What Netflix can teach us about long-tail keyword research
Columnist Ryan Shelley believes that good long-tail keyword targeting is all about knowing your audience -- something Netflix excels at.
Anyone who has ever used Netflix knows about their very obscure categories. Categories like “Imaginative Time Travel Movies From The 1980s,” “Understated Detective TV Shows” and “Witty Dysfunctional Family TV Animated Comedies” may seem outrageous on the surface, but their purpose is actually right on. Netflix is obsessed with trying to learn exactly what their individual users want to see.
They don’t just pull these categories out of nowhere. They are backed by data. As SEO gets more and more personalized, we can learn a lot from these obscure Netflix categories and drive more targeted traffic with hyper-focused long-tail keywords.
Keyword research still matters. There are many in the field who seem to believe that keywords are no longer important and that focusing more on topical authority is the way to go.
Now, I fully agree that focusing on themes is crucial, but we can’t just ignore keywords. If keywords are no longer relevant, then why does Google go to all the trouble to hide them from us in analytics? Why does AdWords have a Keyword Planner? The reason is simple: people still search using long-tail keywords.
Building topic authority is extremely important, but we still need to focus on researching, tracking and implementing long-tail keywords into our SEO strategies.
Good keyword research gets personal
Back to my Netflix analogy: what makes their categories so interesting is that they are created based on the individual user’s behavior. They don’t just put random things together, although sometimes it may feel like that. Netflix is focused on trying to give their users the best experience possible.
When it comes to keyword research, we, too, need to be obsessed with our users. We need to look for trends and behaviors to help us find terms that reflect the needs of the people we are trying to attract. Just as Netflix looks at how their users interact with the service, SEOs need to look at how users are interacting with their websites (and other online properties) to learn more about the needs of their users, then use this data to find personalized, long-tail keywords.
Let’s get at little more specific. Since we aren’t able to pull as much personal data about our users as Netflix, what can we do to find some high-powered, personalized, long-tail keywords to boost our campaigns?
Using audience insights to inform keyword targeting
While a number of great paid tools can give us some powerful user data, there is one free tool anyone can use. Google Analytics has come a long way over the years, and if you are only using it to track traffic and bounce rates, you’re really missing out. Sure, we no longer get access to keyword data, but the data we do have access to is pretty powerful.
SEO is about connecting people to information — and in order to reach your audience, you have to define it.
Two very powerful tools are the Demographics and Interests sections under Audience. Both of these will provide details and insights about our site visitors and help us start to develop more user-centric keywords.
In the Demographics Overview section, you will see the average age and gender of your users. While this information is still very broad, knowing it can help you better understand who you’re talking to. You can drill down further by clicking on the “Age” or “Gender” tab to see how the trends change over time.
In the Interests Overview section, we get a broad picture of what our audience is into. The interests are broken down into three categories: Affinity Category, In-Market Segments and Other Category.
Affinity Category identifies users in terms of lifestyle. In-Market Segment identifies users in terms of their product purchase interests. Other Category provides the most specific, focused view of your users. (Learn more about these here.) As you can see, the Interests section has a ton of helpful data.
Now, I need to address one thing here. If your site doesn’t have a lot of traffic, or if you’re not driving the types of people you are looking to reach, this data will be nonexistent or incorrect. But assuming you are driving some qualified traffic, you should have an idea of the age and gender of your audience, as well as a broad idea of their interests.
Putting your data to use
Using this demographic and interest data, we can come up with great long-tail keywords that are personalized for your audience. What we want to do is take this information and, like our friends from Netflix, apply some creativity to start brainstorming possible new keywords.
Here is a quick example: A high-end furniture store’s e-commerce website has a demographic that skews predominately female within the 24–44 age group. Their top two “Affinity Categories” are Home Decor Enthusiasts and Movie Lovers. Their top two “In-Market Segments” are Home & Garden/Home Furnishings and Travel/Hotels & Accommodations. Their top two “Other Categories” are Arts & Entertainment/Celebrities & Entertainment News and Home & Garden/Home Furnishings.
Following are some Netflix-inspired long-tail keywords based on the data above:
- Hollywood-Inspired Living Room Sets
- Couches You’ll Only See in High-End Hotels
- Artistic Dinnerware Set
- Lounge Chairs That Will Turn Heads
- Celebrity-Inspired Bedrooms
Granted, some of these probably don’t have a ton of traffic, but what this exercise does is force you get outside stale, outdated practices.
Run what you create through Google’s Keyword Planner (or another tool of your choosing) and see if any are worth pursuing. If not, keep spinning your ideas and looking for related terms. In the end, you will not only have a list of hyper-targeted keywords, you will also have a better understanding of your audience and their areas of interest. This will help you create a more focused SEO strategy, which should yield better results.
Get to work on your personalized long-tail keywords!
Netflix’s seemly obscure categories actually have a lot of science and data behind them. As search marketers, we can learn from them by using the data we have available to us to uncover new opportunities and grow our overall reach online.
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