BE A KEYWORD SCIENTIST
Welcome to part 2 of the SEO basics series – keyword research guide. As usual, everything related to SEO sounds very scary and difficult, even keyword research. As a beginner, I watched tons of videos and poured through hundreds of books in the library on keyword research.
I have always thought keyword research to be something out-worldly, and that you need some rocket science knowledge to do it. But after a dozen of tries into keyword research… it turns out to be not-that-difficult after all.
There is also no need for all the expensive keyword tools and stuff. Having some paid tools is good, but there really is no need. I started with free, and I am still working out pretty good results with free. So just don’t overthink too much, and take in a few of tips I shared in this guide.
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE
Quick, hide your wallets!
There are affiliate links and advertisements on this page! Whenever you buy things from the evil links that I recommend, I will make a commission.
Nah. These are just things to keep the blog going, and allows me to give more good stuff to you guys. So thank you if you decide to pick up my recommendations!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT ARE KEYWORDS?
Some of you skilled ninjas should already know this, but for the sake of those who have just begun their journey, keywords are words and phrases in a piece of content that makes it “findable” on search engines.
For example, if I write an article with a title of “Super duper mega guide on how to start a business”, search engines will get a hint that this article is about “start a business”. If the article is well-written and well-promoted enough, it will show on search engines for the search term “start a business” (and also the closely related ones such as “set up a business”).
This is why keyword research is so important. If you want to score big on SEO, you need to first know what readers are looking for. Which keywords are they using to search on the Internet? Which topic is going to become trending? What do I need to write?
In short, find a topic to talk about, dig out the keywords, and write an article based on your keyword research.
FIND A TOPIC
The very first step of keyword research is to not think in terms of keywords and SEO. Yes, you read that right. The main interest should be finding a good topic and thinking of how to create valuable content for the readers.
Most beginners always get this part wrong, which is why they will never score. You should be using SEO to help you rank a piece of content, and not creating content for the sole purpose of trying to rank it on top of search engines.
Allow me to explain more. Search engines are getting smarter these days, and what is their goal? To serve people the content that they are looking for. So if you create a piece of crappy content, people will close your page in 10 seconds. This is a signal to search engines that it is bad content to never show again.
HOW TO FIND A TOPIC
This is the part where some people are probably not expecting. But having an interesting topic to talk about is the first step of SEO and keyword research. If you don’t have anything of interest or value to the readers, you can forget about SEO.
As a beginner, it was hard for me to find interesting topics. For some people, this might come naturally, but for the others – Where do we begin? Where do we find the interesting stuff? Thankfully, there are many websites to help you.
- Feedly: Just subscribe to them, and you will get a daily feed of the trending articles.
- BuzzSumo: Gives you some insight on the best articles.
- Reddit: Always has new contents and comments. Beware of trolls though.
- Quora: See what questions people are asking, and possibly write an article to answer it.
The best part is, all of these are free. If you just take some time to browse through, ideas will start coming eventually. There are plenty of topics to talk about once you look past the mental block.
- Tutorials: Answer people’s question on how to do certain things.
- Reviews: Is a certain product good or bad?
- Tips: Life hacks and stuff.
- Response: A certain guy says something, share your thoughts and respond to it.
- Interviews: What do other people think of certain issues or products.
Now that you have a topic in mind, it is time to start on the actual keyword research. What do we need to do in keyword research then?
- To find out which search terms are being used on search engines.
- Digging out all the closely related keywords.
- Targeting the valuable search terms.
- Put all the good research into your article, and create even better content than competitors.
THINK LIKE A USER – SEED KEYWORDS
Start with thinking like a user. So for example, if you have decided to write an article on piano chords, what will users usually enter on search engines? Probably just “piano chords”, or even more detailed ones such as “beginner piano chords”, “piano chords chart”, and “how to play piano chords”.
Of course, you can wreck your brains all day to think about all the possibilities. But the point here is to come up with a short list of “seed keywords”, and not to fully exhaust all options.
DIGGING WITH TOOLS
Thankfully these days, there are a few websites to help us dig out the possible keywords. No, you do not need to suffer brain damage. With your list of “seed keywords”, you can then use the following websites to find even more keywords:
LONG TAIL KEYWORDS
There are probably hundreds of possible keywords if you dig deep enough. But choose only those that are related to your chosen topic (obviously). Plus, try to pick the keywords that are 3 or more words; We call these long tail keywords, and the reasons for doing so is simple:
- Short keywords tend to be difficult to score. Why? Because if you search for “piano chords”, it can literally mean “everything about piano chords”. It is very difficult to guess what readers want and write a good article to address their needs.
