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Search Term Research & Targeting – Keyword Research is Crucial!

Search Term Research & Targeting
This post has great information from one of the Search Engines Strategies sessions we attended about keyword research and choosing the right phrases to SEO your website!

Featured panelist:
Christine Chrchill of KeyRelevance

Christine first reminded us that before you start your keyword mission, you must pound into your brain to keep in mind that you MUST SPEAK “THEIR” LANGUAGE. “Their” being your target audience.

Below are the phases you’ll go through during keyword research:

1. Keyword Brainstorming

  • Just start listing anything and everything you can think of – There are no wrong phrases here so get it all down. Don’t forget to chat with friends and family too.
  • Lists from within the company – Grab words directly from the website, press releases and employees. NOTE: Some of these terms may be insider jargon and may or ma not be searched for by your target audience.
  • Site search box – UM DUH! Why didn’t I think of this before? Google now offers a free site search box to add to your site. This totally reveals what people are looking for. It does the research for you!
  • Existing online, print, product reviews, and the handy dandy THESAURUS!
  • Customers – Interview them, send them surveys, see what they blog about. Check with customer service too. They work with your customers every day. What are they hearing your product or service being described as? So often here at Cal Coast, a small business will call us for services. They don’t ask “How much for search engine optimization?” They ask, “How much to get my site found in Google?” Why would I spend the big bucks and resources optimizing for search engine optimization when the better conversions come from “get my site found in Google”?
  • Competition – They may have already done most of the work. What have they narrowed it down to? Check their metas, content and which terms they are CPC-ing on. CPC = cost per click.
  • Log Files/Site Stats – Your Google analytics stats will capture the exact phrase people are using to find you! You can see what’s working (or not) and expand or reduce list accordingly.

The next step is to organize your data somehow. I recommend an excel spreadsheet. I will touch base on the COOLEST MICROSOFT FEATURE EVER in a minute that relates to this.

2. Keyword Research – You must go out and see what the users are really typing in. HERE is a long list of SUPER COOL handy dandy FREE (and not so free) keyword research tools!

MSN AdCenter
Keyword Discovery
Google AdWords
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Trends

Many of these tools provide data that eliminates skewing issues. You know when you search for “search engine optimization” and you see 250 searches last month in Overture for “search engine opti optimization search searches.” Well that is because someone using Web Position Gold, or other ranking tracking software queried the search engines daily for a term that doesn’t even matter! Oh dear! Anyway, a few of the tools above eliminate those searches like WordTracker (no wonder their results are always lower than Overture).

Quick Tip: Keyword Discovery offers historical data on searches too so you are getting ACCURATE (no skewing) HISTORICAL data. There are handy dandy charts and graphs to show you search numbers for not just last month but for all year long. See a spike for pools in the summer…um yeah 🙂

Don’t worry too much about those numbers of searches. Each tool is going to give you different numbers because they all pull different results. You are looking for the popularity of the term. Does one show up above the others consistently?

Once your research is complete you need to finish…

3. Keyword Evaluation

  • Relevancy of terms
  • Popularity
  • User Intent – what were they looking for when they typed in that term?
  • Research vs. Purchase – Was the purpose for the search to find information or a commercial service or product?

The general path for a users search is as follows…

  1. Problem search
  2. Information search
  3. Alternatives search
  4. Evaluation of alternatives
  5. Purchase

Quick Fact: 80% of searches are NON COMMERCIAL. That means searches are looking for info to solve their “problem” before they want to purchase your product.

Quick Tip: Evaluate your competitors too! What terms are they buying, what are they doing, where are they linking to and from, what text are they being linked too with (anchor text)?

Some fun tools for evaluating competition that were mentioned were the following:

Hitwise – Type in 2 URLS and see which terms each is driving traffic for.
Keyword Difficulty Tool

Once you have what you feel to be a solid set or terms, the next step is testing and tuning. Test your performance early!

In reviewing this data, you may find that a term is searched for more often by men but is clicked on more often by women. What does this tell us? That we need to change the actual ad or title and description calling the user to click on you to target the people who are actually searching for your term…your target market!