We’re kicking this week off with a guest post from Brian Jensen, Director of Traffic Acquisition for SEO.com.
Keyword research is an essential part of any online marketing campaign and can be viewed as part of the foundation from which many other pieces of a campaign will be built upon. We know that optimizing our websites and content with keywords and phrases that are searched for and relevant to our business or organization is key to enhancing visibility in organic search.
While head or trophy keywords are a great place to start your research, they may or may not be the primary focus of your strategy depending on factors including competition, current ranking, conversion rate and search and social trends. By setting a strategy based on thorough research and analysis, we can do the groundwork to uncover keywords and search phrases that are likely to increase relevance, traffic, visibility and conversions.
Beginning your Keyword Research:
Because using one tool for keyword research often doesn’t paint the whole picture, your research process includes gathering data from a variety of different sources and tools that will assist you in uncovering any strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the following:
- Keywords and search queries already driving traffic to the website
- Autocomplete or suggest results
- Social keyword analysis
- Keyword Trends: Related and rising variations and searcher interest for terms
- Current ranking position in Google and Bing
- PPC data – Helpful for understanding keyword performance
- Local Monthly Search Volume & keyword competitiveness
- Internal Site Search Data: Discovering what search terms are already being searched for on our websites.
Gathering & Collecting Keyword Data
The first step is to discover what keywords and search queries a website is already receiving visits and considered relevant for by search engines. To start, we’ll be pulling reports from your Google Analytics and Google and Bing Webmaster tools accounts.
If your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools accounts are linked, you’ll be able to forgo logging into both Google accounts and just pull the data we’ll need from Google Analytics. To begin, login to your Google Analytics account and select your organic non-branded keywords segment in Advanced Segments (if you don’t have this advanced segment created, it’s easy to do and can be set-up in minutes).
In Google Analytics, navigate to Traffic Sources > Search > Organic report. By default, you’ll see keywords as your primary dimension. Extend the date range to between 6 to 12 months, adjust the number of rows to 100, and export to a CSV file (depending on the number of visits for keywords, you may wish to select more or less rows). Next, we want to know what keywords were responsible for any goal completions or conversions, so select any available Goal Sets or e-commerce reports in the Explorer navigation and rinse and repeat.
You’ll want to have a new Excel Master Keyword Data spreadsheet that you’ll be copying and pasting information into tabs with naming conventions that reflect the data we’ll be pulling from different tools.
Next, head over Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries, and export this information into a CSV file which we’ll copy and paste into our Excel Master Data spreadsheet.
We’ll now want to head over to our verified Bing Webmaster Tools account (no not-provided results, awesome!) and navigate to Reports & Data > Search Keywords and export our top keywords from organic search. While we are here, you may want to explore Bing’s keyword research tool which provides query volumes for keywords and phrases. Once your report has downloaded, copy this data to a new tab in your Excel Master Data Spreadsheet.
Internal Site Search Terms
If your website features an internal site search feature, you’ll want to analyze these reports to discover what search terms and phrases people are searching for on your website. While our primary focus for keyword research will be looking at the search terms used by your visitors, these reports can provide a goldmine of data that can provide insights into customer intent and metrics you’ll want to analyze later to ensure you’re providing an optimal user experience. A few questions these reports can answer are:
- What search terms visitors are using?
- Where are they searching on your website?
- Are your visitors finding what they are looking for after using your internal site search?
If you’re not currently tracking internal site search in your Google Analytics profile, it’s easy to set up and should only take you a few minutes. This report can be accessed in Google Analytics by navigating to Content > Site Search > Search Terms. We’ll want to export and add these results to a new tab in our master spreadsheet for additional analysis.
Industries, products, searches and interest all evolve. Having insight into the search trends for key terms and phrases will be vital for setting a strategy that accounts for waning or growing searcher interest. Google trends is a valuable keyword research tool for comparing search term interest, trends, rising and related searchers and regional information for geo targeted campaigns. It also offers a wide variety of filtering options that let you refine your search by date, region, search vertical and industry.
The arrows point out all the exciting features available to assist your research and gather insights. We’ll want to export data from different keyword searches which will be added into a new tab in your Excel Master Data Keyword spreadsheet. Also, try adding relevant related and top and rising terms from each one of your main search terms into your Google Trends tab in your master sheet.
Google Trends Tip: For even more granular search volume data, export your searches from Google Trends to get search volume by the week, which allows you to target and optimize for queries with high search volume close to a holiday, annual promotion or event.
As more people continue to utilize social for reviews, recommendations, sharing and research, it’s an important vertical that we’ll want to spend some time exploring for data that will assist our research. Lucky for us, there are many free social listening and analysis tools that we can incorporate into our process that allow us to search keywords, topics or hashtags across millions of conversations.
Topsy is great for analyzing not only the conversations around a keyword or topic, but seeing who’s engaged in these conversations, identifying topic experts and finding where on the web these conversations are taking place. Topsy also offers a great filtering feature which allows you to refine your search to a specific search vertical e.g. tweets, links, videos, etc. We can use Topsy to see the how many results come back for a keyword, to look for new variations of keywords to add to my master sheet and also to find websites that we may want to build relationships with at a later point.
