Saturday, 10 December 2016

Keyword Research Competitor Analysis Tips and Tricks

In this article we will look at a few tips and tricks related to keyword research competitor analysis.

I'm going to assume that your target page isn't as high up in the SERPs as you would like, and that you have done some basic strategic keyword research to figure out which keyword phrases you should be targeting (depending on whether you have picked a Value or Volume keyword selection strategy.)

The reason the selection strategy matters is because the first technique is entirely keyword driven.

Search Competitor Analysis

Before anything else, you need to know who is in the Top 10 for your target keyword phrase.

The easiest way to do this is to go to your search engine of choice, and type in your search phrase as a query. Here are some important key points:

  • make sure you conduct the search in an "anonymous" browser session (also called InPrivate);
  • set the right geographic context by using the correct location-based engine URL (i.e. etc.);
  • start with a narrow match (i.e. put the keywords "in quotes").

Once you have your list of direct search engine result page competitors, open each target link in a new window, and copy and paste the URL to a notepad or spreadsheet. Do as many as you see fit, across a wide spectrum of URLs (if a lot of them come from so-called "content farms" be wary), but make sure you have at least 10 unique domains / sub-domains.

Keyword Density

Once you've figured out who the competition is, use a tool like SEO Tools Keyword Density Checker to make a list of the one, two and three word keyword phrases, and rank them according to their relative density.

Why does this matter?

Keyword density is one of those measures that used to have recommended hard and fast rules about what the number should be. In the early days, keyword stuffing, a technique that consisted of repeating the target keyword phrase as often as possible in an article got results.

These days, however, search engines "recognise keyword stuffing as a disingenuous tactic" at best (source: Enge et al (2010) The Art of SEO, US:O'Reilly, p. 211) and "can actually get your pages devalued via search engine penalties" at worst (ibid).

Using the tool is easy: just plug in the page that you have identified as being in competition with your own, and then pick out the keywords and their relative densities from the resulting list. Now you know two things:

  • the best keywords;
  • the densities that are currently working.

Of course, the more pages you analyse, the better your keyword density research will be, and since the results are always relative to your own performance, you should also conduct the same exercise on one of your own pages.

Strategic Keyword Competitor Analysis

Another tactic you can use to expose keyword phrases that your competitors are targeting is to copy and paste the URL into the AdWords Keyword Planner tool.

In the same way that the SEO Tools utility above picks out keyword phrases, the Keyword Planner will analyse the content of the page, and pick up keywords from the Google and AdWords' keyword databases.

The result is a list that can be used to create content to rival that which is being put out by the competition, lifted from their own text. Incidentally, the technique can also be used as a cross check for your own content (to make sure Google is picking up the right keyword phrases) or s a way to pick out keywords to target with an AdWords campaign.

The Keyword Coach Keyword Research Tutorials are a good place to start if you need some tips on how to analyse the resulting lists of keyword and search data, or just search the blog for "long tail keywords".

Processing lists of keywords to find those that match your strategy is a useful skill to learn, and the Keyword Planner results are a great (free) data source to start with.

Finally, the SEMRush tool is great for giving you an overview of your competition, and the keywords that they are targeting. What's great is that it works well for sub-domains as well as domains. However the tool performs but less well for pages on a domain.

Maintaining a list of keywords that are preferred by the competition is a good way to add keyword research and keyword marketing to your ongoing competitive advantage, just assign some time in your keyword research strategy and process to apply these techniques and stay ahead of the pack!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Keyword Selection Strategies for Your Keyword Research & SEO Projects

One of the questions that comes up from people following the free Keyword Research & SEO Tutorials is "How do I implement a keyword selection strategy?"

This article comprises top tips from the Niche Blogger Content Blueprint book, with a slight twist to help you apply the theory regardless of whether you're:
Strategy: Keyword Selection

  • a product creator
  • an author
  • a store owner
  • blogger, niche marketer or affiliate...

These are tips for everyone, whether they have an offline or online business; or are playing the hybrid game -- taking offline online and vice versa.

The Volume Strategy

This is, on the face of it, and easy one.

If you are looking for volume, then just pick the keyword phrase with the most searches (on average) per month, right?

