How To Search For Keywords That Rank Organically
Keyword research is the most important component of your SEO strategy and it is imperative that you know how to search for keywords, the right keywords, for your page content. When attempting to rank on the search engines organically, that is by reaching page 1 by stealth rather than by paying to be there, it is important to bear in mind that it is not your website that is ranking but rather each individual page or post. This means that you need a different focus keyword for each piece of content that you write.
When you are first starting out with a new blog, these keywords need to have low competition from other websites and brands in the same niche, while at the same time having a high enough search volume, expressed in number of searches per month, to have a high enough potential audience to make writing a 2,000 word plus article worthwhile.
This is a time consuming but very necessary exercise if you want to rank high enough in the search engine results pages, or SERPS for short, to be visible to searchers and attract visitors to your web page. Finding the correct keywords is a skilled exercise that is often skimmed over by inexperienced bloggers, which is a big mistake. Don’t worry, it’s a skill you can learn as you go along and when you start seeing your content ranking on page 1 of the SERPs, you’ll find it all worth the effort. Patience and consistency are the keys to success for the blogger on a budget.
These keywords can be found using free keyword research tools and, executed the right way, will return you an almost as good list of keywords as paid for tools will, it’s just that it will take you up to ten times longer to find them. I will be going through both free and paid for methods of keyword research shortly.
But first ………
Let’s Be Clear On Exactly What A Keyword Is
When a person seeking information enters a term into a search engine such as Google, the word or phrase he or she types in is known as a keyword or keyword phrase.
Keyword phrases of up to three words are generally known as head keywords. Head keywords are generic terms that are searched for thousands, sometimes millions of times per month and are all but owned by the big brand businesses.
A novice blogger has little chance of ranking for any of these keywords until authority for their content and website has been established. This will take several months to accomplish by consistently publishing optimized content of quality value for the user.
Longer keyword phrases over three words long are generally known as long tail keywords. The search terms for these keywords tend to be made by a person looking for something more specific, making it much easier to decide on what exact content to write based on these keywords.
Long tail keywords are usually searched for between zero and one or two thousand times per month, though you may find the “holy grail” with a greater search volume together with the low competition. Big brands find these search volumes too low for them to bother with, which is good for us as it is our way into the search engine rankings. The many thousands of us independent bloggers can feed off of the leavings of the big brands.
Keywords With Intent
Previously, Google would rank content according to if the focus keyword of the content matched the keyword entered by the user. This led to the practice of “keyword stuffing”, where content writers would fill up an article with keywords at the expense of quality. These keyword-stuffed articles offered little value to the user.
Google became wise to this and, as their mantra is to provide the best possible experience for their users, began to penalize keyword-stuffed content and reward content that over-delivered on their user queries with higher rankings in their search results.
How does this affect you? Well, now Google is more concerned with the intent behind the keyword rather than the exact keyword itself. For Google to rank your content, it must deliver the answers their user was seeking when he or she typed in their search term. To outrank other bloggers and brands using the same keyword you must write better content than they are publishing, you must over-deliver on the answers the user was looking for.
TIP: To discover the intent of a keyword, type the keyword into a Google search an examine the content of the results on page 1.
How To Get Ideas For Keywords To Research
If you’ve read my post “Blog Niche Ideas – Finding Your Piece Of The Internet”, or if you have done any research on choosing a niche to base your blog upon, you will understand all about being too broad or too narrow with your choice. Well, now is the time to narrow down your niche a little more into around five to ten subtopics.
At the time you chose your niche, you must have had in your head some idea of what your preferred target audience would be. When brainstorming your subtopics, think about what your target audience would want to read about. Think about what they would be searching for and what questions they would enter in the search box. What do you want people to be looking for when they discover your web pages in the SERPs?
When you have decided on your subtopics (don’t worry too much, you can add to them or change them as your business develops), you are going to need to build a list of keywords under each of them. Think about the keyword phases your target audience may use relating to the subtopics you have just decided on. This is not going to be your final list, the purpose of this exercise is to build you a large number of keyword ideas to take into the final keyword research that will bring you your refined list of rankable keyword phases.
There are some good, free to use keyword suggestion tools available online that can help you with this initial list. You can easily find these tools with a Google search, but below are my own personal favorites. I’ve written a little more about them which you can access by clicking on the respective links:
You can also find some good ideas for keyword phrases by typing one of your subtopics into a Google search. On the results page, scroll down to the bottom and you will find Google’s list of related search terms, a service which can yield some promising keyword phrase suggestions.
All of these tools are fine for this stage of the research as you can quickly find a lot of keyword ideas. However, they either do not provide any information, enough information or any accurate enough information regarding search volume and competition level and are not suitable for the final selection.
