How to Find Converting Keywords (And Put Them to Work)

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It takes all kinds of keywords to make up a website, from head terms to the long tail, and different types of keywords accomplish different goals. Some drive tons of traffic, others are important for establishing authority.

Then there are the keywords that convert. If you’re trying to sell a product or service through your website, keywords that convert at a high rate are an enormously valuable marketing asset.

So how do you find those super-valuable converting keywords, and make them work harder for you? Here’s how.

Step 1: Dig Into Your Analytics

Using a basic analytics program like Google Analytics, it’s pretty easy to find the paid and organic keywords that are driving traffic to your site. (Notwithstanding the fact that more and more organic keywords are getting lumped into the frustratingly opaque “not provided” category.)

It takes a little more digging to find the keywords that are driving conversions, but it’s not too difficult. Assuming you’ve defined your various conversion types as goals in Google Analytics, you can then create an advanced segment based on one, a few, or all of those goals by clicking the “New custom segment” button in the Advanced Segments drop-down area.

You can apply your new custom segment to any area in Analytics. To find which organic (SEO) keywords are associated with conversions, go to Traffic -> Sources -> Search -> Organic. Then click “Advanced Segments” and apply the custom segment you created to the data. This will show you all the organic search queries that led to goal completions in your given time frame.

Step 2: Look for Patterns

Depending on how much data you have, you might want to set your date range to a pretty long period (say, three months or a year) so you have enough aggregated keywords that you can start to look for patterns. Every website and business is different (like little snowflakes), but here are some of the patterns that routinely emerge in our own converting keywords:

  • Brand keywords – Your own brand is an obvious one, but this category also includes competitors’ brands. In other words, if you sell single-serving coffee makers, you should probably be going after terms like “Braun” and “Keurig.” (Conversely, make it hard for your competitors to steal conversions on your own brand keywords; own that real estate and optimize the landing pages for conversion.) Related brands are also important – for example, keywords that include the word “AdWords” are valuable for us, because our software works in concert with AdWords.
  • How-to keywords – These keywords come from people looking for help with a task – for example, “how to unclog a sink” or “how do I find a wedding venue.” Presumably, whatever you’re selling is designed to help people complete a definable task or fulfill a desire.
  • Geographic/location keywords – These come from people looking for products or services specific to their area – for example, “emergency plumber denver.”
  • Product keywords – For us, product keywords usually include the word “tool” or the word “software.” But this will vary depending on your industry.

The more data you can look at, the easier it will be to find patterns. Try sorting alphabetically to help you see words and phrases that pop up again and again.

Step 3: Give Your Top-Converting Keywords Extra Love & Attention

These keywords should be like your favorite children. If you already have content that features these keywords, give it a boost by sharing with your social circles, building links to those pages, increasing your bids for those keywords in PPC, and so on and so forth. Make sure your on-page optimization is on point, and run some A/B tests to see if you can’t drive your conversion rate up further.

You can also use your research to inform your future content marketing efforts. When creating and scheduling new content, prioritize keywords that fit into the patterns you identified in Step 2. In other words, if how-to keywords convert well for your business, create more pages that target new how-to keywords. (They should still be relevant to your business, natch.) If you’re killing it with local keywords, build out your geotargeted campaigns and focus more of your energies on local SEO.

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is the Content Development Manager at WordStream Inc., a provider of AdWords solutions and other tools for PPC and SEO. She manages the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog. Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
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  • Matt G

    I hate those darn “not provided” keywords. A feature in analytics that I have been using to really dig in to what precise keywords are converting is the goal feature. This allows you to track a given URL which you set-up as your ‘goal’ URL, and at the same time see which keyword searches are resulting in reaching those conversion goals.

    • Elisa

      Yep, the “not provided” thing is pretty infuriating! We are also using goals to track conversions, but “not provided” applies all the same. Thanks for commenting!

  • Andrew Davey

    We’re doing some keyword research at the moment so this should come in handy.

  • Aaron

    Nice article. I often see people not paying enough attention to “Step 3: Give Your Top-Converting Keywords Extra Love & Attention” —– they’re focused on only the highest volume search words/phrases, and ignore the longer-tail words that are actually driving real traffic and conversions — big mistake!

  • Ives Smeets

    Thanks for pointing out some interesting insights on the importantce of following up top-converting keywords.

  • Elisa

    Thanks for your comments, Andrew, Aaron, and Ives! Glad you found it helpful.

  • Norm

    One thing to remember about using analytics, is your analytics will only be as good as your SEO. In other words, if you don’t rank for particular keywords, then they are not going to show up in your analytics (unless they are under paid search). In focusing your keyword effort only on your organic analtyics, you may very well miss better keywords. We implemented a pay per click campaign with all of the keywords we thought were the strongest, with a bid strategy to have those all in position 1 to have a level playing field, so to speak. After running that campaign for 6 months, we had some great data on which keywords were converting for us the best. We were then able to focus on those in the ways you suggested, and eventually pushed our listings into the #1 organic result.

    • Elisa

      Hi Norm,

      I was just using organic keywords as an example here. Naturally marketers who are running PPC campaigns should follow the same logic with their paid search keywords too. (You can track those in Google Analytics too.) Thanks for the comment!

  • Joel Fulcher

    I have been using Adwords since 2004,I have never seen a button “advanced Segments”. Is this a feature of Enterprise level Adwords?

    • Elisa

      Advanced Segments is a feature of Google Analytics, not Google AdWords. Sorry if that was unclear!

  • Deron

    Thanks much for the tip on how to find the keywords that are converting. Never thought to use the “Advanced Segments” section. This is great!

  • Internetiturundus

    Thanks for this article!
    Very useful information you have shared.
    I have heard about the other.
    Try The Google Wonder Wheel and WordStream offers highly sophisticated grouping tools which facilitate the grouping of thousands of keywords quickly and efficiently.
    And here are some other useful tools, check it out.
    Thank you Elisa!
    Margus Internetiturundus

    • Joel Fulcher

      The google wonderwheel has been dead for over a year (July 2011). Its been replaced with Contextual Targeting Tool (June 2012)