How to use Twitter to replace SEO keyword data

So many SEO folks and blogs have said the sky has fallen with the end of keyword data in our SEO analytics. What’s a marketer to do now that we don’t know the exact words someone uses to search for what we want to rank for? The short answer is that Google is very clearly creating search results using topics, which are aggregations of relevant keywords, misspellings, and related terms. So how do you penetrate this misty veil and discover what people are really searching for, since the individual keyword data is gone?

Use Twitter, of course! Twitter is the world’s largest open stream of conversation available, and the words, phrases, and expressions people use in conversation are going to be the same kinds of words, phrases, and expressions that they’ll use in search, especially around topics they want to know about. Let’s look at an example of how this might work. Let’s say you’re looking to become authoritative on content marketing. What words and phrases are people going to use in relation to this?

Start by doing a search for the phrase or term in question on Twitter.

_4__Twitter___Search_-__content_marketing_

Scroll down as far as you can without making your web browser crash and copy/paste all of the tweets you can into a text file.

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Sort the file and remove the obvious bits of text that aren’t relevant, like lines filled with usernames and Klout scores, and you should be left with a nice body of text that contains the different related terms and topics around content marketing, courtesy of the Twitter audience. Condense this down using your favorite concordance software or word cloud software (I like Tagxedo), and you should have a visualized sense of what’s relevant around your core search term:

Tagxedo_-_Creator

Twitter has given you a lexicon you can use of different keywords and terms you can mix and match as you create content to take advantage of the topic as a whole, rather than individual keywords. Give this a try and see if it works for you!


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The short and long games of SEO

SEO

I was listening with interest to episode 3 of the Marketing Companion featuring Tom Webster and Mark Schaefer, and the debate that formed the core of the episode was: is quality or quantity better when it comes to content marketing for the purposes of winning at SEO? The example given was a self-appointed social media guru who did a 9 minute interview with a local business and generated 63 pieces of content from it, helping the client win the local search game.

Is mass content marketing, where quantity and freshness wins out over quality, the way to go? The answer depends on which Google game you are playing; Google offers two of them.

The short game is the game that most SEO folks tend to play. This focuses on impactful, fast wins that leverage gaps or flaws in the search algorithms, things that can artificially inflate the importance of a site.

The long game is the quality game that more content marketers and writers tend to play. This focuses on evergreen or high quality content that isn’t necessarily going to win in the algorithm of the day, but will continue to be relevant for years to come.

Google would like you to play the long game, and in terms of effort and returns on that effort, the long game definitely has the better ratio of effort to return. However – and this is distasteful to many marketers – both games can win if you play them well enough. I used to play the short game almost exclusively back in the days when I was marketing financial services products because I worked for an underdog startup that would have been obliterated if we had gone toe to toe with our competitors on their playing field. I did all of the short game wins at the time very successfully:

  • Making a copy of the Wikipedia database file and posting that in a more optimized, easier to navigate PHP framework
  • Repurposing and republishing US government databases
  • Buying up dozens and dozens of exact match domains and cross linking them to each other

Google has, over the years, devalued each of those techniques, each of those tactics, and in order to remain relevant in SEO, you’ve had to adapt to new short game techniques. This, incidentally, is why most SEO firms really suck – they get into the game at a certain point in time but never evolve their techniques, so they are effective at the short game for only a little while. That said, if you’re good at it, the short game can net you some big wins – big risk giving big reward.

I’ve also played the long game, where it’s all about the quality of the content that you publish, and being effective at capturing and converting the audience you do reap. Most of what I do on my blog here is the long game. A good chunk of what I do for clients today is long game because it serves their interests best in the long term. The long game also requires significantly more expertise in the field you’re working in – high quality content comes from high value, and if you’re not proficient at what you’re creating content about, you won’t deliver high value.

The best strategy is the one that fits the risk you’re willing to take, the time you’re willing to invest learning and staying up to date on techniques, the knowledge you have of the field, and the other marketing resources you can bring to bear.


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Why search is much bigger than you can measure

mktg.shiftcomm.com/l/18432/2012-12-11/zd

I was asked yesterday what I thought the top marketing trend or trends would be for the rest of 2013. The answer is straightforward but challenging for us marketers: search that’s beyond measured search. On any given day of the week, a new study pops out on the marketing news website of your choice talking about what’s hot, and if you read the majority of the credible ones, search is still the top game in town for acquiring new audiences, converting leads, and ultimately improving business. But the search game is changing in the sense that measuring it is getting progressively tougher.

Search is being masked. For example, iOS devices don’t pass any referral data at all in their browsing history, so traffic from Google searches on an iOS device come in attributed as direct traffic. The same is true for browsers that have started to encrypt their searches, like Google Chrome. Those searches, and what they’re about, are being lost. You may think you’re getting lots of direct traffic from your brand’s prominence, but what you actually may be getting is mobile traffic of all kinds that’s simply not being attributed correctly. Here’s an easy way to tell: load up your direct traffic in Google Analytics. Then load up your other sources of traffic. Which sources do your direct traffic most look like? There’s a chance that you need to do some more digging (and a proper correlation analysis) after that to see how much of your site traffic is mobile.

Second and more important, search behavior is becoming blended into other referral channels. For example, when you search on Facebook, you’ll see traffic that comes out of that search be attributed as Facebook social traffic, even if it’s being served up internally from Graph Search or Bing. The user behavior was still a search. When you search on Google Maps for a local business, your search will come through attributed to Google referral traffic, not search. When you search for something on services like Yelp, that’s referral traffic too. Search on Pinterest? Assuming that someone clicks through to your site, it’s Pinterest referral traffic, even though the user behavior was a search.

Finally, we’re getting to a point now where we’re seeing significant interest and action on the point of search purchase. Yelp bought SeatMe which gives it additional leverage over restaurants to create conversions right in the tool. Google bought Waze which has conversion points in the app for nearby businesses. Expect to see additional point of search purchasing opportunities in the near future.

What does this mean for you? Ultimately, it’s more important than ever to ask people how they heard of you in every intake opportunity. That’s the only way you’re going to get credible data as search gets blended and muddied more and more.


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