How to do Keyword Research: A Step by Step Guide
You've heard about keyword research and how important it is for your blog. But, you're still intimidated by it.
Many bloggers feel like they are swimming in a sea of conflicting information about keyword research. I'm here to tell you that keyword research doesn't have to be complicated nor take up a lot of your time.
Once you understand the basics, doing simple keyword research for each of your blog posts will only take a few extra minutes of your time.
Step 1: Choose a Topic
Before you do any kind of keyword research, you need to have a grasp on what you want to write an article about. You can't do a thorough search of relevant keywords unless you know what your focus is going to be.
Get focused first
There are a number of ways that you can come up with topic ideas. If you don't already have one, I recommend coming up with a content plan first. In order to have a solid content plan, you need to know what your blog's main focus is.
If you don't have either of those, I recommend that you wait on choosing a topic, and get those two things accomplished.
If you have a main focus and a content plan, great. You can get start narrowing down a topic for your next post.
Sourcing topic ideas
There are so many ways that you can come up with topic ideas!
One of the best ways to get blog post ideas is to assimilate yourself into social networks in your niche. Not as a blogger, but as someone who's interested in that topic as well. For instance, if you blog about fitness, join a few fitness groups.
Don't be a lurker and don't promote yourself in the group. Just participate in the group like anyone else who's enthusiastic about fitness. This will give you a chance to converse with the people who could become your audience. It also allows you to see what kind of questions people ask and more specific topics they bring up, which can then be turned into blog post ideas.
There are also a number of topic generation tools that you can use. Here are a few of my favorites:
Once you know what you want to write a post about, you can move on to the next step.
Should you do keyword research before writing an article?
In my opinion, yes. You don't want to write an entire article just to find out that there are no good keywords available for that topic that you can easily rank for.
There is one caveat. If it's something that already follows the theme of other content that your readers respond to, go ahead and write the article first. Not ALL of your content needs to be top-notch keyword friendly. However, you should have plenty of keyword rich content on your blog to bring in new readers.
Step 2: Make a List of Words
From this point on, pretend that the broad topic you've chosen is dog training. From this topic idea, your next step is to brainstorm a list of words that may be included in headlines for this topic.
For instance, the following words may be relevant in a dog training title:
- dog / dogs
- puppy / puppies
- training / conditioning
This list doesn't have to be long, but it does give you a starting point. Think of it as an additional brainstorming session. You may use this list to see whether or not you want to focus on “dogs” or more specifically “puppies”.
These words will give you an idea of what words to plug into a keyword research tool.
Step 3: Initial Keyword Research
Once you have picked a topic and brainstormed a list of words typically used for that topic, it's time to begin doing keyword research.
Start your search with a couple of words from your word list. I started my search with the words “dog training”. The keyword research tool then gives me a list of the most popular keyword phrases with those words included, plus information about how popular the keyword is in various search engines and the CPC (cost per click) that advertisers are paying for that keyword.
By looking at these popular keyword phrases, you also get an idea of what people are most interested in on the topic.
Step 4: Narrow Down Your Long-Tail Keywords
The next step is to make a short list of long-tail keyword phrases from these search results that fit with the topic that you have chosen.
For instance, if you want to write a general how-to post about dog training, “dog obedience training” and “how to train a dog” would be good choices. However, you probably wouldn't choose “dog training classes”, as this keyword is more likely used for people looking for local classes. And you wouldn't choose “service dog training” unless your post was specifically about service dogs.
Aim for long-tail keywords that get an average of at least 10 daily searches.
Using your initial word list, try a few different keyword searches. Narrow your long-tail keyword list down to about 3-4 options.
Here's the long-tail keyword list I chose for dog training:
- “dog obedience training”
- “how to train a dog”
- “how to potty train a dog”
- “best way to potty train a dog”
Step 5: Examine Competition
Now that you have a list of long-tail keywords that you would like to use, it's time to find out which one you can use to gain the most amount of traffic. Your goal is to “rank” as high a possible in search engines for that keyword phrase. The best way to ensure that you can rank for a keyword is to explore what kind of competition you are up against for each phrase.
The simplest way I know how to do this (without paid tools and services) is to simply investigate each keyword using google search.
Search engines crawl sites to see which articles are the most relevant for certain topics. One way in which they do this is to see if a keyword phrase can be found in the title of an article, as well as the anchor text.
Start first by entering each keyword phrase into google like this:
intitle:”keyword phrase here”
For instance, if I want to see which articles are ranking for “how to potty train a dog” in their title, I would search:
intitle:”how to potty train a dog”
Next, look at the number of results that Google could find with this search query. This can be found directly under the search field. Ideally, you should use keywords that have less than 10,000 results with this query.
Record the number of intitle results for each of your long-tail keyword phrases. Also, pay attention to the first few articles that appear in the search and what domain they are coming from. This can give you an idea of how hard it will be to rank for each keyword phrase. For example, it will be harder to compete with WebMD than it will be to compete with a lesser-known website.
Next, investigate the inanchor + intitle query together:
After you have an idea of how competitive each long-tail keyword phrase in article titles, it's time to see how competitive each keyword phrase is for the title plus anchor text.
The reason this is important is because it tells you how likely it is to beat the competition. For example, if a major website uses a keyword phrase in an article title, but fails to use this keyword phrase in their article url, backlinks, etc., you have a chance to “outrank” their article if you utilize this keyword phrase more thoroughly.
Enter your keyword phrase into google like this:
intitle:”keyword phrase here” inanchor:”keyword phrase here”
For instance, if the phrase you are investigating is “how to potty train a dog”, you will enter the phrase into google like this:
intitle:”how to potty train a dog” inanchor:”how to potty train a dog”
Again, you can find the total number of search results directly below the search field. For this more inclusive search query, you want to aim for keyword phrases with less than 1,000 results.
Again, write down the number of results for each of your long-tail keyword phrases, and also make note of what domains are the highest ranking for each particular phrase.
Step 5: Choose a Main Long-Tail Keyword
Now that you have the data that you need about the competition for each keyword phrase, it's time to pick the long-tail keyword phrase that you will use for your article.
The ideal keyword phrase will have the most daily searches combined with the lowest competition. For some topics, you may find it difficult to find suitable keywords at all. For other topics, you may find that most or all of your keyword phrases would work.
Either way, you need to pick one to act as your main long-tail keyword.
I created a basic spreadsheet that can be used to help you choose the best keywords. As you can see, of the keyword phrases I had to choose from, “best way to potty train a dog” has the lowest competition. It only gets 19 daily searches, but it will be much easier to rank for than the other options, which makes it a much more valuable keyword for you.
To download this basic Long-Tail Keyword Research Helper, right click on the link and select “save as”. This spreadsheet file can be used in excel or imported to Google Sheets.
Keyword Research Series: Stay Tuned!
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Next I'll be exploring how to properly use long-tail keywords in your blog posts for maximum reach.
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