Keyword research is one of the most important types of research you’ll do throughout your content marketing career. It’s also one of the most difficult.

In this series, we’ve already discussed the fact that research isn’t sexy, glamorous, or fun. We’ve also talked about how you need to do research consistently — just like you need to work out in a consistent manner in order to see the real physical fitness results you want.

But there’s something particularly arduous about conducting keyword research. Many of the tools available are confusing and counter-intuitive. We don’t know what we’re supposed to be looking for, and we often don’t have a system in place for how to do keyword research effectively.

But, in putting this series together, I took a very close look at the process of keyword research, and I realized that there’s a better way to find the keywords I needed for my work … without tears, gnashing of teeth, or the desire for hard alcohol.

I always seem to get lost in the data of keyword research. I feel like all of the information I find is incredibly important, and I can’t figure out what to focus on and what to ignore.

Sometimes I make a half-hearted effort to research the keywords I should use in my content, then get aggravated and toss my lists aside in favor of doing less frustrating work.

In the next two posts of this research series, I’m going to give you the solution to your keyword research woes. I’ll teach you …

  • How to stay focused when doing your research
  • How to avoid getting bogged down in the stuff that doesn’t matter
  • How to take a shortcut that will save you tons and time and energy

Let’s get started …

Get focused on your goal

Your goal when conducting keyword research is to identify the topics that matter most to your target audiences, and then discover the exact language they use when they search for information and discuss their questions on social networking sites.

To reach that goal, you need a simple, effective system for keyword research. Follow these three steps to clear up the fog of procrastination and confusion that surrounds the process of finding target keywords for your content.

1. Choose possible keywords to start your research

What keywords have you been trying to rank for in the past?

What are some keywords and phrases you want to target in the coming years?

Remember that keywords are important not only for search engine optimization, but for your overall content strategy and product development, as well. It’s incredibly important (and therefore, valuable) to know the exact language that your audience uses when they describe their biggest desires and challenges in your industry.

What do you think your potential clients search for when they look for information in your niche?

What words and phrases do they use in social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ when discussing problems with their friends and families?

Takeaway: Gather a list of five or six keywords that you can use to begin your research, remembering that your initial list will be your best informed guess as to what your audience is using, and is just a starting point.

2. Determine the popularity and competition score of each of your keywords

Using keyword research tools like the Google Keyword Adwords Tool or Scribe, to check out the popularity of your keywords.

How many times do people search on each of your terms, in comparison to other search terms?

You want to target keywords that attract lots of monthly searches (at least 100,000 for global topics). Lots of searches mean that your topic is in high demand, and that people need information on that subject.

Next, take a look at how much competition you’re facing for each of your keywords. How many pages of web content (and how many websites) are specifically targeting your keyword? Are there large numbers of people actively trying to rank for that term? If so, you will have a harder time ranking well for that keyword.

A perfect keyword is one that has lots of searches (high popularity) and very few people actively trying to rank for it (low competition.)

Takeaway: Using keyword research tools (Google Adwords or Scribe), run the basic numbers on the keywords you want to use, or think might be beneficial to your goals.

3. Discover (and research) other related keywords

When you begin the keyword research process, your research tool will also give you a list of related keywords to consider.

Keyword tools select these keywords based on semantic search principles, to help you think of new keywords that may not occur to you in an initial brainstorming session.

Look at the list of suggested keywords, pick a few to dig into further, then run the same tests for competition and popularity that you ran on your original list of possible targets.

Use this process to deepen your research, but don’t fall too far down the rabbit hole — focus on finding high popularity, low competition keyword phrases.

Takeaway: During your initial keyword search(s) using the tools above, dig a bit deeper into related words and phrases that come back in the results. Run the same tests on these to determine usefulness and useability.

A powerful shortcut that works

The good news is that there is a simple, easy-to-use tool you can use to conduct all your keyword research.

You can even get access to all this information from within your WordPress dashboard. The tool is called Scribe, our complete content marketing software system.

While you can certainly find every bit of the keyword information you need by conducting research with online tools (both free and paid), the simplicity and power of Scribe makes keyword research completely painless — and even fun (one customer describes his experience with Scribe like he was playing a game).

The newest version of Scribe gives you access to incredible amount of information and data about keyword popularity and competition, and gives you suggested keywords that you may not have considered.

Scribe also analyzes every piece of your content (and your overall site) and makes suggestions for improving your search engine rankings.

Takeaway: Check out our demo of Scribe to find out more about everything it can do to facilitate smart, thorough keyword research.

This is part four of my content research series …

This post is part four of our series on how to do effective research as a content marketer.

The next post in the series covers the second half of my straightforward keyword research system, including tips on searching for trends, looking at social media conversations, and discovering which of your competitors are ranking well for your targeted keywords.

Check out the rest of the series here:

Author: Beth Hayden
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