Content Optimization: Creating a Master Keyword List

We’ve been talking about content optimization tactics for some time now. We’ve established that the process of content optimization is a critical feature of nearly any natural search optimization strategy, but we’ve been talking about tactics and tools to date.

Just to recap, we’ve covered content optimization fundamentals and reviewed how to use some of the more popular keyword research tools. We’ve also discussed how keyword suggestion and keyword analytics tools differ and what additional information can be gleaned from understanding keyword effectiveness indicators (KEIs).

Here, let’s examine how to get started using these tools to build an underlying document that will help transform all the content optimization tactics into a cohesive content optimization strategy. I hope you like spreadsheets, because you’re about to build a monster master keyword list.

Start with lists of words you already know drive traffic to your Web site. Go to your Web site analytics program, capture all of the words and phrases that send traffic to your site, and toss them into a text file — notepad works perfectly for this.

If your business is highly seasonal, take 12 months worth of search referral data, toss the words into a spreadsheet, and use the data sorting functions to eliminate duplicate phrases. If your business is locally or regionally focused, grab just enough words and phrases to understand how location is used in tandem with generating search referrals.

How much is just enough information?

That depends on your industry. For example, [pizza] can be used in tandem with the phrase [free delivery] and then refined to locality by adding the [city] or [Zip code] in the search query, along with a multitude of other location-based iteration. If your pizzerias are multi-city and/or multi-state and you grab every phantom of a search referral from your Web analytics with all of the different constructs, you’ll drown in all of the keyword research data.

Avoid drowning in words by teaching yourself to swim through the data. Root out the most popular keyword constructs used to find your tasty foodstuff on a local or regional basis, which can be applied to your keyword strategy on a universal basis. It’s all about understanding the query-based patterns that searchers use to find a tasty slice of cheesy goodness.

For example, do search engine users that seek your pizza enter in your [brand name pizza] or just the generic search string of [pizza] plus [location], which can be a town, city, state, Zip code or area code, etc. What role does [free delivery] play in the search query refinements? It’s the difference between optimizing your content for [pizza brand + city] and [city + free delivery + pizza brand] and understanding the ramifications of the keyword market’s size specific to each keyword group.

After you have winnow down your current search referral list of keywords, the next keyword subset you want to add to your collection should come from your Web site. Grab the top level, category and even sub category titles from your Web site’s navigational constructs. Add plurals or singular variations of the words to your list and now head over to your competitors’ Web sites and do the same, making certain you only snag those words and phrases relevant to your Web site and eliminate duplicates and brand-specific phrases, of course.

By now you should have hundreds of words diddling around on the first draft of your master keyword list. But wait, there’s more. Step out of your Web site and your industry and their related insider, industry-speak phrases and seek alternative words and phrases relevant to your target market. It’s time to stop thinking like a marketer or Web site owner and think like a searcher. Brainstorm.

Brainstorming particular terms and phrase could include general topics, how-to information, specific products or services, or even major brand names and popular personalities. A good thesaurus will help, along with some wildcard [˜ keyword] searches in Google to root out semantic opportunities. Use all of the different keyword suggestion tools for initial brainstorming and build out your master keyword list of alternative words and phrases that are currently not driving any search referred traffic your way or represented in your Web site’s content.

Only after you’ve add all these words and phrases to your master keyword list, then sort, clean, and refine the list, are you ready to add some data to the list. When we next meet we will talk about doing just that by focusing on managing the gap between head, torso, and tail terms.

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