and Evaluating Keyphrases for Search Engine Marketing
Selecting and Evaluating Keyphrases for Search Engine Marketing
Many businesses recognize that search engines can bring volumes
of highly targeted prospects to their website, typically at a fraction
of the cost of traditional marketing. Unfortunately, these same
companies often overlook the most important part of their search
engine marketing campaigns, which is keyphrase selection and evaluation.
Keyphrases (those phrases that potential customers are using to
find products or services on search engines) are the building block
of any search engine marketing strategy. It is essential that they
are chosen carefully, or else the remainder of the campaign, no
matter how effective the implementation, will likely be in vain.
What follows is a three-step process that goes over the process
of compiling, selecting, and evaluating the ongoing performance
of keyphrases for search engines.
1. Compiling a keyphrase list:
Usually, companies are sure that they already know their ideal keyphrases.
Often, they are wrong. This is typically because it is very hard
to separate oneself from a business and look at it from the perspective
of a potential customer (rather than an insider). Compiling a keyphrase
list should not be, despite common practice, a strictly internal
process. Rather, it is best to ask everyone outside of your company
for their input, especially your customers. People are often very
surprised at the keyphrase suggestions they get- and sometimes dismayed
to realize that an average customer doesn't speak the same language
that they do. Only after you have put together a list of likely
phrases from external sources do you add your own. As a last step,
try to add variations, plurals, and derivatives of the phrases on
2. Evaluating keyphrases:
Once you have compiled a master keyphrase list, it is time to evaluate
each phrase to hone your list down to those most likely to bring
you the highest amount of quality traffic. Although many individuals
will base their assessment of keyphrase value based only on popularity
figures, there are really three vitally important aspects of each
phrase to consider.
By far the easiest of the three to judge is popularity, since it
is not subjective. Software like WordTracker gives popularity figures
of search phrases based upon actual search engine activity (it also
gives additional keyphrase suggestions and variations). Such software
allows you to assign a concrete popularity number to each phrase
to use when comparing them. Obviously, the higher the number, the
more traffic that can be expected (assuming you are able to obtain
good search engine positions). However, this number alone is not
good enough reason to pursue any particular keyphrase, although
too often keyphrase analysis stops here.
This is more abstract than the sheer popularity number, but equally
important. For example, let's assume that you were able to obtain
great rankings for the keyphrase "insurance companies"
(a daunting prospect). Let's also assume that you only deal with
auto insurance. Although "insurance companies" might have
a much higher popularity figure than "auto insurance companies",
the first keyphrase would also be comprised of people looking for
life insurance, health insurance, and home insurance. It is very
likely that someone searching for a particular type of insurance
will refine their search after seeing the disparate results returned
from the phrase "insurance companies". In the second,
longer keyphrase, you can be reasonably sure that a much higher
percentage of visitors will be looking for what you offer- and the
addition of the word "auto" will make it much easier to
attain higher rankings, since the longer term will be less competitive.
Motivation of User
This factor, even more abstract than specificity, calls for an attempt
to understand the motivation of a search engine user by simply analyzing
his or her search phrase. Assume, for example, that you were a real
estate agent in Atlanta. Two of the keyphrases you are evaluating
are "Atlanta real estate listings" and "Atlanta real
estate agents". Both phrases have very similar popularity numbers.
They are also each fairly specific, and your services are very relevant
to each. So which phrase is better? If you look into the likely
motivation of the user, you will probably conclude that the second
is superior. While both phrases target people looking for real estate
in Atlanta, you can infer from the second phrase that the searcher
has moved beyond the point where they are browsing local homes or
checking out prices in their neighborhood- they are looking for
an agent, which implies that they are ready to act. Often, subtle
distinctions between terms can make a large difference on the quality
of the traffic they attract.
3. Evaluating Keyphrase Performance:
Until recently, judging the performance of individual keyphrases
was a dicey proposition. Although it is possible to tell from your
log traffic analysis how many visitors are getting to your site
from each keyphrase (valuable information, but unfortunately not
enough to do much with), it was very hard to decipher which phrases
were bringing you the most quality traffic. Recently, however, some
sophisticated but affordable tools have been developed that allow
you to judge the performance of each individual keyphrase based
upon visitor behavior. This new software makes it possible to periodically
analyze which keyphrases are bringing your site the most valuable
visitors- those who buy your products, fill out your contact form,
download your demo, etc. This type of data, rather than the sheer
number of visitors from each search phrase alone, is invaluable
when you are refining your search engine marketing campaigns, since
you can discard and replace non-performing keyphrases and put increased
effort toward the phrases that are delivering visitors that become
customers. This kind of ongoing analysis is the final piece of the
keyphrase puzzle, and allows you to continually target the most
important phrases for your industry, even if they change over time.
Keyphrase compilation, evaluation, and performance are all vitally
important to any search engine marketing campaign. While high rankings
in search engines are an admirable goal, high rankings for poor
keyphrases will consistently deliver poor results. Integration of
this keyphrase process into your overall search engine marketing
strategy can dramatically improve your website performance (and
thus your bottom line).
About the Author
Scott Buresh is Co-founder
and Principal of Medium
Blue Internet Marketing .
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