When learning how to do keyword research for your blog, you may be a little nervous that it’s too technical. However, you’ll find there are many free and paid tools that make keyword research super easy to study your competition. From there, you can create more valuable blog posts based on keywords they’re ranking for.
1. Understand What Makes a Great Keyword
Using keywords in your blog enables search engines to suggest your content when a user searches for particular words and phrases. You’ll get traffic if you’re using keywords that a lot of people search for and search engines view your blog as an authority on the subject. For that reason, the keywords you choose for your blog posts need to be rankable, relevant, and monetizable.
When choosing a keyword, you want one you’ll be able to rank well for. Let’s take, for example, the keyword “Amazon,” which gets 87 million searches per month. The first page of the SERP is dominated by online behemoths like Amazon.com, Facebook, and Twitter so unless you’re a blog with as much domain authority as these sites, you’re not likely to compete well in SERPs.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to target the Amazon rainforest, the Amazon River, or the mega online retailer: it’s going to be super difficult to rank highly in search engines for this word. However, that’s not to say you can’t ever compete with larger sites. Niche sites writing only about coffee filters will probably rank higher in SERPs than BuzzFeed writing about coffee filters.
Similarly, you don’t necessarily want to rank for keywords people aren’t even searching for. If there’s one person per month searching for “pink spotted zebras,” it’s not worth the effort trying to obtain that keyword compared to one that gets 10,000 monthly searches.
Likewise, when choosing keywords to target in your blog posts, you must also select words and phrases that are relevant to your niche. For example, if your niche is travel, you probably shouldn’t target keywords about dentistry (unless of course, you’re writing an article on medical tourism). Instead, target keywords like “what to wear in Kenya,” and “best personal credit cards for travel rewards.”
You don’t have to monetize every keyword you use for blog posts. Instead, some keywords only need to focus on serving your audience rather than selling to them. For example, you can use keywords to educate, fill a social need (for example, informing your community about resources for low income families), influence decisions, or shine light on a societal problem.
However, you do want the majority of your content to be monetizable. To achieve this, you need targeted traffic that you can monetize with display ads, your email list, and affiliate offers. For this reason, you should choose targeted keywords—like “best affiliate marketing software”—that are easily monetized. Alternatively, an example of a non-targeted keyword is “quotes about travel.”
In the example above, you can provide an affiliate link to each of the affiliate marketing software suggestions you make. In the non-targeted example, there’s not really an opportunity to make money. Even if you’re not sharing content because you want to make money blogging, making enough to cover blog expenses is pretty satisfying, right?
2. Study Your Competition
The best way to begin keyword research for your blog is to examine your competition. When you can target their keywords with better, more in-depth and unique content, your chances of out-ranking them skyrocket. Note that this goes against typical keyword research advice, but it’s a large ingredient to our secret sauce at Fit Small Business. It’s exactly why we get millions of page views every month without being a niche site.
Determine Your Domain Rating
Before you look at your competitors, determine your blog’s domain rating (DR). Your blog’s DR is determined by the quality and quantity of other websites that link to your website—also known as backlinks. The higher your DR (on a scale of zero to 100), the more likely it is that your site will rank higher in SERPs.
How to Know What Domains to Compete With
DR of Sites You Can Compete With
Identify Your Competitors
Chances are, you probably already know who your competition is. However, we want you to focus on competing blogs of similar size and scope. For example, if you’re a smaller lifestyle blogger, you probably don’t want to compare your site with Lauren Conrad’s blog. A great way to determine competition within your niche and DR is to use keyword research tools like Ahrefs and Alexa.
Ahrefs offers a suite of SEO tools that enables users to research and manage keywords, analyze competitors, and track rankings. After signing into Ahrefs, input your URL in the Site Navigator search tool. On the left menu, select “competing domains.” Here, you’ll find a list of competitors to start with. If you click on the down carrot next to the name of each competitor, you can view the blog’s DR.
If you have an enormous number of competitors on your Ahrefs list, use its Batch Analysis tool to sort by DR rather than clicking through each one-by-one. Then, remove any competitors that a DR that’s too high for you to compete with.
You can also use Amazon’s Audience Overlap Tool, Alexa, to find similar sites. This tool looks at keyword overlap and determines shared audiences between each blog. If you have a brand-new blog without an audience or any keyword data, use the URL of a smaller blog within your niche to get started.
Similarly, if you are changing niches or aren’t satisfied with the list of competitors, enter your desired competitor’s URL in the search tool. This way, when you start targeting keywords, you’ll have a list that was taken directly from your desired competitor.
Look at Top Pages and Keywords
Now that you know who your competitors are, you can identify the top pages and keywords for each of those blogs. First, use the Ahrefs Site Explorer tab and enter the URL of each competitor into the search field. From here, click on the website’s top pages to view the organic search traffic for each.
There are probably a lot of pages here, so you’ll need to sort them. The first column will say “traffic”—make sure the little arrow next to that word is pointing down to ensure the blog posts getting the most traffic show up first. These are the pages you want to pay attention to so export this list and work from it when developing your content strategy.
You should also export each competitor’s top organic keywords, which can also be accessed from the left hand menu. Before exporting, sort these keywords by volume so you have the top keywords first. Because you’re downloading a lot of data, this is also a good time to create folders to organize SEO work on your desktop.
