A few years ago we posted an
article inspired by the book "Blue Ocean Strategy"
by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. Essentially, the book encourages entrepreneurs to think differently about their business plans. Instead of entering an existing industry and fighting for market share, create a brand new industry. Instead of working hard to beat the competition, eliminate it.
In Kim and Mauborgne's metaphor, a red ocean represents existing and competitive industries where lots and lots of people are fighting for limited market share; picture sharks in a feeding frenzy. A blue ocean represents new industries where opportunity is abundant and competition is non-existent; picture the clear, blue ocean water.
It occurred to me that applying the essence of their theory to your
strategy could open up a sea, if you will, of opportunity.
I created a spreadsheet (represented above) of about 1500 keywords that we track (presuming they are all reasonably relevant). Then, based on the intensity of competition for each keyword, I applied a gradient with blue being applied to those keywords with little or no competition and red being applied to those with steep competition. The result is a pretty cool visual representation of which keywords would likely deliver the quickest and most qualified results.
Red Ocean Keywords
Keywords farthest to the right represent those that are common or most obvious. For a consulting company, examples might be
. They are easy to identify and they are attractive because lots and lots of people tend to search for them. To actually generate organic traffic from them, however, is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for most companies; there is just way too much competition. Typically, these "red ocean" keywords are also very expensive if you were to consider buying them as part of a paid search campaign. As it turns out, these popular search terms are also rather vague and are less likely to send high quality traffic your way. In general, Kim and Mauborgne would recommend against spending any time competing for those terms on the right.
Blue Ocean Keywords
Keywords on the left, on the other hand, represent creative, outside-the-box keywords that differentiate a product or service from the masses. Using the same fictional consulting company as above, examples of "blue ocean" keywords might be "small business IT consulting", "small business network implementation" or "IT consulting company Cambridge, MA". These types of "long tail" terms are searched for less frequently, but they are more specific and therefore will bring more qualified traffic to your site. There are also far fewer sharks in the water. That "blue ocean" on the left - and even in the middle- is where the greatest opportunity lives and the list is endless. What you see in the image above is just an illustration to make a point. Blue ocean keywords are innumerable, all you need to do to take advantage of this opportunity it create the content. Publishing often and writing relevant content will result in increased (and qualified) traffic form search engines. And, if you are just getting started and you are considering jumpstarting your efforts with a paid search campaign, blue ocean keywords are usually far less expensive.
Whether the notion of the "long tail" resonates with you or this idea of "blue ocean" keywords works, the key to attracting more free traffic to your site from search engines is to create more great content on your site than your competitors do. Focusing less on the most common or obvious keywords and more on carving out your own unique set terms will likely result in faster and better results.
Originally published Oct 27, 2010 8:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016