Making Sense of SEO Keyword Research with Mapping

My latest article at Practical Ecommerce, read it in full here.


Keyword research is essential to search engine optimization. It’s the window into the words that real searchers use to find products like the ones you sell. But at the end of the keyword research process — detailed in “Part 1: Keyword Research” — search marketers can be overwhelmed by the vast amount of data staring at them from their Excel spreadsheets. Keyword categorizing and mapping help move the optimization process from the research phase to the actual optimization phase.

Categorizing Keywords

During the keyword research process, patterns start to appear. Different types of keywords emerge that can be logically grouped into different categories that reflect the site’s business goals and core product offerings. For example, if my site sells subscriptions to online games for kids, my keyword research could be 12,000 phrases or more based on the research conducted in Google’s free Keyword Tool. But because each keyword is needs to be related to my core product offering, I can start to categorize them and delete the ones that aren’t directly relevant.

Let’s say that my site sells games. But it doesn’t sell just any games; it sells online games for kids. That’s three vital components to choosing keywords that are specifically targeted to my product offering: “types of games,” “online vs. offline,” and synonyms for the word “kids,” as listed in the spreadsheet, below.

See the diagrams and read more on how to categorize & map keywords »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Optimize Your Title Tags and Eat Your Veggies

My latest article at Practical Ecommerce, read it in full here.

Optimizing title tags is a bit like eating your vegetables. No one wants to do it, but everyone knows it’s good for you. Search engine optimization professionals universally agree that title tags are the most influential on-page element. SEOmoz recently confirmed the importance of title tags in a report that strongly correlated title tag optimization to higher rankings.

The guidelines for optimizing title tags are simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Begin the tag with the most valuable and relevant keyword phrase, use the exact keyword phrase, end with the brand, and keep the length to 70 characters or less.

Read more about the finer points of optimizing title tags »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Using UGC to Outsource Long Tail SEO to Customers

My latest article at Practical Ecommerce, read it in full here.

Search engine optimization typically focuses on the trophy terms, the high-volume keyword phrases, because marketers need to drive the highest value with the lowest effort. Unfortunately, those juicy trophy terms are great for brand recognition and customers’ initial awareness, but they typically don’t convert as well as the less commonly searched long tail phrases. But optimizing a site manually for the millions of phrases that could drive converting customers to a site just isn’t scalable or possible with limited resources. User generated content such as reviews and question-and-answer sections can solve the problem by outsourcing long tail optimization to your own customers.

User generated content — UGC — is great for SEO for a couple of reasons. First, when customers write reviews or ask and answer questions about a site’s products, they use different words than marketers use. Customers tend to use the same words that other customers and searchers use. Enabling UGC on a site, therefore, ensures the best of both worlds: The product descriptions and category level content will be written by marketers using the brand voice, and the UGC will be written by customers using the voice of the customer.

Read more »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

“Search Friendly” Ecommerce Platforms?

After working with ecommerce SEO clients for several years, I’m about fed up with “search friendly” platforms, content management systems & site features. They all come with their own baggage, their own set of issues that need to be tested for and controlled. Which takes IT resources. Which are hard to come by, especially when you’re talking about something as difficult to determine ROI for as structural SEO updates.

And invariably, the client isn’t jazzed about revising their platform to optimize structural SEO issues because they thought they bought something that was good for SEO in the first place.

The problem is, SEO friendliness is more than enabling automated & manually customizable title tags. It’s how functionality impacts URLs, how many URLs are generated for each page of content, whether the navigation path affects URL structure, how tracking parameters are passed, whether sorting modifies the URL, whether categories and products are assigned unique persistent IDs, whether IDs are reused, and many many more questions that impact SEO.

I’m looking for the platform that enables and enforces a single URL for a single page of content that is system-optimized for a unique automated keyword phrase, which can be overwritten by manual optimization. ONE URL, ONE page, ONE unique keyword theme. Across thousands of pages on an ecommerce site.

If there’s a platform out there that does this without heavy customization, I haven’t worked with it yet. Pray tell, what’s your favorite “search friendly” platform?

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Charity Gifts: Holiday SEO for Charities Needing Christmas Donations

I googled [madison holiday charity] and was dismayed by the lack of relevant results. My favorite holiday tradition is “adopting” a family in need, giving them Christmas gifts that they otherwise would go without. Now I can see that I need to add SEO for charities to my gift list.

Think what an optimization campaign around [location] + [charity gifts] or [christmas donations] could do for a local charity. Say a seasonal program attracts 100 volunteers — what if SEO could attract 20% more? I’ve reached out to help my favorite charity optimize for next year since this year is essentially a wash for holiday optimization. Next year, look for at the top of the SERPs for [madison charity gifts]!

I finally stumbled on MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry), a local charity serving the western part of Madison, WI. Like many charities, MOM is a local operation staffed by hard-working volunteers and a few employees that wear too many hats to focus on online marketing. Even the national or global charities tend to lack strong SEO savvy. What would they optimize for? Keyword research would light the way, of course.

charity gifts keyword dataI did some quickie keyword research to find the optimal annualized keyword phrase for holiday and Christmas donation gifts. The keyword market isn’t huge, and the data for Madison-based phrases is even tinier since we’re not a major metro area. In the end I had to settle for non-location-specific keyword phrases, logically prepended with location. Here’s what I came up with:

The tricky thing with keyword research is intent. When folks search for [charitable gifts] they may be looking for general charities to donate to as opposed to the intent I had in my search, giving holiday gifts through a charity. The non-holiday keywords are incredibly valuable, of course, but will probably be utilized at the top of the site’s hierarchy. [Christmas donations], [holiday giving], [holiday charities] and [charity christmas gifts] are more on target for the seasonal holiday charity campaign’s landing page.

So let’s look at an example. MOM’s Madison Christmas donations page appears to target the program’s name: Sharing Christmas Program. That’s handy for folks who saw another form of marketing and already know the program exists, but it’s not going to get them a lot of natural search-referred traffic or donations.

While the page mentions some of the optimal individual words, none of the valuable phrases are incorporated together. Here’s what I would do for the Title Tag: Christmas Donations: Madison Charity Christmas Gifts & Holiday Charitable Gift Giving

That one string targets my primary phrase of [christmas donations] and touches six secondary keyword phrases either by exact match or with another word interrupting the exact phrase:

  • [charity gifts]
  • [donation gifts]
  • [charitable gift giving]
  • [holiday giving]
  • [charity christmas gifts]
  • [charity christmas gift]

In addition, the heading, body copy and meta description should be optimized for the primary and secondary keywords. The best I can do for them for this year’s holiday giving season is give a link, but next year we’ll be ready with optimization a-blazing!

Learn more about Madison charity MOM, volunteer or donate, or visit their blog or Facebook page.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.