Now that you have your basic blog installed, a header image to your liking created, and your plugins uploaded and activated, it’s time to do your keyword research in preparation for “Blog Planning.”
First, a disclaimer. I am by no means an SEO expert. To really learn about SEO and SEO copywriting, you’ll want to get your hands on Heather Lloyd-Martin’s excellent training on the subject. She knows the field of SEO inside and out.
What follows comes from my experience of getting high rankings for my primary keywords.
You’ll want to identify blog categories that use the right “Trigger Words” for your website visitor. Trigger words are the phrases that hook your visitor because it’s exactly what he or she is looking for.
For example, if you want a driver for your HP Laserjet 4600 printer, you’ll go to the HP website and click on any link that has the word “drivers.” Then, you’ll look for “Laserjet” and subsequently the model number.
Similarly, if you want to know how to get your dog to stop barking, you’ll do a search for “how to get my dog to stop barking” and will look for the trigger word “barking” or “stop barking” on the web page.
Because your navigation bar and/or sidebar typically include links to the various article categories you’ve defined, you want those category names to include the appropriate trigger words when possible.
Cute or clever category names don’t work well because the visitor has no idea what you mean. Same for category names that are too general, such as “Products” or “Services.” For example, if you look at the categories on the Wealthy Web Writer website, you’ll see that we tried to add trigger words, such as “Getting Clients” and “Getting Started.”
As you can see, there’s a balancing act between identifying category names that are “search engine friendly” and names that include trigger words. Ideally, you’ll have it both ways. However, if I have to choose, I’ll take trigger words over SEO for the category names.
A Few Words About the “Long Tail”
You may have heard about “Long Tail Keyword” phrases.
Here’s an example of a general keyword phrase: “dog training“
A long tail keyword phrase related to the above might be: “how to teach my dog not to beg“
Long tail keyword phrases are more specific, less competitive, and also have fewer searches performed than the general keyword phrases. Thus, there are advantages and disadvantages to optimizing a website or blog posts for long tail keyword phrases.
My theory on keyword research is to focus on your primary keyword phrases in the beginning and add long tail keyword phrases over time. I’ll explain how this works in a second.
I’ve heard various stories about how and why the concept of the long tail became popular. The most common is that it stemmed from research Amazon did on their sales. They found that the bulk of their profits came, not from the best sellers, but from all the thousands of other books they sold in smaller quantities.
It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Once word got out, all the search engine and internet marketing gurus started touting the long tail, and keyword tools began producing gobs of long tail keyword phrases for you to use.
The problem with all the hubbub over long tails is that Amazon has about 16 million books (pages) available, and an equal number of searches done daily for these books.
You and I don’t have that luxury, which is why I prefer to use the old tried and true 80/20 rule: 80% of my profit will come from 20% of my website visitors. The long tail approach has you doing it the other way.
When you’re just starting out, you want traffic. The best source of search engine traffic for your new site will be keywords that fall in between “general” and “long tail.”
That is, when it comes to the number of searches, these keyword phrases aren’t at the top of the pile, and they’re not at the bottom. Going back to our dog training example, you might find it easier to rank for “dog training tips” than for “dog training.” It’s not quite “long tail,”, but it’s going to be less competitive than “dog training” and have more searches than “how to teach my dog not to beg.”
The good news is that you can easily incorporate long tail keywords into your overall strategy, but not by making them the focus of your keyword strategy.
Here’s the idea in summary, and then I’ll get into the details:
1. Determine three to five top “category” keyword phrases, and then one to three primary keyword phrases for each of those categories.
I’ll convert my “category” or top level keyword phrases into the appropriate trigger words, and then identify the top keyword phrases that I’ll focus on for each of these categories.
To clarify: the category name includes the trigger words that will get the reader to click on the link. They are not necessarily the same as your top keyword phrase on which you’ll focus your writing. Then, you identify up to three primary keyword phrases for each category that are in between general and long tail.
These are the keyword phrases for which you’d like your site to rank in the top 10 on a search.
2. Compile a list of “semantically-related” long tail keyword phrases for each of the primary keyword phrases. For example, if my primary keyword phrase is “dog training tips,” then my longer list might include:
Teaching a dog to sit
Training a dog to stop barking
How to teach a dog to heel
Notice that these keyword phrases may or may not have the primary keyword phrase embedded. They are all “related” to the primary keyword phrase. You might even extend this to include keyword phrases like:
Healthy dog treats
How do I reward my dog
In the video, I’ll show you how you can find these keyword phrases.
3. Rank the keyword phrases according to number of searches per month and competition. Your ideal keyword phrases will get sufficient traffic and won’t have strong competition. Again, I’ll show you how to do this in the video.
I want to rank my keyword phrases so that I can focus on the areas where I have the best chance of getting onto the first page of Google, and so that I get sufficient traffic to make my time and energy worthwhile.
Right now we’re just focused on getting the keyword phrases. Don’t worry yet about how to use them effectively in your blog posts – I’ll get to that in a later module.
The Keyword Research Process
In the video, I focus on using the free keyword tools, and I also show you one special trick I like to use with one of my favorite paid tools.
There are some great keyword tools available, and I highly recommend purchasing one if you’re planning on creating more than one money-making website. Most of the keyword tools with which I’m familiar are designed for affiliate marketers who use Google Adwords to drive traffic to their sites.
Since I’m not using AdWords, I only use one or two components of those tools.
If you want to learn more about the basics of keyword research, here are two good (free) sources:
SEOBook. They’ve been around for years, and are acknowledged as SEO experts. I recommend you install their SEO Toolbar. I talk more about it in the video.
