Are your search engine optimization efforts falling flat on their face? It may be time to revisit to go back to the basics. Time to revisit the fundamentals of SEO. Time…for keyword research.
I already know what you’re going to say: “Keywords don’t matter that much anymore!” While it’s true that top-notch content matters far more than things like keyword density, the reality is that search engines still seek out patterns of keywords when ranking websites.
When all of your ducks seem to be in a row with your SEO campaign but you’re seeing little or no progress, it’s a good sign that you’re targeting the wrong keywords–and that’s a major problem.
There’s a ton of SEO on the web about pinpointing effective keywords for an SEO campaign, but one tactic in particular is often overlooked: keyword reports from PPC campaigns in general, and AdWords’ search terms report in particular.
Of course, this technique only helps if you engage in pay-per-click marketing. If you aren’t already using PPC, here’s another great reason to get started. AdWords PPC data is full of keyword-specific insights, creating a mutually beneficial relationship of sorts.
First things first, let me share a little secret with you…
Your keywords stink.
After being told time and time again to focus on producing high-quality content (and forget about targeting specific keywords), you’re probably scratching your head right now. As long as your content is relevant, unique and useful, shouldn’t it perform well?
In an ideal world, yes. That would be true. Reality is much messier, however. If you’re completely disregarding keywords when planning content for your site, you are doing SEO wrong–period.
If you’ve been optimizing your site for specific keywords and still aren’t getting love from the major search engines, you either have a content-quality problem or a keyword problem. Again, you already know how to produce first-rate content, so there’s only one logical conclusion: Your keywords stink.
Instead of swapping out your existing keywords for ones that are more detailed or more local or more whatever, consider getting yourself an incredibly powerful source of exceptional keyword data: Your PPC campaign.
Depending on your niche, your audience, your site history, and a whole slew of other factors, traditional methods for identifying effective keywords may not work. Even if you make effective use of Google Analytics and other tools, you may find yourself losing big-time in the game of keyword rankings.
You see, drawing people to your site with specific keywords is only beneficial when those people actually want what you are offering. Therefore, traffic volume is not a surefire way to determine whether or not your keyword strategy is sound; conversions are.
Stop blindly relying on traditional keyword discovery techniques. If you have an active PPC campaign or two going, you are sitting on a treasure trove of incredibly useful information.
While most traditional keyword discovery techniques may get you somewhere eventually, turning to data from PPC campaigns should get you there much more quickly. That’s because all of the data is delivered virtually in real time, so you can easily see what’s attracting viable prospects to your site and what isn’t.
Like most people who engage in PPC, you probably already spend quite a lot of time analyzing keyword reports to get the best return on your investment. After all, you don’t want your ads to run for terms that are too vague, or you are paying for clicks that are far too unlikely to convert.
Ideally, your ads should appear for queries from people who will find exactly what they need on your site. The same principle applies to selecting keywords for SEO. Because you pay for clicks with PPC, you are given in-depth reports about which terms prompt people to click. This very information proves incredibly useful in the world of SEO.
All too often, business owners treat PPC and SEO as completely separate beasts. While they produce results in wildly differing ways, both techniques revolve at least some degree around targeting the right keywords.
Every time you look at your search terms report, or search query report in AdWords, you’re looking at invaluable data…data that should be the linchpin of your SEO strategy. This is what I mean by killing two birds with one stone: a single report can help you optimize both your SEM and SEO campaigns.
The Most beautiful thing about AdWords’ search terms report is that it shows you how your ads performed when they were triggered by actual searches by actual people. Google gives you the exact words and phrases that people typed into the search box, so you can more easily get inside their heads.
Already using AdWords? Then you be intimately familiar with the search terms report. If you’re not, here’s the scoop:
- Select an ad group or campaign
- Select a date range
- Click on the “Keywords” tab
- Click “Keyword Details – All,” or check the boxes next to specific keywords and then click “Keyword Details – Selected”
That’s all there is to it. You will instantly receive an up-to-the-minute report about the search terms that people are using to see your ads. Simple, right?
Here are X things you can do with Search Terms data in AdWords:
With the report in front of you, look for keywords and phrases that seem to prompt people to click through. The answers may surprise you.
If someone uses a specific keyword or phrase, sees your ad and then goes ahead and clicks on it, chances are quite high that they are at least somewhat interested in what you are offering. Therefore, it is smart to jot down those terms and phrases and consider using them in your SEO campaign.
Just as you use this information to refine your PPC campaign, you can use it to refine your SEO. In addition to helping you rank better for certain keywords, this approach helps you rank better for high-converting keywords. This is an important distinction.
Don’t just focus on terms and phrases that seem to prompt clicks from users. Look at ones that seem to leave them cold too.
When you find a keyword or phrase that isn’t working in your PPC campaign, you can add it to what is known as the negative keyword list. When you do, your ad will no longer appear when that keyword or phrase is used.
Employ the same approach with your SEO efforts by building a list of low-converting keywords and phrases. Analyze your content for those keywords and phrases and swap them out for ones that actually convert wherever possible.
You are sure to see an uptick not just in traffic, which isn’t so important in and of itself, but in visitors who genuinely want what you are offering. In turn, you should see a bump in your overall conversion rate.
As you peruse a search terms report, you will probably start seeing themes with regards to what prompts people to click through. For example, you may notice that people seem to respond more when words like “low cost” and “affordable” are used.
What this suggests is that your target audience is concerned about affordability. Add more words and phrases to your content that are along these lines to bolster your overall SEO efforts.
Don’t overdo it, though. Just because some folks are concerned about affordability doesn’t mean that all of your prospects are. Remember, segmentation is important.
You will likely identify other themes while perusing your reports, and they may even conflict with information that you have already gathered. This isn’t an anomaly. Rather, it probably means that you have a few different audiences to target.
After updating your SEO keywords based on the info that you find in your search terms report, branch out by testing variations on each of the winners. You can most quickly do this by testing them in your PPC campaigns.
For example, if a particular keyword or phrase performs well, try variations of it. These may include common misspellings and synonyms, so get out your thesaurus. You can easily identify high-performing new terms for your SEO campaign in this way.
Also, test competitors’ high-performing keywords using the same method. If they work in your PPC campaigns, they will most likely bolster your SEO efforts as well.
As with most things related to SEO, persistence and consistency are key. Therefore, run your search terms report and analyze it often. Things change quickly, and your SEO strategy must be able to keep up. Using the right keywords is a huge part of that.
Don’t ditch your other keyword discovery techniques and tools. They are still useful. Just look at your PPC data as another way of refining and improving your SEO efforts.
How often do you look at search terms reports? Do you ever use them for SEO?