How to Use Keyword Research for Blog Post Optimization

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How to Use Keyword Research for Blog Post Optimization
Image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles

One great way to grow an audience to your blog is through search engine traffic. You just never know which random searcher is going to land on your blog, like it, subscribe to it, share it, and keep coming back for more. There are certain numbers of people searching for different search terms on Google every single month. By knowing how to properly do keyword research and how to use those keywords to best optimize your blog posts, you can get as many of these searchers as possible to land on your blog. The beauty of growing your blog or website through search engine optimization is that you don’t get the same people coming back time and time again. Different people throughout the entire world will be typing in the search terms that you are optimizing for and at different times. The growth potential is endless if you properly optimize a post on your site for a low competition keyword that gets lots of searches!

2 Ways to Use Keyword Research for Blogging

Write your post and then optimize it for certain keywords. This might be the best option for bloggers who are new to keyword research. Instead of throwing off your entire routine, just go about writing a blog post on any topic the way you normally would. After you are done writing the post, then you can go back and do keyword research on whatever the main topic is. You may or may not find a relevant low competition keyword that gets a decent amount of searches. If you do, you can easily make some minor changes to the article to optimize it for the keyword you found. If not, no big deal. Not every single article needs to be optimized for the search engines. I wouldn’t let this entirely new (to you) concept of keyword research consume too much of your time. Not so much anyway that it will have an effect on your blogging output.

Use keyword research to find specific topics to write about. Maybe you have a general idea of a topic you would like to write about, but are unsure where to start and what exactly to focus on. Keyword research will give you a great feel for what people are actually searching for. What they are searching for is information. If you can get your post to rank in the top 10 search results in Google for the keyword that these people are searching for, there is a good chance that a certain number of them will land on your site. When looking for a topic to write about using this method, you want to find a keyword that gets at least a decent amount of monthly searches and one that you actually have a chance to rank for in Google’s top 10.

The best way for me to describe this keyword research method and how it can be used for blog post optimization will be to show you some examples. The following sites are all from the personal finance niche and their owners have commented on this blog in the past. This post is about HOW to use keyword research for blog post optimization. If you have not yet read my first post on keyword research for blogging, you may want to do that first in order to better understand the WHY.

Where to Use Keywords for Blog Post Optimization

For best on page optimization within blog posts, these are the places your target keyword needs to be (“Why Do Babies Spit Up,” is the example keyword I used previously). This list was posted in the first article in this series, but it is very important to understand so I am posting it again.

  • In the post title – Why Do Babies Spit Up?
  • In the URL – http://matt76allen.wpengine.com/why-do-babies-spit-up
  • In the META description for the post
  • In the first sentence of the first paragraph
  • In at least one sub-heading with an H2 tag (Heading 2)
  • In about 1% of the content. (If the post is 700 words, the keyword should be used about 7 times)
  • Somewhere in the last paragraph
  • In the ALT tag of an image on the post (I always make this the same as the image title)
  • Add the exact keyword (phrase) as a Tag in WordPress

NOT Using Keyword Research and NOT Optimizing  Blog Posts

My first example comes from a fairly new blog called Budget and the BeachThis blog appears to have been around since May 2012 and I am guessing the author still considers herself a newbie. I wouldn’t expect that this whole concept of keyword research had even occurred to her. I know I was clueless about it when I was a newbie blogger (around this time last year). Nonetheless, I will use one of her posts as an example for one that is not optimized at all for a good keyword. Here is the post – When You Find Yourself In a Hole, Stop Digging.

This post starts off using the financial analogy of trying to dig yourself out of a hole, then goes into the authors specific plans for the future. The entire post isn’t really targeted on one specific topic, so it would be hard to pick one keyword to specifically optimize for. I punched some keywords like, dig yourself out of a hole, into my Long Tail Platinum keyword research tool. Here are some of the results that I thought could be relevant. Long Tail Platinum results for Budget and the Beach post - Dumb Passive Income The columns, in order, are: keyword – avg CPC – local monthly searches – global monthly searches – advertiser competition (1-100) – average (KC) keyword competitiveness (0-100).

