Organic Keyword Research and Selection

March 11, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Okay, kids, one more session to go and then the fun starts. Joe Laratro is back moderating Seth Wilde, Amanda Watlington, Mark Jackson, and Craig Paddock. I’m back on my own laptop with no wifi. My life is So Hard.

To save me from my misery and whining, Seth is up first. He lets us know that his company is looking for an SEO Manager, so if you live in Austin and are looking for a job, track him down. Okay, then. Now that that’s out of the way…

Keyword Research Methods

Internal Data:

  • List of products or services
  • Current organic search queries
  • Site search box

Third Party Tools:

  • Competitive Intelligence
  • Keyword Research Tools

Using SEM for Testing & Refining Keywords

Don’t just go for the phrase with the most searches. Know how well the search phrase converts to real business.  Look out for Exact Match and keep your ad on the front page.

Keyword Competitiveness

  • Google (inanchor: “keyphrase” intitle:”key phrase”)
  • Use Yahoo Site Explorer to do backlink checks on competing sites
  • For third party tools, use SEOmoz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool or Linkscape.

Once you know the search volumes for your key phrases, figure out which URLs you want to assign these keywords. Broad terms will appear on the home page, with the keywords getting more specific as you move deeper into your site. That’s where you’ll target the long- and mid-tail. Use 3-4 keywords per page, but only if you have the content to back up your keyword selections. Group keywords that Google sees as similar.

Refining Your Results

Adjust for Growth and Competition: If there is more competition than you thought, you may want to adjust to less competitive phrases. As your site improves over time, you should target more competitive terms.

Do Regular Keyword Research: Keyword search volume and conversion rates can be seasonal or change over time. New trends, products, jargon.

Next up is Craig. He says he has 177 slides. I suddenly really don’t like him.

Keyphrase discovery

Look at:

  • Log files/analysis
  • internal site search
  • 3rd party sampling
  • Google has Google Trends, Insight for Search, AdWords Keyword Search and Search-based keyword tool

Google added the Search Suggestion to its search box. There will be an increase in those variations. Don’t forget your company or brand terms. They’ll be your highest converting terms and they’re the easiest to rank for. Affiliates will target branded terms you miss. Target more than one result.

Your AdWord campaign can give you important data on your click through and conversion rate.  You should also look at your engagement rate, and revenue/visitor.

Craig is showing a lot of actual data, so while it’s awesome to listen to, there’s not much to actually liveblog. Again, this is your fault, not mine. ;)


Wordtracker exports # of competing sites.

Your link quality (not quantity) must be similar to top ranked sites.

Check for local 10 pack and product results.

Current Ranking

Just because you’re already getting traffic for a term, doesn’t mean you can’t improve it. If you’re running ranking reports, you have a large set of keyphrases. Rerun ranking reports with “yourdomain”. Take advantage of clustering.

Google Clustering: Google takes two pages from the same domain and pushes them together in the search results. It only occurs if the rankings are on the same page. So if you can get your second page from #14 to #9, you’ll be given a free ride up the SERP to your top listing.

How much is a first ranking worth?

CR x AT x ME x 20%  x 12 = Annual Value

CR  = conversion rate

AT = average transactional value

ME = Google monthly estimate

20 percent = traffic from #1 organic ranking

Next up is Amanda.

She says keyword research is her favorite topic because it’s the basis for where all SEO begins.

Are there any hard rules for organic keyword research?

Rule #1: Keyword research is not a one and done process.

  • How often should you redo it? It’s very labor intensive. It’s not a simple act.

Rule #2: There are no Swiss army knife keyword research tools.

  • She uses a number of keyword research tools. The other panelists agree. How do you integrate the data you get from all the tools. She assigns a valence to the tools and goes from there because she doesn’t trust them all equally.  Some are better than others.

Rule #3: The tools are only as good as the analyst using them.

Rule #4: Boiling the ocean to get the “right keywords” is a waste of time.

Rule #5: Capture the head from the tail

  • Over time if you get links and activity on a page, you’ll start to rank for certain terms without trying.

Rule #6 Content-centric keyword strategies are win-win solutions

Rule #7: Segment/bin your keywords to sharpen your analysis

  • Find areas you’re thin on and that need to be built out.

Rule #8: Listen to your feedback. Avidly mind your analytics.

  • Your analytics are a goldmine of information. It can be daunting to go in there and build activity, but you have to. Mind them avidly.

Rule #9: Take a forward-looking approach to all keyword analysis and research

  • Keyword research is a backward-looking activity, but you have to turn it around.  Are you missing segments where there’s viable business? Use SpyFu and its new combat feature.  Keyword research tells you the next step.

Rule #10: Build your own keyword list to study the engines

  • Shouldn’t be related to any of your clients. You can test how the engines are treating certain keyword groups.  One of the most valuable thing you can do.  You want to always be watching for change, whether it’s related to your client or not.

Mark is going to finish us off.

Competitive Analysis/ Site Structure

  • If you know the keywords, do you know the context? Organic SEO is different from Paid Search. No “broad match” rules here.
  • Does your site have the authority to compete for those terms? Know who you are and who you want to be?

The engines look at content and links when determining authority.  He uses to see the top 10 sites for a given search phrase.

When trying to outrank someone else, consider how many pages of content you would need to even have a chance. “keyword phrase” will tell you how many pages they have on the topic and how many you’ll need to beat them.

The next thing to look out is the anchor text of your backlinks. If you can use a tool like Advanced Link Manager, it will tell you the number of instances that they have of a certain anchor text being used in links to their site. Helps you to see what they’re optimizing for.

KeywordSpy will let you see what terms are generating traffic for a particular Web site.

And we’re out! I’m off to go find a place with wifi to publish this and I then I hear there’s a networking reception somewhere. Mmm, beer.

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