Five Essential Steps for Mastering SEO Keyword Selection

Five Essential Steps for Mastering SEO Keyword Selection

Shares 0

Keyword selection is an art. An effective keyword selection process is a series of data-driven and well-informed choices based on a number of qualifiers. This job requires a fine balance between statistical analysis and language, which is a challenge – considering the right brain – left brain divide.

 

Some of the primary purposes of keyword selection include:

  • Setting a baseline from which to measure the performance of an SEO campaign, whether one measures rank, traffic, sales or other key performance indicators (KPI)
  • Establishing the keywords that will be the focus of optimization efforts
  • Defining the essential aspects of a business or what is core to a business’ presence online and offline
  • Aligning SEO campaigns with other promotional and communications efforts

 

The following are the core keyword selection considerations in priority order. We will explore the importance and need for each.

 

1. Relevance: The first and most important consideration is the intent of the person performing a search (what exactly a potential customer is seeking via the keywords they use). We attempt to reach a level of confidence such that the keywords in question have sufficient potential for relevance in each phrase chosen. For instance, there is a massive amount of crossover potential for a phrase such as “certificate management,” as it might refer to a completely divergent set of uses and contexts:

  1. Education
  2. Retail operations
  3. Internet security

 

Acronyms almost always have multiple possible meanings; “OTP” for instance, could refer to any of the following:

  • One Time Password
  • Offer to Purchase
  • One True Pairing
  • One Time Programmable
  • On-Time Performance
  • On the Phone
  • One Time Pad
  • Opioid Treatment Program
  • Opposite Track Path
  • Over the Phone
  • Over Temperature Protection
  • Open Trading Protocol
  • Open Telecom Platform
  • Oregon Transportation Plan
  • Outside the Perimeter
  • Office of Telecommunications Policy

 

This list represents less than half the possible acronym definitions for “OTP.” There are certainly numerous others that are valid for “Other Tantamount Phrases (OTP).” In cases such as these the keyword selection of a multi-meaning keyword may not be the best possible choice, unless there is something else to qualify that phrase. Oh The Possibilities.

 

In cases such as the acronym “PIV” it would perhaps be more effective to go with “PIV-C” to improve confidence in the intent of search. The “-C” adds a layer to the meaning that disqualifies most if not all of the Possible Intentions Vying for “PIV” alone. And, despite having less traffic, the confidence outweighs the traffic difference between PIV and PIV-C.

 

User intent or relevance is also captured with complementary words, especially those that signal the intent to engage in a purchase or find a particular level of quality. These terms might include: find, buy, best, most, get, compare, price, cost, store, places, strong, premium, luxury, top, etc.  One should attempt to identify and include similar pairings to improve the chances of getting products in front of search traffic at the right time in the purchase cycle.

 

Queries without these secondary intent signals are often inclusive of searches that are research-oriented and not necessarily commerce-oriented. However, there is at least some value in visibility in the research-oriented context, as the user has a qualified interest in the kinds of products that may be available. This exposure can and does have the capacity to lead to purchases or referrals at some point in the future, based on the brand awareness created via presence/impressions in organic search.

 

Another such complementary qualifier is geographically specific language. Localized keywords and terms often complement the core search terms, whether in the form of a zip code, a city name or community name. These keywords also have the potential to trigger a pseudo-organic search result in the form of a Google Places or Yahoo! Local search result (which often include maps content and other enhancements). While the optimization methods for such localized listings share some components with the process of pure organic optimization, many of the techniques are divergent.

 

2. Traffic Volume: The second factor that one should employ is the overall traffic potential via volume of searches for a particular keyword phrase. One may look at this either globally or locally, depending on the particular kind of business. One should also take into account that even in the first position, statistics show that only about 42% of the total organic clicks are on the first search result, while 10% of the traffic doesn’t click at all. So, it is reasonable to expect that the potential for position number one is around 30-40% of the total traffic volume. Organic results not only compete with one another, they also compete with paid search listings, when these are present.

