SEO Keyword Research
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Using Keywords For Better Organic Search Results
Using SEO keyword research, Premiere Creative’s singular mission is to help clients drive success online. Our team of digital marketing experts is constantly reading up on new channels for customer acquisition and brand awareness. And though we’re living through an era of unprecedented digital change – with new platforms coming online every year and capturing user attention – there are some marketing channels and principles that are always true. Email campaigns, for instance, will always provide effective results. Results with paid display advertising are, at best, mixed. And keywords are the cleanest tool for understanding intent and capturing consumer value.
Whenever a user wants to know something – whether it’s the price of a pair of sick bedazzled Ed Hardy flip flops or the actor who voice acted Brittany in the Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Sqeakuel (it was the incomparable Christina Applegate, in case you were wondering) – they head to their preferred search engine. Search engines are software systems that programmatically search the web in response to specific web search queries. Those search queries are keywords, and they contain invaluable information about user intent. Keyword research allows digital marketers – both within and without the context of traditional search marketing – to keep their ears to the ground. More than 50% of people on earth have access to the Internet; that’s nearly 3.7 billion people! By understanding the wants, needs, and intents of the audiences they’re trying to reach, digital marketers can ensure their web properties are visible at the exact moment when users need them the most.
In this article, we illustrate exactly why keywords are so important. We talk about the ways they can be used to understand consumer needs and intent. We describe – in broad strokes – the way keywords attract organic search traffic in on-page SEO. We also describe the process of PPC bidding against keywords across multiple media including search, Facebook, and Amazon. But before we get into paid search, let’s discuss the origins of organic search.
A Brief History Of Search Engines & Search Queries
WHOIS, a search tool used to query databases that store the registered users and assignees of Internet resources, launched in the early 1980s, even though the World Wide Web wasn’t made available to the public until 1991. In other words, search engines and database querying tools have been with us since the dawn of the Internet. Search mirrors email in that manner. The difference between email and search, however, is that search’s potential as a marketing channel for both organic and paid traffic wasn’t realized until fairly recently.
But staying for a moment with the history of search, the first search engines capable of systematically querying all indexed resources on the Internet came online in the 90s. Among them were Archie in 1990, Architext and Excite in 1993, Wandex, Alta-Vista, AskJeeves, and BackRub (Larry and Sergei’s first attempt at what would become Google). With each year search engines got more and more sophisticated. The algorithms built into their web crawlers – bots designed to systematically browse and index pages on the World Wide Web – became increasingly more powerful. Suddenly the dream laid out by Dr. Vannevar Bush in 1945 – to make humanity’s accumulated knowledge and resources available in one centralized tool – was coming into focus. Google officially launched in 1998 and quickly made powerful search engine technology available to the general public.
It was at this point a little over 20 years ago that the value search engine marketing became clear. Many marketers and website owners discovered that, by implementing some simple changes around the content of their webpages, they could manipulate search engine results in their favor. Hence, in a moment of elation for marketers and mild annoyance for Google and other search engines, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was born.
The evolution of search engine technology is important to understand for anyone involved in SEO or SEM. If we understand how SEO began, then we can understand how early methods for tricking search engines were abused, how search engines like Google caught on and punished “black hat” SEO practitioners, and what best practices exist today for SEO.
Keywords & SEO
Search engines like Google (can we please stop pretending that “Search Engines” means anything other than “Google?” Can I please just write “Google” from now on? Does anyone use Bing?) use keywords as clues. Google’s incentive is to produce the most relevant results in response to each search query. All of this is to say that Google has methodologies for ranking search results based on their relevancy, and although they keep those methodologies secret, savvy search marketers have figured out ways to peek behind the curtain.
