Keyword Research + Purchase Process = SEO Win - John Schulenburg-RBM

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Cover image for  article: Keyword Research + Purchase Process = SEO Win - John Schulenburg-RBM

It’s one of the most basics tasks of a Search Engine Optimizer. Discovering your clients’ “top keywords” seems so straight forward, right? In the old days we would dig around using some keyword tools, find high to mid search volume keywords, put them on paper as our top keywords to go after, do some link building, write some articles, track performance and then start over 6 months later. Then the race got so competitive that companies started looking for different ways to gain organic traffic with the understanding that some keywords just didn’t make sense financially and a better ROI came from more low-traffic, yet higher converting phrases, aka long-tail phrases.

From my personal experience there’s always been this wide spectrum of keyword opportunity. Another name for this spectrum is the “purchase process” of a searcher. The purchase process doesn’t have to be an actual purchase, but simply a conversion of brand visibility, email signup, delivery of thought leadership, planting a seed with a prospect, acquiring a lead or actually selling something to a new customer. Breaking down the purchase process is critical to the success of any global keyword strategy.

When you take this approach, you literally open the floodgates of types of keywords you can come up with for your clients. Not just high yield traffic terms, not just long or mid tail terms, but terms that reflect the behavior of the searcher that are a degree of each level of search volume. This allows you to create customized and tailored pages that are specific to the exact needs of the searcher, which ultimately leads to more sales, signups and conversions.

As an example, Rand Fishkin did an excellent post (albeit a little old from 2009 but still is totally relevant) on looking at the SEO purchase path and even demonstrated this through the following infographic:


As you can see, this is a great example of taking a client’s products and services and marrying them with actual search behavior. This can open the door to an incredible amount of keywords that your client’s should be targeting. Each step that Rand demonstrates here is crucial and if you’re not doing these steps for your client, you are doing them a huge disservice. Keyword research doesn't have to be complicated and in fact, once broken down, is quite simple. We as search marketers have an obligation to deliver the best product possible to our clients and making sure we pay attention to the methodology and process is crucial to keeping and sustaining long term business relationships.

Exit question: What is your keyword methodology? Are you looking at the purchase path or simply shooting in the wind at keywords you "think" will deliver the best ROI?

John Schulenburg is Director of SEO at RBM. He can be reached at

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