Wrong. Or, at least, half wrong...

For a start, keywords are seasonal, and so your target keyword selection needs to be seasonal, too.

(You can download monthly keyword statistics right from within Keyword Planner.)

Then, keyword search volumes differ by geographic location; remembering that you have two geographies to take account of -- your own, and your market's -- and so, keywords have to be selected from a pool that makes geographic, as well as seasonal sense.

Get these two right, though, and you'll be making the best start.

But what if volume isn't your only priority?

The Value Strategy

There are two values in this strategy, both linked to the Suggested Bid calculated by the Keyword Planner.

The Low Value strategy places the emphasis on the cost of advertising to a group, whereas the High Value strategy looks at a niche that has a relatively high advertising spend as one that offers potential riches.

If you are an advertiser, the balance is towards a wide reach (Volume) and low cost (Suggested Bid, or Cost-per-Click). This is the Low Value strategy, which is a bit of a misnomer, because if you get it right, it can bring in a great ROI.

The trick is to make sure that you do the keyword research properly to identify a high-converting phrase (not just a high click-rate, but a high conversion rate once the visitor hits your page)  with a relatively low CPC.

The other side of the coin is to look for niches with a very high value (Search Volume x Suggested Bid) and make that the basis of your keyword selection. However, I would caution against using these keyword phrases in an AdWords campaign because, unless  you have a very high conversion rate and margin, it can become an expensive project!

The Competition Strategy

Anyone who has hired an SEO specialist has probably heard the term "KEI" (Keyword Effectiveness Index) which is a weighted calculation that tries to take account of the fact that not many people read past the first 10 results of a search, and of those that do, the click rate tails off noticeably...

(If you want proof of this, just look at your GWT / Search Console data, and order it by SERPs, and watch the click-through-rate plummet! To take advantage of this "lost traffic", check out my Zero Traffic Keyword Research post.)

The theory behind the KEI is that the more competition you have, the less attractive a keyword.

Up to a point, I agree.

However, as keywords become more and more long-tail in nature, this may well change, and a more modern index might be in order.

For a start, if you are going to try and evaluate the competition, use an appropriate search context:

  • the correct search domain (i.e. etc...);
  • keywords "in quotes" (narrow match);
  • PTB (phrase-to-broad) ratio, where available.

The first two are pretty obvious, but the last one is a specific ratio that some of the bigger automated tools provide and which is tough to calculate on your own. Your best bet, if you're doing the job manually, is to construct a query:

  • using the allintitle: option (Google-specific, sorry!)
  • break the phrase into "quoted" "sections" that represent the "long-tail"

If you apply these two in conjunction with the correct context, then the estimated number of pages returned by Google should fairly represent the competition.

Just remember that the value is relative and so the absolute number is irrelevant. My advice would be to put the results on a logarithmic scale, and use that as the basis for your keyword selection process.

Your Keyword Selection Strategy

Of course, you can use these principles to roll your own keyword selection strategy; we do that every time a client buys one of our keyword research services.

It's an easy thing to do using a spreadsheet. For example, if you have the search volume in Column 'B', and the CPC (suggested bid) in Column 'C', then a value-weighted strategy might use a formula such as:

  • =B * (C^2)

On the other hand, if you want to skew by volume:
  • = (B^2) * C
Other factors, such as the Competition Index (KEI or equivalent -- free download from Launch2Success here) can be built into the formula, too, so that you get the best keyword selection strategy for your own specific use.

To see the keyword selection process in action, check out the Niche Blogger Content Blueprint or one of our free tutorials (links at the top of the page.)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Keyword Research for Hotel SEO Strategy

With direct bookings both more profitable and becoming more frequent, it pays to have a keyword research and SEO strategy specifically tailored to the hospitality industry. There are two drivers for this:

  • Search engines become smarter and attuned to local search;
  • Consumers becoming more comfortable booking online.

While sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia are also key to a hotel's success and cannot be ignored, more and more consumers are turning to Google first to find their perfect getaway location.

