It all begins with words typed into a search box.
Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the "right" keywords can make or break your website. Through the detective work of puzzling out your market's keyword demand, you not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.
It's not always about getting visitors to your site, but about getting the right kind of visitors. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated - with keyword research you can predict shifts in demand, respond to changing market conditions, and produce the products, services, and content that web searchers are already actively seeking. In the history of marketing, there has never been such a low barrier to entry in understanding the motivations of consumers in virtually every niche.
How much is a keyword worth to your website? If you own an online shoe store, do you make more sales from visitors searching for "brown shoes" or "black boots?" The keywords visitors type into search engines are often available to webmasters, and keyword research tools allow us to find this information. However, those tools cannot show us directly how valuable it is to receive traffic from those searches. To understand the value of a keyword, we need to understand our own websites, make some hypotheses, test, and repeat - the classic web marketing formula.
|A basic process for assessing a keyword’s value:|
Is the keyword relevant to your website's content? Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using these keywords? Will they be happy with what they find? Will this traffic result in financial rewards or other organizational goals? If the answer to all of these questions is a clear "Yes!", proceed...
Search for the term/phrase in the major engines
Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.
Buy a sample campaign for the keyword at Google AdWords and/or Bing Adcenter
If your website doesn't rank for the keyword, you can nonetheless buy "test" traffic to see how well it converts. InGoogle Adwords, choose "exact match" and point the traffic to the relevant page on your website. Track impressions and conversion rate over the course of at least 2-300 clicks.
Using the data you’ve collected, determine the exact value of each keyword.
For example, if your search ad generated 5,000 impressions, of which 100 visitors have come to your site and 3 have converted for total profit (not revenue!) of $300, then a single visitor for that keyword is worth $3 to your business. Those 5,000 impressions in 24 hours could generate a click-through rate of between 18-36% with a #1 ranking (see the Slingshot SEO study for more on potential click-through rates), which would mean 900-1800 visits per day, at $3 each, or between 1-2 million dollars per year. No wonder businesses love search marketing!
Even the best estimates of value fall flat against the hands-on process of optimizing and calculating ROI. Search Engine Optimization involves constant testing, experimenting and improvement. Remember, even though SEO is typically one of the highest return marketing investments, measuring success is still critical to the process.