Optimal Blog Keyword Research for SEO Comments61 Comments

Check out my new guide for starting a blog to learn how to go about properly creating your own blog.

Welcome to your weekly Modest Modest blogging tips post! Be warned, it’s a lengthy tip today.

In case you haven’t been following along, here are some topics covered in previous blogging tips posts:

After several requests, I have decided to show how I perform basic keyword research, specifically for blog posts. Like any good SEO professional, I feel that this really is one of my specialties. The best search engine optimization won’t help you much without solid keyword research.

I actually offer keyword research services on a contract basis through one of my websites and via this blog. After reading this post you should be able to manage on your own though. If you need additional help, feel free to contact me for a price quote.

Which Keyword Research Tool Should You Use?

Over the years I’ve tried a wide variety of keyword tools, both free and paid. Some of the better paid tools include Market Samurai and WordTracker.

For most purposes though, I stick with the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Not only is it free, but it also provides more keywords and more reliable stats compared to most of the paid tools. Since Google is everyone’s main search engine traffic target, it only makes sense to trust their stats.

The thing to keep in mind is that you should be most interested in stats relative to other keywords and not exact numbers. Even if you get to the #1 spot on Google, you won’t get 100% of the clicks.

Optimizing Google AdWords Keyword Tool Settings

While the Google Keyword Tool is very simple to use, they do make it easier to find a ton of keywords than it is to find the best keywords. Obviously they want advertisers to be bidding on as many keywords as possible.

Here are some settings you will likely want to change before searching for keywords:

Google AdWords Keyword Research

1) Switch to Exact Match: By default the tool is set to ‘Broad’ match which will group together the stats for every phrase that includes the base word. So if you’re searching for ‘dog’, it would group together stats for keywords such as bull dog, hot dog, dog sweaters, dog fish, etc. While this may be useful for choosing a domain name or choosing keywords for a post series, it is not very useful when choosing keywords for a single page. So switch to ‘Exact’ match for more precise stats. Or if you are positive about the order of the keywords, choose ‘Phrase’ match.

2) Only Show Closely Related Keywords: If you leave this option unchecked it will bring up a ton of keywords that are somehow related to each individual word in your search. Most of the time this is just far too much to wade through. I’d only leave this unchecked if I had no idea about synonyms or related lingo. So if you know at least the main possible base keywords, turn on this option.

3) Set Target Countries: Your setting for this option will depend on what are you are targeting with your blog. Sometimes you might just be targeting the US or Canada exclusively, but most posts are probably relevant to a worldwide audience. So set this to ‘All Countries’ unless you only want to target a certain country.

Searching For Keywords For Your Blog Post

Now that the settings are all optimized, type all possible base keywords in the ‘Word or phrase’ field, putting one keyword phrase on each line.

With doing research for this particular post I knew I wanted to include ‘blog’ and ‘keyword’ in my main target keyword phrase. I entered blog keyword and blog keywords as my base keywords. Really I should’ve been able to just use ‘blog keyword’ in my search, but then it doesn’t bring up other suggestions for whatever reason.

Usually it is not that simple though. More likely you will have several base keywords using various different synonyms. For example, if you did a post about buying a car, you might instead search for car shopping, buying a car, purchasing a car, purchase a car, etc. With the phrase match, it would be better to change ‘buying a car’ to just ‘buy car’. Then it would bring up all variations.

If in doubt, do some searches on Google for some possible keywords. Pay attention to which keywords those pages are also targeting in their meta keywords or tags.

Understanding The Keyword Research Tool Stats

I won’t get into all the stats offered through this tool, but there are specific columns you should pay attention when doing blog keyword research.

  • Global Monthly Searches: This will give you a rough idea of how many people search for each keyword per month. If you are targeting a certain area, look at the local searches instead.
  • Approximate CPC: If you have AdSense ads on your blog, this column may be especially important to you. That is not the price per click you’d receive, but it does give you an idea of which keywords should give you high click prices. It often also reflects how competitive the organic rankings are likely to be.
  • Competition: Don’t confuse this column with organic rankings competition. This column actually refers to how many advertisers are bidding on a keyword. Just like the CPC, this may give signs of the organic competition too, but not always.