When you have a lengthy list of keyword phrases under each of your subtopics, it is time to move on to the refinement stage to whittle your list down to the final selection that you will actually be able to base your content writing on with a good chance of ranking on page 1 of Google.
Refining Your Keyword Lists
I am now going to run through how you can refine your keyword lists using free tools which, as I said at the start of this post, is a perfectly viable method for you to use if you are starting out in this industry either on a tight budget or you don’t want to risk investing too much cash at this stage. After that, I’ll give you a peek inside a low-cost paid tool that can produce better, more accurate results in a fraction of the time.
Before I do that, though, here are some things to bear in mind as you sift through your lists:
- Keyword phrases must make grammatical sense. Google will see any attempt to use non-grammatically correct phrases as keyword stuffing and will penalize this with a low ranking. So discard any such keyword phrases.
- That is unless you can add punctuation to make the phrase make sense. For example, the keyword phrase “make money online blogs” doesn’t quite make grammatical sense as it is. Adding a comma in the right place can fix this: “If you want to make money online, blogs dedicated to a particular niche is a proven method.”
You would need to use your imagination somewhat as for maximum SEO the keyword phrase needs to appear in at least five different places and you can’t write the same sentence each time. Repetition is also punished by Google.
I would only do this if you absolutely cannot find a similar keyword phrase with high search volume and low competition that does make sense on its own.
- Just because you find a keyword phrase with high search volume and low competition, it doesn’t automatically follow that it is one to use for your blog.
Apart from having these qualities, the content that you intend to write for this keyword must correspond to what users expect to see returned in the results for this search term.
TIP: To discover exactly what people will expect to see in the search results, type the keyword into Google and take a look at the content of the web pages returned in the page 1 results.
- Although we are just looking for low competition keywords to use for now, after a few months when your website starts to gain some real authority, it will be possible to rank for some higher competition keywords with higher search volumes.
If you discover any such keywords now, to save you some time later it is a good idea to store these at the bottom of your lists for future use. Most keyword research tools allow you to download your list of suggestions in some saveable form.
Refining Your Keywords Using Free Tools
There is only one reliable way to find high volume, low competition keywords with any degree of accuracy using free keyword research tools. First, to find which of the keywords on your lists have a high enough search volume, you need to process them through the Google Ads Keyword Planner. Then the viable keywords that survive this research need to be further checked using the MozBar Extension for Google Chrome to assess the degree of competition.
It’s true that the Google Ads Keyword Planner has within its results a column headed “Competition” but this refers to the competition for the keyword to achieve impressions with Google Ads. Competition for organic searches is something quite different and best investigated using the MozBar Extension.
For both of these tools, you will need to open a Google account if you do not have one already. To read the statistics that you need using the Moz Bar, you will also need to open a free Moz account. Be careful not to be drawn into signing up for a Moz Pro account, you don’t need it and it’s around 149 USD per month. For organic search engine optimization, there are more efficient paid-for tools available at a fraction of the price.
I’ll cover opening up a Moz account after I’ve gone through using the Google Ads Keyword Planner.
Using The Google Ads Keyword Planner To Find High Volume Keywords
If you have followed my walk-through to open a Google account, you should now have a tab open with the opening page of Google Ads. If not, click here.
I know it’s a long and, while not too difficult, not too easy a process to get to the Keyword Planner tool, especially if you’ve had to open a new Google account also. While there is nothing wrong with using free tools, you have to expect some form of obstacle in the way, whether it is this long path to find the Keyword Planner or something else such as putting up with a lot of adverts.
So, if you’ve followed my get to the Keyword Planner Tool walk-through, you should now be on this page:
For our research, we are only interested in the “Discover new keywords” section. When You click on the little blue arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of this panel, you land on a page with this, larger panel:
- By default, “START WITH KEYWORDS” is selected. This is good, because this is the option we want.
- You can choose your language and whatever location you want your keyword statistic to come from. I prefer to select the default United States as this gives a good indication of worldwide performance.
- Type in a keyword from your list here. I’ve just randomly written in “Best SEO tools” just for demonstration purposes.
- Click the blue button to “GET RESULTS”.
You will then be taken to a page that looks something like this:
- So Google has returned 517 keyword suggestions ……..
- …….. For my seed keyword “Best SEO tools”.
- It’s worth having a look at this row, “Broaden your search” for any new keyword ideas ……..
- …….. but the information we are really interested in is in the “Keyword (by reference)” column ……..
- …….. and the “Avg. monthly searches” column.
