If there is a single concept that is the driver of much of the internet’s growth over the past decade – not to mention nearly all of Google’s $25 Billion of annual revenue – it is the concept of keywords. Keywords are what we type in when we are searching for products, services and answers on the search engines, an act that Americans performed 15.5 Billion times in April 2010 (according to ComScore).
For businesses, the implications are huge; keyword selection is fundamental to success in paid search (PPC), organic website rankings (SEO), as well as the holy grail of marketing: how to most effectively market your products and services to your target audience.
Do our customers love our product because it is fast acting or because it is long lasting? Do they care more about the great price or the abundant features? The answers very well may lie in the keyword research and strategies below, the same strategies that we use to help our clients, from the local dry cleaner to Fortune 100 companies, with all of their online marketing efforts.
1. Pick good “keyphrases” rather than “keywords”
When it comes to search engine marketing, there may be no larger misnomer, no more archaic term than the ubiquitous “keyword”. I propose an official migration to the more accurate term “keyphrase”, but for now I will be forced to accept reality. My frustration with this term is that it quite simply implies a single word, which is rarely the strategy that we employ when doing keyword research and selection and running PPC and SEO campaigns.
All too often, people dramatically over-think the most basic keyword research concepts; keyword generation should start simply with answering the question of “what products or services do you sell?” If I sell dog food online, the root words “dog” and “food” alone would be very poor keywords because on their own, neither “dog” nor “food” do a remotely good job of
at describing what you sell. Although this example makes it obvious, many times we have to fight through our urge to include those bigger, broader root keywords.
2. Never default to “vanity keywords”
Let’s look at a trickier example, one where the root keyword arguably does a good job describing what we are selling. In this case, I own an online jewelry store and sell all types of jewelry. Ranking highly for the keyword “jewelry” would probably be at the top of my search engine marketing goals. I am not arguing here that this would not be a profitable keyword that drives relevant traffic. In this case, from an organic SEO perspective, unless you are a huge, highly authoritative site (or lucky enough to be Jewelry.com, knowing that Google rewards keywords that match website addresses) you are going to have a much harder time competing to rank well for this root keyword than more specific keywords: e.g. “gold jewelry”, “silver necklace”, “womens rolex watch”. Furthermore, from both an SEO and PPC perspective, those more specific keywords are going to have a significantly higher conversion rate for purchases, and in general be less competitive.
Sometimes we refer to those root keywords as “vanity keywords”, because if you do just one search to see who seems to be winning the space, you are likely to pick the single broadest keyword and see who comes up ranked highly. In nearly every case, however, we have found it to be more successful and deliver a significantly better ROI to focus on the hundreds or even thousands of more specific keywords that more closely match the services, products, brands, and locations that we sell or serve.
3. The Wonder of Google’s “Wonder Wheel”
This is in my opinion the best little secret of everyone’s favorite search engine: the Google Wonder Wheel. Released about a year ago but virtually unknown compared to Google’s much more visible search tools, the Wonder Wheel can be accessed by doing a search and then selecting “Wonder Wheel” under the filter options on the left.
What you are presented with now is a visual representation of the way that Google – and indirectly the way that users themselves — groups together keywords. This alone can become the foundation of your PPC and SEO keyword research.
Starting with the keyword “dog food”, I see related and more specific terms like “dog food reviews”, “dog food comparison” and “dog food brands”, which can help identify other keywords to focus on. Then, clicking on “dog food brands” it automatically expands that keyword to be another hub, with more specific keywords for dog food brands such as “Nutro dog food”, “Purina dog food”, and so on.
At Wpromote, we use this tool to help shape overall content strategies as well. Continuing with the dog food example, we can see that ratings, comparisons and reviews were all grouped as closely related to dog food in general, implying that people that are searching for dog food are very interested in the comparison and review side of things. So from a content strategy perspective, it would be a very powerful takeaway to include a heavy emphasis on customer ratings, third-party reviews and side-by-side comparisons to help the consumers make their dog food selections while shopping on their site.
4. Repetition across keywords is okay
One concern we hear frequently is whether or not it is beneficial or harmful to have repetition among keywords. In other words, should we be looking for other variations on words or is it okay to have keywords such as “dog food reviews”, “dog food comparison” and “dog food rankings”, despite the repetition of “dog food”. The short answer is that the repetition is just fine, as long as the meaning of the phrase as a whole is sufficiently varied. In other words, “dog food” and “dog food online” are basically synonymous, and the content that one might expect to find associated with both keywords is the same. However, “dog food reviews” and “dog food comparison” indicate somewhat different content and therefore it is totally appropriate to use both as keywords.
The more important concept to keep in mind is that you want to choose keywords that best relate to the content present on that page and on that site. If you don’t have a dog food comparison matrix, then don’t bother including comparison-related keywords; you would be misleading your users and certainly not fooling Google. In an ideal world, you would have a comparison section, reviews section and rankings section, but they would be on different pages or divided within your site and each one would be tagged with the appropriate keywords. Correspondingly, your SEO and PPC search engine marketing efforts are exploiting that content by sending “review” keywords to the “review” pages and so on.
5. Let the keywords guide the content
We have referenced this concept several times in the preceding tips, but it is important enough to leave as a final guiding paradigm in thinking about keywords.
Conventionally, we think linearly about content and keywords; we build a website, and then launch search engine marketing campaigns to drive users to our content. When we think about strategy at Wpromote, we think about a circular process; since our keyword research reflects both what users are seeking and the way that the search engines (particularly Google) “think” about keywords, we let that drive our content strategy.
Put differently, to be phenomenally successful, we seek not to take static content and try to pry greater results from it. Instead, we leverage the knowledge we have of existing user needs to create the best possible online experience. That, in turn, will be rewarded with higher rankings, greater traffic, and a larger ROI from our marketing efforts.
1. Check out monthly search stats from the invaluable Google Keyword Tool
2. The Wonder Wheel is awesome; a Google engineer walks thru how it can be used here.
3. Wordtracker is a paid but widely used keyword and competitive intelligence tool.