3. Develop a Content Strategy Using Keyword Data
Now that you have a list of your competition’s top pages and keywords, you can use that data to create your blog’s content strategy. Begin by highlighting keywords on your exported spreadsheets that have high search volume and low keyword difficulty. Any keyword with a difficulty less than 10 is a good place to start.
From there, create a new spreadsheet that includes top keywords, the corresponding keyword difficulty and volume, and an idea for a blog post title. You don’t have to address every single keyword for each competitor on your list right now—that could take months—instead, start with 10 for now.
As you build up this list of blog post ideas, patterns in content will start to emerge. Chances are, you can categorize each blog post into a section of your blog’s menu. For example, if you’re a travel blogger you might see packing guides, gear reviews, trip inspiration, and tip lists. Try to pick a blog post to write from each of these menu items so you’re not writing 10 blog posts in a row under one menu category.
The idea is to create a “cluster” of related content that shows you’re an authoritative source for your niche. From there, you’ll have a virtually endless supply of article ideas.
How to Do Keyword Research For Existing Content
If you have a lot of existing content on your blog, you can optimize it by identifying keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t. To do this, use the Ahrefs Content Gap tool. After you add your competitor’s URLs and compare them against your blog’s URL, the tool will create a long list of keywords that your competition ranks for so you can target those keywords.
When using the Content Gap tool, try to target keywords where your competition ranks within the first 15 positions on a SERP; this is the blue number listed under “highest position.” Anything further down the SERPs isn’t all that relevant because most people aren’t going to click to the second or third page on a search engine. Once you identify the most relevant keywords, update your current blog posts with those new keywords.
Use An On-page SEO Checklist
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website so that it ranks well on SERPs. Use this checklist to increase a blog post’s search visibility before you hit publish.
- Use the primary keyword somewhere in the post title
- Include the primary keyword within the first 200 words of the post
- Keep the URL slug short and to-the-point
- Support facts by linking to other relevant articles on your blog and to other websites
- Use an enticing meta description
- Optimize image titles and alt-texts so they are relevant to the primary keyword
- Insert related keywords throughout the post without keyword stuffing
- Ensure the blog post is the most authoritative on that topic so readers don’t need to look elsewhere for their answer
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I need keyword research if I’m a new blogger?
One of the fastest ways to grow your blog’s authority is to show up at the top of search engine results pages. In order to achieve this level of visibility, you need to do keyword research. For that reason, you shouldn’t wait to do keyword research until you’re an experienced blogger.
Does the length of my blog post matter to SEO?
Search engines seem to prefer blog posts with at least 2,000 words. There’s a caveat to this, though—the words you write can’t be fluff. It has to completely explain the keyword the reader is searching for. If you can succinctly explain a query in 500 words, you’ll fare better than the blogger who takes 3,000 words to say the same thing.
How long can it take a new post to rank in SERPs?
It can take a good six to 12 months for a new blog post to start ranking in search engines. However, if you have a high domain rating and there isn’t a lot of traffic for a particular keyword, you may find your blog ranking much more quickly than that.
Why Keyword Research Matters
You can drive traffic to your site using social media, email lists, and search engines. However, while social media can definitely bring traffic to your site, the platforms come and go and you don’t want to build your entire traffic strategy on something that might not exist in two years. Likewise, building an email list is a great way to bring in readers that already know, like, and trust your content—but constantly nurturing your email list can be time-consuming.
On the other hand, people turn to search engines to answer their questions every day. Google receives approximately 63,000 search queries per second and any of the top results on the search engine results pages (SERPs) are blogs. Your goal as a blogger is to show up on the first page of the SERPs for the phrases and topics you cover in your blog posts. If you’re a blogger, you need to do keyword research to determine what users are searching for.
Optimize Your Blog Before Keyword Research
Before you dive headfirst into keyword research, you should take steps to best position your blog for optimal search engine visibility. Much of this work takes place before you ever launch your blog to the public. This necessary preparation includes making your site fast, building easy site navigation, and providing a great user experience.
- A fast site: Use a plugin that reduces the size of your images for faster page load time. However, you should also avoid using too many plugins, as that can slow down your site.
- SSL certificate: An SSL certificate adds a little locked padlock to the address bar when someone visits your blog and tells others you protect their data when interacting with your blog. You can get this certificate from your web hosting provider.
- User-friendly navigation: Your blog’s menu needs to be uncluttered and easy-to-navigate. Try to simplify the user experience by limiting your menu to three to six items.
- Defined niche: While you can still rank in SERPs with a broad niche, it’s far easier to do so when you’re the go-to authority in your specific niche. Accomplish this by creating a well-defined niche that you cover extensively.
- Great user experience: Avoid having aggressive ads and pop-ups that get in the way of your content. Your blog should also be mobile-friendly.
- An attractive blog: Design matters, so choose a blog theme that leaves a good impression and keeps your content front and center.
Whether you’re a brand-new blogger or someone with years of content on your site, you can learn how to target your competition’s keywords to create content your audience searches for. Tools like Ahrefs and Alexa make it really easy to do this keyword research without needing any technical knowledge.
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