Question. Good morning. We are deep in the process or updating our on page SEO, yay! Our marketing team has some reservations about using the ranking works top, #1, and best. I know you clearly articulated why this is an important part of on page SEO, but I am not as skilled or knowledgeable about SEO optimization on page as I know you are. Can you please break it down for us?
Answer. Superlative words like “best” or “top-rated” can be problematic in terms of where marketing-speak hits SEO. Let’s think this thru, with some evidence-based observations, and we can use “plumber” as an example. When people need a plumber (let’s say its 12 am and the toilet decided to spontaneously overflow), what’s the first place they’ll look to find a plumber? Google. And if not Google, possibly a service like Yelp.
Secondly, they’re not going to be looking for the worst plumber, a mediocre plumber or a poorly rated plumber. They’re going to be looking for the best, top, top-rated plumber… and they’ll type this into Google (or speak it into Siri, who will then query Google).
Evidence of Best, Top, Top-Rated
Pay attention to Google auto-complete, related searches, and/or the Google Keyword Planner tool in AdWords, and you’ll quickly see that helper words like “best” and “top-rated” are very, very common for many transactional searches. Everyone wants the best plumber, the best divorce attorney and the best Sushi restaurant and they are not shy about typing those words into Google! Use a tool like Ubersuggest to see this, as well. So we’ll use the example of best plumber in Oakland as a search.
Now here’s the deal – they might search just for “plumber,” but they’ll often add “helper words” – usually at least geographics so the search query might become:
So here’s the rub – NO ONE searches for “worst plumbers in Oakland” – nowadays with the plethora of reviews on the Internet, they’ll likely search for
Top-rated Plumbers in Oakland
Best plumbers in Oakland
Best plumber in Oakland fix a toilet
Best plumber in Oakland 24 hours
To Google: a word is a word is a word is a word. Google doesn’t make a value judgement about whether you are “truly” the best (if anyone could really define what that means – your “best” plumber isn’t necessarily my “best” plumber). So as SEO’s, our job in writing content is to create connection points between our content and the likely searches on Google.
So in this case, a good landing page on the site would have the keywords:
oakland plumber top-rated best toilet fix repair
On it in some logical order, starting with the title tag.
That’s the SEO of it: you should spit back at Google the words that people type in, of course with an eye to writing quality content, but you GOTTA get the keywords on the page and you GOTTA get them in the priority tags (e.g., TITLE tags). Now, that does NOT mean every page should say best… but SOME pages should say best and/or you should sprinkle the words “top-rated” “best” and “Oakland” on many pages of the site. To Google it’s all just words.
You make an SEO decision: either you play the SEO / word game as people ACTUALLY search or you decide NOT to play it, but the reality is the reality: best, top, top-rated are both high volume and high value words that people often append to searches like plumber, lawyer, therapist, etc.
Now, let’s turn to the human element. It may sound very arrogant to say you’re the BEST plumbing company in Oakland, and that might be a turn-off to a customer or make you uncomfortable as a company / person. I get that, and I am not saying you should falsify your image or do anything that doesn’t fit with your brand.
But that said, if your goal isn’t to be the BEST at what you do, what’s your purpose in business? I want to be the BEST SEO expert in San Francisco, and I’m not shy about that. But – that said – what “best” means is pretty fluid, and I define best as hardest-working, most up-to-date, and a person who strives to give the best service to my clients to the ultimate extent of my abilities.
So I’m cool with using the words best, top, and top-rated alongside SEO expert and San Francisco.
As for your own brand, the ART of SEO is to take the hard-core, crude and somewhat obnoxious realities of SEO and combine those with the softer, fuzzier parts of marketing. To write BEST in such a way that it’s not crude and overbearing. That’s your writing assignment.
Some observations here: first and foremost, modesty is very overrated when it comes to marketing! Consumer expect some puffery and it’s not a sin to mention the fact that you are top-rated, or best, or something if you are even close to it. The reality is if you don’t “toot your own horn” no one is going to toot it for you. I’m all for modesty, but you can be “too modest” when it comes to marketing.
Second, you want to think like a word sleuth. SEO, after all, is ultimately a game of words. So be a word sleuth.
You don’t have to garrishly say you’re the BEST plumbing service in Oakland, you can – for example – create a page that reads more like a “mission statement” – our goal is to BE the best, to BECOME the best, rather than we ARE the best.
The “best” in life being more a process, than an outcome.
Third, you can weave the words into the content of the pages, including the TITLE tags with some style and grace:
<title>Jason’s Plumbing Service – a Top-Rated Plumber in Oakland California</title>
<title>Experience the Best in Plumbing for Oakland: Our Mission</title>
And then in the content, you can write sentences such as: “Our goal is to be the best plumbing service in Oakland, California, and we do this by putting the customer first.” So you can “have your cake” and “eat it too” – weave the words best, top, top-rated on some of your key landing pages AND be a bit more humble than claiming you are THE best in a status quo sort of way. Think of the “best” more as a goal or process.
In sum, I recommend getting these words onto your pages, and into the powerful tags such as your TITLE tags, IMG ALT’s, Header tags, and A HREF / cross-links – but “within reason” and “within the limits” of your brand. With some skill, you can optimize for best plumber in Oakland AND still not look like a jerk.
Got a question? Click this link to email Jason or call 888-993-1122. Dr. Jason McDonald is founder and Senior SEO / Social Media Director of the JM Internet Group. He teaches the SEO training classes for the group, and therefore provides most of the SEO tips for this blog. His goal with this blog is to provide an easy 'one-stop shop' for the busy marketer looking for tips, tricks, and secrets on how to get to the top of Google and Bing for free using proven SEO tactics. When not dreaming up SEO tips, Dr. McDonald lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, two dogs, a cat, four iguanas and twelve children (just kidding). Really you read down to the bio on this guy? Enjoy the blog.
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