How To Conduct Keyword Research For SEO Content
Keyword research involves getting to know your target audience and the intent behind what they search. How are they searching for your content online? What do they ask Google when they’re looking for your products or services? There a few different methods for discovering high-intent keywords that have high search volume. Pulling search data can help you figure out what people are searching for, how many people are searching for it, and the format in which they’d like the information presented. There are a few different pieces of software that can help pull search data. Among them are Google’s Webmaster Tools, Ahrefs, Buzzstream, Moz’s Pro Tools, and many more. Additionally, Google Ads Keyword planner has a lot of functionality for digging out great search terms and gaining a holistic view of what your customers want from search engines. We’ll discuss Keyword Planner in greater detail in our section about paid search PPC advertising.
The first step to conducting keyword research is to ask questions. What exactly are you selling? Who are your customers, and what are your goals? This may seem obvious, but in our 27 years in digital marketing and search engine optimization, Premiere Creative has helped many clients right the ship after pursuing failed SEO programs on their own. In most cases, the problems with their programs derive from a failure to carefully ask important questions before drafting content. A lot of clients question the importance of properly researching since they believe they already know the terms for which they’d like to rank. But the truth is that intuition will fail you when drafting SEO content. Only by understanding exactly what your customers are after can you come up with effective content strategies and write content that attracts organic search traffic.
Let’s say, for example, you own an SAT and ACT test prep center in Dallas, Texas. You’re a small operation competing for organic search traffic with countless other small tutoring companies. So how do you gain an advantage? The first step is to understand who your customers are. Who is searching for the services that your company offers, and what are they searching to find them? You offer services that help kids get better scores on college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT. You’re trying to attract parents to your website. So you use a keyword search tool – like the Google Ads Keyword Planner – to figure out what terms your customers use. You enter “SAT Test Prep” into the search bar for Google ads and immediately see relevant keywords and their search volume populate. Terms like “top SAT test prep by me,” “Affordable College Test Prep,” “personalized SAT test prep” have a lot of competition. You surmise from this initial keyword research that parents are looking for the best and most affordable test prep services in their general area. They’re also more interested in 1:1 tutoring than they are in classes. From these insights, we can begin to craft a simple and effective content strategy designed to garner high volumes of organic search traffic among our target audience. We would begin writing SEO landing pages that target specific suburbs outside of Dallas, as well as Dallas itself, and highlight your company’s approach to affordable and personalized SAT and ACT prep.
The above example lays out, in broad strokes, how keyword research can help small companies uncover key insights that drive effective content marketing strategies. Content marketing is the lifeblood of organic search marketing. It is the venue in which digital marketers can bring SEO expertise to bare. But advertisers that want to compete on paid search, what is the process of keyword research?
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Search Advertising & Keyword Bidding
The process of conducting keyword research for paid search isn’t that much different than conducting keyword research for organic search. The principles are still very much the same. We’re trying to get to know our target audience by examining the things they search for on Google. The difference with PPC advertising is that, unlike the low-cost content marketing SEO strategy outlined above, the client will be paying for every click driven during their PPC search campaign. The challenge with PPC, therefore, isn’t simply to figure out which keywords we’d like to leverage. We’re concerned with the cost/benefit of each keyword. Weighing the costs of each click against the benefits that accrue with each click is an ongoing exercise in the minds of paid search advertisers. Additionally, paid search advertisers must consider keyword match types.
Before we discuss keyword research and bidding for PPC, let’s discuss what paid search advertising is. Unlike SEO where clients attempt to show up organically in search results by drafting keyword-rich content on their webpages free of charge, PPC search allows advertisers to bid on the keywords they’d like their website to show up for in the results. Google Ads allows advertisers to manage every piece of their paid search campaigns. They use Google’s Keyword Planner to discover keywords and their consequent costs-per-click (CPC). They use the platform to then bid against keywords, build out the creative for their search ads, traffic their search ads, and ultimately to track results and make optimizations. Where SEO seeks to bolster organic search results making client webpages as relevant to as many searches as possible, paid search (sometimes called SEM, PPC search advertising, etc.) seeks to show up at the top of page 1 by outbidding other advertisers. You write the ads, bid on the keywords, and then Google places your ad according to how high you bid, and how relevant your ad is to the keyword being searched.
