How to Use Trending Topics for Keyword Research

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For too long, the standard advice on keyword research has been to go out, purchase an expensive keyword discovery tool and then spend hours running searches until you find keywords that meet the specific parameters in terms of search volume and competing pages that you set.

But this is 2012!  It’s time to shake things up and explore new ways to find the keywords that will best suit your business model and content needs.  Today, we’re going to look at how to use Twitter’s trending topics for keyword research, using a simple three-step process.  Let’s get started!

1 – Understanding What Trending Topics Are and What They Tell Us

Before we can start using trending topics in our keyword research, we’ve got to understand what they are and what types of information they tell us.  According to Twitter:

“Twitter's Trending Topics algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help people discover the “most breaking” news stories from across the world. We think that trending topics which capture the hottest emerging trends and topics of discussion on Twitter are the most interesting.”

Essentially, Twitter uses these trending topics to highlight breaking news and viral topics that are growing in popularity exponentially.  As you might expect, this type of information offers some intriguing prospects when it comes to keyword research.

For example, if you’re pulling keywords to use in your pay-per-click (PPC) ads, how much extra money could you make if you were the first one to advertise on keywords related to new trending topics?  How many extra hits would your website get if you were the first to put out a blog post based on keywords related to a Twitter trending topic?

As you can see, there’s a lot of potential for using trending topics to identify keywords that will generate immediate interest in your ads or website.  But before we can start using these trending topics, we’ve got to know where to find them…

2 – Identifying Trending Topics within Your Industry

The easiest way to identify trending topics is to log in to Twitter itself.  On the right hand side of your Twitter profile, you should see a section titled “Trends”:

The default trend location (“United States” in the image above) will be set based on your location, but if it makes sense to do so for your business, you can also change this display to feature trending topics that are popular in individual cities or across entire countries.

Now, although these Twitter trending topics are easy to access and provide a good starting place for your keyword research, they have two major problems:

  1. The inclusion of promoted topics skews the results, since these trending topics don’t represent actual public interest – just advertising dollars.  When evaluating Twitter’s reported trending topics, be sure to leave these out.
  2. The scope of these topics is too broad.  Because Twitter is pulling the top trending topics from all users across all of the United States (in this case), the results include things like “Happy New Year” and “Iowa”.  While these trending topics may capture the mood of the public at a given point, they aren’t all that useful for webmasters who want to turn these trending topics into effective advertisements or articles.

Instead, we need a way to identify trending topics within specific industries in order to pick up on more relevant phrases that can be used in our keyword research.  To do this, check out either of the following free tools:

  1. TwitScoop – Although the TwitScoop interface can take some getting used to, it provides an incredible amount of information once you understand how it works.  Use TwitScoop to identify trending topics from the past day, week or month, and to search for up-to-the-minute tweets from any industry.
  2. TrendsBuzz – Not only does TrendsBuzz show you major trending topics across several different leading websites (including Twitter, Google+, Wikipedia and more), it also includes enhanced search features which will allow you to enter your industry keywords and find related news articles, blog posts and Web 2.0 updates to get a feel for what’s hot in your niche.

Using these two sources should enable you to get a pulse on what consumers in your industry are thinking.  Now, all we need to do is to figure out how to use this trending topic in our ads and web content…

3 – Transforming Trending Topics into Keyword Research

Unfortunately, there are no “hard and fast” rules on how to transform trending topics into keyword research, given the variability of the subject and differences that exist between industries in niches.  So instead of telling you exactly how to transform the trending topics you’ve identified into keyword research, let’s look at a few examples of how trending topics could be used to drive decisions about ad positioning and web content:

Example 1 – Keyword research for your ads

Currently, the Yahoo Buzz Movers section on the TrendBuzz website includes the keyword “bathroom cleaning tips”:

Entering this keyword phrase into TrendBuzz’s search feature turns up a number of news articles and questions related to “bathroom cleaning tips” that confirms that there’s public interest in this topic:

Now, suppose you run a plumbing supply website and want to capture some of this current interest to generate sales for your business.  Given the interest in this topic, you could decide to put together a report on the Top 7 Bathroom Cleaning Tips and offer it for free as part of your PPC ads.

As an example, the following PPC ad could help you to build generate traffic to your site by capitalizing on the trending topic you’ve identified:

Example 2 – Keyword research for your web content

When you’re writing website articles and blog posts, you have a little more flexibility in using trending topics from outside your industry, as the focus isn’t so much on providing totally relevant information as it is on capturing attention.

For example, say you run an SEO blog that helps webmasters figure out how to get their sites ranked well in Google.  According to the general Twitter trending topics pictured above and the current Google Buzz results pulled from TrendBuzz, there’s a lot of interest in the upcoming Iowa political caucuses:

As an experienced SEO strategist, you know that Rick Santorum has a long-standing problem getting his website ranked well in Google, but instead of using this issue for comic effect, you decide to harness this trending topic to build traffic back to your site with a blog post titled, “Why Rick Santorum Can’t Win in Google: 7 Lessons Webmasters Need to Know to Rank Well.”

Example 3 – Keyword research for market research

Finally, you can use trending topics to help drive market research for your company in terms of deciding which products to stock or what services to offer next.

In this example, let’s say you run a health food supply company.  When you log on to TwitScoop, you notice that “supplement” has been a trending topic for the past month (which is unsurprising, given the popularity of New Year’s Resolutions around this time):

When you click on the term “supplement”, you’re taken to a display that features every Tweet that relates to this keyword phrase in chronological order.  And although there are plenty of advertising messages mixed in to the results, you’ll also see plenty of people asking questions about specific types of supplements, which can clue you in to potential product lines your website could carry, as well as information that could attract visitors to your site when incorporated into a FAQ or information section.

As you can see, there’s no one way to incorporate trending topics into your keyword research.  Instead, for maximum success, use these tools to get a pulse for what your industry – as well as the general public – is interested in, and be open to incorporating this valuable data into your business plan in a number of different ways.

Image: michaelhyatt

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