Marketers are using original research primarily to create blog posts, infographics, and PDFs, according to a recent report from Mantis Research and BuzzSumo. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
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Keyword research is synonymous with SEO.
I remember, back in the day, when keyword research was SEO.
The recipe was simple.
Use the Google Keyword Tool (now known as the Google Keyword Planner) to type in a broad search phrase.
Find a keyword phrase that receives a considerable number of searches with minimal competition.
Stuff the crap out of it in your blog post.
And voila! You’re on the first page of Google!
That was when SEO was pretty archaic and Google’s algorithm was much less sophisticated than it is today.
Back then, pretty much anyone could game the system with a little know-how.
Heck, I remember when people would actually “spin articles” and get solid rankings by keyword stuffing.
But Google obviously stamped that out with major algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda.
Nowadays, keyword research is a bit more complex, but many of the same principles still apply.
Over the years, I’ve come up with quite a few research hacks that help me come up with a list of keywords in a hurry.
In this post, I’ll point out some of my favorites that you can also implement.
This is a tool that’s not on everyone’s radar but is great for quickly amassing a list of potential keywords.
Here’s a screenshot of the tool’s description:
Let me say that it’s not as robust as the Google Keyword Planner, but it does offer a few different features I love.
Using it is simple.
From the Ubersuggest homepage, enter a broad keyword.
I’ll use “3D printer” as an example.
Here’s what pops up:
Just like that, I have 361 different keyword ideas!
If you want, you can copy and paste some or all of these keywords into a file, spreadsheet, etc.
Just click on “View as text.”
Then you’ll see this:
This is a lightning-fast way to generate a huge list of keywords.
From there, you can pick and choose the ones you want to target.
But let’s say you want to expand on a particular keyword to come up with even more ideas.
Click on it:
Then click “Expand this keyword.”
You’ll then get another list of keywords based on the one you clicked on:
For this particular search, I got 217 additional keywords.
Another cool feature is that you can gauge interest in a particular keyword by seeing how it’s performing on Google Trends.
Just click on the keyword:
Then click on Google Trends:
From there, you can get a pretty good idea of whether it’s trending up, trending down or just neutral.
But wait, there’s more!
Ubersuggest has another feature, called “Word Cloud,” that will show you additional keywords frequently used along with the keyword you’re searching for.
From the top of the page, click on “Word Cloud.”
Here are the results I got:
The larger the word, the more searches the keyword phrase has received.
I love visuals, so this is an intuitive way for me to get keyword ideas without much work.
The only drawback of Ubersuggest is you can’t see the number of monthly searches a keyword receives or the competition level and suggested bid.
But you can always plug whatever keyword you’re interested in into the Google Keyword Planner.
Nonetheless, it’s a great tool for generating a big list of target keywords fast and has some great features that provide you with valuable intel.
Let me just say I love BuzzSumo!
It’s hands down one of the best tools for generating new content ideas, seeing how popular a topic is and even for finding influencers to reach out to.
But you can use it for keyword research as well.
Here’s what you do.
Type in your broad keyword:
You’ll get a list of content that includes that keyword.
Here are a few of the results I got for “3D printer.” There were 882 results in total:
Now what you want to do is scan through the results and look for other keywords paired with your broad keyword.
Here are a couple of examples:
What I love about this technique is that I can tell how much interest there is in a particular keyword by simply looking at the amount of engagement the content has received.
For instance, the second keyword I highlighted—“ultra high-def 3D printer”—had 13.9k shares.
Of course, interest may have been piqued because the piece was about creating futuristic death masks, but there’s obviously some interest there.
I suggest browsing through the list and copying and pasting the keywords that catch your attention and are getting some buzz.
You can also get a few additional ideas by scrolling to the bottom of the page and checking out “Related Searches.”
Just click on a particular search phrase and repeat the same steps.
Use Google’s auto-complete feature
Google is the ultimate enabler for lazy people.
We don’t even have to type out our full search inquiry anymore.
Just type in a few characters, and Google will auto-complete your inquiry based on popular searches.
I use this all the time.
It also happens to be perfect for getting instant keyword ideas.
Here’s what pops up when I search for “affiliate marketing”:
Now, I realize this doesn’t give you a massive list of keyword ideas, but you can bet there’s a high level of interest for almost anything that pops up.
For something to appear on auto-complete, it obviously has to receive a high volume of searches.
You can also do this on Quora as well:
Check out related searches
Here’s another easy way to extract even more info from Google.
Enter a broad keyword phrase, and scroll to the very bottom.
You’ll see a section called “Searches related to [your keyword phrase].”
That right there will instantly give you eight keyword ideas.
But you can get more by clicking on an individual keyword phrase:
After scrolling down to the bottom again, here’s what I got:
You can go on infinitely to get as many ideas as you need.
Just follow the same sequence of steps.
FYI, you can do this on Bing as well.
If you’ve never heard of Soovle, it’s a sweet little tool that will give you keyword suggestions from popular sites like Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Bing, etc.
And it’s incredibly easy to use.
Just type in your keyword into the search box:
Within seconds, the page will be populated with keyword ideas from each of these sites:
It’s pretty awesome.
If you want to do some more research, just click on the keyword you’re interested in.
I’ll click on “3D printer software” from Bing:
This will show you the results so you can see what type of content competitors are creating and what’s ranking the best.
Scrape ideas from Bing ads
Bing is dwarfed in terms of its user-base when compared to Google.
It even fell behind the Chinese search engine, Baidu, recently.
That little red sliver of the pie chart is Bing’s search engine market share in 2017.
A mere 7.31%.
But who cares?
It serves multiple purposes from a marketing standpoint.
One is coming up with target keywords.
This hack I came up with is actually based on one of Brian Dean’s tactics for finding keywords for titles and description tags.
