The 4 Cs of Marketing Way to the Best Keyword Research
The 4 Cs of Marketing Way to the Best Keyword Research
I have a confession to make.
I can feel the excitement and tension building. What will she confess? I'll bet it's pretty juicy...
Is Keyword Research Dead? (I know, clichéd header...)
Yeah. I'm on the fence about the importance of keyword research.
I started out wanting to write the definitive guide to keyword research. I wanted to be the ultimate keyword dragon slayer. I wanted to come into this post, fighting and giving up the absolute best, most concise guide to keyword research ever written.
Updated for 2015, including all we've learned from BuzzFeed and UpWorthy. With the best "Social Media Optimization" (Peg Fitzpatrick's beautifully coined phrase) mixed in. Well, about 30 articles into my research, I got a little depressed. I know that keywords are a hugely important part of a solid SEO guide.
I know that, though it worked for BuzzFeed, most of us shouldn't plan to rely solely on social sharing for 75% of our traffic. Most of us need Google and getting good at keywords is an important part of this strategy. But here's where it gets tricky:
The 4 Cs of Marketing Way
In my opinion, when keyword research is done in isolation, it veers scarily close to the old model of "4 Ps of Marketing" and not "4 Cs of Marketing" that Roy McClean wrote about so eloquently back in 2012.
What are the 4Cs of Marketing?
- Consumer (not Product)
- Costs (not Price)
- Convenience (not Place)
- Communication (not Promotion)
For purposes of keyword research, I would like to propose that the consumer and communication are both relevant. When we focus on what the client/consumer might want, our keywords change from, for example, "iPhone 5" to "best new smartphone for seniors" or "newest iPhone apps". When we seek to communicate, we remember that our site needs to reflect a clear story that our client will immediately understand. If we focus too much on the promotion of a single keyword that "ranks well" it's easy for our site to lose focus and for the client to get lost in the mess.
Most of us think we are beyond the bad old days when marketers pushed products on people, persuading them to pay a certain price through promotion. But without a very thorough keyword strategy, a strategy that is holistic enough to include buyer personas, trends, Google Adwords and competitor research into account, what we often end up with is a fixation on "ranking" that is both outmoded and outdated.
And spending enough time on keyword research so that you have results that you can actually use takes time. A lot of time. Finally, honestly, and maybe there is someone out there with a magic bullet formula for this (but I doubt it), keyword research is both an art and a science. The final step in any good keyword research SEO guide is: revise. Every quarter, you need to go through and figure out if what you are doing is working and keep tweaking until you get it right.
Doing Keyword Research Right
If you want to do keyword research right, you should follow Neil Patel's Double Your Traffic in 30 Days Guide over on Quick Sprout. I'd add in that where he writes, "search for keywords that your users would type in that would make them delighted and thankful to find your site" you should really dive in here and get out your buyer personas (you do have those, right?) and come up with some excellent ideas to start with.
But in general, what Neil gets right (very right) is that you start with delighting your audience, then move into research...then testing. He asks that after you come up with your keyword list, you use Adwords to check your assumptions. Very scientific of him.
Keyword Research Broken down:
- Come up with a bucket list of things that would delight your audience.
- Do your research on these words. Are your assumptions correct? Are people actually searching for the things you think they are? Use Google Trends, Google suggestions, etc.
- Type your keywords into the Google search bar and look at the ads that come up.
- Conduct an Adwords campaign to see the results you get. Are these keywords performing as you expected?
- Check your competitors (a great resource is www.similarweb.com)
- Finalize your keywords and start writing.
- Revise stuff quarterly.
Keyword Research to Optimize for the 4Cs and Social
There is nothing inherently wrong with standard keyword research. What is important, however, is to be very clear about which words you finally decide to use, and how you decide to use them.
First of all, and I can't stress this enough, if you "rank" for a keyword, you really can't be sure if that ranking is helping you in your business objectives. You can't know for sure if that ranking is driving traffic to your site, and if that traffic (if it exists) is converting. So to focus on that metric is an exercise in futility. If you'd like a heavy hitter to back me up on that, read Cyrus Shepherd's take on the Death of the Keyword Ranking Report.
So to focus on ranking is not smart in 2015, post-Hummingbird. Instead, use your keywords to kind of give your site a focus. Use them as a starting point, and use them to generate natural synonyms that your audience would use when talking about your topic.
Use Keywords to Get to Know Your Audience
Use them as part of an overall persona/audience/SEO/digital marketing strategy. Holistically. Organically. (Don't, however, go overboard in this and become a New Agey Health Nut as illustrated so well in this video...) You want to walk the line between holistic integration of keywords and overly intentional thesaurus-heavy "authenticness". Be natural, but be strategically natural.
Use Keywords as Part of a Holistic Strategy
Finally, to reiterate: Use your keywords as a part of your whole strategy. Use them to home in on a solid theme for your site, and to get to know your audience/client better. And, in the end of the day, when time and money pressures are present (when are they not?) make sure that you stay away from obsessive navel-gazing when it comes to this part of your overall strategy.
Is tons of organic Google traffic a huge part of your strategy? Before you answer an automatic "Yes" think about your answer. Whether you say "Yes" or "No" make sure you know why. The looming example of a "No" is, of course, BuzzFeed, which gets a whopping 75% of its traffic from social, and pays no attention to keyword research. Of course, they are BuzzFeed, and you're not. But still, their example is a great reminder that there is "nuance" in digital marketing strategy. It is definitely not "one-size-fits-all" and things change daily.
What is Your Digital Marketing Strategy?
Does keyword research play a large part in it? If so, what do you do to optimize for keywords and what has worked best for you? If not, why not? What is your digital marketing strategy?