Keyword Research for Emerging Trends

by on August 29, 2012 | posted in Content Strategy

It’s relatively easy to do keyword research at the outset of a new campaign. Look at competitors, Google Suggest, Wordtracker, Google Keyword Adword tool – the list goes on. You’ve probably done it, and you’ve probably done it pretty well with some degree of consistency. The problem, however, is that the concept of “keyword research” is often times stagnant, depending on the vertical. Very few people undergo consistent research into the evolving needs of their market, and because of it, they link build based on historical trends rather than future expectations.

This kind of process can be 80% effective, and for most, nobody will ever call them on it. It’s hard to track the keywords you’ve missed, as long as your organic search metrics continue to grow up and to the right. However, the companies that focus on the short few will invariably end up with a shorter tail strategy – which is considerably higher risk and more difficult to show growth on overall.

Turns out, the most efficient and high margin niches are the ones that come from emerging trends – those keywords that appear within your market but are not available at the onset. These trends are the new products, service definitions, governmental initiatives and etc that often times seem to come from nowhere, but still have the capabilities for explosive growth – which can mean a significant amount of organic traffic for those agile enough to capitalize on it.

Emerging Trends in Your Market

If we’re honest, many of the sites we work on are simply boring, and we could care less about them. This creates an information gap where we can’t truly be at one with the heartbeat of the industry – we link build and do SEO because that’s our job, but it’s a sad reality that we will likely never care about Jessica Alba’s organic diapers, nor truly follow the emerging news of the industry – especially with multiple clients (and also, potentially, a large inventory of products).

So, to truly understand where these new keywords are coming from, we must set up the appropriate levers to take advantage of holes in our awareness. My suggestion is to leverage three fundamental properties to identify relevancy and then detect search volume: Followerwonk, Twitter, and Google Insights for Search.

Identifying Vertical News Relevancy with Followerwonk

The first step is to leverage Followerwonk to identify a large breadth and depth of users relevant to your vertical. The best “node” to grab from to identify new emerging trends is in news, so I suggest you search for users using queries like “KEYWORD news”. You might already be doing this if you’re doing persona development – however, if you’re not and/or simply don’t leverage Twitter, this is good practice to simply setup a funnel to mine useful information from the blue bird.

If we follow the clear news sources in search, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, and then find the people that work for those news sources, by searching for “Search Engine Land/Search Engine Journal”, etc, we can get a large list of people that A) will likely tweet/retweet the news and B) are interested in the news. From there, we should add as many relevant people to the market that we can, such as through simple  “SEO” terms – the more, the better – there is really no weakness to including a large number of people relevant to your industry – at least as it comes to this exercise.

Once you’re following a large number of market-relevant users, you’re ready to leverage Twitter’s summary services to mine new keywords.

Twitter – Scanning the Summify Interface for Relevant Data

Twitter recently acquired Summify, which means they will send you a daily summary of the tweets they believe are most relevant to you – which is a gold mine for potential emerging trends – should you identify the correct people to follow for your client/own industry.

These summaries take the most tweeted articles of the day from the people you’re following, and then send them to you in an e-mail blast – and then surface the most popular articles at the top of the email. Suddenly, you’ve got an easy-to-browse list of e-mails with popular articles – with a bias towards news-centric pieces because you’ve created a Twitter account that follows those types of profiles.

I suggest you create a specific account for this kind of service, so you know what you’re getting. Then, every week, you check that account’s e-mail address, and browse through the correspondence. Make sure you have “Activity from your network” checked in Twitter’s email notification settings, or you won’t get the e-mail from Twitter.

If you prefer one e-mail account for all your information (and have one Twitter), simply search for ‘from:twitter “have tweets for you”’ to surface the Summify-esque e-mails in one spot, and/or forward your secondary e-mail addys to your main account.

Look for potential emerging trends when you browse through – my trigger is a new noun. “Mozcon” is one example of a recent noun, and it had lots of interest throughout the industry. Some emerging trends will be better than others (Google Penguin is one example that has hung around), but it’s likely that you can pull out some kind of unique noun from one of the top articles over the past few weeks, or something that seems to not belong. This is a sign an emerging search trend has arrived in your vertical, and has organic search traffic ready to be captured.

If we look below, we can see an extremely popular article – imagine if you were someone who had no idea what Mozcon was, but did marketing work for the SEO industry. That would be a noun worth looking up, and after confirmation from our third source, Google Insights for Search, we might get confirmation our emerging trend is worth building content around.

Google Insights for Search – Market Validation

Google Insights for Search is a tool that I don’t hear mentioned very often, but is pretty helpful for multiple reasons. It can help identify the search trends for your keywords – growth, decline, as well as other top, similar terms, and new “rising searches” as well. It’s great for identifying growth potential, additional keywords, and historical data about this new “noun” you’ve identified.

We can use this in unison with our information from Twitter search to identify if this is really a new market, if there are other, additional terms around it, and what the long term growth potential might be.

If we input “Penguin update”, we can see that there seems to have been a small amount of volume over time (probably non-related), and then an extreme spike – shocker – right when the Penguin update was announced. Most of the volume comes from target countries (if we work in SEO services in the U.S.), such as the U.S and the U.K. Interestingly; the search volume is strongest in India.

Apparently, they got hit hard by the changes from Google.

Looking at “rising searches” and “top searches”, we can identify other ways people might be searching for this term. “SEO”, “new”, and “Google” are all add-ons that are frequently used by searchers. The Panda update is also seen as relevant (and rising), likely because that has been more top-of-mind recently. If I have an SEO blog, it would have made sense to immediately jump on the trend back in April, and create content with focus on “Penguin update”, with leans towards SEO, new and Google in the targeting to capture the rapid ascent in search volume.

It might be a little late, now – but that’s part of the game with emerging trends – sometimes it’s temporary, sometimes it isn’t. When undergoing this process, it’s important to differentiate long term trends from short term ones – you want to build content for the long term, not flash-in-the-pan searches that belong solely on Google News.

Putting It All Together – Twitter Insights for Emerging Trends

This process isn’t hard, but if you don’t work it into your deliberate practice (especially if you have a diversified mind that doesn’t care about the industries you’re working in), you will likely miss on huge opportunities for the websites you work for. To sum it up, to capture new organic traffic for emerging trends, you should:

  • Use Followerwonk to follow as many accounts relevant/interested in news for the vertical you’re working in by a singular profile (throwaway or not) on Twitter
  • Monitor your inbox for new trends from Twitter by searching for ‘from:Twitter “others have Tweets for you”’ at least weekly
  • Search for new/unknown nouns with many shares from interested parties on the most popular stories, a strong indicator of new potential organic growth
  • Verify search volume/trend potential with Google Insights for Search
  • Create content around the keyword/keyword set, if applicable
  • Continue monitoring Twitter for new potential “nouns”/keywords

In the past, these “emerging trends” have driven more than half of the organic traffic for clients I’ve worked with – and when we had no business capturing it. We were able to grab this organic traffic because we were the first movers – we established the opportunity, created the page, and then started driving significant, relevant users to our site. If we hadn’t had our ears up, we never would have had that revenue and traffic.

Each emerging keyword set will be different – some will last for years, others will putt out in moments. Not every keyword will make sense for your business, so of course, choose wisely. But I promise you – promise you – that if you continually monitor your industry in an easy, no-effort fashion using this process – you will receive lots of organic traffic you previously had no business capturing.

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