- The guys who managed to score short keywords are generally the bigger players. They either have a lot of marketing budget or SEO masters to work their magic. Don’t go head-to-head against them unless you have the same amount of resources.
At this point, you probably might already have a long list of possible keywords. What do you do with it then? It sure does not make any sense to put all of them into your article? Thus for step 3, we do a little more research to determine which are the better keywords to keep and filter out the bad ones.
GETTING DATA WITH TOOLS
For this section, you are going to need to use a tool to help you decide which keyword to use. Don’t worry, it’s Google Keyword Planner and it’s free. Note that you will need an AdWords advertising account to access this tool. No worries again, just sign up and you don’t even need a credit card to do it.
The other tool that might be useful is the MozBar. Which will give you some insight into how well your competitors are doing, and how difficult it might be to score for a keyword.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR KEYWORDS
Now that Google has thrown you a bunch of numbers, how do we read it and how do we choose?
The higher the better, of course. You will want to target a popular subject, and not something that nobody cares about.
Notice that “suggested bid” column? That is how much advertisers pay to get a single click to their website. The smart ninjas should be able to connect the dots. If there is money to be made here, the bid will become more expensive. So even if the search volume might be low, it is still worth it to target valuable keywords.
Note that the competition column in the keyword research tool refers to paid advertising. It does not refer to how easy/difficult it is to score with your SEO efforts. But a high competition also indirectly tells you that the selected keyword attracts both paid advertisers and SEO masters. Avoid high competition if you do not have the resources.
All in all, at this stage, I usually trash the low value and low volume keywords (no or little search volume); Target the ones that are worth your time and effort.
PAST DATA, NOT FUTURE
Finally, note that the Google Keyword Research tool is based on history. It does not necessarily mean that certain search terms with low value and low volume are bad. For example, a product has not launched yet. But who knows that after the launch, thousands of people might be searching for it in the next couple of years?
MORE SNOOPING AROUND
By now, you should have a handful of keywords in your pocket. But sadly, you can only choose one as the main keyword and keep the rest as sidekicks. Thus for this final step, we will be looking at how to choose “the one” and some more research to help you with the later stages of SEO.
This final step is actually very straightforward. Just do a search on Google with your selected keywords, and see who is on page 1 of the search results. For example, a search of “piano chords for beginners”. That PA/DA information is from MozBar, download link above.
The selection criteria for the main keyword is simple.
- Ideally, the top 5 results should not be super heavyweights. E.g. Wikipedia, WikiHow, LifeWire, LifeHacks, or sites with high PA/DA.
- The top 5 results don’t have good content, or you can offer better.
- If a lot YouTube videos turn up on the top 5, it is a sign that Google cannot find well-written content.
Yes, if the top 5 results are all heavyweights, it will be virtually impossible for you to beat them. Not until you run a super website as well. As for the content, just open up the top 5 results and see what your competitors offer.
If your competitors are offering boring 500 words articles with no images and videos, you can rejoice as those are easy to “kill” once you write extensive guides to trump them. If they are disgustingly well-written guides like *ahem* this one, filled with good information and SEO writing… You just have to find ways to outdo them.
Overall, this is a very time-consuming process. But it is well worth the time spent, as this will also give you some idea of what to write for your own article.
P.S. Piano Chords for Beginners is probably easy to score (at time of writing).
We have come to the end of this keyword research guide. By now, you should have an idea of how to dig out keywords and select the shiny ones. A short summary of the 4 steps system:
- Choose an interesting topic to talk about. Don’t involve keyword research or SEO at this stage.
- Find keywords – What search terms do users enter to find your article? Use keyword.io and ubersuggest.io to help you find more keywords.
- Cherry pick – Use Google Keyword Research tool to help you filter out the better keywords.
- Finally, choose your main keyword by directly entering the search terms into the search engine. See for yourself who you are up against.
As for what we do with the selected keywords, it will be covered in the next lesson. Just don’t overthink too much, and do it step-by-step. You will be just fine. Good luck!
RECOMMENDED PAID KEYWORD RESEARCH TOOL
Too much of a hassle to do all these work? Try out Jaaxy. While I did mention that paid tools are not required, this is one that I have used and actually liked. Just enter your keyword, and Jaaxy will give you all the data plus automatically suggest more keywords for you to drill into.