In this episode, Katie and Chris discuss why so many marketing organizations have difficulty with SEO keyword and topic identification. From insufficient tools to disorganized or ad hoc processes, learn one way of adding more structure and definition to your own processes, including the four-part framework Trust Insights uses for its own keyword management.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn 0:02
This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.
In this week’s In-Ear Insights, we have a mailbag question.
So asking, what’s our process to make? choosing SEO keywords and topics, more efficient? Folks are finding it’s a long and laborious process.
So this is a really common question.
That comes up a lot, because obviously, keyword research is something that is essential to SEO.
But Katie, what’s your first past when you think about the process of keyword selection? And how to how you think about making things more efficient when it comes to processes like this?
Katie Robbert 0:46
Well, the first question I always ask, in SEO is what? What’s your goal? Like? What is it that you’re trying to rank for, because the what I know about SEO and keyword research is you can go down a rabbit hole if you choose to do so.
And so, you know, when we first started Trust Insights, we had this long list of keywords that we were looking at, that we could have tried to rank for, and to try to create content to rank for every single term.
And that list got to be a little bit daunting.
And so over the past couple of years, we’ve narrowed down our focus a bit.
And I think that that’s one of the things that, especially if you’re a smaller organization, or you have a smaller team, is to narrow down your focus as to what’s the most important and sort of prioritize a bit.
So that’s where I would start because I think that, you know, if you go into tools, keyword planning tools, you can start off with like, I want to rank for Google Analytics, and then you get this long list of variations.
And it can be a bit overwhelming.
So you need to really sort of have some discipline and pull back and say, What do I care about the most? So that’s where I would start, where would you start, Chris?
Christopher Penn 1:58
I agree, it would start with your your goals, right.
And then, as with any kind of diagnostic, looking in Search Console stuff to see what you already rank for, is really important.
Now, granted, like you were saying, In the example of Trust Insights, we didn’t have a website.
So there was we didn’t rank for anything.
But assuming that you do have that, yeah, that first step is what do you rank for? But even more importantly, I think, Katie, this is something that you recommend, anytime you’re doing organizational behavior is what does your existing document process look like? Because if it’s just kind of you’re racking it up every time as you go, of course, it’s going to be laborious, because you’re literally reinventing the wheel every single time.
Katie Robbert 2:39
Well, and I think that that’s definitely, you know, we could, I could spend hours talking about process, but definitely one of the things that I don’t see happening a lot, and I’ve been guilty of it as well is you do something, and you kind of wing it.
And then like a month or so goes by and you’re like, Wait, how did I do that thing? I don’t know, let me just make it up again.
And so really sitting down with that purpose of, you know, let me document what it is I’m doing, or even just record a video, so that you don’t forget and say, okay, that worked, that didn’t work.
And that way you can start to make process improvements.
And so, you know, one of the questions, you know, that we got over the past week, Chris, to your original point was, you know, how do I make this process a bit more efficient? Or how do I, you know, I’m getting lost in the process of, you know, finding keywords, and the key term is process.
And so there’s no shortage of keyword research out there.
There’s no shortage of tools to help you.
But it’s how are you going about doing that research? And so if you’re just winging it time after time, then yeah, it’s going to feel very daunting and inefficient.
And so it’s definitely something that you want to try to make repeatable.
It’s I don’t know if I would take it as far as something like robotic process automation, because you still want to have that human judgment.
But you want to think about it in those terms of, you know, how do I get from A to B every single time? And where are the opportunities of variants and creativity and decision making?
Christopher Penn 4:14
Yeah, when it comes to SEO, I kind of think it was like three concentric circles, right? There’s you your website.
There’s your next circle as your competitors.
And then the third circle is your is sort of the landscape, and maybe the fourth circles, like everything.
And so when we think about keywords, and we think about SEO, in general, you have to start with you.
So what do you already ranking for? And then if particularly if you’re trying to figure out like, why you know, what’s going on, one of the reports, I think it’s so important to look at is what has changed in the last, you know, whatever time period, what terms and pages have you lost rank for or lost traffic or what have you gained for Can you explain why, from just your stuff like, Hey, we put up a great new blog post on Instagram data, which by You can see over at TrustInsights.ai AI.
