This is a mini rant on a topic that has been bothering me a lot lately.  Yesterday I saw two new articles on keyword research from prominent “Celebrity SEO’s” and they talked about everything except making a list of what your business actually does.  Now this may be an assumption that you have that but from my experience the vast majority of people do not.    I did a keyword model for a company a few month ago for a consumer product and their first response to it was it was “sort of underwhelming” in that it did not have a lot of sexy terms and hundreds of variations or as they were looking for “cross-pollination phrases” where they could offer their product in that context.   I tried to explain that in the first phase we want to focus on what you do… ironically they did not have content for 60% of the words that directly related to their business.   So people, lets not jump into the deep end until we have built out our underwhelming list of words.

I was doing a keyword modeling project for a global company and asked them for their product list, product category list and model numbers.  The content team looked at me stunned and admitted they had no idea where to get that.  We ended up getting it from a number of sources.  I compared these to their paid search keywords and their rank checking list and only 20% of the product categories and products were even on the list.   When I brought this up in the review meeting they said they had three leading agencies, at different times, develop their keyword sets and they “assumed” they must has added them.

A few months ago in China I had 20+ brand and marketing managers in a room during a training session and it took nearly 20 minutes to come up with 20 words that described their products.   Most of these were aspirational such as “the best x in the world” and different campaign slogans but it was not until prompted that they started calling out their categories, product attributes and even the sizes and other descriptors.  Once we finished with the 10 brands they were all pros.  They asked the two agencies in the training why they did not approach keywords this way and some of the responses were – “We use what the tools give us” and “We are looking for other variations” and the best of all “You did not include those in the campaign brief.”

Just last week I had a request from a client in Europe that wanted to understand all the words related to how a person might look for their product as a gift.   They wanted me to break it out as if they were an expert, a novice or buying for an expert or novice.  Also any nuances related to different holidays and seasonalities.  Was a great request and a very interesting process to try to develop the lists.   Unfortunately, it did not vary much from how people search for it normally.  While the product is skewed towards men, there were interestingly fewer searches for this product for Fathers day then there were for Christmas.  The reality is there is no magic.

I wrote this related article recently that goes into the “underwhelming” approach to keywords and keyword expansion called “The Underwhelming Approach to Keyword Research and Expansion.