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.
Image by ~~Jo~~ via Flickr
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...)
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 ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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