Keywords for SEO and AdWords

You know that keywords are critical, but how do you select the best ones?

There are several tools out there which can help you, thankfully, because optimizing your site and managing your advertising and linking campaigns are ongoing processes.

Just who are you and what do you do?

Before you start looking at tools, begin with a simple description like this one: My company provides online learning products for the insurance industry. Keywords = my name (or another’s name that is, or should be, recognized in your market), company name, online learning (and synonyms like e-learning, Internet training, just-in-time education), insurance (and related market segments like agents, independent agents, adjusters, casualty, health, etc.) You don’t have to be exhaustive with your list at this point.

Next identify your major online competitors. They might not be the same organizations you compete with in the physical world.

Tools to expand or focus your keyword list

  1. Your competitors. Often you can find use their own website’s source code to learn what keywords they see as important. Go to their home page and then use your browser’s tools to view the page source. You’ll often find something like this:
    <meta name="keywords" content="Online Continuing Education Classes, Claims Adjuster Training, Insurance Claims Adjuster Online Training" />

    Now you can add keywords like “continuing education” to your list.

    Tools like Keyword Spy can give you even greater insight into your competition. Not only does this tool give you an idea of what keywords each of your competitors are paying for, they also let you see a selection of their text ads.

  2. Google’s Search-based Keyword Tool provides great insight. Google knows what people search for and they share this information for free. Put in your competitor’s URL and see their keywords, what the competition for those keywords looks like in terms of paying for that keyword through AdWords, and what pages of theirs Google extracted those keywords from. This can give you ideas for website and blog content as well as keywords.
  3. Keyword suggestion tools. You can go to a site like WordTracker or keep using Google. If you enter keywords without a website address in the Google tool, you’ll see related terms.
  4. Your own search log. If you have a search function on your site, you have a priceless tool for finding keywords that you’re failing with. You may be failing in terms of keywords used in your navigation, or in terms of not making your keywords prominent enough in your copy, or in terms of an overlooked audience that uses a slightly different term than you are using.
  5. Your PPC account. Whether you use AdWords or something else, you should be able to find a listing in their tool of more keywords they’d really like you to purchase.


Watch for keyword suggestions that don’t relate to your product or service. If you decide to run an AdWords or other PPC campaign, those words will come in handy because you’ll want to exclude them from your broad keyword lists.

The best of these tools will allow you to export suggested keywords to a CSV or Excel file.

Keywords and trigger words

Keywords are useful for SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. They aren’t necessarily as helpful for choosing the subject line of an email, or selecting a new topic for discussion on a social media site. They will tell you that “online learning” is a much more popular search than “e-learning” but it tells you nothing about anyone’s emotional response to the term, nor about their understanding of the term.

I think of trigger words as words that make me take action. So “free” and “new” and “exclusive offer” are good trigger words for me. Trigger words are what you want to use when you want someone to click. They are what you use in your PPC text ad, in your calls to action on your website, and in your email subject lines. Your keyword list won’t tell you that “Ten ways to save money with Brand X” will get more people clicking than “Brand X is your best choice.”

Your keyword list can help you with navigation and other web copy, however. If you know that people are coming to your site using the keywords “online learning for insurance agents” then you know that you need a web page that highlights that string of words. If people search, find your site, click on it and don’t see the terms they searched for, they are going to bounce right out of your site and onto the next.

You want to use the most common terms from your keyword list as your navigation. If people don’t search for e-learning, then don’t use that term in your navigation. It might be an inexpensive keyword for your ad campaign, but it’s not a good choice for your navigation. People won’t even notice it. They might know what it means once you point it out to them, but they won’t be looking for it on their own. They want to see their own words, not yours.

Testing, testing, testing.

Whether you’re looking at ad copy or a navigational link, the best insights will come from testing options out with your audience. This can be through multivariate testing of an ad campaign’s landing page, or by prototyping  or field testing a new navigational structure and asking real people to use it and tell you what they think. If you write an ad and get a high click through rate but a low conversion, you know you’ve just lost money. The same is really true if you write a link and no one clicks on it because they don’t know where it will take them (like “click here”) or because it takes them somewhere unexpected and they leave frustrated.

Experts can help you discover opportunities and provide great ideas to try, the CEO can enforce his or her own opinions, but it’s the marketplace and your audience that have the last word. If you listen, they will tell you what you need to know.

3 comments on Keywords for SEO and AdWords

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