Smart Organic Keyword Research

November 8, 2011
By Michelle Lowery in Internet Marketing Conferences

Work smarter, not harder. You’ve heard that, right? That adage can be applied to so many aspects of SEO and Internet marketing, but most especially to keyword research. How do you narrow down the keywords you want to target from potentially thousands of options? And how do you choose the ones that will convert? Wil Reynolds, Mark Barrera, Craig Paddock, and Carolyn Shelby are going to give you some tips. Are you taking notes? Oh, wait…I guess that’s me, huh? I’d better get to it!

Moderator: Joe Laratro hands the stage over to Carolyn Shelby, who starts out by giving us the basic keyword research process:

  • First create a “starter keyword list”
  • Refine the list into a “master keyword list”
  • Prioritize
  • Rinse and repeat. Frequently. Because things change.

The majority of keyword research is the kind you’d do when you have a static offering, like if you’re a manufacturer.

Then Carolyn gives us the ABCs of keyword research.

A is for Analytics

  • Pull the httpd (web server) error logs
  • Pull the GA “traffic generating” keyword list
  • Pull logs from your internal site search

A is for Audience

  • Have a crystal clear understanding of your target search audience
  • Remember, you can’t be all things to all people all the time. Focus.

A is for Ask, but don’t Assume

  • Ask member of your target audience about your product/service. Not the terms and phrases they use to describe things.
  • Don’t assume your target audience understands industry specific jargon and buzzwords.

B is for Brainstorming

Invitees should include subject matter experts, like:

  • core web team members
  • product managers
  • marketing people
  • anyone who designs, develops, markets, sells or services the products or customers

Don’t forget to invite the “front line” people, like customer service reps or tech support.

B is for Bonus

Survey the C-levels a list of their ideal keywords

C is for Crunch, Cull

  • Run your starter list through your favorite keyword research tool
  • Look for highest volume
  • Take not of alternative or variations that show up in the report and add those to your master list
  • Remove keywords that appear to have no search volume, or are weak compared to a very similar term

C is for Categorize

Separate keywords into two lists:

  • List A has keywords with content to support. It will have a piece of content assigned to each keyword phrase. Use this list as a guide for your internal linking strategy for consistency.
  • List B has keywords without content to support. These can be used as new topic ideas for your editorial calendar, or just as a to do list.

Finally, relax for a while, then schedule time to pull your analytics and see where you are.

Next up is Mark Barrera. He starts out talking about the AdWords search query report. AdWords has updated its reporting to show search terms which didn’t receive clicks. Before, only terms with clicks were reported. He highly suggests using a separate AdWords account to do this so you don’t affect any PPC campaigns you may have running.

Keyword Retargeting

The other side of keyword targeting is keyword/search retargeting via display advertising. He says, if he’s searching for diabetes, he can target people who have searched for diabetes previously. People don’t think of keyword usage this way, but it can be very effective. Some tools to help you do this are:

  • Fetchback
  • Simplifi
  • Chango
  • Yahoo

Keywords Across Campaigns

He saw an ad for Oracle for Human Capital Management on a couple of Vegas taxis. He did a search, and that term is not ranking for them. Think about that. How you mention your products is how people are going to search. If you don’t capitalize on it, your competitors are going to jump all over it.

Mine Your Analytics Data

Focus on keywords that have little traffic but high engagement and/or conversion rates. Conversions over traffic! It’s low hanging fruit. Traffic’s great, but if it’s for a kw that doesn’t convert, it’s worthless. You want to rule the roost on your brand keywords.

Some research tools Mark suggests:

  • SEMRush
  • Raven Keyword Insights
  • Wordstream
  • Open Site Explorer: use anchor text reports to look at competitors’ keywords so you can adjust your strategy accordingly


  • Use PPC data
  • Integrate Kws across campaigns
  • Mine analytics data for low hanging fruit
  • Focus on KWs that convert
  • Try search retargeting

Now Wil Reynold is going to talk to us about keyword frustrations. He says he scrapped most of his presentation last night, and started over because he wanted to share some of his own frustrations with us. There are four things he wants to talk about.

Google took my keyword data

A lot of people are saying, “I don’t have referral data! Waaa!” He’s sick of hearing about it. Can you change it? No. So stop talking about it. Google gives you free traffic and a free tool to analyze it, and you’re complaining about missing about 15 percent of those keywords?

What can we do? Instead of crying about it, find another way to get the data Google has taken from you. It’s in your Webmaster Tools. Google invited some SEOs to talk about Webmaster Tools and how to get that data back, but there are some problems. If you’ve logged in, and the data is inaccurate, that’s worth being upset about. If the average position was at 25 and now it’s at 50, Google has acknowledged this issue and is working on fixing it. It tends to happen a lot with e-commerce.

This is not ideal because you can only go 1,000 keywords deep, but it’s better than complaining. This is a start to get that data back.