In his post, Brian talks about how you can scan through copy of Google AdWords ads to find potential titles and tags.
The only issue with this is that AdWords doesn’t always have an abundance of text-based ads.
See what I mean?
But look at what I get when I enter the same search phrase in Bing:
And that’s just part of it.
Scroll down to the bottom, and I get even more text-based ads:
All I have to do is look for keyword phrases.
Here are a few potential ideas:
Now, I’m not saying jam-packing ads like this into search results translates into a great user experience, but it’s perfect for coming up with target keywords.
And keep in mind that companies are funneling a considerable amount of time and money into these ads, which means they’ve done their keyword research.
Capitalize on their work, and you’re likely to get favorable results.
Keyword research has changed quite a bit over the past five or so years.
And it’s definitely become more sophisticated.
But at the end of the day, it still revolves around the same concept, and it doesn’t need to be unnecessarily difficult.
What I love is the increased number of tools available today.
You’re not limited to using only the Google Keyword Planner.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great and all.
But everyone is using it, including your competitors.
So it’s best to come up with different, less common, approaches.
The research hacks I discussed here are all effective for unearthing keyword ideas and will help you create a list quickly and easily.
Using them should also give you an edge because most of your competitors aren’t aware of these tactics.
It’ll put you ahead of the game and will keep you supplied with high-quality keywords.
How big of a role does keyword research play in your SEO strategy?
What can “Where’s Waldo?”, the lovable children’s book series of the ‘90s, teach us about designing better page layouts?
A lot, it turns out.
In UX, we use different page layouts to help organize information and guide the users’ eye path. The “F” pattern, for instance, is commonly used for article heavy sites to guide the users’ eye path downward while supporting headline scanning. Reddit, Google News and Buzzfeed all use the “F” pattern layout.
One of the earliest layout patterns, and the one still most commonly used today, is the Gutenberg diagram. Originally conceived in the ‘50s by Edmond C. Arnold to help organize newspaper layouts, the Gutenberg diagram breaks the page down into quadrants and explains how the user interacts visually with each quadrant. In the diagram, the primary optical area is the upper left quadrant where the eye path naturally begins.
The lower right quadrant, the terminal area, is where the eye path ends. Gravity pulls the eyes diagonally between the two quadrants leaving the upper right and lower left quadrants largely out of the eye path.
While it is very western centric, the Gutenberg diagram makes sense. We read top to bottom, left to right, so our eyes are naturally drawn to the upper left of a page when first looking at it. As we scan the page, our eyes end up at the bottom right of the page.
We’re taught to follow this general eye path as soon as we learn to read. Even today, we utilize this pattern when designing web pages because it leverages our tendencies to follow that eye path. It’s rare to find a web site where the company logo isn’t in the upper left corner.
So what does this have to do with Waldo?
Randy Olson recently published an article on how to find Waldo in under 10 seconds (and trust me, it works.) Olson mapped all of the points where Waldo was hiding in the seven main Where’s Waldo books. Then he ran those points through an algorithm that found the optimal eye path to use to spot Waldo quickly. As part of his research, Olson created a kernel density estimate to illustrate where Waldo is most commonly hiding.
When you overlay the Gutenberg diagram and Olson’s kernel density estimate, something interesting becomes apparent; the highest density of Waldo’s hiding spots fall within the least viewed quadrants of the page. Waldo is most commonly hiding in the areas our eyes are trained to avoid. In fact, 70% of the time, he’s in the upper right or bottom left quadrants of the page.
What does this teach us about designing page layouts?
If you’re designing a page and want the most important elements to pop out at your visitors, don’t put those elements where Waldo would be hiding.
Use the primary optical area and the terminal area as your main points of reference for important information.
And always remember that no matter what you do, we don’t optimize web pages, we optimize thought sequences. Guide your visitor through a thoughtful conversation. Eye path and page layouts are simply tools to help you do that. But don’t forget that they are simply means, not ends.
Bonus: In case you read this whole thing JUST to find out how to find Waldo in under 10 seconds, 80% of the time, Olson’s optimized eye path to find Waldo is below. Happy hunting.
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I felt something of an imposter speaking at the recent (and nattily titled) Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation Symposium – #EDCR2016 – which brought together academics and researchers working in the field of cultural and heritage content: I’m not an academic, nor a researcher. Nor Scottish.
But research is part of the daily workings of the V&A’s digital team. So, reflecting on a handful of projects, I explored the different ‘yardsticks’ – the research tools, methods and processes – we’ve used to measure and evaluate our work, at different points within the digital development process. You can find the slide deck on Slideshare.
The three Ws
We find that what research tools you use to measure and evaluate depends on three key things:
- What are you measuring?
- When in the process?
- Why – to what end?
That last one is fundamental. And the answer should not just be ‘because a funder or sponsor needs me to’.
The problem with Waterfall
Within a traditional Waterfall project management approach, evaluation often happens at the end of a process that might well take many months – if not years – to complete. That’s known as summative evaluation. It is valuable, but shouldn’t replace the need for ongoing evaluation and measurement (what’s known as formative evaluation).
With an Agile approach, measurement and evaluation takes place within each release cycle – and often within each sprint. This has several benefits. It means you get data quickly, and are therefore able to derive insights much earlier in the process. This ongoing, formative evaluation also means you will soon know if your idea is going to fly – with real people, I mean. And if not, you can kill off the idea (or at least take a pause) before it becomes a bloated unnecessary product that doesn’t actually answer people’s needs and wants.
Summative evaluation might still take place several releases down the line, but each one of those releases will be based on deep – and broad – user research and insight. That summative evaluation is therefore more likely to reveal the product is fit for purpose, loved by users and achieving its goals. Which is what a funder wants to hear, right?