Along with some excellent advice in the Hospitality Net article "How to Jumpstart Your Hotel's Direct Bookings Through Search Engine Marketing" there are some surprising figures to back this up. According to the article 61% of potential customers come through a search engine with a 20% year on year increase in relevant searches performed on Google.

This would indicate that SEO is going to be a deciding factor in a hotel's long-term direct booking success.

Hotel SEO Strategy 

While it is entirely possible to reduce the SEO process through concentrating on "7 Steps for Your Small Business Survival" (NuWireInvestor web site) including local search, social engagement and creating attractive, valuable content, many experts seem to gloss over the keyword research strategy as part of the marketing process.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) both rely heavily on an integrated keyword management strategy, and so it is surprising that it doesn't seem to get the emphasis that it richly deserves.

For example: while a long tail keyword research policy can help identify a good starting point for SEO and SEM activities, unless it becomes part of a test, measure and adjust cycle the research will always be second hand.

Keywords are the communication conduit between your target market and your hospitality offering, so properly researching them ought to be a priority: and conducted by a keyword research specialist rather than consigned to being merely part of the SEO/SEM process.

Keyword Research for Hotels

For those who have the time and confidence to go it alone, here are a few salient tips from the trenches of keyword research strategy.

Firstly, local search is highly important. Search engines can not only deal with hyper specific local searches (such as "hotel near <landmark> in <city>") but also there is a rise of the "near me" syndrome: as in "hotel near me".

However, this last is also very location-specific, so the key takeaway here has to be to remember to use geographic targeting when researching keyword usage using a tool such as the Keyword Planner.

There is a big difference between a search conducted locally ("hotel near me") and a search conducted for a location ("hotel near new york grand central station"), and this difference needs to be reflected in the SEO/SEM strategy and in the keyword research.

Next, review local restaurants, landmarks, museums, events and places of local interest in order to generate useful, valuable, attractive content, but make sure you concentrate on those that qualify in one of two ways:

  • high search volume
  • long-tail low-traffic low-competition

The first is obvious; it takes very little effort to create a piece of content highly optimised towards a very popular attraction, and if it has a very high number of requests you may find yourself with a (small) piece of a large traffic pie.

The second might not be so obvious. However, if your hotel is the only one where a visitor from out of town can get a great idea of what the event (restaurant, attraction, landmark, etc.) has to offer, then you will naturally score highly and attract high conversion rates.

Finally, remember to go for social sharing and engagement with other local businesses. For example, consider writing a piece that is highly optimised towards your chosen long tail keywords (i.e. "hotel near conference center in miami with sauna" -- I made that up, by the way!) and encouraging other local businesses to publish it, and link out to your site from theirs.

At the same time, use social keyword research to find out what conversations people are having about hotels and facilities in your area, and then jump in on the conversations with opinion (and links to your hotel booking facility) as well as using that keyword research to fuel content creation.

All of this takes time, granted, but is worth the extra effort. While The Keyword Coach has some very reasonable plans (you can take us for a test drive for $5!), there's no reason why computer literate, internet savvy hoteliers with time on their hands can't use the information in our keyword research and SEO tutorials to make a start on their own.

Just remember: Research, Test, Track, Adjust.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Keyword Research for Email Marketing

Many businesses find that email marketing remains one of their channels with the highest ROI.

This is mainly due to the fact that they have responsive email lists, built up from customers who have already put their hands up in one of the following ways:
  • downloaded and taken action upon a free report;
  • purchased a relatively cheap item;
  • engaged with the business.

The most responsive of the above are, clearly, existing customers. Indeed, many marketers go one step further and claim that customers' appetite for products will usually exceed your capacity to create new ones.

Subsequently, considering building a list is free, and as long as the list is correctly segmented and the appropriate message sent to each one, the conversion rates can lead to very impressive results.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is often merely described as an email message sent to a prospect with commercial intent.

But that's like saying that marketing is equal to display advertising, which is patently untrue. To get an idea of just how untrue that is, I usually refer clients to Figure 1.1 in "The Marketing Book" by Michael Baker and Susan Hart which depicts the whole of marketing as an iceberg.

