SEO Keyword Research Part II – Digging Into Analytics

Now that you know how to identify the 3 important types of keywords, it’s now time to start your research.  Almost all of the information you need for keyword research is out there, whether it is through the Google Adwords Tool, the SERPs, or Google Analytics.  The best place to start is always analyzing a site’s data – finding out what has been working for the site and if you can bolster those results.

How do you know what’s working for you? 

A keyword that is performing is usually one that drives a visit to your site and/or leads a visitor to act.  Remember, when you are trying to find the best keywords to attack, you want to choose the ones that are the most targeted and will have to greatest amount of impact to the site and business.

Login into Google Analytics and the first thing I like to create, is an advanced segment that filters out all of the branded keywords, names, phone numbers, sites that have driven traffic.  The site should be highly ranked for all of these keywords anyway, so this data is not relevant to your keyword research.    One reason why you might want to keep branded keywords is to see what searchers associate your site with and what is important to them.  For example, if you were the oral hygiene company Reach, you might find that people are using the search query “Reach Toothbrush”, “Reach Mouthwash”, or “Reach Angled Toothbrush”.  This will tell you that the keyword groups that you should be targeting are Toothbrushes, Mouthwashes, and Angled Toothbrushes, so if you are creating a categorized list, these would be those categories.

The first report that I like to run is a custom report of all of the keywords that are driving the most traffic and goal completions.  This will tell me that this keyword brought someone to my site and when they visited the site, they took the action that I designated as a goal.  Additionally, I like to track these metrics:

  • New Visits
  • % Exit
  • Bounce Rate
  • Avg. Time of Page
  • Pages/Visits

These are engagement metrics, detailing a visitor’s response to the site when entering from a particular keyword.  Does the keyword phrase match the search query a user had in mind?  Is the site providing valuable information that matches the keyword used?  How effective is this keyword in users discovering your site and its content?

This list could be formidable, so work with a manageable list of keywords, possibly the top 100 keywords.  Start filtering – removing keywords that you know you won’t want to investigate further.  After you have narrowed your list, find out the current rank for each of those keyword terms.  I like to use the Rank Checker Firefox plugin.  Now, use a VLookUp function in Excel to combine the list of rankings with the corresponding keyword traffic and conversion numbers.

Next, use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to find the Global and Local Monthly Search Volumes for each of the terms on the list.  Set the Match Type to [Exact] to get the most realistic figures for monthly searches.  Copy and paste these search volumes to the corresponding keywords.

Now you should have a list that look like this:

What Keyword Terms Are Ranked Highly? What Words Could the Site Rank Higher For?

Sort the Current Rank column from smallest to largest, separating all of the keywords with rankings of 1-3.  These keywords are already in the top spots in the search engines, so there’s not a whole lot of opportunity in optimizing for these terms.  As you continue to strengthen the domain through link building, you may see a rise in rankings for those keyword terms.

These terms are still valuable in the keyword research process.  Take the highest ranked terms and plug them into SEOMoz’s keyword difficulty tool to see each keywords competitive score.  This will tell you if you can target other terms with the same amount of competitiveness.  For example, a few of the keywords that the site is currently ranked for has a keyword difficulty score of 75%.  You now know that your Page and Domain Authority is strong enough that you can rank for other terms with that level of competitiveness.

What to Look for Next

Now that you have all of the keywords with the lowest rank, take a look at the keywords that are driving the most visits and conversions.   Are any of these keywords currently ranked low on the first page, or on the second or third page of the search engines?  If so, you know that with some optimization and some directed link building, you could probably get those keywords higher to or on the first page.

Keep filtering the list, marking keywords that have the most opportunity for success.  Compare each keyword by looking at the current position, visits, conversions, monthly search volume, and engagement on the site (new visits, time spent on site, avg. page views, etc.).  Check SEOMoz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool to see the difficulty percentage of each keyword, and to see who the competitors are for first page rankings.  How does your Domain Authority and Page Authority compare to your competitors’ for that keyword term?  Are all of the major sites (i.e. Amazon, Wikipedia, eBay, Overstock, etc.) taking up the majority of the top 10 spots?  Are there any competitors in the top 10 that you can beat?

Mark the words that are really desirable, but are too competitive to attack.  Take the list of highly competitive – highly desirable keywords and run them through the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to get a list of recommended synonyms and permutations.  Filter this list, taking out negative keywords.  Run this filtered list through the Rank Checker.  Do you see any keywords that you could use as a replacement for those highly competitive keywords?  Do you see any gems in there that might provide some opportunity for traffic?  If yes, add these keywords to your main list.

Filter, filter, and then filter some more.  Once you have whittled down your list, it’s time to pick the final 5-10 keywords that you really want to target.  All of the keywords on this list have great search volume, positioning, visits, and conversions, but which do you think will have the most impact?  Have you included informational keywords, transactional keywords, and navigational keywords?  As an online searcher, what keywords would you use to find the particular site?

Every SEO campaign is built on solid keyword research.  Each site modifies your keyword research strategy a bit, but if you have the data, always start by analyzing what currently brings the site traffic, and then work from there.

Stay tuned for keyword research tips and strategy for Local SEO Campaigns and Competitive Analysis.

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