The role of the MVP
To get funding and backing for projects, we often need to specify the digital thing we’re going to build, sometimes years ahead of launching it. But how do we know what we’re building before we’ve started the discovery phase of product development?
This is where launching with a minimum viable product (MVP) has a distinct advantage over the grand launch at the end of the Waterfall project. The benefit of launching early with something small – an MVP – is creating something that’s more likely to answer people’s needs, sooner, and in a form that can be iterated and improved.
We museum folk need to get out of the habit of specifying big complicated digital things as the end product rather than defining the problem or opportunity to tackle. And we need those who fund and support digital projects to understand that it’s better to specify ‘a vehicle that gets people from A to B’ than a fancy car. Too often we end up promising an over-specced Rolls Royce instead of starting with a simple skateboard.
What people say is different from what they do
We all know this. And we all know that we need to involve people (users) early on in the design and development process. But how do we know if and when to act on what they say?
Christian Rohrer, VP of Design, Research and Enterprise Services at Capital One (part of the Nielsen Norman Group) devised a useful way to understand what tools to use to answer different research questions. The diagram below shows a simple matrix that looks at quantitative vs qualitative data and behavioural vs attitudinal data.
Rohrer’s matrix is a good starting point for working out what questions you want to answer, and therefore what tools can help find those answers. Tools like clickmaps and A/B testing will give you a good insight into behaviour and generate some useful quantitative data. Eye-tracking gives you other behavioural insights but also some qualitative data. Tools like concept and guerrilla testing can help generate more attitudinal, qualitative as well as quantitative data.
Whatever the tool, you’ll want to identify your research goal. Is it exploration (typically during the Discovery phase), evaluation & validation of particular features and their usability (during Design and Development phases), or measurement (during the Test phase)?
So here are some examples of the different types of yardsticks we’ve used at different stages in the product development cycle.
1. Audience analysis: The V&A’s Audience Behaviour Matrix [Discovery phase]
In developing the new V&A website with product innovation consultancy Made by Many, we conducted some analysis of our audience data of online behaviour (primarily from Google Analytics) and from market research with our visitors by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre.
We devised a matrix of audience behaviour that revealed some of the behaviours and motivations of our online visitors. I’ve written about our audience matrix before, so I won’t dwell on the detail here. But this was a useful example of the type of research that takes place in the discovery phase right at the start of digital product development.
This matrix helped focus on ‘general visitors’ as the key audience behaviour to address in our website rethink and therefore to prioritise features that best serve their needs. Better still, this matrix has become a really useful tool in helping shape and create digital content, giving us a better understanding of what content people might value at different points in their interaction with the V&A online.
2. Remote usability testing: What’s on search [Design phase]
Early next year we’ll be launching our new What’s on, with a much improved user experience, helping our visitors find out about events and buy tickets. Our key goal is to improve discoverability of our events content. We’ve designed a browsing experience that helps visitors find what they’re actively looking for as well as discover events they’re not.
The first iteration of the design focussed purely on discoverability but there was evidence to suggest that search was being used in the existing What’s on. However, it wasn’t immediately clear if this was because of poor user experience (i.e. events just weren’t very discoverable), or whether search would still be a valuable feature in the new design. We were aware of a use case scenario where those who had already heard about an event arrive on the website with the intention of purchasing a ticket, yet aren’t immediately able find it. The design challenge was therefore how we could integrate a search feature into an existing design that had already performed well in user testing we’d previously conducted.
So we developed a clickable prototype with a simple search feature that appeared part way down the page so as not to interrupt the scannability of the landing page. We conducted some scripted user testing with five remote users which simulated a real scenario of having to find an event that wasn’t visible on the What’s on landing page. This test aimed to determine a) if people found the search feature, b) if they did, whether they could use it and c) find the item they were looking for.
Four of the five users found the event by using the search box. While this test involved a small sample and was therefore not conclusive, it did provide some useful insights that confirmed the search box was sufficiently visible yet didn’t interrupt the browsing experience. In fact, five is an optimal number that Nielsen advocate for this type of quick testing when designing new features. It’s an efficient and good value method to verify if a feature is worth bothering with in the first place. Later on, we’ll run more tests at volume.
The feature we’ll launch with is definitely the skateboard of search which will evolve as we glean more data on how it’s used and why.
3. Concept testing and guerrilla testing for the Europe audio guide [development stage]
The evolution of the Europe audio guide deserves a dedicated post, but in the meantime…
We got Frankly, Green and Webb on board for some formative evaluation of the prototype multi-media guide for our new Europe 1600-1815 Galleries that opened at the end of last year. Their research involved concept testing of the guide and revealed that visitors wanted a ‘heads up experience’: they would only get out their mobile phones to discover content they genuinely valued. And that content was audio.
The temptation with this sort of digital product – a mobile in-gallery experience – is to chuck in lots of content that doesn’t fit on the walls. In this case, videos, audio, lots of text, a map… Frankly, Green and Webb’s research reminded us that any mobile product needs to be baked into the broader gallery experience. It needs to be a visible part of the offer, be functional and provide value to the visitor.
In fact, these factors can be visualised as part of a series of hurdles that need to be overcome before a visitor decides to use that product as part of the visitor experience. Even if it gets past the first five hurdles, unless the product provides value (and, ideally, delight), the visitor won’t bother.
The concept testing led us to drastically revise and redevelop the product into a mobile audio guide, which we then tested further. Working in a museum we have the luxury of having thousands of visitors to test with, just outside our office doors. We ran some guerrilla testing – a rapid, low cost method to quickly capture user feedback.
