First session at SMX London 2013 I attended was run by Christine Churchill from Key Relevance looking at targeting the mindset of the customer.
Why Keyword Research Matters
Christine opens with declaring that keywords should be at the heart of all search marketing – the first and most important step in SEO. Keywords, she says, are the single most important thing for site relevancy.
Reassuringly she notes that it’s important to get into the customer mindset using the example ‘duplicate a CD’ and ‘burn a CD’: which would the customer look for: business jargon may work inside the industry, but mostly it’s not what customers search for.
Churchill is a fan of the long-tail term – they tend to be closer match and therefore convert better.
How to do Keyword Research
The referrer information ‘not provided’ has had a major impact. For information on not logged in customers, she suggests taking a look at Bing and PPC data – and Google webmaster tools. GWT comes with a caveat though – that it’s all data lumped together. You will need to filter the data, and it’s only there for 90 days.
She also suggests that site search is a valuable source of information.
She also suggests a brainstorming session – with some provisos: filter out negative people and avoid internal jargon.
Customers are a source that shouldn’t be overlooked, along with trade magazines and competitor sites.
To avoid keyword stuffing, finding synonyms can be really helpful.
Keyword tools help creativity.
Free ones include the Google keyword tool, although it’s been constantly changed, and it defaults to broad search. It’s also not that smart: a steel forge, for example, lead to a Dolly Parton reference. It can also help with translations. It works for most countries as google’s the biggest search engines, but be aware of the exceptions (Like Baidu in China). It can also check from Google’s perspective what a page is ranking for.
- GWT – also free – will give you a lot of keyword data (with the provisos above) – and trends data can be really useful. It will also give you demographic information (even by region).
- Google contextual marking tool – this can offer some great lateral thinking
- Google Instant shows suggestions as you start typing – words are there because they’re popular
- Soovle.com uses the Google Instant data combines with other sources and Keyword planner tool has not been widely released. It’s slated to replace the keyword tool, but Churchill notes that it’s a glitchy, limited issue beta with a clunky, slow ‘wizard’ with limited data output.
- Wordtracker.com calls in data from many places
- Keyword Discovery
- Twitter search offers up hot searches
- Ubersuggest (ubersuggest.org) can be useful
- Video search: YouTube suggestions and keyword tools
- Yahoo clues – offers head terms, not longtail
- Quintura, visual search – useful for brainstorming
- Related questions on Google and Ask can help
Like all good SEO professionals, Churchill loves Excel – she suggests putting terms in to a ‘bucket’: a broad selection of terms. She then suggests creating a matrix.
Relevancy, popularity, user intent (and stage in the buying process), searcher behaviour. We need to get past popularity: popular phrases are competitive – a less popular phrase may both rank better and convert better.
The user intent is important: some terms will be for research, others – far fewer – will be for purchasing: 80% of searches on the web are non-commercial (Jim Lanzone of Ask.com).
Searcher behaviour can be navigational, informational or transactional.
Single word phrases are growing in popularity.
Evaluate by competitor: you need search term parity: how optimised are their sites, are they doing PPC, look at their linkage situation and anchor text.
Competitive Intelligence tools exist – most have free tools for Evaluation. Particularly notable include SearchMetrics, SEMRush, and SEOMoz Keyword Difficulty.
She suggests using PPC for testing keywords.
SEO Copywriting Post Panda
Everything is better with keywords. White papers, articles, product feeds can all help.
Keyword stuffing was never a good idea, but mixing synonyms helps.
Get all copywriters to use author rank, and encourage social media, especially Google +.
Clean up your site: remove low quality pages and rewrite or use canonicals.
Deeper content, well thought out, works better – make sure the content is light and entertaining.
Scan friendly layouts: bullet points, heading, and ‘bolding’ – appropriately – all helps.
Women read more text than men, who need visuals.
Don’t forget a Call to Action!
Good copywriting is a balancing act: it’s more important than ever before. Good, natural content matters – the ‘read aloud’ test is a great way to see if your copy is great.
Make sure you have an editorial calendar so that there’s not a knee jerk reaction to seasonal events.
How to use keywords to optimise the content
The title tag is the most important place: Google weights it. Meta description is important – H tags need to be used sensibly, and alt attributes need consideration.
Schema is important.
Titles 120 characters or less. Title tags must be unique.
Captions under images, bolded, are one of the most read things on a page.
Breadcrumb navigation is good for the user.
Home page SEO
Home page SEO is tough: for most sites it will be the strongest page on the site, where the bulk of the links are made. S
So targeting some of the most competitive phrases makes most sense. Only use the more competitive keyword terms 1-3 times.
Keywords in URLs are useful, but need using carefully. Shorter titles often work better in blog posts. Longer ones are better if they’re compelling and make people ‘click’.