SEOs and Keyword Research: A Complex Relationship
A recent Advanced Web Ranking survey (AWR) of digital marketers across industries found that SEOs believe keyword research is one of the top three most difficult SEO tactics to implement (just behind link building and content creation). This might be because 88% of digital marketers perform keyword research in-house, according to the same survey. As such, keyword research is one of the tasks that almost 43% SEOs perform only when required, with much smaller percentages of digital marketers performing keyword research at regular intervals.
If you are an SEO, you probably didn’t need a survey to tell you all of this information. Keyword research is often one of the most taxing tasks when it comes to time and resources that a digital marketer performs. The same AWR survey shows nearly 56% of digital marketers use two to four tools to execute their keyword research–most likely through SEMRush and Moz Keyword Explorer.
Surprisingly, almost 15% of marketers do not use any paid tools for keyword research and more than 18% perform the task completely manually!
Here's a list of free SEO tools for small businesses to get started.
The Digital Analytics Relationship
Paid tools like SEMRush and Moz are useful for determining keyword search volumes, how difficult it would be for your website to rank for a certain keyword, and where your site currently ranks in SERPs. They can do it all in one go, saving digital marketers from scouring the internet for hours to find all their data in separate places.
Of course, every SEO uses Google tools like Search Console to determine the keywords that are driving the most clicks and Analytics to see which pages are faring the best and what pages might need a few tweaks. The internet does not lack a plethora of free tools that SEOs can use to research how users conduct a search, what they’re searching for, what device they’re using, and what other searches they might be making. Some of my favorite include Answer the Public, LSIGraph, and faqfox.
All of these tools provide data based on what searchers are currently looking for online. However, they don’t dig deeper into the age-old SEO conundrum–intent.
The Searcher Intent Enigma
SEOs know that a page with tons of traffic but low conversions means the page doesn’t meet the users’ needs–or their intent for searching. Visitors will pogo back to the SERP as soon as they realize these aren’t the results they’re looking for. Determining intent might be easy enough for the basic keywords that we know users should be searching to find our product. If you search “call tracking software” I know you’re looking for what my company offers.
However, there’s a slight disconnect in figuring out what users who may not know about a product or service are searching to solve their problems. What queries do searchers use when they don’t know your solution exists?
There’s only so much searcher intent to be garnered from online analytics and data. As great as RankBrain is, it can only determine what humans want to a certain extent. Sometimes the best way to figure out intent is to think back to the sentiment behind old fashioned lead tracking strategy, “How did you hear about us?”
Of course, that tactic is overall too rudimentary, but the idea of listening to what people are actually telling you can be a great keyword research strategy. Tools like call recording and automation rules can give SEOs an advantage in the keyword research process. By tuning in to actual lead and customer calls, you can learn the pain points and benefits that you may not be optimizing for and the user language of the people, personas, and industries you’re trying to reach.
What to Learn from Sales Department Calls
How Leads Actually Talk about Their Needs
Calls to sales are most often leads who have not yet converted to closed sales. Your SDRs and AEs are trained to take these callers’ obstacles and find the solution within your product or service. Listening to the call recordings of first-time callers can show you the specific language these callers use. You can identify trends in the most common issues that callers face.
Example: A medical animation company may listen to their calls and find that the majority of pharmaceutical companies have a need for more biomedical interaction animations than medical device videos. However, during the calls, the company finds that the pharma reps don’t use the technical term: “biomedical interaction.” Instead, during sales and marketing conversations, the client calls them by the more formal “mechanism of action” term. The animation company can now take that keyword and perform another level of keyword research online that might be much more targeted toward their user base’s actual language.
How You Appear When People Search
The AWR survey also indicated the difference in how digital marketers and sales departments categorize success: “Website traffic was quoted as the most valuable KPI in measuring SEO performance (25.93%), followed closely by search rankings (23.68%) and leads generated (16.50%).” As SEOs, we can pat ourselves on the back for being ranked first for a difficult keyword. However, if that keyword doesn’t help the actual bottom line of your company, was it really a success?
