Any Search Engine Marketing (SEM) project begins with keyword research. There are numerous keyword research tools available online. Search Engines also provide their version of keyword research tools. For example, Google offers a free keyword research tool in AdWords. These tools can provide a wealth of information about keywords such as search volume, seasonal search data and keyword effectiveness index (KEI). If you’re not familiar with KEI, it is a parameter that is used to determine the competitiveness and feasibility of a keyword or phrase. While most Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts focus a lot of energy on search volume and KEI, there is another factor that must be taken into account before making a final decision on a keyword or phrase. At Amplimark, we call it keyword lifecycle index (KLCI).

We want to spend some time discussing KLCI below. To understand the relevance of KLCI, you have to understand the business cycle of any product or service offered to consumers. Most of the time consumers go through a decision cycle before they purchase the product or service. A typical decision cycle involves three very distinct phases:

  1. Product awareness and Interest
  2. Researching product or service and potential alternatives
  3. Buying a product or service

When we start researching keyword or phrases for a client, it is vital to take some time to truly understand their business model and products and services that they offer. This is the most critical component of a successful SEM strategy. We review each product and service and figure out the phase we would like to target. In our experience, best return on investment (ROI) is achieved when you only focus two product lifecycle phases at a time.

Let’s look at an example to clarify this further. In this example, we are going to review a PPC campaign designed for a flat panel televisions retailer.

  1. Awareness or Interest Phase | Keywords – LCD TV, Flat Panel TV, What is LCD
  2. Research Phase | Keywords – LCD vs. Plasma, Best LCD TV
  3. Purchasing Phase | Keywords – Best Deal on LCD, Buy SONY LCD TV

Obviously, there are lot more keywords/phrases available for each phase, but we will keep our discussion limited to these few keywords/phrases.

As we can see, if we’re running a PPC campaign for a client with generic keywords such as LCD TV, Flat panel TV, we may not generate quality targeted traffic. PPC is probably the worst tool to address the phase one of a purchase cycle because you’re unlikely to make a sale. Consumers who are in phase one are still trying to understand the product so they not likely to purchase outright at this point.

Phase II is where most of the search queries are generated. Once consumers are aware of a product or service and have developed some interest, they are likely to turn to the web to research. These consumers are trying to validate their interest and decided on a particular product or service. Some consumers spend lot more time researching before making decisions while others who tend to be impulsive buyers devote less time and make quick decisions. So technically you can divide all consumers into Phase II into two separate categories. To get the best results, we need focus our energy and efforts on impulsive buyers or consumers who make quick purchasing decisions while providing enough content for consumers who still need to do additional research. In summary, the whole idea is to shorten the time span between phase two and phase three while not losing sight of Phase III.

Phase III is usually the easiest to work with. For these customers, you either have a product or service at a competitive price or you don’t. These customers tend to spend the least amount of time on the website, so you want to make sure that checkout process is simple and easy to understand. Checkout process should not ask for unnecessary information at the time of order processing. Remember, we’re not trying to build an email subscription list at this point but instead trying to sell quickly. As an SEO expert, pay close attention to website user experience and functionality if you’re working on phase three. Focus on traffic but do not lose sight of conversion since this is what generates revenue.

When most clients hire an SEO expert, often they have no clue what is wrong with their online business model, so it is the job of an expert to develop a detailed plan. Once a plan is developed, generating a list of keywords and phrases and refine this list into three separate lists(one for each phase) should be the top priority. Based on the client feedback and keyword lists, we decide the two phases that we want to tackle first. This makes the project lot easier to manage and results that are easy to measure.

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