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How to identify keywords

How to identify keywords

By Brendan Cooper, Social Media Planner at Porter Novelli

It seems everyone is looking to identify online opinion formers. It's important - you need to know what is being said about you, your clients, products, services, brands and people, and those of your competitors.

However, before doing this you need to know exactly what you're looking for. You need to understand what your keywords are before you can identify who is talking about them - and, by definition, you.

What is a keyword? Quite simply, it's just a single word or combination of words that describe you. Single words can be broad descriptions that are less specific to you but which might be used by more people in their online conversations. Phrases are more specific but will be used by fewer people.

For example, one of Porter Novelli's keywords will be 'Porter Novelli'. That is, I'm not interested in Michael Porter or Jean-Christophe Novelli. I want to know about 'Porter Novelli', the company, the phrase. But Porter Novelli is a PR agency so PR would be a useful single keyword to find out more about the industry generally.

By identifying your keywords, you can find the people who are talking about them. You can listen to them and, over time, spot trends in the general 'buzz' about you by feeding them into resources such as Google Trends or Blogpulse.

But wait - there's more. You can incorporate them into your content planning, so that your messages are more closely aligned with your keywords and therefore with what people are talking about.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) pretty much depends on keywords, so you can make your online content more attractive to search engines and, again, people. To take but one example, your online press releases will pack more bang for the buck, and your clients will love you for it. And that's just the start.

Building great messaging into search-engine-friendly online media? Sounds like some sort of nirvana. If so, it's one you can achieve, now. Here's the quick, simple way to identify your keywords.

1. List the keywords you know

Draw a grid, list your company and competitors across the top, and the following resources down the side, like this:


Then fill it in. It will give you a great list of keywords from readily accessible information. It's a no-brainer.

2. Find the keywords you don't

This may seem like a contradiction, but by looking through more sources you will most definitely find new keywords.

Here are some good places to look:

- Your own resources such as marketing literature, websites and so on

- Your competitors’ resources

- Any SEO work you have done, which will have already identified keywords for your websites

- Media agency partners who will be buying, placing and maintaining keyword lists for you

- Clippings agencies, who will also be using keywords to find your coverage

3. Find more keywords

The web is a big place. It's highly likely some more of your keywords are floating around out there. You just need to find them.

Google's AdWords keyword tool takes your search terms and lists what people are searching for. It could well be that what you thought was a good keyword isn't so great after all. For example, 'worldwide' could be a great keyword until you realise that 'global' is used more often. If you think Google works well, so does Google Adsense.

4. Organise your keywords

By now you have a great set of keywords but you still need to organise them so they'll work harder for you. Do this:

- Rank them in importance to you

- Consider exclusions, that is, keywords you definitely want to omit. A good example is Hewlett-Packard. It's often referred to as HP, but a simple search for this can yield results for Harry Potter! In this case you would want to list results that specifically don't mention Harry Potter.

- Consider forced inclusions. For example, if you definitely want to search within Europe then specify this as part of every keyword.

- Group them so you find them easily to handle. Groups could be by competitor, by brand, and so on.

You now have a list of ranked, effective, grouped keywords that represent you, your company, its brands, products, and services, and your competitors.

Hold onto this keyword list. It's going to be useful. It can help you identify online opinion formers, and monitor online buzz.


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