Friday, 9 June 2017

Keyword Research, Search Engine Optimization and the Customer Journey

Putting keyword research and SEO at the core of your business strategy can change the way that you align your marketing activities with the customer journey to create new and unique opportunities.

In this article we explore the link between keyword research, SEO and marketing. We will challenge the traditional view of the customer journey which tries to find a market for an existing product, and look at it from the point of view of the customer.

The Customer Journey

The typical customer journey is often viewed as starting out quite passively (Awareness) and ending with the active Advocacy of a product.

However, with the advent of search engines comes an opportunity to turn this Awareness into more active participation.

Rather than creating a product, and then trying to make the market Aware of it, keyword research allows us to approach marketing the other way round.

Given that at any one time, our prospective customers are researching solutions to their problems, it seems only logical to use their own queries to fuel the product development process.

Not only that, but if we are producing me-too products, we can see what kinds of comparison points the market feels are important, which will help to design the solution as well as give us a conversation in which to participate once the product has been created.

In fact, this conversation between the market and the search engines and social media platforms is present at every stage of the customer journey:

  • Awareness: as soon as the market knows that something exists, they start to look for alternatives;
  • Consideration: once the market becomes convinced of the merits of the products on sale, they then start to look for confirmation that there are valid options on the market;
  • Purchase: having made the decision to buy, the market will look for the best option to acquire the product as a function of price, availability, service, etc.;
  • Retention: subsequent conversations between the market and the business will fuel an ongoing process of refinement, and constant attempts to increase the value of the relationship in both directions;
  • Advocacy: customers will generate conversations that can be leveraged as content in their own right (testimonials, for example) or new opportunities to develop the relationship further (products, services, and so forth).
At each of the five stages above, there are opportunities for keyword research and SEO to work together to help propel the business forward.

Keyword Research, SEO & the Customer Journey

Using a niche keyword research service such as those offered by The Keyword Coach enables you to pick the market's brain and build up a picture of what's important to your future customers. Your basket of keyword phrases is a resource upon which entire businesses can be built.

The Keyword Coach treats keyword research and search engine marketing as strategic resources, rather than merely a part of your online presence. As such, they are constantly evaluated in terms of internal and external context, how they can be deployed (using a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle), and integrated with the strategy of the organisation.

One example of this is performing Amazon niche site keyword research for product owners (including authors). Amazon is not only a marketplace, but also a search engine, with almost all the features that a traditional search engine has, including auto-suggest.

Coupled with using an indexing engine like Google, it is possible to leverage user generated content as well as marketing content to take advantage of the conversations that are created during the customer journey: from their initial discovery of a product, asking questions about it and eventually leaving reviews.

All of these interactions use key words to describe aspects of the product, both positive and negative, and keeping track of them will help create real opportunities.

In a larger context, the same processes can be used to track customer conversations both on the organisation's site, in social media, and through search engines in order to help make strategic decisions as to what to take to market, where to concentrate efforts and picking the best time to launch.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Why SEO Is Important for Business: Keyword Research, Search Engine Marketing and SEO Principles

To understand why SEO is important for business, we first need to discuss what SEO means.

It has become a buzzword and is often synonymous with "more traffic". However, not all traffic is good traffic.

In the beginning of the world wide web, a search engine was not a sophisticated tool. Subsequently, most search queries were one or two words long, returning a limited set of pages and raw traffic volume was the most important goal.

Playing the numbers game meant that there was an assumed direct correlation between visits and sales.

In those days, SEO meant attracting as many visitors as possible by having high repetition of keyword phrases (otherwise known as keyword stuffing) and many pages that may not even have content relating to what the business was selling (known as spamming the index).

Recent innovations in search engine technology, however, has led to more sophisticated and targeted queries, fewer chances of being able to play the numbers game, and, above all, more opportunities for quality SEO.

Today, SEO has a new meaning.

It's about engagement with search engines, rather than manipulation. It leans heavily on keyword research as part of the marketing strategies of an organisation, and relies on an intimate understanding of the market.

Modern SEO is about quality content meeting the needs of your market, and understanding the intent carried by the words in each query that you choose to target.

It's no longer just a numbers game.

Does SEO Work?

The point of SEO is to get content indexed for keywords that allow you to engage with the customer by proxy, and help them through their journey from discovery to purchase.

If you constantly remind yourself that this is the only reason to conduct SEO, then SEO will work for you and your business.

The moment you turn it into a pure volume game, where you purchase articles from content farms in an attempt to spread your net as wide as possible with no regard for the intent of the fish you might catch, SEO will, at some point, cease to work.