Keyword Elite University. They have excellent video tutorials, mostly geared toward users of their keyword tool (which I use). You can still learn quite a bit from their tutorials, even without owning the software.
Plus, John Wood provides a great list of 10 search engine tools on the Wealthy Web Writer site.
Links to other places mentioned in the video tutorial are:
Google. You know this one.
Useful Plugins and Toolbars
You’ll want to install these toolbars and plugins for your Firefox Browser (they can be disabled later):
- SEO Toolbar
- SEM Tools Toolbar
- Keyword Spy Plugin for Firefox
Keyword Research Process
It’s great to have a list of free keyword research tools, and even better to have one of the paid services or tools. But how do you actually use these tools effectively to get your category and keyword list?
Back to the long tail keywords for a second. Over time, you’ll be using Google Analytics to see what keyword terms visitors are actually using to find your site. If you see some promising terms, you’ll add them to your list and provide content using those terms specifically.
So, here’s what you do (watch the video to see me do this):
Phase 1. Compile a long list of keywords, separated into related groups.
Step 1. Start with a little brainstorming.
What do you think would be the most likely or common keyword phrases people might use for your niche? Create a spreadsheet where you have one tab for each “group.”
Step 2. Using standard Google Search, start typing in each keyword phrase.
Google will suddenly display a list of other possible search phrases. These will either be searches you’ve done recently or searches others have done. You’ll be surprised at what comes up.
Add each suggested phrase to your spreadsheet. Google shows them for a reason.
Step 3. Then, search for your primary keyword phrases.
3.a. Use Google’s Wonder Wheel to find related phrases
On the top left of the page you’ll see “other options” with a “+” sign. Click on this link to expand the other options panel. Scroll down (under “Standard View” and click on “Wonder Wheel“). You’ll see the wonder wheel appear with eight branches, each showing a related keyword phrase.
Add the appropriate keyword phrases to your list, and if one of the suggested phrases doesn’t fit under your primary keyword, create a new tab in your spreadsheet for a new group.
You can click on one of the spokes in the wheel to expand that keyword phrase to phrases related to it. Go as deep as necessary to increase your groups and keyword phrases.
Now, close the “Other Options” tab and look at the results page. What you’ll do now will help you both with your keyword research and tell you a bit more about your target market and competition.
3.b. What keywords are advertisers using?
If you installed the Keyword Spy Firefox Plugin, you’ll see links under each search result and every ad on the right. You can click on these links to get more keyword phrase ideas. The cool thing is that Keyword Spy also tells you a bit about the competition and the search volume for these keyword phrases. You can easily disable or uninstall this plugin when you’re done with your research.
3.c. What keywords are your main competitors using?
You can use Keyword Spy again to see keywords for the top 10 search results. You can also use the SEOBook Toolbar and the SEM Tools toolbar to find even more related keywords. These toolbars are extensive, so I won’t go into all the features here.
What I will often do is spy on my competition. I’ll scan the search engine results first to see how many of the competitors are true competitors (they’re selling the same thing as I’m selling). If not, then I’ll know that I’ve got an even better shot at hitting the top 10!
I’ll click on the link to a competitor’s site and look at their home page. If they look like a legitimate competitor, then I’ll do more in-depth research.
The SEOBook Toolbar has a useful tool called “SEO XRay” that will give you a quick snapshot of how well that website is optimized.
Even better, I’ll go to Alexa (with SEOBook Toolbar, click on “Competition”, then “Alexa” to go immediately to the results for your selected website).
If the site has been around for any length of time, Alexa will hand you the top keyword phrases for that site.
Compete will give you similar information, but you need a “Pro” account to dig deeper into your competitors (a whopping $199/month!).
And, Quantcast will give you some good monthly traffic and demographics information for free. That could be handy to know more about your audience, including what other websites they tend to visit.
In fact, it’s a good idea to use Compete, Alexa, and Quantcast to gather information about your competition. This can tell you quite a bit about what your prospective website visitors are looking for.
Step 4. Plug everything into Google Keyword Research Tool.
Copy each group of keywords (separately) and paste them into Google’s keyword tool, then search for more keywords.
You’ll create a new list, eliminating keywords with little or no search volume, and adding new keyword phrases as appropriate. You may find that you even need a new group of keywords for a branch you that hadn’t occurred to you.
Save your list as a spreadsheet file because it will include the search volume and competition. This gives you an easy way to sort and separate the keyword phrases.
Phase 2. Sort, Separate, and Organize
You may end up with 15 groups of keyword phrases, with each group having dozens of keywords.
What you want to do is to pick the TOP three to five groups. Those will be your article or content categories. Ideally, your category name will be a top-level keyword phrase that isn’t too general (“dog training tips” instead of “dog training”). But, again, focus on usability (trigger words) over SEO for the categories.
For each of those groups, you’ll have no more than THREE primary keyword phrases on which you’ll focus your attention. Select the most appropriate keyword phrases that have sufficient search volume, and not so much competition.
The Google Keyword tool gives you the AdWords competition, and not the search competition. Most of the good “paid” tools will provide you with the actual search competition. To get the search competition, do a search in Google with quotes around your keyword phrase (exact match) and make a note of the number of websites that match. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s under 100k websites, you’re in a fabulous position, and if it’s over a million, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.
All the other keyword phrases in your group can be sprinkled throughout your articles, but aren’t your primary focus.
What I’ve found is that if Google finds your site to be a top reference site for a particular keyword phrase, then it’s much easier to then move to the top for other, related phrases. I don’t know exactly why this is, but it’s seemed to work well for me.
Now, you’re set. You’ve got your Categories for your blog, your top keyword phrases, and a whole slew of related keyword phrases.
Plus, you’ll have a ton of new information about your competition and your target market.