 

3. Competition:  Competitor presence and strength can be determined using several different metrics including:

  • The total number of documents, URLs or title tags on the Web containing the keywords
  • CPC and competition data gathered via AdWords and other advertising platforms
  • Data gathered from a number of aggregators including Alexa, Majestic SEO and Compete.com
  • Data gathered from Google Webmaster Tools and other analytics platforms

 

An important consideration in regard to organic search competition is that known competitors – those that a business may compete with based on location, similarity in products/services or customers that the businesses collectively vie for in the market – are not necessarily the same. In organic search, competitors are primarily those sites that sit above yours in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), or those that are nearest your position in SERPs in relation to the keywords for which you wish to establish presence. This might mean, for instance, that a reference site such as Wikipedia may be an organic search competitor, while a local store with similar products may not (as such a site may have yet to establish a presence in the SERPs). The reason that sometimes seemingly unrelated sites may be competitors is due to the fact that in order to better position your site in search results it is necessary to have a level of optimization that surpasses the sites that sit between your business’ site and the top positions for your important keywords.

 

4. Site Content:  One should look at the amount of relevant content available on a client site and attempt to determine how well-suited their keywords choices are for the current content as well as assessing keywords that may merit additional content based on the potential of those keywords. A phrase with great potential shouldn’t be left out of keywords selected for campaign inclusion if such a phrase would add value to a client’s site content and increase relevant exposure. However, there is a clear value in having content in place to sufficiently engage in the optimization process as expediently as possible. It is perhaps better to establish traction sooner rather than later, as time is a factor in optimization, in a number of capacities.

 

5. Client input:  One usually needs to rely on client input to refine their choice for keywords. No one knows a market and better than the people selling in it. Use client knowledge as much as possible, while also relying on what you can determine to be the language people will use to search for each particular  kind of business. Often what we find is that there is a great value in balancing industry language with the language used by those not immersed in the details of a particular product or service type. The reality is that if no one is searching using particular keywords (no matter how precise and correct they may be), then optimizing for those keywords does little for a business, in terms of traffic or sales generated in organic search.

 

Another important factor in keyword selection is often opting to avoid terms focused on a particular brand. Most sites already rank well for their brand terms as long as the brand is unique and presence has already been established online. Some SEOs will include these terms in a campaign baseline even if the client already ranks well for their brand keywords. This allows the SEO to take credit for work already accomplished. And, it makes the results of the SEO campaign look more impressive right out of the gate. However, if a client already has top positions for their brand terms, then this no different than selling the client something they have already accomplished for themselves. This may indicate that a client might need to find a more honest and experienced SEO.

 

The same thing often happens for nonbrand terms that rank well prior to the SEO engaging the optimization process. An unscrupulous or inexperienced SEO may include keywords that already have strong positioning. And, though there is a need to maintain keyword rank, in some cases, this type of keyword selection will limit the optimization of keywords that don’t yet have enough rank to generate traffic. A professional will prefer to opt for keywords for which they can show genuine and demonstrable progress in terms of generating qualified traffic. Any other way of approaching the selection process limits the benefits a client receives from the investment in SEO.

 

There is no unified means of pulling these elements together and no standard for a selection process based on these principal considerations. A thorough approach, however, should take these factors into consideration while selecting keywords, which will be used in an SEO campaign. This is the most important part of SEO. And, though there are no perfect selections, a process that attempts to make perfect selections is the kind of process that makes for a successful SEO campaign. Thoughtful keyword choices can make the difference between a stellar improvement in customer acquisition and a campaign that does little for the bottom line or even traffic. But, even the best SEOs sometimes fail to make the best choices, where sometimes only time and data will lead them to the most fruitful keywords. And, since both intuition and experience are a part of the keyword selection skill set, relying on the unlimited nature of subjectivity and sometimes a limiting objectivity can tilt folks in the wrong direction despite best intentions. This is why we like data.

