When you know the steps to take, you can usually get where you are going. Keyword planning is no different from any other specialized task, so let's take a quick peek at the steps for choosing a target list of keywords for any search marketing campaign:
If that seems like a lot of work, well, it is. But it is work you need to do. Proper keyword planning will actually save you enormous amounts of work laterall the wasted time of managing paid placement campaigns and optimizing your content for all the wrong keywords. We also introduce you to some tools and techniques that reduce the work as much as possible.
Gather Your Keyword Candidate List
Let's start making a list and checking it twice. Every Web site has a wealth of information to consult for keyword planning, even though you might not be aware of it.
We go through each source of data you can check, but the very first place to start is inside your own head, and inside the heads of your teammates. Bring together the folks most familiar with the subject of the search marketing campaign at handexperts in the content of the product, service, or whatever the campaign is centered on. You will start your keyword planning with a brainstorming session.
Brainstorm with Your Team
You have probably participated in brainstorming sessions beforethis one is no different. Approach it in the standard way. Get together the people who are knowledgeable about your search marketing campaign's focus, be it a product, service, or something else. Make sure all participants get to add their two cents and do not censor any ideasyou will remove erroneous choices and prioritize the most important keywords later. Let each one add words to your master list of keyword candidates. We prompt you along the way with techniques that lend structure to your brainstorming session, to make it easier for you to develop a more comprehensive list.
The easiest way to start your brainstorming is for everyone to make a list of all of the names you can use for the product, service, or other subject of this campaign. Focus first on nouns. Let's see what one Snap Electronics team member listed for its digital camera campaign: camera, digital camera, SnapShot, Snap digital camera, X5, X6, X7, SLR X800, and SLR X900. Each team put together a slightly different list that had more than 30 unique names on it by the end of the exercise.
The next step is to organize your nouns into categories, as shown in Table 11-1. Sometimes putting each name in its proper column helps to identify ones that are missing. If your names use acronyms, you might need to also include the full name of the product or service, if that is the phrase most people will use to search.
After you have a fairly complete set of nouns, break out the adjectives. Think in terms of qualifying words that hone in on more details, such as qualities, characteristics, or attributes. Some of the noun phrases identified in Table 11-1 can be viewed this waydigital camera or luxury sedan, but now it's time to list a lot more adjectives. Table 11-2 shows how Snap Electronics carried out this exercise. Listing several different categories of adjectives can help you flesh out the adjectives you need. Don't be concerned about which category your adjectives fall in, or whether you list one more than oncewhen you are done, it will not matter how they are categorized. The point of the exercise is to identify as many of those multiword phrases that describe your subject as possible. The categories just help you think of more adjectives.
Complete this matrix with your product in mind, not by listing any plausible adjective for your industry. Snap makes high-end digital cameras, so they ultimately decided to shy away from the adjective cheap, even though someone wrote it down during brainstorming. It is common in offline advertising to use "opposite" terms to "convert" buyers of cheap product to high-end products, but that rarely works in search marketing.
By this time, you should have a solid list of keyword nouns and a longer list of phrases with adjectives to qualify those nouns. Before getting too self-satisfied, however, you should know that most folks have missed a number of very important keywords at this point in the process. It's time to think about the road not traveled.
It is natural for you to think narrowly about your product or service because you are an expert on that subject. Your list of candidate keywords contains all the words that you and your team would use to search, but it is probably missing a bunch of keywords your customers use. Broaden your list further by asking yourselves some questions:
You might call your computer a notebook, but do others call it a laptop? Do novices search for "digital photos" or "computer pictures" or "computer camera"? If you do not know, write it down anyway. If your team is having trouble with this part of the exercise, bring in some folks from your target market and ask them the same questions. What words would they use?
If you take the time, you will get many of the right target keywords from brainstorming. You will never get all of them, but you have many other data sources to consult to complete your list of keyword candidates. Next up, you mine your Web log files for keyword gold.