Make sure you read my first keyword research for blogging post to better understand what the KC score in Long Tail Platinum means. This is the feature within the keyword research tool that makes all the difference and makes keyword research extremely simple – especially for beginners.

As you can see, the two keywords that get a decent amount of searches also have an average KC of 40 or above. These would be difficult to rank for with just one blog post, and especially on a newer blog that doesn’t yet have high rankings. The keywords with the lower KC scores have a shot to get ranked in Google on this blog, but look at the number of searches! Why even put in the effort for keywords that get 28, 58, 22, or 0 monthly global searches?

If Budget and the Beach wanted to optimize for any of these keywords, it would be pretty simple to change some of the wording in certain places within the current post. For example, pick one of the keywords and make sure it is inserted in all of the places listed above under the Where to Use Keywords sub-heading. I probably wouldn’t bother though. Not every post on a blog has to be optimized, and this might be one of those posts. There is nothing wrong with not optimizing all of your blog posts for the search engines. I just wanted to show you an example.

Another example of a post that is not optimized for search engine traffic comes from my friend Mike over at his blog – Live the New Economy. This post is titled, How I Saved My Family $214,292 This Week. A witty title like this is obviously designed to grab attention by sparking the curiosity factor of whomever might see it. Again, nothing wrong with a tactic like this if you are try to get the attention of people who already know about your site or follow you. This won’t catch the attention of any random searchers on search engines though.

Mike knows how to do keyword research, and even owns the keyword research tool Market Samurai. He admits though that he doesn’t use it to optimize blog posts. An example of how he could have used it to better optimize this post would be to do research on the specific products he mentions in the article that are helping him save money. Here is what I came up with in Long Tail Platinum

Long Tail Platinum results for Live the New Economy - Dumb Passive Income

The keyword competitiveness scores of 39 and 44 are slightly higher than I would like for blog post optimization. But, as an example, he could have optimized for keywords like this and had a better chance to bring in at least some search traffic. All of these keywords have good search volume. He could have even kept a witty title, but changed it to something like, “How a Shaving Brush and a Nespresso Coffee Machine Saved My Family $xx,xxx.” If he also would have put those keywords into all of the other suggested places (see list above), he would be fully optimized and would have a much better chance at getting some search traffic to this post.

Both of these posts – at Budget and the Beach and Live the New Economy – not only did not use keyword research, but they also did not optimize properly for any keywords. Just by doing a quick scan of both posts, I could tell that the titles were not optimized, sub-headings in the articles were not optimized or were non-existant, and ALT tags on their images were not set with any keywords. I’m not trying to pick on either of these blogs. As I mentioned, it is perfectly okay to write posts like this for your current readers or subscribers. I just wanted to use them as examples and possibly point out areas they could improve.

Optimizing a Blog Post for the Wrong Keywords

This next post comes from a site called My Money Design and is titled, Affordable External Hard Drives vs Online File Backup Service – Which is Better? When I saw the title to this post, I knew right away that he was trying to optimize for specific keywords. The word affordable was the dead giveaway. By adding that word, it doesn’t sound natural. If the word affordable wasn’t in the title, I may not even have been suspicious. But it is there, so I investigated further.

This entire post is optimized very well for both keywords – affordable external hard drives and online file backup service. They show up in the title, in the URL, in sub-headings with H2 tags, in the ALT tag of the image at the top, in the content and set as Tags in wordpress. This blogger has obviously done some research and knows how to properly optimize a post for specific keywords!

The problem with this post is the keywords that he optimized for. I don’t know if he did keyword research or not, or if he used any kind of keyword research tool. Even if he used the free Google Adwords keyword tool, he would see results that looked like this…

Google AdWords Keyword Tool results for My Money Design - Dumb Passive Income

One keyword gets only 36 Exact Match global searches per month, and the other gets less than 10! Even if he were to get this post to rank in the top 10 in Google, it might only bring in a few extra visitors per month to his site.

