How Well Can You Guess the Right Keywords?

During recent search engine and web conferences in New York, London, Las Vegas, and Chicago, Wordtracker had a really interesting promotion. They ran a “Keyword Challenge” game, which challenged SES attendees to review randomly generated keyword pairs and guess which one was the keyword with the higher traffic volume.

Here is a screen shot of an example pairing:

ClickZ Graphic

This is a example of inspired marketing in action. Since the majority of attendees at such an event are SEOs, or people in the process of learning about SEO, you can bet that most of the participants were convinced that they were going to get 75% or more of the answers right. While ego would probably be motive enough for most participants, Wordtracker also awarded a highly prized video iPod every day to the player who scored the highest score in the shortest period of time, just to provide some additional motivation.

In all probability, some SEOs may simply guess as the best keywords to use on various Web pages at least some of the time. The Keyword Challenge provided the great majority of the participants with a stark reminder of just how bad an idea that approach to copywriting on a page really is. With 2019 people participating, the resulting success was startling — close to that of random challege. The network of SEOs only got the correct answer 54.9% of the time. Here are the detailed results:

Full results across all categories:

Category % Correct
Web 59.1%
Food 59.0%
Gift 58.8%
Computers 58.2%
Travel 57.0%
Sport 56.9%
Music 54.9%
Offices 54.5%
Health 54.4%
Finance 53.9%
Home 53.6%
Kids 53.5%
Smallbiz 51.5%
Family 50.6%
Fashion 49.0%

The categories that players did best on were Web related (59.1%) and food related (59.0%) keywords. The categories where players did worst were fashion related (49.1%) and family related (50.6%) keywords.

I don’t know about you, but I would hope to do right more than 54.9% of the time in picking the right keywords on the Web sites that I work on. Andy Mindel, CEO of Wordtracker had this comment: “This might be fine in a game, but if you relied on such guesses in your online business, you’d be losing substantial amounts of sales. Most people choose a search engine as starting point on the Web and so it is crucial that your Web site comes high in the results for the right keywords, and the key to that is to use the best keywords in your Web site copy.”

Picking the right keywords is a critical part of any SEO activity. Competing for the right keywords starts with knowing what keyword phrases people use when thinking about your product catqegory. As experienced SEOs know, this does not always mean chasing the highest volume keyword, as it maybe too competitive for a particular site. Part of the art of SEO is matching the historical volume of a keyword, the competitiveness of the keyword, and the resources available to the site owner, to provide them with a good ROI.

I also maintain that even if SEO did not exist, it would still be smart marketing to use a tool such as Wordtracker, because it gives you insight into the mind of prosective customers. Learning the phrases that they use when thinking about your types of products, and then using those phrases in your marketing copy would be likely to increase on page conversion. So in addition to getting more visitors when you use the right keywords, I believe that you should also be able to increase on page conversion too.

I also really liked the way that Wordtracker put this together. They built a game, played on the natural motivations of the audience, provided a cool prize, and then illustrated their point. I know that it reminded me to be more diligent in my keyword research on an ongoing basis.

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