Where Big Data and Key­word Man­age­ment Intersect

In my world of keyword-driven mar­ket­ing, key­word research is fun­da­men­tal to the search mar­ket­ing dis­ci­pline. Even in light of Not Pro­vided trends, it is core to every­thing we do to know what our mar­ket is inter­ested in, their intent, and whether we have a mean­ing­ful mes­sage to deliver.

And yet key­word man­age­ment is an inher­ently dif­fi­cult endeavor.  You have to account for the var­i­ous phases—research, val­i­da­tion, con­tent cre­ation and inte­gra­tion, local­iza­tion, qual­ity assur­ance, and updat­ing. It’s too easy to jum­ble the process to the point of recre­at­ing the wheel every time we put together a mar­ket­ing cam­paign. Big Data is the cul­prit and even more incred­i­ble is that we, the mar­keters, cre­ate the enigma called Big Data in the case of key­word management.

I don’t know about you but I’ve devel­oped this Jabba the Hut (of Stars Wars fame) pho­bia about Big Data. Big Data can become this amor­phous blob of sticky, gooey stuff that you first put in a shoe box until it starts over­flow­ing, and then you find a big­ger box and a big­ger box until you need a lad­der just to reach in to get some key­words only to come out with goo up to your elbows that you can’t sort out to save your life.

It all starts out inno­cently enough. Your busi­ness begins as a local startup with a web­site designed to adver­tise your prod­ucts and ser­vices. Yes, it comes with key­words if you were smart and had your web­site con­structed by rep­utable SEO peo­ple. Or in the cor­po­rate set­ting, you’re a one-person in-house organic and paid search pro­fes­sional tasked with dri­ving increas­ing results.

Either way, true oper­a­tional excel­lence for key­word man­age­ment is nowhere at the top of your pri­or­ity list.  And since every web­site demands you develop con­tent and it must be kept fresh and key­word rel­e­vant, you sim­ply get after it. You expand to the next city, county, state, or coun­try and opti­mize your Web prop­er­ties to con­tin­u­ally rank high.

They all come with key­words and more con­tent. You bite the bul­let and invest in a tool to do a Web audit to col­lect all these key­words and phrases—or even bet­ter make use of your Google and Bing Web­mas­ter Tools accounts or an SEO dash­board. Then, you invest in a tool to review and “steal” your competitor’s key­words and phrases and add those to your box of stuff. Next, you invest in a tool that comes com­plete with a key­word data­base of 100 mil­lion key­words when a The­saurus, moti­va­tion, and some cre­ative thought would have done just fine.

Now you’ve crossed the point of no return into the no man’s land of Big Data. What’s worse is that you’re ill-prepared to han­dle the prob­lem and man­age it. Hell, you can’t even lift the box any­more. You need a fork­lift and a wet suit so you can dive into the muck.

Well, you cre­ated a Big Data mess, and you have to reduce it to small data rel­e­vance. Key­words and phrases are your dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing lifeblood, and it’s absolutely essen­tial you man­age them enter­prise wide. I could get on my soap­box and preach the virtues of any num­ber of solu­tions, but per­son­ally, I favor the cow­boy approach. Sim­ply put, it’s more agile and flex­i­ble to meet the dynamic land­scape that the search engines keep cre­at­ing for us. The most impor­tant things to a savvy west­ern cow­boy were his horse and a good pair of boots. The equiv­a­lent to a horse for the savvy mar­keter is Excel or the database/spreadsheet of your choice. Your boots are all the rel­e­vant Excel add-ins that some very smart peo­ple have devel­oped over time. Some are free; some are avail­able at a min­i­mal price. How did I find them? Yep, you guessed it. I used an iter­a­tive key­word search. ClickZ had a par­tic­u­larly use­ful sum­mary of all the free Excel add-in pos­si­bil­i­ties and if you’re a lit­tle light on expe­ri­ence in using Excel as a data­base, About​.com has a great primer.

The Prac­ti­cal Takeaways

  1. Deter­mine key­word demand for your top terms.
  2. It’s tempt­ing but don’t overdo this initially—it’s an ongo­ing process. Sim­ply use Google’s Key­word Plan­ner, iden­tify the top five brand and non­brand terms per prod­uct or solu­tion you sell, and include monthly key­word demand.
  3. Deter­mine the intent of your users
  4. Add another col­umn to your spread­sheet called “Mar­ket­ing Fun­nel” and use the AIDA con­cept to doc­u­ment whether the key­words you’ve listed are focused on aware­ness, inter­est, or deci­sion. Most likely, they’re the lat­ter. Go back to step one and gen­er­ate some addi­tional key­words for aware­ness (usu­ally non­brand terms) and inter­est (easy to gen­er­ate with intent adjec­tives like “down­load, free, com­pare, buy, try, use, find, coupon” etc.) Then add sup­port or post­pur­chase intent for phrases like “help, sup­port, learn” matched with your top keywords.
  5. Map key­words to content
  6. In the SEO world, qual­ity con­tent mat­ters. How­ever, your Web and con­tent stake­hold­ers may dif­fer on how this is defined. Not every key­word will have a page or any match­ing con­tent. The real work here is the hard deci­sions with your team­mates to deter­mine which busi­ness goals, dri­ven by con­tent, are met through the key­words you’ve defined. This is not an exact sci­ence; it is based on both quan­ti­ta­tive data (i.e. key­word demand or keyword-level per­for­mance) and qual­i­ta­tive fac­tors (con­sumer inter­est or expectation).
  7. Keep improv­ing
  8. Key­word research and con­tent align­ment are not glam­ourous nor easy. But when done right, it can trans­form even large global web­sites into des­ti­na­tions that con­sis­tently cater to the high­est keyword-oriented needs of visitors.

So, put on your boots, get on your horse, and ride. It’s never too early to start. You can’t get to where you need to be until you get on the road.



Great work...Very interesting ..Thanks for sharing


Thanks Dave, it's good to repeat the basics from time to time.

Your phrase "Keep improv­ing" just made my day!

I will. And I will encourage others through my blog!