Keyword Tools? Why Not Keyword Surveys?

Keyword Tools? Why Not Keyword Surveys?

SEOs love the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, and most of the alternative keyword tools more or less scrape it for data. But as much as we worship the power of Google’s tool, we all know it’s flawed. The traffic estimations are…well…less than perfect. Perhaps more importantly, when everybody in your industry is using the same tool, it’s not exactly easy to find a competitive advantage.

So what’s the secret to beating your competitors at keyword research? Ask the consumers what they want to know, instead of the tools.

Our problem is that small business owners and marketers tend to live in a bubble of their own design. We are wrapped up in our own jargon, and it’s difficult to put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes. What are they going to search for when they turn to the search engines? The best way to find out is to ask them.

We’d recommend taking advantage of SurveyMonkey to accomplish this, especially if you don’t already have a following. Even in cases where you do, you risk getting trapped inside the mind of your existing customers, rather than your potential customers. With SurveyMonkey, it’s possible to spend nothing and get 100 surveys with 10 questions each. You can also spend $204 per year to get unlimited answers and surveys, or $300 per year to get extra features like A/B testing.

Things to avoid:

–        Asking multiple choice questions

–        Being too leading with your questions

–        Choosing too small a sample size (100 is well within reach)

Creating the ideal survey:

–        Define the problem that your product or service is trying to solve for yourself.

–        Explain this problem to the survey participants clearly, and avoid using any suggestive keywords.

–        Target survey participants who would have some interest in this problem and your solution to it.

–        If possible, explain the problem in at least two different ways, using entirely different phrases, and A/B test them. This will eliminate most of the keyword bias.

–        Ask the participants to type, in free form, what they would search for in Google to solve the problem.

–        Ask for multiple answers to this question (preferably all 10).

Using the results:

Nowadays holding surveys and gathering data is so inexpensive that it’s typically the least intensive part of the process. Analyzing your data will likely be the hardest part of the process. The first thing you’ll want to do is find your most popular keyword phrases. Here’s how you can do this.

  1. Paste your participants’ keywords into column A, starting with cell A2.
  2. Select the entire column and sort it in either ascending or descending order. It doesn’t matter which.
  3. Type “keywords” into cell A1 to label this column.
  4. Type “duplications” into cell B1 to label the next column. You will be using a formula to count the number of duplicate keywords and find out which phrase was most popular.
  5. Type “=IF(A2<>A1; 1; B1 + 1)” into cell B2. This formula will label the first instance of a keyword phrase “1” and count up from there until it hits a new keyword.
  6. Drag this formula all the way down to the bottom of your spreadsheet.
  7. Now column B counts up each duplicate keyword. It’s tempting to sort column B descending right away, but if you do this it will actually screw up your formula. Instead, you need to cut column B and use “Paste Special” to paste it back in with numbers only, eliminating the formula.
  8. You can sort the whole table descending by column B right now if you want to, so that your most popular keywords rise to the top. This will be a bit unsightly, however, since you haven’t eliminated the duplicates. If you want to avoid this, don’t sort it yet. Do the following instead.
  9. If you want to remove the duplicates, you can label cell C1 “keep/toss”
  10. Enter this formula into C2: “=IF(A2<>A3;”keep”;”toss”)” This will label each row “keep” or “toss,” with “keep” being the final duplicate of each keyword phrase.
  11. Again, you need to cut C2 and then “Paste Special” as text only before you do any sorting.
  12. Now sort the table ascending by column C so that all the rows labeled “keep” rise to the top.
  13. Delete all of the “toss” rows.
  14. Now you can sort the whole table descending by column B to see your most popular keyword phrases, and there will be no duplicates.

This can carry you a long way, although you will need to do some analysis of your own in order to locate similar but not identical keyword phrases.

Remember, nobody knows how your target consumers will use the search engines better than they do. While Google’s keyword tool is a great place to start, you can gain a competitive advantage by turning straight to the source and developing your own data set.

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