One of the first tasks of a search engine optimization or marketing campaign is to conduct keyword research.
Achieving high rankings for keyword phrases no one is looking for is pretty much a waste of time. Yet company web masters and marketing staff doing it all the time. Someone on the management team, in sales or marketing dictates the keyword phrases with no research, the site is optimized, linked and rankings ensue. But traffic performance is disappointing. Site visits are high, but conversions/inquiries are low. Inspection of the server referrer logs reveals the site is getting traffic from search engine queries, but on phrases un-related to the web site’s offering.
Understanding your customer is basic marketing. However, many companies assume their prospective customers behave online as they do offline, using the same terminology as is printed in brochures, print advertising and direct mail. But that’s not the case. When you search for a new home to buy, would you visit Google and enter, “new Chicago home with majestic views and contemporary styling”. Or would it be something else?
Gaining insight into how your customers search is critical for effective marketing online. Your ad department or agency might be able to write copy that evokes an emotional response with your prospective customers, but those are concepts being pushed. Search engine marketing is about pull. You are pulling your customers in through search engine visibility on terms that are congruent with their thought process. Push communications try to convince your prospects they need your service/product. Pull communications involve attracting customers who are already looking for your type of service/product.
Search term selection varies based on the customer’s stage in the search process. Customers in an early stage of search might use broader terms. After reviewing initial results, customers develop some initial preferences and begin to consider different options with more specific queries. Once the customer has learned enough about the different options available, the queries get very specific, 3-4 or more words. How do you know what phrases your prospective customers might be using?
Pick your keyword phrases wisely. There is no perfect keyword selection tool for organic search engine rankings. But there are several tools provide very valuable insight into the type of search terms people are using in your category. Wordtracker is one of those tools. You can get a sampling of search terms for free or use their paid service to get unlimited access. The data from Wordtracker comes from searches performed by several meta engines. Meta search engines aggregate search results from many of the top search engines into one set of search results. Other tools include Yahoo Search Marketing’s keyword selection tool and Google has a keyword sandbox.
Keyword selection is a process. Start with phrases that describe your service or product. If possible, it’s also useful to ask a few of your customers what words they would use to search for your type of business. Using this initial list of keyword phrases, you can conduct research using the keyword selection tools mentioned above to identify any other phrases you missed and how popular they are. It can be very revealing to find out different formations of keyword phrases are more popular than your original list.
Identify the keyword phrases that best match your product/service with significant popularity levels and decide on a target list of phrases. Use your target keyword list will influence many aspects of your website including categorization, page titles, meta data, content and internal linking.
Focus on the right mix of keywords and you can realize a significant improvement in site inquiries and conversions.