Last week, we addressed day 4 of our 7-part blog series focused on teaching you how to build your content strategy in one week. We went over how to audit current content, determining which types of content to use moving forward, and a brainstorming exercise for new content. Now that we have a fairly solid plan in place for which types of content will be used, we will aim our focus on the theme of quality through our keywords and how to perform keyword research that you’ll use in your content planning.
If you’re still struggling to see the need for a content strategy, just know that quality content:
You might think you have an awesome idea that everyone wants to read about, but how do you know it’s actually good? Even if you’re right and you’ve discovered something truly worth sharing, how do you quantify its value? How do you find the right content marketing keywords?
To help answer these questions, it’s important to do effective keyword research. Keywords reflect the voices of your audience and each search is like a vote stating they want to see more content of this nature.
Keyword research is the process of analyzing search terms that people regularly enter into search engines. The insight gained with these search terms can help inform content strategy, as well as your larger marketing strategy.
How do we identify search terms that people are Googling and create marketing content designed to answer these exact queries? Using keywords that exactly match a person’s search is no longer the most important ranking factor for search engine optimization (SEO). Rather, it’s the intent or purpose behind that keyword, and whether or not content resolves the purpose.
For example, when researching keywords for “how to learn to fly,” the word “fly” can mean the insect or the actual act of flying. Does the searcher want to learn more about flies? Or do they want to know how to get their pilot’s license? If your content strategy is only targeting people interested in the latter, you’ll need to make sure you understand the keyword’s intent before choosing to focus on it.
This process is all about how people search online. While Google keeps us on our toes with all their algorithm updates, one thing has stayed pretty consistent for marketers looking to optimize their websites for search: keyword research.
The following are practical steps for performing keyword research to support meaningful content.
To kick off the process, think about the topics you want to rank for in searches. This step is largely already taken care of when we identified company SMART goals and audience segments in days one and two. The exercise we addressed last week in finding fresh ideas will also be a great foundation for finding the right topics.
You want to think about and write out items that are most relevant to your audience segments and their needs. Pick 5-10 buckets you’d want your company to address so we can better break out research.
Now that you have a few topic buckets, it’s time to identify keywords that fall into those buckets. These are keyword phrases you think are important to rank for in the SERPs (search engine results pages) because your target audience is probably conducting searches for those specific terms. The point of this step isn’t to come up with your final list, but rather to brain dump phrases you think potential customers might use to search for topic-related content.
This is an excellent step to take, especially if you’re having trouble pulling terms that make sense for your topics. It helps to go to Google and take a look at the related terms that appear when you plug in a keyword in the search bar. When you type in your phrase and scroll to the bottom of their results, you’ll notice suggestions for searches related to your original input. These keywords can spark ideas for other keywords you may want to consider. Another very simple and easy way to find related search terms is also by looking up synonyms to hot topics or words your company already goes after.
Make sure your team isn’t just finding single words like “blogging” or “flying.” Shorter words like this are much trickier to rank for as you’ll often have many companies vying for the same information.
Have them write out more direct, relevant phrases that will be easier to rank for like, “Where to take flying lessons” or “Is it easy to obtain a pilot’s license?” Someone looking for something that specific is probably a much more qualified searcher of your product or service than someone looking for something generic. Someone searching for shorter terms like “flying,” on the other hand, could be searching it for reasons unrelated to your business. Check your lists to make sure you have both generic and specific to support what you need.
Just because a keyword is important to your competitor, doesn’t mean it should be important to you. Understanding what keywords your competitors attempt to rank for is a great way to help you give your list of keywords another look over.
If your competitor is ranking for certain keywords that are on your list, it makes sense to work on improving your ranking. However, don’t ignore the ones your competitors wont address. This could be a great opportunity for you to jump on new keywords.
How do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for in search results? Tools like SEMrush allow you to run free reports showing you the top keywords for the domain you enter.
At this point, you have your buckets and strong keywords (both short and long in length and compared against competitors). Now, it’s time to narrow down the keywords according to trend and search volume.
You can use tools like Google Trends to search trend history and search term projections. This isn’t always a set-in-stone indicator for how your search term will do once it’s used, but it will give a decent idea of whether or not you’re headed in the right direction. You can absolutely focus some attention in areas with high search volumes, but be aware that some of these search terms will be harder to rank for in search results. Look for your opportunity niches.
The small list of tools below will also help outline how your keywords and phrases rank in the industry:
You’ve now got a list of keywords to help direct content for your business and drive higher rankings so your audience segments can find you faster. You’ll want to be sure you re-evaluate these keywords every few months to ensure keywords are ranking as planned.
Your content marketing strategy can surpass all expectations or fail depending on the keywords you choose to target. The key is to take your time and be thorough in your research. Thankfully, you have all kinds of keyword research tools readily available to you at any time. Use them frequently and wisely to create a strong content marketing strategy that will drive genuine interest and inspire your audience to take action.
Stay tuned as we spend next week building out our content calendar and organize all the information we’ve gathered up until this point.