Finally…Choosing Your Blog Post Keywords

This is the tricky part of the process. You don’t want to simply choose the keywords with the highest search volume. The higher the search volume, usually the more competitive it is.

Unless you have a well established blog with tons of links, you aren’t likely to rank well for such a keyword. If your blog is super new, realistically you probably won’t even rank well for a keyword with moderate search volume. Personally, the newer the blog and the less links it has, the lower the search volume you should be looking at targeting.

Most importantly, the target keyword needs to be highly relevant. If you target a keyword that isn’t relevant enough to your post content, people will just leave right away which may ultimately hurt your rankings.

It is usually a good idea to target a long tail keyword phrase, which is a phrase that is at least 3 or 4 keywords long. Ideally that phrase overlaps some higher volume keywords. That way your post has more long term potential if it becomes popular.

This should give you all a good basis for choosing keywords to target in your blog posts. Sometime next month I will discuss some more advanced strategies such as analyzing organic results to find market weaknesses. Do remember that good keywords alone won’t drive lots of traffic. It does primarily come down to how strong your blog’s link profile is.

Do you actively research keywords for your blog posts? Or are you like me and holding off until your blog has more SEO strength? Or maybe you only optimize more important posts?

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By : Jeremy Biberdorf | 18 Jul 2012
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61 thoughts on “Optimal Blog Keyword Research for SEO

    1. Jeremy

      It’s definitely something worth learning more about. With the amount of marketing you’ve done, SEO may be the missing piece for your blog to really take off.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Thanks Chase. I do try to make these blogging tips post useful for other bloggers. I know there is a whole lot to learn and most bloggers have limited knowledge about a lot of these issues.

      Reply
  1. Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    I have been pretty anal when searching keyword phrases. I do a poor job of targeting individual words but I search instead for particular phrases.

    I didn’t realize the “low” competition meant what you said. I thought it meant that the competition to rank highly was low. That sucks! How do you find out if the competition to rank highly is low or high? Is there a way to do that?

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Particular phrases are what you want to be targeting, but also keep in mind that you can develop relevance for each individual word within that phrase in various ways.

      The signals I mentioned above usually do give a decent depiction of how competitive the organic rankings are. It is more complicated to dig further, but I will be covering that in a future blogging tips post. I didn’t want to make this post much longer than it already was.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Good luck picking up all this stuff Lance. I’m trying to keep these tips at a more basic level to help more people. Feel free to e-mail me any questions or post them in the comments if anything isn’t clear.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      No problem. Yes I do have to admit that your blog doesn’t really seem to target specific keywords with your posts. I think that is fine with early blog posts. It would just be a shame for an unoptimized post to get popular and not get the full benefits.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      You’re welcome MMD. You know you’re always welcome to e-mail me questions. Hopefully this at least points you in the right direction though. And nice work with all the investing related posts related. I need those kinds of tutorials too!

      Reply
  2. Anne @ Unique Gifter

    Thanks for the tips! I only really did keyword research at the beginning, when I was looking for names and stuff. I also decided to change how I title some things a bit back and it seems to have worked really well. I’m now on the first and second pages for a lot of related keywords :-) I wish link within would work properly now.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Nice work Anne! It is pretty rewarding to get some first page rankings on Google. That becomes a lot easier when you’re making a point of targeting suitable keywords and actually using them on your blog properly. I will have to cover that topic soon too.

      Reply
  3. Justin @ The Family Finances

    Wow, I didn’t know anything about SEO. I haven’t done any keyword research at all. Does this refer to keyword to use within your post, the title of your post, or meta tags for your post? My understanding of this is pretty low. A big chunk of my traffic comesfrom search engines, so I should probably learn more about this.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      If you’re getting search engine traffic, you definitely need to get researching good keywords to take advantage of it. I’ll do a separate post about how to utilize your target keywords. You basically want to use them throughout your post without looking spammy about it. Shoot me an e-mail if you need some tips since it might be a few weeks before I publish the utilization post.

      Reply
  4. From Shopping to Saving

    This is almost overwhelming, but it looks easy enough and not too intimidating to try out. I’ve thought about Google+ but I don’t even check my Facebook page that I created for my blog. I may just have to stay out of Google+ too until I can really dedicate more time towards social networking…or maybe I just need to stop spending all of my time on Twitter.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I was hoping it wasn’t too overwhelming, but part way through I did realize I was covering a lot at once. You know where to reach me if you get stuck on any of this.

      As for Google+, I think you can still get a lot of SEO benefits from it just by getting posts shared on there. It is a lot of work to really do well on more than one social network. Since Twitter is working for you, I’d keep at it.

      Reply
  5. CF

    I’ve always known that I *should* research keywords… but I don’t. :( This is a good post – I need to be motivated to do more research when I write!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I don’t think it’s too important early on though. Sometimes it is better to focus purely on satisfying readers to help with growth. Then as you get more SEO strength for your domain you could start doing more keyword research.

      Reply
  6. Michelle

    I’m actually multitasking right now, so just perused this…but I’m totally coming back later to read this in full, Jeremy! As always, thanks for your knowledge. When writing a post, I never even *think* about SEO. Jeff does occasionally research, but I don’t even know what program or site he uses. I probably should, since I do plan to take this blogging thing seriously and treat it like my job. And I do love Google…as long as Google loves me =D

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I suspect he uses the Google AdWords keyword tool. It is by far the most popular keyword research tool. I wouldn’t worry about researching keywords for every single post, but for a more important post I do a quick search to see what keywords might be best to target. I definitely put more effort into the keyword research for the affiliate pages I’m going to be launching soon.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      It’s not really necessary to write for SEO these days. You won’t get rankings just by reaching some magical keyword density percentage. By choosing good target you can slip them into the key areas without affecting the post quality.

      Reply
  7. Jacob @ iheartbudgets

    DUDE! I was waiting for this post. I’ve book-marked it for reference. Thanks for sharing this information, Jeremy! I drop words to my keyword plugin, but don’t do any research, and thus don’t know what I am doing. I only get 4-8 SE hits a day, so I’m not really on the Google radar at the moment. My blog is 2 1/2 months old, so I know I just need to give it a little time. But I will definitely spend a little time before each post to do this research. Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Glad you found it useful Jacob. It is pretty normal to get that little search engine traffic at that stage in the blogging game. Mostly you just need to keep working hard getting lots of links from lots of sites. As your link profile builds up, pay more attention to what keywords you are targeting.

      Reply
  8. John

    Thanks Jeremy! I also use google keywords and now I know how to better use it. I’m going to spread the word that they should read this article.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I’m not sure if the Google AdWords tool provides an API for that kind of stuff. I suspect a lot of them are using WordTracker. I know you can get a license to use WordTracker’s data.

      Reply
  9. mycanuckbuck

    This is the post I’ve been waiting for – I vaguely grasp SEO now, but frankly, I’ve never been great at using keywords and such. This will so be going on my favourites list this week!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Wow a lot of people were waiting for this post. I’ll try not to make you guys wait too long for the follow up posts of some more advanced keyword research strategies and how to actually use those keywords in your posts.

      Reply
  10. DC @ Young Adult Money

    Keyword research is something I haven’t ever really looked into. My blog is only three weeks old at this point, but I would like to get some more hits on Google eventually. So far a measly 3 out of 450 hits are from search engines :0

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      At that stage of the game you should probably be focusing on other forms of growing your blog such as networking and link building. Eventually you do need to learn this kind of thing though. I’m just not sure when is right. I guess the sooner the better, provided that it doesn’t interfere too much with your other efforts.

      Reply
      1. DC @ Young Adult Money

        That’s exactly what I’m doing. I actually have a whole book about SEO from a couple years back when a blog paid me to do it for them. I guess I just have other priorities for the time being. Definitely would like to network and build up links. By the way I mention this post in my post tomorrow. Picked four blog posts from this week that I enjoyed and this is definitely one of them.

