When you open Google, how do you decide what to type in the search box?
The search term you use is the deciding factor in what your search results will be. Each time you search, you're testing the keyword strategy and SEO (search engine optimization) of every website that has published content about the topic you're searching for.
Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. It’s not just about getting traffic, but matching the right visitor to the right content. Google is the matchmaker, creating (hopefully) happy marriages of what it thinks you're searching for and relevant online content.
If you're reading this right now after finding it on Google, you can see this in action - you found my blog post because this topic interests you, and we optimized it with the keyword "how to do keyword research" for you as our ideal reader.
Today, I’m going to take you through how to do keyword research for your next blog post to help you find a happy marriage with your visitors!
Develop a Keyword List
Okay, I'll admit it—this step is a bit broader than how to do keyword research for a single blog post; but developing a keyword list will help you know what blog posts to write!
Start your keyword research by creating a list of terms that you think visitors will search for to find businesses like yours. You want the keywords to be exactly what the visitor is looking for if they land on your site; you don’t want them to turn right around and leave (a.k.a. "bounce")!
If you own a coffee shop in Knoxville that's famous for making amazing vanilla lattes with organic vanilla beans, then you probably want to post more about those than the muffins you serve alongside them. As a starting point, develop a keyword list around your key products or services and prioritize them. But don't stop there!
You can also use Google Analytics (it's free, but needs to be installed on your website) and other tools to examine your current web traffic and see what search terms have already brought visitors to your website. This will give you an idea of what products or services your visitors are most interested in, and help you determine which keywords to target.
However, improving results for the keywords you're currently earning traffic for is just one element of building a keyword list - you also need to think about the keywords you could be earning traffic for.
Find Long Tail Keywords
According to Moz, “popular” search terms only make up about 30% of searches. "Long tail keywords" are those that make up the remaining majority of searches (the "long tail" in the graph of search distribution). Each individually has a lower search volume, but they're also more specific, making them both easier to rank for and better at attracting people who are searching for exactly what you're posting about.
Instead of using very general keywords like "vanilla latte," you'll probably be more successful with long tail keywords that focus on a smaller group of searches that are more targeted. You may not capture all the traffic for "vanilla latte" (Starbucks has that locked down), but not everyone searching for that term is your ideal buyer.
Use long tail keywords to laser-beam focus on what your buyer persona is searching for. If you're a local business, you may want to focus on “best vanilla latte in Knoxville” or “Knoxville’s best vanilla latte.”
You may also want to brainstorm long tail keywords targeting benefits, features, or ways to use your product, and play with different word combinations to see what you can come up with. The keyword research I'll talk about next can help you determine which of those will work for you, and which won't.
Check Search Volume and Difficulty
Now that you have your list of primary and long tail keywords, you want to determine how difficult they are to rank for. There are tools (both free and paid) that can help you determine how difficult it will be for you to rank for the keywords in question.
Tools such as Google Keyword Tool, HubSpot, and Moz, just to name a few, measure search volume and competition to assign each keyword a difficulty level.
To get the ball rolling, start with lower-difficulty keywords and those that you're already ranking for, but for which you aren't in the top 3 results. As you win more search traffic and start to earn Google's respect, you'll have a better chance at ranking for higher-difficulty keywords.
How to Choose a Keyword for a Single Blog Post
When you're planning to write a blog post, start with the topic you want to cover and then either choose a relevant keyword from your list or, if necessary, research new long tail keywords specific to the topic.
When you're writing a blog post, for example "Why We Use Whole Organic Vanilla in Our Signature Vanilla Latte," always check your keywords in the tools mentioned above to ensure that the keyword you've chosen will give you the best possible outcome.
Will "Why Our Organic Vanilla Latte Uses Whole Vanilla Beans" perform better, optimized for "organic vanilla latte" instead of just "vanilla latte"? (Need some help optimizing? This post talks about home page SEO, but the tips apply to blog posts as well).
At the end of the day, choosing the right keywords for your blog posts is only one of the keys to successful blogging.
Search engines also consider the quality of the content and dozens of other factors when offering up search results - the single best way to succeed is to regularly publish high-quality content that is what your buyer personas are looking for. Google constantly tweaks its algorithm to deliver better, more helpful search results, so just keep producing better, more helpful content and you'll be fine!
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