for home performance is 118 (118,000 extant pages; column D), which is comparatively higher than the population average of 85.6. However, home performance ranks only 5th highest for organic search competition, within the entire collection of keyword phrases.
Finally, home performance’s paid-search competitive estimate of 1 (column C) is lower than the population average of 1.82, which in turn is close to 2, or the “medium” estimate from Google AdWords’ competitive rankings.
Many SEO experts will tell you that selecting a particular keyword from a list of candidates involves striking a balance between relevance, search popularity, and competition. In my opinion, the term home performance is highly relevant to its industry and conveys a strong, clear meaning. It would be nice if its level of search popularity among similar terms were higher, but I think being in the middle is probably more than acceptable, especially given the weight of its relevance and meaning.
On the other hand, were I a new adopter of home performance (actually, I am), I’d probably be a bit concerned about the amount of SEO effort required to get high page ranks for organic search on home performance, given the fairly high level of competition for the term. However, I don’t feel this would be an insurmountable challenge for a committed organic SEO campaign. But the time to get started on such a campaign is sooner, rather than later. As the industry continues to grow and expand, competition for all of the these keywords (both paid and organic) will probably increase commensurately.
And if the rallying cry for home performance is met by a sufficient number of practitioners, expect its search popularity, relevance, and paid/non-paid competition levels all to increase that much further.
Keyword Analysis Spreadsheets
You can download my keyword analysis spreadsheet, and the comparative analysis spreadsheet used in this article, from the following locations:
Keyword Analysis Spreadsheet: ODS
Keyword Analysis Spreadsheet: PDF
Comparative Analysis Spreadsheet: ODS
Please keep in mind that you proceed at your own risk in using any of this information for your own purposes. Also, remember that the search counts captured here can change often, even from day to day. However, the actual values are not that important; rather, the relative differences between search counts of related keywords are really what matters. And finally, if you should re-publish any of my spreadsheet content, please include the original copyleft, with attribution to the original source. Thanks, and enjoy!