Visitors described the guide as like a treasure hunt, and enjoying the fact that it was like having a tour guide with you, going at your own pace. (This is something Alyson Webb also spoke about at EDCR2016 when recounting her work on the Van Gogh Museum’s multi-media guide which consequently sells itself on helping visitors go at their own pace.) We were surprised by some of the visitor behaviour, observing an older couple using the guide out loud, listening to it together, and not feeling isolated in the way they did with other guides.
We used these visitor insights to improve interactive features like search, and how visitors accessed and played the audio.
Lipstick on a pig
Too often evaluation is an end point, rather than an essential part of the development process. That learning and insight isn’t fed back into ongoing digital development. Waterfall projects have an end date. But Agile never stops. With Agile you’re more likely to feed that research back into ongoing development cycles.
I bet we’ve all been involved in some digital projects that just shouldn’t see the light of day. Some call this putting lipstick on a pig. We need to be braver about killing – or sun-setting – those projects that research reveals are not working or have outlived their purpose. We don’t need to add to all that digital landfill. We need to use research to discover those piglets, not wait until summative evaluation to have our worst suspicions confirmed.
So don’t wait for that moment. Use the right yardsticks and build research into your everyday work.
Thanks to Chris Unitt for helping tease out some of the whys and wherefores that went into writing up these thoughts. And to Chris Pearson for the brilliant visuals, which got a lot of love on Twitter.
At the heart of every test or optimization effort should be an informed hypothesis. However, best practices can lead us astray. So where can marketers find inspiration for their next experiment?
The answer often lies with our customers.
This week, our sister company MarketingSherpa has a team of reporters at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago, hosting the official Media Center of the ecommerce event.
Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Matt Clark, Global Head of eCommerce and Digital Marketing, Newark element14, to discuss how marketers can watch and listen to their customers to discover pain points on their sites and in their purchase funnels.
Three steps to effective ecommerce sites
To start, Matt outlined three steps marketers should take to ensure their websites effectively serve customers:
- Make it easy to find.
- Make it compelling to convert.
- Make it easy to use.
Matt shared an analogy that highlights the particular importance of that last step:
“It should be like a hotel where when you walk in, you know the light switch is on your right-hand side, the remote is on the table. If it’s not like that, if it’s not that seamless to a customer, you’re going to lose some customers along the way.”
Three steps to make your website and optimization customer centric
Step 1. Conduct market/customer research
Matt said the team will put both the current web experience and a proposed experience in front of their ideal customers. The only instructions are to buy a particular item. The team then steps back and observes the unaided process.
“Pretty quickly you’ll find that too many of the customers are doing things that you weren’t expecting. … A lot of times you’ll see you made pages too complex or put too many steps in where they lose interest,” he said.
Step 2. Listen to direct customer feedback
Matt said the team collects all customer feedback across their 40+ global websites.
“Each month … we go through all of the negative feedback. You’ll see ‘Your site’s slow,’ ‘It’s too hard to find something’ or ‘The registration process in Germany is consistently broken,’” Matt shared. “That hurts because they’re kind of calling your baby ugly.”
While the process can hurt, it has become a valuable step in their strategy.
“It’s on our calendars and it’s a process we use consistently.”
Step 3. Visit call centers
The team also sits in at their call centers. This provides them insight into a multitude of areas customers seek help with. While some might be more product or service oriented, the team has learned of pain points they can directly address with email or site optimization.
“For instance, in our customer service group, we found that like 50% of their calls at times were based on ‘I can’t find my order status.’”
The team was able to take that feedback and make the order status more prominent in emails and on the website. By listening and addressing this need digitally, the call center can focus on other, more valuable customer activities.
“I think it’s really about doing a little bit of research and really listening to customers consistently, like really listening – mostly to the bad stuff. The good stuff takes care of itself.”
To watch other interviews from the MarketingSherpa Media Center, visit our IRCE 2016 Media Page.
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Keyword research. I’m sure you’ve done it before.
You probably know what it’s like to use keyword research tools and come up with lists of keywords to track and rank for. I’ve done it dozens of times myself. Why? Because it’s one of those “standard practices” that we do in SEO and online marketing.
But search engines today aren’t looking only at keywords! Search engines are looking at hundreds of different factors. And keywords? They are only a small part of the big picture.
Don’t get me wrong. I think keyword research is still important.
But here’s the thing…
Keyword research isn’t the only aspect you need to be researching when optimizing a website or planning your content marketing.
I want you to go a level deeper—to the level that users are searching for and search engines are indexing for.
I’m going to share with you three ways to go beyond basic keyword research. Although keyword research should still be a part of your SEO, it’s only the start.
I’m confident that these advanced research methods will add rocket fuel to your marketing, attract targeted traffic, earn valuable links, and ultimately boost your revenue.
I will explain in detail how to use each of these powerful research methods.
First of all, let me preface this by revealing something you may not know about Google: the algorithm changes 500-600 times per year.
That’s a rate of nearly 1.5 changes a day!
Even with all the marketing ability I’ve developed running my various businesses, I can’t hope to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the Google search algorithm and its machine learning. Odds are, neither can you.
So, now that you understand the why, let’s dive into the how. This is how we do keyword research in today’s world.
1. User intent
One of the biggest mistakes I see many newbie online entrepreneurs make is that they focus too much on the specific keywords in their research without focusing enough on user intent behind those keywords.
You may be thinking, “Neil, what is user intent, and how do I use it to improve the traffic and conversions on my site?”
User intent is just what it sounds. User intent refers to the user’s ultimate goal in typing a search query.
Let me make a quick point about the terms I am using.
- Keywords: A targeted phrase you’re trying to rank for. You do keyword research. You use this phrase in your content, making sure it appears in all the right places.
- Query: The phrase or words that a user types into Google. This could be a short phrase, a question, or just a string of words the user is typing.
I try to keep those two terms—keywords and query—straight, but sometimes I use them interchangeably.
