November 29, 2008
Among the initial objectives of a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign is identify target keywords. At face value this is a very simple task. However, we know the path of least resistance is not always the best path to take.
To begin with, we use common sense tools such as Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft AdCenter Labs, and others to identify existing keyword patterns. Google Analytics, and similar utilities will show us what keywords have been used to locate our site(s) so far. It is important to realize that this is not the end of our work. There may be a group or groups of prospects who were not able to locate your site(s) with their keyword searches. This is a fundamental concept to understand, so i will expound. For example, let us pretend that our site(s), when observed through our analytics tools, shows that users have been locating us with the keywords, “nine brief digit” and “outdated future.” There may be prospects trying to find us with the keyword “vanilla general,” but since we are not listed in the SERPs for “vanilla general” they cannot find us.
To mitigate the issue of being in as many of the SERPs as we realistically can, we must do additional research. I personally like to involve the client, or the SEO recipient(s), when I can, and this is a good place to do so. Have them provide to you keywords, trade words, terminology and such, which is used by their target market(s). This may not be the same keywords used by the industry professionals themselves. It should be the keywords used by the industry’s consumers, again, their target market. If they are trying to break into a new market, have them do what they do to get this information. Either way, we have our own task of discovering what the competition is doing.
Regardless of whether or not the competition is properly utilizing keywords, we may want to target some of theirs, if only to eat into their targeted SERPs. Much can be learned about an industry through analyzing their SEO tactics, which is even more important if you are entering a new industry, market, or niche. One thing you may be able to learn about a competitor, beyond their target audience(s), is if, and possibly when, they are preparing for a product launch, or some other event. Also, you may be able to guess as to internal issues if you watch active SEO efforts go stale along with varying Press Releases from the organization, possibly regarding management changes or low earnings, et cetera. Be creative in researching competitors. Think, open source intelligence.
Regarding analytics, they are history. I mean this quite literally. Yes, they may point towards the future, but they are just records of the past. To find the lost users, clients, or prospects, after you have canvased your competitors (all of them or as many as you can), you may find others through creative guesses with your analytics and AdWord type tools. You want this to be as accurate and thorough as possible so you can have the biggest impact possible. In order to accomplish this, I suggest we realize that the business world is not a fluffy environment full of love and goodwill, but rather a wild realm where survival of the fittest is a moment by moment reality.
Before I forget to mention this, another factor in locating lost users, clients, or whoever, is cross promotion, or to up the marketing and branding efforts in other fronts, such as print, radio, television, packaging, and so forth. Yes, this falls into the no-brainer category, but that is even more reason to not forget it. Have a unified front with your marketing efforts, and ultimately with all of your organization’s efforts.
While keeping up with the other marketing mediums, such as television, and radio, pay attention to what others are doing there as well. Television has a fairly amazing grasp of their demographics. It may be possible for you to glean some knowledge from how a certain channel, station, show, or product may target various groups, including their choice of words.
Keep up with social trends, including trends which distrust newer trends. Know where your target audience lives. If the people you want to reach listen to a certain type of music, follow that type of music. Listen to that type of music yourself! Know who your consumers are, where they exist, and how they move. Indeed, this is all marketing 101 stuff, but remember that how well and naturally you perform fundamentals is a sign of your true skill. So step back from your universe, look around, and get lost in other worlds.
While working on all of the above, go to the source. Go to existing customers, prospective customers, complete strangers, go to the masses, and ask them what they want. More important than asking them anything though, is listening to them whole-heartedly. Communicate with the public, not as a sales force, but as someone who wants to learn. Incorporate your efforts of knowing who your consumers are, where they exist, how they move, what they want into real-world relationships. Interview as many people as you can, and learn by listening to them.
Earlier I discussed SEO Through Brand Equity and Family Branding. This is where you build networks, and utilize the concepts of family branding to create brand equity, or authority. It may not be uncommon for you to have a single network, or family of one-hundred or more sites. These sites can be used for numerous ends, including testing of keywords. Tools such as Google Analytics’ Goals, and Google Website Optimizer are good for testing various aspects of page layout, design, wording, et cetera which can be used to find an optimal combination which yields maximum results. You can also do this type of testing manually, through your own web logs, though it is probably easier just to use a search engine’s utilities. If you are a fan of other search engine related analytical tools, so be it, as long as you are able to determine ideal patterns of success for your site(s).
Another rich location for discovering useful keywords is your own internal site searches. If your site offers the ability to search your site, or even your network of sites, keeping track of what users are searching for may be precious information you can use to better target your internet marketing efforts.
Overall, keyword selection is an involved process which is critical for a successful search engine optimization campaign. Like just about every other aspect of SEO, keyword selection is an on-going process which is constantly changing and morphing. Because this is an issue which will continue to exist, understanding how to confidently select keywords for your websites is a highly important aspect of successful and strategic search engine optimization.