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Letting Keyword Research Guide Business Decisions

John Doherty —  August 23, 2012
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The SEO community often writes about using keyword research, related searches, or analytics mining (though less often in the past few months because of rising [not provided] numbers) to inform content creation initiatives and ideas. These initiatives, of course, are meant to increase traffic to the site and validate our existence and the existence of our budgets.

But what if we took a different view on keyword research and used it to inform our business and product decisions, or at the very least our decisions to target other keywords within those areas? That’s what I want to talk about today.

New Business and Product Decisions

Eric Amzallag on Twitter recently drew my attention to where he searched for [black jeans] and then [skinny jeans] and was returned first a set of results for [black jeans] -

And then was returned a SERP for [black skinny jeans] when what he really searched was simply [skinny jeans] -

When, according to Eric, he did a depersonalized search for [skinny jeans], he received the regular [skinny jeans] SERP -

So what is Google doing? In this case, they seem to be matching queries to the person’s previous search, where related, and trying to return them an even more relevant result based on their search history. This especially makes sense when thinking about industries such as travel, where someone may search [lax to nyc flights] and then afterwards search [hotels] or [boutique hotels]. It would make more sense, and be a better user experience, to return a user hotel results in NYC than just the regular [hotels] search results page.

How is this a new product? Well, think about a hotels chain that, of course, offers hotels in New York City. It would also make sense for them to expand their business to help users find flights as well, so that they are able to keep the same brand experience for the user and thus have a good chance of ranking and getting the searcher’s business when they do their second search and see the same brand ranking for their search.

Or in the case of [skinny jeans], it might not only be worthwhile to rank for [skinny jeans], which is a 65% difficult term to rank for, but you will be able to rank for longer permutations of the [skinny jeans] keywords more easily. If you are able to have enough unique content to make the page useful and able to rank, it may be wise to:

* Carry more colors of skinny jeans, and;
* Optimize your pages for those terms.

Using Trends in Keyword Research to Inform Business and Optimization Decisions

If you work in online marketing, you should be familiar with Google Trends for Search, which will show you the change, over time, in search volume for the keywords you enter. As you are doing keyword research, I highly recommend adding the monthly Trends column to your results page so that you are able to see which terms are gaining traction in which months, and which are not.

To add in trends volume over time, follow this screenshot -

Unfortunately you are not able to see the number each month so that you would accurately be able to forecast directly from the Keywords Tool, but when you export your results to CSV (and then open in Excel), you are indeed able to see the numbers that Google is reporting. What I then like to do is add in a Line to show the trend in visual form (as I am a visual person) and see where traffic spikes and dips depending on the season.

This strategy has the ability to tell you a couple of different trends -

* If the search volume is rising or falling, and thus whether it would be smart to launch a new product line around this term, or;
* If the term is seasonal, thus necessitating building links or content earlier in the year to capture that volume when you know it will spike.

Now this isn’t anything new, but I think it’s an important lesson to learn and can help you to set expectations with your clients (or bosses) and build your strategy for the next year.

Planning Strategy for Linkbuilding/Ranking

For example, let’s say I run a Christmas website, and one of the sections of the business is as a Christmas tree drop shipping company. I know that I want/need to rank for [christmas trees], so I look at the search volume over the past year and I see this -

Now I know that I rank 11th for [christmas trees], so I go and perform some competitor link and content analysis to see what it will take for me to pull even with and then surpass my competitors in time for the spike, which we see occurs in November.

If we’re 200 linking root domains behind, and we know that we’re able to build 30 new links per month on average to this page, then we need to start building links and creating content to rank for this term 6 months out, so that we are peaking at just the right time.


Have anything to add? Think about where you see potential for your company, or your clients, to use this valuable keyword data that you have to put together strategies to build their businesses as their industries ebb and flow, and as search volume spikes or levels out.

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

9 responses to Letting Keyword Research Guide Business Decisions

  1. Solid post John. I would like to see more crossover between SEO decisions and business decisions, as they are not independent and should not be considered that way.

    I would add that it should also go in the other direction. For instance, if you spot an opportunity to rank for a term that could drive plenty of relevant traffic, as an SEO you would be tempted to go after it. But if the business situation means that you can’t offer competitive prices for that product set, you may actually decide that ranking for that term would not be beneficial – as you would be wasting too much time on fruitless leads, or couldn’t achieve the desired margin.

  2. Great post and thanks for the mention! Even this morning, I have been seeing more and more personalized results based on consecutive related searches. For whatever reason, I find that using Google mobile and doing this exercise you will see even more of these type of results, than when using Google on your PC.

    Here is a screenshot that I just took using my phone – http://imgur.com/45CwK and you can see that the PPC ads are also combining my initial search (black jeans) with my second search (skinny jeans).

    PS: My twitter handle is @eamzallag since the link inside the post is broken.

  3. Simple and brilliant John. Thanks for the quick and easy tips.

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