I typed both of his keywords into Long Tail Platinum and came up with some of the following results…

Long Tail Platinum results for My Money Design 1 - Dumb Passive Income
Click on image to enlarge

As you can see, any of the keywords that have to do with online file backup services have very high KC scores, ranging from 56 to 62 in this example. These would be nearly impossible to rank for in just one post on a blog that isn’t entirely focused on just that topic. My Money Design could have a shot at ranking for one of the keywords that has to do with external hard drives though. The one with the lowest KC score, external hard drive deals, has a KC score of 37. By clicking through to the competitor analysis page in Long Tail Platinum for this specific keyword, I see this…

Long Tail Platinum results for My Money Design 2 - Dumb Passive Income
Click on image to enlarge

This page shows Google’s top ten results for the keyword, external hard drive deals, and all of the relevant stats. The column that interests me the most is the KC column (shaded in gray and only available in Long Tail Platinum). Results #8 and #10 have very low scores and should be very easy to beat with a properly optimized post. I think if My Money Design were to optimize a post, or even change his current post, he could get it to rank on the top page of Google for a keyword that gets 1,300 global exact match searches per month!

Update Since Post Went Live

It has been brought to my attention that my tone in the above examples may have come off as condescending. As if I was trying to single these blogs out for doing things the wrong way. I apologize sincerely if I have offended any of the site owners, as this was not my intent at all. Allow me to explain.

None of these sites are doing anything wrong. They are just blogging away and using the resources that they know. I was simply trying to point out ways that they could improve, while at the same time showing other readers how to effectively use keyword research to optimize a blog post. Honestly, I could have found examples like this on just about any blog that I visit. I chose these three because I read and enjoy all of them. Also, each of them has linked to this site in the past, and I thought this was a great way to link back.

There are very few blogs that I know of that actually use proper keyword research in their SEO efforts. Many bloggers don’t even know what keyword research is. I myself would be included if I hadn’t quit blogging last May to pursue building niche sites. I since have learned a great deal about keyword research and now see how beneficial it can be to bloggers. I simply want to give back to the blogging community by trying to teach them how to use it to to best optimize their blogs. I am putting forth this effort in the best way that I can.

-Matt

Long Tail Platinum and Long Tail Pro

The examples used in this post that reference Long Tail Platinum are done so using the free beta version. All current owners of Long Tail Pro are getting the privilege of trying out the Platinum version for free during the beta test period, which is scheduled to end Dec. 11th, 2012. On this date, the Platinum version of Long Tail Pro will have a monthly cost associated with it (to be determined). Long Tail Pro is always available for a one-time low price. The software is and always will be updated for free.

If you want to purchase Long Tail Pro and take advantage of the last few days of the free beta trial for the Platinum version, click here to go to the sales page.

Spencer Haws, the owner and creator of the software, has been kind enough to offer one free copy of Long Tail Pro for me to give away to my readers next week during the launch for Long Tail Platinum. Keep watching my blog next week for details on that!

All links and banners within this post that lead to Long Tail Pro or Platinum are affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through any of these links, I will receive a commission. If you’ve found this post helpful and informative and do decide to buy, I greatly appreciate you doing so through one of my links. Thank You and happy keyword hunting!

Remember, there are several dumb ways to create passive income online, but only one site that is blogging about it! Dumb Passive Income… dot com.

  • 🙁 I was just telling my friend I found this process complicated and time consuming. I have a lot to learn and have’t found the time to learn this process quite yet.

    • This may not be for you quite yet, Ms. Budget Beach. You are doing a fine job growing your blog through commenting and blog networking. When or if the time comes that you wish to expand, you may want to consider a strategy like this. I hope at least you are learning a little bit about optimization from my posts. The keyword research part you could put on hold for awhile.

    • If you think naturally about logical search terms, you will be fine. This is exactly what I do on FinancialSamurai.com, and traffic has naturally followed suite. Don’t overthink it, b/c you will start hating it. 30-60seconds!

  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    Wow, this is awesome! Although I’d feel bad if I was a blogger being called out for my lack of SEO. lol. 🙂 That’s just me though.

    Saying that, I found this extremely helpful and insightful. It’s amazing what can be done with a little research, but it does take a lot of time!

