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
- Determine keyword demand for your top terms.
- 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.
- Determine the intent of your users
- 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.
- Map keywords to content
- 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).
- Keep improving
- 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.