Use SEO keyword research for targeted email marketing

When researching search engine optimization (SEO) keywords, the main focus is typically on maximizing a website's search engine performance. Another key way to utilize SEO keywords, however, is with your email marketing campaigns.

Sure, this may sound counterintuitive at first. By definition, you’re bringing the content to them as opposed to the viewer bringing themselves to your content. But the underlying principle is the same: tailoring content to meet the needs of your target audience.

So, how exactly can SEO keywords research impact your email marketing?

We'll go over three examples below—plus some important keywords to avoid using—to help you produce the best results from these efforts.

Using SEO keywords with email marketing

You’re likely already using demographic information to segment your distribution lists and customize email campaigns. Optimizing marketing emails with SEO keywords will help you provide even more relevant content to recipients. Plus, it will improve the performance of the websites these emails are linking back to because:

  • targeted content generates more clicks on link.

  • better subject lines increase open rates.

  • subscriptions grow as recipients share your content within their social network due to its value.

Researching SEO keywords shouldn’t replace what you’re already doing when crafting your emails. Instead, as the examples below demonstrate, they should supplement your strategy, providing an even greater ROI.

So here are are few ways to use your SEO keywords direct your email content.

1. Answer your audience’s questions.

The basic premise behind SEO keywords is determining what people want to know about particular topics, ideally at the most granular level possible. AnswerThePublic provides a basic, easy-to-use online tool to identify the queries people are using.

For example, you might work within the craft beer industry. Maybe you brew commercially, sell equipment, run a brew pub, sell craft beer online, or provide beer tasting tours. If so, knowing what people are asking about craft beer will determine the most productive content to generate. Using the "craft beer" search term at AnswerThePublic produces 115 questions.

Image Source: AnswerThePublic

The questions, whose relative frequency is indicated by the shade of green used in the dot next to them, are grouped by different interrogative words. For a more structured and editable report, you can also download this data as a spreadsheet.

The ten most popular results for "craft beer" by question category are:

  • When is craft beer week 2018?

  • Which craft beer Austin?

  • Can craft beer go bad?

  • Will the craft beer bubble burst?

  • Where is craft beer popular?

  • Which craft beer?

  • What craft beer has the lowest carbs?

  • Why is craft beer good?

  • What are craft beer brands?

  • How is craft beer made?

Of course, there are some pretty wide-ranging topics here. So, you could do a narrower, follow-up search using the query "craft beer Austin" which produces 37 results categorized by 4 different prepositions: near, to, for, and with.

Image Source: AnswerThePublic

Based on the top results for the four preposition categories included above, there are now clearly defined topics to produce content relevant to craft beer in Austin, Texas:

  • Austin craft beer tours

  • the best craft beer in Austin

  • craft beer breweries near Austin

You’ve quickly gone from 115 results for all search engine questions about craft beer to three specific content topics. This was done by drilling down on just one of those questions. You can do this multiple times to produce custom content based on different questions from that initial, general search.

And the beauty of this specific content? Now you know the questions your audience is looking to answer, and your content—and emails—can answer those questions directly.

One thing to remember is while SEO keywords can seem prescriptive—use this word or phrase instead of that one—you shouldn't feel hamstrung by the first set of results generated. Play around with different search terms to see what overall patterns emerge to help shape your content.

2. Write better subject lines based interests.

Now that you know what custom content to produce for your targeted marketing, the next step is to get these targeted audiences to open your emails. That's where, once again, researching SEO keywords can help you craft the best possible subject line.

For example, if you operate within the surfing sector, you could do a keyword search using Jaaxy to determine which topics are of interest to your customers. Note: you’re allowed 30 free searches a day, so this tool has some legs.

Image Source: Jaaxy images

Jaaxy offers more detailed information than generated earlier with AnswerThePublic:

  • Average (Avg): The monthly average for the number of searches of a keyword.

  • Traffic: The number of visitors to your website if it was on the first page of search engine results.

  • Quoted Search Results (QSR): The number of other websites showing a Google ranking with this keyword.

  • Keyword Quality Indicator (KQI): Green is the best, yellow is average, and red is below average.

  • SEO: A score from 1-100 based on traffic and competition which indicates how likely you are to rank for this keyword on the first page. The higher the score the better.

There are a few takeaways from the example above using the search term "surfing." First, you can cull "anonymous proxy surfing" because that relates to computers and the internet. You can also drop "kite surfing" because, despite the high number of searches, its KQI is low.

You want to focus on those keywords with a high aggregate performance across all five categories. That means "surfing Australia" and "surf clothing" are two good bets. If you select "surf clothing," you can drill down even further to determine which topics and keywords are the best to use for email content and subsequent subject lines.

Image Source: Jaaxy images
Now, you should have a better idea for writing your email subject lines after producing targeted content on the topics above:
  • Check out our surf clothing sale

  • Surf clothing for beach adventures

  • Best deals for surf clothing online

Again, using SEO keywords research isn't meant to supplant existing email subject lines best practices. Instead, it's to help you focus your efforts even more productively.

Want to research the effectiveness of different subject lines before distributing a campaign? You can test multiple potential subject lines with this free SubjectLine testing tool.

3. Increase new subscribers with better content.

It may seem like a lot of extra effort to add using SEO keywords to your to-do list—on top of your website SEO. Beyond increasing open rates and click throughs, however, this channeled content can directly contribute to organically increasing your number of subscribers.  

As your emails become more on point, recipients will perceive even more value in them. Including sharing options for these messages is critical, so they can be distributed within subscribers' social networks.

This leads to a key element in brand building: social proof.

That is, people will want to subscribe to your emails after other peer group members endorse their value by sharing them.

In addition, there's no rule that says email content has to be inaccessible to the general public.

One easy option for email newsletters is to archive them online. This allows the SEO research you've done to also work in actual search engine queries. Or, if you don't want to do that, you can repurpose this optimized content in blog posts or other online articles.

Some SEO keywords to avoid using.

Just as SEO keyword research can help focus your efforts, it's also important to be aware of keywords in email subject lines which will trigger spam filters:

  • Being too aggressive: do it today, don't hesitate, pennies a day, take action now, what are you waiting for?

  • Cheapened offers: dear friend, free membership, join millions, pre-approved, you're a winner

  • Exaggerated claims: all new, for instant access, lowest price, name brand, satisfaction guaranteed

  • Too good to be true: amazing, be your own boss, cash bonus, free investment, no gimmicks

  • Unnecessary urgency: drastically reduced, exclusive deal, important information regarding, supplies are limited, once in a lifetime

It's important to maintain the lowest spam rate possible whether emails are being automatically filtered or reported by individual users. The more emails reported as spam, the lower your sender reputation score.

If your score becomes too low, your IP address could be blocklisted and none of your emails delivered. If you're using a third-party email provider for bulk emails, they'll shut down your account to avoid becoming blocklisted themselves.

Wrap up

Using SEO keywords shouldn’t replace the other demographic information—age, gender, location, education, buying history—integral to email marketing. Their use, however, will enable you to even more effectively produce content for email recipients.

You can always use the resources discussed above as well as the industry-standard Google Keyword Planner. Plus, check out these additional tools to research SEO keywords for integration into your email campaigns:

When you do begin using SEO keywords research, you'll need to track more than individual email performance. You'll also want to conduct A/B testing for comparative results to fine-tune future campaigns.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel when planning your email campaigns. Check out our guide to discovering actionable insights from your competitors' marketing emails.

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