By SiteEditor | Search Engine Optimization | 25 March 2013

In the past, keyword research was easy. You just had to pick the terms the clients wanted to rank high and cram them in a page and they are in the top three search for query already. Gradually things began to change in a good way.

The Search Engine Heritage
The good days of gaming search engines initially came to a screeching halt with Google’s buzzkill PageRank algorithm. PageRank was based on the academic model that stipulated papers cited by other papers had to be better than those not so cited. Later, Google came up with the Hilltop Algorithm. Hilltop was one of the first algorithms to introduce the concept of machine-mediated “authority” to combat the human manipulation of results for commercial gain.

Search engines have gone smarter since then, while the users become more sluggish. Most of them started to construct poor queries (56%), select irrelevant results (55%), and become disoriented and overwhelmed by the amount of information in search results (38%). Then came the era of taking a user-centered approach to optimizing websites for users

User-Centered Keyword Research
User-centered keyword research lives up to its name by starting with what prospective customers would likely use to find the site. And the best place to find that information is your client.  Familiarize yourself with the client’s product space and vocabulary, ask questions, and look at their competitors.

Then, turn to Google Analytics to find out what is sending traffic and how it is performing. I look at what page they land on, whether they engage or bounce, and if they convert. If there is one tail, long or short, in SEO that is supported by data, “longer query = more likely to convert” is it.

Finally, swing by Google Webmaster tools and see how the search engine currently views site relevance by studying queries, impressions, AVERAGE (important distinction there) position, and click-through rate.

Next, compare actual site behavior with general search behavior using any one or all of my favorite tools:

Google trends:
It may feel like persistent invasion of our privacy, and it comes pretty close too. Trends is a in depth view into the Google data mine of search behavior with the capacity to filter by geography or time. The true delight lies in seeing Top and Rising search queries to the term phrases in comparison. It provides actual user search behavior. In the comparison below, the phrase “user experience” is more popular than “information architecture.”

Yahoo! Clues
With regards to demographic information (age, gender), Yahoo! Clues offers almost same data points as Google Trends . The data is taken from Yahoo! Search and is aggregated and anonymized. The Search Flow Data feature reveals what the user searched for before the term phase comparison and what they searched for after.

Ubersuggest
We all have come across irritating yet occasionally helpful search suggest, the list of query suggestions that appears as you start typing, and changes to meet the changes in your query. Ubersuggest offers a easier navigation, is smooth and provides more useful aggregation of search suggestions from Google and other “suggest services.”

Some perennial sites in the top search results for “keyword tool” are:

Google Adwords tool
Bing Keyword Research tool (requires login as part of Bing Webmasters account)
Wordstream
SEM Rush
Wordtracker
Keyword Spy

Rise of psychographics
Marty Weintraub from aimClear delivered a groundbreaking presentation on using Facebook psychographics to develop a new type of user persona that can assist with re-marketing.

Pschographics are defined as a means of identifying users by interests, occupations, roles in life, and other personal characteristics.This involves mining social outlets for personal preference data, e.g. a political reporting website that targets individuals who listen to Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert and Al Jareeza, etc. This selection is often articulated with term phrases developed by users and potentially reveal what they would use when looking for the client product while facing a search box. Before dumping a bunch of term phrases on a page, start with what searchers are using to find your client’s product or service. The keyword research should be either as smart as search engines or maybe smarter.

What keyword research tool do you find most helpful? Let us know in the comments below.

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