Keyword Research In An SEO Campaign

If you know anything about search engine optimisation you will know that the critical first step to a successful SEO campaign is getting your keywords right. And there is plenty of advice available about tools that can help you to do this, but keyword research and analysis cannot just be performed by a software tool.

The results of any keyword suggestion tool are only as good as the data input into them. If you input flawed or incomplete data then the results will not be accurate or complete. To then base a whole SEO campaign on these keywords could, at best, mean missing out on opportunities, or, at worst, lead to the SEO campaign failing and the business failing.

So it is imperative to incorporate a human element into all research and analysis and even in the approach to the results of a technical SEO audit. In fact, go back to pre-internet days and think about what you would need to know to get your advertising right. And that is simply to know your target market; to know your customer.

According to most SEO consultants, keyword research for internet based businesses is not only about what people have already searched for but understanding your customers’ perspective and anticipating their needs. True business success can come from predicting what customers will enter as a search term before they do so. But you can only do this if you know your customer well.

This may be an easy matter for an existing bricks-and-mortar business now reaching out to grow their internet-based business, but many small businesses starting up on the internet are completely new businesses with no history of previous customer traits to call on for guidance.

So how do you get to know a customer that you don’t yet have? Well, spend some time, which might be hours, days or even weeks, discovering all you can about them. The internet is the ideal place for gleaning this information:

• Social networks – get active on the social networks and find out what the current trends are related to your product or service. What are peoples likes, dislikes, interests and hobbies

• Forums – get active on forums related to your business and find out what problems potential customers have; offer advice and useful information to elicit more feedback and opinions on current, relevant issues. Take note of the words people are using, particularly new buzz words or technical jargon.

• Blogs – look at the blogs of experts in related fields and at the blogs of your competition. If any of the competitors do not have a blog then you have already found the chink in their armour.

Create a spreadsheet and start listing all the words and terms that you come across on the social networks, forums and blogs, including buzz words, abbreviations and technical jargon. And don’t forget alternative spellings of words or common mis-spellings.

Now you have a broad list of potential keywords that can be used to elicit further suggestions and opinions in a brainstorming session. Remember that you are trying to put yourself in the mindset of a customer and you yourself might be too involved in your products or services to see them from a customer perspective. So make sure the brainstorming session involves a range of people from inside and outside the business. Persuade people to be involved by offering a free lunch or some other appropriate sweetener.

Limit the session to two hours maximum to prevent boredom and a loss of focus creeping in. If you have a wide range of products and hence potential keywords that cannot be dealt with in that time, then have separate sessions on different days. No-one can cope with a whole day of brainstorming.

Don’t be tempted to rush the internet research on social networks, blogs and forums or the brainstorming. These are the critical elements to your keyword research that will provide you with the right input to the keyword suggestion tools that you will be using. Without the right input, you will not obtain an effective list of keywords to target. And since all of your SEO efforts (time and money) will be based on these keywords, they are the foundation of your SEO campaign.

When you are ready to move on to using keyword tools, don’t simply use the ones provided by the search engines. These tools are useful but only in a wider context where they are used in conjunction with other tools that collate information independent of the search engines. Take the advice of an SEO expert you trust and make sure you are not using tools that simply use Google’s data presented in a different format.

One of the limitations of search engine data is that it is averaged over a 12 month period. If your business has a seasonal product, this sort of average data may not provide the information you need. Neither does it take account of trends going in and out of fashion.

There are 3 key factors to remember when analysing Keyword Tool data that can have a huge impact on the success of your small business SEO campaign:

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are individual words that are often combined with other words or phrases but which alter the person’s searching objective. If these keywords are not eliminated from your target list then you may find you have plenty of visitors but a low conversion rate. The classic example of this is shown in the difference between the search terms “sell used BMW” and “buy used BMW”. Slightly more subtly is the difference between “contemporary bedroom furniture” and “classic bedroom furniture”. If you can do so, eliminate all keywords suggested by the tools that have a negative connotation for your business.

Search Volumes

All keyword tools will indicate a figure for the number of people who enter certain search phrases (often as a 12 month average) but this is not the same number of visitors you could expect even if your website was number 1 on Page 1 of a major search engine. These numbers should always be treated with caution and used more as a relative guide for comparing different keywords than for estimating actual numbers of visitors.

Search Objective

Never forget that around half of all people searching on the internet are looking for information. Many small business SEO campaigns are run on the assumption that every searcher is looking to buy something. So watch out for those keywords/phrases that indicate the objective is to find information. Label these types of search terms as “non-buyers” and eliminate them from your list. A simple example of the difference is between the search terms “Android Phone Facts” and “Android Phone Deals” – the second phrase suggests the searcher is in a buying frame of mind and comparing prices, whilst the first suggests they are simply researching the product. Of course, you can (and should) provide information about your products on your website but these visitors are not those you should be actively targeting in your SEO strategy.

So Keyword Tools provide extremely useful and valuable information but they are only the final part of a wider view of keyword research and analysis as part of a search engine optimisation campaign, which includes a substantial human element.

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Never forget that around half of all people searching on the internet are looking for information. Many small business SEO campaigns are run on the assumption that every searcher is looking to buy something. So watch out for those keywords/phrases that indicate the objective is to find information. Label these types of search terms as “non-buyers” and eliminate them from your list. A simple example of the difference is between the search terms “Android Phone Facts” and “Android Phone Deals” – the second phrase suggests the searcher is in a buying frame of mind and comparing prices, whilst the first suggests they are simply researching the product. Of course, you can (and should) provide information about your products on your website but these visitors are not those you should be actively targeting in your SEO strategy.

So Keyword Tools provide extremely useful and valuable information but they are only the final part of a wider view of keyword research and analysis as part of a search engine optimisation campaign, which includes a substantial human element.

 

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