The phrase “keyword research” can sound pretty daunting, but it’s an integral part of a successful content strategy. You may have a good idea of the type of content that your audience is seeking, but what about the technical moving parts that will drive people to your content and webpages? Putting keywords in the right places is important but you don’t want to just yank random keywords out of the air. You need to invest some time (and money, if hiring a professional content strategist to assist with this step) into proper keyword research to get the most value out of the content marketing process.
Giving Your Audience What They Want
Depending on what kind of audience you’ve been cultivating, you may already have an idea of the types of content they’re looking for. They may even make suggestions to you based on information they’re dying to know about your product or a specific topic. Starting with your preexisting audience is better than a stab in the dark at a topic that may not have the desired search volume you had in mind. After all, working directly with your audience keeps them engaged and the focus is less on data and more on maintaining that engagement and having them spread the word for you.
But when you’re creating the actual content, you also want to keep keywords in mind so other people can find it. For example, if you’re a food blogger and your audience specifically wants to see a cooking technique or recipe then you should certainly create and tailor this content to them. But you should also find out which keywords to plant: the actual words used could surprise you.
Starting with Simple Keyword Research
Long-tail keywords, which we’ll delve into in the next section, are phrases that often get the most traction. So, how do you know which long-tail keywords should go into a blog post that one of your readers really wants to read in order to get external search traffic as well?
Start with the topic or idea by typing it into a Google, Bing, or other search bar and see what other words start to come up. A really quick and efficient way to do this is with keywordtool.io where you can get multiple pages of results based on what people are actually looking up. This will not only give you an idea of which keywords and phrases to plant but even give you other evidence-based ideas for future content.
Answer the Public is also a powerful resource for this same reason. Fairly vague search terms make excellent starting points over at Answer the Public since their results will use various prepositions and rejoinders as well as medium-tail and long-tail phrases condensed into both chart and spreadsheet forms. The sheer amount of results that you’ll get will also indicate whether or not the topic gets heavy search volume and how many different variations people use when they perform searches. At least one or two different variations should go into your content even if it’s not the focus keyword and Answer the Public can give you a more well-defined list of them to work with most of the time.
Search Engine Scrapes and Volume
Deep-diving into keyword mapping and volume-based research requires more legwork and is more of an investment than the simple research methods outlined above. Thus, it’s prudent to get familiar with keyword anatomy and hierarchy so you have additional context for properly researching keywords via an engine like SpyFu or Keyword Tool’s premium options.
Head terms are incredibly basic terms that are often just one word and meant to cover a vague, wide breadth. Using the food blogger example above, “vegan” is a good example of a head term. Body, or medium-tail, keywords are modifiers added to the head term such as “vegan baking” in this case. Long-tail keywords are long search terms with four or more words (like “easy gluten-free vegan baking”.)
Because those vague head terms are so simple, they have incredibly high search volume where it’s also practically impossible to get on the front page. You’d have to compete with behemoth companies for broad terms like “vegan” or “baking” who paid incredibly high prices for prominent ad placement on that first page of search results. Medium-tail and long-tail keywords will not have as high volume but the traffic coming from these search terms is going to be more finely-targeted.
When building a keyword map, global and local volume is important to factor in but you also want to pay attention to ranking difficulty. Just because a long-tail keyword isn’t looked up as frequently as a medium-tail keyword or head term doesn’t mean that it’s not worth pursuing. High volume can often equate to equally high ranking difficulty and getting lost in the void without a sufficient preexisting audience while niches = riches.
Intuition, brand voice, and audience input can help shape your initial content marketing efforts but you also need to factor in keyword research so you can get that sweet organic search traffic!
Rachel P is a 4-star content strategist (Strategist Account #541) available to help you with keyword maps, customer journey maps, and buyer personas in addition to writing for you! She’s also an indie game developer, writer, and consultant. If you would to like to hire Rachel to devise a content strategy for you, please contact your account manager or send a direct message.