Query v. Session: Expanding Your Keyword Research Envelope

If you’re into search engine optimization at any level, you know that keyword research is the beginning of the journey.  It’s your best bet to understanding what people are searching for and what content should be most popular on your site.

And, we’re all used to using the standard tools to perform the research.  Enter a keyword, related keywords are returned along with the query volumes over a selected date range.  To be fair, one engine’s tools limits this to the past 30 days or so, while one engine lets you see organic data with a selectable date range of up to 6 months.  Differences aside, the work you’re doing remains the same: looking for query volume data.

Query v. Session

Maybe it’s time to start a new practice in your keyword research process.  Try linking like-queries together over time to gain a sense of what the searcher is trying to accomplish.  One query (and the data behind it) while providing pinpoint accuracy, may not tell the entire story.  Developing a view of that searcher’s session, however, can be very revealing.

Here’s an example of the query v. session approach:




adopt a dog
dog breeds
cavalier king charles spaniel
dog beds
dog accessories
dog toys
vet near me
dog friendly hotels
organic dog food
doggy day care

puppy training
housebreaking a puppy
bringing a puppy home
dog sweaters
dog collars
dog leashes
dog park
dog allergies
pictures of ckcs

Beyond the obvious, if you look closely, you’ll see a pattern in the session data.  With the query dog, while it has a lot of volume, you can’t understand the searcher’s intent.  With the session data, however, a picture emerges that points to someone looking to get a new dog, adopt a dog, and maybe even a clue as to the actual breed the searcher is seeking.

If you can construct this session view of the keywords your visitors search on, it can help unlock a view into what they are trying to accomplish, making it easier for you to know what of your products, content and services should be shown and where.

If you have products that help with everything needed when a person brings a new puppy home, clearly the searcher in our example wants to know about them.  And even if they show up after searching for breeds of dogs, or dog breeds, having built a session view around what entry keywords people find you on can help you know what content to link off to on the page they land on.

Getting the work done

While the traditional keyword research tools available today are great at helping with query-related research, building this session view is considerably more work.  No tool exists right now that can tell you what a session looks like.  In fact, for every website, those sessions could easily be highly individual. But where to start…?

Start with keyword research as usual.  Then start looking at your analytics and building a view of the pathways people take through your site based on keywords they click to visit you.  It’s worth taking the time to at least try to build this view out simply because of the insights about your visitors it can showcase.  Look through your server logs if needed, just try your hardest to figure out what keywords people are coming to you through, and start working to understand what else interests them.

Now, just because no defacto tools exist to easily supply this view for you, doesn’t mean some smart folks out there can’t figure out a way.  This industry is loaded with smart people doing clever things, after all.

If you’d like us to build such a tool, hit the comments below and get chatty.  We can’t read minds, and the more people who speak up saying they need/want a particular feature, the better.

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager

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