I’m passionate about SEO for blogging. You could say obsessed. And for good reason: mastering SEO is the ultimate free way to market your business.
Yes, there’s paid search (AdWords), Facebook advertising, networking, lead generation and all that stuff too… but those strategies are made even better with a solid SEO foundation for your blog.
It can be a tough thing to learn if you’re just starting out. I used to think it was just for the pros, or something techy marketing wizard types did to “growth hack” or disrupt or whatever other marketing buzzword is hot right now.
Until I became a techy marketing wizard type. 🌟
Okay, before we get to my awesome lesson (including awkward video walkthrough) showing you how to do SEO keyword research for your blog, I’m gonna tell you my SEO story. Buckle up.
About five years ago, I got a job in an ad agency. It was all very exciting for 25 year old me. They had leather couches, rum hidden in cabinets and worked with huge national brands that I was a fan of. What’s not to love, right?
Well, the truth about the downside of agency life would come crushing down on me years later, but at that moment, things were great. I was the fresh meat, the eager young intern-type ready to learn about the industry and take it by the horns.
I am marketer, hear me roar! Or something.
Why Bloggers Need SEO
I got the job because I wrote well (and hopefully still do in the present tense). But, I had no idea about SEO. I’d heard of it, but again, filed it away in my brain into a folder called Wizard Land: Do Not Attempt.
I had to learn SEO for my new job, and I was nervous. My boss at the time took me under his wing and promised me it was really easy, I’d learn it in no time. The first week of my new job, I eagerly read everything I could find on the internet about how to do SEO keyword research, write for SEO, get higher rankings, get Google to like me, etc.
The articles I found were good, but I was left with a feeling of, “So now what? What do I do with all this information?”
Well, my boss showed me in like an hour how powerful SEO can be. How it can help businesses, how to write for it without sounding like a total tool, and why keywords are only one small part of SEO.
“Whoa, what? There’s more to SEO than keywords?!” you might be asking.
YEAH. There is. It’s a big topic with lots of shady shit in it and some really stellar strategies too.
I wanted to cover just keyword research today because it’s the easiest place to start if you’re new to SEO, and it’s especially important for bloggers.
I’ll show you exactly how to do SEO keyword research below…
Related: 10 Blog SEO Tips and Tricks to Grow Your Traffic
Think of SEO keyword research as the peanut butter in a PB and J sandwich.
Your website is the bread.
Other SEO stuff, like off-page optimization, domain authority and link building, is the jam.
SEO keyword research is the foundational piece of it all. Without the peanut butter, all you have is two pieces of bread and a bunch of jam. Ick.
Blog SEO 101: Why You Need Keyword Research
Okay, to put it another way (ugh I’m hungry), without SEO keyword research, you can still have a website, you can have content. You can build your business. But, you won’t be able to organically attract new clients and readers who are looking for people like you.
And in this non-food context, organically means FREE, not like, Whole Foods SEO. 🙄
Why? Because keyword research tells you what people are searching for. And what people are searching for is what they want help with, and want to know.
You, as an expert blogger/content marketer, then write content that is about those topics and BAM, hello new readers. It’s really that simple once you get the hang of it.
Related: How to Start a Blog in Under 30 Minutes
In a nutshell: SEO keyword research tells you want your people want, and optimizing your content for those keywords gets your website found by those people.
Sound good? YAAAASSS.
Let’s get started.
When to Do SEO Keyword Research
Pop quiz: when is the best time to do SEO keyword research?
If you answered, after your blog post is already written… YOU FAIL. NO.
The best time to do keyword research is before you even start writing.
Whaaaat. Yeah. You want to have your keyword picked out before you write your post, so that you can naturally weave it into your content without sounding like you’re trying so damn hard to use it.
Here’s an example. The keyword for the following two paragraphs is “blog virtual assistant”. See which of the two paragraphs sounds better to you…
Number 1: “I’m a blog virtual assistant who can help you with tasks like posting content, answering emails and scheduling social media posts. My blog virtual assistant services are priced per project, so contact me for a free custom blog virtual assistant services quote. I’d love to be your next blog virtual assistant!”
