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!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Honestly? Jaaxy: Keyword Research Tool Review

Jaaxy is a keyword research tool that follows in a similar tradition to Market Samurai and other tools that try to find keywords that are both relevant and low competition. They have some unique measures, and pride themselves on quick results, but is it as good as the hype would have us believe?

What is Jaaxy?

First and foremost, Jaxxy is part of the Wealthy Affiliate training package and online revenue generation system, and created by the same folks. They developed it to help people get more from their keyword research, and speed up their results.

Think of it this way: the faster Wealthy Affiliate members get money coming in, the more likely they'll subscribe. By having subscriptions in place for all the components of Wealthy Affiliate (including Site Rubix, and various Word Press plug-ins, I suspect), the creators can make a healthy living whilst helping others to do the same.

So, it's laudable, if a little self-serving.

This would all be moot if it didn't work. But here's the rub: Jaaxy is actually quite good.

How to use Jaaxy?

Using the tool is pretty easy for anyone who's being into keyword research for any length of time.

Give it a root keyword, and it will generate a bunch of variations; each of which reflects actual search traffic. So far, so familiar.

The next step, though, is in finding those keywords that stand a chance of making a return.

Since this is something of a holy grail in online business, it's nice to see that Jaaxy goes a bit beyond the usual hit-or-miss approach that other tools have adopted. On the surface, there's nothing really very novel: you get an estimate of the average search volume, then the expected search volume, and an attempt to quantify the number of competing domains.

From these freely available numbers, Jaaxy then returns a value, which is evaluated and encoded as a red, yellow or green dot. Green, in this case, meaning that the keyword phrase has a chance of survival; if you're in any doubt, it also gets a score from 1-100, with 100 being the most likely to rank on the first page of search engine result pages.

Subscribers also get a peek at the apparent fierceness of competition for domains, too.

For each search, you also get a bunch of related keywords, but without any indication as to why they've been picked. There's also a Brainstorm facility to help you pick even more keywords to test.

And that's the goal: to get you to exhaust the initial 30 free searches as quickly as possible, and convert you into a paid customer.

Nothing wrong with that, but is it worth the upgrade?

Is Jaaxy Accurate?

The first thing that a tool needs to be is accurate. It's nothing but a time-saver on the face of it: performing tasks that you could otherwise do yourself, given the right mix of time, patience and keyword research training.

I've compared Jaaxy's recommendations to my own keyword research (using my own formulae) and they come pretty close. Anyone who has followed my keyword research and SEO training for profitable niches, or who has read my niche profits book will recognise that there is a different skew at the level of choosing the root keywords, but after that results are comparable.

However, that's purely at a red/green level.

The numbers themselves are always questionable. Even my numbers will be: the truth of the matter is that they're only ever going to be accurate within an order of magnitude, and as long as the final analysis is correct it shouldn't matter whether they report a few hundred page hits either way of the "correct" figure.

So, for its own purposes, it is accurate.

Is Jaaxy Good?

For the pure keyword research tools, Jaaxy is no better than Market Samurai, for example.

However, there are some very well thought-out additional tools that make it a whole lot better:

  • Alphabet Soup: Jaaxy's own version of what the free tools and provide;
  • Affiliate Programs: Jaaxy will search out products for you on various platforms, to help profit from your web site;
  • Brainstorm: guided brainstorming with input from major social media sites and online retailers.

Added to the rest of the platform, along with the in-depth training, these tools give affiliate marketers and content marketers the possibility to go beyond just finding keywords, and actually making money.

It's these additional tools that give it the edge for a certain kind of online entrepreneur.

How Much Does Jaaxy Cost?

The basic subscription is $19 per month at the time of writing, with the Pro version coming in at a discounted $49 per month.

There is a free trial, however, which lets you sign up and try out pretty much every feature for 30 searches: however long it takes you to get through them. Given the amount of data available, that might take a while!

So, is Jaaxy any good? Is it worth the subscription fee? The answer is yes, and maybe...

For myself, my own tools and processes identify the same basic basket of keywords, and are a little more in line with my own keyword research philosophy. That philosophy is based on mining for questions; this is an aspect that the Jaaxy programmers might consider adding to the results.

By signing up for a free Jaaxy account, you'll get 30 searches to find out if it's a good fit for you. I'd recommend it for anyone who likes convenience and is willing to trade a one-size-fits-all approach against having all your tools in one convenient place.

Disclaimer: As an affiliate for both Wealthy Affiliate and Jaaxy, if you click any of the above links to those two services, I'll get a small reward. Should you prefer not to reward me for taking the time to use, experiment, and review these products, you can access them on the following two URLs: and

Friday, 20 January 2017

Why Search Engine Privacy is bad for Search Context

Mention search, and a discussion of privacy usually isn't far behind.

Whether it's Google's (in my opinion unnecessary) masking of search queries for logged-in users, or concerns about using your browsing history to suggest products or even web sites you should visit, it seems everyone has an opinion.