As SEOs, we tend to focus on keywords, right? That’s what we want to rank for, obviously.
But users don’t care about our keywords. They just want to get the best result for their query.
And that’s my point: every query has an intent. Every time someone types something into Google, they are trying to accomplish something. They have a goal.
For example, when I am up late at night watching Gossip Girls reruns and I Google “Chinese food,” my user intent is to order some Chinese food.
And guess what? Google knows this. And, voila, this is exactly what comes up!
However, if I change the wording ever so slightly, typing “great Chinese food” instead of “Chinese food,” what appears is quite different.
By simply changing one word, I shifted the intent of my search from ordering Chinese food to finding great Chinese meals and restaurants in a given area.
See the difference? Sure, the difference involves a change in wording. But the deeper change was one of intent.
Google gets it. The whole search engine is designed to deliver really good results based on the user’s intent.
Check out this video from Google. User intent is the whole reason why Google spends hundreds of millions of dollars to refine its algorithms and enhance its machine learning process.
If the search engine is that focused on user intent, we should be as well.
So, how can you use this to improve your keyword research?
You have to take advantage of user intent to understand which keywords you should try to rank for.
Basically, you need to understand the user’s goal when they input certain queries.
Let me give you another example.
See if you can figure out the intent behind this query: “order a birthday cake”
Pretty straightforward, right?
If this “order a birthday cake” was one of your target keyword phrases, you should understand that the user’s intent is to order a birthday cake.
The great thing about user intent is that it becomes far easier to figure it out as the query becomes longer.
Long queries are really valuable for two reasons:
- We can identify exactly what the user wants and give it to them.
- We can gain targeted organic traffic for super-specific long-tail keywords.
Let me show you exactly what I mean by expanding that “order a birthday cake” query.
Most users don’t simply want to order a birthday cake. They want to order a specific type of cake, for a specific type of person, in a specific location, for a specific purpose, and at a specific time.
See where this is going?
Take a look at this doozy of a query:
How’s that for user intent?
You can use this super-focused intent to create super-focused content!
For this query, you know that:
- Someone wants to order a cake…
- for a girl…
- who is probably between 4 and 10 years old.
- They don’t want to make the cake themselves.
- They want it delivered to their venue.
- And they live in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.
- Most likely, it’s a mom, dad, or party planner who’s typing in this query.
- They probably have a limited amount of time on their hands. They’re busy.
- They live with or know about children and understand what children like.
I could go on and on.
This is the level of keyword research that you want to do. You’re not just spinning a bunch of variations from some keyword tool. Instead, you’re diving into the reasons, the motivations, and the desires of the user.
We could even sketch a persona based on that keyword and then target that persona in our marketing efforts.
Kelly is a 33-year-old working mom. She has a 3-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter who turns 6 on August 2. Kelly loves her kids but isn’t able to spend much time with them because of her demanding job as a paralegal in downtown Atlanta. Kelly wants to surprise her daughter with a special birthday party with a princess theme.
You might not be able to achieve this level of research for every keyword, but you can at least get a general idea of the general intent of your target audience.
Basically, if you know why a user is looking up a certain keyword, you will be able to determine what keywords you want to use on your website and in your content.
Using my first example, if you were a Chinese takeout restaurant, you would want to rank for “Chinese food,” “order Chinese food,” or “Chinese takeout.” Ideally, you would also try to rank for local terms such as “Chinese takeout downtown Las Vegas.”
However, if you ran a Chinese recipe niche site, you might try to rank for “great Chinese food,” “awesome Chinese recipes,” or something similar.
2. Search query type
Another important element of diving deeper into keyword research is understanding search queries and search query type.
As I explained above, a query is what a user types into Google. A keyword is what you’re trying to rank for.
Let me show you a keyword and a query example so you can clearly see the difference.
Keyword: Men’s skinny jeans
Query: Where to buy men’s skinny jeans
Do you see the difference?
The keyword is a relatively straightforward term. The query, however, is more specific because the user wants to accomplish something (user intent—as discussed above).
But there’s another remarkable thing about those queries.
Whenever you are doing keyword research, try to understand what kind of queries lend themselves to people hitting the “buy now” button.
It’s really important because if you could figure out the types of queries that lead people to purchase immediately, you would be able to get more sales.
And if you could figure out the queries that pulled people into the top of your funnel, you’d be able to structure an amazing content marketing campaign.
Here is the good news: you can find that out, and you can structure your content marketing around those types of queries.
There are three basic types of queries:
Let me explain each of these so we can get clear on how to target each one:
- Informational searches are pretty easy to figure out. The user wants to get information on a certain topic. For example, “how to structure a content marketing campaign” is an informational query.
- Transactional searches mean that the user is trying to buy something or transact in some way. “Buy skinny jeans online,” “order flowers las vegas,” or “whole foods coupon” are all transactional queries.
- Navigational searches take place when the user is trying to get to a specific website but doesn’t remember or doesn’t want to type in the URL. For example, if I wanted to visit the Men’s Health website, I would search for “mens health” or “mens health mag” rather than typing “http://www.menshealth.com/” into my search bar.
Nearly every query fits into one of these three types.
What’s even better is that nearly every query has a specific position in the marketing funnel.
Make sure you understand, of course, that most search traffic is informational.
In other words, you’ll be gaining most of your leads in the top of the funnel through informational queries.
Informational queries build awareness and aid the user’s consideration, just like the marketing funnel predicts.
Let me share an example now so you can see how to apply this information to your content marketing and SEO strategies.
Say you are selling men’s skinny jeans and trying to decide which keywords to try to rank for.
- Men’s skinny jeans
- Top men’s skinny jeans
- Skinny jeans men’s style
- Best men’s skinny jeans
- Distressed men’s skinny jeans
- Hipster men’s skinny jeans
Now comes the important part of understanding the search query.
