Blogging can be a great way to attract visitors to your website and earn a bit of extra money (or a full-time living in some cases), which is why hundreds of millions of people around the world blog on a regular basis.
The problem is that no matter what you’re blogging about these days, you’re probably going to be competing against a lot of other sites. You can type just about any search term into Google (or another search engine) and you’ll see a good few million results. This means that if you decide to write a blog post on that topic, you’re effectively competing with millions of other sites, so why will people read yours over the competition?
For most blogs, a vast majority of their traffic will come from the search engines. However, in order to have any hope of obtaining visitors from search engines at all, you’re going to need to know what to blog about and what keywords to target. This isn’t as difficult as many people make it out to be, so here’s the basics.
Why Do Keyword Research?
You might be wondering why you should bother with keyword research at all. I mean, if you write something epic, people will find it, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Depending on the authority and age of your particular blog, you might stand little hope of ranking in the search results for any highly competitive keywords, so you need to target the ones that you’re going to have a chance of ranking for.
For example, the search term “how to lose weight” is an extremely competitive keyword term. You can see from the search results screenshot above that the first page features results from huge organisations such as the NHS, The Daily Mirror and WikiHow.com. All of these will be quite difficult to beat unless you also have an extremely authoritative domain.
However, keyword research isn’t just about choosing the best keywords to rank for in search engines; it also allows you to see what kind of things people actually want to know. For example, the keyword “how to lose weight” has approximately 301,000 monthly searches according to Google’s Keyword Planner (which we’ll discuss later). Therefore, it’s clear that a lot of people want to know the answer to that question.
On the other hand, the keyword “best bike tyres” only has around 720 searches per month (estimated), so very few people want to know the answer to this question.
However, higher volume keywords generally tend to be more competitive, so what’s the answer?
Finding The Sweet Spot
The basic principle of keyword research (at least from an SEO point of view) is to find keywords that fulfil your business goals, are relatively high volume and also competitive. The problem is that finding these keywords is a difficult task.
Google’s Keyword Tool is a great place to start when it comes to keyword research as it’s a free tool and also gives you rough estimates on the monthly search volumes on Google for any given keyword. Yes, these search volumes aren’t exact by any stretch of the imagination, but they do generally offer a decent estimate that serves well as a rough guide.
It also gives you keyword suggestions based on your initial input. For example, if I was to write ‘build muscle’ in Google’s Keyword Tool, you’ll notice that it gives me hundreds of other keyword suggestions based on that initial input. Keyword phrases like “how to build muscle fast” and “food to build muscle” come up along with their respective search volumes. This is great for finding related keywords.
At this stage, you need to look down the list of the suggestions and take note of any phrases that might make a good blog post that have at least a few hundred searches per month. Anything below the 500 searches per month mark (ideally 1000) probably isn’t worth bothering with unless it’s a highly targeted term that really fulfils your business goals and perhaps serves as a fantastic lead generation tactic.
So, for example, we can see that the keyword “how to build muscle without weights” has approximately 1,300 monthly searches, so this would be a great topic for a blog post. But how competitive is it?
The best way to find this out is to actually do a Google search for the keyword and look at the top 10 results.
If you take a look at the search results for the keyword term, you can see that a few well-known sites are ranking. You have Bodybuilding.com at number #1 and MensFitness.com at number #3. However, there are a few sites that aren’t as well known there too, such as aWorkoutRoutine.com at number #2. You can also see the domain authority of the sites if you install the Moz.com toolbar, which is a useful addition for quickly judging how authoritative a site might be.
Overall, I’d conclude that this keyword isn’t too competitive and that with a good blog post and maybe one or two links, you could probably rank within the top 5 at least, which is likely to bring a couple of hundred visitors to your site each month.
It’s a bit of a manual task that takes some time, but this is basically how you find good keywords.
If you’re happy to pay a small monthly fee for a tool, Wordtracker can be excellent for keyword research. This essentially does the bulk of the work for you and gives you information about the competition for each keyword and even tells you which are the best to target.
You can also use a variety of tools at Moz.com such as their Keyword Difficulty tool.
Ultimately though, it’s still worth checking out the SERP’s yourself for any chosen keywords and judging for yourself how likely you are to be able to rank.
Choosing the right keywords for your blog posts is more a time-consuming process than a complicated one. You can delve quite deep into keyword research but ultimately, it’s about writing great content about topics that people are interested in. That’s the real value in keyword research as this translates across all mediums (social media etc).
Remember, you need to be writing great content and content that fulfils your business goals. If you want to sell an eBook entitled “Quit the 9-5 rat-race”, it would probably be best not to write a blog post entitled “how to quit your job and work from home” as it would defeat the point by giving the information away for free. But it could serve as a great lead generation blog post if done correctly.
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