Working with clients to develop a robust and informative keyphrase seed list

Working with clients to develop a robust and informative keyphrase seed list

7th July 2011

It’s been over 3 years now since a potential client (a B&B owner) from Bridgend told me that he wanted to rank Number 1 in Google for hotels.

Try as I might, I was unable to convince him that both he as a business owner, and I as an internet marketer, would likely have more success choosing a range of keyphrases that were less competitive, and more relevant to the product and services that he offered.  Suffice to say, it was not the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.  I wonder where he is now?

Since that time I’ve worked with a range of clients, I’ve found that managing client expectation in the process of keyphrase research and keyphrase selection can often be key to the overall success of a project or campaign.

I won’t harp on about how keyphrase research is one of the most important and high return activities in the SEO process and how you shouldn’t chase keyword unicorns, but really involving clients in this stage of the process via their role in generating ‘seed lists’ for your keyphrase research has proved a win-win for me every time.

Formulating a seed list – what you’ll need:

  • Access to client, and client team where relevant / possible
  • A comfy meeting space
  • A couple of hours uninterrupted peace and quiet
  • Tea
  • Cake (of course, no surprises there)

If your client is a keen bean, they might want to do some reading before-hand.  I’ve always pointed them to the short section on keyphrase research in the SEOMoz beginners guide.

Guides to writing a seed list often stop short at ‘write down a list of phrases you think people would use to search for your products and services’.  The better the keyphrase seed list, the greater the opportunity to generate a comprehensive keyphrase portfolio.  Your client will know their market place 10 times better than you (hopefully!) and by spending this time with them you’ll get a much better feel for their products, services and the types of clients and buyers they are hoping to attract via search.

Without further ado – here are the areas I explore, and questions I pose during these sessions.

* Consider your target audiences, what sort of words and phrases might each of these use when searching for the products and services that you offer?  Ideally you’ll have some persona research to hand and this activity usually generates many 1-3 word phrases.

* Taking the list above, are there any synonyms to add?  Are there any ‘slang’ words, colloquialisms, or vernacular that complements this set?  Are there any ‘buzz’ words that are newer words that a searcher might use when looking for the products or services that you offer?

* List all of the brand terms, as well as products (within reason – stick to top levels if there are literally gazillions)

* List any high profile company names, or staff members

* Pause for tea and cake

* Take a look at the website, again if the site is large, concentrate on top level pages.  Take a look at each page in turn; which keyphrase is this page targeting?  Consider: ‘This page would meet the needs of searchers looking for ______’, filling in the blanks.

* Take a quick look at a couple of key competitor websites, repeat the above

* Consider the niche industry websites (for example, if you offer camping and caravanning you might look at the Camping and Caravanning Site website) and the key consumer sites for your industry (for example if you offer climbing equipment looking at  What types of words and phrases do they use when discussing and commenting on your area of interest?

* Finally, I’d take a quick swizz in analytics at keyphrases referring traffic.  Are there any here that we haven’t already listed?  Are there any further synonyms we can add based on these?

By this point you should have a hefty list of potential keyphrases.  Finally, I take a quick look at Aaron Walls keyword modifiers (downloads excel spreadsheet). Which of these modifiers are relevant, that haven’t already been included?

That about wraps it up.  From here you head off with your robust and hearty keyphrase seed list intact and ready for further exploration.  You’ve built the start of a good working relationship with the client, you have demonstrated an understanding and interest in what it is that they do and the people that they exist to service.  And you’ve eaten cake.  Win win 🙂

Is there anything that you’d add to the process for generating an initial seed list?  The best comments win cake!


Written By
Claire Carlile is a Chartered Marketer with an MSc in Marketing, living and working in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. As a self confessed ‘non technical’ SEO, Claire takes a holistic and marketing led approach to SEO. She is self-employed.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.