The Real Key to Keyword Research: People

Day two of SES Chicago had me ducking for cover, as razor sharp tips and tools came flying at me from the “Advanced Keyword Research” session of the PPC track.  This session, moderated by, Ron Jones, Search Engine Watch Expert & President/CEO, Symetri Internet Marketing was about demystifying keyword research. 

The panel of speakers included: Damian Finlay,  Managing Director, Epiar Inc., David Snyder Search and Social, Search Specialist,, Martin Laetsch, Sr. Director of Search Strategy, Covario and  Monte Cahn, Founder & CEO, Moniker, and  Following are tips and tools to aid in the enhancement of your keyword research.

Optimize your valuable internal resources…front line employees.  They have the direct line to who’s saying what and how it’s being said.  This will give you a leg up on the data set before utilizing the glut of available tools.

Don’t stop there. Continue to have consistent meetings with people who have day to day contact with your custumers so you can continually chart out the words consumers use.  Tools are good but the idea of “putting a man or woman back into the machine is real.”

Embrace the idea that keyword research is about user behavior and remember that an effective keyword is one that users use to describe your product. To find the right words, one must talk to the user.

When using tools, remember to use multiple sources. This will aid in the elimination of skewed data you could get from using just one source.  Also, you will harvest a larger inventory of words.  There are tools within Search Engines and many others to choose from.  Some examples are: Keyata, NicheBot, SEO Book, Good Keywords, Trellian Keyword Discovery, and Wordtracker.

Dig into the minds of the users by creating cost effective focus groups that utilize your existing customer group. With the tool,, you can create a search scenario and then have your contact group send you the words they use to search for you.  Classify your offerings based on what your customers actually say.  A better understanding of how customers respond to your site information can be used to clean up usability and information architecture.  It can also alleviate wasted time and effort.

Be Negative
Maximize negative keywords.  Negative keywords are good.  Thousands and thousands are even better. As the name might imply, negative keywords filter out unwanted queries. For all you 8th grade math fans out there, we all know that two negatives make a positive. 🙂

This mathematical equation can be true in the keyword world too.  Negative keywords can yield positive results for CTR, bounce rates, Quality Score, Max CPC, ad position, qualified leads, conversion rate, costs per conversion and ultimately…profit. Negative words are handled differently from Search Engine to Search Engine.  Nevertheless, how you create them stays the same…brainstorm by looking at past phrases that don’t convert or have high bounce rates, use a thesaurus and use available tools.

Conversions Are King
Pursuant to the good use of analytics, use data you see to determine your next move. While looking at rankings and traffic is a good start, it is still all about conversion.  Since the conversion-goals might be  different for every site, the first step is to actually define the conversion KPI (key performance indicator).

Conversions fall into the following categories: ecommerce, lead generations, ad based monetization and, finally, branding.  While there are different kinds of conversion, we must be able to report on all of them so we can see what people are doing and then optimize at the keyword level.  Don’t view keyword data in a single screen.  Analyze success on a per keyword basis.  Apply the budget from bad words to good words and you’ll see an increased ROI.

Analyze Paid and organic side by side. To get world class performance, one must integrate.  Be aware of the keyword in relationship to paid and organic because the activity around the keyword can be both synergistic and/or cannibalistic.  Be sure to take action based on what you find.  Certainly it is a lot of work, but worth doing for increase in performance.

Utilize your keyword research information to create domain names as part of your strategy.  Domains are increasing in numbers and value – worldwide. In fact there are more registrations in down markets because its proclivity to inspire entrepreneurship.

Keywords matter in domains because they are unique.  15% of Google users still search use direct navigation.  In addition, always brand your domain name on emails so the aforementioned 15% will type in YOUR site’s domain name.  Conversly, get your domain name in your keyword list.  Also, don’t let competitors own your keywords on their domain name.  You will end up spending mega bucks in PPC trying to regain some of the traffic.  Remember to also register misspellings of your domain name too.

Where Do You Start?
Begin by using your analytics to evaluate under-performing keywords.  Next, ask yourself some questions: is the keyword in the right ad group and am I sending the person behind the word to the right landing page?

Once I send a person to the right landing page, is there a clear call to action? And finally, am I measuring success correctly on the page. If you answered yes to all these and still your keyword is underperforming, try bidding up while still maintaining a positive ROI. Once this has been exhausted, it is pretty safe to surmise that it is not the right word.  Get rid of the word!  Bon Voyage!

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