Even though blogging has been around for a while, it looks a lot different today than it did in the early 2000s. In those days, people read your blog because they followed it (anyone else have a few old .blogspot blogs floating around out there?) or subscribed to your RSS feed.
Online behavior has changed since then. While some people might stumble onto a blog they like and subscribe to its email list for updates, many people discover blog content through search engines. With more people searching than ever before, it’s a great time for bloggers to explore using keyword research in their content strategy.
This post was written for those that may be new to blogging, as well as those who have been blogging for some time but are just now starting to explore keyword research.
Ready? It’s time to dive into the beginner’s guide to keyword research for bloggers!
Keywords are the words someone types (or speaks!) into a search engine.
People use search engines for all sorts of things — things like looking up movie times, seeing what the day’s weather will be like, or getting their local pizza place’s number. Every search is a quest for information, and the goal of search engines like Google is to supply the searcher with a satisfying answer as quickly as possible.
What does this mean for you as a blogger? It means that if you want to write for these searchers, you’ll need to know the questions they’re asking (keywords) and deliver the answer in your blog posts.
Blog posts developed on the basis of keyword research are different from other types of blog posts in that they focus on answering an existing question.
Contrast this with something like a blog post about a personal experience, or a post introducing a completely new idea — in both these scenarios, because your content doesn’t answer an existing question, it likely won’t get much traffic from search engines like Google, simply because no one is searching for it.
Does that mean you can only write to answer existing questions? Not at all! Even topics with no search demand could get great engagement and traffic on other channels like Facebook or Twitter, but if you want long-term free traffic, the best place to get it is from Google, and the best way to get Google to send you that traffic is to build your blogs on the foundation of keyword research.
A keyword research tool like Moz Keyword Explorer will do the trick!
This tool allows you to find new keyword ideas two main ways: by typing in a word or a phrase and getting back related keywords (the “Explore by Keyword” feature):
...or by typing in a page/website and getting back keywords that page or website ranks for (the “Explore by Site” feature):
Another great feature is the filter for “are questions” — this allows you to see only keywords that are formatted as questions. Since answering your audience’s questions is such a key component of optimizing your content for search, this is a great tool to give you insight into what your audience wants to know.
Just because you found a keyword in a keyword research tool doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it in your blogging strategy. Once you have a list of keywords, it’s a good idea to whittle it down. Here’s how.
Knowing your audience is a prerequisite for keyword research because it helps you filter out keywords that, although technically related to your topic, are a mismatch for your audience.
If you haven’t done so yet, document an ideal audience for your blog. For example, if you run a fitness blog, you could write down something as simple as “fitness enthusiasts.” You could also go a bit deeper and create audience personas, full profiles of your ideal audience that include things like age, demographics, and interests.
The deeper your understanding of your ideal audience, the easier it will be to detect which keywords out of the bunch they would have searched for.
You may also want to whittle down your keyword list to leave only those with an appropriate Difficulty Score, which Keyword Explorer will assign to every keyword. That score is determined by the strength of the pages that are currently ranking on page 1 for that keyword.
If you’re just getting started blogging and you have a fairly low Domain Authority (which you can check by downloading the MozBar plugin or using the free version of Moz Link Explorer), you may want to start with keywords that have a Difficulty Score in the 20-30 range, or even lower. For more on how to use Difficulty Score in your keyword research, check out this write-up from Rand Fishkin.
Search volume gives you an estimate of how many people are searching for that keyword every month. It’s great to choose keywords that lots of people are searching for, but remember that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. You may opt for a lower-volume keyword because it’s much more relevant to your audience and your goals.
When Google’s algorithm was less mature than it is today, it was easy to get your page to rank at the top of search results for certain phrases by repeating that keyword many times on the page.
Over the years though, Google has gotten better at ranking pages that answer the query, rather than just repeat it on the page. This is important to keep in mind because it’s tempting to think that all you have to do with your keyword list is add those words to your pages. To perform well in search engines though, you have to provide an answer to those queries that’s better than anything else out there.
Here are some tips for using keywords to guide your blog content:
The best thing to do next is to dive in and try it for yourself! As with most things, keyword research gets easier once you start to apply it.
A huge part of growing your blog effectively is developing a content strategy. There’s a fantastic free video course from HubSpot that walks you through developing your own content strategy, including how to use Moz Keyword Explorer for your keyword research. If you’re a visual learner like me, you should find it helpful!
Take the free course!
The most important thing to remember is that offering the right content tells you what your audience wants to know. As a blogger, this insight is invaluable! Write to answer their questions, and they’ll be more likely to find your content in search engines.