Posted by RobOusbey
There are a variety of tools and techniques recommended for SEO keyword research, from the free to the expensive, from the well-known to those that are almost kept a secret. However, there’s one source of keyword ideas which is often overlooked: the customers (and potential customers) served on a daily basis.
Let’s get sidetracked for a moment: I’ve lost track of the number of people at agencies who have been asked the question "If you’re so good at SEO, why don’t you rank for ‘SEO in London’?"
The answers vary, but one important thing is almost always the same: when you look at the off-line inquiries, people rarely phone up an SEO agency and say "Hello, I’d like you to perform some SEO for me, to cover a variety of tasks including keyphrase research, on site recommendations and link building" – the phone call is more likely to begin with "Hi there, er, I have a website where I sell my widgets, but I want to sell more, and I think I need to promote the site better online. Someone said there might be stuff you could do to help me?".
To mine this rich source of keywords, you want to teach your front-line staff to spot the ‘keyphrases’ that are embedded within the first three or four statements the enquirer makes.
Your new, killer Keyword Research Tool
Get Your Hands Dirty
Of course, you don’t need to be a fashionable new industry like search marketing to make this work for you.
Let’s say you work for an auto garage. One of the most popular services you offer is tire balancing – it noticeably helps improve a vehicle’s driving experience, but it’s not too expensive (though it has good margins). The page on your website is well targeted towards ‘tire balancing’ and ranks fairly well in your area, but doesn’t receive many visits or have a great conversion rate.
You head down to the garage and ask the mechanic how many wheel balancings he’s done recently.
"We’ve had three in just this morning", replies the helpful greasemonkey.
"And they all came here because they know we do wheel balancing?" you ask, naively.
"Aw, no – all three just said their steering wheel was vibrating when they were on the freeway, so it had to be the balance was off," he replies.
You’ve heard what you needed to, and without another word you race back to the office, and update the page. The new title reads "Steering wheel vibrating? We’ll fix it in 1 hour with wheel balancing" and the rest of the page is updated too. You not only start to receive more traffic, but it converts better as well.
Showing staff – whether they are receptionists, shop assistants, hard working mechanics or professionals – the value of spotting these keywords will help you gather a rich source of new targetable ideas, and it’s one that your competitors won’t be able to get to.
Keyphrase research? Oooh, that’s gonna cost ya….
Next stop: New Keyphrases
You can also go one-step-removed to get keyword ideas.
National Express are a UK-wide coach service (a little like the Greyhounds in the US) that get you from A to B more slowly and much more cheaply than taking the train. Their site targets terms such as ‘coach trip from Bath to Newcastle’ etc.
However, if I were them, I’d be calling the travel agents who have made bookings on behalf of customers, to find out what people asked for, when the booking ended up with a coach trip being the right answer. It’s possible that phrases such as ‘overnight journey to Newcastle’ or ‘cheap way to get up North’ will have actually come up in conversation, and the agents have then recommended a coach trip.
These phrases should then definitely be considered for targeting on the site.
Loitering with Intent to Research
One final example, from a conversation overheard in a garden center, between a customer (played by a middle aged female, looking lost) and the sales assistant (an underpaid college kid, looking increasingly confused):
- Customer: Hi, where could I find a mopsy?
- Assistant: I .. I’m sorry ma’am?
- Customer: You know, the thing I can screw to a wall to grow plants up?
- Assistant: Do you mean a trellis?
- Customer: Ah yes! I knew it was the name of one of my daughter’s rabbits.
If I worked for an online garden supplies website, I’d have immediately made a note to write a blog post about ‘How to Grow Plants up a Wall.’ I also think I’d have spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around to listen to what else people were asking for by description or by describing their problem, rather than searching for an item by name.
Whatever your niche, see if there’s a place you can hang out to get the opportunity for this kind of real world keyword research.
It’s Search Marketing
It’s been said many times that a significant part of sales and/or marketing is to solve each customer’s problem. This is just another way of getting you close to that goal, and bring you new business at the same time.
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