When I first entered the online marketing world one of my first tasks was keyword research for SEO (search engine optimization). Back then nobody was talking about inbound marketing. We were primarily focused on getting more people to the site. We'd start by researching the business itself, the products/services, the business' website, the industry, the competitors, and the business's website. After having a good understanding of the business and environment a big list of related keywords was created, usually broken down page by page. These keywords were primarily focused on what the business had to offer or the industry. Some of the keywords were short, broad, and general while some of the keywords would be long tail keywords. Example: refrigerator vs energy efficient refrigerator.
This list of keywords would then be narrowed down using tools that would compile data around search volumes and competitiveness. This would tell us what keywords people were actually using when searching and if it was possible to rank for them. It would additionally be narrowed down by asking the business what they wanted to rank for (within reason).
Again...these keywords were very frequently focused on the business, the products or services, or the industry.
Inbound marketing has changed the way an SEO should approach keyword research.
Now an SEO should take a step back and think about how leads are being generated, which is through content marketing. In order to capture these leads an SEO must attract visitors to the landing pages associated with the content marketing pieces. To do that, it's necessary to have supporting content relating to the content marketing pieces. This would usually be in the form of a blog post containing some sort of call-to-action (CTA) to the landing page containing the offer.
Because much of this content will be around the awareness stage, the content itself will not be focused on the business, product, or service itself.
Here's how SEO keyword research should be done now!
- Get an understanding of the business' buyer persona
- Research their content map/plan containing content offers for each stage of the buyer's journey (and each persona)
- Understand how the business is using non-gated content (blogs) in correlation with gated offers (content marketing)
- This content should be written to educate, not to sell. Content is about more than SEO!
- Now research what get's people to either the non-gated content or the offers themselves
- Your keyword lists will be focused far less on the business and much more on the prospective leads
- Keywords associated with the awareness stage may feel off-topic, but are they?
- It's likely that you'll determine additional content should be created
- You'll still need to pull data on search volumes and competitiveness
It's not a completely different method, but any SEO that tells you they still perform keyword research the exact same way they did back in 2009 is doing something wrong. A good SEO should always have the best interest of the business in mind, which is more leads and more sales. Focusing on rank alone will get you nowhere!