You may well temporarily climb the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), and even achieve the number one spot, but it will be both temporary and expensive.

Better to be focused on a narrow, yet responsive slice of the market, and promote content that carries with it the intent to engage with your brand.

Then, SEO will work for you.

How SEO Helps Business

SEO, or search engine marketing (SEM) can help your business in many different ways. However, they're all linked to the strategic marketing plan of the organisation, which can be grouped under three main headings:

  • product development
  • market research
  • sales

Whilst this is a somewhat simplified view, it represents the bare minimum for an organisation's ongoing strategic SEO and keyword research process.

Product development uses a combination of competitor and keyword research, as well as keyword discovery to see what people are looking for: within and outside your target market.

Once a basket of phrases has been isolated, market research can be performed using keyword research techniques to narrow down both the product or service and the route to market.

Finally, with all the research conducted, the market can then be tested as part of the sales process: using SEO to guide prospects through their journey from discovery to purchase.

So, SEO helps business in three main ways:

  • develop new products;
  • explore and develop markets for new and existing products;
  • promote products, services and brand values to the various target markets on their own terms.

This last is something I call participating in your market's conversation, and it's the easiest way to engage and make sales.

Is SEO Worth It?

Like any form of marketing activity, your investment is repaid in an increase in sales; working out if it has been worth the investment will depend on the value of that return.

However, different organisations have different goals and different measurements of their return.

There will be cases where SEO does not translate into measurable direct effect, leaving the return to be evaluated on its own merits such as brand attachment and market education.

There's also the issue of timing.

Many people abandon SEO after just a few iterations, failing to see any direct change in visitor numbers, or conversions. The fact of the matter is that it can take weeks, sometimes months, before any effect, positive or negative is apparent.

Done correctly, SEO will be worth it. But it's not a quick fix, and the effectiveness needs to be measured and evaluated regularly and on its own merits.

Should You Do SEO Yourself?

In a word: absolutely.

You should do as much SEO as you have time for, regardless of whether you have also contracted an SEO professional to do it for you.

However, the caveat is that bad SEO can be as damaging to your business as good SEO can enhance it. So, at the very least doing your own SEO will require a level of self-education.

The best practice is to employ an SEO professional for a year or so, and ask them to help educate you. Then, keep them on a retainer to help out whenever you note that something has happened in the industry that affects the success of your search engine marketing activities.

There are also some activities that are so time-consuming that it is much more productive to outsource them -- integrated keyword research services, for example.

Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO

There's been a lot written about so-called black hat SEO techniques over the years. Much of it has been an attempt to promote valid services, or providing advice on gaming the whole SEO system.

Like anti-virus software, the industry has, at times, felt like an eternal arms race. Search engines change the algorithms to exclude unscrupulous tactics, then black hat SEO specialists try to find a way round them.

Luckily for business owners, who could waste a lot of money trying to keep up, the solution is that search engines are getting smarter.

There's still the possibility that some less ethical techniques will emerge to beat them, but the general thrust of development means that business owners and SEO professionals can rely on solid keyword research, innovative, engaging and high quality content to attract their target market.

Hopefully this article has helped you to work out why SEO is important for business in general, and specifically, how SEO can help your business.

A good start would be to see some real life Keyword Research Examples, or browse the SEO Tutorials.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Amazon PLR Keyword Research Cheat Sheet: A Worked Example for Nutribullet vs. Breville Blend Active

Recently, I was putting together some juicer versus blender PLR, and happened across a great technique for generating quick traffic based on products that Amazon customers are actually looking for!

The following is a cheat sheet that should help you to quickly pick, compare and write about products that are sure to rank well and be popular.

In addition, using my keyword evaluation techniques from the SEO tutorials, you can also be sure that they represent money in the niche, ready to be spent.

Step 1: Most Wished For vs. Most Gifted

Amazon maintains lost of best-seller lists, and while the main list tells you what's hot right now, the Most Wished For and Most Gifted lists often tell a different story.
Amazon Affiliate PLR Tips

For example, Most Wished For products have a market that knows what it wants, and is likely sharing that with other people -- friends and family mainly -- who are looking to buy them a gift.

Most Gifted is a response to wishes, plus an insight into what people actually spend their money on.

So, you should look for two items that figure highly in both lists, but which aren't the same (for a versus piece) or which are complementary (for an up-sell piece).

In the image on the right, I've highlighted the related products which can be pitched one against the other, with a little research.

