Lee Odden

Fixed & Dynamic Keyword Lists for Content Marketing: It’s NOT Either Or

keywordsBringing insights about content marketing to light often involves the importance of understanding what topics and pain points customers care about. Creating content for business communications with customers, peers, employees and the industry is an essential part of doing business.

Creating content alone isn’t enough to ensure intended audiences will read it, so researching search keywords and social topics related to your business is a helpful way to empathize with what customers are looking for and what they’re interested in.

Content and SEO go hand in hand, especially for improving discovery of brand stories and key marketing messages. SEO and content marketing best practices call for research into what language customers use when searching for your products and services so that content can be optimized for better visibility. The result of that research is a keyword glossary managed through a SEO Project Management tool and/or a spreadsheet. These phrases are a mix of broad concepts the company wants to be known for as well as phrases indicating more specific customer intent.

For example:  “online marketing” is a very, very broad phrase we like this blog to be known for. At the same time, there are more specific phrases like “facebook marketing”, “twitter marketing” and “infographic marketing” that represent relevant sub-topics of interest to our readers. Even more specific phrases might include “b2b social media case studies” or “social media ecommerce examples” which are more specific indications of interest in the subject matter we cover for our target audience.

A fixed list of keywords is something that provides editorial guidance for content producers accross the organization. However, putting a keyword on a list and thinking the initial effort at producing content will result in a top position on Google for that key phrase is nothing short of naive. Broad topics that are highly competitive can take hundreds of posts and links to those posts before a search engine like Google will decide your brand is the best answer for a search query.

If I decided today that “internet marketing: was going to be a focus phrase, we might have some advantage because of an abundance of related content and numerous inbound links from relevant and credible sources, but we’d still have to work long and hard to achieve and maintain a top position. Companies that go after broad concepts from scratch will have even more of an uphill battle. That said, anything is doable with the right vision, expertise and resources.

The problem is, I’ve heard more than one new media or social media thought leader describe the notion of using keywords in an editorial calendar as “limiting” and pooh poohing the practice. They suggest that content creators write in the moment or focus solely on real-time monitoring for inspiration. Those perspectives come from a lack of implementation knowledge about SEO, especially within large organizations. That can be very costly for brands in terms of missed opportunity and allowing others to gain competitive advantage on important search terms.

Best practices SEO calls for a combination of fixed keyword lists and monitoring real time conversations for keyword and content opportunities. I’ve called this “Search Keywords and Social Topics” in numerous presentations over the past few years. These two types of keyword research and monitoring are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s essential they work together, especially in competitive categories  Fixed keyword lists aren’t really “fixed either”. They often get audited every few months with weekly or monthly updates based on trends observed from web analytics.

Dynamic keywords are managed with spreadsheets as well and focus on real-time and social media monitoring in combination with web analytics and public trending data sources to reveal conversational content creation and optimization opportunities.

Working together, a content marketing program that’s savvy about SEO and Social Media to inspire discovery will be far more successful that focusing solely on keyword sourcing from social media monitoring or fixed keyword lists alone.

  • The cost of focusing solely on fixed list keywords is not producing and optimizing for content that’s current and trending,
  • The cost of focusing solely on real-time topics is never dominating for more popular keyword phrases or general topics that represent the brand’s industry of focus. How important do you think ranking #1 on Google for “laptops” is for Best Buy? That keyword phrase represents an important product category for Best Buy and wouldn’t be possible without smart search engine optimization.

Hopefully, if you’re one of those social media rock stars, keynote speakers or agency heads that discounts SEO or the usefulness of managing the words that represent what customers care about, you’ll have a more open mind and a deeper understanding of the interplay between fixed list and dynamic keywords for managing editorial plans.

And if you do continue to think SEO and keyword insight isn’t useful, that’s OK too. Because Online Marketing agencies like mine will continue to take search market share away from your clients with smart  Social SEO & Content Marketing. 🙂

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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 Buddy Hodges says

    Thanks Lee, 

    You have explained very intelligently a balanced content marketing formula from an SEO point of view. Naturally we want our great content to be found, so SEO is key. 

