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December 4, 2007

Keyword Research, Selection and Optimization: PubCon Vegas 2007

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Back from a moderately scary lunch (I think my sandwich would be classified as “chicken”. I’m not sure) and seated in the Keyword Research, Selection and Optimization panel where Christine Churchill will do her best to keep the likes of Ken Jurina, Larry Mersman, Wil Reynolds, Stoney deGeyter, and Natala Menezes in line.

Christine gets things started saying that keyword research is the bedrock of search marketing. If you do it right, your search engine optimization campaign will work really well. If you don’t, you’re going to have some problems.

Up first is Ken Jurina. Huzzah for Ken. Ken notes that there are mouse cursor patterns in the rug so he knows he’s in the right place. Haha, I never noticed that but he’s totally right! I wonder if Microsoft put those there.

What should keyword research really be? It should be used for data mining all possible keyword search behavior around your online offering targeting hundreds of thousands of phrases from multiple sources. Eliminating skewed results including inconsistencies, non-seasonal irregularities, and obvious data flaws. Identifying core relevance/irrelevance of phrases by demographic, geographic, usage & other defining target market parameters.

Uses of Advanced Keyword Research

  • Business Research: Product research, competitive intelligence.
  • Social Research: Political topics, publish issues, celebrity brand.
  • Brand Equity: Find the relevant words for your niche. If you’re selling television sets, learn what sets are popular. What are people looking for?
  • New Product Ideas: What are people looking for? Find new opportunities.
  • Consumer Feedback: What problems are people having? What parts are they looking for? Customer service issues?
  • Celebrity Brand: Find PR issues.

Case Study: Music Store

Situation: Client is a brick and mortar music equipment store. Online presence is limited.
After doing keyword research, they found demand for new product lines, demand for new vertical, seasonal demands, as well as searches for discontinued products

The result: $90,000 sales/weekly nationally, up from virtually zero. Dominant rankings on over 85 percent of key phrases

Conducting Advanced Keyword Research:

Use multiple sources – WordTracker and Trellian. Determine keyword difficulty by searching for the keyword in Google and seeing how heavy the competition is. He highlights the keyword research tools offered by SEOmoz, We Build Pages and Trellian.

Free Keyword Research Tools

  • Google Trends: Gives good comparative data on phrases. Breaks it down by region, date range, language and identifies news stories related by trend. Lets you see historically things are being searched. Find peaks and valleys.
  • Microsoft adCenter: Keyword Forecast, Demographic Prediction.

Larry Mersman is next.

Keyword research is one of the most important parts of search engine optimization. It’s about identifying keywords and search phrases that your customers use to find your site, products or services.

He presents a case study for

He says the site was originally optimized for the [finest beer in Germany online]. However, after doing keyword research, they found that the phrase [German beer] had far more searches performed. Updating their content to reflect this change increased sales by over 200 percent.

  • Keyword Discovery Phrase: Compile your keywords list, including misspellings.
  • Evaluation Phrase – Prioritize your keyword list so that more relevant terms receive more attention.
  • Implementation – Use the terms on your site.
  • Optimization and Performance Tuning – Tweak your content.

Make lists by brainstorming, using customer feedback, looking at competitors, using Web site log files, combing many keyword research tools and from exhaustive keyword generators.

[Larry talks super fast. My fingers don’t give him justice.]

Use keyword research to find related search terms, identify alternate spellings and misspellings, learn which terms your competitors think are important, etc. It’s also good for competitive intelligence and finding what terms others are using and using well.

Next up is Wil Reynolds.

Wil makes things interactive and asks select attendees to write down what terms they would use to search for a collection of images he has up on the projector. He then makes everyone read their answers, illustrating that people don’t search the same way. Point taken. Let’s move on.

Unless you plan on buying your own product to stay in business, you need to be in tune with what your users are searching for. He uses Mercedes as an example, saying they never wanted to call their pre-owned cars “used”, but that’s what searchers type into their search box so they had to adjust. You have to get in the mind of a searcher.

Picking the wrong keywords is very bad for your career. Keyword development is different. He highlights some companies that were replaced when they didn’t evolve.

