How I Used SEO Keyword Competition Research to Target My Niche

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At some point, I bet you’ve wondered – Why did you name your blog Social Media Syllabus?

No, it is not a syllabus. It is a way to help my target audience find me. Let me explain.

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Several posts ago, I discussed introducing students to SEO and writing for search in my Writing Across Platforms course (though it could be taught in a social media course or a PR, marketing, or other course). This included an activity with Google Trends where students get an opportunity to see the importance of understanding how people search the web.

I want to use my blog name as an example to extend this to another great tool we should be teaching our students: Google Adwords Keywords Tool, a very popular tool used to conduct SEO keyword research.

Competition: Considerations for naming a blog (or a post, or post content, for that matter!)
When I decided to start blogging a few months ago, I needed a blog title. I began with SEO in mind. I did a ton of research on Google Adwords Keywords tool for search terms related to social media education. I know my primary target audience is educators interested in teaching or using social media in the classroom. Clearly I’m not the only one out there writing on this subject, and there are many related subjects. So how to differentiate myself?

You see, Google’s Adwords Keyword tool can be used to assess keyword competition.

Keyword competition is simply the idea that if too many people are using the same keyword in their web content, then competition to be the top search result will be fierce and the chance of ranking high in search is more difficult.

Google Adwords Keywords tool’s primary purpose is actually for writing search engine marketing ads on Google. People bid on keywords for ad placement on Google searches and the highest bids show up. But many folks use it for keyword research for SEO as well.

Pulling from our example from the Google Trends post last week, imagine you’re writing web content about an automobile brand. You may have found in Google Trends that “fuel economy” and “safety rating” are more popular than “cup holders” or “park assist” what people are searching for a new car. But you don’t know how many of your competitors are creating content with these terms. If they are, your chances of showing up on search results are diminished.

To find this out, people use Google Adwords Keywords tool. The theory is that if competition is high on Google Adwords, it is likely high on organic content as well. So, in the simplest sense, a high search volume and low competition are though to be ideal.

It is of course more complicated than that. We also must think about specificity and context. Is what people are searching for what your content is about?

Here’s an example. If people search for “drums” they may be searching for brake drums, gallon drums, musical drums, etc.. Drums then is non-specific. It is a bad keyword – because it is not specific and lacks context.

If you’re writing about break drums, of course your content will have the words break drums in them. But what else?

We must be creative in coming up with “long-tail” keywords – those longer phrases that get less search volume, but have less competition and that a very specific target audience is searching for. Should you use “cracked break drum”? “brake drum issues”?

This is not an easy task. But it is something that is becoming more and more important. Our students need to learn it.

Why name my blog Social Media Syllabus?
What I’m trying to do in positioning my blog, is figure out what a social media educator / person wanting to use social media in the classroom is going to search for.

When I did my research, I found I was in competition with a lot social media education programs – such as online courses, certifications, etc. That’s not my niche (which is again, social media educators) – but we share search terms. There are, of course, also articles about social media and higher education. These seem to span from examples of how it is being used by universities rather than by educators, to higher education recruiting, and other related topics but not what my target audience is looking for. Again, not my target audience – but related search terms that similar audiences are searching. Many of these have medium to high competition and not a ton of searches (click image to enlarge – sorry it’s my template).

googleadwords_smeducation

I did a number of other searches and considered a number of things but finally settled on Social Media Syllabus. It has low search volume – but again, I’m targeting a fairly small niche – but someone searching for a social media syllabus is clearly looking for what my blog is primarily about, teaching social media. And, I have the syllabi they are looking for on my site. So, theoretically speaking, I should fulfill their need (click to enlarge).

GoogleAdwordsResults_socialmedia

I hope this explanation offers an example of 1 way of going about thinking about the role search plays in content today, and how we can try and differentiate ourselves with specific terms.

Is it working?
Having moved from Posterous to WordPress (free version), I no longer have Google Analytics, which I miss dearly. Without robust stats it is more difficult for me to be sure my plan is working, as often WordPress doesn’t tell me the search terms that brought people to my site (reading “other search terms” or “unknown search terms). However, it has stated on a dozen or so occasions that people arrived to my site from searching ‘social media syllabus.’ As my blog is fairly new, I should be building authority over time that will help me in search results.

