Is Social Listening the Missing Link in Keyword Research?

Social listening, in combination with increased cross-team collaboration, is the SEO way of the future.

Written by Jamey Bainer
on 04.10.16

Social listening, in combination with increased cross-team collaboration, is the SEO way of the future.

Instead of relying solely on keyword research and search volumes, social listening is helping SEO practitioners discover audiences and dissect user intent, content needs, and questions as part of the consumer journey.

And that journey is a messy, nonlinear process. Consumers jump around an infinite number of times; they start their research, consider a purchase, hop back to the initial research phase, and then do it all over again.

Google can analyze this journey from a search standpoint, cataloging the consumer’s initial and subsequent inquiries, which, in turn, allows the search engine giant to reward content that best addresses every stage of the journey.

We all know Google doesn’t share its secrets, but we’ve come up with a way to tackle this nonlinear journey that may help you as well.

While we still take keywords into account, there has been a shift toward really understanding the consumer. Search volumes can be limiting—only telling us what consumers are typing in the search bar—but in actuality, consumers express their needs and intents in a number of ways, from asking questions on forums to engaging on Twitter.

That’s where social listening tools come into play; they crawl the Internet to see what consumers are talking about and where they are saying it. Beyond a brand’s own social channels, these tools pinpoint pertinent conversations all across the digital space.

In addition to uncovering what’s being said over the Internet, social listening gives insight into geography.

The tools can determine in which zip codes certain conversations are happening most frequently and how they differ from city to city.

This kind of data helps brands better direct their conversation to an otherwise unknown audience, which may not have shown up through standalone keyword research.

So when and where does social listening come into play? We recommend doing social listening before executing any SEO recommendations or planning any content.

Using enterprise level tools and manual Internet research, you can determine how your campaign strategy needs to look. Once you pinpoint who the audience is, what they’re saying, what they’re asking about, and where they’re discussing, you can then share these insights across all teams and collaborate on a game plan. Throughout the life of a campaign, continue to monitor via social listening.

Ultimately, this expansion of traditional keyword research to include social listening is changing the future of SEO:

  • It’s forcing SEO practitioners to think differently about how they build their strategies and where they gather their insights.
  • It breaks down barriers between the SEO team and other departments within an agency, creating a more interactive and collaborative initiative.
  • Furthermore, advertisers will begin to expect more from their SEO providers, but they will also need to allow for SEO practitioners to play a much larger role in optimizing digital channels and marketing practices.

SEO practices are forever changing, yet integrating social listening is just one way you can stay on top of the market.