This post is a response to a Facebook thread a week or two ago, when blogger Terrye Toombs asked our “Bloppy Bloggers” group on Facebook about what kinds of things we do to support our fellow bloggers. Somehow the question of keywords came up, and it quickly became clear that a lot of us weren’t too sure about the subject and wanted some basic tips about researching and using keywords on our blogs.
Hey there, Bloppies!
It seems that in spite of all the web articles out there that teach people about keywords, a lot of us still have no idea how to do basic keyword research. Maybe it’s because there’s so much information out there. It’s overwhelming. And a lot of it is really geeky stuff — way too technical for newbie bloggers to figure out.
We already know that keywords are the words and phrases that people type into Google and other search engines to help them find some kind of information, product, service, or whatever out there on the Internet.
We know that choosing the right keywords will bring lots of new visitors to our blogs, and we know that choosing the wrong keywords won’t do anything for us at all.
But what’s the secret to choosing good keywords?
Well, I don’t know about any secrets, and I’m not an expert on anything myself, but I have learned some things from other successful bloggers about how to find keywords that will drive traffic to your blog, and hopefully I’ll be able to pass along some tips to help you find and use good keywords in your blog posts.
So in this post I’m going to briefly discuss three things:
- how to find potential keywords for your blog posts
- how to analyze the competition for those keywords
- how to use those keywords effectively
For this post, the emphasis will simply be on finding low volume, low competition keywords that will increase targeted search traffic to your blog. There are additional considerations for determining how profitable a keyword can be, and this will depend on how you’re deciding to monetize your blog (e.g. Adsense vs. Amazon), but for now, the emphasis is just on getting some traffic.
How To Choose Good Keywords For Your Blog
A good place to start is with the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool. You’ll have to sign up for an AdWords account (it’s free and takes like 60 seconds to sign up), and then you’re ready to start doing some keyword research.
Keep in mind that AdWords wasn’t made for bloggers like you and me. It’s actually for advertisers who want to pay Google to place their ads on our websites for them. They pay Google, and then Google pays us (if we’re monetizing with AdSense).
So we’re not going to use all that other stuff on the AdWords site. Instead, all we’re going to do with our AdWords account is use the free keyword tool. That’s it. So don’t start any ad campaigns or pay for anything. Just use it for research.
There are all kinds of stats on there that we can look at, and different SEO guys may make different recommendations than what I’m giving here. Don’t worry about it, though. There’s more than one way to do keyword research. I’m just going over one of the simplest ways to get you started with it, and you can go learn more complicated (and effective) methods later on if you like.
Here are your basic steps…
Step 1: Select “Exact” And “Closely Related Ideas” (left sidebar)
Step 2: Select Local Monthly Searches (columns drop down menu)
Step 3: (Optional) Select Location And Language (below keyword search box)
Step 4: Sort By Local Monthly Search (“sort by” drop down menu)
Step 5: Drill Down And Search For Long Tail Keywords
How To Analyze Keyword Competition
No matter how many or how few searches there are for your keyword, if you can’t rank well in Google for it, then you’re not going to get much search traffic. So analyzing the competition is very important.
You’ll notice in the Adwords Keyword Tool, there’s a column called, “Competition,” and many bloggers make the mistake of thinking that this measures how hard it will be for them to rank for that term.
Wrong. Sorry, but that’s not what this is about.
Remember, the AdWords keyword tool wasn’t designed for bloggers, it was designed for advertisers. ”Competition” here is actually a measure of advertiser competition. It gives advertisers an idea of how many other advertisers out there are bidding on those keywords too. The more advertisers there are bidding on them, the higher the winning bids will be.
So high competition in the Adwords Keyword Tool is actually good news for bloggers using AdSense; it means that actual CPC will be higher, and that means that we can get paid more when people click those ads on our site.
So that’s what we DON’T mean by analyzing our competition. The best way to analyze your competition for a particular keyword is to actually google it and look at the sites you see listed on the first page of search results. Those ten websites are your competition; they’re the ones you’ll have to beat if you want to get significant traffic and make some money.
