Keyword research is a fundamental part of online marketing of all kinds and is especially relevant for freelance writers, online publishers, and bloggers. Compelling content is favored by search engines, but if you don’t use the words people are actually interested in and actively searching for, you’re missing a lot of traffic.
But the value of keywords goes well beyond SEO copywriting. In fact, close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world where search engines don’t deliver traffic at all.
Would keyword research still be valuable? You bet.
Keyword research, at its essence, is market research. It tells you what people are interested in, and in what relative numbers. Better yet, it reveals the actual language people are using when they think about those topics, which provides you with insight into how to converse with them via your blog.
That information is worth its weight in gold if you know what to do with it. And that’s what this 5-part tutorial is all about.
1. Select one or two “Exact match” SEO keyphrases
An article should only ever focus on one or two exact SEO phrases. More simply can’t be stuffed in while still having content that humans will read.
In addition, it is critical that you do initial SEO keyword research using the “[Exact]” match type. Select this from the left-hand column in the Adwords’ Keyword tool.
Exact match gives traffic estimates for specific phrases and this can be wildly different from the default broad match data. Exact match traffic volume estimates are therefore much lower than broad searches.
To give you an example, search for “SEO guide” using the “Broad” and “Exact” search options simultaneously. You’ll see that broad returns approximately 9 times the estimated traffic volumes, which can be misleading if you’re looking to target specific SEO phrases (which you are).
2. Use “Broad match” research to find additional keywords
After isolating one or two exact-match SEO keywords, it’s time to use the broad search to help guide you away from using ambiguous or unpopular keyword variations and synonyms.
Content writing should be natural and easy to read for humans. But, at the same time, there is no harm in selecting higher-traffic phrases.
For example, the phrases “appearing higher in Google search results” and “ranking higher in Google search results” are both easy to read, and people will interpret them in exactly the same way.
The difference is that “ranking higher in Google” has thousands of times more traffic so it makes sense to always use this phrase.
3. Target appropriate traffic SEO keywords
Be realistic about the SEO keywords you go after. Look at the authority and PageRank of your blog or site and decide whether or not you think Google will place your article above some of the biggest websites in your niche (who have also done excellent SEO keyword targeting).
There is far more benefit to be had by going after SEO keywords that you can “win“.
Look at it like this: If each article you write gets to the top result for a search phrase that has only 500 searches a month, then each article your write should garner around (60% of 500 searches = 350) 350 additional visits per month.
Even writing ten articles a month like this will increase your organic search traffic by 3500 visits per month. You’ll quickly be making big bucks at that rate.
4. Filter SEO keyword research by location
Local SEO is hugely important. Even if your blog or business does not have geographical limitations, it pays to do regional keyword research.
South Africans search more for “rugby“, while Canadians search more for “hockey” (even though it’s Ice hockey, not actual hockey ;).
Regional SEO keyword research gives you an additional opportunity to get to the top of search results for specific demographics.
5. SEO keyword density
Ok, so this is not technically research. But, after doing all the hard work in finding exactly the right SEO keywords to get your content in front of the people you want, don’t throw it all away with “keyword stuffing“.
Google doesn’t like the look of unnatural content. It knows that SEOs regularly try to over-optimize their content and it will penalize you by dropping your content off the top page results if it thinks this is what you are doing.
As a general rule of thumb (that works for me), I use SEO keywords once in the title, once in the URL, and once in the opening sentence or paragraph (and this is then automatically included once in the META description). After that, I only use those keywords where it is natural to do so within the context of the article.
Of course, SEO is not just about content. If you’re looking to become a real SEO expert then I recommend you read my Beginners Guide to SEO.
Hopefully, these SEO keyword research tips will help you to start driving real traffic and earning some extra moola for your blog or business. Please share your thoughts on these tips, as well as any more suggestions. If you’ve got some hidden gems of SEO keyword research, I’d love to add them to this article.