Does keyword research still matter? The short answer is YES! In this article, we’ll cover the benefits of keyword research that will make you rethink skipping this critical step in content creation for your next blog post.
Imagine you spent countless hours writing an article and then post it to your new blog. You really feel this information is what your target audience should be interested in. Come to find out that the post doesn’t exactly gain the attention you were expecting. In fact, you observe that it doesn’t receive any search traffic whatsoever. So, what happened?
There are a whole host of reasons why the majority of blogs do not do well. However, when it comes to getting organic search traffic, having a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place is key for success. Furthermore, keyword research is an essential component of any effective SEO strategy.
While the concept of how to best utilize keywords throughout your blog and in articles continues to evolve (i.e., keyword stuffing = outdated), the keyword research process remains beneficial for a number of reasons that we will discuss.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What does keyword research mean?
- 7 benefits of keyword research as it applies to your blog
- Tips you can use right away to get started with keyword research
- Links to free and paid keyword research tools
What does keyword research mean?
A keyword is a word or a few words together that describe the content on a page or post. Keyword research is the process taken to figure out a list of these niche words that you would like your blog to rank for. There are many benefits to keyword research which we will discuss below.
It is more than simply brainstorming a list of words you think apply to your target audience. Rather, the research process, when done effectively, involves taking steps to:
- understand the language your target customers use in their searches
- discover keywords used by competitors
- analyze the content that already exists for certain keywords
- find and prioritize keywords with a high search volume AND are easier to rank for (low difficulty keywords)
By thoroughly doing this process (and continuing to do so periodically), you can reap the benefits that we’ll outline in this post and help your blog beat the odds to succeed.
7 Benefits of Keyword Research
As mentioned above, keyword research is still an important piece of your SEO strategy. Let’s discuss 7 benefits of keyword research, a key component of your SEO strategy to increase organic traffic to your blog.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the benefits of keyword research. First up, let’s talk about Identifying Search Intent.
1. Identify search intent
When coming up with keywords for your blog, one very important step in the process is investigating the search intent behind the keywords. Also called user intent, search intent refers to the reason why a person is conducting a search online in the first place.
In other words, what do they want to gain from the words they type in the search box in Google or any other search engine? For instance, are they looking for information about a topic or are they interested in buying a product?
While you still want to focus on identifying and incorporating the same key terms used by your target audience into your content, analyzing search engine results pages (SERPs) for the intent is another crucial piece of the SEO content creation puzzle.
Let’s say for example that you’re a health professional with a new blog that focuses on plant-based eating for families. You’re writing your next blog post about convenient plant-based foods available in the grocery store. However, when you type your selected keywords into Google you notice the vast majority of content that shows up are specific grocery store sites or other company sites selling plant-based products.
In this example, there is a distinct mismatch between the keyword you are writing for and the SERPs for these same keywords. Based on the keyword you selected, Google interpreted the dominate intent to be someone looking to make a purchase instead of gain knowledge about the topic. Therefore, it would be very difficult to rank for the keywords, especially as a new blog.
Learning the intent behind the searches is helpful for creating content that provides a solution to your target audience’s problem. Creating intent-based content helps to increase the likelihood the reader will:
- stay on the article longer, to scroll through the content
- click from the article through to your other related blog content
- discover your other products and services
This brings us to our next benefit of keyword research which is Improve Organic Ranking.
2. Improve organic ranking
It is well known that most people searching online do not scroll past the first couple pages to find solutions to their queries. This is why it’s so important to put the effort into optimizing your blog to rank higher for relevant searches.
The goal is to choose keywords with a high (enough) search volume AND low difficulty score. Then, write your posts for these easier ranking keywords to increase your visibility and attract traffic to your blog. Consistency in this process helps build your authority in your niche. Then eventually you’ll be able write for higher difficulty keywords and search engines will still rank your content high as they come to see you as an expert in your field.
3. Discover long-tail keywords
This brings us to our next benefit of keyword research, long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are generally made up of 3 or more words, making them more specific and with a lower search volume. Through your research, these are the types of keywords that you’ll want to find and utilize to improve your organic search ranking.
Especially when there is a lot of competition, making it difficult to rank for your “head” or “seed” keywords, coming up with a list of long-tail keywords is key to jump start your blog presence online.
Let’s use our example from earlier about the plant-based eating for family’s blog. By entering our “head” keyword plant based into the Answer the Public search box, we’re given a few charts that look like this one below.
