The most important step in doing keyword research is entering a keyword phrase into a search engine like Google, and seeing what results show up, and trying to understand why the pages that appear within results are there. If you can’t do that, then it’s time to dig down and start learning.
Whether you’re a searcher looking for information on the Web, or someone doing keyword research for a website, it’s important to have an idea of the many different ways that a search engine might treat a search you perform. For instance, if your search is one that might trigger Google to show results from a specific web page associated with a named entity (a particular person, place, or thing) at the top of those results, you shouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see that site listed first in search results. This is something that is done algorithmically by Google. Just stating that Google has a “magical” brand preference is a mistake in that instance. It’s better to try to understand how that algorithm might be triggered instead.
Likewise, when you perform a search for a term such as [hospice], Google might decide to show a map result from Google Maps in Web search results because their universal search algorithm suggests that the query has a local intent, and the searcher is likely looking for a nearby hospice. Again, it would be a mistake to make the assumption that Google is favoring their own “property” in Google Maps when the reality is that the vertical search result of Google Maps is what searchers are actually looking for.
I sometimes see people say that paid search is a great way to do keyword research for SEO, but I disagree with that statement. Paid search primarily focuses upon keywords that are transactional in nature – usually the terms chosen are the kind that match an intent to buy something, download something, or take some other kind of action. I’ve asked many people who do search engine advertising, and focus on Adwords if they ever target queries that are informational in nature, and most of the time the answer has been no.
Often searchers will do some research on a product or service before they decide who to buy from. They will perform research to find what kinds of features are available for different products, try to find reviews or opinions from others, They may try to compare different manufacturers as well. These types of queries are more informational in nature, and the same searcher will conduct these types queries that evidence an informational intent before they begin to consider a query with a transactional intent.
You’re writing a page about a new stadium in your City, soon to enjoy the sounds of crowds in the bleachers watching duels between batters and pitchers, hoping to watch balls batted over the center field fence, or shutouts pitched, or the perfect double play.
Your page could simply contain a picture, a street address, and maybe a schedule of games to be played for the season. Or it could include a skeletal list of links to simple pages about the team that will play there, an image of sections where tickets could be purchased, a page to purchase those tickets, and another page about parking and directions.
There’s nothing wrong with delivering just the facts, and providing simple information that fills needs.
But let’s imagine that your goal for the site is to make it more likely that people sign up for season ticket plans, that they get excited about attending games, that they consider driving for a few hours to see the stadium in person rather than kicking back and watching on TV. You want people excited about the new stadium, and you want to show and tell them what’s new. And you want to draw on the history of the players and team to draw old fans and interest new ones.
If you look up when the last five movies from Jim Carrey were released, and were able to sneak a peek at Google’s query logs, you’d see that searches for Jim Carrey spiked on those dates.
Same with Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Tom Hanks.
We know this from a footnote in a recently published paper from researchers at Google.
The authors of Gazpacho and summer rash: lexical relationships from temporal patterns of web search queries checked to see if there was some kind of time-based relationship between searches for those movies’ names (and release dates) and the names of those actors.
It sounds obvious that there would be, but it’s interesting to see actual data from Google that explores relationships like that.
Relationships between Queries Based upon Time
It’s been a while since my last Back to Basics post here, so I’m going to provide an example of one SEO task that can be a lot of fun if done right.
It’s an exercise in Mind Mapping, and is the kind of thing that can be done in a group. It involves getting something to write upon (ideally posterboard paper and a mix of different colored magic markers), and thinking non-linearly, while filling that paper up with ideas.
The ideas don’t necessarily have to be completely on topic, and sometimes writing down an idea that is only tangentially related to the topic may lead to the exploration of ideas and keyword development that are more relevant.
One of the points of performing search engine optimization on a web site is to make it possible for the site owner to be found in search engines for information that is relevant to inquiries from the audience that will be searching for it.
I like digging into some of the patents and papers that come from search engines and academics who study how search works.
But something else I find fascinating is how marketing fits into Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how important it is to know about both to be successful in getting traffic to a site. Or should I say the right traffic – visits from the people who will find the pages of a web site interesting and engaging to them.
A lot of that crossover is getting an insight into the words that people will both use to find a site, and expect to see upon its pages. That doesn’t come out of doing some research on wordtracker or nichebot or the Overture keyword selection tool (no longer available).
Those can be nice tools to use, but some of the most important steps in finding meaningful words that people will search for come earlier, before you should even be looking at those sites.