There are several different factors you could look at to determine how hard a competitor will be to beat. Spencer Haws just put out a great post about that this week, so you know I have to link to him on that one. But even Spencer’s simplified version of competition analysis is going to be over some blogger’s heads (mine included, somewhat). He narrowed down his discussion to the seven most important factors that determines a site’s ranking in Google for a keyword:
- Content/Keyword Relevancy
- Page Links
- Page Authority
- Type of Sites
- Dwell Time and Bounce Rates
- Social Signals
Those are some pretty important ideas, and I hope you’ll bookmark Spencer’s post and read it more than once to help some of that info sink in. But honestly, even with his excellent way of breaking it all down, a lot of those factors are still hard to follow if you’re learning about them for the first time.
So instead, I thought I’d focus on just three things SEO beginners should look at when analyzing the competition…
3 Questions Newbie Bloggers Should Ask When Evaluating Competition
- Does the exact keyword show up in the title and description? (Keyword Match/Relevancy)
- Is this what the searcher is really looking for? (Content Relevancy)
- Are these guys authoritative pros or just amateurs? (Type of Site)
Here’s a video to demonstrate what to look for. Spencer (do I love this guy or what? Maybe I should marry him) did this video several months back where he went over this stuff, but he relies heavily on his software program Long Tail Pro. I can tell it’s a great program, but I’m a broke blogger and prefer to go the free route, so I just use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, which may actually be replaced soon by the new Google Keyword Planner. I’ll follow up with that when I learn more.
Spencer’s way is better. Just so you know. You get what you pay for. But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money to be successful at keyword research. You don’t.
How To Use Keywords Effectively
The hardest part of keyword research is finding good keywords that aren’t too hard to rank for. Now that you’ve (hopefully) chosen some good ones…it’s time to use them.
My other Internet guru/friend/husband/lover is Courtney Tuttle of The Blog Builders and The Keyword Academy. In a video tutorial he did for The Keyword Academy members, Court breaks down four ways to use keywords properly in your blog posts. I’d link to it, but you have to be a paid TKA member to access it. Anyways, here’s the highlights…
Where To Use Keyword In Your Blog Post
- Post Title
- Body Of The Article
Use It In The Title
Your title of your post should have the exact keyword you’re trying to rank for. It can (and maybe should) have some more words in there too, but the keyword needs to be in there, and it needs to be an exact match. Technically, Google can recognize variations (plural, tense, etc.) and even synonyms, but you’ll still rank better if it’s an exact, uninterrupted match.
Something else I’ve noticed when looking over Google results is that using the keyword at the very beginning of your title seems to give it an even greater boost. I had never heard anyone mention that before — so I wasn’t sure if I was correct — but I recently saw that our own Eddie Gear made that same observation, so I feel pretty confident now that it’s not just my imagination.
Use It In The Body
The actual text of your post/article should also contain your keyword. It used to be ideal to use the keyword several times in the article: in the introduction, the section headings, in the conclusion, and stuffed in several more times too. But following that advice today (keyword stuffing) is likely to earn you a penalty and get you booted out of the search rankings.
Keyword density best practices (how often to use your keyword) is a moving target, and ever since Google’s Panda algorithm updates started in 2011, that target has been moving to lower densities. Court recommends just using your keyword once in the article text, and that’s good enough for me.
Use It In An Image
While it’s true that a blog post can rank well without an image, it’s becoming obvious that images are a great help in pleasing visitors and in drawing traffic too. Be sure to use relevant images in your article, and for one of them, use the keyword itself as the filename (e.g. basic-keyword-research.jpg), as well as in the image title and the alt tag (the blurb of text that will show up on computers/devices that can’t display the image).
Use It In A Tag
I have to be honest. I’m kind of on the fence about using tags. It seems like many of my visitors who come to my site via a tag page don’t stick around long. Plus, I’ve seen that HubPages has actually disabled the tag option on The Hub Tool (interface for writers creating articles on HP). I guess tags get abused a lot, and some folks say that tags don’t even matter anymore.
Court seems to disagree, and since he knows way more than me about this, I’m including his recommendation. Tag pages do still draw search traffic. There’s no doubt about that. You’re stats (and mine) easily confirm this to be the case. So when you’re creating tags (don’t overdo it), be sure to include your keyword as one of them.
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