I avoided conducting any kind of keyword research in the first few years of blogging (yup, years).
It was all a bit much and took all the fun out of blogging.
But you know what really takes all the fun out of blogging?
No one reading a single word of the dozens of posts that you’ve written.
I couldn’t afford keyword tools, I couldn’t think up any decent keywords, and the phrase ‘long-tail keyword’ just made me laugh.
(A long-tail keyword is just a phrase or question that hopefully, someone has searched for).
I just casually ignored SEO in all capacities.
Which is ridiculous, because it’s the key to building a successful sustainable blog which doesn’t require you to do any other promotion. So I shall share everything I’ve learned.
DISCLAIMER: this is the very basics. I’m sure there a million useful keyword tools out there, but we’re working to a limited budget (freeee) and we don’t want to scare anyone that’s just starting out. All you need is Google.
I followed all these rules when I started my blog, and about three-quarters of my traffic comes from search engines.
How to start your keyword research
Ok, first decide on a niche.
I strongly suggest you pick a subject that you think you’ll enjoy writing about and find interesting over one that you think will make you money.
If you pick a large niche, like beauty, narrow it down. Make up for people with cystic acne, for example.
If you write posts like ‘my top 10 favourite lipsticks’ you’ll be competing with every beauty guru going, and will end up on page 539 of the Google results. Why would Google rank you on the first page? It has no idea who you are. The only way to get one the first page early on is to write articles that no one else has written, or write the best article going.
Make a list of blog post ideas. Like, 100. Formulate them with google in mind, i.e. in question form.
Then fire up google.
How to conduct keyword research using Google
Have a look at the search results for one of your topics. If you only get a few half-arsed, 500-word posts answering your query, cool. Write a better article.
Another way to tell if your search term is a good one for beginners is to look at the quality of the search results. If you’re getting a lot of results from places like Quora and Reddit, then write the article. You can probably do better than a question and answer site.
If your search turns up a lot of high-quality posts, you have two options:
- Niche down further — if you searched for ‘foundation for cystic acne’ and got loads of great results, try ‘budget foundation for cystic acne’ or ‘cystic acne foundation for women of colour’. Keep going until you have a search query you can write a great post about and rank well for.
- Check out Google’s suggestions — there’s a little box at the bottle of the SERP (search engine results page) that lists other related searches. There’s also a ‘people also ask’ box below the snippet and the video results that could be of use. Click on a few of those and see what’s cooking there.
If you struggle coming up with ideas, try googling things like ‘what does [your niche]’ and how can [your niche] and see what Google auto-suggests.
The autosuggestion is based on what other users have googled, so you know that there’s going to be some search volume.
If you’re really stuck, use websites like Quora to think up question structures. Put yourself in the shoes if someone brand new to your niche — what are the exact search queries they’re entering?
Keywords are search queries, not random words. Don’t worry about not being able to use your exact keyword more than once in your article — Google’s latent semantic analysis will be able to tell that your content is relevant.
Try your keywords in other search engines
Have a gander at Bing and Yahoo too — depending on your niche, you could get good results. This is especially true if your niche attracts older people or less tech-savvy people.
I’m obviously not lumping all old people together, I’ve just found a few good keywords that ranked me on Bing that Google didn't throw up.
The different search engines have different criteria for ranking. Some posts on my vegan blog are ranked more highly on ecosia than Google for some reason. I haven’t a notion why, but I get traffic from there, so who cares?
Don’t forget Pinterest SEO and keywords
Put a general keyword into the search bar — Pinterest will generate related words at the top of the results page. That’ll give you an idea of more niche topics other pinners have searched for.
Search engines are trying to help you by showing you what others have searched for. Don’t ignore what the search engines are suggesting.
The algorithm on Pinterest is less advanced than Google, so you confuse it if you search entire questions — just a few related keywords will do: ‘cystic acne foundation’ rather than ‘what’s the best foundation for people with cystic acne?’
Having said that, the algorithm is updated frequently, so it’ll probably catch up soon.
Pinterest is a search engine, not a social media platform. It’s time-consuming to create pins, so it’s definitely not a priority, in the beginning.
If you have a day or so free once you’re a few months in, take the time to create a few pins and upload them to your blog post.
I’ve noticed on Pinterest that there are a lot of infographics leading nowhere — your keyword may seem saturated, but if you delve deeper, the linked posts are out of date or just…crap.
In the house plant niche there are hundreds of infographics for things like ‘plants that prefer low-light’ and stuff that lead…nowhere. It’s often either to a dead site or is just an uploaded image.
Not only that, but the information is often a bit…dubious. If you can create a simple graphic that is factually accurate, people in your niche are more likely to click on your pin that someone else's.
Check out tomorrow’s blog post if this is something you’re interested in — I’m going to go through my Pinterest strategy (it’s free and scheduler-free).
I’ve used tools like Ubersuggest in the past, but I didn’t find it particularly useful in my niche — I think they’re perhaps more geared towards tech niches.
If you want to use one, absolutely go for it, but please remember two things:
- You do not need to use a keyword tool to find good keywords.
- These tools are not 100% accurate. They’re just an educated guess. Companies like Google don’t release their data on search volume and keywords.
Ubersuggest was less than useful in my niche. It claimed that my most popular article (thousands of pageviews a month had no search volume).
How to use your keyword once you’ve found it
Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. Once you’ve found the question you want to answer or the topic you want to explore, you don’t need to keep repeating it.
You just need to make sure you stay on topic
Notice how most of my subheadings are questions? That’s so that Google knows I’m still wanging on about keywords.
It wants its users to have 1000 words of relevant content, not 100 words about SEO and 900 about what I did at the weekend.
So don’t have subheadings such as ‘the most important thing’ or ‘what to watch out for’. They’ve been used a million times in a thousand different niches.
Stay on track.
I do have a ‘notes section’ at the end of my plant profile posts, but it’s at the end, so at least Google has read most of it. Rumour has it that as soon as Google reaches a subheading that doesn’t seem relevant it stops reading. Jesus. Even if the rest of the article is GOLD.
A few keyword research tips
- Videos do well on search, and you can apply the same tactics I mentioned here on the Youtube algorithm, which isn’t as dominated as Google
- Staying with the cystic acne theme (sorry), say there’s an ok-but-not-great post called ‘top 10 products for people with cystic acne’ you could potentially outrank by doing ‘top 20/50/100 products for people with cystic acne’. In Google’s eyes, recommending 50 products is going to more useful than 10.
- Check out your competition. If you find a keyword that has a few blog posts written about it, read them. Maybe you can do a better job.
See, it’s not that bad, is it?
Keyword research is definitely something that gets easier with practice, and if you do it well, you can rank on the first page of Google in a few months, so it’s absolutely worth the time.
I apologise for all the cystic acne talk.