Final Thoughts:
Once the right keywords are chosen, they are used in writing headlines and high up in the body of text of your content. You then want to monitor your web traffic to see what keyword searches are driving traffic to your article. Monitor and adjust. For example, you may find that people are finding you using keywords you hadn’t anticipated, or that people are searching for something off topic and finding their way to your site. Likely, these people are not hanging around as your site’s content is not what they’re looking for.

I hope that brief intro was helpful. There is much more that could be discussed. I will post a class activity for students using Adwords Keywords tool in a future post.

What did I leave out? Other considerations? Educators; Have any resources to share to help students understand SEO? Readers and I would love it if you shared!

– Cheers! Matt

Related Posts

photo CC boltron

Summer Reading List: Social Media Books

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bookit

If you’re like me – growing up, summertime meant summer reading and Book It! I have many fond memories of cool pins and personal pan pepperoni pizzas at the local Pizza Hut in our small town in Rhode Island. My father would buy our family a pitcher of soda (this is in the pre-free refill days) and I’d proudly order my Book It! Pizza. Now that I’m all grown up – I’m not getting Pizza Hut trips for my reading. But I still love to read in the summer.

Here are a few social media books I will be checking out this summer. I plan to write brief reviews / thoughts about each. Some I will be reading cover to cover, others picking out chapters.

Toa of Twitter – By Mark Schaefer

This is my first introduction to Mark Schaefer and I’m glad I found his work. I’m about 60% done with this book – just haven’t had a chance to finish. While the book offers a bit of an introduction to what Twitter is and how to use it, it is a bit more about the culture of Twitter. With so many folks out there broadcasting away on Twitter and always thinking about “what’s in it for me?”, I think this book re-teaches us many things we seem to have forgot –  helping others, adding value, building relationships, and giving back, a la Dale Carnegie’s famous book. I mentioned this book and Born to Blog (below) in a previous post, where author Mark Schaefer participated in a video lecture with Don Stanley’s class at U Wisconsin-Madison.

Born to Blog – By Mark Schaefer and Stanford Smith

Of all the books I’m reading this summer, this may be the one I’m most excited about. I’m about 50% done. I’ll hold off on any detailed analysis – but to sum it up, I’ve learned a ton from this book. It is quick and easy to read and really gets you thinking about why your blogging, who your audience is, and what skills you have to offer. I’m fairly new to blogging and this book has been a great motivator for me. I am considering using this book for my Social Media class next fall. Highly recommend.

Measure What Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships by Paine

I’m considering using this book in my Communication Research class, as mentioned in our last social media professor G+ Hangout. I’m a few chapters in – so not much to comment on here. Thus far the author has provided a fairly strong case for why research is so important in today’s media environment and seeks to debunk arguments from those skeptical or afraid of campaign research. The book also offers (somewhat non-specific) processes for getting a measurement program together. The strength thus far seems to be in its explanation of what to measures given the situation at hand. I always struggle with research texts for class as the writing usually seems inaccessible to many students. I don’t think that will be the case here. The book does lack in depth explanation of many advanced topics that a textbook would offer, but this book isn’t meant to.

Share This! The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals – The Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Just got my hands on this. The book is a few years old, and a newer version is due out some time this year. I haven’t had a chance to read any of this yet. Each chapter is written by a different author offering insights into how social media impacts different facets of PR.

Any fond memories to share from Book It!? What are you reading this summer? Are there books you recommend I read that aren’t on my list? Have you read any of these books above? What did you think? I’d love to hear your suggestions or thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Friday!

– Cheers!

Matt

Say hello to Conversation Advertising: Like a post, buy a Facebook gift

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kids-talking

Today, Facebook introduced me to a whole new level of impulse shopping. This move may be more telling than the gift recommendation seems. I believe it is a new type of time-targeted micro advertising. Or, Conversation Advertising.

Let me explain.

This morning I clicked “like” on a filmmaker friend’s post on Facebook who was celebrating positive feedback he’d received on a submission of some of his work to a competition. The following appeared (identities and content hidden).

facebook-like-post-gift

Have you experienced this? Facebook wants to convert my happiness for him into a transaction. Of course I didn’t think this gesture warranted a gift. Is this a guilt play? Would my expression of gratitude mean more if I spent a little money to show it?

