Keyword research as we know it suffers from a major disconnect. On one hand, you have keyword tools, which provide keyword suggestions and associated keyword frequency estimates. On the other hand, you have web analytics applications, which provide you with the actual search queries that are driving traffic to your site, and the true relevancy of your keywords based on real conversion data. But there is no reason for these two types of tools to be divorced from each other. In fact, in my experience, successful keyword research largely depends on your ability to leverage and manage data from both keyword tools and web analytics in a continuous fashion.
Let's take a look at why neither keyword tools nor web analytics alone is sufficient for complete keyword research, and how the future of keyword research involves seamlessly harnessing the best of both worlds.
Why Keyword Suggestion Tools Alone Aren't Enough
Keyword suggestion tools like the Google Keyword Tool, The Free Keyword Tool , and the various “spy on your competitors” keyword tools are a reasonable place to start your keyword research, particularly for new websites. But let’s not overlook their limitations:
- They’re Just Suggestions: No keyword tool (no matter how good) can tell you what keywords will work on your site. It’s up to the search marketer to review and test the keyword ideas to figure out what really works.
- They Favor Popularity over Relevancy: Keyword tools by design favor popular keywords, but don’t mistake popularity with relevancy.
- They’re Public: It’s hard to get a true competitive advantage if everyone is using the same publicly available keyword tools.
The biggest challenges in keyword research revolve around proving those suggestions out: How do you test the keywords? How do you validate volume and relevancy estimates? How do you build a proprietary keyword list?
Why Web Analytics Tools Alone Aren't Enough Either
Web analytics tools are the opposite of keyword tools. The keyword reports provide you with real site data including:
- Actual Searches: Find out what people were actually searching on – it’s like outsourcing your keyword discovery tasks to your potential customers. Add these to your list!
- Real Conversions: Focus on stuff that actually works.
- Proprietary Keyword List: Personalized keyword opportunities help you build a proprietary keyword taxonomy which can be leveraged to continuously expand and optimize your PPC and SEO efforts.
The main limitation of relying solely on web analytics for keyword research is that it’s backwards looking – these keyword reports reveal what keywords have worked for you in the past and long-tail keyword variations that you might not have thought of, but not necessarily what keyword niches you might be missing out on or might become important in the future.
The Best of Both Worlds: Dynamic Keyword Research
I believe the future of keyword research is in hosted, dynamic keyword research which integrates elements of both keyword tools and web analytics. Imagine self-updating keyword research that becomes more comprehensive and relevant the more you execute PPC and SEO – what if you could see side-by-side comparisons of your initial keyword list and your actual keyword data from paid and organic search? This is now possible with WordStream. Here's a quick summary of what's new:
Google Analytics Integration
WordStream is the first keyword tool to offer integration with Google Analytics! It automatically augments your existing keyword research every day with new, highly relevant keyword opportunities. WordStream also integrates your Google Analytics goal tracking data so you can build upon your initial keyword list and better understand what keyword niches are actually working or not working on your site.
Filtering of Estimated vs. Actual Keywords
Most web analytics applications let you filter based on keyword source, such as paid search versus organic search. WordStream lets you filter keyword research based on keyword tool estimates versus actual outcomes on your site. Again, the point here is to help make sense of your keyword research so that you can improve its accuracy and relevancy beyond the basic keyword lists derived from keyword tools to something more personalized and proprietary, to get a truly competitive advantage in search marketing.
Here’s a 2-minute video that shows how the Google Analytics integration and new keyword filtering options work:
In addition, Sage Lewis interviewed me about the new features. You can watch the videos below:
If you're struggling with keyword research or looking for ways to take your keyword research further, I encourage you to try WordStream – sign up for a free trial .