Keyword Research For Those Who Have Something Else to Do

by Mandy Boyle February 10th, 2012 

keyword-research

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

Analytics programs like Google Analytics give you a great glimpse into keywords to use when building your SEO campaign.

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

Mandy Boyle gets her daily fix of copywriting as the SEO Team Leader at Solid Cactus. She is also a published freelance writer , co-founder of NEPA BlogCon and was probably a baker in another life. Cupcakes, anyone?

Mandy Boyle

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10 Responses to “Keyword Research For Those Who Have Something Else to Do”

  1. [...] Keyword Research For Those Who Have Something Else to Do, Search Engine People [...]

  2. Thanks for sharing a great post. I know SEO is so important but I do find it quite a challenging and time consuming job. Your post does help to focus my thoughts when I come to do it next.

  3. L.J. says:

    What would you recommend as acceptable "low competition volume"?

    • Mandy says:

      That depends. Competition volume is variable depending on your niche or your industry. For example, if you were a wedding site, you might find that under 3 million sites competing for a particular term would be competitive. On the other hand, if you were a site that offered advice for contractors, under 1 million could be competitive. You have to get a feel for how competitive your industry is and choose your keywords with that in mind.

      Hope this helps to answer your question! :)

  4. Ruth M. McNeil says:

    Hi Mandy,

    This are great tips! Thanks for sharing this. Keyword research is indeed a must if we want a great traffic. I have been using Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool for a while and it really helps me. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Jon Wade says:

    I have had a go at keyword research a few times but have so far struggled to really get to grips with it. One idea I had was to pull up a list of keywords I currently do well with and somehow compare this to trends in my industry, which will hopefully highlight areas where I could work on. Any tips for doing this?

    Maybe a generic keyword list by industry? Or look at some specific competitors to see what they are doing well with?

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Mandy makes good points, Jon.

      What I also like, as an angle, is to do my own research. Works best when you're new to a niche but you can set similar tasks when you're already familiar with it.

      Pick a few things you would want or need to know about a topic. Then start searching and researching about those. Read. Dig deeper. Now you're refining your searching. Write everything down. Pretty soon you will have gone from a search like "how to keyword research" to "keyword research google analaytics ssl" :)

  6. Mandy says:

    Hi Jon,

    There are lots of different strategies and tools you could use. I'd take a look at SpyFu for competitor analysis, but also take a look at things like Google Trends, your Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools data, and the keywords you're already using.

    The key in good keyword research is to not over think or over analyze, but to choose the words that a.) are most relevant to your users, b.) most accurately describe the content of your site, are c.) are competitive (i.s. there's a possibility to rank well for them). The best keywords are often the common sense ones we forget about. Put yourself in the searcher's shoes and go from there :)

    I hope this helps!