This guide is based on our experience and will be most
relevant to those new to using keyword research to target their content
to the maximum effect.
What is keyword research?
The process of investigating what keyword topic your content should target.
creating any new content it is worth considering variants of keywords as there
may be a significant variance in traffic volume for what seem like very similar
keywords. Without getting too deep into the technical specifics, the more well
your site is the easier it will be for you to be ranked very highly for a
particular keyword. Conversely, for a new or very small site, ranking on high
value keywords is going to be harder. Which isn't to say that you should avoid
contributing content to a high value keyword - just know that you'll start off
with a low ranking.
The second part of keyword research is to think about how the content you are
creating fits into your wider information architecture. You should try to
avoid overlapping or cannibalising traffic from content you already have on your site.
Obviously I am glossing over the aspects of quality here. It is worth asking:
Is my content adding something new, relevant, authoritative, and engaging?.
Some content marketing specialists suggest that you should not even consider
writing a piece unless you are going to ensure that it is the best content
on a subject available on the internet - that's setting the bar perhaps too high!
The Common Mistake: Not Doing Keyword Research
Probably the most common mistake is simply not doing any keyword research.
Most people, if they're being honest with themselves, don't do it before
they start writing. The problem is that
as the 'expert' creating the content you may use different keywords to identify
A classic example is how people search for professional services,
as an example consider looking for a tree surgeon VS an arborist.
While to the professional these terms have significantly different meanings,
to the average customer looking for someone to come and prune
their tree, they are more likely to search for tree surgeon.
The reality is that
you must match your content with the keywords that people will actually be
Google Keyword Tool (part of AdWords) should be your first port of call.
This provides lots of free information on the keywords that people are
searching for, broken down in numbers of searches per month both globally
and in your specific target geography.
The Mistake You Only Make Once: Finding Your Perfect Match
When first starting with the Google Keyword tool it can be easy to end up with
too many ideas for how you could target your content. Remember, although there
may be more traffic available for some keywords you should be focussing on the
variant for your content that is most relevant to your readers.
In a more advanced mode you can combine tools like Google Trends with the
keyword tool to identify content demands 'ahead of the curve'. This is a
very large subject area that we'll tackle in a later blog post.
While the Keyword Tool gives you lots of data to base your content strategy on,
a very common mistake is defining your strategy on 'broad match' figures. In the
keyword tool you must take care to note the 'Match Types' you are using to
estimate your chosen keyword volume.
Note that when you first log in this is set to Broad match.
While looking at broad match can be useful in the early stages
of investigation, it can also be somewhat misleading.
If you are trying to figure out which
variant of a keyword to target based on search volume you really need to
switch, as you refine your potential targets to [Exact] match.
We were recently asked why an article that was targeted to a keyword with
twenty million searches a month was only resulting in around one
fifty visits per month.
The problem was that they had been using Broad match to
plan their content based on search volumes. Looking at the same keyword
from an exact match point of view it had around only five hundred
searches a month.
The site owner was obviously disappointed that they had invested time
generating content targeting a particular keyword, but their sentiment and
approach was valid. In reality they were seeing around two hundred visitors for the
a respectable market share - indicating they were consistently highly ranked.
Wishful Thinking Mistake: It's Competition, But Not As You Know It
Another easy mistake made in interpreting the data available in the Keyword
Tool is interpreting the 'Competition' column as an indication of how hard
it will be to rank for that keyword. In reality this indicator is intended to
provide a rough idea how much Google Adwords competition there is for searches
on that keyword. While it does give you some indication if anyone wants to 'buy'
that keyword it doesn't provide any insight on how hard it would be to rank for
Remember, it is a very crude indicator - and it has a different purpose.
It may give you an idea of organic competition, but it may not.
If you want to know how hard it will be to rank for your now selected, exact
match sweet spot, there are a couple of ways you can get an idea.
The first is fairly obvious and straightforward - go to Google and search
on your keyword of choice.
Look at who is
ranking and check them out with the page rank browser plugin. This will give you
some clear insight into what page rank the top sites ranking for a keyword have.
If the top
sites ranking for your keyword have a page rank of '7' and you have a page rank
of '2' then you are going to find it hard to get onto the first page.
Note that due to features like personalised search the site you see rank may not
be the same one others do; we are just trying to establish a rough indicator. You
can ameliorate the influence of personalised search by using incognito
tabs in your browser, but this will still be different from what other people
see in their personalised results.
Another way you can assess the difficulty of ranking is to use a tool like the
Bing Webmaster Tools to
research the sites ranking for a keyword. There are likely some better tools
for link research but the Bing webmaster tool has the advantage of being free.
Obviously it will only give you a rough idea of how many links the top ranked
sites have. Also
as it is not going to be the same as the Google link database, it won't be an
accurate reflection of Google's page rank, but it should be close.
Again, as with the page rank approach, you're you just trying
to get a rough comparative measure to evaluate your own
Job Done Mistake: Have Data So Time To Write
When doing keyword research it is really easy to stop the 'cycle' of refinement
too quickly based on your initial findings.
An example would be finding a high value keyword with no real competition.
Another would be to 'stop the press' on a project you have anecdotal evidence
there is a need for due to low expected
volumes. You can end up cornering a market just by being there first!
Taking Data Literally Mistake: Damned Lies and Statistics
One last thing to bear in mind is that the volume data for searches is
alwyays going to be approximate and subject to change.
It is updated periodically, but won't give you an exact picture
of how much search traffic there really is for a complex keyword term.
As with most of the 'data' we've looked at here, the figures are either crude
or approximate. What you are looking for is strategic direction and major
indicators. If one term has ten times the indicated volume you can probably
believe it but if two terms are close then it is probably anyone's guess.
Happy keyword researching