Keywords and keyword phrases are the words with which you would want your site to be found in search engine results. Your keywords are what you would expect your target audience to search for in order to find your content. Keyword research means researching the phrases that people are searching for. This process helps you uncover new content ideas and opportunities.
Your main goal should be to produce awesome content that thrills your visitors, but getting free traffic from search engines is always a bonus. One of the goals when creating an article should be to get ranked for a specific keyword or keyword phrase. These are 8 simple steps of keyword research that should take.
1. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience
Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think about what type of search engine queries they may use to search for content related to your site. Write down the keywords and phrases you can think of. What would your target audience type in the search engine to find content related to your site? What problems would they be looking to solve and what questions would they be looking to get answered? If you were searching yourself, which phrases would you search for?
Instead of trying to come up with them on your own, you could also ask someone how they would search for something. Something like, “Hey Grampa, say you wanted to use Google to find out the name of a book about losing weight but you don’t really know the name of it. How would you search for it?”
There are also exploratory queries. An exploratory query is one that is formed when a searcher doesn’t really know what they’re looking for. A great example is someone who knows that Carl Sagan hosted and narrated a documentary about the universe, but can’t remember what it was called. Their query might look like this: “Carl Sagan Documentary.”
2. Watch out for the latest trends and events
Beware of the latest happenings within your field. Has there been any recent developments that may affect the number of searches in the future? Can the recent developments affect the keyword phrases people chose to search for to find your content? Follow the recent events and trends and try to incorporate the latest buzz words relevant to your field into your content.
Be alert to the industry shifts, to what your target audience is talking about, and to the new keywords that these trends create. Read relevant blogs, subscribe to relevant keywords via Google Alerts, follow search trends via Google Hot Trends and following the trending topics in social media. This can keep you up to date on the latest trends and events in your field, which will help you discover new content opportunities.
3. Analyze your competitors
Research the sites that are popular in your field. Which keywords do they use in page titles? How do they feature these keywords when writing content? Which topics do they write about? What anchor text and keywords do they use when internal linking? Analyzing your competitors can help you discover some valuable keywords and phrases that you did not think of.
4. Use your current visitor data
Search Meter plugin for WordPress can help you keep track of what your visitors are searching for in your search box. Search Meter will automatically record what your visitors are searching for and whether they are finding what they are looking for. Use this data to discover more relevant keywords.
5. Analyze the search volume
Now you have all the different keyword phrases from your competitors, from your target audience and your existing visitors. The next step is to use a keyword tool, the popular choice being Google Keyword Planner to help you identify how popular these are and even discover similar themes. The higher the search volume is, more searches there are for the particular keyword.
Important thing to note is that no keyword tool is 100% accurate. Keyword tools use the data of previous searches and what was searched for last week, may not be searched for next week. The recent trend of Google not providing keyword data doesn’t help with this either. That is why steps 2, 3 and 4 are very valuable as you can identify theme without needing help from a keyword tool.
6. Check the competition for a certain keyword
If your site is new or small, it is very important not to focus on volume of keyword searches alone, but also to research the strength of the competition of the different keywords. The general rule is that if a keyword is very competitive, it would not be worth it to try to optimize your new site for that phrase as it is likely to be very hard to rank well for it.
In general, longer search terms have less competition and are easier to rank well for. Individual words are too general and have too much competition. So if there is a high volume of searches, but the keyword phrase is very competitive, it is better to go for a less popular keyword, but also a less competitive one. We now need to determine if the competition is too stiff. Trying to rank against a first page filled with Wikipedia or other high page ranking sites is not easy. There are plenty of great keywords that you can rank for with much less difficulty. This is called the long tail.
- Go to Google and type your keyword phrase in “quotes”. Look at the number of results it returns. The less results, the easier it will be for you to target the keyword. Your goal should be to try to find keyword(s) that produce results in lower numbers. It might seem impossible at first, but believe me, they are out there.
- Look at the authority of the top 10 listed sites for the keyword. What is the Google PageRank of each of the top 10 listings in the search results? The lower the PageRank authority of the top 10 search results, the less competitive these sites are, and the bigger chance is that your site would be able to rank higher. What you are looking for ideally is an average Pagerank of 2 or less. Less than 1 is preferable. This is where you want to focus your time.
- Other factors to look at in the top 10 results are the age of the domain name, the number of inbound links and how popular the site in social media shares on sites like Stumbleupon, Facebook and Twitter.
- Look at the page titles of the top 10 listings. Do they use the exact keyword phrase in their page title? If many of the top 10 listings do not use the keyword phrase in the title you might have a good chance to get into the top 10.
- Research how many sites have your keyword phrase in their page title in total. Search Google for “allintitle: keyword phrase” to find that. Again, the lower the amount of results, higher the chance is that you will be able to break into the top 10.
So now you have a list of very targeted keyword phrases relevant to your site. These keywords are used by your target audience when they search for your content and you have selected the best keywords for your competitiveness level. You are ready to create new articles to target these keyword phrases and drive traffic to your site.
7. Determine whether it is a profitable keyword
An optional step is to check how profitable these keywords are. If you want to monetize this new traffic you should know if advertisers are interested in this keyword phrase. If your monetization is by contextual ads like Google Adsense it will be hard to get revenue if there are no advertisers interested in these keywords or if there is so little competition that the cost per click is very low.
Use the Google Keyword Planner to show the estimated average per click for the top position ads and an estimated number of clicks per day for your chosen keyword phrase. Get also the estimated average cost per click and the competition level between the advertisers for the specific keyword. In case of profitability, the higher the cost per click is, more companies are paying per click, and higher earnings you get when your visitors click on the ads.
8. Build you keyword list and start producing optimized content
It’s time to build your keyword list. Keep this list on hand and refer to it every time you are producing new content. These are the things to keep in mind in order to keyword-optimize your content:
- Produce valuable content. Content that make sense and is helpful. Too many people use their keywords just to try and get ranked and the quality of the article suffers. This is not what you want to do. Your visitors are the priority number one. User experience is the most important part of content creation. You want your visitors to enjoy your content, to spend time on it and share it with their family, friends and network.
- One keyword phrase per article. Use different articles to optimize for different keyword phrases. You cannot optimize one article for several different keywords. More keyword phrases you add to the mix, more your article loses the focus. Focus on one phrase per article.
- Use overlapping keywords. In cases where keyword phrases share some of the same words you should try to optimize the page for more than one keyword.
- Include variations of the main keyword. Instead of repeating the keyword phrase too many times throughout the article (which is very spammy), try to include variations of the term and include a range of keywords and related phrases similar to your target keyword.
- Include the exact keyword phrase. You should not spam your exact keyword phrase too much but think how you can strategically insert it into some of certain areas of your content: post title, in the permalink, within the first paragraph, in the body of content and in the headings or subheadings. Try also to bold or italicize the phrase in the article. You do not need to use your keyword phrase so aggressively that the article does not read well. Make sure it all flows well.
- Include multimedia. Add a picture or a video to the article and make sure the title and alt tags have the keyword phrase in them. Use a filename that includes the keyword phrase as well. You can also use descriptive text near the image or the video by writing a heading or image caption. This helps get more exposure in search.
- Think of the purchasing cycle. For even better results you should optimize your content for keyword phrases and people that are in the purchase cycle.