In the bottom left of that image, you'll also see a complementary product for the Breville Active Blend -- a bottle that has been gifted a substantial number of times.

This kind of market intelligence tells you a lot about the target market and how you can create content that will generate interest. But what it doesn't tell you is which keywords to target.

Step 2: AdWords Research

This is where we bring in the AdWords Keyword Planner.

Regular readers will know that this is my current go-to tool for the raw evaluation of keywords, despite being a Market Samurai affiliate, simply because most other tools get their data from either the AdWords or Google databases.

A simple search reveals that (at the time of writing, and for the UK market) Nutribullet as a keyword out-pulls Breville Active Blend by about 35 times. Plus, a review of the suggested keywords shows that there is also more advertising money being spent across a wider spread of keyword phrases for Nutribullet than for the Breville.

This makes sense: the Nutribullet is more than twice the price, and therefore it's likely that with the brand attachment that seems to come with it, there's more money to be made by selling them.

But we can't ignore the facts: the Breville is more often wished for, and its accessory (a spare bottle) is more often gifted.

With high traffic, and relatively high advertising spends, the stage is set for a Nutribullet vs. Active Blend project. So, what do people actually want to know?

Step 3: Question Research

This is where we start to think about the hungry market. We want to know if there are any burning questions that the prospects need to know the answer to before choosing one or the other.

I start with the underdog -- the Breville in this case.

The tool of choice is; there are others, but I happen to like the no-nonsense interface that it offers.

On the right is the result of a quick search for questions on 'Breville Blend Active' for the UK market, as reported by Google.

You'll note that I've highlighted the four specific questions that related to the product that we have already seen in the Most Wished For / Most Gifted list.

This is important, because it tells us that people are looking for, and then buying the bottles that go with the Blend Active.

We could stop here, and create a whole micro site all about Breville bottles. But, there's more!

The next step is to to the same query for Nutribullet. This time, instead of 11 suggestions, Keyword Tool returns over 130.

The question is, where is the overlap?

The answer is that there are many. Just a few:

  • ... crush ice
  • ... blend nuts
  • ... dishwasher
  • where to buy ...
More importantly, there are a whole bunch of questions specific to the Nutribullet, but which could equally be asked for the Blend Active, such as 'is ... just a blender', and 'is ... worth the money'.

Part of the keyword research phase of SEO is in finding these crossovers, as they both give you something to write about, and also widen your market.

Some will be worthwhile, others not so much, so the final phase is to evaluate those phrases that will generate traffic.

Step 4: Keyword Evaluation

This is an easy one:

  • research the questions on Keyword Tool
  • copy and paste them into Keyword Planner
  • sort by 'Page Views'
  • export the results
You now have a list of the most popular keyword phrases. If you're feeling keen, you can even take the resulting spreadsheet, and devise a formula to work out which will be the best in terms of the traffic, competition, and advertising spend, but a first cull based on raw traffic is a good way to start.

Step 5: The Content Plan

The longest part of the process is to create 10 to 15 blog or article titles that reflect the keyword phrases chosen, and then three to five headings that are related to the theme of the piece, and leverage other related keywords.

Add that's it for the keywords. The usual advice holds for modern SEO practices; don't go overboard, trust semantic search to pick up the sense from the natural language and make sure that wherever the reader thought they were going to get, you actually deliver.

So, with five easy steps, you should now have enough material to promote (and even cross-promote) products on Amazon that are bang on trend. At least for now.

Don't forget that Amazon updates the Best Seller, Most Gifted and Most Wished for lists frequently, so if you find one that is a constant source of inspiration, set up a page change monitoring service so that you are alerted every time the lists are re-published.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Basic Keyword Harvesting Techniques to Boost Traffic

Many content managers, bloggers, and internet marketers struggle with SEO and keyword research.

Part of the issue is that they are not using keyword harvesting techniques that actually reflect keywords that are (a) used in the wild, and (b) valuable. The tendency is to brainstorm keywords and then look for those that seem to have high traffic.

This really isn't the best approach.

The best approach to keyword research uses both generating and scraping together. You can harvest keywords from any page, using one of several tools.

Keyword Harvesting

The idea behind harvesting keywords is really very easy: you want to find a way to use content sown by yourself or others into the world wide web to generate root keywords that are both relevant and valuable.

There are two basic parts to the process:

  • Scrape: use a tool to extract keywords from a target web page;
  • Generate: use the root keywords to generate long tail phrases.
The scraping part should use either:
  • Other people's content that comes up in a search for the keyword phrase most closely associated with your niche product or service;
  • Your own content (see the end of this article for an example) created specifically to allow you to harvest phrases related to your niche product or service.