Do we see new traffic from that? No, did we optimize that page? Well, and if we put up this page, and in that way, okay, like, we know, we’ve got some stuff on our own site to work on.
And if we’ve done our homework, and we’ve got us taken care of, and we still can’t explain, you know, changes that we’re seeing now and move one circle up, what are our competitors do during the same time? And that’s where, again, there’s a lot of really good SEO tools like SpyFu, SEMrush, ahrefs, Moz, you name it, that can keep an eye on your competitors.
Because SEO is always relative, you may have done everything right.
But a competitor may have done better.
second phase is okay.
What happened? Like did the competitors put up a massive new campaign? And did they get like a million inbound links? Because they put huge amounts of ad spend on cool.
If you’ve done that assessment, and you figured out Okay, yeah, competitors for kind of business, as usual, they didn’t really do anything amazing.
Then you move the third step out, right, which is, did the big landscape change? Was there a Google algorithm change? Right? Did something happen? where, you know, Google rolled out a new machine learning model, some kind of that? Would that direct everybody? And you’d hit up sites like Search Engine Journal, and, you know, Search Engine Watch and stuff and see if there’s anything in the news saying, Oh, yeah, everybody’s saying they’re on fire this week.
So it’s, it’s not us, we didn’t break anything.
And then from a keyword perspective, I would follow that exam process the exact same process.
What do we already rank for? What do we want to rank for getting us to the difficulty? What do our competitors rank for? What do you think they’re going after? And then what’s happening in the big picture, and this is where I see a lot of things going wrong with with keyword tools, you can find, by the way, on the Trust Insights website, a paper we did with our friends over Talkwalker, about using social media data for SEO, because in that third ring of sort of the landscape, there are a lot of discussions happening, you know, on forums on social media, and all sorts of places that don’t capture the exact pneus of the conversation, right? So to your point, Katie, when you started off saying like, you know, we want to rank for se, Google Analytics, and a lot of keyword tools, you just put that keyword in, and you get like, a little set of lists and things like that, have terms related to it, but all seem to have the same words like Google Analytics in it, right.
But when you look at the conversations people are having, they may be talking about things like web analytics, they may be talking about Google Tag Manager, they may be talking about things that are semantically and topically relevant to the conversation, but don’t use that phrase, Google Analytics.
And so each stage of the circle has different processes you need to follow.
Katie Robbert 7:53
Do you feel like marketers who are doing SEO, and this is not a broad stroke of all SEO, marketers, but marketers who are sort of doing it casually versus it being their primary focus are forgetting about the measurement piece of it.
So let’s say, you know, you’re a digital marketer, and you’re responsible for, you know, technical SEO, and you’re responsible for, you know, paid search, and you’re responsible for email, and you’re responsible for a bunch of other things, and overseeing people.
And oh, they just dropped SEO on your plate.
Do you think that maybe the default is let me do a little bit of keyword research, toss it into my blog, and then next month, you know, oh, wait, I don’t know that, you know, my blog rank or anything? Let me go to the Google search, put in that keyword and see if my blog comes up.
Oh, it didn’t.
Okay, I’m not doing it.
Do you think that that is a likely scenario for some marketers?
Christopher Penn 8:52
I would be optimistic if marketers even did that much.
I really would be I, when I look at the big picture of when we talk to folks about SEO, it is still so misunderstood.
And you’re right, except for the people who do it as a full time career.
There is no process at all behind it.
There’s, you know, maybe they look before they write a piece of content, but usually not.
And and they don’t have that upfront assessment saying like, Hey, here’s the punch list of stuff.
We got to get through this, this quarter this month, this year, that it just doesn’t exist at all.
And so I feel like in the complete absence of any kind of process, makes it almost impossible for them to to do that.
But the other thing that I think is missing is, you know, back to your original point, there’s no, there’s no strategy, right? There’s no there’s no understanding of Okay, well, here’s why we’re doing this thing, right? When you talk to somebody saying, Oh, yeah, my keyword process is so slow and laborious.