 

Below are some data-driven keyword research tools to consider:

_______________________________________________________

www.brightedge.com

Bright Edge 

 

features:

  • Estimated monetization value
  • Competitive research tool
    • Finds sites with keywords in the title for identifying competition
    • Synonym suggestion tool
    • Typo suggestion tool

_______________________________________________________

www.comscore.com/

comScore Marketer – comScore, Inc

 

features:

  • Quantifies the absolute size of a search market by site and keyword terms
  • Analyze search terms driving traffic to your industry.
  • Competitive research tool
    • Identify effective keywords of competitors and/or competitors’ industries
    • Reports on local market size
    • Reports on valuable/important keywords in an industry

_______________________________________________________

www.hitwise.com/us

Experian Hitwise | Competitive Business Intelligence

 

features:

  • Integrates the results of 80+ search engines
  • Keyword research
    • Track, trend and optimize for keywords and search terms that drive the most traffic to a website, industry or uniquely defined consumer segment
    • Keyword suggestions
      • Refine keyword level performance by determining the different variations and performance of specified terms
      • Identify the emerging terms that identify changes in consumer behavior
    • Competitive research tool
      • Identify competitors’:
        • Keywords
        • Ad creative
        • Backlink data
        • Campaign statistics
        • Budgets and more

_______________________________________________________

www.netspeak.org/#page=home

Explore vernacular or common language search

 

features:

  • Keyword suggestions
    • Provides word suggestions and direction on how phrases are used and how commonly they are used
    • Commonly used synonyms
    • Shows frequency for which the words are used
    • Keyword rankings
    • Search volume

Free – can use without an account

_______________________________________________________

adwords.google.com/

Google Keyword Tool – Primarily for AdWords but useful for SEO 

 

features:

  • Search volume
  • Traffic estimator
  • Estimated CPC
  • Estimated ad position
  • Estimated daily clicks
  • Estimated daily cost
  • Allows for filters
    • Locations
    • Languages
    • Match types
      • Broad
      • Exact
      • Phrase

 

Free – can use without an account

_______________________________________________________

www.google.com/webmaster 

Google Webmaster Tools – See Your Site in Search from Google’s perspective – Recommended 

  

features:

  • Exact keyword queries for which your site is appearing in Google’s search results
  • Total number of impressions paired with the exact keyword query
  • Clicks for each individual search query
    • CTR can be calculated using the impression and click metrics
    • Average position for which your listing appears within Google’s search results

 

Free – requires and account (site owner must verify site)

_______________________________________________________

www.google.com/trends

Google Trends – See how keywords are trending in various regions

 

features:

  • Identify top search queries within Google’s search engine
  • Compare keyword queries
    • Ex: “Android, iOS” will provide you with search trends for Android compared to iOS going back to 2004
    • Results are broken down by regions, cities and languages

 

Free – can use without an account

_______________________________________________________

adlab.microsoft.com/Keyword-Research.aspx

Keyword Research: Microsoft adCenter Labs

 

features:

  • Keyword research within MSN and Bing
  • Keyword suggestions
    • Keyword strategies based on query data
      • Relevance
      • Volume
      • Cost history
      • Demographic
      • Geographic
    • Historical search query data
      • Use of historical data to forecast monthly query search volume
    • Pricing data for keyword-specific metrics such as:
      • Clicks
      • Impressions
      • Position
      • Click-through rate
      • Cost-per-click
    • Competitive research tool
      • Pricing KPIs for specific businesses

 

Free

_______________________________________________________

www.wordtracker.com

Wordtracker – A Long-Time standard in keyword tools for internet marketing

 

features:

  • Related keywords data
    • Built in thesaurus
    • Lateral search
    • Misspellings
    • Useful modifiers
    • Filtering
    • Historical search query data
    • Competitive research tool
    • Rough suggested daily search volumes for Google, Yahoo! and Bing

 

Fee-based tool – subscription  (seven-day free trial available)

_______________________________________________________

www.keyworddiscovery.com

Keyword Discovery – Deep database behind keyword research tool

 

features:

  • Related keywords data
  • Misspellings
  • Filtering
  • Identify search trends
    • Seasonal search trends are available
    • Historical search query data
      • Database of over 21 billion searches from the last 12 months

