Blogging is an important and wonderful tool in a marketer’s arsenal. It’s a way to connect with your target audience, provide value to your customers and drive traffic to your website. But we’ve seen so many brands and companies make the mistake of blogging without doing any keyword research. If you overlook this quick, simple step, it could mean missing out on a significant amount of potential traffic.
Why Do I Need to Do Keyword Research?
Keyword research helps you to optimize your blog post for search engines (mainly Google) to increase your chances of ranking in the only place that matters – the first page of Google search results. Your existing customers and others who are already familiar with your brand might stumble upon your blog when they visit your website, but if you want to reach new audiences, keyword research is a must.
A lot of different factors affect how well a page ranks in search results – the authority and popularity of your website, the number of links to that page from other sites, the authority of the sites linking to that page, relevance to the search query, and the list goes on. Keyword research is just one piece of this big confusing SEO puzzle – but it’s an important one.
How to Do Keyword Research
Maybe you think you’ve picked a great topic to write about, but keyword research reveals no one is searching for that topic. What if you want to write about a topic that has already been written about on big-name sites like Slate or Huffington Post – do you think you have any chance of beating them out in a search ranking contest? Keyword research can help you determine how competitive a keyword is so you can come up with a unique angle or different phrasing to talk about your topic.
So, how do you do it? The good news is that Google provides a free tool to help with this, and it’s quick and easy to use. The tool, called Keyword Planner, is intended for sites that are going to run a Google Adwords campaign, but it works just as well for general keyword research. Before you get started, the first step is to brainstorm keywords to type into the Keyword Planner (the tool will help you generate other keyword ideas, but it’s helpful to have a few ideas with which to start). Here are a few tips for coming up with keyword ideas:
- Think, “If I were going to search for information on this topic, what would I type into Google?”
- If the keyword is too generic (e.g. “snacks”), then you’re not really telling Google what your article is about, and the audience won’t be targeted enough. If it’s too specific (e.g. “paleo and gluten-free snack recipes”), then probably no one is searching for it. You want a keyword that is niche, but still something that people are searching for (e.g. “Paleo snack recipes”)
- It must be relevant to your blog post. If you use a keyword that has little to do with your actual topic, people will arrive on your site and promptly leave because the information was not what they were looking for. You can change your topic to fit a keyword or find a different keyword to fit your topic, but always make sure the keyword is an accurate and honest representation of what your post is about.
To use the Keyword Planner, all you need is a Google Adwords account (it’s free). Once signed up at adwords.google.com, click on Tools and select Keyword Planner from the drop-down menu. Select the option that says “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.”
Now you’re ready to start testing potential keywords. Type a word or phrase into the box. You don’t need to fill anything in the “Your landing page” or “Your product category” fields since those are for advertisers. If you want to see results for who is searching in a certain language or country, you can adjust the targeting options below those fields.
The first page you will see when the results come up is “Ad group ideas.” This takes the word or phrase that you entered and provides groupings of related keywords so you can compare and see what might fit best with your content. But for now, let’s focus on the second tab, called “Keyword ideas.” This is where you can find information on the keyword you typed in, as well as a list of other keywords that Google deems relevant or similar to the one you entered.
So, how do you tell which keyword is the best to use in your blog post? You’ll want to focus on two main pieces of information: Average Monthly Searches, and Competition.
- Average Monthly Searches: If this number is too low, that means very few people are searching for that exact keyphrase. If it’s too high, then lots of people are searching for that topic and it might be too general for you to rank against bigger name sites.
- Competition: Highly competitive keywords are ones that advertisers are willing to spend money on, which means they are high quality but probably too difficult to rank for organically. Generally you want to look for keywords marked as low competition.
The goal is to find a keyword that has a high number of monthly searches, a low amount of competition, and is a specific enough topic that you have a good chance of ranking for it. And that’s it! You can enter as many different ideas as you want into the search field, until you find the best keyword for your particular topic.
What we’ve covered so far is just a basic introduction to keyword research, but you can go much, much deeper into this topic if you’re interested. We’ve listed some additional resources below that provide great insights on how to do keyword research effectively. In a future post, we’ll look at some dos and don’ts for keywords, as well as how to best incorporate your keyword into your blog post.
- SEO 101: Google Keyword Planner, A Content Marketer’s Secret Weapon
- How to Use the Google Keyword Planner
- Content Chemistry by Andy Crestodina
What advice or tips would you add to what we’ve shared? What other topics or tools would you like to see us cover in our Toolkit Tuesday series? Let us know in the comments below.