Recently three clients have sent me lists of keywords that they were planning to use in pay-per-click campaigns and/or to optimize their websites for. In all three cases, I wondered how they happened to settle on the particular search terms they chose.
If there’s one thing that direct response testing teaches us, it’s that people often don’t act exactly how we expect them to. That includes the words they use when searching on the web. So while it’s fairly common for marketers to develop a keyword list based only on a perfunctory brainstorming session, that’s a mistake, because the keywords we think are most important may not be.
In a recent blog post, we suggested several keyword research tools. Not only do many of them provide keyword suggestions, but they also give an idea of search volume. Many of the numbers should be taken with a very large grain of salt, but the tools still provide a good gauge of the relative popularity of various search terms.
To generate the most effective keyword list, make it a multi-step process:
1. Brainstorm. Start with a preliminary brainstorming session. Think of all the keywords you can, in a variety of categories: brand names (i.e., Felco pruners), product categories (i.e., rain barrels), problems you have solutions for (i.e., leaf blight), and categories your company fits in (i.e., plant catalog).
2. Research. Use several research tools to come up with additional keywords. Use these new keywords to spark additional ideas.
3. Repeat. Research the relative popularity of the terms on your new list.
4. Narrow the list based on popularity and how closely each term relates to what you offer. Also consider which search terms suggest that the searcher might be in buying mode. For instance, someone searching for “vegetable seed catalog” is probably shopping. Someone searching for “growing tomatoes” might be shopping, or they might be looking for how-to information.
5. Avoid Confusion. Watch out for keywords that might have a different, unrelated meaning. For instance, people searching for “dahlia” might be looking for flowers…or they might be looking for the Black Dahlia Murder Mystery. Refine your keyword list to eliminate unrelated searches.