Topsy Tip: Create an email alert so you can investigate any recent keyword or brand mentions.
Bottlenose.com is another robust social listening and analysis tool worth mentioning. Bottlenose allows you to monitor conversations in real time, measure audience engagement, trends, discover topic correlations and identify top contributors and related topics – all valuable for keyword research. Both Topsy and Bottlenose offer free and paid versions of their tools.
Autocomplete and Suggest Results
Because we know that searches evolve, we want to utilize available tools to assist us in discovering keywords and phrases that are timely, relevant and that people are searching for now! Google suggest is a great place to start your investigation, but I tend to spend more time using free tools like Ubersuggest.org and Soovle.com that provide the autocomplete and suggest services from multiple providers.
The process is as simple as taking high search volume or long-tail keywords and phrases that you’ve gathered, and search for and record other variations that searchers are using. Soovle.com boasts some great features including showing what unique variations are being searched for from each provider, limiting your results to a specific provider, save results using the permalink feature and also the ability to explore the top internet keywords. If you’re currently working on optimizing a YouTube Channel or videos, why not utilize a tool that will provide searches from that specific provider?
Ubersuggest.org is equally awesome for keyword research, and some of the more notable features include the ability to expand on specific keyword results for additional related terms, the ability to select and add target keywords to a bucket which can later be retrieved in .txt format (which can then be added to Google’s Keyword Tool for additional analysis) and also the option to search in 38 different languages across multiple search verticals – great for international keyword research!
If you are running a Google AdWords campaign, analyzing what keywords have high goal or ecommerce conversions rates or conversely, high bounce rates will be useful to take into consideration for your targeted keyword strategy as well as for any on-page optimization or content marketing initiatives. If you have your Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts linked you can view limited information from each tool in either account. To access your AdWords campaign information in Google Analytics, navigate to Advertising > AdWords > Keywords. We’ll again want to export this data and add it to a new tab in our Excel Master Keyword spreadsheet.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
The Google AdWords Keyword tool has been a staple keyword research tool utilized by marketers for years. You can use the tool to gather the following keyword data:
- Local or Global monthly search volume – Local will provide search data in the U.S., global will provide search data for the world.
- Switch between broad, exact or phrase match – Here’s a quick refresher in case you forgot what each match type provides:
- Broad Match – Search volume for related grammatical forms, words and synonyms.
- Exact Match – Search volume for that specific keyword and close variants.
- Phrase Match – Search volume for the whole phrase or near variants.
- View Approximate CPC and Competition – Both are valuable for getting a feel for the competition and competitiveness of a keyword.
- Local Search Trends – Bar charts that give you an idea of keyword seasonality and trends
- Advanced Filtering Options – Great for getting data for a geographic location and language.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool Tip: The LMSV (local monthly search volume) you see in your results is a 12 month average for each keyword, region and device you’ve selected. To find out exactly how many local monthly searches keywords are receiving (broad match), login to your account, click Columns and select Local Monthly Searchers and Local Search Trends, keep your search on broad match, then proceed to download a CSV file and enjoy the true LMSV.
Having this information is great for identifying keyword seasonality and for campaigns focused around specific dates or events. Just like with data from Google Analytics, this information should be used to identify trends and may not be 100% accurate. Thanks to fellow online marketer Josh Hoffman for letting me know about this trick.
Google Keyword Planner Tool
It’s important to mention Google’s new Keyword Planner Tool which Google has been slowly rolling out; a hybrid with similar features from the Google Keyword Tool and the AdWords Traffic Estimator Tool. The tool offers plenty of useful features for advertisers and keyword research including the ability to generate related keyword ideas by searching by keyword, landing page or by product category.
The Keyword Planner tool shows the average number of searchers for multiple devices including laptop and desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets (the keyword tool’s default setting is set for laptops and desktops).
Rankings data will be used to assist our strategy and identify any low hanging fruit and also to identify how relevant and authoritative search engines view your website for keywords and search phrases. Combining rankings data with other metrics we’ve collected will assist you in creating a short and long-term strategy. There are a plethora of free and paid tools that can be used to assist you in finding rankings data for keywords you’ve identified during your discovery process.
Two free tools we can use for this analysis are Rank Tracker and Rank Checker. Rank Tracker is fairly robust and gives you the ability to filter by region, search engine and by search vertical. It’s important to remember that the keyword positions each tool reports can and will vary depending on a variety of factors and should be treated as an average position as rankings can and will fluctuate.
You’ll also want to pay close attention to the top ranking URL for each result in case your targeted landing page for a keyword isn’t the top ranking URL being displayed. For additional insight, you can reference Google and Bing Webmaster tools which will give you an average ranking position for search queries that your website is receiving clicks for in organic search.
Whew, that’s a lot of data! By now your Master Excel Keyword Spreadsheet and tabs should be bursting with valuable keyword research that you can combine to make insightful, actionable decisions. By using Excel’s VLOOKUP to combine data from all the search phrases you’ve discovered you’ll be equipped with the information you’ll need to set a short-term and long-term keyword strategy for your campaign.Tags: Business,Social Media