Check Your Current Search Referrals
Some of your best keywords are right under your nosethey are keywords customers are already using to find your site. Chapter 7, "Measure Your Search Marketing Success," introduced the concept of search referrals, showing how your Web metrics facility can examine your Web log files to tell you the search queries that visitors use to find your site.
Search referrals are a gold mine for developing your candidate list for keywords, because they are phrases that searchers are using, and they relate to your products. Don't look only at the keywords that get lots of trafficyou are already succeeding with those. Notice keywords that you get little traffic for, too. Those low-volume keywords might actually be popular searches, but your site just does not rank very high in the results, so it attracts little traffic for those words.
Use your list of referrals to add more keywords to your master list. Do not remove a keyword already on the list because you do not see many (or any) referrals with that word. One of your goals is to find those keywords that your site is drawing little or no traffic for today. We have plenty of time to winnow the list later.
Consult Your Site Search Facility
If your site has its own search engineone that returns the pages of your site for searchersyou can study the list of keywords those searchers enter to see what words you are missing. Check out the more popular terms most closelyno need to look at every keyword that was searched for just once in the last month.
As you study this data source, remember that the context for the searcher is different when the results are limited to your site than when searching in MSN or Ask Jeeves. When Snap Electronics examined their log, they found that there were almost no searches for "snap digital camera" because the searchers knew they did not have to include the word "snap" in their querythey are already at Snap's site.
Study Paid Inclusion Reports
If you use paid inclusion, you can pore over the metrics reports from your paid inclusion vendor to identify the keywords used to find specific pages on your site. This technique helps you identify keywords that you already have content forshowing you which pages might be good landing pages for each.
Check Out Your Competition
Take the time to look at the Web pages for your top competitors for the subject of your campaign. If your campaign revolves around one of your products, examine Web pages for competing products.
Look at what words they use. Obviously competitors have their own brand names and model numbers, but look deeper than that. What words do they use to describe their products? What words are found in their titles? Their keyword metatags? Crack open their HTML and look. Check out their site maps and their "Products AZ" pageswhat words do they use to describe the product's category? Add promising new keywords to your list.
Keep in mind, however, that just because your competitor uses a term that does not automatically mean that many searchers use that term. Your competitor might not have performed any keyword analysis to see whether it is a popular keyword.
If you have a page that legitimately mentions a competitorsuch as a feature comparison pagethat is perfectly okay. However, steer clear of any tricks using your competitors' brand names or other trademarks, such as dumping your competitor's trademarks into a description tag on your page. Searchers entering your competitor's names are not looking for your products. If you try to hijack those brand-loyal searchers with tricky pages that mention your competitors' brand names, you will annoy those searchers and risk a lawsuit for trademark infringement or unfair competition.
Research Each Keyword Candidate
You've brainstormed, you've checked multiple data sources, and you've compiled quite a list. By now, you should have many possible keyword targets, but you do not know how frequently searchers enter any of them. Bring on the keyword research tools!
Keyword research tools reveal which keywords on your list are heavily used by searchers and which ones are rarely used. Research tools can also expand your list by showing variations of your keywords that are also garnering traffic.
Keep in mind, however, that keyword tools are just thattools. They are not magical, and they do not substitute for the step you just completed to gather your own keyword list based on your in-depth knowledge of your product. It is so easy to use these tools that you will be tempted to skip the gathering step, but over-reliance on keyword tools is one of the ways that search marketers miss some very valuable keywords and target keywords that do not match their product very well. In addition, it is seductive to fall in love with one tool and use it exclusively. Don't. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses, so researching with multiple tools results in better information for your decisions.
Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com) is the leading fee-based online keyword research tool, with a database of more than 350 million actual searches performed by the MetaCrawler and Dogpile search engines. Wordtracker uses this data to estimate the number of searches that are performed for each keyword across all search engines. This statistic is often referred to as keyword demandWordtracker calls it "count," as you can see in Figure 11-1.
