This is part 10 of a 12 part series on keyword research. This series will guide you through four distinct phase of the keyword research process, providing you step by step guidelines to help you gather, sort and organize your keywords into an effective marketing campaign.

Analyzing Phrases for Quality

Quality phrases

As we began Phase III of our keyword research process we discussed several different aspects of analyzing phrases. This helped us better understand the value of each phrase and the pros and cons that each bring to the table. Each of these much be considered and weighed carefully when determining if a keyword is valuable or not.

All of the above noted elements are pretty cut-and-dry and fairly easy to analyze. But in addition to those there are also some more vague elements that must be duly considered as well. These additional elements are far more subjective and require a good deal of thought and analysis.

What's the customer looking for?

The most important aspect of analyzing and eliminating keywords is to fully understand what the customer is looking for. We often see keywords through our own lens of understanding. You think about things a certain way because you are educated and trained that way. But the customer may not be educated in the same way, or at all, in terms of industry related jargon. So you have to step outside of your own thought processes and learn to look through the lens of searchers who think differently from the way you do.

One question you have to ask is, what does the searcher really mean when they type in a specific query? Often times the query itself isn't clear at all and what you are thinking they mean may not be what they are thinking. Ranking for these types of unclear terms is pretty valueless. Few searchers will even click on the site if they scan the results and don't see what they are looking for.

The searchers intent can also be different from the results produced. In these cases the search engines are determining the intent of the search and produce the results by their best algorithmic estimation. Again, if the searcher sees somethign different in the SERPs from what they wanted they'll go back and perform a new search.

In these cases, how do you get into the mind of the searcher? You can't always, but what you can do is scan through the search results for any given query. If the results are a match for what you offer then great, you've got yourself a worthwhile phrase. On the other hand, if the results are all for something completely different, then likely the searcher isn't looking for what you thought they were looking for.

Other times you just might to have to think through logically. If the searcher is looking for "wet t-shirts" you can be pretty sure they are not looking to buy a t-shirt that's waterproof. That's an extreme example but you get the point.

Future and seasonal trends

Trends can play a significant factor in determining the value any particular keyword. Several years ago I was doing keyword research for a client in the wedding planning business. This was just as the movie "The Wedding Planner" was hitting theaters which caused searches for "wedding planner" to be skewed much higher than normal.

Understanding current trends such as this can ensure you don't make an error in your keyword targeting. For this client "wedding planner" was still relevant despite the higher than normal search volume, but if the trends were not considered the client might assume this was the absolute best keyword to target over others such as "wedding planning".

As the above case proves, search volumes can often be over inflated, or even under inflated at different times. This is especially true with seasonal based products. Performing your keyword research at the right time of year is important, but it's also important that you understand the ebb and flow in overall search volume.

It's also a good idea to keep an eye on potential future trends. Some valuable queries may not be searched at all today, but can become extremely relevant and highly trafficked at some point in the near future. Getting a jump on any such terms can be a great investment in future returns. Also keep in mind that today's popular terms can fade and will be searched less and less over time. There is nothing you can do to avoid that when it happens, other than just be ready for that possibility.

What's missing in SERPs

Another way to determine what keywords might be good to target for optimization are areas in the search results that there is little or no competition. Search for your keywords looking for any gaps that are not being filled. Search volume for such phrases may be low, but if competition is low then you increase your chances of getting clicked. That, and if that term does become hot, you've laid claim to the top spot and it'll be much harder to push you out.

When performing these searches you can also get a good feel for the competition. Sometimes a good keyword will produce a lot of results, but the competition itself is easily displaceable. Size up the competition to see where you might be able to easily overcome them in the results.

Return on investment

The most critical thing to look at regarding keywords and phrases is whether or not the keyword will produce a return on investment for you. And this is where all of the elements noted here and in the previous posts must all be weighted together, adding in the factor of time. Knowing how much time and effort will it take to get any particular keyword to rank can be vitally important to understanding if that effort is worth the return that particular keyword will provide.

Putting all other factors aside, we have found that phrases that are two to four words provide the best return on investment. This allows each search term to be both descriptive yet specific, both of which are key. If such a term is typed into the search engine and your site appears, the searcher knows you have precisely what they are looking for.

The image below gives you a general rule of thumb of where your ROI is in keyword phrases. You can see that as more traffic is delivered, the conversion rated decrease and as the keywords that bring in less traffic produce higher conversion rates. And there in the middle are your three- and four-word phrases that generally produce the best return on investment.

Keyword ROI Zone.

Don't rely on your own analysis

Don't rely on yourself.When analyzing keywords another big help can be seeking out the opinions and thoughts of others. Again, this goes back to not looking solely through our own lens but allowing ourselves to look through the lens of others. And there is no better way to do that than to actually get the input from others.

When seeking outside opinion, here are a few people that you can seek out:

  • Colleagues
  • Assistants
  • Managers
  • Outside experts
  • Clients

If you perform SEO for someone other than yourself, your client can be one of your best resources. Go to them at all stages of the keyword research process to get their insights and opinions. Otherwise, seek out other qualified and even unqualified individuals as they all have a unique perspective to share that can be valuable in learning more about your audience.

Missed one of the steps in this series? Click here to go back to the introduction and follow the links at the bottom.


October 30, 2008





Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.





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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Comprehensive Guide to Keyword Research, Selection & Organization, Part X