Keyword Research: Listen To Your Customers!

While SEO is a part of our daily lives, the process of digging into keyword research hasn’t gotten any easier. Yet, as we know, keyword research is critical to any SEO effort. While you may find the process of uncovering and selecting the most appropriate keywords for optimizing your site to be fairly painstaking, it doesn’t have to be. Using information from your site’s search box can save you time and provide additional keywords for consideration.

Compiling a list of keywords to use in SEO traditionally entails discovering the terms people are searching for on search engines, how often, and which other sites appear for those terms. The keywords you uncover must make the most sense for your business, since you are relying on them to improve your natural search rankings and deliver targeted traffic to your site. However, determining the best mix of terms isn’t easy. Search terms used are as varied as the people typing them in. In fact, Google estimates that up to 20 to 25% of the queries its sees are unique. And volume can be a barrier; the sheer numbers of unique search terms many sites attract make it difficult to monitor and analyze trends in the terms customers use.

You may be using any of a number of tools available to help with keyword development, such as Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, Keyword Discovery or Wordtracker, to name a few. But, remember, the keywords they help you generate are still just educated guesses about the ways prospective customers might come to your site, and aren’t guaranteed to increase traffic. You can significantly strengthen your keyword lists with terms you’re customers are actually using.

Of course it is important to assess the search terms that led people to your site, and where that traffic came from. In conjunction with this, you should determine the search terms your customers are using once they are on your site. This can help you take important steps to ensuring you are not only creating the most focused keyword lists, but are also optimizing your web pages for the language of your customers. These terms don’t emerge from a weekly marketing brainstorm, but rather are the real words your customers are using on your site today. For example, someone may have come to your site through a Google search for the term “clown costume.” But, using the search box on your site, they typed in “Bozo.”

Use the search box. Any good site search platform will provide you with a list of the top phrases customers are using when searching your site. You will likely uncover customer search terms that are unexpected. Considering these terms in your keyword discovery process and making adjustments to your SEO or PPC campaigns by including these terms can significantly increase your conversions. Many of our customers have used this technique in their search marketing campaigns with significant results.

Mine analytics reports. All of the top analytics tools provide options to explore the ways customers are searching for information on your site. Google Analytics and Coremetrics, for example provide reports that outline customer search terms on a site. With this information, you can define keyword lists using terms that your customers think of before you do. These terms can be help you optimize your site and drive greater traffic, and are great terms to include in paid search campaigns.

Automate the process. Tools are available that automate the process of generating keyword lists based on the terms people use most often while searching a site, and the items they click on. These tools are also able to create product landing pages, based on customer search activity, that are search-engine-optimized. This process usually proves too costly and time-intensive for most companies to replicate manually, particularly if they are optimizing a site based on hundreds or thousands of site search terms.

Conducting research to determine the most relevant keywords to use in SEO isn’t something new, but there are new ways to take advantage of all the information at hand to streamline and improve the process. Remember to analyze the search activity going on inside your site, and incorporate that information into your search marketing efforts. The keywords discovered can help to significantly improve your results.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: SEO | Search Marketing: Search Term Research

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About The Author: is Chief Executive Officer of SLI Systems and posts regular insights on site search trends to SLI's blog.

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