Updated December 1st, 2018 — version 271

The UnFair Advantage Book
Winning the Search Engine Wars

Chapter Five, Keyword Research
and The Buying Process

Chapter Five
Keyword Research and The Buying Process

Keywords are the cornerstone of search engine optimization and Internet marketing. Keyword Research is arguably the most important activity you'll engage in as you begin your search engine optimization and marketing (SEO/SEM) efforts. Simply put, Keywords are key to web marketing success and a profitable online business.

Your objective is to find your most valuable keywords, the ones that make you money. Never assume you know which keywords people are using to search for your products or service, that's a fool's approach to keyword research. Instead you must ferret out the money keywords by following the buying process. By doing so you will learn that...

The only type of keyword that consistently converts to sales
is the last one used before making a purchase.

The take-away point is that...

High traffic keywords do NOT typically generate high conversions or high profit!

Amateurs often attempt to rank high for broad, generic search terms that are relevant to their product or service. But, in reality, you won't make many (if any) sales even if you rank number one for a generic search term like cell phones. Experts know that cell phone BUYERS only use generic terms when they are researching a potential purchase. But, when they are ready to buy, they will search for something very specific like Buy Apple iPhone X best price no contract or samsung galaxy s9+ 256gb coral blue free shipping right before they actually make a purchase.

In other words, the keyword-based customer buying process always involves what we call a long tail keyword search. This is invariably a phrase with descriptive terms and perhaps a geographical location that accompany a generic keyword like lawyer. For instance, personal injury lawyer in tampa specializing in defective products would be the type of long tailed keyword (actually a phrase) that a person would use just prior to making a purchasing decision.

Let's look at a real example of how the keyword-based customer decision making process actually works. A while back one of our tech-guys was in the market for a bluetooth headset. He started by searching for bluetooth headset reviews to learn which units came with the best recommendations. In doing his research he learned about bluetooth multi-point and bluetooth 2.1.

That led to learning about and narrowing down his search to three possibilities: the Plantronics Voyager Pro, Motorola Command 1 and the Bose AE 2 bluetooth headsets. He decided on the Plantronics unit and his final search, the money search, was: Plantronics Voyager Pro Plus.

BuyingProcess

The graphic above shows that his product search began with a very generic search phrase (keyword), in this case, bluetooth headsets. As we would expect, there's lots and lots of traffic for that term but not a lot (if any) sales. And, although amateurs might be tempted to target that generic keyword, experts know it's the very specific money keyword (phrase) that will actually produce sales. In the case of purchasing pay-per-click traffic, this is critically important to know. The worst possible amateur mistake is paying for expensive high volume generic keyword traffic that does not convert to sales.

Of course this is a simplification of the process. There are often a variety of factors that increase or decrease the due diligence that consumers apply to the buying process. Generally speaking, the lower the price point the less research a consumer will bother doing. On a high-ticket item however, you should expect the buying process to be more extended. For instance a survey by Polk and Auto Trader found the average new car buyer spent 18-19 hours in research mode and searched for special offers, rebates and incentives 42% of the time.

As previously mentioned, the money "keywords" are actually a phrase. And, in SEO jargon, any keyword phrase of three or more keywords is called a Long Tail Keyword. Such keywords are very specific to whatever you are buying or selling. The good news is that long tail keywords are usually less competitive, making them easier to rank well for, and they're more likely to convert to sales.

The Keyword Discovery Process

The first step in your keyword discovery process is low tech. All you need to do is ask people how they would search for your product or service. If what you offer solves a problem, then ask them what they would search for to solve that problem. Ask your employees, your vendors, and your customers. Then start asking friends and associates. Heck, you can even ask the cab driver; you get the point. ASK! ...it will be the most cost effective and potentially productive aspect of your keyword research.

While you're in the asking phase, be sure to look for slang, jargon, and dialect. Remember that different people oftentimes search for the same things using different words. For instance, some people use PLC to search for industrial computers. The search term murdered out is jargon for a flat black car with flat black wheels. People who live on the upper peninsula of Michigan are called Yoopers. If you're selling fire extinguishers to car enthusiasts, it's good to know that American drivers might store them in the trunk while British drivers might store them in the boot. And, did you know that re-pop is slang for reproduction? That's why it's critical to ask!

You should also mine your webserver logs and/or Google Analytics for unique keywords you haven't yet discovered. Check your business email system, web site search engine data, and your support ticket system if you have one. Monitor relevant blogs, forums and competitors' web pages (it can't hurt to see what the other guy found). Use a thesaurus to find common synonyms. Alternate languages and spelling errors are frequently a good source. And remember to add location keywords such as your city and state whenever applicable.

The idea is to identify all of the keywords that people are associating with your product or service and the problem it solves.