One of the best reasons for using keyword harvesting is that it can be done for free!

Keyword Scraper

There are several tools available to help you scrape keywords from content. The best non-free option is probably something like SEMRush, but there is a Free Generator Tool list here.

However, if you want a tool that is easy to use, complete, free and accurate, then use the AdWords Keyword Planner. The drawback is that you need to do a fair amount of post-processing, but just remember that most of the other tools use the API to this service, so you are essentially using the same information.

(For a lesson on relying too much on third party tools, read "What if all your Keyword Research Tools Disappeared Overnight?".)

The process is easy: just use the "Search for new keywords option", and plug in the URL of the page you want to scrape from in the "Your landing page" box.

Make sure you initially set "Show broadly related ideas" to "No", and set the geographic targeting and language according to your target market. The result is a list that you can export, and then sort according to value. The notion of "value" is a tricky one: for me it's usually a simple multiplication of the volume and expected bid price.

If you want to roll your own selection process, then read "Keyword Selection Strategies for Your Keyword Research and SEO Projects".

The resulting keyword list can then be used to attract visitors to your sales page, site, or blog.

Keyword Generator

Based on content produced by yourself or others, the above process yields a list of root keywords. These can be used as-is but beyond root keywords, many people like to explore content created around long tail keyword phrases.

(For a very thorough exploration of the Long Tail, I suggest reading Chris Anderson's Longer Long Tail book.)

Essentially, long tail phrases combine several words together to represent a narrow niche, and allow you to benefit from the root keyword visibility, combined with the qualifiers that make the phrase unique and targeted.

The combination is usually a much better placement in the SERPs than the root by itself, and by judiciously planning a content web around several related long tail keyword phrases, you can usually corner a bigger segment of the market than if you tried to compete head on with everyone else.

To do this, I tend to use a scraper like which scrapes auto-suggest queries from Google, YouTube, Bing, and Amazon. Starting with the root phrase, make sure you set the correct geo-targeting and linguistic attributes, and then let the tool do the rest.

Once you have the list, you can export it and then import it into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, and analyse it in the usual way.

Conclusion: Step by Step Harvesting Process

So, here's a process that will yield a steady stream of keywords for you to harvest, but be warned: it actually takes some effort.

  1. Set up a page that will contain an ever-expanding glossary of terms related to your product or service (could also be an FAQ), for example: Robotic Lawn Mower Brands and Models Guide;
  2. Allow page/blog comments, but set them to be moderated (encourage feedback; valuable source of keywords);
  3. Each day/week/month (pick the frequency that works for you), use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner as a keyword scraper to harvest the best (i.e. most valuable) keywords for your niche;
  4. Add any new ones on a Broad Match that are relevant to your master keyword list;
  5. Use a generator like to generate long tail keyword lists to work into blog content, and feed them back into the system as glossary/FAQ items, or make another page to sow new ideas and harvest the most current keywords from.
Regularly applying the above keyword harvesting process will serve as a way to take the pulse of your target market, as well as provide a rich stream of long tail keyword phrases with which to populate your content.

Really useful inspiration!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

7 Step SEO Plan Template for Quick and Easy Results

There's a lot on the internet about what constitutes the best SEO plan template, and a lot of it is obsolete thanks to frequent changes in search engine technology. In this article we look at some evergreen SEO techniques that give quick results whatever the current search landscape looks like.

Before we get started, let's look at three very important concepts that will dictate the success of any SEO strategy:

  • On Page SEO: the things you can do to make your page more search engine friendly;
  • Off Page SEO: the things you need to do to increase engagement with search engines;
  • Keyword Research: get this wrong, and the SEO effort is wasted!
Bear in mind when reading these SEO tips, however, that we are creating online content for people and not machines. It just so happens that machines are the combination gatekeepers / librarians that help people find the content they need.

Luckily for us, the machines are getting as smart as the people they serve; at least in limited domains like search engine technology!

On Page SEO

In my book The Anatomy of a Blog Post, which is a quick, easy, and above all cheap read, I pick apart a blog post to see what makes it attractive to search engines.
SEO Tactics for Bloggers

While the book is aimed at bloggers, it really applies to all kinds of online content that is used to inform and/or persuade a visitor.