In a world of instant gratification and impulse shopping where checkout candy bar purchases and mobile shopping is big bucks, it appears Facebook is hoping to parlay an interpersonal exchange into a monetary one.

Let’s think about this in a different context:

Imagine you are talking with a friend on Skype and you tell your friend that you’re thirsty. How would you feel if suddenly a voice interrupted and said, “Why not go get a Coke from the fridge? It sure is refreshing on a warm spring day!” or a text ad that popped up on my computer screen or mobile and said “Stop by 7-11 on your way home from work and get a Slurpee”

That’s essentially what’s happening here. And maybe it’s time we the audience begin paying up for all this free we’ve been getting for years from services like Facebook and Skype. That’s why I believe what we’re seeing on Facebook may be a sign of things to come. What I’m calling Conversation Advertising.

The use of text or speech recognition to deliver micro-targeted advertising that seeks to take advantage of strategic moments in human interaction to suggest small purchases of products and services to meet immediate needs.

Like so many effective ads, this type of ad helps in a time of need.

In a way, this is happening already on Gmail when Google reads our emails and targets us with ads. The important difference here – and what makes the Facebook suggestions as a result of my minor interaction with a friend special – is a time-targeted ad. Here’s what I mean:

In my previous use of Facebook, I have “liked” a page and soon seen a new page suggestion or ad on the right-hand side. This usually happens in time, after I’ve browsed around a bit from page to page. (Note: I’m trying to emulate this on my Facebook page to see if it occurs immediately, as I thought I remembered it doing that sometimes, but I don’t seem to be able to replicate. Perhaps this happens elsewhere on the web?)

In Gmail, when I send an email or get an email, I see an ad on the right related to some topic in the email.

Both are still somewhat passive. They’re off to the side. In Gmail, we have a human interaction ad going on – but I wouldn’t say it is a conversation ad. This is because the ad doesn’t take advantage of a strategic moment in my interaction where a product or service may offer a solution to a problem I’m facing or need I have.

We are seeing more and more “personalized” ads – such as RFID Mini Cooper billboards and presidential campaigns micro-targeting us by using predictive analytics of the likelihood that our hobbies and purchasing habits predict our voting patterns.

But none of these are quite conversation ads.

Is the idea intrusive? Yes. Annoying? Very likely. Worrisome? Certainly. Will people “go for it?” As a citizen, I honestly hope not. But as a lover of technology, I find the prospect fascinating.

Furthermore, we may not have a choice. Nothing is free. We are the audience. Whether this type of advertising can really succeed will of course depend on how it is done. People do want conversations – they don’t like to be advertised to. Is there a way to make this form of advertising less intrusive, less one-way? I’m sure that there is. Just as there are a million annoying ads out there, there are those that we readily invite into our lives. If done right, this may be another avenue. If not, it could backfire enormously. If the ad helps me in a time of need, I may just welcome it.

Are there legal challenges to be had? Yes. Can they be overcome? Three words: Terms of Service (yes, I am oversimplifying a bit, but I sincerely believe these can be readily overcome).

Another major issue and turnoff is privacy. There again, while this may seem an overly invasive advertising method, keep in mind that we are readily giving away so much information about ourselves on sites like Facebook. We know Gmail is monitoring our emails. We know Facebook is reading not only what we like, but what we post and share. We know, though we may not want to admit it, that cookies are tracking us across the web and collecting every piece of info about us as possible. So really, is it much of a leap? We are more and more accustomed to this type of intrusiveness and seldom blink at it.

While Facebook’s move to suggest I buy a friend a gift is a bit clumsy (does it help me? Not really – No offense to my friend, but in no way would I consider buying him an impersonal gift because he heard positive feedback), I believe it does signify the beginning of something we should expect to see more and more as technology advances and individuals continue to live a digitally-tracked lifestyle. Like it or not, I believe we are witnessing the development of conversation advertising. What shape or form it takes and whether it becomes useful or not in the eyes of the consumer will depend on many things: such as how it develops and is used, whether it is truly helpful to the consumer, legal issues, and how the public reacts to it.

