Search Term Research and Targeting

Aug 20, 2007 - 3:33 pm 2 by

The bedrock to success with search engines is understanding which search terms to target. Fail in that and your audience may never find you. This session covers ways to undertake search term research that is crucial to succeeding with your search engine marketing efforts, whether that be via free or paid listings. Kevin Ryan, Vice President, Global Content Director of Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Watch is moderating this session along with two panelists presenting - Christine Churchill of KeyRelevance and James Colborn, Product Manager for Microsoft adCenter.

Christine is up first and begins by polling the audience on how many are actually doing keyword research. Keyword research is the process of selecting relevant keywords to target as well as ones that people are actually searching for. It is not about the keywords you want to be found for but keywords that you want users to find you for. It is the number one thing you can do. Good keyword research lays the foundation for your search marketing campaign.

It is something that needs to evolve as well. If you are using the same keywords now that you came up with 5 years ago, you may be missing the boat. Early in her career, she recalls targeting engineering and "techy" types of words for a site she was working on but the problem was that no one else was actually using those terms. The lesson learned here is that the keyword we think might draw traffic my not be ones that are actually being searched for.

She touches on the long tail, keywords that may not generate gobs of searches but ones that are more targeted and actually convert better.

Keyword research begins with brainstorming with the idea of casting net widely and generating a broad list. This can involve starting with keywords you already know about. One thing that is really valuable is looking at the keyword people search for utilizing your internal site search. There is the possibility of discovering keywords that you might have never thought of on your own.

Christine suggests looking at online and traditional print magazines for ideas when developing a keyword list. Company and product reviews are also helpful. The general idea is to learn what your customers are looking for and how they would search for it. Customer surveys and focus groups are effective ways to accomplish this. Forums and discussion forums are additional venues to learn how people communicate regarding your products and/or services. One of the most overlooked resources to discover keywords is to mine your log files.

Keyword research tools -

- Wordtracker
- Keyword Discovery
- Google Keyword Tool
- Yahoo/Overture Keyword Tool
- Nichebot
- Miva Keyword Generator Tool
- MSN adCenter Tools
- Vivisimo (Clusty)
- Quintura

She talks about Wordtracker which pulls its data from meta search engines. She cautions that when using keyword research tools such as this, common sense has to be levied as well. She mentions that the Yahoo/Overture Keyword toll has not been updated since January so its future is not too sure. Yahoo does has a new keyword tool within the ad management console (Yahoo! Search Marketing). She then touches on the Google keyword tool. One highlight is that Google will suggest additional keywords based off your foundational one. Keyword Discovery is next (my favorite). She talks about how Keyword Discovery pulls data from toolbars. It can be more reliable as to what people are actually searching for but the numbers will not represent a large proportion of the Internet. A key feature of Keyword Discovery is that they have historical data. Google Trends allows you to monitor branding or watch trends such as seasonal topics of things that may have been hot but now are not.

Christine talks next about keyword expansion - expanding your initial list of words and phrases. Adding adjectives for example is one way you can expand your list of keywords.

In evaluating a keyword list, one must first look at relevancy. The popularity (how many people are searching for them), where the most popular is not always the best strategy. The next step is looking at user intent. Understanding the "why" behind the search will help you to provide a better response. Keywords will reveal where people are at in the "buying process." There are three types of searches  navigational, informational and transactional. In further evaluating a keyword list, look at what the competition is doing - what keywords are they targeting, have they optimized their sites, are they doing paid search, etc.

A few competitive intelligence tools -

- Hitwise
- Trellian
- AdGooRoo
- SEOmoz's Keyword Difficulty Tool

The ultimate test of a good keyword list is how they end up performing. Are they drawing traffic and more importantly, are they converting.

Next up is James who starts out by reminding us that keyword research is not a one time task but an ongoing process as the search lifestyle can change and evolve. The normal process in running a PPC campaign is selection of keywords, writing creative (ads) and bidding. However if keyword research is faulty, then nothing else you do really matters. The keyword research lifecycle consists of research, launch, review and then revise.

The research process includes searches, costs, age and gender info and searches intent. Launching includes determining bids, writing copy, etc. The review cycle includes looking at actual searches, costs and performance against objective. Finally the revision stage involves modifying keyword list to ensure you are meeting goals and getting the most out of your campaign.

James polls audience as to what they use to do competitive analysis of keywords with two choices - the search engines or third party tools such as Wordtracker. He states that the search engines are one of the best resources, especially now that they are becoming more transparent in the information they are willing to share.

James talks about how they track behavioral targeting. A cookie is used but it generalizes the information. In other words if I am 40 and live in Anthem, Arizona, the cookie will say I am a male at an average age of 40 - 45 who lives in the southwest. James shows examples of how advertisers can utilize the behavior data to streamline campaigns.

James featured a new tool Microsoft is releasing that will allow you to export keyword data into Excel. There are a variety of options you can select all of which export into spreadsheet format. It is something you will have to play with as soon as it is available - it would be kind of difficult to describe exactly what it does here without seeing screenshots. I'm pretty sure he said that if you are attending the conference, you can visit the Microsoft booth to see this new product/feature demoed.

David Wallace - CEO and Founder SearchRank


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