From this site, some long-tail keywords we might want to add to our list include:
- plant based on a budget
- plant based milk what is it
- plant based for picky eater
Answer the Public is a great way to come up with long-tail keyword ideas quickly. It works best when combined with another keyword research tool that can provide search volume and difficulty data for the keywords you select. As stated earlier you’ll want to prioritize relevant long-tail keywords with a high search volume and are easier to rank for. At the end of this article, you’ll find a list of additional keyword research tools.
Having a list of long-tail keywords is also beneficial for content planning so you’re not stuck wondering “What do I write about next?” Similarly, the next keyword research benefit is also helpful for coming up with content ideas.
4. Keep up to date with trends
Doing keyword research helps you gain insight into what’s trending. This is beneficial for creating content that is relevant in the here and now for your audience.
Keyword research tools like Google Trends can help with identifying trending topics and even predict trends that you may want to jump on and create content for. You can also use these tools to plan out seasonal content.
For example, if we’re creating content related to “back to school snack” ideas for our plant-based eating blog, we can use data from Google Trends to determine a time frame that is best to post about this topic. The screenshot below shows the popularity for this search term based on data from the previous year. Here we observe the peak popularity was in mid-August.
In this example we could also use Google Trends to provide data for the past couple of years. This way we can double check if mid-August is the average peak popularity for this search term and the ideal time to post.
5. Know your competition
One of the early steps of keyword research is finding keywords your competitors rank for. This step helps to:
- identify who your competitors are
- build your list of relevant keywords quicker
Additionally, it’s a great checkpoint to see if your seed keywords produce similar sites to yours when searched in Google. If the top-ranking site from a Google search of your seed keywords produces only e-commerce stores instead of blogs, then you need to edit your seed keywords so you’re identifying the right competitors.
Instead of copying and producing the same content, you can analyze what’s already out there, figure out what’s working and where there are areas for improvement. Then, take advantage of these opportunities to create better quality content so you can rank higher in the search results.
6. Enhance your content strategy
As you analyze your competition and discover opportunities to provide your angle, you can then refer back to your content strategy. This plan should be used as your guide to ensure you continue to provide meaningful content that aligns with your blog’s vision.
Using insight gained during the keyword research process, whether in researching competitor’s keywords, long-tail keywords, or trending topics, you may need to alter your content strategy. This includes possibly prioritizing opportunities for content creation that you may not have considered before your research.
Keyword research allows you to find gaps in content. Either a subject may not have been covered yet, information is lacking, or it is not written well and you can create something better.
At the same time, you should use your content strategy to double check if certain keywords are also a good fit for your blog and prioritize them accordingly.
7. Better time management
Even though the keyword research process does indeed take time to perform, it is an investment that can be extremely helpful in the long run. Without the research, you will very likely continue to create content that gets lost in the sea of posts online. Not only are you losing valuable time, but it can be quite discouraging spending so much time and effort on your blog and not seeing the return that you anticipated. In essence, your blog becomes more of a hobby instead of a business that can generate passive income.
Instead, you can use the knowledge gained from the keyword research process to focus on the SEO of your blog and quality of the content you’re putting out there.
4 Keyword Research Tips to Get Started
Tip #1: Brainstorm Seed Keywords
The first step in keyword research is coming up with a list of seed words. When brainstorming, consider questions like:
- What keywords do I think I want to rank for?
- What search terms would someone use to find my site?
- What is my target audience looking for?
- Which of their “problems” do I plan to address with my content?
- What is unique about my blog?
Thinking back to our plant-based eating for family’s blog example, seed words might include:
Plant-based, vegetarian, plant-forward, family, kid-friendly, meal plan, easy recipes, quick meals
Tip #2: Explore related searches using Google
Take advantage of Google’s “related searches” feature. Enter your initial seed words into the Google search box and scroll to “related searches” at the bottom of the page. This is a great, free way to help:
- build your list of seed keywords
- come up with variations of your seed words
- get more specific with your initial seed words
- find long-tail keywords
You can also combine seed words from the brainstorm list to see what “related searches” Google generates, like in the screenshot below.
Tip #3: Analyze the competition
As discussed earlier in the article, find competitors in your niche and research keywords they are ranking for. Determine if these keywords are in line with your blog, target audience, and vision before adding them to your list for further analysis.
Tip #4: Utilize keyword research tools
There are a lot of tools available to assist with keyword research. When determining which keywords to target in your content, it may be tempting and seem easier to just write for keywords you think speak to your audience and reflect your vision. However, at minimum, using a tool to figure out search volume and difficulty for keywords is critical to avoid writing for keywords that are too competitive to rank for, especially as a newer blogger trying to build authority.
Here is a list of even more tools that have not already been mentioned in the article. Each tool offers free and paid options.