Keyword Research For Content Marketing

It's important to distinguish between traditional keyword research (for SEO and / or PPC purposes) and keyword research for content marketing purposes. Traditional keyword research is concerned with understanding of how people search for your product or service. Keyword research for content marketing purposes deals with what people want to learn more about, as well as how popular the topic is. This article is about the latter.

Here's a good article at SEP by Pratik Dholakiya: a great place to start and finish your broader content marketing efforts. My post will focus on a more specific area of how to conduct keyword research for content marketing. Once you do that (keyword research), tips and resources in Pratik's article will help you build it and spread it. But before we get into it, here's a couple of words of using keyword research tools for content marketing purposes.

Don't stress about keyword research tools

There is plenty tools for keyword research, both free and paid. I've spent a lot of time testing various tools and figured that most of the time Google AdWords Keyword Tool (GAKT) is all you need. So, don't waste time testing different tools. Use the ones at hand and those you are comfortable with. Here's a couple of things about GAKT data though:

  • Don't be too concerned about the costs / competition figures of GAKT because with content marketing you're more interested in organic search data such as number of competing pages for a particular keyword.
  • At the same time competition levels can provide you with some insights. For example, look at different competition levels (high / medium / low) to see topic commonalities in each group.

Consider using Fresh Web Explorer by SEOmoz. This handy tool might give you a few ideas if you sort results by feed authority. It may be more useful in the content distribution phase of your content marketing efforts. The tool can give you a pretty good idea of what the influential sites already have on the topic.

A Copyblogger article suggests, "Use trending information

[Google Trends] to eliminate some of your keywords and narrow down your target list ". Consider using a topic that is trending up versus the one that's going down and has done that for a long time.

The process of keyword research for content marketing

There's no one process that's suitable for all companies, industries or websites. So, use the following outline as a framework for the process suitable for your company or website. Feel free to mix and match.

Define the goals

Before talking about keyword research for content marketing, let's look at content marketing in the grand scheme of things or the sales funnel.

What do you want to achieve by your content marketing efforts? Higher conversions, higher brand awareness, etc.? Look at content marketing strategically and define where in the purchase funnel your content would be most valuable to the user.

modern sales funnel

Author: Scott Ellis of O2O Interactive

Scott Ellis of O2O Interactive did a great review of modern sales funnel here.

Build a persona

The most important starting point of any marketing activity should be the development of a user persona. Knowing "who you're writing for" helps in creating your content marketing piece. Here are a few resources to help you build yours:

Keep in mind that with content marketing you create content more for the reader and less for the search engine. Also the searcher intent will be slightly different; they're not yet looking to buy. Those that search for content are in the research phase (i.e. more likely to click organic, less receptive to sales calls-to-action. Therefore you need to understand what content will help them make a decision to buy from you at later stages.

When conducting keyword research for content marketing purposes first seek to understand customer desires and not the spelling or plurals of specific terms. One of the keyword research tactics you can use is using "how to" prefix to your target search term when you collect search volumes. Here's a good insight by Stoney deGeyter at Search Engine Land.

Gather the initial list

Start with tools and data that you already have access to. Here are a few examples of where you can gather your initial list of concepts and keywords before you get help from external sources.

  • Brainstorm with your team or ask a sample user group
  • Run a survey with Survey Monkey or a similar platform
  • Use Google Webmaster tools data to see which keywords drive traffic to you
  • Use Google Analytics data to see what pages are most popular
  • Look at your comments to see what content is more discussed
  • Check your current rankings to see what terms you're ranking for (consider using Google Webmaster Tools or any other rank checker)
  • Already running a paid search campaign? Use these keyword insights.
  • Did a keyword research recently? Use this data too.

Gather competitive data

Competitive keyword data can show you keywords you competition is targeting. Although this is not super relevant in terms of content marketing research, I wanted to include it here as a general reminder and value in overall keyword research process. Consider looking at SEMrush and SpyFu as well as

Gather social media data

These days social is part of every digital strategy. Sometimes I even think that there's no social any more. There's also a strong place for social in keyword research for content marketing. It's key to go beyond Google and Bing and pay attention to what social communities need and want, and how people talk about your topic when they're having conversations with family and friends. Here's a good article on semantic keyword research if you want to go in more details.

Having said that, Advanced Twitter Search Tool is probably the only one you need to fulfill your needs for scouring the social web for things. However, here's a few more if you're curious: Topsy, Kurrently, 48ers and Social Mention.

Finally, feel free to use Facebook and Google+ search functions. Facebook search is not robust but can give you a few popular things in public timeline related to your niche. Google+ search tool is much better and as the network grows you can pick up some good chatter on your topic including the use of related keywords. And don't forget about YouTube, as the second biggest search engine in the World. Look for content in your niche and how popular it is.

Compile the results and choose focus areas

Once you gathered your keywords from all these sources using different tools it's time to put things into a spreadsheet to filter and play with. I recommend you consider the following pieces of information for your final analysis tables: key phrases, source, search volume (exact matches), competition (# of pages in search), relevant or idea content type for this keyword (blog, infographic, white paper, instructional video, etc.).

What other column titles would you include? I realize that it's going to be tricky to use a single tool to pull all the data together. However, I'll attempt to provide a solution to that in my next article here at SEP, so stay tuned! BTW, if anyone wants to join me in that attempt, please let me know and we'll build a cool content marketing keyword research template around it.


The bottom line is that keyword research for content marketing is about this 1) understanding what's out there on your topic, 2) what's missing and 3) what content needs to be created to fill the gap. I'll be writing a follow up article with a keyword research primer, so stay tuned.

As a side note on compiling the results of your keyword research for content marketing, here is a couple of example of how people do it currently

  • Copyblogger article suggests you should "trust your gut" or "put things above your work desk" to choose those that are more important and resonate with your audience. That is, of course, after you've ran your keywords through a number of tools above.
  • Search Engine Land article show a Google AdWords Keyword Tool example on picking your words.

I think that both approaches are viable and I encourage you to use both in your keyword selection process. However, my plan is to create a template that you can use to line up your keyword research. This is another reason for you to stay tuned for my next SEP article 😉

Relevant resources

These are some good relevant resources on the topic of keyword research for content marketing. Many of the great insights in this article are taken from there.

I'd greatly appreciate your response to this article as well as tools, ideas, tips and trick I've missed here.