    • I was trying to be nice about it Jason! Plus, this was a good way for me to link back to sites that have linked to me in the past. Better watch it – I might analyze one of your posts next! Haha

      Keyword research can be time consuming if you let it. It’s really not that bad though once you get the hang of it. The new KC feature in Long Tail Platinum makes it really easy and is a huge time saver. It’s not hard for me to find a good keyword for a blog post in less than 10 minutes. I’d say that’s a great trade-off for the increased traffic potential.

    • I don’t feel bad-just kind of…newbie-ish. (hangs head in shame)

      • You have nothing to be ashamed of Ms. Beach Budget. Not very many bloggers (that I know of) even use proper keyword research when writing posts. I myself only recently started using SEO tactics and keyword research for blog posts. It is very possible to grow a successful blog without using these tactics. I just recently learned the benefits and wanted to share them with the blogging community.

  • Your points are nicely laid out Matt. Obviously I could have done a slightly better job researching the keywords. I also would have appreciated the advice privately rather than being made an example
    of what not to do.

    • Having just visited, I like your content. I’ll be back.

    • I’ve updated the post to try to explain where I was coming from. Honestly, MMD – I don’t know if I could have found a better example to cite than your post because it was optimized so well for your chosen keywords. I was actually shocked when I did the research and found out that those keywords didn’t get very many searches.

      I’m sure you will have great success with future posts in optimizing for good keywords that get lots of searches. When you do have success, I would love to hear about it.

      • I’m over it now.

        To be honest, I do really need to step up my SEO performance on my site. I’ve noticed that the number of visitors is starting to plateau. I can’t simply visit more blogs in hope that other people will reciprocate the favor. So all I can really do is improve the probability that someone will find me through a web search.

        For quite a while, I’ve been using a great plugin called WordPress SEO that helps me structure all my posts for specific keywords. That really helps to serve as a checklist for things like title, meta description, URL, density, etc. But ultimately, I am still responsible for choosing the best keyword.

        As you know from interacting with your site for a few months now, I’ve been researching how to use keywords and evaluate their effectiveness. I’m a frequent user of Google Adwords and I’ve created a special spreadsheet where I can dump in the results and quickly calculate a KEI (keyword effectiveness index). For a while, I thought I had found the magic formula, but your post makes me realize there was one very significant element missing: competition!

        At no point was I investigating the top 10 Google listings and making a determination about whether I could beat them or not. Perhaps I thought it would take too long, so I trivialized the importance of this step. However, it does stand to reason that if I were up against a PR7 or PR8 for the word I selected, then my efforts would be all for nothing.

        So it looks like I have two options: Either continue to figure out an efficient free way to evaluate the competition, or pay a little money to get a useful tool (such as the program you mentioned).

        You mentioned this in your post and I’ll reiterate it = not every post is necessarily keyword optimized. For example, the one you selected from me, I simply picked something that showed up in Google Adwords and ran with it. During the selection process, I must have tried a dozen other variants and came up with nothing useful. Perhaps doing all this manually was my great mistake. However, after an hour here researching the keyword and an hour there writing the post and then taking the time to upload/format it, at some point you just say to hell with it and post it anyways. Such was the case with my post that you chose to evaluate.

        However, I don’t want that to misinterpreted or serve as an excuse. Where time permits, I think it would do a blogger good to pay more attention to these kinds of issues when choosing which words to write around. From simply changing a few phrases or asking a question a different way, I’ve noticed far more traffic on a few key posts. This tells me that the process does work!

        • Wow MMD! I feel like I should give you an award for the longest comment ever on this blog. You could have submitted this for a guest post and I would have published it!

          My response to much of what you talked about here will be covered in upcoming posts leading up to the giveaway next week. I still have a lot that I want to cover on this keyword research for blogging topic.

          I’m glad you’re over it now. And I know exactly what you mean about saying, “screw it,” and just publishing the post. I think I do that on just about every post because I am always so pressed for time.

        • MMD, come join the 5,000 word a week Yakezie Challenge. I’m pretty sure it will give you a big traffic boost over the next 12 months. Search for it or go to Blogger’s Lair.

          Work while others are playing!

          • Thanks for the offer, and it sounds like fun! But with my schedule so close to Christmas, I’m sure I would not even come close to producing enough quality material to meet this requirement.

