**This article has been updated as Long Tail Pro and Keyword Planner no longer work in the ways described in this article. Read my latest keyword research article to learn how to find the best keywords for your posts.**
One of the most important steps in SEO is to ensure you pick the right keywords for your websites and blog posts. It does not matter if you optimise your blog perfectly for Google, follow every guideline under the sun and attract great links to your quality content, you will struggle to rank well in search results if you do not pick the right keywords to begin with.
This is because some keywords are just too competitive and unless you have a site with fabulous domain authority and you attract lots of quality links to an individual article, then you are just not going to get anywhere near the first page of search results. This guide is all about finding the best keywords for websites and blog posts that you are likely to rank for.
What do I mean by keywords?
Keywords are basically the main topic that your blog post or website are about. For example, my keywords for Where’s Sharon might be family travel or family travel blog. For an individual blog post, I might target things to do with kids in Tasmania, for example.
You can target multiple keywords in a blog post or site, and I encourage this. You can also target a keyword just within a section of text within a blog post. In this guide, I will concentrate on selecting primary keywords for an individual article. By this I mean the main keywords for your blog post.
You will learn:
- Why you should care about keywords
- Some of the different approaches you can take towards keyword research
- How to find the best keywords using free tools
- How to find the best keywords using LongTailPro
- A short description of how to effectively use keywords in your posts
Why you should care about keywords
If you care about attracting visitors to your site, then you should care about search rankings. As mentioned above, keyword selection is an important part of this. Even if your blog or site is new, it is worth taking the time to research your keywords now. Some keywords have so little competition that even a new blog can rank for them. However even if you don’t rank right now, if you pick the right keywords as your blog and your domain authority grows you are giving your site its maximum chance to start ranking for those keywords.
Often, it only takes wording your titles in a different order or using words that wouldn’t have immediately occurred to you to make a big difference in your search rankings. Keyword research will show these to you.
The different approaches you can take to keyword research
There are three main approaches to keyword research:
1. Doing nothing or going with what your gut thinks are good keywords.
Obviously this is the least recommended approach although I am often guilty of this. We are all time poor. I do believe that you are better off spending the time researching keywords and optimising your posts than spending time writing more posts.
There are occasions where keyword research is less important though. I know when I write a hotel review and I have promised the hotel to use their name in the title that that has decided my keywords and I do not bother with keyword research.
2. Research keywords before deciding on the topic of your blog post
In this approach, you perform keyword research on lots of different topics and decide what you are going to write about on the basis of what keywords you think will be easiest to rank for. This is an approach that I do not think many bloggers take, but it is the approach I take for my niche sites. This takes a lot more time but is far more likely to end up in blog posts and sites that rank well in Google.
It is definitely worth paying for a tool, such as Long Tail Pro, if you are going to take this approach or it can be very time consuming and nowhere near as accurate. I will write more about this approach in a future post, but you can follow the same process as below after brainstorming many different topics.
3. Research keywords that best suit the topic of your post
This is the approach I take with both of my blogs and is the approach that many bloggers take. I know what I want to write about, I just what to find the keywords that best describe this topic but are also most likely to rank well in Google.
It is important to only pick keywords that describe your post. If you pick keywords that don’t actually describe your content, then you may rank well in Google for a little while, but Google also takes into account things like bounce rate when calculating their rankings. This means that if people click on your post in Google search results, but then click right back to Google again because your post is not what they are looking for, then this will affect your search rankings.
How to find the best keywords using free tools
There are two free tools I recommend for keyword research if you do not want to pay for a tool: Google AdWords and the MozBar toolbar. You just need a Google account to sign up for AdWords. The MozBar is easy to download and install.
In the following demonstration, I will use both of these tools to research keywords for my next article on Where’s Sharon about our Deep South road trip journey from Atlanta to Miami.
- Use Google AdWords to find popular search terms.
- The competitiveness column in AdWords is not an indicator of how competitive it is to rank for the keyword.
- Check out how competitive different search terms are in Google search by looking at the page and domain authority and by how closely the page title matches the search term.
- You don’t necessarily want the keywords with the highest searches. You want to use a combination of how many searches and how competitive the keyword is to calculate which keywords to use.
How to find the best keywords using LongTail Pro
*I have an updated version of this section of the article available here. I suggest you read it!*
Long Tail Pro is a great tool for finding keywords. It basically automates what we are doing above and drastically speeds up the process. Because of this, I also find it is more accurate as it means I am investigating far more keywords.
In the following demonstration, I will use this tool to do the same research as I did above – looking for keywords for my article about our road trip from Atlanta to Miami.
- Long Tail Pro drastically speeds up the above process. You can do the entire process within this tool.
- It can calculate a “keyword competitiveness” value for you which will help you quickly determine the easiest keywords to rank for.
You’ve got your keywords – now what?
Now you need to use them in your post. There are many different formulas of how to best optimise the keywords in your articles and this topic deserves a whole series of posts in itself! Basically, you should ideally use your keywords in the title and url. You should then try to use them in one of the headings in your page and sprinkled throughout the text – you do not need to use them much, just try to use them when they would occur naturally. If it doesn’t sound completely natural, you have used too many. I also recommend using your keywords in some of the titles and/or alt fields of the images on the page.
You can check out my completed article using the keywords found above in the excellent experience of driving from Atlanta to Miami.
The next step is then to track how effective these keywords are – using Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, you can see how your rankings and results improve over time. If you haven’t set up Google Analytics yet, this post from Yeison Kim can help.
You should now understand how important keyword research is, how to start researching keywords yourself or some new approaches you might take if you already do research keywords.
Keyword research is not an exact science. Sometimes you will do the above and it will work perfectly, other times the competition is just too strong. I recommend going back and evaluating how you can improve your keywords regularly to optimise search rankings – look out for some tips of how to do this coming very soon!
Read more of our content marketing strategies in our article about how we reached 100,000 page views and how you can do it too! You can also read my updated version of this article here and my 10 minute tip to improve the SEO of old posts here.
Disclaimer: The LongTail Pro links are affiliate links. I use this software at least a few times a week and I highly recommend it. If you decide to purchase this, I would love it if you could support my blog by using these links.
Do you currently perform keyword research? Do you use a different approach?