Developing Your Keyword List

Choosing the right keywords is a vital part of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Gareth Edwards, e-marketing specialist at the National B2B Centre discusses some ideas that you can use to develop your list.

One of the most successful aspects of our “Essential Guide to Online Marketing” seminar series in 2010 was the Choosing the right keywords exercise that we ran. The intention of the exercise was to give delegates the chance to discover how other people would search for their products and services.

We kind of knew that people would be surprised by the responses and it was fascinating to hear exactly how few of them had taken a customer or external view when thinking about keywords. For some delegates the exercise actually turned into a business development session because the input revealed completely new ways of thinking about their business.

However there are going to be occasions when you don’t have the luxury of helpful folks sat around the table with you. So how else can you find out what keywords to use?

DIY – Brainstorming
If you are aware of the need to look at the topic of keyword discovery from different angles then sitting down and brainstorming some ideas by yourself is a perfectly good approach. You just need to look at the subject from the perspective of different prospects and customers. How would the Finance Director’s search differ from a site engineer’s search, for instance?.  If inspiration isn’t forthcoming then try what I do and actually put a different hat on to represent new groups of people. Really! It works.

Customer Surveys
Now that you feel more comfortable with the idea of seeing things from other peoples’ points of view then you might want to get the information direct.  Asking customers how they search for your company or its products and services is likely to give you a very interesting insight about how clients use the internet and even how they view your company.

Some of our clients use keyword research as a good excuse to get back in contact and re-start the sales process.  Or you could add a question to a regular customer survey (Check out the article “Winning new business – have you considered a customer survey“) or feedback form to get more information.  One company that we work with has just started asking respondents what terms they use to search for particular types of equipment.  The results highlighted that many people were using a phrase in their searches that the company’s website wasn’t optimised for.  You can can guess what their next action was.

So use your business nous in the first instance to start thinking about what keywords to use and, of course, ask your customers. What then?  Well you can use some of the tools available from the search engines. We’ll focus on Google because it is the most popular search engine but other search engines do have similar tools.

Search Bar
You have probably already noticed that Google has started to provide a drop down list of keyword suggestions when you start to type in a search term. Use this to your advantage and take a look to see what ideas Google come up with for you. It is often pretty good for highlighting local options that you can utilise (e.g. “jewellery shops in Birmingham”).

Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool that uses a piece of code added to your website to capture lots of different information about website visitors, including what search terms they used to get to your site.  Looking at this information will highlight the variations in the words and phrases people use.  You can then change content or add new pages to target these searches even more effectively.  Check out our article “Google Analytics – First Time Through” for more details.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool
No we aren’t suggesting that you start using Pay Per Click advertising but you can use the AdWords Keyword Tool for some advanced keyword research. The tool gives you 2 ways of generating keyword ideas. One way is to simply type in a keyword or selection of keywords. The second way is to enter a specific web page address.

The results page should provide a list of keywords that Google believes are directly related to your chosen words, plus a list of keywords that Google suggest you consider. The results also provide you with some potentially very useful information; the local monthly search volume (which should default to the UK) and the global monthly search volume.

A note of caution though. The Tool is designed to help people use AdWords and the results are based on searches done in the Google paid search network as well as natural searches. Also not everybody clicks the UK only search in Google so it isn’t clear how accurate the split is between local and global search figures. So it is just a tool and it is very helpful; just don’t rely on it!

Google Webmaster Tools
This also requires some code being added to your site or site directory. Webmaster Tools has a variety of interesting features but for keyword research it offers you the chance to see what searches resulted in your site being listed somewhere in the rankings; even if it wasn’t clicked on.

There are a variety of other free and paid for tools that can be used for keyword research (wordtracker and keyword discovery for instance).  The good thing is that now you have seen how easy it is to look at developing your keyword list you will want to research all sorts of new ways of finding out more . The main thing is to keep using the keywords in your optimisation work and then see what the effects are in
Google Analytics and hopefully in improved business results.

Gareth Edwards – e-marketing specialist,  The National B2B Centre