It's 2015: Are We Really Spending This Much Time On Keyword Research?

It’s 2015—Are We Really Spending This Much Time on Keyword Research?

Man, all this measurement and accountability in digital marketing sure has made life in the marketing department feel cutthroat. Last year, digital marketers spent most of their time not in demand generation or inbound marketing, but in analytics, proving the value of their creative ideas and business execution.

Guess which activity came in second? Keyword research. That’s because on average, almost two-thirds of your web traffic comes from organic search, which is driven by keywords.

Keyword research helps digital marketers understand consumer questions and ongoing conversations surrounding a product or service. Although research into keyword volume can tell you which words are the most popular, it cannot tell you how to rank for them. And traditional keyword research definitely cannot tell you where the conversation is headed.

How the Use of Keywords Is Changing in Content Marketing

To gain high rankings in the past, digital marketers took advantage of rigid, matter-of-fact search engines. Naturally, the winners back then were the best at stuffing keywords and jamming anchor text. Today, in a major shift, we see that people and their conversations drive search results around well-established brands and topics.

When Lexus released a video of a Lexus Hoverboard created by their engineers, the hoverboard quickly trended on social media and almost immediately became an important subtopic that Google Autocomplete placed above a whole Lexus product line, the Lexus Hybrid.

Lexus results in Google Autocomplete

This is just one example of how great content is changing the way that marketers approach search. Here are a few areas that traditional SEO tools and tactics are being replaced by new content-marketing-driven SEO.

How to Build Out a Keyword List for Content Marketing

Today, we develop our seed list of keywords through a content strategy workshop that forces us to focus on the audiences we want to build. Here at Skyword, we learned a while back that buyer personas and audience personas are not the same. We learned that audience personas require marketers to dig deeper to discover real passion points in the lives of would-be buyers and buyer influencers. The content strategy workshop is disruptive to the old SEO mindset of pummeling product-focused keywords and content. I highly recommend it to any marketer.

Theme and Topic Development for Content Marketing

Now that we have a seed keyword list, think of theme and topic research as the new keyword expansion for content marketing. Rather than simply expanding a keyword into a long-tail term, we are seeking to find associated words and ideas that are closely related without necessarily containing the keyword itself. Social listening tools like Sysomos take a keyword query scan all the user-generated content on social media, blog content, and traditional media sites to determine what content is trending and in what context. BuzzSumo offers less robust content keyword monitoring for smaller marketing teams at a lower price point.

“Ranking in a post-Panda world means focusing on more than just individual keywords; it necessitates focusing on themes.” – John Rampton

Lexus Hoverboard BuzzGraph Report from Sysomos

One Sysomos report called the BuzzGraph provides a snapshot of any topic and the subtopics that branch out from it. With the example of the Lexus Hoverboard in mind, let’s take a look at the results of a BuzzGraph report. First, it quickly becomes clear that people have been talking about how the frictionless skateboard works and how it is powered by magnets and superconductors. Additionally, people have also been talking about the skatepark itself. Lastly, we see that nostalgia comes into play for this topic, and people have regularly compared this Lexus Hoverboard to the one Marty McFly rode in the science-fiction classic movie, Back To The Future.

Any content marketer interested in capturing the Lexus Hoverboard audience should leverage these insights and turn them into content.

How Related Search Hints at Demand Generation

Audience development can be tough to swallow, especially if you’ve been cranking on demand generation through search using the same old brand and product keywords for years. I get that. So this last recommendation is for a simple and easy tactic that might open your eyes to the power your audience has in creating search demand for your brand.

Google Searches Related to Lexus Hoverboard

Enter a Google search for your company and a separate search for your top products, and then scroll to the bottom of the search engine results page. Here you’ll find related searches that are being suggested based on query volume and previous customer journeys through search. These are definitely keyword phrases worth targeting either through optimization to existing pages or through new content.

Old-school SEOs have been great about documenting their strategies so that future tests and changes are moving marketing efforts forward rather than repeating past mistakes. If you do borrow any of the suggestions in this post, be sure to document your newly targeted keyword well and prioritize them by opportunity and value to your business.

And, if you’d like to talk to someone who can help you develop your full content strategy, feel free to request a content strategy workshop with Skyword.

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