If you’re reading this then you’re probably well aware of the results that good keyword research can bring to any given website. And regardless of the fact whether it’s built on WordPress or on another platform.
However, there are people who still see keyword research as this mystery activity that only professional webmasters do before launching their sites. Yet, the fact is that keyword research is actually not that difficult even for a beginner to perform … nor is it expensive.
No matter what your current approach at keyword research is, I just ask you to suspend your disbelief and check out the advice I have for you today. In this guide, I want to show you a couple of methods how you can do keyword research for your site. Also, I’m going to answer all the “why” and “what for” questions.
Let’s start with the first, and most obvious question:
Why is keyword research valuable?
Obviously, it’s all about SEO, but let’s discuss this step by step.
Most importantly, keyword research makes it clear (for you) what direction the content on your blog should follow. What I mean by this is that sometimes in your daily work it’s easy to get off track and start publishing things you haven’t actually planned for.
Some topics will naturally come to your mind, but this doesn’t make them worthy of getting published on your niche (topic specific) blog.
If you have your keyword research done correctly, however, then you have a range of things you should write about constantly.
And this isn’t about forcing yourself to write about things you don’t want to write about. The point here is to do keyword research in a way so you end up with a range of topics you’d actually love to write about. The list of keywords is more like a reminder.
Secondly, there’s the obvious benefit of SEO – if you do your research and then optimize your site for your desired keywords then you can build a nice rank over time.
Achieving the same results without any deliberate keyword research is almost next to impossible.
Thirdly, good keyword research (and implementation) will also be recognized by your readers. Remember that when you make the decision to focus on a given set of keywords whenever writing a new post (more on that later), this results in a great package of laser-targeted content … something your visitors expect and want to read.
Finally, if you plan on selling some advertising space, prospective advertisers are always more interested in niche, topic-specific websites. If, for example, you constantly write about “guitar playing” and get popular, then you might get contacted by guitar stores or other businesses from the guitar equipment niche.
Here’s a short summary of the main reasons why you should do keyword research:
- Suggests you what direction to follow with your content.
- Enables you to rank your site.
- Lets you produce laser-targeted content for your readers.
- Provides advertising and other partnership opportunities.
Okay, so we’ve covered why keyword research is valuable for a website, but what about WordPress… Is WordPress keyword-research-friendly, so to speak?
Why WordPress is great for putting keyword research into practice
WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform. That meant that it had to feature a friendly way of working with text and then managing text content.
Also, the sole organization of posts and pages in WordPress makes it clear that you can organize your content according to keywords. For instance, take a look at categories and tags. If you use them right, you’ll have separate sets of articles organized together based on the keywords they mention.
Finally, WordPress has been around for quite a long time now. This means that even Google got accustomed to it and all its traits when it comes to keywords. Google knows how WordPress sites are constructed, and how to crawl and rank them.
Now it’s probably a good time to talk about keyword research specifically. I’ll start with the tools and then talk about the methods.
Tools for keyword research
As always, there’s a set of free tools, and paid tools. Unfortunately, not every task can be done in a free app, but all the money you spend on premium tools can be (and should be) considered as an investment rather than an expense.
Besides, you should do keyword research constantly anyway, so the investment will pay off quickly.
Let’s start with the most popular free tool available:
Google Keyword Tool is usually the first tool everyone uses when doing keyword research. It works on a very simple basis. You just input your main keyword – the seed keyword, and Google gets back to with with a number of related keywords.
Each keyword comes with an estimated number of global monthly searches, local monthly searches (depending on your location), and also other pieces of information.
Now, this tool was originally meant for AdWords advertisers. So the numbers presented there are not 100% accurate. And in essence, they don’t have to be that accurate if you’re using them for AdWords.
This makes this tool not so good for finding long tail keywords that have small traffic, but it is good for determining your main keywords – ones that are slightly more popular.
Additionally, even though there is some indication of each keyword’s competition you shouldn’t take it into account. There are other tools that do a better job at this.