If you were an e-commerce store that sold men’s skinny jeans, the keywords you would try to rank for would be very different from the ones you would target if you were running a blog on men’s fashion and writing an article on why skinny jeans are appalling.
This is the difference between informational and transactional search queries.
Basically, you want to research search queries related to your industry to discover new keywords you can try to rank for.
Let’s say you are selling men’s skinny jeans. You want transactional queries. Looking at the different search queries, you will notice that common keywords that pop up are:
- Men’s skinny jeans sale
- Men’s skinny jeans online shopping
- Men’s stretch skinny jeans
Within an e-commerce environment, it’s important to understand the specific nature of a user’s transactional query. They might be looking for sizes, features, and specific product types.
Most e-commerce search functionality offers support for “non-product” queries but has limited ability in allowing “subjective” queries.
By enhancing keyword support in the most relevant areas of your e-commerce website, you’ll be able to gain organic traffic to those internal pages where the user is prepared to transact.
If, on the other hand, you run a fashion blog and are writing that article on men’s skinny jeans, you might find search queries like these:
- Fashion blog men’s skinny jeans and boots
- Men’s skinny jeans outfits
- Men’s skinny jeans
- Spring outfits men’s skinny jeans
As you can see, all these queries contain the keyword phrase “men’s skinny jeans,” but the secondary keywords you should try to rank for will change based on the user intent behind the search query.
By knowing which queries you are targeting, you will be able to come up with a more targeted list of keywords to try to rank for.
Plus, the keywords will result in greater conversions of your visitors into either blog subscribers or buyers.
3. Demographic research
The third and final part of keyword research is demographic keyword research.
You know about demographics, right?
Demographic research is a powerful marketing tool. You can use the information you gain in your demographic research to target specific types of people.
You’ve probably seen sample personas like this one:
Most personas contain demographic data:
In the persona above, it’s helpful to know that Brandi…
- is a female
- is 36
- lives in the LA area
- makes 38k a year
- has narrow feet
Personas affect everything in marketing.
- Different personas will respond differently to web design standards.
- Some personas may prefer a certain color scheme.
- Specific personas might have a specific response to certain words or headlines.
Personas affect keywords too.
Let me show you how.
Let’s say your target demographic is men ages 18-35 looking to lose weight.
However, you’ve chosen to target the keyword “easy fat loss.”
What you may find is that the majority of people searching for “easy fat loss” are women 30-45. (I’m just using this as an example, so this assumption may or may not be true.)
Some of these tools, such as Keyword Discovery, are particularly structured to enable demographic keyword research.
The more you can segment and analyze your data, the better you will become at identifying demographic keyword trends.
A report like the one below, for example, alerts you to the fact that men and women between the ages of 35 to 54 search for “oscars” at specific times of day.
The demographic information behind some queries is obvious.
- Men’s skinny jeans. The demographic is most likely young men.
- Amazon books for teenage girls. This demographic could be either a teenage girl or the parent of a teenage girl.
- Best foods for pregnancy. Probably a mom-to-be.
By using the right research tools and figuring out which queries your ideal demographic is typing, you’ll be able to be more precise about the keywords you try to rank for.
Here’s a parting word of advice about demographics: narrow it down.
We would all like to think that our product is good for everybody. However, if you can identify your ideal client and demographic and really capitalize on this, making sure every keyword you rank for is something that demographic is searching for, you’ll have a higher conversion rate than if you went too broad with your keywords.
Specific, long-tail queries will draw in the specific and eager customers you want to attract.
Here is what you need to know: Keyword research still matters. It is an integral part of any successful online business.
But basic keyword research on its own will not get your as far as you need to go with your online marketing! Your standard practice of typing a few phrases into Google Keyword Planner and exporting the list into your tracking software isn’t how it’s done anymore.
You have to be willing to dive deeper into your research to uncover the who, what, and why of each of your keywords.
If you can go beyond the basics, you will improve your marketing success.
I’d love to hear about any innovative strategies you know that take keyword research to an advanced level. What methods do you use to go beyond basic keyword research?
Keyword research has long been the primary tool for search engine optimization plans. The idea was that you found out what people in your industry were searching for and you optimized your site and pages to try to show up on page one – pretty simple.
Today, I believe that content is the primary tool for optimizing your effectiveness is just about every channel your clients use – it’s the key to SEO, social media sharing, referrals, email marketing and even online and offline advertising.
Without great content, you’re limited in your marketing in many, many ways.
My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Brian Dean, internationally renowned marketing and SEO expert and founder of Backlinko. We discuss the relationship between marketing and SEO, keyword research, and the impact of backlinks on your keyword rankings.
Questions I ask Brian:
- How can you use keyword research beyond SEO?
- How do you reach out to publishers for backlinks without being ignored?
- How do you earn someone’s email?
What you’ll learn if you give a listen:
- How to hack the Google keyword planner to find keywords your competitors can’t find
- Tips and tricks for picking the correct keyword on which to bid
- How to leverage a content upgrade to improve your conversion rates.
This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by FreshBooks, small business accounting software for non-accountants. Freshbooks is offering a free month of unrestricted access just for Duct Tape Marketing podcast listeners. You don’t even need a credit card to register. To get your free month, go to freshbooks.com/ducttape and enter DuctTape in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.
Writing and selling an ebook is a great way for web designers and developers to earn some serious money. It also puts to good use all those years of experience working in the field. You see, a lot of people are looking for affordable training materials, and they will pay for them if it’s worth every dollar. So, why not write to teach (and to earn money)?
Everything you need to write about is already out there in the open. You just have to find what to write about. If your goal is to write for money, writing non-fiction is a good path to take.