Sales calls can tell you what keywords you might be optimizing for that are not converting like you thought. This is where call tracking software can solve this digital analytics disconnect. Your site could be ranked first for a certain keyword. That keyword could drive tons of traffic to your site and a great deal of calls to your sales reps. However, if callers find out that the product doesn’t actually provide the solution to the problem they were looking to solve, the sale won’t close, and the previous SEO work was all for naught.
Example: An environmentally-friendly cleaning company may want to promote their use of safe cleaning products that are free from harmful chemicals and bleach. Their marketing department created campaigns and content around “ammonia-free cleaning services” and similar terms. However, upon receiving calls to their sales department they realize that they’re actually showing up for terms like “free cleaning services.”
What to Learn from Support and Success Department Calls
Identify Problems You Can Solve with Content
If your company has a customer support department, customer success unit, a team of business development consultants, or digital training division, the recorded calls from these departments can also lend a huge help to digital marketers performing keyword research for future content development. Content development was voted the most-effective SEO tactic by 33% of Advanced Web Ranking survey-takers, and it’s most often the reason behind keyword research to begin with.
Listening to the call recordings of the people who help your existing customers get the most out of your product or service can arm you with the type of content that you know others in the same need-base will be searching as well. Creating content surrounding the topics that your current customers struggle with means that there are potential clients that probably struggle with something similar–and could benefit from your product or service.
Example: A marketing agency that serves franchisors listens to their help desk calls and makes a list of the most common issues that their clients have called about. They find one of the top issues is helping franchisees verify their local businesses on Google My Business. It would be smart of the marketing agency to create content about the importance of Google My Business to local SEO and NAP consistency. They might even benefit from a how-to piece explaining the process of setting up and verifying a Google My Business page. It could help existing clients and draw in new clients who see that helping their franchisees succeed is a priority.
Use the Language of Reviews
This one will work no matter how the review was left, but listening to the conversation surrounding the review can be helpful as well. Oftentimes, when marketers write content, they write it in general ways, such as, “Easy to set up!” And, “Get your data on any device.” Etc. Listening to both good AND bad reviews can arm your team with actual user language to use on pages that is specific and engages leads in those industries. And can lead to specific content about fixes to complaints users may have.
Example: A business development consultant leads a kick-off call, helping a new user set up their first account. The user says, “Wow! We just set that up in one step! It’s going to be a cinch to set up the rest of user accounts we have on our own. Our last provider required verification for every single one, and it took forever. Thank you!” That feedback takes the generic, “Easy to set up” to a much more detailed and compelling, “User setup in a single step. No verification required. Get started in no time!”
Visitor-level Call Tracking
Visitor-level call tracking can help you learn which keywords are driving traffic to your site–and then driving actual phone call conversions. Through dynamic number insertion (DNI), CallRail assigns a unique phone number for each online searcher and the source through which they reach your site. For as long as that searcher stays on your site, he or she is the only person to see that tracking phone number. Then, when he or she calls, the software recognizes the specific number based on how the searcher got there and the keyword used.
This data shows you which keywords and landing pages are the most effective for driving qualified leads and traffic. You can use this keyword data to optimize your existing pages, tweak underperforming pages, and see where you can create new content that better serves searchers’ needs.
Automation Rules for Keyword Research
Automation rules is the latest in call tracking technology from CallRail. Automation rules allows users to set a certain key term trigger in the call recording feature. When company reps or callers say that keyword, the call recording feature makes a note. Use automation rules technology to easily determine the volume of people saying a specific keyword during their calls.
Example: A small landscaping company recently optimized a part of their site for outdoor pest control and wants to see if their website is driving more calls about the topic. By setting a automation rules trigger for certain key terms surrounding pest control, they can determine how many callers made a call because of their site content. And they can determine if their sales reps are mentioning it to leads who may be calling about other services.
Don’t Perform Keyword Research in a Vacuum
It’s easy to think that call tracking software is only good for the sales department or the marketers on your team in charge of campaigns and events. However, features of call tracking software can add an extra layer of user intent, latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords, and actual user language to an SEO’s research process. No keyword research tool or tactic works well in isolation, and taking advantage of your existing call tracking software for keyword research is a great way for SEOs to expand on their existing toolkit to reach better results.