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How Effective Is Your Keyword Research



Aug 31, 2004, 1:23 PM

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How Effective Is Your Keyword Research?
BY Shari Thurow | August 30, 2004

Many search engine marketers and ad agencies offer keyword research services. Keyword research and analysis aren't as simple as using the tools available at Overture and Google. Web site owners must go beyond these tools and look at the big picture.

Keyword analysis can be performed on three levels:
  • Keyword research tools
  • Web analytics software
  • Site search engines

Data-mining all three levels provides site owners with the full perspective of how target audiences find the information on their Web sites.

Keyword Research Tools

Many of you probably already use the keyword research tools available at Overture, Google, and Wordtracker. By all means, keep using these tools. They provide great data for keyword research.

For long-term keyword analyses, I gather monthly data from Google, Overture, and Wordtracker. Additionally, I review related search results on Yahoo,, and Teoma. By researching all these resources, instead of just one, I can determine which specific keyword phrases are the most popular on all these Web search engines and look for a common denominator. I can also see subtle differences among the engines. Some searches are more popular on one engine than another.

For many sites, creating a keyword phrase calendar is a good strategy. The construction industry tends to be more active in warmer months than colder ones. The cold and flu season is coming up in the U.S., which has implications for pharmaceutical and health-related Web sites.

By creating a calendar based on keyword research over years, site owners know what pages to create for timely "natural" search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns and what ads to create for pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

Web Analytics Software

I always use Web analytics software (WebTrends, HitBox, ClickTracks, Omniture, etc.) to review keyword phrases. For example, if a natural SEO campaign is successful, the Web analytics software will reflect that success in the following areas:
  • Top referring sites
  • Top referring URLs
  • Top search engines
  • Top search phrases
  • Top search keywords
  • Top entry pages

Additionally, Web analytics software can show if site visitors access the most appropriate pages or sections on the site.

Web analytics software can also reveal untapped keyword phrases. On our own site, we found one of the most frequently visited pages is an article containing graphic design tips. Knowing our target audience seeks knowledge about that topic, we can create an article series on the topic that will provide additional entry points to our site for optimization campaigns and provide additional opportunities for link development campaigns.

Site Search Engines

If you have a site search engine, helpful information to review includes:
  • Number of words entered in the search query
  • Average number of words entered in the search query
  • Average number of characters entered in the search query
  • Search terms that yield results but no clicks
  • Search terms that yield no results

One item I like to measure is search box length. Sometimes, search boxes aren't long enough. When visitors enter several keywords in the box, they can't see all the words they typed. On the flip side, some search boxes are too long. I try to determine, through focus groups and usability tests, the optimum length of the search box based on the average number of keywords and characters entered in search queries.

Need a starting point? Begin with the length of Google's and Yahoo's search boxes.

Another overlooked item in site search is those search terms that yield results but no clicks. In many of the search engines our firm creates, we use meta-tag descriptions and title-tag content for the search results. If we find a specific keyword phrase consistently yields the appropriate URLs in the search results, then we know the calls to action in the title tag, meta-tag description, or both might not be effective. We'll then rewrite that specific content and measure the resulting CTRs.

What I find interesting is if we optimize pages for better site search engine conversions, Web search engine visibility increases, too.

Analyzing Keyword Research Data

By gathering and analyzing keyword data, Web site owners gain valuable insight to user behavior and ways to create a more user-friendly site that converts visitors into buyers.

Say a site owner discovers visitors are searching for a specific keyword phrase on Google, then arriving at a specific page on his site. He then discovers same keyword phrase is a heavily searched term on his site search engine. This data indicate visitors might not be arriving at the most appropriate landing page. Increasing optimization for other site pages may be necessary.

Compare site searches that yield no results with Web search engine data. If the Web search engines indicate a keyword phrase is popular, and the site search engine shows visitors have a genuine interest in a keyword phrase, you can create new information around a topic.


The goal of keyword research is to:
  • Discover new keyword opportunities.
  • Fix missed keyword opportunities.
  • Generate a calendar of keyword phrases; some keywords are more popular at different times of the year.
  • Increase the number of clicks from landing pages to the site.
  • Increase the relevance of landing pages from natural SEO, PPC advertising campaigns, press releases, or offline marketing efforts.

Remember, keyword research and analysis is an ongoing process.


Evan A. Heltay


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