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Beyond Keywords - Focusing on Behavioral Research
By John Alexander - February 09, 2004

If you have ever studied search engine optimization, then you'll know that most educators place tremendous importance on performing good keyword research. After all, it's true that we need to optimize our pages for the best phrases, or we will never realize our true traffic potential. It's all about trying to attract the ideal audience of searchers to our Web site, right? Is that not what most of people do? They build a Web site offering their business services, then they say to themselves "How do I get traffic to my site?" For many Web site owners, their source of traffic is an after-thought.

It's much wiser, to first try and discover what keyword phrases people are searching for on the major search engines and then optimize Web content for those specific phrases. However, there are still further regions to explore that go beyond keyword research. Let's call it researching the "behavior" of your target audience.

The difference between keyword research and behavioral research is that keyword research keeps us in a rather technical mode and focused on finding out what words people are entering while searching. Behavioral research has the added advantage of enlightenment and understanding that not only reveals what keyword phrases are being used, but why those keywords are being used.

Give this some careful thought. What could possibly be more important than getting inside the head of your target audience and discovering what they really want? Actually nothing! Once we understand exactly what someone is looking for, we can give them exactly what they want. Think "behavior." Every day, people around the world use the Internet as a tool for a vast array of purposes. A study of behaviors can carry you much deeper into understanding the desires of your target audience and ultimately, an understanding of what kind of useful content to provide for them.

While most people are thinking about what keywords to use, try to expand your scope to focus and discover the fullest possible picture of what your customer REALLY wants, what they really are doing, by simply studying their searching behavior on the major search engines.

Why make all this fuss about behavior trends anyway? What creates behavioral trends? Think about it this way. If you can discover how a certain target audience is using the Internet, then chances are the rest of your target audience may be doing exactly the same thing. This is not only helpful with respect to the ideal keyword phrase selection but also may be helpful to your writing style. How you communicate to a grandmother will have a completely different spin than how you communicate with a sports enthusiast looking for sports scores or a photographer searching for a place to review several different lenses.

If you happened to learn that a grandmother is shopping online to buy a gift for her daughter’s newborn baby, then what are the chances of there being many other grandmothers doing the same thing. If enough grandmothers are doing this in real life every day, it creates a trend.

So lets get down to talking about behaviors then.

Some people have already realized that online consumers are searching for price comparisons online. Wouldn't it be useful to know exactly what prices or what products people are comparing? How easily you could you take advantage of this information by creating ideal content within a retail site, that compares exactly these things that people are searching for and want to know! Not only that, but suppose you could research those exact products and determine fairly quickly where the biggest "window of opportunity" would be for you?

One of the most powerful and useful tools for researching human behavior is Wordtracker.com. As an official member of Wordtracker's question and answer support team, I help answer peoples questions about keyword research every day. The questions I answer are mostly things that customers are curious about, but often the answer to their question does not allow me the time to explain about some of the special advantages of Wordtracker. This is why I wrote an e-book called Wordtracker Magic, to help people understand some simple, easy alternatives to performing keyword research and behavioral research. Many people miss the behavioral trends simply because they are thinking too narrowly about "keywords" which may already be pre-programmed into their minds. Remember, if there is enough common interest in any topic, so that a similar search behavior is occurring then it will often leave an identifiable trend behind in Wordtracker's database. Every time you can discover those trends, it's like pure gold!

John Alexander is Co-director of Training at Search Engine Workshops offering live, SEO Workshops with partner Robin Nobles as well as online search engine marketing courses through Online Web Training. John is author of Wordtracker Magic and co-author of the Totally Non-Technical Guide for A Successful Web Site. John and Robin are also official members of the Q&A customer support team at www.Wordtracker.com.

 

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