Figure 11-1. Wordtracker's Keyword Research Tool. Wordtracker shows the keyword demand ("count") for variations on the keyword entered.
Many search marketing consultants swear by Wordtracker's keyword demand numbers, for a reason that you might not think of. The number of searches performed for popular keywords on Yahoo! Search, Google, and other popular search engines is tainted by the fact that some of those searches (no one really knows how many) are not being performed by true searchers. Those tainted searches are being performed for the sole purpose of "rank checking"a search marketer checking where a site ranks for a particular query. You have already become one of these "rank checking" searchers, and there are many others like you. Conversely, searchers at less-popular search engines, such as MetaCrawler and Dogpile, are almost 100 percent real searchersnot too many folks are bothering to check their rankings there.
There is one possible drawback to this supposed accuracy in keyword demand. Because there are relatively few MetaCrawler and Dogpile searchers, it is possible that they differ in fundamental ways from Google and Yahoo! searchers. Perhaps they are more sophisticated about search than the mainstream searcher. Maybe they are more technically astute. Search marketers should keep this in mind while they use Wordtracker.
Besides keyword demand numbers, Wordtracker helps a search marketer perform several tasks in keyword planning:
Wordtracker has a number of subscription options, including daily, weekly, monthly, or annual pricing. Use the generous 30-day free trial to get a feel for how the system works to decide whether it's for you. It costs around $250 for a yearly subscription, so it is easily affordable within most search marketing budgets.
Yahoo! Keyword Selector Tool
You might remember trying out a tool from Yahoo!'s former Overture brand back in Chapter 7 when we did our preliminary research for our first search marketing campaign. You might recall that one of the major benefits of the Keyword Selector Tool (at http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion) is the price. It costs nothing to use, in unlimited volume, and it is accessible to anyone.
It is a much simpler version of Wordtracker, showing the demand for various keywords, but has some important differences:
As with Wordtracker, the Yahoo! tool enables you to enter words to see their keyword demand totals, along with variations on that word that were also searched for, as shown in Figure 11-2. As noted in Chapter 7, you can multiply Yahoo!'s keyword demand numbers by 2.2 to estimate demand across all search engines. The reason this works is that Yahoo! syndicates its paid results to search engines that execute approximately 45 percent of all search queries. If you multiply 45 percent by 2.2, you will get 99 percent, so multiplying Yahoo!'s demand by 2.2 approximates 100 percent of all searches. (Because MSN Search will likely be dropping Yahoo! in favor of its own paid placement service by 2006, this 45 percent number might drop to 30 percent.)
Figure 11-2. Yahoo!'s Keyword Selector Tool. Yahoo! shows the keyword demand ("count") for a keyword and its variants.
Reproduced with permission of Yahoo! Inc. © 2005 by Yahoo! Inc. YAHOO! and the YAHOO! logo are trademarks of Yahoo! Inc.
Yahoo! does not match Wordtracker in its other features; if you are planning a Yahoo! paid placement campaign, however, there is no better source of information.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
As shown in Figure 11-3, Google has a few features not seen in other tools, including similar keywords (related in meaning but that do not contain the word you entered) and additional keywords used by searchers who used your word. Luckily, you can use these keyword features without the sign-up (adwords.google.com/select/KeywordSandbox). It is not the most full- featured tool, but it can sometimes show you useful variants that no other tool will uncover.
Figure 11-3. Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Unlike Yahoo! and Wordtracker, Google does not show the keyword demand for your keyword.
Xybercode Ad Word Analyzer
For paid placement campaigns, it is helpful to know how many other advertisers you are competing against. Because only a few ads are shown on each results screen, you can quickly see whether you are bidding against only a few other advertisers or whether you are dueling with dozens. This information is important because the more advertisers you are battling with, the higher the price can go.
If you have enough time, you can manually enter all of your keyword variations into Google and Yahoo! and count the number of ads that you see (as you scroll through the results pages). But for just $67, you can purchase the Xybercode Ad Word Analyzer (www.adwordanalyzer.com/), which can do the work for you.
