The Value of Keyword Analysis

Friday, May 01, 2015
Grant Whiteside
SEO

Keyword research can play an integral part in updating a brand’s message, product and performance. It can help you to create a content strategy, a user journey for your new website, a paid media campaign, create a new product name, help you reach out to a wider organic audience group or even give you an idea of the keywords to use for a multi lingual or regionally based campaign. We’ve used keyword analysis help companies change their entire business model based on the outcomes from this type of research.

Understanding the brand

At the very start of any campaign comes a period of research and analysis. Before we presumptuously dive into keywords it’s advantageous to spend as much time getting to understand the client, the brand, its aspirations, how it is perceived and how it wishes to be perceived to a potential audience. It’s always worth remembering that a company’s digital assets may not be allowed to use a tone of voice or a common parlance that is used by the masses, this becomes particularly important when producing regional / multi lingual / cultural research work. Research for government departments will be different to that of highly regulated finance houses or other corporate sites, for example.

Furthermore, if you are working on a regional / multi lingual job, it’s always worth remembering that what makes sense to you, does not always make sense to someone else. Similarly, the closer you are to the subject matter, the greater the understanding you’ll have of acronyms, regional nicknames and potential misinformation (acronyms, town names, people’s names, sporting clubs and venues etc may not be exclusive to your brand’s interests).

The more you know before the job starts, the more relevant the outcomes should be. So, getting the brief right can stop you over delivering; there’s nothing worse than having so much information that you cannot focus properly on the outcomes to help the brand move forward. As a rule of thumb; put in some qualitative measures to keep the findings in context with the needs of the brand and some quantitative measures to provide empirical evidence to support the findings.

An evolving industry

It goes without saying that, as mobile penetration continues to grow and voice based search continues to change the nature of how we search, we’ll see a longer tail of unique or lower quantity, highly qualified queries continuously grow. It’s a good enough reason for brands to consider updating or refreshing the words they use in their content strategies on an annual basis. Resting on your laurels isn’t a great idea in an industry that continuously evolves.

There are many tools in the market to help you gather the raw data. The Google keyword planner is limited but a great place to start, but you could also try Übersuggest, Keyword Tool or look at the actual keywords that people used to arrive on your website using a 3rd party tool like Analytics SEO that pulls in the keyword visits that are measured through Google Webmaster Tools. Alternatively, SEMRush provides keywords from its unique keyword database.

A strategy that works

Ambergreen has overseen many keyword analysis projects for major publishers, retail brands, travel clients, B2B suppliers, finance specialists and governmental bodies. The one thing that they all have in common is they need a strategy based around the keywords and conversations that engage their audience.

A poorly executed keyword research project will fail to provide any real value to the client. One thing we’ve found over the past 14 years is that one agency’s idea of keyword analysis and another’s are starkly different.  They may change the terminology, but a Searcher Demand Analysis (SDA) or a piece of Keyword Research should do the same thing: it should give you a comprehensive breakdown of the keywords, the volumes and seasonality of each keyword group, entirely based on your specific objectives. Organic search competitiveness is also something worth considering as it will feed into your competitor analysis and will manage expectations as to how you can go about improving your brand’s visibility for some of these keywords.

In addition, if you’re looking to create a paid media strategy, you should be considering the competitiveness of each keyword and the average click prices (or multipliers), for the specific devices you wish to target. Mobile doesn’t convert like desk top campaigns do, but mobile campaigns do play an integral part in final conversions and the retargeting experience for many customers. A decent piece of keyword research will bear this in mind when creating some actionable outcomes for the brand.

You Get What You Pay For

If an agency offers you a price without demanding a very strong brief then you have just bought something straight off the shelf that will have limited value, because it won’t be built with any specific objectives in mind. As always, you normally get what you pay for, but ignoring the detail in the brief normally costs more than anything else over the long term.

Does size matter and how deep should the keyword research go?

