One of the most important aspects of search marketing is keyword selection. Identifying the right keywords for your client is a pivotal task in the life cycle of an SEO project. Selecting the right keywords could be the difference between a happy client and glowing metrics or a frustrated client looking to move his cash elsewhere. Great keyword selection is about funnel placement, user intent, content mapping, competitive analysis and overall goals of a project. For me keyword selection is not given the respect it deserves. A lot of SEO practitioners simply choose those with the highest volume and then quickly move to acquisition of links.
Vanity Keywords – Looking Good
Clients are usually obsessed with vanity keywords, so are SEO’s. In board meetings the CEO doesn’t ask what position are we for “car insurance for 17 year olds” or “cheap car insurance for convicted drivers”, he wants to know why you are getting killed on “car insurance”. The SEO agency will take a beating, they may say “we need more budget to compete on that keyword”, but during their pitch there was no mention of the additional budget for ultra competitive keywords. Both clients and SEO’s underestimate the cost involved in competing in some markets. In some online segments the everyday man competing with big brands has eroded, you simply have to pay top $$ to compete. If Google enter your market, it’s just going to get more difficult.
Building your Funnel & Persona’s
For marketing pitches an agency would usually build a persona, which are representations of your target audience based on research or interviews or both. This allows them to build a strategy focused on their target persona. Persona’s are great for behavioral targeting (great article here at searchengineland), I have also seen the word used in link building strategies, but that has a very different meaning (example over at Cemper). If a brand has a persona worked out, it may also have an idea of their purchasing cycle, for example the traditional funnel is:
For the most part, search marketers focus on the funnel but rarely think about personas. We talk in terms of keywords, “we would target head”, “we would target long tail”. But using analytics to work out personas can be a huge advantage in working out keyword groups that result in visits but no conversions, keyword groups that result in unexpected behavior and those that kill it for you. Keyword personas.
Mapping to your Content Matrix
Once you have worked out a purchasing cycle, you can start to work out the clients content matrix. The following example is from Eloquao and is probably the most useful infographic I have seen in a long time (full size here):
Using the content matrix allows you to map keywords against sections of a clients site and pin point sections where they are light in content. You can go one step further by identifying different CTA’s for the different sections. A CTA for a keyword persona mapped against the “Awareness”/Consideration” phase could simply be to get them to watch a demo.
What about the Buying Keywords ?
Buying keywords (long tail) is where all the gold is. They are used by users who have their credit card in hand and are eagerly scouring the web, ready to purchase. They can be made up of brand names, model types, or contain words like “buy”, “review”, “best”, “cheap”, “sale”. Every market will differ in these. But in terms of your content matrix, they are a few steps down, they are aware of your product and looking to buy. These keywords can be tested using PPC, as PPC sole focus is usually on buying keywords (bigger budgets can stretch this).
NOTE: I always bang on about PPC as a keyword research tool for SEO. But just keep in mind, if you are using it to research performance of keywords (in terms of conversion), don’t direct users to PPC landing pages, direct them to the organic pages you would be targeting for those keywords. One of the biggest mistakes I see.
Keyword Strategy is Crucial
Choosing the right keywords and knowing where they are in the funnel is a crucial part of working out metrics for a client. If their budget is low, you may have to concentrate on low volume keywords that are focused on the lower stages of the funnel. These may not result in huge traffic lifts, but should see a nice little bump in conversions. A complete SEO project will have a content strategy in place to ensure the client is visible at the very top of the funnel and for all the best buying keywords in their market. Difficult to do and the reason why PPC & SEO can help with ensuring maximum coverage for the client.
For the most part, the search world loves nothing but a good link building article, but keyword strategy is every bit as crucial (in some cases more). I recommend this post from Viperchill to see just how much research can go into a complete keyword strategy. It’s one of the best posts (and most actionable) of the year.