Advertising is at the top -- it's the bits you see -- whereas the 90% that you don't see, and which is often neglected, is the true nature of marketing, whose purpose is not only to reach a market and convince them to buy but also to understand that market, related markets, the customer's needs and products that can be presented to them.

So, if you're using email marketing just to send a coupon out (Advertising, Promotion & Public Relations in The Marketing Iceberg) then you're doing it wrong.

Email marketing should also be viewed variously as:

  • a tool for Market Testing;
  • a platform for Product Development;
  • a way to conduct Market & Customer Needs Research.

Each type of list (customer, prospect, etc.) has its use: there is no point, for example, trying to elicit feedback about a commercial product that you know the list recipients could not have bought because they are on a prospects and not a buyers list.

So, where does keyword research come into the equation?

Using Keyword Research for Email Marketing

The first thing to remember is that different list segments will react to different messages.

A buyer probably doesn't need a lot of encouragement to buy again; they just need you to offer them a credible product that is related to something they have already bought. And if you're doing your strategic keyword management properly, you'll already know where their pain/passion points are.

Prospects, on the other hand, need to make that first decision to buy with you: and that's usually a decision that they make with their gut and then justify with logic.

It needs to feel right: so the emotive trigger words come into play.

Not only do you need to participate in a conversation that they are already having outside of your relationship (again, keyword research will throw up these conversations) but you need to push their buttons to drive them to take action.

Of course, you can also use email marketing to elicit reaction (market research), test new product ideas (free downloads in return for market research) and develop a relationship with new markets (referral and affiliate marketing).

However, each interaction needs to come with a healthy dollop of keyword research, as this is the only real way you can be sure that you are communicating with the target market.

Benefits of Keyword Research for Email Marketing

That communication underpins the key benefit: contact.

Every email is contact with the target market, existing market, or to use a more current term, your tribe.

Each time you make contact with your tribe, you build confidence. As confidence in you and your leadership of the tribe grows, so does the trust between you, and your influence within the tribe.

Using keyword research effectively shows that you understand your tribe: you speak to them using words they have either used themselves, or that make perfect sense to them. When combined with well-known trigger words (Richard Bayan's Words that Sell has a good list), your message will become very difficult to refuse.

To get started, check out the Keyword Research Tutorials or take The Keyword Coach for a test drive with one of the low cost keyword research services. Remember: there's gold in those hills, and you can learn how to mine it!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

How To Use Keyword Research to Get More Sales

Most (if not all) business owners would like to get more sales: online, or offline, sales are what drives a business forward.

Sometimes it doesn't take many sales -- high ticket items that command a high price point can generate a healthy income with one or two sales a month -- but all businesses rely on having paying customers.

There are three keys to making more sales:
  • finding more potential customers;
  • converting more potential customers;
  • selling more to existing customers.
Keyword research can help each of the above; it's all about knowing where to find your market, how to communicate with them, and then how to keep them interested.

Using Keywords to find Potential Customers

Potential customers (those who are willing to buy) use keywords differently to those who are just looking for information.

For example, they will be using terms like "how much" or "where to buy", as well as geographic trigger words such as city names. All of these indicate a person ready to buy, as opposed to someone merely researching.

Brand and model names are also useful indicators, especially when combined with words such as "versus" or "reviews".

Keyword research helps to isolate phrases that can be used to create content designed to pull in potential customers via the SERPs (search engine result pages) rather than merely appealing to everyone.

There will be fewer hits, but conversion rates should be higher.

Converting Visitors into Customers using Keywords

One of the highest converting complementary keywords is "free".

It is an emotional trigger word, as well as a way to convey the idea that the prospect is getting something for nothing.

However, in some circles it can also devalue your product offering; and there are even people who wouldn't even count a person who has downloaded a free gift as a customer at all.

So, although the word "free" crops up repeatedly in keyword research, it's unlikely to be a great indicator of a potential paying customer, unless you can find a way to convert them down the line.

But, it's an important first step; since even the act of downloading something and reading it requires some effort: it might have been zero cost in monetary terms, but it has cost effort and as such these people are to be considered customers.

Keyword research can also be used to reveal what non-free keywords your potential customers are looking for. Using those keywords in your text ought to help convert them into customers because you are participating in a conversation that they are already having with themselves.

