Keyword Research Strategies for Maintaining SEM Efforts

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To be successful with your search engine marketing efforts, you will need to perform keyword research. Too often though, keyword research becomes this monotonous routine that we simply fall into — and before we know it, we blindly arrive at results that we simply assume we can trust.

These results can and often will apply to organic search optimization as well as paid search marketing. In fact, many in the SEM industry could argue that using these two to compliment one another is the only approach to use.

Market Leading Sources are NOT the Same

Many believe that if you’re paying for keyword data from a subscription service – it’s safe, clean to use, and most importantly — accurate. The truth though, as I know it anyways, is that these services are never completely clean – and never agree on numbers.

With the holidays coming up, it seems like every big brand electronics store is pushing HDTV sets. Since I don’t have one, I decided to use this as a quick case study in keyword search volume…

Let’s take a glimpse of the top 5 related results from each of the major subscription services…

hdtv: 1472 Count (2596 Predict)
hdtv info: 633 Count (1116 Predict)
hdtv reviews: 606 Count (1069 Predict)
hdtv review: 306 Count (540 Predict)
hdtv antenna: 288 Count (508 Predict)

Keyword Discovery
hdtv: 83,995 Searches
hdtv antenna: 11,920 Searches
hdtv tuner: 8,625 Searches
lcd hdtv: 7,547 Searches
hdtv receiver: 5,642 Searches

We could talk about what this data really means – but understanding the concepts and sources behind these systems is a daunting task. The simple point that I’m trying to make here is that while you may trust your source for keyword research – your source and other sources will always be different.

The Data Should be Changing

I’m all for the “set it and forget it” mentality. But with keyword research, it simply doesn’t work that way. And if it does, you either work in an extremely stale market – or – haven’t begun researching hard enough.

I know that’s a bit of a tough sell, but every market can and should be changing on a regular basis. Because of this change, your research and resulting efforts should also be changing.

As an example, let’s say you’re working on automobiles. Well, manufacturers are always updating product lines, incentives, trims, options, etc. The same would apply with any area of consumer electronics too – with new models, service plans, and technologies always being released.

Merging Research with Analytics

The last important thing to remember about keyword research, is that it needs to be used in conjunction with other tools to perfect your SEM.

I always refer people to the SEOmoz page available called “How to Conduct Keyword Research”. There, the SEOmoz folks point out:

After keyword selection and implementation of targeting, analytics programs (like Indextools and ClickTracks) that measure web traffic, activity, and conversions can be used to further refine keyword selection.

I’ve always found too, that it helps to identify classes of keywords and associate them with the conversion cycle. It becomes incredibly useful to then begin pathing visitors based on their location in that conversion cycle, and analyzing the performance on a keyword phrase level. Overall, this process has shed many holes on my SEM campaigns over the years — and with a little research — they’ve always come back to life for me.

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