Now search engines are starting to use enhanced privacy in their market differentiation.

Here's how Search Engine Journal's Matt Southern ("Qwant, a French Search Engine, thinks it can take on Google.") puts it:
Like search engine DuckDuckGo, Qwant’s competitive advantage is privacy. It protects users’ privacy by not tracking what they’re doing or searching for online. Qwant doesn’t use cookies, collect browsing data, or do any kind of data profiling.
Sounds great. My privacy is protected.

But that also means that the search engine doesn't know anything about me.

It doesn't know where I am located. Nor does it know the kinds of sites and search results that I've visited in the past.

In fact, all that the search engine has to go on is the page I visited last (the HTTP Referrer) and the query I've just entered.

Search Engine Context, Choice & Privacy

The job of a search engine is to act as a librarian/gatekeeper for all the content in its index.

Whether the engine is responsible for finding a product (i.e. Amazon, eBay, etc.), a person (i.e. LinkedIn, Fiverr, Facebook, etc.) or a resource (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Qwant, DuckDuckGo, et al), the users -- you and me -- expect a result list that contains the most relevant, highest quality, useful and valuable items that they know about.

But what's useful and valuable to me, might not be useful and valuable to you for the same search query.

It's to be hoped that a real world librarian, when asked for a "romance" book, isn't going to give the same recommendations to a teenage girl as they do a middle-aged housewife.

By the same token, knowing the search context is vital to a search engine's success. Building a competitive advantage out of treating all queries (with the same keyword phrase) as identical, to my mind at least, misses the point.

Enhanced privacy has the power to remove context, and thereby render results less relevant to the end user, leading to lower quality results.

It won't just hit organic search, either. It's across the board -- taking paid inclusion and sponsored entries as well as the various AdSense / AdWords style PPC services into account, too.

Squaring the circle requires giving end users the chance to activate more private -- i.e. context-restricted -- browser sessions. It's one area where I agree with Alphabet: making users login to get the most out of a search engine like Google is a good thing.

At the same time, giving users the option to start a private browsing session also solves a lot of the issues that Qwant and DuckDuckGo appear to be building their entire competitive advantage upon.

However, users need to both be educated, and use the private browsing features, as well as encouraged to view access to things like location, language, browsing data and subsequent data profiling as a way to help the search engine better serve their needs.

A Simple Example of Search Context

One example is the "near me" query. As in: "bank near me".

  • My usual logged-in Google session gives me a list of banks that I am a customer at, near my location.

  • Qwant gives me a list of reasonably random US based sites that include the term "bank near me" in their web page. None of them are "near me".

  • A private browsing session with Chrome, using Google, gives me a slightly different list of banks near me -- probably because it doesn't have access to my browsing or search history, so doesn't know which one I favour.

That's the effect of removing context.

As mobile search becomes ever-more popular, the chances of using, say a search engine like Qwant, and getting a reasonable local search result seem, if not remote, then at least less likely.

It's not a reason to drop privacy concerns completely, but it is an argument for education and choice over blanket removal of all search context; something that Qwant ought to take into account if it wants to challenge the established players going forward.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

SEM KWR SEO Plan Template for 2017

Having a coherent SEO monthly plan is all part of running a successful SEM strategy for volume (hits) and value (cost/revenue).

This free PDF resource provides an SEO strategy plan template that both looks to the results of 2016 and helps to look forward into 2017 with a monthly breakdown.

To fill it out, I suggest you get a pen -- yes, a real pen -- and write on a printed copy: preferably expanded to A3 and stuck on your wall near where you work.

Actual physical writing helps with personal engagement and accountability; and the higher quality the pen, the more successful the process will be.

(Time magazine did a great piece on the benefits of hand writing, available on their web site.)

The PDF is divided into the following sections:
  • Traffic - three core statistics about organic traffic;
  • Content - three important things you should have tracked in 2016;
  • Activity - three sets of guidelines that look to the past and inform the future (2017);
  • Keyword Calendar - 12 months of stats relating to ongoing SEO/SEM activities.
The idea is to follow startegic management theory and use the past to inform the furture whilst developing new insights from managing and applying your resources (keywords and content).

Creating Your SEO Plan of Action for 2017

Here's how to best fill out the sections of the SEO plan:

2016 Organic Traffic

These are three important numbers:

  • raw number of visits - how many eyes on your pages;
  • number of return visits - how many came back for more information;
  • bounce rate - how many clicked away without engaging.

These numbers will have different meanings for different people. For example, this site has a low bounce rate (high engagement) and reasonably high return visit rate. Traffic, though, is considered to be low -- by comparison to other blogs.

However, other client's sites are the opposite: mainly because they are keyed towards getting lots of visitors to take immediate action, which takes them straight out of the site and off to the order page provided by their partners!

2016 Content Statistics

Knowing the numbers is linked to:

  • Entry Pages - how people get into your site;
  • Exit Pages - where they leave;
  • Keyword Phrases - how they find your site.