Let’s briefly touch on keyword research for PPC. The process is very much the same as it was for SEO research. As we’ve already discussed, Google’s Keyword Planner allows search marketers to gather keywords related to certain subjects, industries, products, or services. Sticking with the example from earlier, you run Dallas Test Prep and you want to run some paid search advertising. You search “SAT test prep” in Google’s Keyword Planner and receive hundreds of viable options for keywords. Unlike the process you went through with SEO, you are now forced to consider the CPC (cost per click) figures that populate along with the keyword suggestions. With SEO, you’re free to include whatever keywords you’d like in the content you publish. But you pay for every click when using PPC. If you place a $2 CPC bid against the exact match phrase “Best Test Prep By Me,” your ad will show up in the results whenever someone searches for that term. Furthermore, you will pay $2 every time someone clicks through from your ad to the landing page.
Match types are another important consideration when it comes to PPC search advertising.
Keyword Match Types for Google Search PPC Advertising
Having a strong keyword strategy is the most important part of running successful paid media campaigns across Google search. There are unending combinations of terms people can use when searching for your services on Google, and it would be a painstaking process to try and bid against every single possible combination individually. That’s where match types come in. They allow you to bid against certain phrases or terms that show up at any point in the string of a search query. Google’s three different match types are Broad, Phrase, and Exact, and they should all be used in tandem to create the most well-controlled and targeted keyword strategy possible.
Exact match keywords are the most specific and binding of any match type. Let’s say, for instance, that you decide to place an exact match bid on “best 1-on-1 SAT test prep tutor in Dallas Texas.” That bid would trigger your ad to display only when someone searched exactly for that phrase. CPC rates on exact match phrases are typically lower than broad and phrase match keywords since the search volume for an exact phrase is inherently lower.
A keyword set to “phrase match” will trigger your ad to display if the search query in question contains the specified phrase in the same order. In other words, if you place a phrase match on the keyword “best SAT Test Prep,” it will trigger your ad to display if someone searches “I would like the best sat test prep available for my precious child, Google. Thank you very much!” Again, it’s important to keep in mind that word order matters here. So any keyword containing the phrase “SAT test prep best” would not trigger this phrase match keyword. That’s where broad match comes in.
A keyword set to broad match will trigger your ad to fire whenever a search query contains a combination of the words you’ve specified in your bid. So if you place a broad match bid on “best SAT test prep in Dallas,” then your ad will fire whenever someone searches “best Dallas test prep SAT,” “best Dallas sat prep,” or “I am not searching for the best test prep in Dallas! I only want the worst and the most expensive SAT test prep in Austin!” Broad match is a great way to capture the most keywords related to your target audience and intent. However, because broad match keyword captures such a broad range of possible searches, they usually have higher CPC rates and generate low-quality clicks.
All effective keyword strategies will use a healthy mix of the three different keyword match types. By implementing a strategy that captures broad, exact, and phrase match keywords, you can maximize the volume of high-volume clicks hitting your page from users in search of your services.
Premiere’s Keyword Driven Approach To Search Engine Marketing
Since 1992, Premiere Creative has helped countless clients in Northern New Jersey – and indeed throughout the tri-state area – drive leads and sales through marketing. In the rise of the digital economy, we have mastered every new platform for marketing and driving success online. We are New Jersey’s leading performance-based search engine marketing agency. Whether doing a long-term SEO play for a new pharmaceutical client or helping an old client fix their paid search strategy, our comprehensive understanding of keyword bidding and keyword-based content marketing strategies allows us to deliver meet the needs of businesses throughout northern New Jersey and New York City. Premiere Creative is a full-service digital agency with a mission: to use technology and search to deliver creative and powerful results. To learn more about our SEM services, dial (973) 346-8100 or contact Premiere Creative today!
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