Here are a few obvious examples of on page SEO:

  • Title - it appears in the title bar of the browser software and in teh search engine result pages (SERPs), so had better be optimised towards your target keyword phrases and intent;
  • Headings - these will help the reader navigate your content, but are also a good place to put some secondary keyword phrases, as long as they are a natural fit;
  • First and Last Paragraph - the first few lines of the first paragraph may well make it onto RSS feeds and SERPs, so will attract both the reader and search engine attention;
  • Keyword Density - too much, and it will feel unnatural, too little and the search engine might to "get" what the content is about.

There are also a number of not so obvious (because you can't see them) examples:

  • Meta tags - such as search description text, to be displayed in place of the first few lines of the opening paragraph;
  • Anchor titles - they offer a description of what the link points to;
  • Image alternate text - in order to help search engines know what the picture is about, using keywords.

There are others, but by concentrating on these 7 key areas, you will automatically enhance the attractiveness of your page to search engines, and by extension, your readers.

Off Page SEO

This is somewhat harder to pull off, and requires careful planning, as well as a reasonable investment in time and effort. So much so, that people often neglect to do it actively; which is good news for you, because you're going to put in the effort, right?

The key to understanding off page SEO is remembering that modern search technology is based as much around reputation and popularity as it is content. It's no coincidence that the original Google algorithm was called BackRub: it has always based its results on measuring the relative authority of a piece of content based on incoming links.

So, link-building is one way to improve off page SEO. Here are a few more:

  • Cross linking: considered by some to be an on page tactic, I think of it as off page because it can be done on your domain, or across others;
  • Pinning, etc. using social media tools like Pinterest, Perl Trees and so on;
  • Social bookmarking: with the implicit scope for browsing that services like Stumble Upon provide to their users.

With these in mind, it is clear that the success of each tactic depends on the quality of your keyword research. If you don't structure your content around something that begs to be Retweeted or shared, then there's little point in posting it across the platforms in the first place.

Here's a tip: use a scheduling service like Buffer, or Meet Edgar to help manage your off page SEO activities that involve social media.

Not only will they take the pain out of sharing across multiple platforms, but they will also pick the very best times to post on your behalf!

Keyword Research

I share the views of a number of SEO professionals that keyword research has become less about looking for individual, specific, keyword phrases, and more about finding keyword themes that indicate interest in a topic.

That's not to say that you should ignore specific phrases, but that you only need to mention them once or twice, and theme your content around them, letting search engines do the work in deciding what other content of value you are sharing.

Search engines are smart enough to work out when you're keyword stuffing, and also smart enough to figure out when you're using synonyms.

However, keyword research is important in making sure that you are writing about the topics that your target market wants to know about; how else are they ever going to find your site?
Keyword Research for Pros!

The good news is that keyword research doesn't have to be over-complicated.

My keyword research and niche content book Niche Blogger Content Blueprint goes over the niche discovery and exploitation process in some detail.

The salient points, however, are easy to appreciate:
  • Use a tool to find out what people are looking for;
  • Use another tool to find out how many people are looking for it;
  • Do comparative research to work out which represents the best mix of volume, competition, and relevance.
If you want to give the process a quick run-through without reading the book, then there are also some free keyword research tutorials such as the popular "Finding Profitable Niche Markets" available on this site.

For those of you who are really strapped for time:
  1. Use to find keyword phrases;
  2. Paste them into AdWord's Keyword Planner;
  3. Export the "ideas list" into a spreadsheet, and sort first by the Suggested Bid and then by Search Volume.
What you're left with are the keywords re
presenting the "money niches". Rinse and Repeat to Taste!

7 Step SEO Plan Template

Now that you understand the components of an SEO strategy, let's look at a simple process that you can go through to make sure that your SEO holds up.

Remember, though, its a template: you will need to add stuff to it to make it work for you. Everyone's needs are different, and there's not point pretending that one plan will work every time for every site.

Within broad lines, though, there are 7 things that should form the backbone of any SEO plan:

  1. Keyword Research: from simple brainstorming to confirming traffic using the tips above;
  2. Competition Analysis: use each search term to find the top 10 competing sites (by domain) and analyse them in SEMRush (or similar);
  3. Track & Measure: use the trio of tools - Google Analytics, Search Console and Stat Counter to make sure you identify new opportunities;
  4. Apply an On Page SEO Checklist every time you publish;
  5. Use Off Page SEO regularly, and continually, not just for new content;
  6. Track engagement, even if its just with a simple spreadsheet detailing incoming traffic, source, conversion rate, time spent on site, and, of course, target keywords;
  7. Regularly Perform an SEO Audit!
This post has been pretty information rich, and I encourage you to engage with me on Facebook and/or Twitter to get some free advice and insight into your specific keyword research and SEO needs.