Good SEO always starts with great keyword research, but finding keywords that will get you the business you need can be a lot harder than you think. Every SEO guys’ first (and arguably best) tool, Google’s Keyword Tool, fails in some surprising ways. Even top-tier externals like Market Samurai, while they can tell you how popular a
given search term is in general, can’t tell you how a given keyword will perform on your site.
That’s why I’m going to teach you how to get under the hood of your company’s existing AdWords PPC campaign and use it to find the right keywords to focus your SEO efforts on.
Step 1: Unpack the Keywords
In AdWords, each “keyword” is actually a host of different search terms, and you have to ‘unpack’ them in order to see their full extent. To do that, get inside your AdWords campaign, and set your query date range to go back a year (or as far back as your campaign goes if it’s less than that.) Make sure “All Campaigns” is selected, click the “Keywords” tab, the “Keyword Details” button, and the “View All Search Terms” option.
This will show you every specific search term that users are typing into Google that is triggering any of the keywords on your campaign — along with the impressions, clicks, conversions, conversion rates, and so on. This is pure gold, because it’s data that is relevant to your own site specifically — you know not just how popular a keyword is in general, but how successful it is in drawing conversions on your site in particular.
Step 2: Filter the Keywords
Now, if you have an overwhelming amount of keywords in your AdWords campaign (even smaller businesses tend to have a hundred or more keywords which can expand out into tens of thousands of specific search terms), fear not. Assuming you have conversion tracking on, filter out the non-converting search queries. BAM! All remaining data is both valuable and relevant.
If you don’t have conversion tracking on, try filtering out search queries with 2 or fewer impressions; that will usually get rid of half or more of the data — the half that are strange one-off search terms that won’t ever end up making you any money anyway. If you still have too many to process, up that to 3 or fewer or even 5 or fewer to pare it down to the keywords that are actually getting hits.
Step 3: Analyze the Keywords
Export your filtered data into Excel, and then do a Data Sort by the Conversions column (assuming, again, that you turned Conversion Tracking on) — this will show you directly what keywords are kicking the most butt for your AdWords campaign. Those same keywords will rock for you in SEO as well, so now you know what to focus on.
If you don’t have Conversion Tracking activated, you can still get a lot of use out of this data. Sort instead by Impressions — this will give you a very clear idea of which search queries are getting actual volume. (You may be able to cross-reference this information with your Google Analytics information to essentially re-create the ‘conversions’ column even if you didn’t have Conversion Tracking on.) If you don’t know which search queries are converting, targeting the ones bringing in the most traffic for your SEO efforts is a very solid second bet.