What do you think? How would you feel about this type of conversation advertising? What is your reaction to the Facebook “gift suggestion” discussed above, if you’ve experienced it? Where does my idea need improving? What am I missing? I’d love to chat about it.

Cheers!

– Matt

More on Facebook: Related Posts

I’ve been talking a bit lately about how “uncool” Facebook is becoming among young adults.

The recent move by Facebook to charge us to email someone we are not friends with through the service.

photo (top) CC Burning Image (bottom) CC Marco Trezza Photography

Upcoming Events: Speaking on Social Media and Democracy

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I am very excited!  Tomorrow, April 30th, I will be traveling to Washington, DC to participate as a U.S. Speaker and Specialist in the United States State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP). This amazing program, which I had the honor of participating in last year, provides informational outreach around the world.

This engagement will be in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava in the Slovak Republic. I will have the pleasure of speaking via video conference with students in Slovakia. The subject I will be speaking on is the rise of social media as a tool for democratic participation, my area of research expertise.

I recently had an opportunity to speak on a similar topic to the Rotary Club of Shepherdstown West Virginia. However, my presentation to the IIP will be focus more on my recent and forthcoming publications.

Thinking over the many changes we’ve seen in social media and political campaigns in the last few years, I’m excited to share some new thoughts and preliminary findings from our 2012 election survey.

I hope everyone’s semester is coming to a close in a relaxing and non-chaotic fashion as possible!

-Cheers!
Matt

photo: CC y robposse

What I’m Reading: Content Marketing, Social TV, Civic Engagement (4/26/13)

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Happy Friday! Here are a few quick reads and news to go along with your coffee this morning!

coffee

I’ve been talking content marketing a lot lately on this blog and have noticed a great deal of interest in those posts, including my critique of Marketo’s ebook. Here are a few articles I’ve been reading lately about content marketing:

Article about content marketing luring away journalists.

In other News:

Social TV has been a hot trend of late. I’ve talked about it quite a bit with my students and its advantages. A few articles from this week:

Civic Engagement and Social Media

Matt News:

Here at Shepherd, today is the last day of the semester. I have big plans for the summer – lots of reading, prepping two classes, continuing to grow my blog, working on a number of research articles with my amazing colleagues, and hopefully presenting at AEJMC in DC this August.

My amazing wife and I are traveling to New Zealand and the Cook Islands to finally celebrate our wedding!

We’ve also committed to getting a dog – a bergamasco (yes, the “dreadlock dogs”) – which we will be getting in August.

Great Customer Service still Exists! – Things didn’t work out with the Husqvarna lawnmower I bought, despite all my research. There was something wrong and the thing had no power. Dealing with Lowes, both the online and local stores, was the best customer service experience I’ve had in years. They took the lawnmower back with no charge for picking it up. And after I made up my mind what I wanted (I went with John Deere), they delivered it and told me if it didn’t meet my expectations, I could return it no questions asked in 30 days. Lowes, it seems, understands the value of a loyal customer. To show my appreciation, I Tweeted @LowesCares because I don’t think we show appreciation often enough on social media. We are often quick to gripe. Minutes later got a thanks from Lowes.

What are your plans for the summer? Are there stories in these topics I missed? Share them in the comments section below.

– Cheers! Matt

photo CC  donjohann

Update to Status of New Classes and Concentration

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getexcited

Great news! Monday night, the Shepherd University Curriculum and Instruction committee approved the classes I have created and the Strategic Communication concentration I have been working on since my arrival in the Department of Communication at Shepherd University.

The new concentration will offer students an opportunity to learn to use social media, digital tools, and other forms of communication to plan and execute strategic campaigns.

I am very thankful to the committee and my department for their enthusiastic support!

While a lot of work has been done and this is a great accomplishment, there is more to be done before the concentration becomes part of the university curriculum.

Next stop? I must next present the concentration to the Board of Governors here at Shepherd. Stay tuned!

graphic CC by  Nitevision

When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 problems with Marketo’s Ebook

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Note: In a previous post I discussed how I am teaching Content Marketing in my Writing Across Platforms class next fall and why we should teach it in the writing class.

