How keyword research strategies can improve your blog posts, and why they’re so important in optimizing your content.
I wrote my first blog article almost seven years ago for a digital content marketing agency. The article, 40 Headlines: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, has since been updated by a different writer, but I curated headlines and classified them in one of the three categories and explained why it was a good or bad example. It quickly began driving traffic from search terms like “good headlines,” “bad headline examples,” and “how to write a good headline” which generated extremely valuable traffic for a content agency.
In fact, the updated article continues to rank for popular search terms, generating 15,653 unique page views so far this year (as of 9/20/2018 via Google Analytics).
I’ll be the first to admit that my article wasn’t some thought-provoking new take on headline writing. So why did this article drive so much traffic and how does it continue to rank so well for relevant searches?
The answer lies in well-researched keywords.
The value of keywords
When I wrote that first blog article, I had no idea what keywords were, what SEO (search engine optimization) meant, or even how to properly link. Google had just released the Panda algorithm update, rewarding high-quality content with improved placement on searches. My blog editor reached out to me with an article idea: create a curated list of headlines, some good and some bad with takeaways for each headline. It sounded easy enough, so I accepted.
She then gave me a detailed overview of keywords and phrases to be added throughout the article with a natural flow. She also asked me to work other keywords like “good/bad” and “headline” into the title, introduction, and subheadings.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, she was providing me with the necessary structure for writing an SEO-friendly blog article.
Optimizing your content using targeted keywords is one of the best ways to improve your organic search rankings. And, looking at my first published article as an example, an SEO-friendly blog article can continue to drive valuable traffic to your website for years.
So what are keywords?
In blog writing, keywords refer to terms, phrases, and queries that define the context of your content. Think of keywords as the relevant words and phrases someone might search to find your article online.
Take this article for example. If you found it through organic search, it was likely a result of a search query including some combination of the following keywords:
Knowing which keywords are most frequently searched by your target audience will help you create an actionable content strategy that delivers better results.
How to research keywords
Clearly, keywords are important. But you can’t just pull them out of thin air. You need to do some well thought-out research.
Start with macro-level topics
Before turning to outside tools and secondary keyword resources, start with an internal analysis of your business. Try answering the following three questions.
1) What terms best define your business and industry?
If you run a bed-and-breakfast, the terms that define your business and industry are probably keywords like travel accommodations, breakfast, lodging, hotel, etc.
2) What topics are most relevant to your products or services?
Take it a step further and create topical buckets based on the macro-categories most relevant to your offerings. For instance, if you run a pet store, you should create buckets based on product categories and offerings, such as:
- Dog Products
- Dog Food
- Cat Products
- Cat Food
- Pet Grooming
3) What questions do consumers typically ask to arrive at your solution?
If you’re a local wedding photographer, people may find your services from questions like:
- Who is the best wedding photographer near me?
- Who is the most affordable wedding photographer near me?
- Who is the most experienced wedding photographer in (CITY)?
Answering the three questions above will give you a strong macro-level understanding of which keyword categories are most important to your business. Next, we dive further into those buckets.
Drill Down To Find Keywords
Keyword research begins at the macro-level but gains real value the more granular you go into each topic. Now you will want to start building the main keyword lists within each bucketed topic. In this stage, we want to find broad terms and secondary long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are phrases that elaborate on a more general term (shown below). Continuing with the pet store example, assume that you want to list out keywords inside the Pet Grooming bucket. It might look something like this:
- Nail Trimming
- Dog Nail Trimming Services Near Me (Long-Tail)
- Dog Wash
- The Best Professional Dog Washer in Tampa (Long-Tail)
- Dog Haircut
- Where Can I Get My Dog’s Hair Cut? (Long-Tail)
- Dog Hair-Styling
- Affordable Hair-Styling for My Dog (Long-Tail)
The goal is to collect relevant keywords that fit into one of the main category buckets for your business. Within each term, try to think of 1-3 long-tail keyword phrases.
Tip: If you are struggling to list keywords within a category, try Googling your main bucket and look for keywords that appear in other listings.
Use Resources To Find Premium Keywords
By this point, you should have a hierarchy of keywords. You found your top-level terms and added sub-category keywords beneath. Now you need to answer some of the most critical questions.
- Which macro-topics are most valuable to your business?
- Which sub-category keywords will generate the most traffic?
- Which keywords present the best opportunities?
The best way to glean effective answers is to use a combination of resources. Below are my suggested tools.
- SEMrush (paid): This is a powerful keyword researching tool, allowing you to monitor and track the keyword growth of yourself and your competition. You can assess the search volume for specific terms and find other similar terms that are frequently searched.
- Keyword Juicer (beta): This is a new keyword research tool launched by CopyPress that uses machine learning to reveal keyword opportunities based on search volume, number of relevant results, and average CPC (cost-per-click).
- Google My Business: If you operate a small business, you need to have a Google My Business page (free). There are many benefits to a My Business listing, such as access to relevant keywords used by people who found your company via Google. Under the Insights tab in Google My Business, you can see what queries (keywords) were most used to find your business.
- Google Analytics: This free service provides insight about your web traffic. You’ll find details on keywords that were searched by people before landing on your website. You can also see which pages received the most traffic and use that to help determine what topics your audience cares about the most.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner: This is a free platform that allows you to set up pay-per-click marketing campaigns in Google’s search engine. In other words, it lets you pay for traffic from people who search specific keywords. To make it easy for users to know what keywords to pick for their paid campaigns, they have tools like the Keyword Planner. You can see search volume, find terms with low competition, see suggested keywords, and determine the ROI (return on investment) for traffic generated from a term.
These tools and resources can provide more clarity on the keywords which offer you the best return for your efforts. Generally, you want to pick keywords that:
- Relate to one of your money pages (service/product page)
- Have a lot of search volume
- Hold little competition or few relevant results
- Have high CPC
Clean Up Your Keyword Lists
You’re almost finished! Now you need to take your various lists and the data you’ve collected and start prioritizing the terms. You’ll want to have a healthy blend of long-tail keywords and more general terms in your list.
It’s important to remember that even though your long-tail keywords may not see the most search queries, they are still some of the most valuable terms.
For instance, someone may search “Dog Grooming” to find tips on how they can groom their dog on their own. However, someone searching “Affordable Dog Grooming Near Me” is probably looking to hire a dog groomer. The former may bring more traffic, but the latter is bringing in more potential customers.
Apply What You’ve Learned!
As you can see, keyword research is an essential step in the content process, especially if you are looking to see an increase in traffic and revenue. It can help you create a bank of topics to write about while also revealing the terms and topics in need of better coverage.
So before you start crafting your content strategy or building a content calendar, consider investing resources into keyword research using the tips laid out in this article.
Let us know if you have any keyword research tools or tips that we missed in the comments below.