SEO & SEM on Different Tracks

Wil says, even in his company, they’re still trying to figure out how to best work together so they can all benefit. It’s even more difficult between two agencies. It starts with SEM. When you look at how to integrate these two groups, SEM is the place to start. One way SEO can help SEM is SEMs will see keywords and will turn them off because they can’t see how they convert. But how often is that communicated to the SEO team? If you can get it to rank well, you’re going to get the traffic and conversions. Doesn’t happen a lot.

Search Querty Report – Use phrase match to look at the root keyword, and then all other derivatives. He likes to find words they’re already ranking for in the head term, but they don’t have all the other tail terms. Use phrase match in the search report, and then go after them with SEO. Should be easier to own all of them in the search landscape.

Run a rank check on those keywords (he recommend SEOBook Rank Checker). Only takes about a half hour to run, and will show you where you rank for all those terms for which you already own the head, but not the derivatives. You’ll know you’re going to make money when you write content for those terms. So many companies don’t do it. It’s a goldmine.

High converting keywords in SEM that are not ranking well in SEO.
SEO – head of the tail: SEOs love to go after competitive keywords. We like to see how good we are. Once we get it, we’re done instead of looking for all the other keywords.
SEM – avoids head keywords: SEMs think a monkey knows to go after all the other keywords, so they don’t really think to share the information.

Wil says advanced SEOs build tools. Not saying you have to do it. He thought of one, and hired someone to build it. But if you do, use another tool’s API, like Raven, and build a tool to tell you when those opportunities arise.

Bone to Pick With You

Yes, he’s talking to you. Here it is: Building an asset to get links with NO keyword research. Building content is the real way to win at SEO. But he was looking at social media widget on Google the other day. He used Google suggest. Want to improve your SEO? Want to improve your keywords? Stop hitting Enter. He types in his words painstakingly slowly to see what comes up. The sad part was, the company that ranked for social media widget works on several platforms, but they never built a page that said “this works on WordPress,” “this works on Drupal.” Laugh now, but he bets you’re all doing the same thing.

Uses an example to find “hardwood floor calculator.” Top four sites use the terms, but don’t have the tool. Number five site not using words for asset they built, but they have the best tool.

Can’t Get The Boss on Board

You get frustrated because they boss or client won’t listen. Too often, we spend a lot of time trying to rank for keywords, but we don’t explain to the client how it will affect their business. Talk to people in the way they can understand. Stop talking to them about keywords, and talk to them about revenue.

Craig Paddock steps up to finish out the session.

Content research

He searched for boxing equipment vs. boxing gear. Google highlights boxing equipment for the boxing gear search. Don’t obsess over popularity of keyword phrase.

Be an Authority

Don’t just target top sales terms. Create content and target keyword phrases that will make you an authority in your industry. Create content that’s interesting and encourages links and sharing via social channels. This increases site user experience and lowers bounce rate. Create buying guides and how-to content.

He mentions that the new Google Quality Rater Handbook was leaked recently. It lists five categories to rate results. Is the content:

  • vital
  • useful
  • relevant
  • slightly relevant
  • completely off-topic

When you create content, think about what Google’s looking for. According to Google, if a page exists only to make money, it’s spam. Also bear in mind the Google Freshness update. 35% of queries are now affected by the update. Don’t expect old content to rank well for timely terms.

User Generated Content

Don’t be afraid to create your own reviews on your site. It’s not spammy, it’s smart. He uses TripAdvisor as an example.

Craig suggests a couple of different ways to do keyword research. He reiterates what Wil said about
checking your top keyphrases using Google Suggest. He also mentions, which was explained in a bit more detail in the SEO Hot Topics and Trends post from earlier today. [Really, check it out. I can’t wait to get back to the office and play around with it.]

He also briefly mentions Yahoo Clues, which shows previous queries and subsequent queries for entered search terms, the YouTube keyword phrase tool, and [I missed the info on this slide, so be sure to go check it out for yourself.]

Keyphrase Competitiveness

SEO for Firefox toolbar shows competitiveness, number of unique domains linking to a particular website. Blekko shows you backlinks by country or region, so you can see if competitors are getting links from outside the United States.

To check current rankings, you need to turn off personalization, but logging out is not adequate. Add &pws=0 to your search query URL. Also turn Google instant off.

Google hates duplicate content. You may have content that’s being filtered out because Google thinks it’s duplicate. You can filter out that filter by adding filter=0 to query URL.

Host Crowding

Host crowding is when Google listes two pages from same domain on the same page. For example, there may be two pages listed at #1 and #9. Google will cluster them as #1 and #2. To see where the pages really rank, add &num=1 to the query URL.

And that’s it for today! Lots to take in, so be sure to bookmark the posts you like so you can come back to them. We’ll be back tomorrow for more PubCon awesomeness!

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