You probably use many sources to brainstorm your search keywords, but how do you know if your customers are starting to change the way they search for your products? Have you listened to what your customers are saying? Time was that listening to customers demanded expensive focus groups and surveys, but that time has passed. Nowadays, you can listen to social media conversations and analyze them for any number of purposes, including search keywords.

Word Cloud

Image by ~~Jo~~ via Flickr

Think about how you do keyword research normally. You probably start by entering into the search engines some keywords you know are relevant. Then you look at what pages come up and start to catalog in your mind some other words that you see on those pages. Then you start entering some of those words and continue the process until you start to see that you are getting too far away from the original subject.

Then you take those words and use a keyword research tool to help you see which words are searched for frequently enough to be valuable, and then you let those tools show you other popular variations. And while all of that is very smart, you know that over time your customers start to shift what they are looking for.

The language around your product might change, due to technology changes (cell phone becomes smart phone), changes in customer needs (low cost becomes total cost of ownership), or simple shifts in the language (energy efficient becomes green). When it does, you need some way of picking up on what's happening so you can adjust your keyword mix in response.

For large businesses, you can use social media listening services to help you find new words that your regular keyword research might not have uncovered. The listening companies will do the work for you and find those nuggets that you might have missed. [Full disclosure: I serve as Chief Strategist at Converseon, one of those companies happy to listen to your conversation and help you with search marketing also.]

But for small businesses with limited (no?) budgets, what can they do to listen to their customers' conversations?

Google Alerts to the rescue. You probably already use Google Alerts to monitor mentions about yourself and your company, but you can also use it for keyword research. You can load up Google Alerts with a bunch of your keywords and start reading the stories that come your way for new keywords.

But, gee, that seems like a lot of work, doesn't it?

To take the drudgery out of it, use a word cloud (as pictured above), which visualizes the words being used so that you can see which ones seem to be occurring more than others. To automatically generate a word cloud from your Google Alerts, set up an RSS feed for your Google Alerts, rather than e-mail notification. Then, enter the URL for that RSS feed into Wordle, which creates a word cloud from any RSS feed.

Just point your RSS feed at this tool every once in a while, and immediately see what you are missing. When you listen to what your customers tell you, it's amazing how smart you can look. (Only you and I know the truth...)

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February 11, 2010

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


A lot of my customers are saying: Yes but i want you to improve my rank on that word only, so when i say no, u have do improve the rankings on the users searched words they just say no. But when they see the traffic goes up and sales down, they know why!

Thanks for sharing btw. :-)

Keywords may be the Holy Grail but your article hits the nail on the head that you need to monitor keywords constantly. Monitoring the traffic through the website, focus groups and tag clouds are all great for finding out what keywords your target audience is using. Another great tip is constantly doing competitor analysis and finding out what keywords your competitors are ranking highly for as well.

Thank you for sharing this post. Especially the advise about Google Alerts in combination with a word cloud! I am seriously considering to implement that advice for keyword research.

Very interesting posting! Now I know that you can generate a word cloud from Google Alerts. And these will be the source of your keywords. Thanks

Me I set up correctly my meta tag (keywords, robots,describtion..), but when i search in my category, for exemple I have a Catering Business in NYC, when i tape Catering ny or caterer new york, i never find my website in this category...I would like to now where is the problem, here it's the Meta Tag analyser:

Title: Title meta tag contains no errors.
This tag contains 24 characters.

Title relevancy to page content is excellent.
The Title relevancy to page content is 100%.


Description: Description meta tag contains no errors.
This tag contains 166 characters.

Description relevancy to page content is very good.
The Description relevancy to page content is 85%.


Keywords: Keywords meta tag contains no errors.
This tag contains 16 keywords and 195 characters.

Keyword relevancy to page content is very good.
The keywords relevancy to page content is 94%.


Robots: The Robots meta tag contains no errors.
This tag contains 13 characters.


Author: The Author meta tag contains no errors.
This tag contains 22 characters.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Listen to Your Customers to Adjust Your Keywords