Why Effective SEO Keyword Research is More Than Just Numbers

by Jason Woolley on 16/11/2009

Keyword research as part of the SEO process is no longer just having a quick look at keywords and keyword volumes, and then optimising for the highest volume terms. This ignores many factors – increasingly keyword research for SEO requires a wider view of the competitive search landscape, your customer behaviour and the search usability of your site.

If you have paid for keyword research recently, and received simply a list of keywords with numbers, I hope you know what to do with them!

Keyword research forms not only the foundation of an SEO campaign, but also supports meaningful measurement, and continues throughout to support and refine delivery, as an iterative process, throughout the lifetime of the project.

So, what is the point of keyword research?

It is to understand your market
• Do people search for your products? Is there a market already?
• Who is in the market, what are they doing, and how successful are they?

It is to understand your customer’s behaviour
• How do your customers search for your products?
• When do your customers search for your products?
• What language do they use?

It is to understand your customer’s expectations
• What do they expect to find when they arrive on your site?

With this knowledge, you are able to evaluate how well you are performing against your target keywords, and your level of search penetration. You will also be able to estimate the size of the opportunity.

A quick search will show you where you rank for your target keywords, and where your pages are returned in the results, the actual landing page that searchers will arrive at on clicking through. Is it the most appropriate page? Analytics, usability tools like ClickTracks, live usability studies and good old common sense should inform this. If you’re convinced that the best page for the job ranks for the search phrase, if a conversion action is required, proceed directly to the Conversion Optimisation process.

At this stage, you have completed the core of your keyword research and you can begin to create an action plan, based around:
• On page optimisation of your pages that rank for the appropriate phrases
• Site architecture, internal linking and content optimisation where your site ranks, but not for the most appropriate, converting page.
• As above for keyword phrases that you don’t rank for at all. Content creation strategy where there is no existing content to support optimisation.

Rinse and repeat, taking into consideration web analytics and site search data.

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