Ad Word Analyzer shows you several interesting statistics for a keyword, most notably the number of paid advertisements currently running on Google and Yahoo!. You can see in Figure 11-4 that there are currently 44 Google advertisers and 42 Overture (now Yahoo!) advertisers for the phrase "best digital camera." A high number of advertisers, as in this case, indicates that the bidding might be high and might stay that way over time. There are even ads running for the brand names of our fictitious company!
Figure 11-4. Xybercode'sAd Word Analyzer. See at a glance how many advertisers you are up against at Overture (Yahoo!) and Google.
Prioritize Your Keyword Candidate List
The keyword research tools helped round out your list by unearthing variations that you might have not thought of. They also brought you important information you will use now to prioritize your listthe popularity of the keywords (keyword demand).
Remember, you do not want to blindly target the keywords that are the most popular. You want keywords that are "just right" for your site. You use the popularity numbers for keywords to ensure that you are not choosing keywords that are too cold. Other than that, try to identify the keywords that are the closest matches for your site's content.
As you comb through the list, set a priority for each keyword:
With apologies for all the repetition, you should not be targeting any keywords that are not close matches to your site. You just waste your time as well as the searcher's time. Focus on only those keywords that you believe your site is truly a good response forkeywords for which the search engine honestly should return your site. Those are the only ones that will get you strong clickthrough rates and high conversion rates.
Your "top-priority" and "medium-priority" keywords are candidates for both organic search and paid search campaigns. Your lowest keyword tier is not useful for organic search, because there is a natural limit to the number of keywords that you can target organically. As you will see in the next chapter, when you optimize pages for organic search, you can only target three to four keywords per page. So, you will find that you eventually run out of pages that you can plausibly link together for the search engines to index for organic search.
For paid placement, this is not an issue, so you can freely target your low-priority words for paid search (as long as you believe it is worth the time to manage the extra words in your campaign). You can develop a separate search landing page for every paid placement keyword, and those landing pages do not need to be cohesively linked into your site. Each page can have just one or two links from the landing page to other parts of your siteno other pages on your site need link to each landing pageand searchers using other queries will not be bothered by the presence of the landing pages they do not land on. With organic, your landing pages must be linked together cohesively to coax the spider to index them, so there is a natural limit as to the number of keywords you can target organically before your site begins to look maddeningly repetitive, with multiple pages that say the same thing with slightly different words.
To make your priority decisions for each keyword, you need to take into account popularity, of course, but you also need to remember your goals for your campaign. If your search marketing campaign is designed to build brand awareness, you need to decide which keywords are "must win" because your company must be shown for those words. You might even decide to target a few "too hot" keywords if you believe that the branding awareness you will build compensates for the lower conversion rates. Basically, your branding awareness keywords are marketing decisionswhich keywords require you to be seen?
If your search marketing campaign is designed to increase Web conversions, as most are, your decisions are a bit more complicated. You need to prioritize based on which keywords bring the highest conversion. For organic search, it costs the same amount to optimize a page for any query, so your priorities are based purely on which keywords will drive the most conversions. For paid, your decision making is more complex, because the per-click cost of each keyword must be taken into account, too. The problem with prioritizing by conversion potential, however, is that you have no idea which keywords will have the highest conversions before the campaign starts.
As you will see in Chapter 15, "Make Search Marketing Operational," you will be able to track conversion metrics over time so that you can gradually place more emphasis on keywords that convert and de-emphasize those that do not. It is seductive to look at high conversion rates, but it is more profitable to go after a higher number of gross conversions. (Would you rather convert 10 out of 100 or 2 out of 4?) Regardless of what you will do after the campaign is underway, your problem now is to figure out which keywords to target to begin your campaign.
