Looking Back At SES Chicago 2009

Keyword Research Session

Despite cold and the busy holiday season, search enthusiasts gathered in Chicago to attend the Search Engine Strategies conference. This year, I had the honor of presenting a solo presentation on Keyword Research. As long as there are search boxes requiring text queries, keywords will play an important role in being found on the web. Keyword research is a fundamental skill set all successful online marketers must master.

In the keyword session I discussed techniques for finding and evaluating keywords. I also covered a number of the keyword tools available to simplify, organize, and manage keyword research.

One of the main benefits of using keyword tools is that they give marketers insight into the popularity of a keyword phrase, which is another way of saying that they give you insight into the traffic potential of the phrase. Higher popularity in a keyword means there is an opportunity for more visits, but it is often associated with more competition.

Byron Gordon, SEO-PR, talked with me after the keyword session about how to conduct successful keyword research. You can watch our discussion in the video below.

Avoiding Keyword Mistakes

Keyword selection is both an art and a science. One of the common mistakes I see people making with a keyword tool is to dump a keyword list directly from a tool into their online marketing campaigns. The tools are helpful, but for best results, there still needs to be a human in the loop reviewing the keyword list for non-relevant or inappropriate words. You need to review your keyword list with several criteria in mind including relevancy, competitiveness, user intent, popularity, and performance.

While there are several tools on the market (both paid and free) that can assist in developing a list of candidate keywords, it is still crucial that you employ your brain to filter the keywords for maximum effectiveness. Otherwise, the list you develop, while extensive, will lack the necessary focus.

There are a number of excellent Keyword tools available to online marketers. Some of the more popular tools available to webmasters include

There are also tools that help you gain insights into your competitors’ keywords. A few of my favorite tools for competitive intelligence are

I’m obviously only scratching the surface on the tools available. In the session I talked about many more and gave demonstations of some of the tools in use. The important thing is tools can help you make better keyword decisions and give you a perspective beyond your own analytics. Not every tool “fits” with every keyword researcher. Try several of these tools (sometimes in combination) until you find a tailored tool suite that works with the way that you think and work.

Keyword Focus

In the keyword session I talked briefly about doing keyword research for different types of online marketing. For example, if you’re doing KW research for PPC, you have the luxury of going wide in your keyword list (budget limiting of course) and targeting more keywords (compared to keywords for SEO). SEO requires you to laser target your keywords, so you really have to cull your list down assigning a small number of keyword phrases.

SEO versus PPC Session

I was honored to be included on the session entitled SEO vs PPC the ultimate battle. The panel was a mock debate to determine which marketing technique was best – SEO or PPC. Representing SEO were the always-a-class-act Rand Fishkin, my favorite SEO bad boy David Naylor, and the provocative and insightful SEO rockstar Michael Gray. Representing the PPC were myself (Christine Churchill), Karen Weber, VP of E-Marketing, Irwin Union Bank and our moderator Brian Lewis, VP, Engine Ready.

I need to emphasize that this was a MOCK DEBATE, because it became clear during the session that many in the audience thought we were serious in our debate and that we were actually recommending one form of marketing over the other. In practice, my company KeyRelevance does about a 50/50 mix of SEO and PPC, and the synergy between the two often leads to us doing both for a given client.

To be perfectly clear, one is NOT better than the other. The goal of the session was to highlight the merits and differences of the two techniques and to stimulate thinking about when and where to use each technique. On the panel in our mock debate, panelists were tasked with defending one side or the other. In real life we believe SEO and PPC are complementary, not adversarial forms of marketing. It’s not an either/or decision… both techniques should be in your marketing arsenal. There may be circumstances when one might be more appropriate (like PPC being helpful with a new site or one needing immediate traffic), but many sites would benefit from both methods.

PPC Site Clinic

My final session was a PPC site clinic with Melissa Mackey, the Search Marketing Manager from Fluency Media and Ayat Shukairy the co-founder of Invesp Consulting. It was a real pleasure sharing the stage with such accomplished professionals.

Clinics are a chance for companies to get a free review by experts, so they are always a popular event, and many others benefit from hearing the points raised about the sites reviewed. Sites reviewed get recommendations that would be worth many times the cost of admission to the conference. That might be a good tactic to use to convince your boss why you should attend a conference. If you were to hire an expert to review your ads, it could cost thousands of dollars. If your site is chosen to be reviewed in the clinic, you could receive valuable, actionable advice for free as part of attending the conference. That’s a bargain you can’t pass up.

Why should you attend a Search Conference?

Search engine conferences are expensive, any way you measure it (travel expenses, time away from work, admission fees, etc.) so you really have to weigh the costs and benefits. Our industry is unique in the volume of changes occurring. Reading blogs, articles, books, watching SEO videos are all also good ways of learning about SEO/SEM, but attending a search conference takes you to a deeper level in your professional development. Attending a conference is like drinking from the Search knowledge fire hose: there is so much information shared, in such a short time, that you can’t help but come away from the conference with several nuggets of valuable insight that you can immediately implement and reap benefits many times the cost of the trip.

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3 thoughts on “Looking Back At SES Chicago 2009

  1. You could also try the iSpionage tools, both keyword research and competitive intelligence, they work great! You could add them up to your favorites list.

  2. >
    I see people making with a keyword tool is to dump a keyword list directly from a tool into their online marketing campaigns
    >

    made me crinch..you shouldnt just dump many keywords, instead use very tight adgroups with very few, very related keywords. Having a huge keyword list is the fastest way to bad quality score, imho. G.

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