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How to Update Your Keyword Research Process for 2013 & Beyond

George Fischer
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The SEO landscape has changed significantly over the last year. Google makes roughly 500 changes per year to its algorithm, requiring agile companies to change direction and strategy in real time.

In spite of the subsequent uncertainty and change, there are principles that remain at the core of every successful SEO campaign.

Keyword research is one core component embraced by companies that achieve sustained revenue and customer acquisition through organic search. While the principle itself is as old as Google, a new definition of success is emerging.

Performing keyword research in a silo, relying solely on Google’s keyword tool for direction, is a recipe for mediocrity. However, updating your keyword research process will ensure a sustainable SEO roadmap in 2013 and beyond.

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Business Impact

A critical component to successful keyword selection is quantifying business impact. This requires a focus on incremental revenue and margin based decision making. Forecast the monthly value of each and every keyword in your program using the following formula:

Search Volume (Exact) X Target Position CTR X Conversion Rate X Conversion Value

“Target Position CTR” is the industry average click-through rate for goal position of each keyword. The click-through rates you assign each position are completely subjective.

As a starting point. review recent CTR studies from Optify, Chitika, and Slingshot SEO. To improve accuracy beyond industry data, review client specific click-through rates for various average positions using Google Webmaster Tools “search queries” report.

“Conversion Value” will vary depending on the goal of your SEO campaign. E-commerce sites should use average order value (AOV) here. Lead generation companies can ignore this attribute or attach a value associated with each lead.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Input the lifetime value of a customer to forecast far into the future. Measure time on site if you have identified that this positively effects conversion rates.

If your goal is to drive newsletter signups, measure it. The value of each keyword is completely subjective based upon your goals. Utilize goal specific conversion rates and value to customize this formula to fit your needs.

Don’t Ignore Mobile

Mobile implications on organic site traffic and conversions are growing. Smart advertisers have begun customizing organic campaigns and content specific to mobile users. While every year seems to be the year of mobile, understanding mobile user behavior and incorporating this data into keyword research is crucial.

Analyze the impact of mobile on your site. What percentage of your organic traffic currently comes from mobile? Which keywords generate the most mobile visits? What experience do you currently serve these mobile users?

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If the data suggests a positive business impact resulting from organic mobile visitors, utilize Google’s keyword tool to understand search behavior. Some keywords and user intent will be more prevalent on mobile devices.

Only 33 percent of advertisers have a mobile optimized site, according to a recent Google study. A mobile website and keyword selection strategy will prepare your business for the year of mobile, when it finally does arrive.

Monitor Social Platforms

Social media and SEO are becoming more integrated with social signals playing a noticeable role in smart link building campaigns. Although social signals have received all the attention, agile companies are utilizing social monitoring to improve their keyword search and content strategies.

Monitoring industries, themes, and competitors can improve your keyword research in real time. Everyone has heard the phrase “recent is the new relevant.” Common keyword research tools aren’t capable of delivering real time data. Utilize a robust social monitoring tool such as Brandwatch to uncover trending topics and keywords related to your business and industry. Use this intelligence to rank for keywords your competitors have yet to discover.

Be Competitive

In spite of countless Google algorithm updates, competitive insights will always prove valuable. Reverse engineering competitor keyword strategies and URL mapping is a critical part of any keyword research process.

Tools such as SEMRush can provide insight into which keywords competitors rank for. Filter this list in Excel by URL to reverse engineer which keywords individual URLs rank for. When performing keyword research for specific URLs or departments, analyzing keywords at the URL level is critical.

Parsing competitive keyword research by URL can prove challenging. This is especially true if the competition is selling in multiple categories such as Amazon, Staples, or Home Depot.

Traditional keyword research tools have a hard time dealing with these mega sites, but it isn't impossible. Say that your business, for example, sells office furniture and you have identified Staples as a key competitor. Use an enterprise SEO platform, such as BrightEdge, to reverse engineer Staples’ keyword strategy specific to office furniture.

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Summary

Organic search is a continuously evolving channel, but it remains one of the most efficient ways to acquire customers online. Keyword research has been, and will continue to be, a critical core component in any SEO process.

Quantify the business impact, keep a pulse on mobile, monitor social platforms, and be competitive. Incorporate these principles into your keyword research process and position your SEO campaigns for sustained success.


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