So Snap is left with keywords associated with the Learn, Shop, and Buy phases, which are shown in abridged form Table 11-3. (You should categorize every keyword according to your Web Conversion Cycle, but we are shortening the example.) To accurately categorize each query, you need to think about what each stage in the Web Conversion Cycle means. So, a searcher who knows nothing about digital cameras is in the Learn phase, and is likely to use search keywords such as "digital cameras" or "buy digital camera." A searcher who knows more would enter queries based on features of digital cameras (Shop phase), such as "8 megapixel digital camera," whereas searchers who know precisely what they want to buy (Buy phase) might enter the exact model number to shop for the lowest price.
Snap already culled the list to remove any search keywords, such as "cheap digital camera," that are not close matches for their site's content. But how do we prioritize the rest? The answer is to think carefully about what Snap is trying to achieve in their campaign.
Keywords from the Buy Stage
Because you have no idea what kinds of conversion rates are associated with each keyword, you cannot accurately prioritize based on that, but you can take guesses. You can guess, for example, that Snap will achieve higher conversion rates for the keywords that mention its own brand and model namesthose from the Buy stage. And because Snap already has product pages for each individual camera model, it will not be hard to optimize each page for its keyword. Those product pages already contain the "features and benefits"information that buyers need to confirm their decision and complete the purchase. All of this adds up to keywords that closely match Snap's site, and (we believe) will have high conversion rates. These keywords should be categorized as top priority.
But what about the Learn and Shop keywords? Well, you quickly see that some of the Shop keywords contain the brand names "snap" or "snapshot" in the search keyword, too. Once again, they should carry very high conversion rates for Snap. And they also seem like "must have" queries from a branding standpoint because Snap is aiming for brand awareness as well as conversions. Make those top priority, too.
Keywords from the Shop Stage
So far, you have picked out the keywords that seem to have high conversion rates, but you have not looked at the rest of the list. It's time to focus again on how close a match these keywords are to Snap's site. For the Shop list, the search "easy digital camera" is a direct hit for Snap's product line, but "8 megapixel camera" and "lightweight camera" (although accurate) are not quite as distinctiveother camera manufacturers can validly make those claims. When we examine keyword demand data from our keyword research tools, we see that "8 megapixel camera" is a somewhat popular query, whereas "lightweight camera" is less so. On that basis, we will make easy digital camera a top-priority keyword, assign 8 megapixel camera a medium priority, and make lightweight camera a low-priority keyword to consider only for paid placement.
In real life, your list would be far longer than this, but this is the kind of decision process that you will go through. You will target very close matches almost regardless of popularity, because they will have high conversion rates. In fact, if they are less popular, it is easier to rank well for each keyword (although you must make sure you do not focus organic search optimization efforts on "too cold" keywords). For keywords that are related to your site, but not direct hits, you will make judgments based on popularity and anticipated conversion rate.
Keywords from the Learn Stage
When you examine the Learn search keywords, one jumps out as a great target: "digital camera reviews." You know that Snap has gotten wonderful reviews, so putting up a few pages that boast about those reviews (with links to the magazine sites that contain the actual review articles) is excellent spider food for that query. Snap's competitors do not always get the same rave reviews that Snap does, so this keyword is a direct hit for Snap's digital cameras. Make that one a top priority. Because some of the reviews literally say that Snap makes the "best digital camera," that keyword should be at least a medium priority, too.
But what about the others? Broad search keywords such as "digital cameras" and "buy digital camera" do not seem to promise a very high conversion rate, but they are in high demand. Because you do not know what the conversion rate might be, it is worthwhile to try out a few keywords that are very popular to see how much traffic you can draw and test what the conversion rate is. You do not want to spend precious resources on a large number of them at first, but you cannot completely ignore them, either. You might decide to make digital camera a top priority because it is extremely popularSnap does make a broad range of camerasbut reserve buy digital camera for paid placement for now.
The keyword compare digital cameras might be a medium priority because Snap has enough different models that it can put together a few pages that compare them against each other. In addition, Snap might be able to use the pages that target digital camera reviews to subtly compare Snap to its competition.