Keyword research forms a very crucial part of running a blog. Now, if you think that keyword research is all related to SEO, you are wrong.
Keyword research is related to SEO of course; but it is not allSEO.
So if you are ignoring keyword research because you don’t know SEO, you should think again. In fact you should not ignore SEO; search engines help your readers to find you. So optimizing your content for search engines is necessary.
Coming to keyword research, it does a lot of things with your blogging.
- It helps you to create content on a popular topic
- It helps you to create content that can be profitable
- It helps you to understand the needs and problems of your readers
- It helps you to generate lots of great content ideas
- It helps you to stay in tune with your readers
- It helps you to stay in tune with your industry
… And a lot more actually.
Now you certainly need a tool or more to do keyword research; you cannot do it on your own.
And the thing that puts people off while doing keyword research is that it takes a lot of time. In fact it doesn’t have to be that way.
As Brian Jackson points out, keyword research can be very quick. You just need to use the right tools!
And there are many free and paid tools that are available to do keyword research. Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a free tool provided by Google. But it has certain limitations.
Why not use the Google Keyword Planner?
Of course you can use Google Keyword Planner (GKP) for your keyword research and there’s no harm.
But there are certain limitations with GKP. For one, you can only get minimalist data on any keyword.
With SEO, usually a minimalist tool is not enough. You want to dig deeper and get greater insight on any keyword before going for it, right?
While I was using GKP alone for my keyword research, my research was not great. I just took a shallow look on the keywords and their data.
As a result I had to use more tools to cross analyse. That was time consuming.
The next most important thing is this – As Rand says, Google Keyword Planner hides data. You have to remember that it is an Ad planner tool.
It is there to help advertisers who are ready to bid on the keywords, and not content creators.
The keywords that GKP presents are there to help advertisers find the right keywords to bid for. If you use the suggestion and data from GKP directly for content creation, you will be mislead.
The keyword competitiveness you see on Adwords is NOT the competitiveness for the keyword in terms of how easy it is to rank for it. Rather, it is a measure of how popular a keyword is among the advertisers who are ready to bid for it.
As a specific example, take a look at the Competition field below. When it says “Low” it doesn’t mean it will be easy for you to rank for that keyword.
It actually means that not much advertisers are willing to bid for that particular keyword.
Why use Semrush for keyword research?
Before talking about it, let me emphasize that I highly recommend Semrush – you will need an account at semrush.com to try out the stuff I talk about in this post.
Semrush helps me get a deeper insight on any keyword. I really mean that – deeper.
With Semrush, there is no shallow approach. For any keyword I get the following:
- The search volume
- The phrase match keywords list
- The related keywords list (very useful for creating long form content with many related keywords in it).
- Top 20 organic search results for that keyword
- The ad copies, Ad history, Video ads etc.
… And a lot more if you dig in deeper into each section.
In the beginning you might find all the data provided by Semrush to be overwhelming. But in practice, it is all you need.
Just like the “Competition” field in Google Keyword Planner, you will find a similar Competitive density field here at Semrush too. And Competitive density also tells you about how popular a keyword is with advertisers – 0 means lowest and 1 means highest competition.
However, for us content creators, there is a separate module in Semrush called “Keyword Difficulty” (which you will find under “Tools”).
Click on that module and paste your keywords inside the box.
And then you will be presented with the keyword difficulty in percentage. The higher the value, the harder it will be for you to rank for that keyword.
In the example above all the three keywords I’ve entered are pretty tough to rank for; reasonable – since, all the three of them are quite common/popular keywords.
Usually if you choose long tail keywords, then it will be easier for you to rank for them.
Semrush directly gives you that difficulty factor so you can stop wasting time on creating content around tougher keywords and focus more on the easier ones!
How to identify awesome keywords with Semrush?
By awesome I mean the following:
- Keywords that your competitors (I prefer to call them peers/friends) are targeting for.
- Keywords that people are actively searching for
- Keywords that are highly profitable
Let’s go through them one by one.
If you want to see the video walkthrough of how I do things in Semrush, watch the video below.
For more details on the stuff discussed in the video, read on the post!
Note: The video and screenshots were done when this site was in a different domain. But the methods explained don’t differ nevertheless.
Keywords that your competitors are targeting for
I’m sure you have seen your competitors’ sites thrive in search results. You want those kind of results, but all your good efforts end up in vain.
Not anymore. Welcome to Semrush’s exclusive competitor analysis.
I call this exclusive because Semrush gives you the list of keywords for any competitor site that you enter. To the best of my knowledge, no other SEO tool does this, as of yet.
