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Keyword research can make you or break you – it’s really that simple.
Choose the right keywords, and you not only get steady streams of traffic coming to your site, but you get qualified visits that actually result in sales.
Choose the wrong keywords, and you spend boatloads of time and money writing content for a site that will never even make it out of the gate.
But while you may understand the critical importance of keyword research, understanding it and knowing how to do it are two completely different beasts. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process of keyword research, I’d encourage you to keep an open mind, and to read through to the end of this post. I’ll be explaining why you should care about finding the right keywords for your blog, and pointing you to the very best resources for performing your own keyword research.
Why Keyword Research?
Let’s step back for a minute and look at a vitally important question that’s worth revisiting: Why is keyword research so important?
The words that people will type into Google to find what they’re looking for are what we refer to as ‘keywords’. These could be longer phrases like ‘How do I start a business?’ or shorter words or phrases like ‘business’ or ‘start a business’.
Performing keyword research is particularly important at 2 junctures: both when you’re choosing your niche, as well as when you’re creating content for your site.
When you’re first choosing what your website will be about, keyword research will be the primary way to determine what topic(s) will be both popular and lucrative. For instance, if you’re considering starting a blog about the Colombian red-crested tree rat, your keyword research may reveal that there are only a few related Google searches each month. This will be a pretty good indication that this niche is simply too small to be worthwhile.
The next point at which keyword research will be important is when you’re creating content for your site. If you want your website or blog to show up when people search for keywords related to your topic, you’ll need to be sure those keywords are being used throughout your site. Using keywords throughout your content will help Google decipher what your site is about, and will obviously provide a better user-experience for your website visitors.
7 Best Keyword Research Tutorials for Newbies
Following are 7 tutorials that will help you navigate the process of doing your own keyword research. I have tried to choose the most recent articles, with the most practical, common sense strategies for brainstorming and selecting your keywords. With each tutorial, I have also included a summary of the keyword tools mentioned, as well as a difficulty rating to assist you in finding the most suitable tutorial.
1. How to Do Keyword Research: A Beginner’s Guide – HubSpot (Feb 2014)
If this is your very first foray into keyword research, this is the tutorial I would suggest you read first. HubSpot author Rachel Sprung uses a simple, 5-step approach to keyword research that is easy enough for beginners to understand and implement, without being overly simplistic. To summarize her process, here is a brief overview of the 5 steps:
- Create ‘buckets’ of important topics
- Fill these buckets with keywords related to each general topic
- Make sure you have a range of short and long-tail keywords, as well as related search terms
- Assess the competition for these keywords
- Use tools to modify and streamline your keyword list
2. Keyword Research After the Keyword Tool – Search Engine Land (Feb 2014)
Besides being highly entertaining, this recent Search Engine Land tutorial by Stoney deGeyter is a great overview of the current state of keyword research. It also covers some of the history of keyword research, which may be helpful if you haven’t been part of the internet marketing scene for long.
deGeyter gives a play-by-play strategy for finding ‘core’ terms (the main topics of your site), ‘qualifiers’ (keywords that work together with or qualify your core terms) and related words (words you can use synonymously with your core terms).
This is a very quick, simplified overview of these terms, so be sure to read the whole tutorial – it’s worth your time!
For those looking for a very detailed analysis of keyword research – and not just a list of keyword tools – this post won’t disappoint.
Difficulty Level: 7/10
3. A Guide to Getting Everlasting Traffic With Keyword Research – The Next Web (Feb 2014)
The Next Web contributor Denis Duvauchelle takes us through a detailed, 10-step strategy for finding the most successful and relevant keywords. Based on the assumption that you’re never going to rank for super-competitive and generic one-word terms, he lays out a plan for finding specific (and even creative!) keywords relevant to your niche. Following is a brief overview of his process:
- Come up with a general and comprehensive list of keywords related to your products.
- Run a Google search for your keywords and check out the suggested searches at the bottom of the SERP’s.
- Use these keywords in the Google Keyword Planner.
- Next, use them with the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool.
- Export your data.
- Choose words that get a high volume of searches but which are not difficult to rank for (you will get this information from #3 and #4 above).
- Create a shortlist of keywords.
- Check out the Wikipedia pages for your keywords to see what other words or phrases they’re using.
- See which words the Wikipedia pages rank for using the Google Keyword Planner Tool.
- Use these final keywords in the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool to finalize your list.
