Lee Odden

Advanced Keyword Research – SES Chicago

Advanced Keyword ResearchMy first liveblog for SES Chicago didn’t happen until day three. The lucky topic? Advanced Keyword Research presented by Ron Jones CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing. Ron and I are mutual retweet friends and while I’ve read many of his articles on ClickZ, I hadn’t seen him speak before.

Ron started things out by taking a poll to qualify the audience (smart) to see how many have done keyword research before. Most have.

The importance of keyword research:
Is keyword research strategic or tactical? When we use keywords we reinforce searcher expectations. As marketers, then we have the responsibility to deliver on that expectation. Picking the right keywords plus having relevant content to match equals conversion. As a result, the use of keywords and keyword research is a strategic function.

What happens when you use the wrong keywords? You waste significan resources, not reach the right audience and attract visitors who will not convert. Think about how long it takes to achieve top search visibility for tough keywords only to find out they’re the wrong keywords – waste of time.

The role of keyword research and how it relates to other marketing channels. Keywords are the fundamental building blocks for all online and offline marketing campaigns. This means tactics like: SEO, PPC, Mobile, Social, Local, Video and Images and Traditional Marketing. Keywords have been used in product naming and naming of services. Keyword referrers and subsequent website interaction can provide clues to consumer behavior and preferences.

Buying Cycle describes the buyer’s behavior as they move from research, refining search, content research and then decision/conversion. Keywords at the top of the buying cyucle tend to be broad and as the search process is refined towards decision, the keywords become more specific. The question to answer is what is the time span of your product or service.

Broad vs. Narrow keywords are a reflection of where the searcher is in the buying cycle. Example: bicycle and bycicle shop vs. trek madone 6.9 and bicycle shop denver co

Developing a keyword research process:

  • Blue Sky: Find all possible keywords
  • Refine: Identify the best performing keywords
  • Categorize: Break down into categories or themes
  • Test: Test the performance of keywords

As you start the process of keyword research, think about going outside your industry “standard” phrases. Understand your target audience and speak the language of your customers vs. than the language and jargon of the company/industry.

Keyword research tools

Suggestion tools include:

Forecast and Trend Tools


Look at the competition by visiting their website, looking at meta data (meta description & keywords) as well as title tags. Here are a few competitive keyword research tools:

Refining your keyword list. Just because a keyword phrase is the most popular, doesn’t mean it’s the right one to focus on. Weight the keyword phrases in your list with different data including populartiy, relevance, specificity and competition.

Remember that with keyword visibility, you’re setting expectations for consumers that discover your content in search using certain keywords. For great conversions, it’s essential that the content you deliver on that search visibility syncs up with whatever consumers are searching on.

How many keyword terms should you target? With SEO, it’s best to optimize at the page level for specific phrases, 1-3 phrases per page. Any more than that, and there will be dilution of relevance.   With PPC, you can target as many keyword phrases as you can afford. Think in terms of ad groups and the individual ads themselves. With social media keyword research, focus on core groups of keywords that reflect important conversations for your business.

Setup your campaigns, test and refine:  PPC is a great tool for testing keywords you’ll end up using for SEO.  PPC provides quick results for keyword performance and helps you know whether you’re getting the “right” audience. Ongoing monitoring of performance on the target keyword list will validate what’s working and what’s not so you can refine.

When should you use negative keywords? With a branding strategy you may or may not use negative keywords, but with a conversion strategy, you want to use negative keywords to filter out those visitors that are most unlikely to convert.   Some of the benefits of adding a negative keywords list to your PPC campaign:  Improves quality score, improves conversion rates, more qualified leads, lowering cost per conversion, improves visitor experience, improves relevancy, decreases bounce rate.

How to find negative keywords:  Use Google’s Keyword Tool, Google Analytics, PPC reports, Search Assist and Google Alerts.

Remember: Keyword Research is a strategic function, not tactical,. Keywords help marketers deliver the right content to the right consumers and increase user experience as well as conversions.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Justin Norris says

    A great rundown of keyword research. Thanks.

    • Thanks Justin, Ron did a good job and the format of his presentation made it possible for me to publish before the Q/A was finished. 🙂

  2. Hope you’re having fun in Chicago. For refining the list, I find weighting against the competition is the most challenging. I’ve run across instances where the competition is mostly directory type sites, and sometimes their easy to pass and sometimes they act like a brick wall. Frustrating for me and the client.

  3. Avatar Joseph Bestler says

    Great post Lee. I have a question, when testing your keywords, how long would you expect to wait before the engines pickup and rank your new words?

    • If your site has a lot of inbound links to it and is visited frequently by Googlebot (also if you update the sitemap made accessible to Google) the impact of keyword optimization should start to be visible within days or weeks at the longest. In some cases like the blog you’re reading, it’s within minutes. Of course these things are always a work in progress.

  4. Avatar William Alvarez says

    What is your opinion on the Google Keyword Tool not reporting accurate data anymore?

    • It’s not so much that the data is inaccurate, it’s that they are only showing counts for phrases with commercial intent. For many marketers, I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact on the usefulness of the tool. For more advanced marketers and SEOs, they’re getting data from other sources than Google keyword tool anyway.

  5. you’re really talented using the keyword research are extremely important strategic function
    thank you

  6. Totally agree that keyword research is important. When I first started IM, the first thing I learned is doing KW research. Knowing the right KWs let you target the audience and also helps in the ranking of our site. Thanks for sharing so much more of the tools and methods that we can use!

  7. tools you mentioned are the most important , i know it’s all about keywords now and being clever with the whole process is a big deal !!! good strategy !! 🙂

  8. Though Google AdWords keyword tool is good, it is designed from a business perspective rather than a user’s perspective. I recommend Google Suggestor which displays the top requests based on the millions of search data Google has collected. It is similar to creating a list based on what you think your customers want compared to asking the actual customers directly what they are looking for. And like the keyword tool, it is also free.Google Suggestor is free.

  9. Hi, I am new to your blog. This is a great article, when I try and explain the importance of Keyword research to clients I sometimes really struggle. Your article will help.

  10. Firstly, keyword research is very very important in SEO. You are having advanced research.. Thanks for this..
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