Keyword research is one of the first steps in the content development process and for the non-SEO, it's a task that's usually dreaded. After all, with all of that writing on your plate, it can be hard to find the time and the energy to spend hours researching keywords. If you're not a full-time SEO and you're expected to be a keyword whiz, don't worry. Here are a few tips to help you save time (and frustration) when it comes to keyword research.
Use a System
Keyword research works best when you have a system for getting it done.
For most writers, keyword research doesn't come as naturally, since we tend to be more focused on the content itself, rather than how readers arrive to it. However, in today's world, keywords can maximize the impact of your content. Remember - great content is still great content, but it's even better when it's able to be found.
When setting up a system, first figure out how much time you'd like to spend (or have to spend) on finding the right keywords.
If you have a lot of time, great! Go keyword crazy!
But if you don't, think about a set number of keywords you'd like to research and decide your maximum allotment of time. For example, five keywords in 45 minutes.
Follow A Set Process
Next, you'll need to come up with an actual process. Here's a solid way to research keywords without having to worry about crazy competitor analysis or other exhausting metrics:
Step 1: First, take a closer look at the core values, services, and value propositions of your organization or business.
Get a clear understanding of what you're hoping to communicate to your audience and how someone might search for or arrive at your site.
Step 2: Make a list of potential search phrases that you, as a searcher, would use to find your company.
Also make a list of other keyword ideas based on language you use on your website, customer feedback or customer inquiries, etc.
Basically, you create a list of possible phrases to research. This doesn't have to be an exhaustive list. Just a few phrases to get you started.
Step 3: Next, take that list and think of different variations.
Are there different ways to say the same thing? Different names for a particular service or product? Pluralizations of the phrases?
Add variations to the list. Also, while you're at it, open up a spreadsheet. Add three columns: one for "keywords", one for "search volume", and one for "competition volume".
Step 4: Take your list of keywords and put them into the Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool (this one is my favorite keyword research tool). Click "Search". (P.S. - if you're worried about non-related terms cluttering up your results, select the box that only shows ideas close to your search terms.)
Step 5: The Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool will give you a report on your keywords.
Ignore the competition column. Instead, pay attention to "Global Monthly Search Volume" and "Local Monthly Search Volume".
Global monthly search volume is the average number of times that particular keyword phrase is searched worldwide in a month. Local just pertains to the average searched in your country each month.
Depending on the direction of your SEO campaign (localized or global), choose the average search volume number that best pertains to that phrase. Paste the keyword and that average search volume into your spreadsheet under the appropriate columns.
Step6: Now it's time to get the competition volume. Start out by logging out of any Google products (it'll skew the results).
Then, run one of your prospective keywords through Google search and look for the number of results that come up. That's the number of sites you're competing against for that term.
Add the number of sites under the competition volume column on your spreadsheet. Rinse and repeat.
Step 7: In general, select keywords that have the best ratio of low competition volume to high search volume.
After you've chosen the keywords, start moving forward with content development or work with your client/manager/keyword-approver on making sure these are the terms you want to focus on.
Rejoice that the task is complete!
Build Up Reserves
Another way to cut back on time spent on keyword research is to build up keyword reserves.
Essentially, you spend a huge chunk of time doing only keyword research, but in the long run, it can save you a lot of time and hassle. Set aside a few hours each month to build up your keyword reserves.
Speaking of reserves, you can also look back at past keywords you've used in your copywriting efforts. Don't be afraid to work with these keywords again or to play around with variations of past phrases. When you're stuck, looking back at past copywriting can be a great way to gain perspective and maybe, get some new keyword ideas. For example, do you see
Check your Analytics
See what's driving traffic and work from there as a baseline for your keyword research.
You'd be surprised on what drives traffic and hey, maybe you'll find a phrase or a variation you never would have thought of before. (Bonus: Check the internal search history of your site if you have the ability. That's a goldmine for keyword ideas.)
Throw the Rules Out the Window
Another thing you can do is just throw all of the keyword research tools and rules I've described above and go with your gut.
There are plenty of keywords that occur naturally throughout content as you develop it, so you can always just write first and work in keywords afterward.
There are different opinions and strategies on the subject, but the best advice I can give is to find a keyword research and copywriting method that works for you so that you don't dread opening up the Google Adwords Keyword Tool from time to time.
How do you complete keyword research in a pinch?
Mandy Boyle is the Director of Internet Marketing at Net Driven. She is also a published freelance writer and co-founder of NEPA BlogCon. She enjoys theater, not taking herself seriously, and adventurous eating.