Inbound Marketing: Keyword Research

Inbound Marketing: Keyword Research

google keyword toolKeywords play an important role in an inbound marketing strategy. SEO has played a very visible and consistent role when it comes to inbound, as well. Even though search engines (namely Google) have made leaps and bounds in semantics and historical search, keywords are still a factor. In that same vein, the research marketers perform to find out what keywords they should use is very important. Choosing the right keywords means the difference between making sales and being irrelevant to searchers. Words and phrases can help us understand searcher intent and market demand for both content and the products and services we sell.

Types of Strategies

There are two common keyword strategies that most businesses should be thinking about. Those are branding and conversion strategies. Businesses could use one or the other or both of these. They can also be used on the same website, and may even contain words from either. The goals of these strategies, however, are entirely different, and the KPIs (key performance indicators) for a campaign are also very different.

Building an Online Brand Branding Strategies

A banding strategy involves getting exposure for a business. Selling something or getting people to engage in some way may also be involved, but for the most part, conversions are not the goal. Common KPIs for a branding strategy could include:

  • Number of visits to a website
  • Number of visits to some other web property
  • Rank in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)
  • Video views

Most branding strategies are geared only to get more exposure for the company or its products and/or services. If that is the goal, then an increase in visits, a high rank in SERPs or any other uptick in exposure online counts as a success (if it can be tied to keywords somehow).

Keywords in Branding Strategies

The keywords that are used in branding strategies don’t necessarily have to contain the brand name. For example a business may want to show up first in search results for the keyword “buy apple headphones.”

Using non-branded keywords in a branding keyword strategy can be much more difficult to rank for in search, or may cost more in PPC advertising than branded words because they are broader and more people are using them. By contrast, only you and perhaps a handful of others have your same brand name.

Conversion FunnelConversion Strategies

Conversion strategies are both more common and much more difficult to achieve. They also have a much broader range of KPIs because success in a conversion strategy means something different to every company.

Generally, KPIs could include:

  • Sales or products
  • Sales of services
  • Contact form signups
  • Downloads
  • Lead form completions
  • Quote form generations

There could be many different scenarios that mean dollars to a business. Keyword conversion strategies are those geared toward making money for a business. A caveat to this strategy is that it is much more dependent on marketers interpreting searcher intent based on what words they are using, as well as how they combine those with other words.

Searcher Intent

This refers to what a person means when they are typing a search query. Searcher intent is very important because if they don’t find your web page or ad relevant to their query, they will leave your site or not click on the ad.

It can be very difficult to predict searcher intent. For instance, when someone types in the word “headphones,” they could be looking to buy headphones, they may want to see pictures of headphones or maybe they want to know how to spell the word headphones.

Even with very specific queries, it can still be hard to guage searcher intent. For instance, “buy apple headphones” seems pretty straightforward; however, a marketer may still see low conversion rates (no one buying) on a web page optimized for this word because people are only looking for prices before moving on.

Choosing Your Keywords

For a conversion strategy, it is far better to go after more specific keyword phrases that have lower search volume and moderate competition (more on how to determine that later). This is because it is simply too difficult to gauge human intent from a broad keyword.

market-segmentFor example, if you have a business selling shoes online, it would be very foolish to try and rank dozens of product pages for the keyword “shoes.” It is foolish for two reasons. First, the keyword “shoes” is too broad. The user of the search engine could be thinking any number of different kinds of information related to shoes, all of which may have nothing to do with buying them. The second reason is that there is far too much competition using the word “shoes” in their copy. Not only are all the pages that contain phrases with the word “shoes” counted, but so are the ones only using the word “shoes.”

Even using slightly more specific words like “mens shoes” or “mens running shoes” is not ideal. In general, each business’ keyword strategy should be specifically tailored to what it is that they do. For a shoe company, they should select an array of keywords that are very specific to the product line that they sell and that have some volume of searches in a search engine.

Choosing very specific keyword phrases for your web pages will not only help you determine user intent, it will also help generate more conversions because people will have found exactly what they were looking for.

Third-Party Tools

There are various manual techniques that we’ve talked about in other posts. Those can often be tedious and time-consuming, but also free. If you are doing keyword research on a limited basis, then this should work for you.

If you are doing research on a regular basis, it is wise to invest in some tools that could help you speed up the process. Many third-party software programs take their own approach to keyword research, and also offer free versions of their platform. Check them out before you commit. Below is a short list of software you could try:

Keywords are still a fundamental part of SEO, and the way that people discover content that they find useful and engaging. Your keyword strategy and research methods should reflect your goals for marketing products and services online.


Do you have a particular keyword research strategy that you use? Share it in the comments below.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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