Beginner’s Guide to Using Keyword Research As A Powerful SEO Strategy
Everyone in the blogging and online business world seems to be talking about SEO these days, right?
If this term has you baffled and feeling like you kinda missed that point in time where you still could comfortably ask someone what the hell they are talking about, this is for you.
What is SEO again?
I’m sure most of you know this already, but let’s start at the start. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.
Basically, when you implement SEO strategies you are trying to optimize your website to be found and ranked by search engines.
When you think search engines, I bet Google is the one (and only?) you think about. That’s because Google is the biggest and therefore most powerful of them.
Anyway, though all these different search engines run on different algorithms, in the end, they all try to do the same thing: Find and deliver the most relevant and most helpful content and show it to the people searching for it.
Now, this is your chance to shine! Instead of aimlessly writing content and hoping for the best, you can use SEO strategies and keyword research to reverse-engineer the process.
By figuring out what people are actually looking for (= keyword research), you can create content that answers their burning questions, helps them solve their biggest problems or satisfies their curiosity.
They find what they are looking for and you get tons of targeted traffic to your website. Bingo! 🙂
Today’s post is going to give you a quick introduction to keyword research, so you can go ahead and use this simple SEO strategy to plan your website or blog content like a pro!
White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO
Another little bit of terminology that you might have come across and wondered, what the heck people were talking about.
White Hat SEO? Black Hat SEO? Sounds like some weird wizardry is going down, doesn’t it?
I see Gandalf the White pointing his wand at Google and sending you unlimited page views whilst saving the world from orcs and other monsters…
Seriously, who comes up with those terms?? You have my permission to wear whatever hat you fancy, as long as you play by the rules. And that brings us to the actual meaning of those phrases:
“White Hat SEO” simply refers to using SEO strategies that respect search engines’ terms and conditions (= playing by the rules).
“Black Hat SEO” on the other hand refers to using shady tactics that ultimately violate those terms and conditions. Those could involve strategies like buying links, redirecting traffic or cloaking techniques. Applying those strategies is short-sighted and you risk being banned from search engine results. You do not want this.
Therefore, all the SEO strategies we’ll look at in this post are the “white hat SEO”-play-nice kind of strategies, because I don’t want you to get banned, I want you to get found!
Creating a solid keyword strategy is one example of implementing white hat SEO tactics on your website.
Keyword Research Meaning: What is Keyword Research?
Everybody keeps talking about keyword research — but what is it and why is it important?
Essentially, keyword research is the process of identifying relevant terms or phrases (= keywords) that people are actually searching for.
Just from your own experience, what would you type into a search engine? Say for example you want to learn about keywords. Then you might start by searching for the broad term “keyword”.
Depending on how much you know already, you might be more specific and type in “keyword research tool”. Or even more specific “free keyword research tool”. Those are your search terms aka keywords.
Today, we’ll focus on keyword research as part of your SEO strategy, because it helps implement three SEO techniques at once:
- structure your website logically around your core topic
- use relevant and descriptive keywords in your meta descriptions (the snippet that shows up in search results below the page title) to tell search engines and people what your site is about
- provide quality content that people are actually looking for
Long Tail Keywords vs Short Tail Keywords
The single word keywords (aka head terms or short tail keywords) like “keyword” are usually pretty hard to rank for and have a lot of competition.
For the sake of argument, I googled “keyword” and Google found 572.000.000 results. o_0 Wow. That’s a lot of results, isn’t it?
The more specific long-tail keyword “free keyword research tool” only (LOL) yielded 39.200.000 results. Yeah. I know. Still a lot.
Nevertheless, it only about 1/15th of the number of results for the short tail keyword. Making it even more specific “free keyword research tool for bloggers” brings it down to 15.200.000 results.
As you can see, the more specific, the smaller the number of search results. Makes sense.
Ok. So you get lots more results for broader search terms. What about searches though?
When you run a search volume analysis (more on that later), you’ll find that the broader single word terms usually also have a much higher search volume. That means that more people are searching for those phrases.
Hang on — isn’t that a good thing? You might be wondering: “Why not go for the search term that more people are looking for?” Very good question my friend.
The first point I already mentioned: Your content — especially when you have a brand-new website — is likely to drown in a sea of competition. Therefore focusing on search terms with a smaller search volume and less competition can be beneficial in that respect.
Moreover, going after the more specific long tail keywords should result in much more targeted traffic to your website. If someone is looking for “free keyword research tools for bloggers” and you have a post exactly about that topic, people are more likely to click through to your website, because your offer matches their search.
