I spend a lot of time expounding on the power of the online language and data that comes from keyword research and search. I teach about it (see the recent cross country digital marketing workshops from the IPF), write about it (see my guest posts in Ted’s Hopes indie film blog – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), and it is the foundation of the work I do with my clients in both screen media and business. In quick summary, search is a one of THE most common online activities and the language of search is the bridge between relevant, interested searchers and your product/ service/ content. I strongly believe understanding this space is the cornerstone for any successful online business. Google, however, recently went through some very significant changes. These impact the how and why of keyword research and the measurement of its success. Here’s a quick breakdown of those changes and six best practices that you should take in response:
Google’s New Rules
Google is constantly undergoing changes and evolving its search engine into a smarter, more effective machine. I gave some advice a year and a half ago on how to respond to the search engine optimization (SEO) hysteria that happens every time one of these changes is announced. This still holds true, but it is also important to understand the new rules of the game in light of the “Hummingbird” algorithm and other important changes. Here are three fundamental issues you need to be aware of:
1. User Intent is now more important than the exact language of search. A recent Wired article explained this well, but basically Google will be looking at a much larger context than just the words being typed into the search box. The “WHY” of the search is as important as the “HOW” or the words being used. Google wants the search process to be more like a personal conversation with a friend who not only knows a lot about the world but also knows a lot about you, where you are, and what you like.
2. Google’s Keyword Tool is different and only available through AdWords. Anyone who has taken a workshop with me on keyword research learned about accessing the Keyword Tool at this URL: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. This tool is no longer available. Instead it has been replaced by the Keyword Planner Tool, available from only inside a Google AdWords account. It is still free (you can set up an account without having to pay any money), but it does require another step to get access to the data, and some small adjustments to methodology in order to get the information you need.
3. Google Analytics keyword data is now (not provided). This analytics tool used to provide information on which keywords are referring traffic to your website. This was a great way to measure the success of your search marketing program as you could see what phrases were doing well in search and where you still needed to improve. Google has been clawing back the data it provides on keywords from its own engine for a while now, but as of September is blocking 100% of this information. As this engine drives the lion’s share of online search activity this creates a significant knowledge gap.
6 New Keyword Best Practices
These big changes are requiring shifts in SEO thinking and methodology that are a deepening of best practices that have evolved over the past few years:
1. Learn how to do keyword research using the new planner tool. This is still a foundational skill that provides important market research to help inform your digital marketing strategy, from content to social media to identifying key market influencers.
2. Build a bigger picture. Think more language ecosystem than a collection of targeted individual phrases. Casting a wider net with your keyword research will help build this picture and help evolve your online presence.
3. Provide the best answers. The big picture mentioned above will provide insight into the user intent of your target market. Try to extrapolate from the research as to what are the questions being asked when people type this into the search engines (which may change across devices and other contexts). Then provide the best possible answers.
4. Become an authority on Google. You need to provide great, relevant, valuable content, but you also need to jump through Google’s hoops to further establish yourself as a recognizable expert and resource. Get on Google+, find an authentic way to participate, and sign up for Google Authorship.
5. Integrate Google Webmaster Tools, AdWords & Analytics. With keyword referrer data now (not provided) it is critical to connect all these Google widgets to fill in some of the gaps. Webmaster Tools will show you what search queries your site is appearing for and which result in clicks to your site. Participating even in a small Google AdWords buy can further fill in your keyword knowledge. Paying for information previously given away for free may grate on you, but we were lucky to get it for free as long as we did.
6. Measure success on search via content. We may not have the direct keyword referrer data from Google anymore, but by tracking the data around your content and the pages through which people enter your site, you can gain insight into what pages are doing well on search and what content people are responding to. This, in conjunction with your ongoing keyword research and content strategy, can give you a measurement of success and an indication for future growth.
A Final Thought…
The rules are always going to change, and not everyone can change with them. The more you are able to adapt and provide a relevant and valuable contribution to the online conversation Google wants to be a part of, the stronger your online presence and business model.
Do you have any burning questions about digital marketing for your TV, film, web series or other online video project? Love to hear them. Share your thoughts, ideas, questions below or send them to me at annelise (at) veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.
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