This is a great all-around SEO tool, and not just for keyword research. However, there is a price tag on this one. It’s $150 (at the time of writing) as a one-time payment. But you don’t have to make up your mind now, there’s a 7-day free trial.
Also, even if you don’t end up buying the premium version, the keyword tool will still remain available (all the other modules will go blank) after your trial ends.
The tool has a number of modules, each providing a different range of features that can help you in your SEO efforts. Two of the most important ones for our research are: Keyword Research Module, and SEO Competition Module.
This is the final premium tool on this list, but it has a free trial as well (this time it’s 30 days).
SEOmoz is a great SEO tool for much more reasons than just their Keyword Analysis module. SEOmoz can actually help you manage your SEO efforts on all various levels like: keywords, competition, link analysis, rank tracking, on-page analysis, and more.
Their Keyword Analysis module provides some quick info on estimated search volume and also calculates a custom keyword difficulty score for each of your keywords. This score identifies how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword on page #1 in Google.
There’s one final tool I like to use when doing keyword research, and it’s this one. Nothing fancy here, you just input a keyword and Wordtracker gets back to you with a set of possible questions a human might ask that contain the keyword.
You can get some great ideas this way. For instance, when I start my search with “guitar playing” I get results like: how to focus when playing guitar, what age should i start playing the guitar, how to make a living playing guitar, how to play guitar for beginners, and others.
What is a good keyword?
Since we’ve got the tools covered, now it’s time to focus on what a quality keyword is. Basically, there are only two rules: (1) a keyword should be popular, and (2) low on competition.
Now, I know that “popular” and “low on competition” sounds very vague, so let me get a little more in-depth here.
Here’s what I do when it comes to keyword research:
1. Start with a seed keyword
You have to start with a general idea – a seed idea. For instance, if you’re thinking about launching a niche guitar blog you can start with a seed keyword like “guitar playing.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t something I can help you with. You need to come up with the main, general idea for your site on your own.
2. Get a set of 1st tier keywords
If your seed keyword is a general one then the first tier of related keywords is likely to be too popular for you to pursue. But this isn’t a given because you might get lucky and be able to find quality keywords on this stage after all.
Just a word of explanation, basically every keyword can be pursued and you can become #1 for any keyword you like. This is just a matter of time and budget you’re willing to spend. For instance, becoming #1 for “lose weight” will be very very expensive.
The goal in this step is to find a set of keywords that are popular and possible to rank for. If you find such a keyword you can put it on your final list of keywords to go after. If the keyword is still too high on competition then you can use it as your new seed keyword and start your research over (step #3, below).
3. Pick a new seed keyword and start over
By repeating this process you are sure to find a nice set of quality keywords you can optimize your site for, and eventually get high rankings in Google.
There’s only one more thing that still remains untold … and it’s what a quality keyword actually is.
Good keywords vs bad keywords
The ideal situation would be to find keywords that are searched by thousands of people a day, but having no competition at the same time. This isn’t possible though, that’s why we need to settle for something in the middle.
For me, a quality keyword is one that has at least 11,000 searches a month. If you rank #1 for such a keyword you can hope for around 150 visits a day.
At the same time, the keyword should have less than 100,000 competing sites. Finally, if you’re a member of SEOmoz, the tool will let you know what the keyword difficulty score is and tell you whether the keyword is easy to rank for or not.
You can check the number of competing sites either by going to Google and doing a search for your keyword in quotation marks, or by fetching this number from inside Market Samurai.
Now, the above numbers change every now and then. The internet constantly evolves and so do keywords and the overall “keyword situation,” so to speak. To get the newest insights on how things are played these days it’s best to subscribe to a popular SEO blog like SEOmoz.
When you’re done with your research you should start implementing these keywords into your blog. The first, and most important thing to do, is to use the keywords in your content and take care of the on-page optimization of your blog. Then you can start building links and doing all the other stuff SEOs usually do.
The issue of how to construct a blog with keywords in mind will be covered as one of the parts in my Building a WordPress Site series, so I’ll just leave it here for now.
Feel free to ask and let me know what your approach at keyword research is. Do you know of any other cool tools?