That’s what you want! You want your content to be the perfect fit for someone’s search.
Another term that created quite a bit of buzz recently is LSI keywords. LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. I know. This doesn’t really make for any light bulb moments yet.
Basically, it’s a high-brow expression for keywords that are often found in the same context. Not necessarily synonyms but terms that share a contextual relationship. Still confused?
Think of words that can have different meanings. Let’s choose the word “date” for example. You could either go on a date or eat a date. And I sincerely hope, that only the first one involves another human being…
Now that’s exactly the kind of context that search engines need as well to figure out what you are actually talking about.
When you mention restaurants and movies in the same context, the “going on a date” option is plausible. On the other hand, if the rest of your content focuses on different kinds of fruit and their health benefits, the second option becomes more realistic.
So yes, you should use LSI keywords to make your content clear.
How to Use Keywords on Your Blog
Now to the practical part — how and where should you use keywords on your website?
First of all — if you haven’t installed the free Yoast SEO plugin yet, go ahead and do it now.
This will make things so much easier for you, as it shows you how to optimise your post or page for your keyword. The free version on the plugin analyses your content for just one keyword.
If you wanted, you could upgrade to the paid version though and optimise your content for synonyms and related keywords as well.
In general, from what I’ve read the keyword density in your post should be about 3%. Just in case you were wondering — the Yoast SEO plugin will show you the keyword density for your post.
Don’t sweat it though. In the end, you write for real people, not (only) search engines. And keyword stuffing just for the sake of it won’t do you any good.
Where to Place Your Keywords
There are many places on your website where your keywords should appear. Let’s have a look at the most important ones, shall we?
Your Domain Name
As I mentioned before, if you are just starting out, choosing a domain name that contains your keyword is a great idea. If your website has been around for a bit, don’t worry too much. There are still lots of options to position your keyword!
That’s the permanent URL for a specific post or page. When you use WordPress to write your content, you can change the permalink at the top of the page, right below the title for your post. Remember not to change it after your content is published (unless you use a redirect to the new page).
That’s the title that will show up in the search results when your content is shown to the people searching for it. It’s also what will show up in the browser tab when people click your link. When you use the Yoast SEO plugin, you’ll get a box at the bottom of the page where you can change your title tag.
That’s the short snippet right underneath your search title in the search results. Again, if you use the Yoast SEO plugin, you can change this description at the bottom of your page. If you don’t search engines will just pull a few lines of content from your post and use this instead.
Use your keywords in your headings and sub-headings.
You can also use your keywords as anchor text in internal and external links.
Use your keyword in lists included in your post.
In Image ALT tags and titles
When you upload an image, you should change its title tag and ALT tags.
ALT tag stands for alternative tag and is shown when the original visual element can’t be rendered.
It’s also the description that is read by screen reader software for visually impaired readers.
Therefore you really don’t want to force your keywords in there. If possible, use the keyword naturally when explaining what the picture shows.
You can use related keyword as your blog or website categories and sub-categories to build a keyword taxonomy on your website.
A what? Remember back at school when you learned about the origin of life and how species developed from one common ancestor, evolved and then split up into “the tree of life”?
That’s one example for taxonomy. Now applying this to your website structure means you have one main topic and then related topics that branch off.
Those related topics might have more sub-topics and so on. Getting more and more specific the further you move away from the base topic.
Let’s look at an example. If your website was all about art, you could have a sub-category like paintings, which might then be further divided into let’s say impressionistic and expressionistic.
Those, in turn, might have sub-categories for specific time periods. You see where this is going.
By having broad as well as very specific topics, you can curate content for a great mix of short — and long tail keywords. Which is great in term of user experience, because they can find all the relevant information in one place.
Search engines also like when your website has a nice logic internal structure.
Quick recap for all who just skimmed to the bottom of the page:
- Keywords play an important role in a successful on-page SEO strategy.
- Keyword research is vital to identify what people are actually searching for.
- This, in turn, helps you create useful, demand-based content.
- Keywords also help you structure that content.
- Use keywords in all the right places within your content to help search engines find and show your content.
- Thus optimizing your content for strategic keywords generates free targeted search engine traffic right to your website. *happy dance*
So how do you identify those useful keywords? Short answer: You use keyword finders aka keyword research tools.
But that’s a topic for another article. :)
Originally published at peartreepond.com on July 27, 2018.