Tabloid vs Perez Hilton
Home Depot vs Tim the builder
Business 2.0 vs TechCrunch
AAA vs Mapquest vs Google Maps

He lists some of his favorite tools. He likes MSN adLabs’ Search Funnel for trying to find searcher intent. It shows you what people type in AFTER they type in your keyword. Helps you find associated words and to understand the intent of your users. He thinks it’s the best tool for finding intent, even though it doesn’t have enough data yet. It’s better for broad, big terms than it is for smaller, niche stuff.

Tips for AdLabs: Stay broad, check back for updates, try incoming and outgoing, drill down.

Another tool he likes is Yahoo! Suggest, which he says is superior to Google’s. If you begin typing in[foot], Google will only pull up terms starting with those four letters. Yahoo removes that bias and shows you the top searches containing those letters, for example [BBC football].

Stoney is up next to talk about the process of gathering, sorting and organizing keywords for a search engine optimization campaign.

Phase 1: Gathering Keywords

Figure out what your core terms are. A core term is a unique two or three word phrase that accurately represents the focus of any given page on your Web site. It’s what you do. When you’re doing your core research you want to sit down and brainstorm. What do you know about your site? After that, go to your Web site and search Meta tags, content, server logs and link structure to find core terms. Use keyword research tools.

Once you have your core terms, you want to sort them and find out which ones are important to you. Which terms are going to be useful for your target audience? Which terms are users typing into their search engines? Which products or services provide you the highest profits? Can you meet the demand of specific products or services? Which keywords get the most volume?

After that, look at the actual phrases that are represented by those phrases. It’s basically your core term with added qualifiers or stemmed variations. Don’t analyze too much. You’re going to end up with 100s or 1000s of search phrase results. You just want to bring everything in. You’ll do the analysis later.

Phase 2: Sorting & Selecting

Keep any keywords that are going to help you convert users into consumers. They have to be able to draw your customers in. The term must apply directly to your content, not somebody else’s. Use specific phrases, no broad terms. Put aside the “info” queries for later.

Look at the search volume of the terms. Keywords must be actively searched for. Long tail and short tail, included. If they bring traffic and convert, then optimize for them. Too specific gets no searches and therefore no conversions. Good rule of thumb is 2-4 words.

Phrase 3: Organizing Process

Determine searcher’s intent and segment words accordingly. Are they research terms, shopping terms or buying terms?

Identify key pages. Determine which pages of the site are most suitable for which groups of keywords. Every page has a specific purpose. If you need more pages, create them.

Group keywords together by similar themes. Your keywords must work together. You can’t match [elegant] and [cheap]. Let your site pages be your guide.

Last but not least is Natala Menezes from Microsoft.

She mentions some initiatives going on at adCenter. They want to give users access to real data and easy to use tools. She talks about the Keyword Service Platform. It’s a treasure trove of keyword information. Algorithms to extrapolate new terms from a set, define categorical relationships. Access to real data. Developmental platform.

They have a team of industry experts helping them to provide advertisers with insights.

Better Together: adcenter + Excel 2007. They build an application on the Excel platform because they know that search marketers spend a lot of time in Excel. She says that keyword research shouldn’t involve so much “cut and paste”. You don’t have to be an expect in Excel or SEO to use these tools. They focused on keyword research, forecast and monetization.

She gives a quick overview of what the Better Together tool looks like. Sadly, I can’t copy and paste her presentation into the blog. Go bug her. Maybe she’ll share with you.

Natala is short for time, but if you’re in town, stop by the Microsoft booth and catch her there.

[I want to apologize for the minor amount of commotion I caused in session when I tried to leave the room without first unplugging my laptop for the main projector. I am a genius.]

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One response to “Keyword Research, Selection and Optimization: PubCon Vegas 2007”

  1. Seo Design Solutions writes:


    What a great summary about the pre-optimization /research phase of keyword discovery and the brain storming session that ensues thereafter.

    With so many related terms caught in the shuffle, it can be difficult trying to narrow the focus from thousands of keywords to a few dozen.

    On a side note, you could always use the ~ (tilde) in front of a keyword as a search operator in Google to find potentially aligned keywords from L.S.I or semantic word stemming in the search index, from there you can formulate plenty of qualifiers to augment your main keywords and get twice the punch for virtually theming your links.

    Finding the right terms for building links and anchor text ratio needed to topple a moderate to competitive term all starts from chipping away from enough angles that your pages climb the long tail and take over the main phrases.

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