Mobile Keyword Research: Tools for Success

Mobile Keyword Research: Tools for Success


Is your content optimized for mobile keywords? A few years ago, this question would not have even been asked—the vast majority of searches were originating on desktops and platform was irrelevant when performing search engine optimizations.

Oh how times have changed. It’s estimated that mobile devices will outnumber desktop computers sometime in 2014, and Google predicts mobile search queries will surge past desktop queries in the next few years.

Why does this matter for mobile content marketing? Because not only are people increasingly searching on their mobile devices, but the shift is fundamentally changing how they search. Over three-quarters of mobile searches happen on-the-go, and many have a location component.

For marketers, at a most basic level this means that keywords such as “nearby” or “near me” are much more important now. So too are other place indicators (town names, addresses, etc.).

Beyond just place-based keywords, mobile search is changing SEO because of the way searches are conducted.

Increasingly people are finding information by speaking to their devices, rather than typing in queries. This trend is the very beginning of “conversational search,” an evolution to natural speech rather than traditionally structured keywords. It’s a big reason why Google made some of the changes in its “Hummingbird” update, and it is part of the explanation for why some keywords are more effective depending on the originating device of a search.

So how do you figure out which terms are best for different devices? The best place to start is with Google, since the company has access to such a treasure trove of search data. In particular these tools can help with your mobile keyword research:

1) Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools: A good starting point is with Google Analytics, since this will give you a sense of how your current keywords are performing on various devices.

Begin by going to Audience -> Mobile to see overall how your site is performing across platforms.

Mobile Keword research

Next head to Acquisition -> Keywords and pick Paid or Organic. Now choose “Device Category” as a secondary dimension under “Visitors.” This will give you a breakdown of the popularity of each of your current keywords by device type (desktop, tablet, or mobile).

mobile keyword research

Google Webmaster Tools will also allow you to do similar research, with an option to download a report with your most popular keywords by platform. You can find this under Search Traffic -> Search Queries and then filter by device.

mobile keyword research

2) Google AdWords Keyword Planner: Analytics and Webmaster Tools are great if you want to tweak your existing keywords for mobile. But what about if you want to add new keywords?

This used to be relatively easy, but has become quite a bit more difficult since Google changed it’s Keyword Tool in the fall of 2013 and removed device-specific data.

Unfortunately, now when you do keyword research using the Keyword Planner you’ll get volume data for all platforms. You can still filter by country, language, and a few other variables, but not by device.

mobile keyword research

There are some competitors to Keyword Planner, but they’re somewhat limited in the data they have access to. So what’s the solution?

Google says traffic estimates by device may come back in time, but until then you basically have two options: 1) Optimize for certain keywords that you think will do well on mobile devices, then monitor their performance across different platforms in Analytics/Webmaster Tools; 2) Use AdWords to target keywords spends by device and see how traffic changes with different combinations.

Neither of these methods is ideal, but over time each should give you some sense of how performance varies for different terms across platforms.

Ultimately, no single tool is the answer for content marketers right now. However, if you combine diligent analytics monitoring, keyword experimentation, and some intuitive changes (optimizing for location queries and spoken questions in particular), you should still be able to create a powerful list of effective mobile keywords.


photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

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