Analog Keyword Research

Analog Keyword Research

(originally posted on DesignBigger)

When it comes to keyword research, I’m guilty of doing the same old thing; I open up the AdWords Keyword Tool and start pecking away, hoping to take a few general head keywords and turn it into something workable. I’m pretty sure every other SEO on the planet starts out keyword research pretty similarly, if not the exact same way.

Most of our customers are traditionally paper and pen kind of businesses; the digital landscape is pretty new to them, and subsequently, they may not really have many online assets (service manuals, documentation, whitepapers, etc.). It kind of struck me today that while getting these things online and working in our benefit might be extremely costly, we can still take advantage of them for the initial brainstorming phase (not to mention content fodder down the road).

Here are some non-electronic assets you should absolutely be looking at for keyword research and content generation:

1. Product manuals

Typically, manuals exist for everything from CD players to industrial equipment costing thousands of dollars. Most manuals contain professionally-written content about the exact item you’re trying to market, and probably address (in the instructions or specifications) features that might be selling points. “Bar length = 20” can easily turn into “20 inch gas chainsaw” for a pretty solid keyword to bid on or build a product page around. It seems simple (and it is!), but it’s quite effective.

2. Tech Support/Customer Service/Receptionist/Sales

Ask any of the phone-answering employees in your company, and they’ll be able to tell you what the top 3 things people call and ask about are. These are get things to write FAQs about, and will give you keyword ideas for pages that could be built out or improved upon. If you want to get really tricky, use a service like CallRail and record your calls, and have them transcribed by an outsourcer inexpensively. Use the resulting data to generate a word frequency list. Pull out the winners and research the surprising outliers.

Better yet, parse your helpdesk and customer service emails for this information; if you use a CRM system, this functionality might even already be available to you.

3. Sales Literature/Contact Cards/Trade Show Materials

Yes, finally, there is a use for those cards you’re made to fill out before you can get a free t-shirt. Where there’s a greater than 100% chance that John Doe isn’t going to buy from you, you probably got some information in the way of his job title (and it might even be real!), problems that they’re looking to solve in their business, and location.

If John Doe’s a chemical engineer in Seattle, and he’s looking for pollution control devices, targeting “thermal oxidizer manufacturer seattle” might be a good idea. It’s going to be insanely cheap to bid on (if you’re doing PPC), very targeted for content, and will bring in buying traffic versus researching traffic.

As far as sales literature, of course, review your own first. However, your next step should be poring over your competitor’s information to see where you might’ve missed something. Perhaps they use a slightly different term for something that might be familiar to customers, and if so, addressing that term will bring in extra, already interested, traffic.

These aren’t groundbreaking new sources of keywords, and they won’t replace what we currently do. But, they’ll give you ideas for things that you can’t find in the AdWords Tool or WordTracker, especially when you’re in an industrial or technical niche. Glean some solid starting phrases, and then build on that success. You’ll be ahead of the rest of the people who keep doing the same thing they’ve always done.


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