Using Web Marketing Data Effectively Part 1: Keyword Research

Guest writing for us this week is Gary Barnes. He is a Principal in Blue Horseradish, a full service SEO and web marketing consultancy, and has over fifteen years of experience in helping companies maximize the performance of their web presence and develop successful web marketing strategies.


Tim Duncan, one of the premier power forwards in NBA history, recently retired after 19 very successful seasons. His nickname was the “Big Fundamental” since routinely he made the best possible “percentage play” for whatever situation he was in.

Duncan was famous for studying his opponents, understanding the rules of the game, knowing how his teammates played and the odds a certain play would work in a particular context.

How does one know what the best “percentage plays” are for various situations? By researching and analyzing relevant data. In the search engine optimization and web marketing world, that relevant data starts with its own “Big Fundamental” otherwise known as keyword research.

Search starts with entering a group of keywords or phrases into a search box and requesting a set of relevant results. This is true for any type of search engine: Google, Bing, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Amazon are some of the most popular options. Understanding which keyphrases your target audience is searching for and thus what phrases you want your business to be found for on any of those engines is critical to making the best “percentage play”.

Keyword research is one of the most vital and high return activities in web marketing. At the core, it facilitates getting visitors to your website, but, more importantly, it allows you to drive the right visitors to your website: the visitors who are interested in your products or services and would be inclined to buy them.

The value of this marketing intelligence is fantastic. Using keyword research, one can react to market conditions quicker, anticipate shifts in demand better and develop the content, products, and services that web searchers are actively seeking. For marketing purposes, the barrier to understanding the motivations of customers in almost any business sector has never been lower.

How does one start the keyword research process? Good question. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. 1.  Always Test Assumptions:

Be skeptical of what is believed to be true regarding keywords or site visitor search behavior within a business or organization. In nearly every case, once the keyword research was done, what was believed to be true was not supported by the data and the valuable phrases included ones not previously known or considered valuable by the business or organization.

Part of this is human nature; people are normally reticent to admit they do not know something or that they could be wrong. Other factors can be indifference or resistance to data. Keyword research will only work effectively if people are engaged and invested in discovering what is really happening and how to leverage that to their advantage.

  1. 2.  Align Keyword Research with Business Goals

Most importantly, make sure your keyword research is aligned with the business goals of the company or organization. If there is a particular service or product that needs promotion or new offerings to be introduced to the marketplace, include keyphrases in the research that pertain to them. That will facilitate site pages and content being developed on those topics that will help achieve the relevant business goals.

  1. 3.  Cast a Wide Net and Then Narrow the Focus:

Identifying the keyphrases to research is very important. There are a wide range of data sources that should be utilized. The concept is to cast as wide a net as possible to capture as many potentially valuable keyphrases as possible. The key is realizing that whatever keyphrases are not included on the list will not get researched. This sounds elementary, but you cannot imagine how many times other keyphrase options have been provided AFTER we already completed the research. Work hard to include everything that has potential so work does not need to be repeated unnecessarily. Once the list has been researched, an evaluation process takes place to eliminate all but the most valuable and relevant keyphrases. Those phrases will be the targets the site architecture and content are built around.

  1. 4.  Include all Relevant Data Sources:

 In the spirit of casting as wide a net as possible, definitely consider all the relevant data sources for keyphrases. These include:

Tools such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools – keyphrase data directly from the engines on what keyphrases includes your website in the result set.

  • Current rankings – check who is currently well ranked for the target keyphrases and what other related phrases they are using.
  • Other tools including Google Keyword Planner and Bing Keyword Research – discover search activity information on specific keyphrases or keyphrase options.
  • Organizational brainstorming – gather keyphrase options from company personnel
  • Competitive research – see what keyphrases your competition has optimized around and is ranked for currently.


  1. 5. Elements for Evaluation:

 Elements to consider as part of evaluating the keyword research data and selecting the target phrases include word order, singular vs. plural, specific vs. general, amount of search activity and relevancy.

Word Order – compare the keyphrases “commercial real estate” and “real estate commercial”. They both use the same three words in the phrase yet have completely different meanings. In the research, all these variations should be considered, but when evaluating the data it will become clear which ones belong and which ones should be eliminated.

Singular vs. Plural – products or services are normally searched for both as a singular phrase i.e. “office building for sale” and a plural one “office buildings for sale”. Both versions may turn out to be equally relevant, but, especially with products or properties, usually they are purchased either one at a time or in groups of more than one. That purchase behavior is what dictates which version of the phrase to use.

Specific vs. General – the rule here is the more specific the keyphrase, the more qualified the site traffic and leads will result from it. For general phrases, obviously the opposite is true; the traffic and leads will be less qualified. The trade off is the amount of search activity a specific phrase has compared to the general phrase. If we are comparing “sales comps” with “Dallas office sales comps”, the general phrase should have a huge amount of search activity and the specific one much less. The key is to find the most specific phrase one can that has enough search activity to make investing in marketing that phrase worth it.

Amount of Search Activity – Do not get too hung up on the specific numbers of search activity. The tools provide monthly averages for the search activity and they only provide data for their platform: Google for Google and Bing for Bing. Therefore, it is better to look at the relevancy of the phrases and then focus more on the number of average searches. The keyphrases that are chosen as targets must be highly relevant to the products or services being marketed. If one phrase has 50 searches per month and a similar one has 70 does not matter as much. Whichever one is more relevant should be selected.


About Blue Horseradish

Blue Horseradish is a full service web marketing consultancy that provides search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), social media optimization (SMO), local search engine optimization and a variety of other web marketing services along with web design and development.

Blue Horseradish specializes in B2B web marketing with a large customer base of manufacturing, industrial, engineering and technology companies with a proven track record of customer successes and enthusiastic references.


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