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In a sense, keywords are the currency of search engines – you put in keywords and you get results.  That means that learning how to do keyword research is something that every business needs to do and for bloggers, it needs to be done again when you plan a blog post.  That way you can choose the best keywords that will mirror what your audience is searching for.  But how do you go about doing keyword research and are there tools to help?

What are keywords and long tail keywords?

The first thing to examine is what are keywords and the answer is deceivingly simple – they are the signposts that tell search engines what a piece of content is about.  When the internet started to grow and blogging was born, there were ideas such as keyword densities.

When I first started as a freelance content writer, I did occasionally have a client who wanted a specific keyword density – it never worked.  Think of it this way: 2% keyword density on a 500 word article is 10 mentions.  Now if the keyword was ‘blogging’ then that might work fine but if the keyword was a long tailed keyword such as ‘blogging blogger from the UK’ then this would get really awful quickly.  In fact, the client sent the work back as unreadable and I pointed out that’s what happened with a specific long tail keyword density!

But keywords are more than just words.  Keywords are specific words or terms that have meaning, relevance and act as signposts to tell search engines that the enclosed content covers the topic that someone is searching for.  As an example, when I began researching this piece, I used the keyword ‘choosing keywords’ and received plenty of good articles and suggestions.

Long tailed keywords

A mention on long tailed keywords, a phrase you will hear often.  Keywords come in a variety of types.  According to Moz, you can think them as:

  • Fat head keywords – these are single words that are very broad and almost impossible to rank for ‘blogging’ would be an example
  • Chunky middle keywords – these add a modifier to the original fat head keyword but are still pretty general and hard to rank for ‘fashion blogging’ might be an example
  • Long tail keywords – these are the desirable keywords that are 2-4 words in length, sometimes more and are based on what people search for to find something so an example might be ‘Boho style fashion blogging’

Choosing good keywords to use

So amid all those words, variations and long tailed options, how do you pick the right one?  One way to look at keywords can be by the search intent behind the search.  For example, in a keyword course I recently did with AuthorityLabs, the author breaks keywords down into three types:

  • Informational – these are used when you are researching something or want to learn about something. They might search something like ‘what plugins to use on WordPress’ when setting up a blog
  • Navigational – sometimes people know where they want to go but don’t have the address so they type the name of the business into the search bar – typing in Facebook, for example, means you just want to go to Facebook
  • Transactional – these are more associated with making a purchase and might involve things like ‘paid WordPress themes’ or ‘paid social media posting tools’

Sure, not every keyword or search will fall into these categories and then there are ambiguous searches – Apple could be looking for nice red fruit or for the computer people.  If you just searched for ‘apple’ then you will likely get a mix of both because the search engines can’t gauge which you are after.

Blog keywords

Whether you are blogging as a business or for a business, you will likely already have keywords relating to your industry that you use on your homepage and in your content, even if you haven’t planned it.  The best business keywords, according to CoSchedule, use a core term and a modifier

To these core terms and modifiers, you will have a series of long tail keywords that apply to your business.  Their example uses a content marketing course so their long tailed keywords might be things like:

  • Content marketing course for non-profits
  • Content marketing course for bloggers
  • Content marketing course for dummies

Choosing the right keywords for SEO for posts

The other part of keyword research for bloggers is looking into the right keywords for SEO for posts.  After all, you don’t want the same focus keywords on every post as for your homepage, otherwise, you will be simply competing against yourself.  So when brainstorming your editorial calendar, you need to do some keyword research to decide what words to target for the piece.

Keyword research can be done in lots of different ways and there are some good free tools to use as well as some more expensive ones when you are in a position to engage them (I’m not there yet myself!!).  It helps to have a system in place that you follow to find your keywords and use it each time you research a blog post to help you get consistent results.

Previously, I’ve been a bit haphazard with my keyword research which is naughty but I vowed this month I would institute a system and start following it.  So here’s a glimpse at my new system – feel free to adapt as you see fit.

Keyword tools

If you are like me, you will have an idea in your mind what you want to write about.  I often get inspiration from articles I read that make me want to write something on the same topic.  Or there might have been a lot of discussion on something so I want to write my own research on it – a post I compiled on expert opinions on the Instagram Shadow ban last month is an example.  So, what are the best keyword research tools to take those ideas and find the right terms to use?

SERPs free keyword tool

One of the best places to start researching the best keywords is a tool from SERPs.  This is completely free and allows you to check a keyword to see if there are many searches on it.  Data is always a little vague because of the way that Google and co hide information but you can get an idea of the real terms that people use to look for a topic.

Google Planner

Once I had a list of terms that were relevant to the topic, I downloaded a CSV with them on.  I copied the terms only and put them in Google Planner.  Now, this is a funny tool that is aimed primarily at AdWords campaigns so looks at the high, medium and low search volumes but again, shows if people are looking at the terms you are considering.

Moz Keyword tool

Moz’s keyword tool is a little more in-depth than the others and uses their own rating system for each phrase.  You can have five searches a day for free and it provides a few top articles on the keyword as well.  There’s a bit of reading involved with it to understand their metrics but if you have a little time to check it out, it is worth looking at.

Do some research

Next up, simply Google the terms you are considering and see what comes up.  Likely there will be the big boys, top bloggers and businesses who you can’t really compete with.  But that shouldn’t stop you entirely because that’s the case with almost any topic you choose.  Instead, view these articles as research for your own article.

You can even run the term through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to see what you find.  The latter, after all, is a visual search engine so you might run into something interesting to help with your research.  And these searches also show you if people are pinning, sharing and tweeting about this topic.

LSI Graph

Another useful tool is called the LSI Graph Keyword Generator.  This looks at latent semantic indexing – in other words, words that are associated with the words you are using.  This is a great place to find keywords associated with your keyword to use in your articles.  Google and other search engines now use LSI to help give users the best results so by incorporating them naturally and in a relevant way in your articles, you are appealing to this.

Using that long tail keyword research in your posts

Once you have done your keyword research and you have the long tailed keyword to focus on as well as additional phrases to use in the piece, what next?  Next, you have to use them in your article.  If you read about on-page SEO, you will already know this but let’s just refresh or introduce for those who didn’t read my earlier article.

Your keyword phrase needs to be in:

  • Article headline (page title)
  • URL slug
  • First 100 words of the article
  • At least one article subheading
  • In the ALT of any image
  • Naturally in the article a few times

These are key signposts that indicate to Google what the content of the article is about and therefore focuses those searches on your term towards your article.  And as Neil Patel said on the topic

In Google’s eyes, users are the priority. Search spiders follow users to determine the long-tail keywords that they’re after.  It doesn’t matter how detailed the content is, or how much money you paid to outsource it – Google doesn’t care.  Google only cares about search users. Remember that without people using search engines, Google would be out of business.

So, by using good long tail keywords and relevant semantic keywords throughout the article, you are creating the signposts that Google needs to give its users the right answers to their questions.  Therefore, you increase the chance of appearing at the top of those search engine results.

How to do keyword research and choose the best keywords