The first part of researching is spent on gathering lots of related materials. From competitors’ data (number of downloads, ratings, book rankings, and the like) down to reading reviews, both good and bad. This is then followed by organizing and analyzing all the things you have compiled.
In fact, you can complete your research in just one day and start writing the next.
Let me show you how.
Researching For Your Ebook Topic
Determine Your Golden Topic
Image credit: IvanClow
The first thing you need to consider is your main interest. What is that one thing that is close to your heart that you believe you can talk about for hours and days on end? It is important that the topic you want to write about, and make money from, is something that you have at least a basic understanding of. Without it, you’ll just basically write fluff and your readers will “feel” it.
If you are interested in money (who isn’t?) then write about money. But not just money as a general topic. You need to go deeper, find a sub-category so that your book can be laser-focused. For example, you can write about personal finance.
But is there money in this topic? That’s what you need to find out. Remember, if, in the next section, you find out that personal finance is not doing well on Amazon, drop it and find another topic (if your goal is to earn money, otherwise if it’s to educate, feel free to write about it anyway).
Find Where The Money Lies
Image credit: Anthony Joh
Note: if your main goal is not to write for money, this section will still be of great help in researching what topics are actually being read.
Amazon is your friend here. In fact, about a fourth to half of the research time will be spent on Amazon. And I promise you it will be worth your while. It will be like being spoon-fed, only you need to go to the kitchen first and get your own spoon.
Now go to Kindle eBooks and choose a category, or even a specific sub-category.
In my example above I chose Business and Investing and I was greeted with top-sellers and top-ranked books. For the sake of realism, I chose a book that was published recently and is currently doing great in terms of ranking, reviews, and sales. The book is How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and at the time of writing this, it has 64 reviews with 4.5 stars and is ranked at 5,467 in the best sellers list, which is important.
Here is the only variable that matters when researching on Amazon:
Pick books that are within 10,000 of Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank. These books are there for a reason and they sell well, which means they’re well-researched, well-written, and well-founded.
There is just one catch, of course. It’s easy enough to find a book within the 10,000 rankings for most topics, but remember that you are not the only one looking for these topics, and it can easily be over-saturated.
Here’s a chart from Theresa Ragan, a best-selling Author with books within the top 100 Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank.
Suppose you price your book at $ 2.99, after fees you’ll earn $ 2.09 for each sale. And if you are selling 15 books a day, that’s already $ 31.35 per day or $ 940.5 per month. Of course this is true if you are only publishing a 10,000 to 20,000 word book. You can definitely set the price higher. But hey, if you can write three books that can reach the 10,000 rankings every week, that’s not bad money at all!
If the topic you have in mind doesn’t pass the 10,000 mark, you may want to consider looking for a different topic. That is, if your goal is to earn money. But of course, there are exceptions. For example, if you are targeting a very specific niche like web design and development, you really can’t expect to be on the top 1,000 because not everyone who reads are web designers or developers.
Successful eBooks Written by Web Designers
Don’t Make Me Think – $ 22.99
Ranked at 14,673 overall and 2 in Website Design category.
“Since Don’t Make Me Think was first published in 2000, hundreds of thousands of Web designers and developers have relied on usability guru Steve Krug’s guide to help them understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design. Witty, commonsensical, and eminently practical, it’s one of the best-loved and most recommended books on the subject.”
The Web Designer’s Idea Book vol. 4 – $ 18.99
Ranked 140,681 overall and 74 in Website Design category. But don’t let that turn you off. Patrick McNeil is the real deal and his book series is a huge hit among web designers and developers.
“Looking for inspiration for your latest web design project? Expert Patrick McNeil, author of the popular Web Designer’s Idea Book series, is back with all new examples of today’s best website design. Featuring more than 650 examples of the latest trends, this fourth volume of The Web Designer’s Idea Book is overflowing with visual inspiration.”
HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites $ 17.39 (paperback)
Ranked 770 overall in Books and 1 in CSS, Programming Languages, and Web Design categories.
“Every day, more and more people want to learn some HTML and CSS. Joining the professional web designers and programmers are new audiences who need to know a little bit of code at work (update a content management system or e-commerce store) and those who want to make their personal blogs more attractive. Many books teaching HTML and CSS are dry and only written for those who want to become programmers, which is why this book takes an entirely new approach.”
“Do you want to build web pages, but have no previous experience? This friendly guide is the perfect place to start. You’ll begin at square one, learning how the Web and web pages work, and then steadily build from there. By the end of the book, you’ll have the skills to create a simple site with multi-column pages that adapt for mobile devices.”
WordPress To Go – How To Build A WordPress Website On Your Own Domain, From Scratch, Even If You Are A Complete Beginner – $ 4.99
Ranked 44,082 overall and 19 in Website Design, 20 in Blogging & Blogs, and 59 in Web Design (print).
“Do you want to build your own website but don’t know where to start? Have you been put off by all the jargon and gobbledygook of other Internet guides? If so then this plain, easy WordPress tutorial is the ideal place to start.”
If you are already set, it’s time to do some proper research so that you can start writing as soon as possible!
Image credit: olarte.ollie
Once you have finally determined the topic you want to write about, it’s time to proceed with the most arduous task of them all, which is researching. Yep, it’s not writing. Writing is easy. But knowing what to write about is not. And it is crucial that you do proper research, avoid inaccuracies, and those little tiny details that may build up and eventually ruin your entire book.
Note that this part is like making a stew. You throw everything in on the pot. You don’t have to read and analyze everything just yet. All you need to do is skim through things, read their title and subheadings, maybe read the intro and conclusion as well. The reading and analyzing of everything comes last.
1. Copy All Tables of Contents
Every eBook on Amazon has 10% preview which you can check at to glean a general idea of what the book is all about.