I am going to come out and say it. I am glad none of my students were behind the creation or promotion of Marketo’s recent e-book “50 Tried and True Social Insights From Real Marketers.”

Here are 6 reasons why.

push

1) Pushing isn’t social: First, I saw the following spammy post in a social media group I’m a part of, counter to the very ethos of social media (Should have been skeptical from the start, right?). I skimmed and found:

There’s a ton of content on how to do social marketing – but this FREE eBook is different than any I’ve seen before….

You’ll get fascinating insights on how different organizations – large to small – are using social marketing, and get tips and best practices on:
• The rules of social engagement
• How to measure and iterate on social programs
• Ideas to generate social lift
• Social marketing words of wisdom
• Why content is king
• How to make social a group effort

Cool! I thought. Different. Unique. A ton of content! So I followed the link, gave them my email address (see: regret), and got the ebook (If you are so inclined, you can here). I’d never heard of Marketo before.

What would have worked? Perhaps a post that didn’t read like an ad. Some such thing as: “Hey all, last week we were talking about XYZ. I came across this ebook titled Blah Blah. It really helped me understand how to deal with a particular part of XYZ. Enjoy and let me know what you think. I’d love to talk about it.”

Which leads me to the rest of my points:

2) Proof Read – Tips #1 and #11 are the same. Carelessness kills credibility.

3) Where’s the eBook? This piece of content marketing is passed off as an ebook. There are 10 pages including the cover and 1 back cover. But much of it is gloss and graphics. In terms of content, there may be 2 pages of text here. There are some great quotes and insights. Don’t get me wrong. But, really… that’s all they are.

4) Help me, Help me! How is what you’re offering add value to my life? Rather than tell me 50 general statements that are not actionable, help me. Show me HOW to do something. How this newfound knowledge can be applied. A series of blog posts or ebooks about each one of these items, with context, evidence (they are tried and true, right?), reasoning, and suggestions would go much further in helping me improve my social media. Give me examples I can follow. Outcomes. Best practices. As one commenter on the LinkedIn thread (see below) pointed out, much of the content is “common sense.”

5) Is it unique? If it isn’t entertaining, new, different, or going to help me, don’t waste my time. Prognostications and platitudes are a dime a dozen on social media.

6) The Pitch: What’s delivered must match the claim – how often do we read hyperbole in social content nowadays? Tweets that read “The Best Description of Graph Search.” YouTube videos titled “The Greatest Touchdown Of All Time!” “The Only SEO Guide You’ll Ever Need!” I know strong language grabs attention, and there are tons of blog posts about writing great headlines that preach this sort of thing (I plan to talk about it in my class, in fact!). But it is becoming overdone. And when something’s overdone it becomes noise. Meaningless. In this particular case, the title is fine. There are 50 insights. My problem here is how the content was pitched on social. I don’t know if the person who posted it was affiliated with Marketo or not. The language on the Marketo site is a little different, though it contains some of the same content from the social post. But a ton of content? Not really. Different from any other ebook out there? Yes, in that it isn’t an ebook. Fascinating? No. Tried and true? Where is the proof that they are tried and true? They are indeed insights, some of them very valuable.

I want my students to be great at social media. I want them to create great content. In all my classes, I have a bias towards showing students the “Heck Yes!” examples – something exemplary that they can aspire to. For better or worse, I tend to shy away from the “Don’t Do This!” examples such as this one.

But for the reasons mentioned above, this post got under my skin. Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt cheated by this content marketing attempt. A thread on LinkedIn reveals a number of folks who agree (and disagree!) with my assessment.

Content marketing is about adding value. Deliver something that shows your thought leadership, that provides your target audience with useful insight. Don’t waste their time. I’m not Marketo’s target audience (although I am looking to build a partnership with a social media analytics software company to use in my classes). But if I were, this wouldn’t do it for me.

What are your thoughts about this? Is it bad content marketing, or am I being too harsh? (Maybe its the end of the semester stress getting to me!) Where am I wrong? Can you think of other examples you can share?

Related Posts:

  1. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class
  2. Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

photo (from top to bottom): CC by Steve Snodgrass | marc falardeau |  doodleatwork |  Betchaboy

A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.