Well, it’s so slow and laborious, possibly, because you’re not sure what you’re aiming for.
Right? It’s you’re just trying to do keep words, it’s like, you know, saying you’re trying to do cooking like, Oh, are you making breakfast making dinner? Are you making sushi? Like, what? What are you trying to do? what’s what’s the goal? And I don’t see that being a parent for a lot of people, they just kind of treat keywords like this, this bizarre context free tactic.
Katie Robbert 10:18
Yeah, I agree with that.
And I think that there’s also, you know, that daunting feeling of do I create new content? Do I try to optimize old content? What does optimization even mean? You know, I know we’ve worked with a few clients where we’ve given them that direction of, you know, here’s the list of keywords you should be ranking for, you should go ahead and, you know, optimize your existing content, and we get that deer in the headlights of what does that even mean? What do you mean, I should optimize? And so I think that there’s a lot of pieces of the process that aren’t well defined.
If, again, if it’s not, you know, your core function, you know, if someone says, I need you to focus on SEO, I think the first thing is, okay, let me do some keyword research.
Okay, these are keywords that I could roll into my blog post, I’ve done that great, check that box.
And that’s where it ends.
Christopher Penn 11:11
And this because the process doesn’t have a framework, right? Those three bubbles that’s not new, like Sequoia Capital does that when they’re doing to do just market assessment? What’s the total addressable market? What’s the service addressable market? What’s the service achievable market? Right? It’s the exact same general structure, we’re applying it to SEO to say, what are the things that are under your control that you can fix? Right? And that’s your keywords, your content? Are you optimizing new, old content? are you creating new content? That’s all where that in that first bubble? And so if you don’t have that framework, to put each of the processes in context, and yet, it’s still kind of a hot mess, because you’re like, I don’t know, my priorities, and I need to go do competitive research, wait, no, I need to go, you know, read all these blogs, like, no, have that framework, so that you have an order to the operations is doing and also that way, with a framework you go, okay? If I diagnose to your point about management, if I diagnose all these areas, where my weakest where’s the where’s the fire, the biggest.
And then you can start implementing processes and checklists for each of those areas.
But without that framework, again, this kind of grab back, even if your individual tactical recipes are good.
It’s like, you know, putting together a menu where like your first course is, eight is Japanese.
And your second course is like nouvelle French cuisine, like that doesn’t go together, because there’s no coherent, overall strategy.
Katie Robbert 12:36
Oh, that sounds pretty tasty.
But that’s just me.
I don’t know, I, I like to mix and match.
But the point being is, uh, you know, I think your point is well taken, Chris, that there needs to be some kind of a framework.
So, you know, back to the original question, how do I make the keyword research process more efficient? Well, it sounds like there’s a lot of missing pieces, you know, what is the process? Overall, I, you know, we can give people instruction on how to do better keyword research.
But then what, what do you do with that information? It’s the So what, you know, what, why are you doing the research that you’re doing? What are you going to do with it? How are you going to measure it? And, you know, we kind of like, basically, it kind of puts us in that position of like, we’re that friend who, you know, someone comes to, and they’re just like, I want to go buy some new shoes.
And we start asking a million questions like, do you have the money? Why do you need the shoes and they’re like, God dammit, I just wanted to buy the shoes.
You know, we’re very much playing that role for the clients of like, I just wanted to do the keyword research.
I didn’t want to answer a million questions about everything else.
But unfortunately, you can’t skip over all of those other things.
You can’t just isolate keyword research as its own thing.
And I think that that’s, you know, a misunderstanding of how SEO works.
Christopher Penn 14:02
In many aspects, SEO is no different than any other form of marketing.
There are more technical aspects to the individual tactics.
But it all comes down to the same thing.
At the end of the day, why are you doing this? Right? Well, what’s the what’s the goal that you’re trying to achieve? And if the goal is clear, Velasquez Katie, if the goal is clear, but how you get there is not clear.
Where has the process broken down?
Katie Robbert 14:31
Christopher Penn 14:34
the million dollar question.
Katie Robbert 14:35
Well, it’s almost a trick question.
