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The importance of using keyword research to optimize your blog posts is vastly overlooked and undervalued in the wide world of blogging. I would dare say that most bloggers don’t even know what keyword research is. How can they possibly know how to use it to optimize their blog posts if they don’t know what it is? One very basic function of keyword research is to find out how often a certain search term is being searched for in the search engines (with Google being by far the most popular). You can then use that information to optimize your blog post by determining exactly what to write about and how to word it within the post.
Newbie Blogging the Dumb Way
When I started “serious” blogging a little over a year ago, I knew absolutely nothing about search engine optimization, the value of links, or even what a keyword really was. I was blogging in the personal finance niche and I wrote posts on completely random subjects. My tactic for titling the posts was simply to make them as catchy or witty as possible in hopes that somebody stumbling by might get hooked and click through to read more. I wasn’t even sure who I was writing the posts for. Most of my traffic seemed to be from other PF (personal finance) bloggers who visited my site mainly because I visited and commented on theirs. This type of traffic is good, for various reasons, but there is only a limited supply. The whole world isn’t blogging about personal finance. But, the whole world IS searching Google for various topics. I was getting small amounts of traffic to my site from Google, for the craziest and most obscure search terms. It was all completely random though and I had no idea that there were things that I could be doing in order to get more Google traffic.
So, how do you get free traffic from Google (or other search engines) to come to your blog or site? <— Click to Tweet
Start With Keyword Research
I first learned about the importance of keyword research when I quit PF blogging in order to pursue building small niche sites. Keyword research is the absolute most important factor to consider when deciding what to build a small niche site about. Most teaching about keyword research throughout the internet revolves around how to use it for building niche sites. But, I came to realize that the average blogger or writer could also be using it for search engine optimization purposes on their existing sites.
When considering how to use it for blog post optimization, the two main things you need to focus on with keyword research are the number of searches your keyword gets per month and the top ten results in Google for your keyword. The number of searches per month is important for obvious reasons. If you can get your blog post to rank highly for a keyword that gets less than 10 searches per month, well, what good is that? Great! You’re #1 on a Google search results page that gets no searches. This will not bring any new traffic to your site. I would say the absolute minimum number you should even consider for this type of keyword research is 100. The higher the number the better. But, keep in mind that higher search volume keywords tend to have higher competition. If the top ten results for a keyword are high PR sites or sites that are built entirely around that keyword, it is less likely that you will be able to get one blog post to rank higher.
Getting to the first page of Google (the top ten search results) is the number one goal and the main purpose for all keyword research. The vast majority of clicks through to web pages, from searches, come from sites that are listed on the first page. Think about it from your own point of view. When you do a random search on Google, how often do you look past page 1 of the results before clicking through to another site to find what you are looking for?
How To Do Keyword Research – Dumb Way vs. Easy Way
I am not going to go into great detail on exactly how to do keyword research in this post. However, I will tell you that there is an easy way and a hard way. I formerly did all of my keyword research the hard way because I am stubborn and it was free. This is why I originally called the blog – Dumb Passive Income. I was determined to succeed by doing things the dumb way and not using any paid tools. When I was using keyword research to build small niche sites, I wrote in detail about it here, here and here. By far, the most challenging part of doing keyword research the hard/free way is figuring out how to analyze the top ten search results in Google. I still don’t think I had that part completely nailed down.
Now for the easy way. Just like anything else in life, there is a price to pay to get the easy way. Throughout my months of trying to build small niche sites, I kept hearing and reading about two keyword research tools available for purchase; Long Tail Pro and Market Samurai. Both tools are highly touted by website builders and make the entire keyword research process much quicker and easier. Both tools have plenty of training videos that show you all the ins and outs of doing keyword research and how to use each respective piece of software. They also both have free 10-day trial periods (as of the writing of this post).
After weighing all of the options, reading opinions of others and watching a few convincing videos – I ultimately decided to purchase Long Tail Pro. The simplicity, speed and ease of use were big selling points for me as compared to Market Samurai. Not to mention, a new version of Long Tail Pro – Long Tail Platinum – was being tested in a free beta version for all owners of Long Tail Pro at the time I purchased it. Long Tail Platinum completely takes all the guess work and complexity out of the hardest part of keyword research for me – the first page analysis of Google’s top ten results. When I saw how it worked, I was sold on the spot, despite the fact that I’m not even trying to build small niche sites anymore. I immediately saw how powerful and valuable this tool would be for me to use just for blog post optimization. Check it out for yourself by clicking through to the sales page for Long Tail Pro (affiliate link).
Update: Recently released by Long Tail Pro owner and creator Spencer Haws – the free beta period for Long Tail Platinum will end Dec. 11th, 2012. On that date, a reasonable monthly cost (TBD) will apply for users who wish to continue to use the Platinum features. All original features of Long Tail Pro will always be available for the one-time initial purchase price. I personally plan to pay the monthly cost. I believe these platinum features are THAT good and valuable and I will be able to use them to drive all kinds of free Google traffic to my sites.
