Keyword Research and Optimization: SES Hong Kong


Last week I was lucky enough to present at SES Hong Kong on Keyword Research and Optimization. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of such a fantastic event, so a huge thank you to the team for having me!

So many people are achieving what they could from keyword research. The biggest mistake I see is people visit their tool of choice, download a set of keywords and then call it a day. The main point to this presentation was that keyword research doesn’t end with collecting a bunch of words and associated search volume; this should only be the starting point.

Effective keyword research is about having the ability to unfold and pick out the story behind the data and that means being able to take a data set from a being a list of words and numbers, to a point where you can gain some meaningful outcomes for your business. I thought the quote below summarized this thought process quite nicely:

“Research is creating new knowledge” – Neil Armstrong

The process:


Understanding your Audience

One of the first steps to getting something meaningful from your Keyword Research is having an understanding of the business in question and also the audience you’re looking to attract. This becomes particularly important in the Asia Pacific region because there are so many cultures and subsequent purchasing styles coming together so closely.

The example I used to highlight this in my presentation was people looking for bags. If you’re selling high-end goods with large price tags, then attracting people looking for cheap products is not going to get you very far. They’re simply not going to buy from you. Instead, it’s likely that you’re going to want to focus on terms including words like “luxury”, “designer”, “handmade” and so on. It’s amazing how many people miss this step, and as a result end up with a keyword set that just doesn’t reflect the business and market you’re working in.

Some of the questions you’ll want to be asking yourself at this stage include:

  • What segment of the market am I trying to target?
  • What product groups currently earn the most revenue?
  • What drives someone to search for my products in the first place?
  • Am I looking to put my brand in front of people who are researching or wanting to purchase something quickly?

Collecting your Base List

To fully understand how your market searches for your products means being able to gather enough keywords and phrases to gain a full market view. I personally think this is a really fun part of the process and there’s certainly room for creativity here. There’s no limit to the ways in which you can do this, but the end goal is a list of words and phrases that can form your master list of keywords. My favourite methods to gather these lists involve gathering logical phrases (the obvious stuff), snooping on your competition and getting suggestions from search engine tools.

There’s a ton more but I’ve listed some of my favourite tools below for getting the job done:

Finding Accurate Data

Getting your hands on accurate search volume data at scale can be a challenge. The truth of the matter is that every tool is going to be providing you with an estimate and therefore numbers can vary. One of the most important things when finding the best source of search volume data is to find something that’s going be consistent and cope with scale.

There’s been quite a bit of fuss about the old Google Keyword tool going into retirement and subsequently being replaced with the Keyword Planner. However, having had a play it’s actually really quite good, and you still have useful functionality such as targeting your campaigns to get exact match search volume for your individual regions. There are a few differences, an immediate one being that you now need an Adwords account to use the tool but perhaps the best new feature is the ability to upload up to 250,000 keywords via a csv file. Nice!


Other tools that you might want to check out are Bings keyword tool, Baidu’s keyword tool and third party services such as SEMRush. SEMRush has the added benefit of providing an API services meaning you can pull all your data directly into Excel. I included some details in the presentation of how to do this, so you might want to check out the slides for more information if it sounds like something you’d like to try:

It’s also clearly very useful to marry up search volume with your ranking position for each keyword. By doing this, you can really start to understand where new opportunities lie. The best tool for gathering a large set of ranking data is by far Advanced Web Ranking (AWR). AWR has the ability to not only gather ranking data for, but many other localized search engines including Bing, Yandex, and Baidu.

Another really useful report within AWR is the “top sites” report. This report enables you to export the top ranking page for each keyword – very useful when you’re trying to identify who dominates your market!

What Outcomes can I Expect?

As mentioned right at the beginning of this post, this process is all about gaining meaningful outcomes and actions for your business. Depending on the reasons behind embarking on your keyword research, there are probably a few major points of information you’d be looking to glean including what content you require, what your navigation should look like, and where your quick wins lie.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

What should my navigation look like?


Here we can see a group of keywords sorted by search volume, related to kids toys and games. Let’s say you own a children’s toy retail site, seeing the data organized as per the above example means you can work your way from left to right, quickly identifying what your category structure and navigation should look like based on search demand. If you’re interested in how to create these charts in Excel, check out this post for some handy instructions.

Where are my quick wins?


Because we’ve gathered the ranking position for each keyword, we have all the data we need to help us find the quickest wins, and most beneficial keywords to work on. In the example above, you can see the ranking position on the secondary axis marked with a red cross – the higher the cross, the better your ranking position. This selection is filtered down to show keywords ranking between 3rd and 30th that also have a good amount of search volume. Therefore, we can be pretty confident that giving these keywords a bit of attention will reap some good rewards.

Who dominates my space?


Remember that “top sites” report I suggested? Well, the direct outcome from that report is we can very quickly work out which sites dominate your market. If you wanted even more insight, you could break this down further by category seeing which sites dominate the search results for each product group.

By Jon Quinton, senior SEO consultant at

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