4 Free Keyword Discovery Tools

Due to the competitiveness of phrases like smoothies, understanding and embracing very high-quality, long-form detailed pieces of evergreen content is essential. It's this type of content - those that seek to ask and answer all possible questions of the audience - that Google loves and tends to rank the highest in competitive search results.

Here is an example of how we could use keyword research to put together an Ultimate Smoothies Guide resource as an example:

Keyword Research Strategy #1 - Google Related Searches

One of the best (and fastest) ways to research keywords is to go directly to Google, who provides Related Searches at the bottom of each search results page. For example, if you type smoothies into Google and scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll see a list of related searches like this:

Graphic showing Google Related Searches for the Query Smoothies

You can see that Google refines smoothies down to related queries like:

  • healthy smoothies
  • fruit smoothies
  • protein smoothies
  • yogurt smoothies
  • green smoothies

These related searches are GOLD to you when drafting your own Ultimate Smoothie Resource or when doing any keyword stemming research on a base keyword phrase.

If you were to put something like this together, it would be a good idea to have entire sections in the piece on fruit smoothies and protein smoothies and yogurt smoothies and green smoothies. Doing that would result in a complete resource that Google would, pardon the pun; drink up.

This should be your first step when researching a blog post or article in the future.

Keyword Strategy #2 - Google Autocomplete Results

If you've ever done a search at Google then you know that Google uses predictive analysis to actually autocomplete many of your searches as you are typing. This is called Google Instant and is completely controlled by the volume and breadth of searches done by Google users worldwide, and by the content of web pages in its index.

Google has, honestly, seen it all. So it's relatively easy for them to understand "intent" by users and provide suggested searches that match this intent.

If you were to do a Google search for smoothie, you'd see a long list of populated searches that Google applies directly under smoothie.

Graphic showing Google Autocomplete Queries for the term Smoothies

Now if you compare this list with our list from the related searches you can see that a couple of patterns emerge. First, notice that smoothies for kids popped in. That would make another kick-ass section in any Ultimate Smoothies Resource.

Second, see that kale and spinach and yogurt show up again? Kale and spinach would fall under the green smoothies section we already established above. So, as you can see this strategy allows you to easily find a few new keyword phrases to include in your resource.

  • smoothies for kids
  • smoothies with kale
  • smoothies with yogurt

Autocomplete is something that constantly changes. Monitoring this now and in the future, especially when you are researching new content or updating existing content, will help you considerably with targeting what's "hot" with keyword searches. That's because Autocomplete is driven by real-time search query information provided by Google users worldwide.

Keyword Strategy #3 - Ubersuggest Results

If you've never heard of Ubersuggest.org then you've missed a great way to expand your keyword research. Ubersuggest is a keyword suggestion tool that searches and pulls information from known verticals in Google and other tools.

Graphic showing Ubersuggest Tool

If you go to this tool, put in a base keyword, and choose Web you'll be presented with a long list of queries tied to this base term.

Here's a brief overview of some keywords this tool returns from the Web vertical:

Graphic showing Ubersuggest Smoothie Keyword Queries

If you take this keyword data and apply it to the data lists under Strategies #1 and #2 listed above, you can once again see some clear themes emerge:

  • smoothies for kids
  • smoothies with kale
  • smoothies with yogurt

If you weren't convinced that kids and kale and yogurt are BIG semantic keywords within the smoothie niche before, now it's hard to ignore.

Keyword Strategy #4 - Answer the Public

Another great tool that many still haven't heard of is Answer The Public. This tool is a bit different as it doesn't return search query results but instead shows all of the most popular questions people are asking based on the keyword you submit.

Screenshot of the main page of Answer the Public Keyword Tool

This tool gives you countless ideas for potential content based on the questions people are actually asking. When you consider how important Voice Search is becoming, this is priceless. Each one of the lines seen in the image below is another question, and each area of interest is broken down to the finest details. You can see the search results here.

Screenshot of the main page of Answer the Public Keyword Tool

You can download the results to further process them or just use their interface to dig deeper. One of our favorite features of this tool is the Related. In this case it gave us 19 results that included these:

  • smoothies recipes
  • smoothies for kids
  • smoothies with kale
  • smoothies with yogurt
  • smoothies to lose weight
  • smoothies without yogurt

Now, if you weren't convinced that kids and kale and yogurt are BIG semantic keywords within the smoothie niche before, now it's hard to ignore.

Conclusion

These are just four very quick (but very powerful) ways to perform keyword research on both new and existing blog topics.

Remember, Google wants to rank COMPLETE pieces of content. Think about your main root keyword, then seek to use these strategies to conduct keyword research based on real-world search feedback. Do that, and the content you publish may actually crack that all-important first page of Google results. Good luck!

Pro Tip: Consider installing the toolbar add-on Keywords Everywhere because it ads search volume data to both Google Suggest and Answer the Public.