 

Fee-based tool – subscription

_______________________________________________________

www.semrush.com

SEMRush – see what the competition is doing with the keywords you use and the ones you don’t

 

features:

  • Competitive research tool
    • PPC and SEO keywords
    • Identify top organic and AdWords search competitors
    • Identify sites buying ads for related keywords
    • Related keywords data

 

Fee-based tool – subscription

_______________________________________________________

www.spyfu.com   

Search data collector – SpyFu 

 

features:

  • PPC and SEO keywords
  • Compare between sites and view overlap
  • Competitive research tool
    • See competitor budget plans
    • See where traffic is landing
    • Monitor rankings
    • Huge database
      • 16 million domains
      • 7 million keywords
    • Historical search query data
      • Spot every keyword a domain used over the past year

 

Fee-based tool – subscription

_______________________________________________________

www.opensiteexplorer.org

SEO Moz Link Profile Tool | Open Site Explorer

 

features:

  • Huge database
  • Backlink profiles
  • Rank tracking
  • Search traffic
  • Synonym suggestion tool

 

Free version and fee-based version – subscription

_______________________________________________________

www.seomoz.org/keyword-difficulty

SEO Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool

 

features:

  • Huge database
  • Rank Tracking
  • Search traffic
  • Competitive research tool
    • Page authority, page linking root domains, domain authority and root domain linking root domains statistics for the top ten for any given keyword
    • Keyword difficulty expressed in percentages

 

Fee-based – subscription

_______________________________________________________

www.keywordspy.com

Keyword Spy – Good tool for research and tracking

 

features:

  • Competitive research tool
    • Terms they’re bidding on
    • Amount they’re bidding
      • Works with Google, Yahoo! and Bing
    • PPC tools for campaign creation
    • Keyword suggestions
      • Suggestions for sayings and expressions that are used exactly to provide the most benefit
    • Allows use of a watch list for priority keywords and direct competitors

 

Fee-based – subscription

_______________________________________________________

www.wordstream.com/wordstream-for-seo

WordStream | Keyword Research Tools Platform

 

features:

  • PPC and SEO keywords
  • Huge database
    • Over one trillion unique search queries
    • Sort keywords into relevant, actionable groups
    • Keyword suggestions
      • Long-tail keyword suggestion tool
        • Ex: head match – “fish tanks” long-tail keyword – “guide to fish tanks”

 

Fee-based – subscription (Keyword Research Suite from $329 a year)

_______________________________________________________

ads.youtube.com/keyword_tool

YouTube Keyword Tool – Keyword suggestions from YouTube

 

features:

  • Keyword suggestions
    • Keyword suggestions off manually entered phrases
    • Keyword suggestions based off a YouTube video’s ID or watch page URL
    • New beta feature displays keywords based off of demographics
    • Can be tailored to more than 40 languages and more than 230 countries
    • Monthly YouTube search volume for keywords

Free

_______________________________________________________

 

There are dozens of other keyword tools, but the ones listed here are primarily concerned with assisting those who are in the keyword selection process specifically. One should keep in mind that none of these tools is a complete solution, as much of the process requires a command of language, a penchant for semantic details, an analytical approach and an understanding of the keyword context. Anyone can produce a keyword list, but is that the best list or whatever a keyword tool spits out?

 

Without analysis, we may as well be swinging for the ball in the dark. To rely on Google’s data or to assume that this data is accurate is a huge mistake. The numbers provided are far from the traffic one can expect. What one can expect is this: 80% or more of the numbers are inflated by unnatural means. It’s to Google’s advantage to ignore this reality. It increases their value in an immeasurable way when marketers vie for search volumes that are higher than what can be delivered. If one projects based on these numbers, one can expect to fall short.  A semantically well-thought approach is the antidote. If only one thing is done masterfully in an SEO campaign, it should be keyword selection.

2012-01-06T02:30:59+00:00

Online Performance Marketing chosen one of the
Top SEO Companies in Dallas.