SEO Keyword Research: Automation vs. Intuition

Robot Futures Book Cover

I attended a talk recently by Dr. Illah Nourbakhsh, a Robotics professor at CMU. The talk was about his book Robot Futures which discusses how machines are taking over our world. As technologists, we are always celebrating the amazing discoveries in the industry. Don’t get me wrong. I love and support technological innovation wholeheartedly. However, I also feel we don’t really think about the implications these technological innovations have on our lives.

Let’s take a recent article I came across in Search Engine Land which talks about creating repeatable and scalable processes. Mitul Gandhi gives the example of SEO keyword research and how the human element in that process is a waste of time. His take is that automation of the keyword research process through usage of SEO tools is the optimal way of doing keyword research.

I disagree. The key intuition that a human brings to SEO keyword research will be lost if the whole process is handed over to a machine, in this case SEO tools. If we use the process mentioned in the article above, we will be basing our keyword research on competitive data, which will result in many competitors aiming and wanting to rank for the same keyword. In my opinion, a successful keyword strategy will result from a combined machine / human effort. Use of SEO tools combined with a search marketer’s industry knowledge, understanding of brand nuances and product positioning will achieve the best results.

At Elliance, the clients that we serve in the higher education space may have similar program offerings as their competitors, but there’s always unique positioning for each program. For example, if a university offers an MBA program, it may be completely different from another MBA offered by their competitor. There are many factors which can affect these differences including brand essence, geographical location, program specializations, target demographics, etc. There is never a one-size-fits-all strategy. We celebrate the fact that each client situation is distinct and highlight that distinction to set them apart from their competitors. And much of that knowledge comes from our team who understand the clients’ brands deeply.

The fact that Google, SAS, Intuit and Salesforce.com are in the top ten list of Fortune 100 ‘Best Companies to Work For’ tells us something about the trend that’s currently taking place. So even though our existence is becoming more and more dependent on machines, it’s extremely important to use machines to aid your craft, and not the other way round.

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