- We can ignore all the other columns, including this, the “Competition” column, as they refer exclusively to Google Ads and have no bearing at all on organic SEO statistics.
The statistics for your seed keyword are always given first. You can arrange the remainder of the results from the highest average monthly searches downwards by clicking on the column header. Click on the column header again, and the keywords will rearrange themselves in ascending order of monthly searches.
We can see that my seed keyword “Best SEO tools” is searched for, on average, somewhere between 1K and 10K times per month. This is probably going to be too high for ranking a new blog, though it may be worth keeping on file for later use when the blog has gained some authority.
What we should be looking for is relevant keywords with average monthly searches of between 10 – 100 searches per month, and perhaps 100 and 1K searches per month. Over 30 up to 100 searches is ideal, and these will be found in the top half of the 10 – 100 range. (The searches within a range are placed in ascending or descending order, depending on how you have arranged the “Avg. monthly searches” column.)
Depending on the competition analysis to come, keywords of this volume are much easier to write content for that will rank on page 1 and actually start pulling traffic to your website than higher volume searches that have more competition for page 1.
As you can see here, I have highlighted a very promising keyword at the foot of 100 – 1K average monthly searches range, which means it is probably getting just over 100 searches per month. I can see myself fitting the phrase “best seo keyword tool” naturally into my headlines and content and the phrase is also relevant to my website’s content and audience. It is definitely worth taking over to MozBar for some competition analysis.
That’s just one keyword. You’re going to need to end up with around 100 keywords, distributed amongst your subtopics, that you can base your website’s content on. Bearing in mind that you may lose some in the next stage of the selection process, you need to find up to 200 viable keywords now in the Keyword Planner.
You may find it easier to download your results for further analysis by selecting your chosen keywords in the tick box on the left and clicking the “DOWNLOAD KEYWORD IDEAS” link in the top right hand corner. You will be presented with the choice of downloading as a .csv file or as Google Sheets.
Assessing Keyword Competition Aided By The MozBar Chrome Extension
From the Google Ads Keyword Planner, you should now have a total of around 200 keywords spread amongst your 5 to 10 subtopics. Don’t worry if you don’t match these numbers exactly, it’s just a guideline.
It’s now time to further refine these lists by assessing the level of competition. The most accurate way of doing this using free tools is with the help of the MozBar Chrome Extension. I should just say that the “Page Authority” metric employed by Moz as a measure of how likely or unlikely you are to rank above the competition is no longer the best indicator of ranking possibilities. This mantle has been taken by Majestic’s “Citation Flow” and “Trust Flow”. Majestic, however, does not have a free tool.
To assess the competition you would be up against for a particular keyword phrase, make sure the MozBar is switched on in the Google toolbar and then perform a Google search for that keyword. Scroll past the sponsored results until the organic results come into view.
The most important metric to assess is the average PA, or page authority, of the page 1 results. The closer this average is to 10, the more likely it is that you will have a chance of ranking for this keyword. In reality, you are probably going to have to go with keywords with a score of around 30 PA.
As you can see from the results of my search for “best seo keyword tools”, the average PA is going to come out somewhere in the high 50s, low 60s, which is quite high. It is very unlikely that I will rank for this keyword, so I would go back to my list and analyse another.
In the rare event that you do find a high volume keyword with a PA of around 10, using it for your content writing and ranking for it is pretty much a sure thing. However, if the PA figure is hovering around the 30 mark, rankability is dependent upon the other factors listed below.
DA, or domain authority, is not as important a metric as PA, but it is worth taking note of. If you cannot decide between two similar keywords that have the same PA and meet all the other criteria for a rankable keyword, then choose the one with the lowest DA score.
It’s the page that is focused on the keyword that is ranked, not so much the whole website. That is why PA, which relates to the page, is much more important than DA, which relates to the website.
3, 4 & 5
You have a good chance of ranking for a keyword up to 30 PA if the top 10 search results are not focusing on that exact keyword.
If in total from all 10 of the page1 results there is no or only one or two appearances of the exact keyword in the meta title, URL and meta description (3, 4 and 5 respectively in the screenshot above), then you can include this keyword in your final list.
Other Things To Look Out For
As long as you write some good quality copy focusing on your keyword that is of value to the user, you can probably outrank any free blog sites where the author does not have their own domain name, for example, Blogger, Tumblr, Wix or WordPress.com, and any answer type sites such as Answerbag, WikiAnswers and YahooAnswers.
So if the SERPs feature several of these types of websites, you may just have a viable keyword.
The Other Problem With Keyword Planner And MozBar
Apart from the issue I mentioned earlier about the amount of time it takes to carry out efficient keyword research with these two tools, there is another problem that may affect some of you.