Leverage Your Customer Base with Integrated Keyword Research

Every contact with existing customers -- those who have put their hands up by buying from you or downloading something from your site -- should be geared towards a Call to Action (CTA).

The more that your customers can be encouraged to engage with you, the more they will spend.

Provide a search function on your site; and integrate the keywords searched for with your regular keyword research activity. This way you will leverage their engagement to yield new avenues through which you can provide them even more value.

After all, that's all that you are trying to do with your search engine and keyword marketing: find out what the market needs, how they are trying to locate products to satisfy those needs, and providing them with the best solution on the market.

Anything less will not provide a basis for long term competitive advantage, and making keyword research part of that competitive advantage should be one of a business' strategic plan. 

For a more detailed look at how keyword research can help to get more sales, check out how answering these three questions that can triple your bottom line!

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Rise of Guided Search and Autocomplete

In a recent article "The Rise of Organic Search", writer Brian Bridges of Lumentus pointed out that "majority of every company’s website traffic now comes through organic search". While this might not be news to hardened SEOs, it raises a couple of important points related to autocomplete, which I call guided search.
  • The first is that there is a decline in the hit rate on destination sites; places where you know the URL and type it in directly to the address bar;
  • The second is an anticipated rise in finding brands and companies by sentiment and intent rather than by a purely factual search query.
Explaining these phenomena is not trivial, but has its roots in the advent of autocomplete, a feature offered by virtually all search engines.

What is Autocomplete?

Autocomplete is a deceptively simple service: it merely suggests search terms that the user might be about to type based on previously used search terms, and the user's own input.

However, one has to wonder what the proportion of autocomplete to organic search actually is. 

While Google doesn't provide any statistics, autocomplete behaviour coupled with the claim by Bridges that "77% of users only click on the first three links" of a results page, could well be distorting true organic search in favour of something I call guided search.

The Rise of Guided Search

There are two places that Google (for example) suggests keyword phrases for users to pick as their search term.

The first is in the box that appears under the search term box, and is a result of typing a term into that edit field. This is the traditional autocomplete or auto-suggest location.

Users can simply click one that was either the term they were looking for anyway (the convenience argument), or pick one that looks interesting. The latter is an example of guided search, and it comes with the risk of contamination of the user's original intent.

The other location is under the first set of (usually 10) results, as a double-column wide list of suggested searches, which the user is free to pick from. Again, this could be argued as helpful, or convenient, but is also a good example of a guided search.

It's the same for retailers such as Amazon, who routinely suggest extra items that the customer might be interested in: that could be termed "guided shopping".

Why is this Important?

Guided search, at its worst, leads to a kind of mob mentality when it comes to finding online resources.

It's a feedback loop of sorts, rather like the kind of feedback loop you get when you use only those keyword phrases identified in your log files to create new content. It's only a matter of time before two things happen:
  • you start to repeat yourself;
  • you paint yourself into a (popular) niche.
Guided search suffers from the same issues. The more search users click on the first, second or third proposals the engine makes, the more that engine reinforces its opinion that these are things that people are searching for -- to the exclusion of everything else.

It can't be helped, and the best that we can do is anticipate the effect of guided search by using keyword research.

How Does Keyword Research Help?

If you type in your brand or company name, Google (for example) will suggest various options to elaborate the search, and these options represent queries that have been previously executed by search users.

They can be captured manually, simply by going to the search engine and performing the queries; but it is much more efficient to use a tool such as to reveal en masse the various combinations of keywords that have been used with your brand.

On the one hand, it's a good way to gauge both sentiment and intent by seeing what words are used in combination with the brand, and the brand's product lines.

Alternatively, it 's an excellent way to see what people are searching for, so that you can react to it.

Taking this one step further is the AnswerThePublic service; which specifically links questions, sentiment and intent through matching your root keyword phrase with various question-words (what, where, why, etc.) and prepositions.

Evaluating the results is an important part of maintaining your brand identity and reputation.

To learn more about keyword research, head over to the Keyword Research & SEO Tutorials page, and learn the ins and outs of running complete keyword research campaigns for your brand.