SEO Keywords: A Few Words on Selecting Keywords to increase website traffic quality

  1. Connect With People.  Start by talking to your customers (or intended) and ask how did they discover your business.  Use the comments to help imagine your target audience, which dictates the primary direction of your website structure.  Benchmarking similar sites can infer some ideas – Compete and Quantcast are great sources for comparing sites.  But keep in mind, sites have unique visitor experiences and a specific business model (target customer, revenue) which may impact their content selection. So note what you see, but keep in mind the context in which the words or phrases used may be different than how you use it for your business.
  2. Write the words. Prepare a list of words and phrases that you think your audience might type into search engines when looking for your site. Don’t worry about being perfect: just be creative for brainstorming’s sake.
  3. Qualify your words with search results and online traffic Use online tools to qualify the words and refine phrases.
    Type a word into Google search page and see what appears on the SERP (search engine results page). (Update 9/2012 – Up until 2011 Google included a tool called Wonderwheel in the SERP results.  Wonderwheel provided additional suggested results that appear as spokes from your query.  Since its discontinuation, many businesses have come to rely on a additional tools, such a Searchmetrics Suite to examine keywords in more detail.  But other tools also exist.)
    Use Google Insights to determine the search trends indexed by volume and geo-location; Some regions search for “car” rather than “auto”, for example.  Word suggestions are also offer here as well.
    To gain an idea of which keywords to refine, use a keyword discovery tool like this online cloud checker — any results 3% and below could probably benefit from appearing more frequently in the content.  There are other site checkers available, such as DIYSEO, which can compare site content to competitor sites.  All of these can compliment tools that typically come with pay-per-click services, like the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator in Google Adwords. Paid solutions typically provide comparisons across all search engines and more nuanced selection features.  If you are a small business owner or blogger with little time, a great approach is to work with a free tool that focuses on the search engine initially and develop a budget for refining a broader selection of search engines.
  4. Choose Your Marketing Champaign: Create starter lists of keywords based on your marketing plan — ones for the site, a second for PPC ad (if used), then a third to be for potential social media usage (Twitter and/or blog content).  This will give a focused effort to each channel — words which can appear on the main website, words in a PPC ad, and tweets exposure on Twitter. As time goes forward, you will figure how to refine and play off each effort, as well as figure out what phrases could be extended as a long tail from the starter list. For example PPC categories are based on keywords selected for a balance of demand and cost.Moreover social and search combination is increasingly affecting conversion.  eMarketer posted a report on it in March 2011 — you can see it here.
  5. Consider how keywords appear on social media against your site content For a website content revision, keywords should appear thoughtfully though the site page – without overwhelming the site’s main message.  Meta tags have lost emphasis with search engines over time, but they still should be used.  More effective is the description tag which looks like the script below:<meta name=”description” lang=”en” content=”….” />The title tag on a webpage is also fair game for a keyword treatment         <title>…</title> Many search engine rely on the description and title to describe a page, so try using more keyword phrases, and if feasible use one or two keywords in the page name. Keep in mind that Google Instant has modified search behavior since its introduction in 2010: Many people select the SERP from the first 3 to 4 words. Also, Facebook, along with many sharing sites like BizSugar, Digg, and SeededBuzz, rely on the descriptions to explain blog posts, so including keyword and keyword phrases aid traffic discovery and help with posts within social media.Never keyword “stuff”, which is inserting keywords every other word in the body of the site.
  6. Consider a thorough overhaul of site keywords periodically Online demand for keyword traffic can change the effectiveness of keywords over time — consider a thorough overhaul of site keywords at least once a year if you are only running a site, more frequently with marketing media usage (offline & online ads, blogs, social media, etc) and monthly with e-commerce and online sales.  Apply knowledge of your offering, industry, and business operations to an analytics solution in order to guide update ideas.  Use the content dashboards in a web analytics solution (Google Analytics, Piwik, Yahoo Web Analytics, Going Up!, Woopra, etc.), as well as search results data, to consider effective phrases that produced average time on site, high conversion, and low bounce rate metrics.
  7. Never presume that just inserting the right keywords in a site is the silver bullet for all your online sales.  As implied in point 4, many ways exist to discover a site online — tweets, Facebook mentions, podcast mentions, mentions in online videos, sites for sharing posts, online presentations, and — wait for it — offline activity via attending trade shows, presentations, appearances.  There’s a good reason Google Analytics examines direct traffic, referral sources, search traffic and more — In short, your site can be discovered in many ways, so the days of just throwing up a website and expecting traffic are long gone (and I doubt they ever existed).  Moreover, search engine algorithms updates can change the amount of traffic arriving to your site, so a keyword review can insure that you are keeping up with the changes.  The best sites manage a number of traffic sources to successfully connect with people.

When web analytics can’t save your business

Google Analytics Dashboard
Reviewing data when your business model is weak can yield insights, but many are strategic and take time to implement – a factor if your business is on the ropes.

Increased interest in measurement has come with the increase usage of websites and social media for business and organizations. Analytics has been seen as a godsend for making better, profitable decisions. But missing in many conversations is knowing when analytics may not be helpful to a business. How would you know?

One of the best quotes on this comes from Competing On Analytics, a business intelligence book written by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris

“Without a distinct capability (What you do to set your business apart), it becomes impossible to compete and distinguish what data is important.”

These aren’t the only authors who deem distinctive capability as valuable. A great quote comes from Lance Bettencourt, author of Service Innovation.

“Services that provide distinctive value to customers have more than three times the success rate of me too services.”

Developing that distinctive value rest with the business model. A business model is a description of how your business delivers its product or service — how it delivers value. Having data without connecting it into the business model or operations is of no value to anyone. This is why analytics without a meaningful link to strategy becomes useless – it becomes a never ending reporting of metrics instead of discussion regarding taking action.

Moreover, a firm that thinks its online influence stops at webpage is kidding itself in this age — thanks to social media and the advancements in website language and features, a site provides an extension of a shopping experience in many cases. (See the article on online browsing ) and well as allowing customers to research a business ( See the article on the link between offline and online customers )

So what should a business do when it is somewhat unsure how to leverage analytic capability?

1. Determine how far your organization is willing to modify its business model. What is the objective? Does it make sense? Does everyone understand it? If your business is not willing to consider modifications to how product and service value is delivered, then your business will ignore the insights an analytics solution can bring.

2. Determine the commitment to act to analytic findings. Management must decide what alerts and metrics are important from the collected data. What metrics should be monitored and how frequently? What changes in analysis are necessary as the business grows?

3. Make sure people are available to follow through on the decisions. When you see people as a cost center rather than an essential part of doing business, you run the risk of destroying a business because you lose the right people who can understand your business model and implement changes. For a small business or group, someone who has experience with a given industry and experience with some website language can be a boon and provide the best combination of analysis and action.

From Omniture CMO: Why a drop in search traffic is not always bad news

This is a retweet from Omniture’s CMO site – Why a drop in search traffic isn’t always bad news.  The post is a lead to a iMedia Connection post — the idea is to correlate search traffic for a given company to what is happening within said company’s industry for search.  You can learn more about the post here (with graphs at the iMedia Connection site) here: