So, you’ve heard Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important for your website or blog, but where do you begin? A successful SEO strategy begins with keyword research. Creating a keyword strategy may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! In this blog post, we’ll walk through five steps to compile a successful keyword list.
Keyword Research: Where to Start
Step 1: Review your Competition
This step is often skipped, but it’s important. Reviewing your competition allows you to gain an understanding of what others are doing in your industry. While you work through the tasks below, I encourage you to take notes.
Identify 2-3 Sites in your Industry or Niche
Review Site Structure/Organization and Ask the Following Questions:
- What is included in their navigation/menu? Do you find it helpful?
- Can you easily locate the information you’re looking for on their site?
- What do you like about their site and what could be improved?
- How are they adding content to their site?
- Are they writing blog posts, adding new pages or not updating content?
- How often is content being added?
Review SEO Elements:
Reviewing your competitors’ sites SEO keywords can help give you a jump-start on your own. One quick way to do this is to run each website through Screaming Frog. This application lets you quickly review the SEO elements listed below:
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- Header Tags
- Meta Keywords
- Adding meta keywords to your site is an outdated practice, but many sites still use them. If meta keywords are listed on their site, take note – chances are these keywords are important to their SEO strategy!
Step 2: Compile a list of Keywords and Phrases
Starting with the keywords you’ve gleaned from your competitors’ sites, continue to brainstorm and write down phrases you think people are searching for in your industry. I find it helpful to organize and separate keywords into different categories using an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. (I.e. For my blog I have them separated into the topics I blog about.)
If you’re having a difficult time thinking of new keywords to add to your list, here are two free tools you can use:
- Run a few of your keyword phrases through Google search and scroll down to the bottom of the search results to see the related search terms. You are likely to find great suggestions for keyword phrases to add to your list.
Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keyword Tools:
LSI keywords are phrases that are commonly used together. LSI keywords provide you additional keyword ideas that you may not have thought of on your own. Here’s a website I use to find LSI keywords.
Step 3: Run your List through Keyword Tools
Now that you have your list of keywords, how do you determine which ones are being searched? Below are two free tools to help identify monthly search volume for your terms.
Google’s Keyword Planner:
You can access this tool when you’re logged into your Google AdWords account. Once you’re logged in, select the wrench in the upper right-hand corner. Next, select the keyword planner tool under the planning section. Copy your list of keywords by category, add them to the planner, and click the “get ideas” button. Keyword planner will then provide you with the monthly search volume for the terms entered and will also provide additional search term ideas. I recommend reviewing the list of keyword phrases Google provides to see if any of the suggestions are applicable for your site.
Unfortunately, Google has recently made changes to their tool that force users to have an active AdWords campaign to pull a precise number. If you’re not running ads, you’ll be provided a broad range for the average monthly search volume, which is not usually helpful.
This keyword tool is very similar to Google’s keyword planner, but you can only run one keyword at a time. Although it will take longer to discover the monthly search volume for each keyword, the exact amount of monthly searches will be provided without having to pay for advertising.
Step 4: Export and Sort Keywords By Category
Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest provide you with the ability to export keywords. I recommend exporting the data and sorting your keywords in a spreadsheet by category.
Step 5: Review and Create a list of Core and Secondary Keywords
What are Core Keywords?
- Core keywords are 5-20 keywords and/or phrases that will be the focus of your SEO implementation. These words will be really important to your strategy and should be top of mind as you work through your content strategy.
What are Secondary Keywords?
- Secondary keywords/phrases are usually longer keyword phrases with less search volume, but are more targeted/detailed.
Adding a color-coded key to the top of your spreadsheet is a great way to organize your keywords into core, secondary and miscellaneous keywords.
Finally, how often should you review and update your keyword research?
This is a great question, and one I often get asked. After my initial keyword research is completed, I will revisit my keyword list about 2-3 times per year to see if I have any changes need made. In between my larger keyword audits, I complete keyword research for any new content that is added to my blog. This allows me to find targeted keyword phrases in my niche that will help visitors find the new content I’m creating.
If you have any additional questions about keyword research, please let me know in the comments below. I also have a number of SEO blog posts coming up!
Finally, check out my e-course and learn more details on how to create great blog posts. In addition to more keyword research tips, this course includes tips and strategy templates for blogging.