4 Ways to Avoid Ego-Based Keyword Selection

Sep 15, 2009
Oshyn Labs
Guest Blogger: Ian Lurie, CEO, Portent Interactive

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You know the phrase "buggy bumpers" brings you traffic. Your CEO, though, insists that you don't make "buggy bumpers". You make "buggy safety devices". After a few days of tooth-grinding, fingernails-down-a-chalkboard arguments, you give up and optimize your site for "buggy safety devices".And your site gets zero customers.And your CEO is in your office, 2 months later, demanding to know why.Don't blame the CEO. We humans are egocentric beasts, and that influences our keyword selection the same way it affects our daily decision making: We don't realize what's happening.Next time you're choosing keywords, or need to advocate one specific keyword choice, try these 4 techniques to reduce ego-based decision making:

1: Go to the numbers

This one's obvious, I know, but it bears repeating: Look at your analytics reports. Ask yourself:
  • Which non-branded phrases consistently bring visitors to your site?
  • Which non-branded phrases bring visitors who stay on your site for above-average time periods?
  • What non-branded phrases do people search for using your onsite search form? If you don't track that, start now.
Pay special attention to that last one. If you can optimize for the top 5-6 onsite search phrases, you'll have it made.Note I said 'non-branded' - that means phrases that don't include your company or product names.

2: Ask the customer

Show your product to someone, or show them a description of your service. Ask them the first word that springs to mind.Or, set up an anonymous survey that shows an image of the product and asks them to type in a description.Either way, it'll give you a rough idea what folks think of when they're looking for you.Do not use a focus group! Why folks ever thought they'd get 'real customer feedback' by feeding a bunch of people pizza behind one-way glass and then asking them loaded questions is beyond me. Save yourself the money - use an online survey instead. It's not perfect, either, but it'll cost a lot less.

3: Try a test

Get a small budget. Use pay per click to buy the ego keyword and the keyword you want. Compare the traffic generated, time on site and conversion rates.The ego keyword may have a great conversion rate, but it'll probably also have very low traffic. Getting a 50% conversion rate on 2 clicks isn't all that thrilling.Even if the better keyword is expensive, you can make a great case for organic optimization: You won't have to pay for the clicks if you can get a top 10 position in the unpaid rankings.

4: Use a keyword tool

Well, DUH! Use one of the great keyword tools out on the market: WordTracker, KeywordDiscovery or Wordze can all provide detailed statistics regarding who searches for what. So can Google's External Keywords Tool (search for 'keyword tool' on Google to find it).These tools provide a rare peek inside your customers' heads. Show the data to the rest of your team - it's hard to argue with hard numbers.

Remember who you're selling to

Ultimately, all four of these tips remind everyone in the room that you're selling to your customers, not to yourself. The best way to avoid ego-driven keyword selection is to remember you're not the customer. Optimize for the phrases the customers use to find you. You can educate them once they get there.Ian Lurie blogs at Conversation Marketing. Conversation Marketing is an AdAge Power 150 marketing blog. He's the CEO of Portent Interactive, an interactive agency he started in 1995, author of the book, Conversation Marketing, and co-author of the Web Marketing For Dummies All-In-One Desk Reference.