PubCon Vegas Day 1: Keyword Research Session
By Steph Skardal
November 11, 2009
On the first day of PubCon Vegas, I was bombarded by information, sessions, and people. PubCon is a SEO/SEM conference that has a variety of sessions categorized in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Marketing), Social Media and Affiliates. My primary interest is in SEO, which is why I attended the SEO track yesterday that included sessions about in-house SEO, organic keyword research and selection, and hot topics in SEO.
Because my specific involvement in SEO has focused on technical SEO, I was surprised that my highlight of day one was “Smart Organic Keyword Research and Selection” which included speakers Wil Reynolds, Craig Paddock, Carolyn Shelby, and Mark Jackson.
With good organization and humor, Carolyn first presented the “ABCs of Organic Keyword Research and Selection”: A is for analytics and knowing your audience. B is for brainstorm and bonus. and C is for Cookie!, crunch the numbers, cull the lists, and create a final list of keywords.
On the analytics side, Carolyn mentioned good sources of analytics include web server logs (read my article on the value of log or bot parsing), Google Analytics “traffic generating” keyword list, and logs from internal site search.
In regards to knowing your audience, Carolyn shared her personal experience of focus group research: For a project that targeted teenage girls, she invited her daughter and several of her daughter’s friends to join her around the table with laptops. She showed them a picture and ask them to search for that image. She recorded the search terms used and used this information to help understand her target audience behavior.
On the brainstorm side, she likes to involve core web team members, product managers, marketing, developers, designers, promoters, marketers, and front liners (customer service representatives, tech support). B was also for bonus, which was to get input from the “suits” of a company to get a list of ideal keywords to understand how they measure keyword success.
Craig Paddock spoke on “Organic Keyword Research and Selection” next. He touched on some of the following SEO keyphrase concepts:
- keyphrase research: Keyword research is based on keyword popularity, click through rate, quality (measured by conversion and engagement), keyword competitiveness, and current ranking
- keyphrase expanders and variations: Broad keyword phrases should include variations of keywords that include words like ‘best’, ‘online’, ‘buy’, ‘cheap’, ‘discount’, ‘wholesale’, ‘accessories’, ‘supplies’, ‘reviews’, and abbreviations of words like states. For End Point’s ecommerce clients, targeting keyphrases with customer reviews is a great way to generate traffic from user generated content
- keyphrase discovery: It shouldn’t be assumed that clients know the industry. Craig shared an example that his boxing retailer client made the mistake of targeting specific boxing terms that had low traffic. They expanded to include more popular terms like “lose weight” and “burn calories”. Another tactic to discover keyphrase is to ask what kind of problems the website service offered solve and choose keywords that target these questions and answers.
- keyphrase quality: Keyphrase quality is typically measured by conversion rate (revenue / visitor) or engagement. Engagement is measured by the time on site, pages/visit, and bounce rate, which are commonly included in analytics packages.
- keyphrase selection: Using exact match and broad match on keywords is helpful and let the customers guide the keyword selection. Craig mentioned that data shows that there is a higher conversion rate on more specific keyphrases, which isn’t surprising.
- keyphrase targeting: Keyphrase targeting should match competitiveness with link popularity. An example of this being that more competitive words on your site should be higher up in the hierarchy of the site such as on the home page. For End Point, this would involve us targeting competitive phrases terms like “ecommerce”, “ruby on rails development”, and “web application development” on our homepage and targeting less competitive phrases such as “interchange development” or “ruby on rails ecommerce” on pages lower in the hierarchy.
- keyphrase analysis: One area of interest was how analytics tools attribute “credit” to keyphrases. In Google Analytics, if a customer searches “interchange consulting” and visits endpoint.com, then a week later searches “end point”, the conversion or credit of the keyphrase is attributed to the “end point” keyword rather than “interchange consulting”. This is important in ecommerce because this attribution doesn’t accurately credit targeted keywords for revenue. Craig did mention that other tools (including Omniture) provide the ability to select last click attribute versus first click attribute to fix this attribution problem. Another solution to this problem mentioned was to set a user defined variable in Google Analytics equal to a cookie that has the first click search term (“interchange consulting” in the example above) and set the cookie to not expire.
Wil Reynolds spoke next on “Keyword Analysis AFTER the rankings”. He touched on an important concept that SEO (specifically keyphrase research and targeting) is never done because keywords are constantly evolving because people change the way they search, blended search (video, image) is on the rise, and there are social or economic influences on the keyword popularity. Some good examples of keyphrase trending include:
- “Shopping” was a good keyword in 1999 because ecommerce was growing on the web and users didn’t know what to search for.
- “Handheld device” transitioned to “Smartphone”
- “Eco-Friendly” has grown while “Environmentally Friendly” has declined — view this trend here
- “Netbooks” and “Ultraportables” are popular search terms on the rise that were non-existent two years ago — view netbook trends here
- Brands in the gear industry evolve at a much faster pace than the plumbing or wood floor industry
Wil’s examples and advice apply directly to our clients who should to be aware of social and economic influences that may require they change they keyphrase targeting over time.
Finally, Mark Jackson spoke on focusing your keywords for better results. He discussed the importance of analyzing the keyword competitiveness to determine which keywords to target to get the most value out of keyword SEO work.
In summary, I still don’t love keyword and keyphrase research and selection :), but I found that the speakers presented a great overview of keyword research and selection with a good mixture of personal experience, expertise and examples. In summary, some great concepts to keep in mind in regards to keyword research are:
- There are always missed opportunities in keyword targeting.
- There are lotsa tools! Tools are good for measuring keyphrase competitiveness, user engagement, and identifying missed opportunities.
- SEO keyphrase research and selection is an ongoing process.
Now, back to day 2 activities…