I have only scratched the surface of this article, so be sure to check out the full tutorial here. Tools Mentioned: Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool, WebCorp’s Linguist’s Search Engine, Google Search Difficulty Level: 4/10
4. The Definitive Guide to Keyword Research – Backlinko (Feb 2014)
This guide goes beyond a simple multi-step approach to keyword research, and delves into how to use keyword research to find your niche and buyer personas, all the way through how to use your chosen keywords to create captivating content.
This guide will also walk you through the entire process of using the Google Keyword Planner from beginning to end; so if you haven’t used the tool yet, this tutorial is a great place to start. Broken into 7 chapters, this guide (which truly is, as the title claims, ‘definitive’) covers:
Chapter 1: Keyword Research That Works in 2014
Chapter 2: Google Keyword Planner
Chapter 3: How to Find Long Tail Keywords
Chapter 4: How to Determine a Keyword’s Commercial Intent
Chapter 5: Keyword Competition Analysis
Chapter 6: Keyword Research Tools
Chapter 7: From Keywords to Content
Difficulty Level: 4/10
5. From Keywords to Concepts: The Smart SEO’s System for Themed Keyword Research – Nethority (Jan 2014)
An overview of ‘themed’ keyword research, this Nethority post by Cyrus Shepard (also published on the Moz website) focuses on finding relevant concepts, not just keywords. For instance, rather than researching keywords one at a time, he recommends researching topics based on searcher intent, overall concept and related concepts. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this post is that it takes some of the pressure off when it comes to keyword research. Throughout this tutorial, you get the sense that you’re looking at the bigger picture behind keyword research, not just the individual parts. His actual keyword strategy is quite comprehensive, laying out 7 steps in the process:
- Gathering keyword ‘seeds’: Basically general keyword brainstorming.
- Using modifers: Drilling down to find more specific (less competitive) keywords and topics.
- Using the Google Keyword Planner: This will allow you to create themed keyword lists, and to sort by relevance, competition and estimated monthly search volume.
- Creating a keyword ‘theme’: Finding other keywords that are related to your overall topic.
- Using empathy: Putting yourself in your visitors’ shoes and figuring out how to meet their expectations.
- Assessing how competitive your keywords are: Using an automated tool or just the search engine results pages (SERP’s) for your keywords.
- Creating content based on what you’ve learned.
Tools Mentioned*: Google Keyword Planner, Grepwords, Google Related Searches, Google Trends, Wikistalker, Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool *He gives a fantastic and rather comprehensive list of tools you can use for your keyword research…read the full post to see the complete list! Difficulty Level: 6/10
6. Comprehensive Keyword Research Guide for SEO in 2014 (March 2014)
This is a great tutorial for newbies written by digital marketing consultant Bhavuk Khandelwal to use in conjunction with one of the other tutorials on this list. What this guide does well is to give a step-by-step explanation of how to use Google’s various tools to access keyword information. Information that’s covered in this guide includes:
- Choosing which pages on your site you will actively optimize
- An overview of keyword match types (important!)
- Finding the right keywords for your business using a wide variety of tools
- The importance of short versus long-tail keywords
- How to categorize your keywords to ensure you cover every aspect of your business and your products
- How to refine your keyword list
7. How to Do Keyword Research for SEO – SEO Nick (Jan 2013)
This post by Nick Eubanks (aka SEO Nick), while written in January 2013, has been regularly updated and is jam-packed with actionable, relevant strategies for finding keywords for your site. This post moves far beyond the basics, into determining the value of keywords, your intentions behind your SEO efforts (traffic or conversions), and delves into determining searcher intent. While this tutorial is more advanced than most of the ones on this list, it’s an excellent resource for those new to internet marketing as it gives a ‘big picture’ view of the keyword research process. Nick also does a great job of walking readers through the actual keyword research process, and this section will be appreciated both by experienced and newbie marketers. Tools Mentioned: Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, SEMRush, SpyFu, Keyword Spy Difficulty Level: 8/10 (overview of keyword research), 4/10 (keyword research steps)
Good Keyword Research = Targeted Traffic (and Revenue!)
Although keyword research can feel overwhelming at first, using the tutorials above will take most of the guesswork out of the process. And, as with most things in life, the more you do it the easier it will become. Finding the right keywords for your site may be time-consuming, but keep in mind that the hard work you do now will give you the best chance of ranking highly in the search engines, and of driving relevant traffic to your site.
Where are you at with your keyword research? What’s the biggest struggle you’re having? Let me know below and I’ll try to help!