Another update (June 2013) – I’ve been a paid monthly subscriber to the Platinum version of Long Tail Pro ever since it came out last December. I swear by it and totally believe that it more than pays for itself by helping me find low competition keywords to help drive traffic to my blogs and niche sites.
Keyword Research for Blog Post Optimization
The best way to demonstrate how to use keyword research for blog optimization will be to give you a quick example. My wife walked into the room with our baby daughter while I was working on this post and I asked her for a topic to use for my example. Any topic. She said, “baby spit up,” because our baby spits up a lot. To show you the dumb way vs. the easy way, I’ll give examples from both of the tools I am familiar with. Here is a screenshot for some of the top results in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool for Exact match results for baby spit up. Among the top results here, you can see that there are only a handful that I would even consider using based on their monthly search volume. The keyword research is not done at this point though. I still need to click through to the search results page for each keyword and analyze whether or not I think I could get my article to rank higher than the top 10. For the inexperienced keyword researcher, this is pretty much a guessing game.
Now I want to show you how Long Tail Platinum takes all of the guesswork out of this step. What I am about to show you was not available in the original version of Long Tail Pro. It is a new feature that is only available in Long Tail Platinum. At the time of the writing of this post, Long Tail Platinum is in beta testing and is available free for all owners of Long Tail Pro. The cost for Long Tail Platinum has not yet been released. To watch a video replay of a webinar explaining Long Tail Platinum, put on by its founder and creator Spencer Haws, click here.
One of the advantages of using a tool like Long Tail Pro is that you can set filters to customize your results however you like. For this example, I decided to put 500 for minimum monthly searches for both global and local. I already knew what the results looked like in the Google Adwords tool without being able to set a filter. I just wanted to see what the results looked like using 500 for minimum monthly searches.
Here are what the results look like in Long Tail Platinum. It came up with 24 keywords. I’m only showing the top 6 here.
The columns shaded in gray are only available in the new Long Tail Platinum. The column on the far right, the Avg KC (Keyword Competitiveness), is the new feature that makes all the difference. This average is taken from the top ten results in Google. It doesn’t spit out a number automatically for every single keyword generated. You have to hit the Calculate button for selected keywords that interest you. It then takes only a few seconds to generate the Avg KC number. In this example, I selected the top two because they matched some of the relevant results from the Google Adwords tool.
Here is a screenshot of a scale showing exactly what these numbers mean.
The keyword, why do babies spit up, has an average KC score of 32. This tells me that some of the top ten results will be higher, and some will be lower. Anything under 30 is something I feel I have a chance to beat, so I investigate further. By clicking on that result in the Long Tail Platinum software, I go to the Competitor Analysis page. This brings up the top ten results in Google and a whole slew of relevant numbers and stats. It looked like this for the keyword, why do babies spit up.
This page shows which of the results use the keyword, or portions of the keyword, in the URL or the title by showing them in bold. The slew of other stats that are relevant include, Page Authority, Page Links, Juice Page Links, Domain Authority, mozRank, Page Rank and Site Age. The column that interests me the most though is the one shaded in gray (again, only available in Long Tail Platinum), the Keyword Competitiveness (KC) column. Just by looking at this column, I can see that 6 of the top 10 results have a KC score under 30! I think I could get a blog post to rank in the top ten for this keyword!
Also, look at the Juice Page Links for results 5,6,7,9 and 10. They all have 3 or less. It wouldn’t be hard at all to write a properly optimized blog post around the keyword, why do babies spit up, and get a few good quality links.
Using the Keyword to Properly Optimize Blog Posts
This post is long enough, so I’ll make this section short and sweet. Here is where you should be using your exact keyword:
- 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
It is not absolutely necessary to use a paid tool, such as Long Tail Pro, but it certainly makes the entire process that much quicker and painless. Not to mention the accuracy of your findings is more certain. I know for me, purchasing this tool has absolutely shed some light. I formerly did everything the free and dumb way. I now see everything I was missing out on. I could have saved a ton of time and I would have made a lot less mistakes if I had just purchased a valuable tool like this in the first place.
If you are an average blogger who already has a decent following and readership to your site, you may be thinking that this whole keyword research thing isn’t for you. That’s fine if you don’t want to take a few extra minutes each time you write a blog post to try to maximize your Google traffic. I’ll take the free extra traffic every time. You never know which random searchers are going to land on your blog and become regular visitors and/or subscribers.
I hope this post (one of my longest ever) is a helpful resource to you in learning how to use keyword research to optimize your blog posts for Google and other search engines. I would love to hear your thoughts about this strategy in the comments section below.
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.
Long Tail Pro – Keyword Research Tool – sales page
Long Tail Platinum – Webinar replay by Spencer Haws on NichePursuits.com
Image from Flickr: The droids we’re googling for by Stéfan