Keyword Research Part 5: Putting (Key)Words In Your Mouth

If you are new to this keyword business, it can be easy to drown in jargon soup. Even if you are familiar with it, there may be new terms and classifications you could benefit from exploring further. Seen as how we’ve just talked about the customer coming first, let’s start with them now.

USER INTENT is one way of classifying keywords, and it’s the approach Google uses for its ranking algorithm. There are three categories:

  1.  Informational – A search for information
    eg. ‘How to teach granny to suck eggs’ or ‘The time in Azerbaijan’
  2. Transactional – The searcher wants to complete a transaction or do something
    eg. ‘Buy waterproof teabag’ or ‘Download ESEO training manual’
  3. Navigational – The user is seeking a specific site, usually using branded keywords
    eg. ‘Ethical SEO’, ‘BBC’ or ‘Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’

Now let’s root this jargon in real-life (and throw in a bit more jargon for good measure…). Another useful way of thinking about someone’s search intent is to think about where they are in the sales funnel. Are they ‘window’ shopping? Or ready to part with the reddies?

Again, there are three categories of keywords:

1. ‘Browse’ Keywords eg. ‘solar panels’
People doing these general queries don’t know what they really want. They’re not sure on specifics. If they come across your site, they’ll be mining it for information or umm’ing and ahh’ing. Their next search could just as easily be for ‘wind turbines’. They are unlikely to convert and therefore shouldn’t be the focus of your campaign.

2. ‘Compare’ Keywords eg. ‘Solar PV installation’ or ‘Solar panels London’
These phrases indicate a bit more sense of purpose, where the searcher is likely to have decided on getting solar panels but they want to see which companies do what. Their next search is likely to narrow down their quest further, eg. ‘Best solar PV West London’, rather than go off on some irrelevant tangent. In short, they are in ‘Compare’ mode and should be seen as potential prospects.

3. ‘Buy’ Keywords eg. ‘Southern Solar PV installation Brixton’
Anything with branding, numbers, prices or precise location is coming from someone who is ready to buy, buy, buy. They know what they want and have probably been through the ‘compare’ stage already. Obviously it’s the SEO dream to rank high for these terms, but (depending on your industry) it might not happen all that often.

The majority of your keyword campaign will target the Comparers. Your website can serve the purpose of convincing them you are the company to go for, alongside the rest of your marketing content strategy (making the most of your prices, expertise, reputation etc).

SEARCH VOLUME classification is where keywords reveal themselves to be really interesting creatures…literally…

  1. Fat Head – big broad terms, generally only one word
    eg. ‘Bananas’, ‘Hotels’, ‘Solar’
  2. Chunky Middle – expand a bit on the big head terms, but remain pretty general
    eg. ‘Fairtrade Bananas’, ‘Eco Hotels’, ‘Solar Installation’
  3. Long Tail – longer, more detailed phrases incorporating the shorter keyterms
    eg. ‘Carbon footprint of Fairtrade bananas’, ‘Best eco hotels in Cornwall’, ‘Cost of solar installation’

The calibration will be different for each company. The SEOMoz traffic classification defines head terms as the most popular things in your niche that bring in over 100 visits a month; middle terms as those receiving between 10 and 99 visits; and anything that’s under 10 visits counts as a long tail.

Basically, the longer the phrase, the lower the search volume – and the greater likelihood it will be a unique or unfamiliar search. This means it is easy to effectively capture and monitor information about heads and middles, using a variety of tools – but that long tail can be slippery and evasive.

This may feel like too much of a challenge, resulting in companies focusing solely on the upper half of the keyword beast…to their detriment. As Rand Fishkin points out in his SEOMoz Whiteboard Friday presentation ‘How Big Is Your Long Tail?’, ignoring the longtail keywords means excluding up to 60% of searches for your site. Search is dominated by that longtail, and while some businesses are right to focus on head terms for conversion purposes, other companies really need those nether regions. With such low search volumes, they are generally less competitive and easier to optimise for on a larger scale.

When it comes to the analysis part, there’s another kind of useful categorisation you can do. Segmentation is a way of slicing up your web traffic in any number of ways to assess not only the volume of searches but perhaps the location, or the visitor’s springboard for those searches, like social media sources. There are some pre-set categories, like Paid Search Traffic and Returning Visitors, but customising your segments can be immensely powerful. The results are significant enough to act diagnostically when your SEO has dropped seemingly inexplicably. So as much as you need to think broad and long, sometimes it pays to get really granular too.

Some companies benefit from geographical segmentation. Competition for your products or services may vary between regions, meaning your page ranking may be closer to the top for some location-specific searches than others. This insight can then shape your keyword strategy with powerful results.

Other segments might be:
• Branded vs non-branded keywords
• Product lines
• Twitter traffic
• Google as source
• Word volume, generally into three buckets: 1 word, 2 – 3 words, and 4+ words

So, after wrestling the slippery creature in its many forms and classifications – do you feel you have tamed the keyword beast? Or has that endless tail eluded you? Or perhaps that fat head proved too beefy? The best way to get to grips with it is face it head on in its natural habitat. It’s time to start the research process…

Previous Posts in this Series:
The We Are All Connected Guide To Keyword Research: Part 1
Keyword Research Part 2: Thinking About Your Business
Keyword Research Part 3: Become a Mindreader
Keyword Research Part 4: Building Personas