Avoiding The Keyword Research Checkmate

Chasing after one specific keyword set can not only be frustrating, but also inefficient. The marriage of keyword research and content can result in strong, targeted pages that perform, reach the ideal demographic, and result in conversions — if you’re willing to test and think “outside the box.”

Targeting keywords solely because they have a high search volume isn’t necessarily the best way to go about creating your keyword roadmap for on-site copy and inbound tactics. As selfish as we like to be with keyword targeting, it can’t exist as its own siloed research anymore.

At the end of the day, the goal is to provide value to the end user in a way that benefits both them and the brand. This extends far beyond simply targeting specific keywords — it needs to be baked into your whole online presence.

Assuming that you’re hitting the ground hard, making sure technical is in order and your brand is strong and sturdy, here are some ideas to get better insight into keyword groups and how customers view your brand.

Listen to Your Current Customers

Current customer interaction can be extremely telling in terms of how a specific segment refers to your product in “natural language.” A big mistake during the keyword research and content creation process is assuming that what the masses are searching for is actually what your future customer is searching for.

Your on-site content should reflect natural language mixed with more general terms. Whether you’re a product- or services-based company, take the time to pay attention to any of the following information that you may have available:

  • Customer Testimonials  — This includes video, email or other mediums.
  • Customer Phone Calls – This can be customer service based, upgrade based or general feedback calls.
  • Customer Screening Calls – This applies to service providers that record screening calls for loans or other applications.

Using this information, try to determine the following:

  • How are your customers referring to your product(s) and/or services(s)?
  • Are there any specific word, service or product variations you’re hearing consistently?
  • How do these words and phrases match up with those you initially identified as your “high volume” terms?

After you have a fairly solid idea of what language your customer base is using, you can use this to inform and modify your target keyword list. From there, you’ll want to take your analysis a step further by determining the value of those keywords, based on conversion data.

For example, let’s say you’re targeting “bad credit” or “poor credit” as keywords, and these terms generate a lot of traffic and leads. Consider this, however: if customers are converting off of those terms through your lead generation form, are they actually being approved? And once they are, are they actually good customers who pay their loans back on time?

This ties more into the customer life-cycle discussion, but can help you understand what keywords aren’t worth targeting for a multitude of reasons — including potentially impacting your bottom line in a negative way over time.

Multi-Location Businesses

As I mentioned in a previous post, targeting ad copy to specific locations with “location specific” keywords is helpful, even if those phrases don’t have the highest overall search volume. Incorporating “familiar” words based on location will help in the overall message of the copy.

Suggestion: Send out surveys (not too frequently) asking your customers specific questions that could reveal the ways in which different cities view your company. You’ll begin to understand subtle differences in how various locations react and respond to your product, which may impact how potential customers are querying and searching for products or services like yours.

Mind Meld – Analytics, SEMrush and WMT + [Insert tool here]

There’s great insight that can come from merging general keyword research (your wishlist) with phrases that are: A) sending your site traffic, B) actually ranking, and/or C) converting well (organic and paid, if applicable). Remember, just because you have a page ranking well for a particular keyword on your wishlist doesn’t mean it’s sending you traffic or converting.

Once you have all of your sources separated into pretty spreadsheets (so you won’t lose your mind), create an extra one that aggregates all the data so you can start seeing patterns with duplication, search volume, CTRs, rankings, conversions, etc.

Multi-Source Keyword List

If you start with a large data set that pulls from multiple tools (including the “soft” data you get from customer feedback, calls, discussions, etc.), you’ll be able to whittle that list down to a small group per page to target.

For example:

  • Extract the top 50-100 phrases (non-branded) from tools that you’re using.
  • Drop them into an excel sheet that has a column to identify the source.
  • Use conditional formatting to identify and mark duplicates.
  • Dive in and start finding answers to questions.

Start analyzing and ask yourself questions: Are keywords that rank well sending a lot of traffic, or minimal traffic? Are phrases that produce substantial traffic actually converting? Are there repeated long-tail queries that show opportunities for “clarification content” (informational content to answer frequent queried questions) or new keyword research?

Answering these questions can help in a number of ways. They can provide ideas for informational content to capture and convert more traffic. They can also help you to understand your weaknesses or areas where improvements need to be made (clearer CTAs, more concise messaging, etc).

Keyword Density vs. Natural Language

“I want xx percent density, make sure you’re repeating this particular keyword because it’s important to our business.”

How many times have you heard this from your superiors, or even a client that you’re working with? Plenty, I’m sure.

Here are the two main problems with this attitude:

  1. This person is attempting to define the most important keyword to their business (and probably has no clue), and
  2. This person is asking for a specific density and usage of said keyword.

This topic of keyword density still comes up, though it’s something that those of us in the industry know hasn’t mattered for quite some time. This can be a big education point for your upper management (or clients) if you’re working on copy and mapping out the keyword integration for on-site and off-site strategy. In general, you want to do the following:

  • Use natural modifiers, synonyms and related phrases from your previous research. For example, the word “career” has many variations, as do the actual professions where words may be interchangeable. Mining SERPs with the “~” attached to your target keyword or phrase can help bring those to light.
  • Integrate these phrases into your outreach campaigns, along with branded variations, to create a strong, cohesive web between your off-site and on-site signals.

Related Words

Once you get over the obsession that drilling the same keyword(s) into the headings and body copy over and over again  is effective, you’ll be in a much better position to capture relevant search traffic.

Remember and repeat this phrase:

It’s not just about one keyword — it’s all about the relationship between thematically connected words.

Remember: You can never judge a keyword or phrase solely based on its numeric value — you must take into account all other factors, including how you’re optimizing on-site and what your off-site strategies and tactics are. You can find diamonds in the rough that are unique to your business and convert, which don’t require your only option being brute force in a vertical that may already be highly competitive and saturated. Your research should constantly evolve and be refined as data pours in. Get creative. There are keywords out there to mine.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Keywords & Content | SEO: Keyword Research

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About The Author: is primarily focused on organic search tactics and strategies, and passionate about breaking down barriers between different specialties and disciplines in the digital marketing space.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    “You can find diamonds in the rough that are unique to your business and
    convert, which don’t require your only option being brute force in a
    vertical that may already be highly competitive and saturated.”

    Those keywords are the golden SEO opportunities! Obviously there are going to be some broader keywords you are always chasing down, but those diamonds in the rough can have immense value if you only take the time to see it.

  • http://twitter.com/selenavidya Selena Narayanasamy

    Agreed. And it may take some time to properly find those, but you should always be tweaking and testing using all the available “real world” feedback and sources (along with traditional research tools). Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.ronvanpeursem.com/ Ron VanPeursem

    Nice work, Selena. One of your best insights: to move away from an exclusive focus on a particular keyword, and instead try to develop a THEME that is described with a variety of words that hang together cohesively. Google’s algorithms are getting better and better at “reading” content and identifying the main message, even when using a variety of terms to convey that message.

  • http://twitter.com/selenavidya Selena Narayanasamy

    Thanks Ron. Google’s algorithms are definitely becoming better at identifying overall topical themes (and has been for a while) and applying that to other on-site elements (headings, titles, descriptions, etc). It’s better from a user experience/reader perspective as well. If I land on something that seems optimized for the sake of targeting a keyword set, it’s very obvious.

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://wordswordsseowords.com/ Christopher Skyi

    For the still unconvinced, Matt Cutts gives pretty much the same exact keyword advice here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P-m2cBCJSk

 

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