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SES NYC – Avinash Kaushik – Keyword Discovery and The Long Tail

March 28, 2010

Day 2 at SES in NYC was a fascinating day and I wanted to reiterate the points that Avinash Kaushik made during his keynote presentation. Avinash was brilliant, funny and right on the mark when he spoke about keyword discovery. He pointed out that many big brand writers are focused on brand terms but miss the people who search with the long tail. Many site owners still mistakenly believe that by ranking # 1 for any term closely related to the content of their page will produce an influx of visitors. Although this may occasionally be true, these high rankings will not drive qualified visitors to your site or page.

It’s a point we have made in our book and here at IBM for the last couple of years. These individuals are searching with generic terms looking for your categories but not necessarily connected to your brand terms. He calls these people “impression virgins” because they don’t know what they want yet. Your goal is to get in front of them first. He uses Kodak as an example. They show up all over the SERP for their brand term. Then he searched for a number of keyword phrases he thought Kodak would rank for, like their products and affordable DSLR. Kodak didn’t show up at all. He even searched for a phrase he copied from their site and not so much as an ad showed up. For example, Kodak has a Flip-esque video camera that has removable storage and a mic plugin, but they don’t show up for relevant searches. He also lists other companies that probably do just as badly. He’s an equal opportunity critic that drives his point home With regards to his blog Avinash said “God bless the long tail because 26,000 different keywords brought 35,534 visitors.

Another take away is that your keyword strategy should not be a fishing expedition. Use all the tools that are available, many of which are free. Some people will only go to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to find more keywords. He says you won’t suck as badly, but it’s not enough. He then went on to demo Google’s Search-based Keyword Tool which takes search queries from around the world and shows monthly searches volume. Keyword tag clouds are also an excellent way visualizing tons of data. Use a tool like Wordle on your website and see what’s missing from your strategy.  He sums it up by saying that by only optimizing for your brand terms, you’re saying, “We only want to do business with people who know us.” Optimize for the right term or you are missing opportunities. Long tail terms have many searches that have a lower competition level that you can optimize for. Ranking well for these keywords means more qualified leads to your pages.

One point that Avinash didn’t mention was the importance of social media for keyword research. Keep in mind that another helpful approach to locating additional related keywords or long tail words in your investigation would be to review a variety of topical social media sites. Social media sites can allow you to listen to what and how your customers are speaking about associated keywords and topics.

In speaking about social media, you will continually see the terms tags, tagging, notes, bookmarks, etc.  These refer to a word or phrase used to describe a bookmark. When perusing sites, people utilize tags or bookmarks to organize and categorize their searching experiences and be able to come back to these pages on the Web with ease. These tags can provide some insight into popular word usage and search query construction. This lends additional perspective to the possible keywords people use when they search. In some cases, these social media tools can show the semantic relationship between words. The keywords that surface while using social media tools can also provide interesting insights into how users perceive your products, services and/or content.

With that explanation, you can find out how people are tagging your site by using some of these available tools. You might want to start out with  www.delicious/tag/ , a social bookmarking site which allows you to see if your keywords are being used as tags and to view other complimentary tags.  Another nifty function, www.delicious.com/url/, allows you to see if your URL is being tagged. Read more about using social media for research in our book.

So, as you can see, keyword research is the most important ingredient of search engine optimization and search engine marketing campaigns. The keywords you select make up the core of your search marketing efforts. It is important to decide them before creating your content, whether off-line or on-line. Your sponsored campaign ads, landing pages, press releases, TV and other off-line media such as newspapers, trade journals and magazines will use these words. The proper selection of keywords can help you to build a distinct brand identity for your company. Do your discovery and select words that trade magazines, industry analysts and social media sites use to describe your product or service.

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