Here’s the table of contents from How to Stop Living from Paycheck to Paycheck, the example given above:
- What is a Budget?
- The 6 Most Important Things You Can Do to Take Control of Your Money
- The 5 Biggest Benefits of Having a Budget
- 5 Budget Myths Explained
- 10 Tips: How to Get the Right Mindset for Success
- 11 Budget Traps (And How to Avoid Them)
- The Easiest Way to Have More Money, Without Earning More
- How to Trim Your Expenses With (almost) No Effort
- Budgeting 101: How to Make a Budget
- Month 1: Find Out Where You Stand
- Month 2: This is the Part Where You Take Control of Your Money
- Month 3 and Beyond – How to Stay on Track
Using the example above, you can already glean a lot of information about why this eBook is an instant hit. It tackles the sweet spot that readers are actually dying to know.
Open 10 or 20 books that are similar to the topic you want to write about and copy all of their table of contents on Evernote or Google Drive. Simply collect these and throw them in together; you can add notes if you want. The purpose of this is to identify what these books have in common content-wise, and what difference they have that made each of them unique. Also, just by looking at the table of contents can sometimes give you a general idea of what the book is all about.
In some instances when the books don’t have table of contents, you can still glean some information from it by reading the free 10% preview. Usually this covers the preface and introduction of the book, and as all introductions go, they reveal what the book is all about.
2. Look For Similar Blogs
And I mean just simply gathering ten or twenty or fifty blogs that are relevant to your golden topic. Don’t do extensive reading just yet, because that will be for later. Remember, what you are doing is bolstering your resources for future use. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should read every blog you come to.
Here are some directories you can browse around on to find relevant blogs:
- Alltop – It is one of the finest blog directories online and I rely heavily on this to find article ideas (sometimes!). If you want to find WordPress blogs, go to WordPress.alltop.com. If you want to search for PHP, go to PHP.alltop.com. See the trend here? There are a lot of categories in there, all you need to do is search by topic.
- Feedly – Technically, Feedly is a reader and not a blog directory where people submit their blogs. But the way it’s setup, you can simply choose a category to add to your feed and all the relevant blogs will appear.
Seriously, these are the only two sites you’ll ever need to find blogs that are relevant to your topic.
After gathering all the blogs you think you will need, it’s time to put them to good use.
Search each blog for the most relevant articles. Bookmark all of them or compile them on Evernote. While this might seem like plagiarising, it’s not. Because the end goal here is to research, and you are simply gathering all of your research materials in one place.
3. Grab Ideas From the Comments and Reviews
Another thing you can do to solicit ideas from the bestsellers you want to emulate is to look at the review section. Usually people will tell you to read the positive reviews only and integrate their good review into your book, but it is also crucial to know where they went wrong and attempt to rectify that.
Compile everything that makes sense and use that as your guidelines on what to do.
Separate good feedback from bad feedback. This will act as your do’s and don’ts when writing your book.
Wrap It Up By Organizing, Analyzing, and Writing
Spend a day compiling everything you feel should belong in your book. You can have 100 pages of purely copied content from all over the internet and that is a great start. Think of it like the detectives you see on TV where they have a lot of newspaper clippings, photos of suspects, maps, and some evidence on the table. That is what you are doing.
Once you feel you already have enough information, that is when you start organizing by relevance. Remove redundant things. Analyze why the things you gathered “worked” for their readers and try to emulate it.
After removing the nonessentials and sorting everything out by relevance, that is when you clearly divide each section with their own headline – which, coincidentally, will result to your own table of contents.
When you finally have your own table of contents, that’s when you open up a new document and start writing based on your research.
So, I guess that’s it. Have fun researching and writing like a detective!
You’ve recently heard that, if you want to impress employers, you need a strong personal brand. Although you have an idea of what personal branding is, you have no idea how to identify your brand or how to build one.
When it comes to building a strong personal brand, your first step is to figure out who you are as an individual, as well as a professional. Although this might take a little soul searching and reflection, it’s one of the most important steps of building a strong personal brand.
As you begin thinking about your personal brand, it’s a good idea to do some research. This research consists of finding things that inspire who you are as an individual and finding out what others think of you when they hear your name.
To identify what you want to display in your personal brand, here are four ways to research your personal brand:
1. Find words that describe your brand.
A great start to finding inspiration for your personal brand is to make a list of words that describe who you are as a person. Think of words that describe your personality, values, and worth ethic. As your list begins to grow, start narrowing it down into the words you want to be recognized by.
For example, you determine that you are a creative, ambitious, and trustworthy individual. These are words you can use in your brand when building your portfolio, writing your LinkedIn summary, and participating in conversations on social media.
2. Ask your friends, family, and mentors to describe your brand.
Another great way to research your personal brand is by asking what others think of you when they hear your name.
For example, ask one of your close friends to describe you in three words. Next, ask a relative to describe you in three words. As you continue to ask more people about how they think of you, use these adjectives as a source of inspiration for your brand.
3. Create a list of what you like and don’t like about your brand.
If you discover that there are some things you want to change about how people perceive your brand, make a list of what you like and don’t like about your reputation.
Once you create your list, learn how you can emphasize your positive qualities and improve your negative qualities. For example, if you discover that you are too much of a perfectionist and it’s keeping you from being successful, find ways in your life where you can become more flexible and easygoing.
4. Do research on what people say about your brand online.
If you’re actively participating on social media or have a blog, pay close attention to what people say about your brand online.
Do you receive endorsements on LinkedIn? Are people commenting on your blog posts? These are all bits of feedback you can use to shape your personal brand.
Researching your personal brand is an important step in building a strong reputation for yourself. As you continue to learn more about your qualities and how people perceive your personality and talents, use these strengths to create a unique personal brand.
Have you done research on your personal brand? What did you discover yourself during the process?