The size of the keyword research project should reflect the depth and complexity of the outcome. We all use generic keywords because we all search in the context of our location and the devices we use. An example: ‘local news’ is a massive search term and it is as relevant to the man in Perth, Scotland as it is to the woman in the city of Perth in Western Australia. So what is the brief? Do we really need to know the query interest in thousands of these locations, or is it just one…or a handful?

This type of generic query is irrelevant unless you qualify the searcher’s location. Similarly, if we are researching the size and opportunities around ‘Perth News’, we must qualify the country that the city we are looking to learn about is in; not everyone using this search query will come from Perth (Australia or Scotland). Another qualifier commonly used in the search query is the town and the country ‘Perth Scotland News’. Looking at the amount of queries from the UK and from global perspective demonstrates that there is an audience looking for exactly this search query both in the UK and the rest of the English speaking world.

However the chances of any digital publisher gaining insights from this skin deep level of research are slim. Obviously the more qualified opportunities are when you take an area of ‘local news’ and you drill considerably deeper into each area within the generic query. This is where you’ve got to understand the brief, how deep do you really want to go? ‘Sports news’ could be a subset of ‘local news’, it’s generic with little value, however ‘football news’ may have better value, yet nothing like the volume you will find for ‘football results’ or ‘football fixtures’.

An example

Staying on the football theme and the local theme, let’s start thinking about the local football team in Perth: St Johnstone. It goes without saying that there will be interest in St Johnstone news, fixtures, results, pictures, goals, highlights, video, Twitter, Facebook, website, stadium, directions, buses, forum, betting, odds etc; and above all that,  St Johnstone play in a league with 11 other teams in the Scottish Premiership and they also play in 2 other annual cup campaigns. Therefore you’ve got to consider at least 11 other teams fixtures and how they related to St Johnstone, using keywords like Celtic St Johnstone, Celtic v St Johnstone and many of the variants previously suggested. And don’t forget the name variants and typos! Try looking at the number of St Johnstone FC, StJohnstone,  StJohnstone FC, St Johnston, St Johnston FC and St JohnstonFC, or even the players names queries that could also be fed into this.

As you can see, you can start formulating a content strategy based around, not only a football team and their rivals, but we can now also start to think about the content that will regularly be searched for and how the website architecture can accommodate this. We know that this one specific fixture will happen 3 to 6 times in a season. We know that there will be real time search queries more relevant to capturing traffic through Google News; you’ll also need a timing release strategy to maximise this opportunity. Additionally you will also a strategy for more evergreen content that, with some careful interlinking from previous articles, can create some long term organic visibility.

So there we have it, one team in one sport in one location.

How much is too much?

But, how many teams and how many sports do you want to cover? Or can we see a pattern emerging from this that gives you enough information to develop a strategy is based on extrapolating the information from your initial keyword analysis?

One of the key challenges of creating massive keyword analysis projects is understanding when enough is enough in the context of what you’re trying to achieve. The more data we create, the more we need to refine it to put the point across in a concise manner and we are more than aware that someone has to interpret and implement the findings. It’s another consideration that should be taken care of when writing the original brief.

How to take account of seasonality when you have to consider events that may only happen once every four or five years

World cups, Olympics and elections are all examples of occurring events, but the standard keyword tools from Google only looks at the past 12 months data.  This is where we can have a problem and where the Google Keyword Planner is next to useless.

This is where good searching skills come into play. Try using Google Auto Complete, it does come up with the most used queries. I like Wikipedia, using the inurl: function. If there are keywords that you think may be useful but the keyword planner hasn’t suggested them but someone has created content in Wikipedia based around that keyword, there will be a searchable volume for them out there. Google Related Search Queries also works well, as does the inurl: searches for You Tube, Ebay and Amazon.

There are also some newer amalgamated services that also pull in this data. I’ve never used http://www.keywordtooldominator.com/ but I assume that it’s doing pretty much as I suggested.

So, if your brand is looking to refresh its content and expand the range of conversations it has with its audience, perhaps it’s time for that piece of keyword research to get things moving. If there is one piece of advice to take from this it is to get the brief correct to ensure that you know what you’re looking to achieve with your research and what you’ll do with the outcomes; it will help you reach your goals if it’s planned correctly.