You might be tempted to skip the whole process of keyword planning. Maybe you think you already know what searchers are looking for. If you do, that's great. Unless you have done a comprehensive keyword analysis in the past, however, you don't really know what words searchers enter. Oh sure, you know some of them. But what about the ones you do not know? Every valuable keyword you miss is an opportunity for your competitors.
And what about the keywords that you are sure lots of searchers are using? Time and again, we have seen smart people focus scarce resources to target a keyword and find very little traffic as a result. Often, the words that you search with are not the same as what your customers use. You are an expert, and they are not.
So, the basic value of keyword planning is to make sure that your search marketing resources are focused on all the valuable keywords (so that you haven't missed any) and not targeting words of low value (which costs you unnecessary money and time).
But the value of keyword planning goes deeper than that. As you saw in Chapter 4, "How Searchers Work," searchers exhibit very specific behavior when they look for information. Keyword planning enables you to present searchers with the right content at the right timeyour content, that is. As with all of search marketing, keyword planning derives its value from the basic goals of your site that you developed in Chapter 5. There are two basic reasons to engage in search marketing: building brand awareness and increasing Web conversions. Let's look at each one before we take on the keyword planning process itself.
Building Brand Awareness
Whether you like it or not, many people have never heard of your company. These people might be customers, if only they knew they should be buying from you. It is well accepted in other forms of marketing that raising awareness is the first step in landing a new customer, and many forms of advertising are devoted to nothing but brand awareness.
When someone sees your TV commercial about that new car, you hope that viewer might be in the market for a car at that moment and head down to the dealer to buy, but relatively few people are in that situation at any one time. The vast majority of people watching that ad have no interest in buying a car. But someday they will. Advertisers know that the messages in their constant commercialsthe name of their company, the model of their car, and how exciting/ practical/sexy/inexpensive/luxurious the car iswill stick in viewers' minds, who might remember the message later when they are in the market for a car. Marketers call this brand awareness.
Raising awareness of your brand identity is a basic part of any marketing effort, but it is just starting to be recognized as a legitimate goal for search marketing. You might or might not have a goal of building brand identity through your own search marketing efforts. If you do, keyword planning is essential to that goal. At the end of this chapter, when we prioritize the most important keyword candidates for your organization to target, you will take into account any brand awareness goals as you do so.
Remember, searchers might not know you offer a particular product or service. Unless they see it listed in the results, they will not think of you. Searchers researching a product or service for the first time might not be aware of any specific brand or company. They are just gathering information. They might not even have any intention to buy anything yet, because they are just looking into a problem and do not know they need anything to solve it. However, according to research from search marketing consultancy iProspect, more than 55 percent of Internet users expect to find big brand Web sites listed at the top of search results. That same study also found that over 66 percent of searchers believe that sites with the highest search listings are the top companies in their field.
Think about how this affects brand awareness. If you are not listed in the search results, you are not a "big brand" in the searcher's mind. If you are listed there, you must be. Such is the branding power of search.
So how does search improve brand awareness? The simplest way is to ensure that you are targeting broad keywords that capture prospective customers while they are still learningbefore they have made any brand decisions. But there are other ways, too.
In your paid placement programs, always use a well-known brand name, if you have one. And if you don't, you might find that constantly using your brand names will begin to build some level of awareness. Searchers are much more likely to click results with brand names they know. So, paid placements for Snap Electronics should always have Snap in the ad, or SnapShot for its digital camera ads. Because that name is well known, searchers will choose it over a generic ad for digital cameras. When you purchase unbranded keywords, such as digital cameras, and you put your brand name in the ad, you are building brand awareness.
Another way to build brand awareness through search is with tie-ins to traditional advertising campaigns. As mentioned previously, most traditional advertising has some brand awareness goals, such as the TV commercial for cars. But where do people go after they see the commercial? Where do they go when they see your print ad in the airline magazine? They probably do not troop down to the dealership for a brochure. More and more, their next step is to go to the Web.
Perhaps you think that they remember the name of your company and they type in the URL of your Web site. Or they remember the URL you printed at the bottom of the ad? Well, maybe they do. However, it is more likely that they perform a search, for several reasons:
If you do a good job generating attention with your print and on-air advertising, you prompt people to seek out your Web site, which they will often do by searching. If you are introducing a new product or a new concept about your product, you might find people wanting more information when no one was interested before. So, if you are raising interest offline, you must follow through online.
Frequently, search marketers are caught unprepared when a new offline (print or on-air) campaign begins. A keyword that was not important in the past is suddenly hot, but you have no search campaign in place to capture the traffic. Perhaps your company is introducing a new catch phrase. Maybe your product designers are adding a hot new feature to a product. Any of these events can draw attention and prompt searchers to start using new wordsthe words you use in your offline campaign. Stay in touch with your offline counterparts so that you are ready for sudden success from unexpected places.
Similarly, do not fret about being too early to target a keyword. Sometimes you should stick with an unpopular keyword when you know your organization is committed to building awareness. Searchers might simply not have been exposed to the term yet. Daniele Hayes, a manager of paid search programs at IBM, refers to this phenomenon as "keyword timing," noting that each keyword has its own life cycle, where it rises from out of nowhere, might become very popular (quickly or slowly) and eventually fades into oblivion.
Hewlett-Packard and IBM have dueling marketing campaigns that demonstrate keyword timing. IBM's is called "On Demand," with HP touting "Adaptive Computing." Keyword planning performed when these campaigns were launched revealed almost no searches for either term. As both companies ratcheted up their offline media campaigns, searches for these words took off.
It's not just big companies that can do this. Whenever you send out a press release or hold a gala event, it's news. Make sure your search marketing program has a campaign cooking to catch the happy result of your publicity. If brand awareness is one of your goals for search, keep that in mind as you go through your keyword planning process.
Increasing Web Conversions
As you saw in Chapter 6, "Measure Your Web Site's Success," the simplest justification for search marketing for most businesses is "If they can't find you, they can't buy from you." And, as you also saw, online purchases are only one kind of Web conversionyou decided what the important conversions are for your Web site and you will use search marketing to drive more of them.
How does keyword planning help you do that? The first benefit of keyword planning is driving qualified traffic to your site. Note the word qualified. You can drive traffic to your Web site in dozens of ways, if you have the budget, but the value of search marketing is that the searcher has initiated the interaction.
One of the largest advantages of search marketing is that it is a "pull" medium rather than the traditional "push" media (such as print ads, or radio and TV advertising). Searchers have taken the initiative to tell you what they are interested in, rather than you interrupting what they were doing to push your message in. The better you can interpret searchers' interests and present them with highly relevant content, the greater your conversion rates will be. That is where keyword planning comes in. Keyword planning helps you interpret what searchers actually want, so that you can target just those searchers that you can convert.
But before we dive into the keyword selection process, you need to learn how to think about keyword planning. Without the proper thought process, you will not make the decisions that will maximize your success.