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Why Keywords Are Dead

For a long time, marketers have been caught up in a game of over optimizing for keywords in order to top the rankings and bring in sales. The trend of over optimizing has come to an end thanks to the likes of Google’s initial Panda update and other updates since then. There is a problem however, with Google Analytics and Google’s Adwords tools, we are still facing a set of data that puts keywords at the forefront of our marketing. I am here to tell you that this trend is fading, and that’s a good thing!

The Semantic Web

One of the biggest things pushing this change is the rise of the semantic web. The semantic web allows search engines to know and uderstand so much more about how ideas relate to one another. This alone is helping to destroy the keyword based web. Search engines are no longer paying attention to just a few metrics that can be gamed, now they are listening to social chatter, reference websites, and so much more to determine where your content fits into the web of information.

User Tracking

User tracking will be the future of the web. HubSpot has been implementing it, and now Google offers a half baked version through their Universal Analytics (read more about UA from Marketing Land).

Why does User tracking matter so much? Let’s consider this scenario: You are walking through the city and you see a really cool t-shirt in a window, you take a quick picture to save it for later. You come home later and you are watching TV, during a commercial break you suddenly remember that awesome t-shirt and reach for your tablet to do a quick price search. You find the shirt online, price compare it to a few other places quickly and decide where you will get it from. Your show comes back on and your attention is taken away again. The next day while at work you remember the awesome shirt and show it to your coworker, who also thinks it is awesome, so you then give yourself a mental reminder to order it when you get home. When you get home, you pull out the trusty laptop, find that awesome shirt again, and then make an order.

90% of multiple device owners switch between screens to complete tasks.

Source: The New Multi-Screen World Study

What does all of this mean? In terms of Google Analytics, you would have already had at least 3 unique views from this scenario. In addition to this misleading data, you would have likely seen a conversion from a brand related keyword, since the user most likely searched your website name on Google to get there and place his order from his laptop. The reality is, this is not the keyword that brought the user to your site or helped them actually convert, it is simply the keyword they used to finalize the purchase after they already decided that you were the right choice. As you can see, we are really getting an unclear picture of what is happening here.

With HubSpot’s tracking software, you get to really see who your customers are, where they are coming from, what they care about, and then you can follow up with them based on what marketing buckets you place them in. I see this as being the future of where marketing will go, since keywords are helpful, but so is knowing who your users are and what they are doing. Whoever can give us access to this user based tracking, create a UI that makes sense, delivers powerful insights, and is affordable will be the market leader in the Analytics and Advertising platforms of the future.

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