SEO and content marketing are more than just related; you can’t do one successfully without the other. Today 1 in 2 content marketing jobs require SEO skills, and the need for strong writers who understand SEO is only increasing. The bottom line? It’s never been more critical that you know how to do keyword research.
The right keyword could be the difference between five readers and 5,000. At Conductor, we’ve seen our customers drive major traffic and significantly increase conversions simply by changing the keyword in their content.
Finding a keyword can seem daunting at first. But with the right strategies and tips, and the help of marketing technology, you can make keyword research your biggest traffic-driving action. So, let’s get started.
How to Perform Keyword Research
As you learn how to do keyword research, you’ll want to create a framework for how you think about both your content and about the keyword you choose to target. Here’s a preliminary framework we recommend:
For the typical content marketer, the third item on this list – evaluating which keyword you should target – proves the most difficult. So, we’ll walk you through some strategies for determining which keyword is right for you.
Looking for more information on keyword discovery? Check out our resource, What is Keyword Research? Your Guide.
Selecting a Keyword For Your Content
Most SEOs and content marketers rely on an SEO technology to help them with keyword research. With tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Conductor Searchlight’s Explorer, you can discover the monthly search volume (MSV) of a keyword – which represents, on average, how many times your keyword is searched on Google each month – and evaluate which keyword is right for your content.
When choosing your keyword, evaluate it based on these three items:
1. Search Volume
Questions to ask yourself: How many people are searching for this keyword?
Understandably, you’ll want to target high-volume keywords with your content. But it should be said that forcing a keyword strategy into your content simply to rank for a high-volume search is a bad move. If your content doesn’t align with the search intent (see #3 on this list) of the person typing the keyword into Google, you won’t rank or drive traffic.
As you do keyword research you may find a number of keywords that align with your content’s subject matter. Obviously, the highest-volume keyword is the first one to consider. But other factors, like what other content already ranks for that keyword, are equally important when deciding if a keyword is right for your content. Other factors, like…
Questions to ask yourself: How competitive is this keyword? Am I up against huge websites or tons of paid advertisements in the search engine results page (SERP)?
Some highly competitive keywords may be out of reach for your content. Type your keyword into a search engine and see what appears. Then ask yourself if the content you’ve written has a shot at ranking.
Keep in mind, your content is competing with everything else on that page for that coveted #1 ranking and for the searcher’s attention. So if there are a lot of paid ads that appear or highly authoritative websites in the SERP, your content will have a harder time ranking at the top.
Elements to Look Out For on the SERP
In the SERP below we’ve pointed out a few elements to look for when you’re doing SERP analysis. In this SERP, for example, the first traditional result is half way down the page. That means, even if your content ranks close to #1, the searcher has to make it halfway through the page simply to find your content.
While no one page element should discourage you from targeting a keyword, you should be aware of which ones are present on the SERP for the keyword you’re targeting. And if the SERP is crowded with paid ads or content from authoritative sites, don’t lose hope. There are likely related keywords you could target that have less crowded SERPs.
Last but certainly not least…
3. Search Intent
Questions to ask yourself: What is the searcher really looking to find when they type this keyword into Google? Does my content align?
Never forget: behind each keyword is someone (or hundreds of someones) searching for information. It’s up to you to determine what information they’re looking for when they type your keyword into Google. This is what SEOs call “search intent.”
So put on your Sherlock Holmes Deerstalker hat and get to sleuthing. Start by studying the SERP. What content is already ranking for that keyword? Are the pages that rank tactical, instructional pieces of content? Are they product pages? Are they news articles? You can discover a lot about search intent simply by studying the SERP.
Remember, the content on the first page of a SERP is the content Google (and users) find the most valuable based on search intent. You can take hints and clues about what the searcher wants based on what is already ranking for a keyword.
Get Creative with Your Keyword Research
Don’t fret if you have a keyword in mind and it doesn’t have a high monthly search volume (MSV) or is extremely competitive. Try thinking outside of the box:
- Can you find a better keyword with less volume, but less competition?
- Are there other keywords your competition isn’t ranking for that you could target with your content?
Your content will have the best chance of appearing in Google if you are deliberate about your keyword choice, even if asking these questions and doing additional research delays your publish date a bit.
Using the Buyer’s Journey to Evaluate Keywords
How can you use the buyer’s journey to choose a keyword?
Certain clues in how a keyword is structured will tell you where the searcher is in the buyer’s journey. For example, a keyword that starts with “how to” represents a searcher who is in the earlier stages of the buyer’s journey. They are looking for basic information, and may not be ready to make a purchase. Keywords that begin with words like “best” suggest the searcher is in the consideration phase, and is looking for mid-stage content. For example:
When you’re choosing your keyword, be on the lookout for any clues that could tell you what stage of the buyer’s journey the searcher is in. From there you can determine whether your content lines up with that stage.
After all, if you’re writing a piece of content that you know is for potential customers in the early stages of their purchase journey, you’ll want to target early-stage keywords.
Tip: Many SEOs and content marketers will pick an SEO technology that classifies keywords into the various stages of the buyer’s journey for them. If you’re looking for a free technology to help you with this step, the Conductor Insights app gives you free access to keyword research and classifies keywords into stages, early and late, for you.
The journey’s not over. Now that you know how to do keyword research, the next step is integrating your keyword into your content.
Check out the next blog post in this series: How to Write Content For SEO: The Do’s and the Don’t’s.