SMX East Liveblog: Keyword Research for Better Content & Audience Engagement

SEO masterminds Michael King, Jason White and Joe Pawlikowski share their top insights on keyword research. Discover their favorite tools, tried-and-true tactics, thoughts on persona research, (Not Provided) and much more.

michael king jason white


  • Michael King, Digital Marketing Consultant, iPullRank (@ipullrank)
  • Joe Pawlikowski, Marketing Team Leader, PushFire (@joepawl)
  • Jason White, Director of SEO, DragonSearch (@sonray)

Joe Pawlikowski: Keyword Research to Generate Content Ideas

In doing keyword research, Pawlikowski is always trying to figure out user intent behind a search, thinking about the users’ problems, objections and motivations — to determine them, he conducts keyword research. The following are his preferred tools.


Let’s say there’s an e-commerce site that sells hats.

Pawlikowski likes to use SEMRush as a competitive research tool. He uses the PPC tool to generate keyword ideas for SEO. Let’s say we take cowboy hats – SEMRush will give us 964 keyword ideas when we input “cowboy hat.”

When looking for keyword ideas, Pawlikowski likes to stick with keyword terms that have search traffic in the double digits – still valuable, but not super competitive.

Whenever creating content, give your customers more than they could ever anticipate – that’s what makes you stand out. Analogy: a skyscraper only makes the news when it’s the tallest. You either need to be the “tallest,” or drill down into niches.

Get 750 Google Keyword suggestions for free. Simply type in a keyword or keyword phrase and find a huge sample of queries that include the keyword or phrase.


Find what content related to your keyword or keyword phrases are performing best socially.

Pawlikowski suggests:

  • Coming up with 10 blog post ideas every day.
  • Reviewing your ideas weekly.
  • Mating your ideas. They might seem disparate but all your ideas will come together at some point. The best idea is the coupling of two ideas.

Jason White: Keyword Research for Better Content & Audience Engagement

Jason had a client that wanted to raise $200,000 through social media, referral traffic and organic search. White looked at their historical conversion rates and loan volume to determine the conversion rate he would need going forward. Using the Keyword Planner and Google Webmaster Data, White mapped out what rate of conversions he would need each month. Based on that data, he could shape the campaign and share that data with the client. The process is essentially a mini audit, and it helps you set a client’s expectations from the start.

Michael King: Persona Driven Keyword Research

Keyword research is in disarray – the things you find in keyword research are crazy. People are searching for keywords … big deal. Good keyword search accounts for intent … but these are all abstractions

Keywords are just the vehicle by which people searching to fulfill a need.

When you’re searching for “Subway,” what are you searching for? The restaurant? Or transportation? Modern keyword research needs to be about entity matching.

Map Keywords to Personas

This ultimately helps you understand what people are trying to do with their search. Map keywords to need states.

Who cares about (Not Provided)? All that matters is who is searching and what matters to them. Keywords are gone and Google provides more than enough data to determine what types of users are coming to your site. Use that in the context of landing pages, internal search and channels.

Understand your users’ vocabulary and work to get a sense of what people are talking about when they’re searching.

What needs arise at every stage of the customer journey? Map those needs to touch points.

King’s Favorite Tools

  • Adwords Keyword planner
  • SEMRush
  • Bottlenose Sonar
  • Topsy
  • SEOTools for Excel
  • GREPWords
  • Keyword Studio
  • Alchemy API
  • NTopic
  • SearchMetrics
  • Stat
  • Excel-Rest
  • Postman
  • SEOGadget for Excel

Keyword Portfolio

King would take his keyword portfolio and do audience surveys to ask how they would search for those keywords and match it up to his own research.

Persona and need state classification must be done by hand.

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (2)
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2 Replies to “SMX East Liveblog: Keyword Research for Better Content & Audience Engagement”


You have a mistake with your post, its, not

Its an awesome and free keyword research tool!

Virginia Nussey

Fixed! Thanks, Adam!


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