In search, keyword selection is paramount as it can help drive the right audience to your door. Choosing the right keywords can also enhance brand awareness. But despite the importance of keyword selection—and the fact that it helps lay the groundwork for every paid or organic search campaign—marketers commonly make mistakes with the process.
So what are marketers doing wrong? There are numerous ways in which marketers bungle their keyword selection process, including selecting keywords with little or no research to back up their picks, or choosing keywords based on the needs and opinions of various individuals or divisions in their organization without considering what customers might be searching for.
And while it might be tempting to ascribe such bungling to search newbies or the uninformed, the reality is that long-time search marketers also fall prey to these mistakes. Let’ take a look at a few of the most common mistakes marketers make with keyword selection, and how you can avoid them.
Lack of external perspective. All too often, marketers refer to their products or services from an internal perspective instead of how their online searchers view them. Because marketing teams often use internal terminology to refer to their brand, it results in content that reflects a product or service that may only be understood by insiders. For example, what if I created a website that sells computers, but I determined that they should be called “high tech typing machines?” Although my page would be organically optimized for those keywords, and that my PPC campaign would be focused on that keyword phrase, I would only receive traffic to that page if consumers were searching for “high tech typing machines.” In other words, I would be missing out on the millions of users who are searching for the term “computers.”
To avoid this mistake, be sure that you are not operating in isolation when you select paid and organic keywords and optimize the content around these terms. A good way to do that is to ask yourself a few questions: Do your keywords reflect industry terms or internal terminology? Is your business also marketing itself via these terms in its email, print, or TV ads? Is there any reason why there would be search volume on these selected terms? The bottom line is that you need to make sure that you are identifying yourself and branding your company in a way that mirrors how others refer to you.
Lack of research. This mistake relates to the first one as marketers often create keyword lists based upon internal branding initiatives rather than research or past performance data. For instance, they may select a few generic terms that they feel relate to their business, but the research is not always being done upfront to substantiate their selection. This is a big mistake as being found on relevant terms will not only bring traffic and potential conversions to your website, it can also provide you with a brand “halo” effect as research shows that 39% of search engine users believe that the companies whose websites are returned among the top search results are the leaders in their field.
The simple truth is that research is critical in the keyword selection process as you need to make sure that the terms you are optimizing for, or bidding on, are popular. Fortunately, there are free online tools such as Google Adwords keyword tool, Google Insight trend tool, and Microsoft’s AdCenter Labs Keyword Forecast tool that can help assess the popularity of terms. With organic search, you may be choosing one or two terms per page of content. With PPC there is more flexibility, as multiple keywords can all be part of the search campaign. Some may receive more traffic than others, but at least the volume can be captured across several terms. Doing your research upfront will help you discover the terms your audience is searching for.
Lack of testing. For many marketers, keywords become permanent fixtures. For instance, your list might be comprised of keywords that are associated with your brand, as well as others that may be on the list because they’ve always been part of the campaign. But just because they are on the list doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to remain there. The only way to know for sure is to test their performance, but few marketers do.
Don’t let this mistake happen to you—test the performance of your keywords regularly. If you can track a keyword through both organic and paid search all the way to the final step in the conversion process, you will be able to justify whether or not to leave keywords running in a PPC campaign or to optimize for them organically. Tests will also help you confirm or dismiss terms thought to be “top” keywords or “must have’s.” Make sure to properly test and track keywords through the entire conversion funnel, and collect as much data as possible before determining the fate of specific keyword phrases.
Understanding the most common errors made by marketers going through the keyword selection process is one key to a better performing campaign. Smart marketers will work to avoid keyword selection mistakes and reap the benefits of doing so.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.