Number 2: “I’m an experienced blogger, content marketer and business manager who is passionate about helping you succeed in your online business. As a blog virtual assistant, I can free up time for you by handling the day to day tasks, so you can focus on creating new products and innovations in your business. Contact me for a free quote for my blog virtual assistant services, and let’s make some money, honey!”
By knowing your keyword from the beginning, you can craft a normal human sounding message, like paragraph two, while still being SEO optimized.
It’s a lot harder to work in keywords later, and still make them sound good with your sentence structure and content.
How to Do SEO Keyword Research
Hopefully you now see the value of doing research before writing! It will save you tons of time too, not having to go back into content and try to work in sneaky little keywords.
So let’s get down to brass tacks and learn how to actually do the research, mmkay?!
Step 1: Sign up for a free Google AdWords account. You don’t need to buy any ads, just signup for an account. This will give you access to the tool you need to do keyword research, for free.
Step 2: Login to AdWords, and open up Keyword Planner. Here’s where to find that.
Step 3: Click on Get Search Volume Data and Trends.
Step 4: Enter some keyword ideas into the box, one per line. Just enter anything that comes to mind! For example, these were my keyword ideas for this post about SEO keyword research.
You can edit the countries you want data for as well, if other than US and Canada. Click the edit icon to add or remove countries/areas to target.
When you’re done, click Get Search Volume.
Step 5: Now you can evaluate which of your keyword ideas is the best for your post. In other words, which one has the most people searching for it.
You can enter new keywords up in the top box to find more data.
In the bottom section, it lays out each keyword with an Average Monthly Searches column. This number is how many people, on average, in your target countries search for that phrase each month. Pretty neat, huh?
Obviously… you want to pick a keyword with a high number of searches. 😉 That’s it! Now you have your SEO keyword.
BONUS! (Awkward) Video Walkthrough of How to Do Keyword Research
If you watched my first walkthrough video on Google Analytics, then you’re in for another hot mess treat of a video with this one! I shot it, edited it and threw it up really quickly. I’m still experimenting with video, and this is the second one I’ve ever made.
Laugh at me if you want, but I think video helps with learning subjects like this a lot! Hey, I laugh at me too… I know these videos are awk to the extreme.
Download the Free Blog SEO Checklist
Want my best blog SEO tips all on a handy checklist you can print out and go through each time you write a post? Aww yeah! Click the image below to download my best SEO tips, and how to optimize your blog posts!
How to Use Your SEO Keywords in Blog Posts
So now you have your keyword… here’s what to do with it!
First, well, write your post. Duh. I like to just get all my ideas out and then edit later, refine the content. You can download my personal blog writing process from my sweet ass resource library if you like! Ya, I’m gonna make you subscribe to my list to get it, sorry. Or just secretly click right here without subscribing and don’t tell anyone. Shh.
There’s a few things to consider to ensure your new blog post is SEO optimized:
- Keyword density (i.e. how often you’re using it in your post)
- Keyword locations (i.e. where you’re using it in your post)
- Keyword variations (i.e. related keywords and terms, explained below)
Density just means how often you use it, and is calculated by your overall word count.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for about 1.5% keyword density, calculated like so:
(The number of times you’ve used your keyword / Total number of words in your post) x 100
There are also some great free online tools to calculate this for you by simply copying and pasting your text, like SEOBook.
It’s very important to use your keyword in certain locations throughout your post. Those are:
- In your post title
- In the URL
- In the first 100 words
- In at least one heading tag (h1, h2)
Sometimes known as long-tail keywords, or related keywords, keyword variation just means including some other phrases related to your target SEO keyword.
In plain English, it means talk like a normal person.
So if your keyword is “grow your blog”, you don’t need to always say “grow your blog”. You could say, “grow your audience”, “grow a blog”, “blog growth”. Google is smart enough to know those terms are related. It’s a great way to capture more people, as some might be searching for those specific terms too.
And, it helps you not sound like a robot (remember the paragraph comparison example above?). If you just repeat “grow your blog” throughout your entire post, people are gonna think that’s weird, or know you’re just pushin’ it for SEO. That ain’t cool, babes.
So change it up, use different phrases, as long as you’re still using your main keyword in the important locations mentioned above.
When you’re not sure what to do, just forget about the “rules” and write like you’d talk to a friend.