Live from Pubcon Vegas: Smart Organic Keyword Research and Selection

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Nov 9, 2010
More Articles by Janet

Next up for Tuesday was the Smart Organic Keyword Research and Selection panel. I was really curious to hear what the panel would recommend for SEO keyword research today, given the backlash against the current Google keyword tool. Today’s panel included Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive, Craig Paddock of Boost Search Marketing, Carolyn Shelby of, and Mark Jackson of VIZION Interactive.

Carolyn Shelby

Carolyn started by discussing the ABCs of Organic Keyword selection. She recommends the following process:

  • Start with a starter keyword list — get a good, big raw list.
  • Refine the list.
  • Prioritize the words.
  • Rinse and repeat, frequently, periodically.

A is for Analytics.

Pull the httpd (web server) error tags. Look for queries that resulted in a 404. Pull the Google Analytics “traffic generating” keyword list. Also pull logs from your internal site search — what are people searching for on your website that they can’t find?

A is also for Audience.

Have a clear understanding of your target search audience. Remember, you can’t be all things to all people.

A is for Ask, but don’t Assume.

Ask members of the target audience about your product/service and how they describe them. She gave the example of the industry calling a sink a “self-rimming sink” when most call it a “drop-in sink”. I’ve also run into this with the used car industry, with car manufacturers calling cars “certified pre-owned cars” when most people describe them as “used cars”.

B is for Brainstorm

Invitees should include subject matter experts:

  • core web team members
  • product managers
  • marketers
  • tech support
  • field reps
  • customer service reps

These people know the way that customers talk about products.

B is for Bonus

Ask the CEO and C-levels for a list of their ideal keywords. A happy CEO is a good currency to have in the karma bank!

C is for Crunch the numbers…

Crunch the numbers in your favorite keyword research tool. Look for high search volumes, take note of alternatives, and remove keywords that appear to have no search volume or are weak compared to a similar term.

Split your target keywords into two lists: List A are keywords that have content already we can assign to it, and List B is a list of content we need to create.

Wil Reynolds

Next up was Wil Reynolds who focused on the tools. Wil has the entire list of tools at

Wil started with discussing Google Instant because it’s something everyone asks about. He shared a COOL tool that is in Excel that will help you figure out if Google Instant has an impact on your visibility.

Wil’s favorite keyword tool is Google Insights, but it can be used improperly. This tool is really helpful to define seasonality of certain keywords. Be careful, though. He gave an example of a search in Insights for “LCD TV”. While the worldwide setting shows increasing searches, searches in the UK are actually declining. Make sure you are using the filters that really apply to you. He also showed that the seasonality was different for the US alone versus the worldwide trends.

Insights also gives you some similar keywords that are rising. For instance, rising searches for one keyword in one country might not be the same for another country.

What should you take away? Know the tools pros and cons. Understand the various options each tool offers and know how the data is aggregated. That’s very key!

Some other tools:

Best line Will said: You’re not looking for words that YOU would search for; you’re looking for how others will FIND you.

Craig Paddock

Craig Paddock was up next and talked about some other keyphrase research you should take a look at. First, he likes expanders/modifiers, such as:

  • best
  • last
  • discount
  • online
  • reviews (create your own review page!)

Google Instant and Suggest also prompt searchers, so check your keyphrases. You can use a tool at calle dthe Google Suggest Keyword Tool and allows you to download via CSV.

Craig recommended the Google Keyword Tool, but use exact match!

He also discussed Microsoft Ad Intelligence.

For video, check out the YouTube keyphrase tool.

To select your keyphrases, let your customers decide! If you don’t have significant amounts of organic data, you can also look at PPC data. Look at the click through rate and the quality (conversion rate), and you might also look at engagement metrics, like time on site, etc. You can see this through Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

You can’t just look at how many results there are in Google by seeing how many pages rank for that page. Check the number of links pointing in to the top ranked website for that term.

Be sure to logout to turn off personalization AND use the URL parameter &pws=0 to fully turn personalization off as you do research.

Craig showed that results that rank in the top ten for the same domain will cluster together. But if you have one page ranked at #1 and one at #14, they will not cluster.

Mark Jackson

The last speaker was Mark Jackson, and he emphasized that keywords are the foundation for future SEO growth. He has four main steps:

  • initial list
  • gather
  • filter
  • revisit/refresh

Mark suggested that you talk to your PR folks, customer service, social media folks and others to find out how customers talk about your products/services. He also mentioned that WordTracker has a new tool that tells what questions people are searching on. This can help guide you as to what you might want to write a blog post about.

Mark also uses SEM Rush and said it’s one of their favorite tools. You can drop in your site or a competitor site and see what keywords are driving lots of clicks to those sites. He also mentioned the Open Site Explorer from SEOMoz to check how many inbound links point to the top result for a keyword. This helps determine how competitive they are.

He recommends that you use the keywords on the site and build out pages to get the most opportunity for ranking you can. Search engines like deep sites.

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