The PDF suggests listing the Top 5 in each category, but feel free to add more. The point is to know whether the site is delivering the value that you expect.

If you are an affiliate for (say) 5 products, then you'd expect the "landing pages" to list high, as well as the pages that take the consumer away to a third party order page.

You could consider swapping the idea of an "Exit Page" for an "Exit Link", if that's the case.

2017 Activity Plan

This section starts to bridge 2016 into 2017 by looking at activities that worked, those that didn't and new ones that should help to improve your SEM either by volume or value.

If you catch yourself doing something that you did last year 'just because', then you should probably swap that task for one from the third column.

On the other hand, if you feel that you are neglecting the first column, then take moment each week to address that.

This section is both an action plan, and a reminder!

2017 Keyword Calendar

The Calendar is an attempt to help you plan tour SEO and keyword research activities for the year ahead. Those with multiple sites, will need multiple PDFs: that's okay -- print as many as you need!

(I have one per client; numbers vary, but by the end of the year, I'm wallpapering with these things!)

Each month, you want to note down a new Root Keyword to create content for or research around.

Set these out by quarter if need be, but try to at least have an idea of what should go in each month: use the Keyword Planner and publishing schedules from niche magazines (for example) to pick out seasonal trends.

Then, each month note the number of Items presented, how much traffic was generated, and what the Return Visit percentage was. Also, note the Estimated Earnings for that month, from that site.

It's to be hoped that the annual trend is upwards, or some course correction will be in order!

The free PDF can be downloaded on this special SEO, SEM and KWR planning page. If you find it useful, be sure to share this resource using the social share bar below.

Monday, 2 January 2017

3 Hot SEO Topics You Missed in 2016!

One of the perennial SEO tasks that hits in January is the usual debate over which of the hundreds of search signals you should pay attention to for the coming year.

2016 has been interesting for a lot of reasons, and in search there have been some trends that might have passed you by.

Firstly, though, I'd like to pull out the usual advice that I give clients in January: make a search engine marketing plan. That includes, as always, three things that you didn't do last year, and will do this year, and disposes of three things that didn't work out.

If tyou don't find three things that didn't work out, then either you weren't paying attention, or you haven't been tracking your SEO and SEM activities.

At least that gives you something to put on the 'To Do More Of' list in 2017.

Here's the three things that are most common to my search clients for 2017 and which everyone should continue to do, or start doing in earnest.

Mobile & Local

Right off the bat, making web pages mobile friendly has to be a priority if, like many, you have sidestepped the topic over the past year.

It's more than just moving to a responsive theme on your blog; embracing mobile properly also means:

  • checking the mobile-friendliness of advertising network partners;
  • double-checking plug-in mobile compatibility;
  • creating content with mobile in mind, selectively published for mobile devices.

This last goes hand in hand with local search.

There are a lot of searches that tend to be done on mobile platforms that are also local. The image I like to use is that of a person in the street, using their mobile device to compare prices and make bookings for beauty treatments at neighbouring, competing salons.

It happens. It will happen more frequently in 2017 than 2016, so get used to it.

User First

For 2017, everyone needs to put their users (readers, customers, clients or audience) first in their SEO and SEM activities.

Not the search engines. There are still too many people who look at this as a technology issue, when it isn't any more. The symptom is putting search engines first (i.e. white hat optimisation and near keyword-stuffing) and the cure is user-first SEM.

That means:

  • better content;
  • responding to needs;
  • testing the balance of information-to-sale.

The first one is easy. Have a content plan, based on keyword research, using the full plethora of tools available, and apply it every step of the way. Make it interesting, personal, and relevant.

That means responding to the needs of the audience. If video works best, give them video. If it's how-to PDF files they're after, then create a content plan around that. Check out the questions they are asking, and then give them best-in-class content to answer the questions, and a best-in-class product to go with it.

Of course, that means paying attention to tracking results. It's time to install trackers, pay attention to Search Console and Analytics and make sure you know what works every step of the way, and then replicate it across the content delivery platform.

Keyword Research for RankBrain

Google's gotten smarter in 2016.

The introduction of RankBrain means that your content has multiple meanings to a search engine. The best bit about this is that you don't need to create different pieces of content for different audiences, when they are semantically close in search space.

The slightly troublesome aspect is that you should be a lot more attuned to concepts for your content, and concentrate much less on exact words to represent it.

Yes, you can still use keyword research to uncover your audience's needs, but when it comes to content creation, use the full richness of language to get your ideas across, rather than trying to target a single phrase. It's a tricky balance, but with practice one that is fairly easy to get right.

So, as you go into 2017 with your content marketing plan rolled up under your arm, keyed to topics that you have proven will attract traffic, just remember that it's about the end user, not trying to get free organic traffic at any cost to quality content delivery.

If you want one-on-one help building a search engine marketing plan for 2017, then please use this form to request a free web site evaluation.