May 21st, 2009

Building successful keywords lists for your search marketing campaigns

by sage island

Extensive keyword research is the first step to any search marketing campaign. Keyword research is the framework on which your entire campaign is built, whether you’re using search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, or both. If you don’t get your keywords right, your efforts will be wasted.

If you’ve started on the wrong foot, there’s still time. Good keyword research is an evolution. The world of search is constantly changing, and your keywords should, too. The terms that people are using today may not be the most successful six months from now.

Whether you’re putting together your first keyword list or adapting your current list, here are some tips to get you started.

Don’t use the same keyword list for your SEO and PPC campaigns.

SEO and PPC are complete different, and they require different keyword lists. In fact, most of the keywords you use for SEO probably won’t even end up on your PPC list. PPC keyword lists are highly targeted — you’re looking for keywords that will target a very specific audience to ensure you’re not spending money on clicks from tire-kickers. For SEO, your keywords should be relevant, but much broader to reach a larger search audience.

Never build a keyword list based on assumptions.

No matter how well you know your target audience, the truth is that as a business owner you think differently than your consumers. Many marketers and business owners create keyword lists based on their knowledge of the business instead of search volume. They’re surprised to discover that consumers are searching for a completely different list of terms. Your technical knowledge may be preventing you from finding the laymen’s terms for which your customers are searching. While a good knowledge of the terminology in your business is a great place to start your research, you need metrics to back you up. Use a keyword research program like Keyword Discovery or WordTracker, Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool to ensure that the keywords are the right ones.

Break long keyword phrases into pieces.

For SEO, try breaking your keyword phrases into smaller pieces to maximize your reach. For example, while “new houses for sale” may have a decent search volume, you might have better results with something like “new home listings,” because it works as a stand-alone keyword phrase, two separate shorter phrases (new home and home listings), and home has a higher search volume than houses. Create power phrases by ensuring that each and every word in your keyword phrase packs a punch.

Choose your keywords wisely.

Once you’ve built a long list of potential keywords, it’s decision time. For PPC, you can test a long list of keywords to find the most successful. For SEO, you need to be a little more selective. The most successful optimizations use a very short list of keywords — no more than 3 for each page. Don’t just choose the keywords with the highest search volume. Look deeper to create longer keyword phrases that will garner search volume without being too competitive. Find a balance between search volume, competition, and relevance.

Constantly update your keywords based on analytics, conversions, and traffic.

Good keyword research can create a pretty powerful initial list, but you’re not finished. You need to make constant adjustments. With PPC, the changes will most likely be daily, especially in the beginning. Watch your click-through rates and conversions to ensure that your keywords are driving relevant traffic without costing too much, and keep an eye on your analytics to find negative keywords.

SEO is a long-term process, so you’ll want to give your site some time to collect data before making changes. Monitor your analytics constantly to determine which keywords are driving the most traffic to your site. If you’re not getting the results you wanted after a month or two, it may be time to make some changes, shift your focus, or find new keywords.