  • Keyword research is time consuming and boring! My lack of keyword optimization has been a deliberate choice. Interestingly, my post you cite above is the most viewed one on the entire blog. That said, I’m sure none of that was a result of search traffic, so your point is valid. Nice post, even if I’m not willing to change my ways!

    • Time consuming because you are using the slow tool Mike! Haha. Boring, well, that is just a matter of opinion. I don’t think keyword research is boring at all. I love to do it. I think I actually like doing keyword research better than writing blog posts. It’s like panning for gold – and yes, I actually own a few gold pans and you can find me sitting in a stream panning for gold during the summer months.

      That’s funny that your post that I cited is your most popular one! It doesn’t surprise me though with the witty title you chose – which confirms that it absolutely is beneficial to write posts like that with titles like that. If search traffic isn’t your goal, then that strategy is excellent to lure your current readers or subscribers to click through and read the post.

      • Well, I’m in no position to evaluate Market Samurai vs. Long Tail Pro, but I don’t think I would characterize it as slow. As it stands, even an extra hour a day of keyword research is a bridge too far for me. At some point, opportunity cost prevails and I’ve got a few irons in the fire. For now, I’m going to concentrate on getting quality content up on the site and spend what scarce remaining time I have to do outreach to the wider community.

        None of this negates what you’ve offered up here, which is right on target.

      • You should provide a service Matt! Like $5 bucks per post or something! 🙂

        • I’ve actually thought about this Sam, but… A) This wouldn’t create “passive” income B) I don’t have enough time to keep up with my side hustle projects as it is, and C) I’m pretty new to this myself and should probably be able to definitively prove myself first.

          Definitely in the back of my mind though to provide a service like this.

    • Mike, I don’t do any keyword optimization besides the basic title myself. Maybe my growth has been limited, but so far, my traffic on FinancialSamurai.com has almost tripled this year, and I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why. Just being consistent is my only answer. Sam

      • Sam, unless something changes, I’m not on track to hit <200K on Alexa by January, which was my challenge goal. I went from the stratosphere down to about 350K and I've been stuck at 400K (around) since with 70-100 uniques a day. I'm just going to continue to consistently post and make the rounds on the blog scene and see what happens!

  • I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to SEO, but what I have read is that we shouldn’t be trying to “game” google by stuffing keywords into our posts. Everything I have read since the Panda and Penguin updates has pretty much been to write naturally and avoid overusing keywords. Since I followed this advice my number of hits from search results has gone up significantly. It could just be a coincidence though.

    • You are absolutely right Glen! Keyword stuffing is not advised. This is why the suggested rate is now 1%. Some SEO experts even say to go a little under 1% now, and definitely make it sound natural. Formerly, SEO people suggested 2 to 5% for keyword density. From what I’ve read (I am not an expert!) 1% is the current going rate.

      Keyword research like I am trying to teach here is all about finding low competition keywords that you could easily rank for with a single blog post. This has nothing to do with trying to “game” Google. The SEO suggestions in this post are just good basic SEO.

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment Glen!

  • nice post, I am looking into optimizing my posts more after your last post. but i am fighting a losing war against procrastination. haha

  • Matt, I don’t see this as condescending at all. If I was fortunate enough to have one of my posts on one of my sites highlighted, and you giving me some analysis on how to improve, I’d be ecstatic!

    So please feel free to use the content on Financial Samurai and/or Yakezie.com to do your analysis. I love this stuff, even though I don’t do any of it! 🙂

    Sam

    • Sam, I have something very special in store for you. In fact, I wanted to include it on this post, but ran out of time and wanted to publish before I left for work yesterday. Let’s just say I took one of your suggestions to heart, but instead of emailing the results to you, I want to publish the process and results for the benefit of my readers. I hope to get it finished real soon.

      • I’m looking forward to it Matt! Just don’t share all my secrets, seriously!

        I’d MUCH, MUCH rather have something written on where I suck, and where I can improve and target.

        Cheers, Sam

        • No worries Sam. What I have planned is no secret.

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  • This is a very informative and specific post — totally helpful. I am picking out tips from you while using the SEO tool – ColibriTool that I am comfortable with. I know I am up to a great start!

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