Neither the Google Ads Keyword Planner nor the MozBar can be used on mobile devices. If you’re going to be doing most of your work on a desktop or laptop, then it is not a problem. However, if you are like me and do about 80% of your work on a mobile device, it can be a bit of a struggle.
Before I took the plunge and opted for a paid for keyword research tool, I got around this problem by doing my content writing for the 80% of work time I spent on mobile devices and making sure that I did my keyword research during the 20% of the time I spent on my Mac,
Now, due to recent improvements to another free keyword research tool, there is a way that you can obtain some search volume and competition information while using a mobile device.
How To Use UberSuggest For Your Research
This tool was formerly known as Ubersuggest.io until it was bought by SEO “guru” Neil Patel, who then greatly improved the information given out for each keyword search.
Although it gives more, we are just interested in the figures for the search volume and the SEO difficulty score. In the absence of the superior metric of the PA score, the SEO difficulty score will have to serve as a guide to rankability. The lower the figure, the better and definitely with the green “EASY” icon underneath.
To assess exact keyword usage by your competition, you will have to carry out a separate Google search to take a look at the meta titles, URLs and meta descriptions within the top 10 results.
Free Tools vs Paid Tools
|FREE TOOLS||PAID TOOLS|
|✓||Completely free, won’t cost you a dime.||X||Can be expensive, especially when starting out.|
|X||Can take several days to process keywords.||✓||Keywords can be processed quickly, often in less than a day.|
|X||Competition data is not straightforward – it has to be sought out.||✓||Competition data is a click of the mouse away.|
|🆗||Typically uses PA and DA to assess the strength of the competition.||✓||Typically uses Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow to assess the strength of competition.|
|X||Data is often not as accurate or reliable.||✓||Data is more accurate and reliable.|
|X||Often need to use more than one tool to obtain all of the data you need.||✓||One tool does it all and may also have some useful extras.|
While there is nothing at all to be frowned upon for using free tools to execute your keyword research and if you have no choice but to use the free tools, it’s much better than doing no keyword research at all. I personally think it is actually better to perform your initial keyword research sessions using free tools as a form of “apprenticeship”, a way of “learning the ropes”.
Ultimately, though, using free tools is a very time-consuming way of researching keywords, time that can be better spent writing content or connecting with your audience. After a few weeks of using free keyword tools, I think you will agree with me and figure out that it is worth investing in a paid keyword research tool that does all of the research for you in seconds that used to take you hours.
Long Tail Pro – The Pick Of The Paid Tools
Several months back, I got to the stage where I was finding keyword research using free tools overwhelming. It was eating into my content writing time and lowering my monthly output of articles for my blog. I decided it was time to look into upgrading to paid-for tools.
At first, I invested into an all-round hosting and training package that included free use of a version of the Jaaxy keyword research tool for not much more cash than I would have had to have paid for use of Jaaxy as a stand-alone. To be quite honest, it was a good deal.
But it was while researching an article for a now defunct website that I discovered that Long Tail Pro is a much better tool. At the time I didn’t want two monthly payments leaving my bank account, so I had to decide, Jaaxy plus the hosting and the training, or Long Tail Pro.
After much deliberation, I decided that Long Tail Pro was going to be much better for me moving forwards. It turned out to be the right decision. The ease at which I find the right keywords and analyze the competition has boosted my rankings and, subsequently, increased visitor numbers to my websites. Long Tail Pro, in my humble opinion, is well worth the moderate subscription fees.
The Main Points Revisited.
I appreciate that this has been a lot of information to absorb in one go, so here’s a brief checklist of the main points:
- Pay plenty of attention to your keyword research, it’s the life blood of your SEO strategy.
- Google ranks the intent of the keyword rather than the exact match keyword.
- You need to find keyword phrases with high search volume and low competition to rank high in the SERPs.
- If you find such a keyword it must make grammatical sense and be relevant to the content you are writing and relevant to your target audience.
- You need one such keyword for each of your content packed articles to focus on.
- Within your website’s niche, find five to ten subtopics that will interest your target audience, then find as many keywords as you can for each subtopic using the free keyword suggestion tools.
- Refine your keyword lists to find the high volume, low competition keyword phrases that will make you final lists. You can do this over a period of days using free keyword research tools or over a period of hours using paid-for keyword research tools.
- Perform your keyword research in batches, say, every three months or so. Overhaul your existing lists and also find new, relevant keywords.
I thank you for reading through all of this post. If you have any questions or comments about this post, keyword research or SEO, please use the comments box below.
Until next time.