Let’s take a look. Login to Semrush.
Enter any competitor url or the domain name. For instance you can either enter http://www.trunk.ly (URL) or kissmetrics.com (Domain).
Now you will be presented with the data for that domain. First, you will get all the keywords that any domain is ranking for. This is a smart feature of Semrush!
You will see this list as Top Organic Keywords. If you click on the “View full report” you will be presented with the full list, which you can export.
The list will contain keywords that your competitors are doing good at the moment, plus all the data related to each keyword.
The organic keyword distribution will be presented in a nice bar chart.
You will then find a list of competitors for that domain! Pretty cool, right? And you also have a competitive positioning – a pictorial representation.
Then you will see the backlink data. This section includes everything you need to know about backlinks – the referring url, the anchor text url, the exact anchor text, the type of backlinks (image, text, form etc.) and whether those links are nofollow or nofollow.
You will also find the top referring domains for that particular domain. And also a list of indexed pages for the domain you entered.
Keywords that people are actively searching for
Whenever you do keyword research, it is important to see if a particular keyword is actively searched by people or not.
The popularity of a keyword usually shows how pressed people are looking for a solution to a problem.
As Neil cleverly points out, experienced SEOs use keyword research to understand their readers.
For instance, the keyword “how to lose weight fast” has a search volume of 165K.
That’s a pretty big number, right? That shows you how pressed people are to lose weight fast!
So how to identify the popularity of a keyword? Go to semrush.com, login and enter any keyword of your choice into the box.
Click on View Full Report under Phrase Match Keywords. Now you will be presented with the full list of Phrase match keywords for the main/seed keyword that you entered.
You need to look into the “Volume” column to know how popular a keyword is. You can also sort the keywords based on the Volume by pressing the little up/down button next to Volume.
For a main keyword, I would usually say a number greater than 1000 is good to go for. For additional/secondary keywords, a threshold of 500 is fine.
But this depends on the current organic status of your blog. If you are desperately looking to grow your search engine traffic, you should aim for high volume keywords.
However, you should also keep in mind that high volume keywords are the ones that are opposite of long tail keywords (usually) and could be pretty tough to rank for.
In order to avoid choosing super competitive keywords, you should check the Keyword Difficulty of the keyword you choose and then proceed.
Keywords that are highly profitable
In order to find profitable keywords, you need to look into the CPC column. Login to your Semrush account, and enter a keyword of your choice. Let’s take the example of “how to lose weight fast”:
Click on the View Full Report for the Phrase Match keywords.
Now you will see a column CPC which essentially shows you the Adwords bid that advertisers are willing to pay for that keyword.
From a publisher point of view, that number shows how much you’ll earn if someone clicks on an ad that is contextually placed on your site for that keyword.
You can sort the phrase match keyword list based on CPC. The higher the CPC, the higher will be your Adsense income if your site manages to get good ads from Adwords.
Sometimes you will be challenged with situations where a particular keyword will have a very high CPC and very low volume!
You just have to find a sweet spot. You can bend your thresholds here and there. If you are too rigid with rules, you won’t be able to find awesome keywords.
What are all the factors you should consider for identifying awesome keywords?
You have to combine the three factors that I discussed in this post.
1. Are your competitors targeting that keyword? If so there is a good chance that the keyword is already good!
2. Is the keyword popular? Does it have a decent search volume? If a keyword has very poor search volume, it shows that not many people are interested on that topic. So you shouldn’t waste time on such keywords.
At the same time if a keyword has a very big search volume (like “how to lose weight fast”), it shows that the keyword is highly popular. Such keywords could also be the ones on the other end of long tail – thus, they are usually pretty hard to rank for.
3. Is the keyword profitable? You could say this by looking at the CPC of a keyword. A keyword with a decently high CPC will be good for your earnings. You could boost your Adsense income by creating content around high CPC keywords.
Not just with Adsense, if a particular keyword has a high CPC, you can also expect to get direct advertising deals.
Don’t ignore keyword research
I repeat, keyword research is not just about SEO. It helps you to understand your readers much better.
You get to know what their problems are (ex. How to lose weight fast). You get to know how many desperate searches are done to solve a problem.
You get to know what your competitors are heading towards. You get to know what keywords could possibly bring you ad income!
As you can see, you get to know a lot of things with keyword research. And, you also get to improve your site’s search engine status if you make keyword research mandatory in your content marketing plan.
Don’t forget to grab your Semrush account and get going!