Because anyone who says I know exactly where the process is broken down, answering a question like that doesn’t really know because, depending on the organization, or the goal, no two processes are going to look exactly the same.
You know, to your point, there should be some sort of a general framework of the order of operations.
But that’s where you start is you try to understand Okay, If my goal is x, and I’m not getting anywhere close to it, let me first look at all of the major components of the process.
Okay, all of the major components of the processor there, you always, you know, go back to the goal, like, Is it the right goal is the goal achievable with the framework that I have at my disposal, it might be a mismatch, you know, so if, for example, you know, and this is going to be a terrible example, if your goal is to, you know, figure out how much revenue you’re going to bring in, over the next three months, and you’re using an SEO framework, that might be a mismatch, you know, you might need to reposition the goal of, you know, how can I increase traffic to my website, using specific keywords that go to order pages, and that, you know, that then leads up to that bigger goal of revenue? You know, so it’s all in how you can trace a very clean line between the goal, how you get there, and the outcome? Hmm.
Christopher Penn 16:06
It almost sounds like, it’s like a four part thing, right? You have the goal, or the framework, you have the process, and then you have the individual recipes that make up the process.
And I guess the fifth part would be measurement to make sure you did the thing.
And so if, like an example, this, the person asking this question, like, you know, how do we make our processes more efficient? It even begs question is the process broken, or the recipes broken? Now you can have a process composed of recipes, just like you have a, you know, a menu composed of dishes.
But if you don’t know how to cook a dish, on that menu, then the menu is fine.
The process spices, you know how to cook, which is now a different part, because now it’s a training and development problem, not a process problem.
But I don’t know that people have that mental structure in place to know even know where something’s broken.
Katie Robbert 16:56
I would agree with that.
And so, you know, when we often talk about the challenges that an organization might face, we break it down into general buckets of people process and platform.
And so this simple question, this seemingly innocent question of how do I make my keyword research more efficient, can really be picked apart into Is it a, you know, people issue? You know, to a point, Chris, do we have the right training and education of how to use these tools? Is it a process issue? You know, is it something that’s repeatable? Or do we wing it every time? Or is it a platform issue? You know, am I going into Facebook, to try to do SEO research? Like, is it a mismatch? And so there’s a variety of different ways to make a simple task more efficient.
And so I think that that’s also, you know, the thing that gets skipped over, I was watching, you know, I was watching a TV show over the weekend.
And, you know, it’s, it’s related in the sense that like, the, it was a couple of parents watching out for their kids.
And one, Bob was saying, like, shouldn’t we? And she was like, nope, if we don’t see it, we don’t have to deal with it.
Or if we see it, then we have to deal with it.
And it was just like, one of those lines that, you know, kind of struck me as funny is like, no, that’s a very true thing that applies across a whole variety of situations.
And I feel like in this situation, you know, how do I make my keyword research better? There, you have those blinders on have? No, I can only focus on what’s directly in front of me, but then you miss all of the other factors that might be contributing as to why you can’t do the tasks that you were asked to do.
Christopher Penn 18:35
Hmm, that makes sense.
So, to recap, your process problem may not actually be a process problem, it may be.
But you need that goal, that framework, the documentation, the processes that you’re trying to follow.
So you can figure out there’s something wrong in the in the actual policies, and then the individual recipes that the individual techniques that you use to that make up the process.
And the problem could be in any one or multiple of those four areas.
So being clear about them for in that order.
From am i doing the thing, the right thing for the right reason? Do I have a framework to logically plot out and organized? Am I do I have good written down processes for doing the thing? And then do I have the knowledge of the techniques to do the thing well, and then identify where along those that that continuum, things have gone sideways, is how you’ll improve not only your SEO processes, but any marketing process, because you’ll have the context, you’ll have the logical structure that will help you keep things organized and prioritized the processes and then the recipes.
So if you’ve got some questions about a process that you’re hung up on that you’re like, I’m not sure if I’m doing this right or not hop on over to our free slack group Trust insights.ai slash analytics for marketers where you can chat with over 1600 different folks about analytics and marketing and also think even post photos your pets in the in the pets channel.
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