    I would like to add consideration of one more element from a content creator’s point of view. Great content not only satisfies the needs of the audience, but also expresses the true expertise and interests of the writer. Although I agree that optimizing for SEO is very important, I also want to offer the value that is uniquely mine. In other words I am writing to advocate my point of view and leave a legacy. 

    Two metaphors come to mind. 
    1) The old song: “I’ve got to make my own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along.”
         I would not go quite that far, of course, because I DO want lots of readers!
    2) I would rather make love than be a prostitute.  If we can do both at the same time, so much the better!

    • Thanks Buddy. Self expression to leave a legacy drives many of us. I’m not sure if that’s an objective for many companies that hire copywriters though – or the driver to create marketing content that inspires prospects to become customers.

      If one of my copywriters was tasked with creating an article that tells a brand story for a particular audience with expected outcomes and instead offered something more a reflection of their own (differing) point of view. That wouldn’t serve the needs of the client who is paying the bills. Many of our copywriters have their own blogs, books and other writing projects for advocating their point of view without constraint.

      I appreciate the goals of advancing one’s own visibility as a creator. As an agency owner working on behalf of clients, my clients expect that our writing for marketing has to first and foremost serve the interests of those paying for it. What makes the difference between functional and exceptional writing is the incorporation of the writers’ own point of view – but only as long as it supports the intended objective.

  2. Avatar Sydney @ Social Dynamics says

    Great tips! If the content is going to be published in real time, it would be best to make use of the current and relatable keywords on that timeline, as to boost circulation to the content streams.

  3. Great advice.  I’m just about to take over a companies social media campaign (including blogging) and blog topic creation is a key thought in my mind right now.

    Do you have any recommended top sources that you use for finding trending topics?

    • Twitter, Google Trends, SocialMention.com and social media monitoring tools that create word clouds or clusters of topics related to the topic you’re tracking. Also web analytics is good for trends.

      • Awesome. Thanks Lee!

      • Avatar Bhaskar Sarma says

        Lee, I was about to ask this question, but David beat me to it.

        I am curious to know your system for generating the excel sheets of keywords from different sources. Is there some kind of service that aggregates all the keywords from publicly available sources which then can be manipulated and filtered and maybe exported into different formats?

  4. Great post…Thanks for sharing

  5. This is Great idea for keyword research and quality content . content is king for your website, products.

  6. Informative post Lee. Specially like your last sentence! It is indeed an ongoing and time taking process….

  7. Avatar Shira Orion says

    Thanks, this is good info.  Should you include ‘hot’ words as judged by Google’s top per-click bid ? force – include in your content even when it might not be relevant, just for SEO needs? I was pretty surprise to see that the number one grossing term for Google search is the word “insurance”.

  8. Thanks – it was good info.  What I try to preach to our blog writers every week.  Content means nothing if the right keywords or search terms are not used.

    @Shira -I, too was VERY surprised that “insurance” was the number one grossing word for Google.  Got to wonder why.  I know that we @Beyond.com post a lot of insurance jobs.  Regardless of the economy, every needs some type of “insurance” or financial analyst – to help them get through these down times as well as to plan for the future.  That could be why. 

  9. This is Great article, what i mostly do is just write an article for my target group than provide it with the right keywords, make the most relevant kewyord bold in the content en make use of one hyperlink with the right anchor to a relevant topic.  Always stay between 4-8 % of keyword density. The only problem with choosing the right keywords is that of you use the free tool of Google (adwords suggestion) there i a huge difference between that data Google provide you and the real search volume…

    • True – but the GA tool can get you started in the right direction. Not so sure about adhering to specific keyword density and the impact of text markup like bold, but if it makes sense from a user experience perspective, and the content is compelling “post optimization”, then why not.

  10. Avatar Network With Bradley says

    You have an amazing amount of usefull content on your blog.. I bookmarked it for furture reads. Thanks for putting in a lot of effort for us

  11. Very useful article…u will go a long way..! Thanks for all the support 🙂