        Reply
        1. Jeremy

          Sweet, thanks DC. It can be tough to manage all the different priorities of managing & marketing a blog and still lead a normal life. Early on though the most important thing is definitely commenting and networking. I enjoy helping people out. So if you have questions, send me an e-mail though my contact form.

          Reply
  11. femmefrugality

    Thanks so much for writing this series. This one in particular is something I’ve been wanting to work on but have been having a hard time researching…pretty much because I wasn’t sure what to search for. Bookmarking and will be back.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      If in doubt, check the competition ;)
      Usually you can come up with a decent list of keyword options to compare, but you might miss some that are less obvious to you.

      Reply
  12. A Blinkin

    I’ve never actually researched keywords but I know I should. My research typically consists of this: if I could picture myself typing the phrase into Google, I’ve done well. If not, I need to change a few things.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I think that’s how the majority of bloggers choose their keywords. The problem with that is that not everyone thinks exactly like A Blinkin. In some cases you will be surprised that more people search for some thing a little differently. Also your first instinct will often be one of the more competitive phrases in that topic.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Good point Tom. Even though search engine traffic may have a high bounce rate, it doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of it. I wouldn’t want to bother my regular visitors with a opt-in form popup, but I think it would make sense for search traffic.

      Reply
  13. Matthew Allen

    I wish I would have found this series before I quit blogging in the personal finance niche. I since have taken..my online efforts in a different direction and have learned quite a bit aboutSEO and keyword research. Two things I noticed missing in this post:
    Keyword Tool – Long Tail Pro. Have you heard of it? Simply the best in my opinion, and it uses data from Google adwords.

    Google first page analysis – you need to know how to do it! You could write a post using s keyword found using your method, but it might be a complete waste of time if you have no chance to beat any of the current listings in the top ten.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Sorry for the delay in responding. Long Tail Pro sounds like an interesting keyword search tool. I could see something like that being pretty effective for choosing keywords for posts.

      And yes you’re completely right that you should analyze the first page to get a gauge of competitiveness. That is something I often do myself, but I guess I didn’t want to get too much more in depth in this post.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      No problem…I ended up giving up trying to comment or reply to comments on my phone. It isn’t worth the hassle of fighting with that little keyboard.

      Reply
  14. Chaitanya

    Keyword research is most important phase before writing any post. I prefer to use Google adwords tool for keyword and competetion research.
    BTW thanks for the post Jeremy :) Keep up the good work

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That is a pretty important phase to do before really getting started. Sometimes I find that a post loses focus a bit and the keyword research needs to be done again to ensure the title and other key elements match up with the post’s true theme.

      Reply
      1. joysam

        I was happy upon reading your post. Finally, there is one who does care about the audience and not just on the SEO side totally. Your url even says it all. I also like to sprinkle SEO on my blog posts as not to bore my audience, but the only thing that I make sure of is that I use the right keywords. Thanks to SEO, I am on the right track.

        Reply
        1. Simon

          Well, SEO is key to a strong online presence but that should stand in the way of providing quality, helpful content that resonates with our audience even without optimizing for SEO…at the end of the day, its the value of the content we share that matters. Glad you are on the right track!

          Reply
  15. James Sandberg

    For me, google’s keyword tool is simply amazing. it’s the most valuable tool I have in business today. It is immensely helpful in understanding what people are interested in, what brands the like and where the interest is shifting over time… all good for web strategy but also good for marketing insight in general.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      For sure, any website marketer needs access to a tool like that. I couldn’t imagine having to just guess at keywords and do trial and error to discover new words. I guess that’s why in old school SEO they just filled their pages with every possible keyword. They had no idea which keywords were most important.

      Reply
  16. Derek Chamberlain

    I try and use market samurai part of the time for the post title, but I usually don’t bother.

    It can take just as much time planning the title of the post as actually writing it. I think my plan going forward is to work on great content vs. trying to win the SEO post naming game. At least for now until I get a couple hundred posts under my belt.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Choosing a good title is more important than just SEO. It can drastically affect your click thru rates on search results, social media and via links on other sites. So it is worth the time choosing good titles for all posts.

      Reply

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