Welcome to week 2 of Boot Camp for Bloggers! In case you missed us last week, check out Part 1.
Keyword Research & Content Development
Hello again bloggers.
Hopefully if you read last week’s post you have a solid foundation for your blog. If you haven’t you should probably go back and give SEO Boot Camp for Bloggers Part I a read and get your flabby, un-motivated website up to snuff!
Okay, that’s enough drill instructor for right now.
This second installment of SEO Boot Camp for Bloggers is going to teach you the basics of researching key terms you should write content around and how to write your content so the search engines will pick you up so more people can find and enjoy your blog.
I’m going to start with a little secret…
You are not Steve Jobs.
Huh? Okay, the blog instructor (not the same ring as drill instructor, hmmm) has lost his marbles.
Seriously though, after the death of the Apple icon Patrick Fitzgerald with The Huffigton Post wrote a great piece titled You’re Not Steve Jobs – And That’s OK. The basics of the post is that most entrepreneurs are nothing like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook and they don’t need to be because most venture capitalists and investors do not want that.
As a new or smaller blogger you need to have that same mentality.
You are not the Bloggess. You are not Perez Hilton. Whatever your niche is, there is probably a big time blogger that you admire, whether they are a mommy blogger, humorist or tech icon. The simple fact is…you are not them.
At least…not yet.
You absolutely can be, but when you are just starting your blog you have to keep in mind that when these bloggers write a post they have the authority in the search engines to rank for pretty much anything they want.
You, however, need to be smarter about what you write so you can rank in the search engine result pages (SERPS) and get noticed. How do you do this, you ask?
The answer, grasshopper, is keyword research.
Now, if you are writing a personal blog and only care that family and close friends read what you have to say keyword research may not be a huge priority (it really is, though…otherwise you could just send a mass email). If you have any desire to be read online, you need to decide what types of keyword phrases you are going to center your blog and your posts around. For the remainder of this post, I’m going to take you step-by-step on how I would start developing my blog.
1. Setting the Mood: Deciding on your Blog’s Theme
Every good blog has a general theme; a basic concept that most, if not all, of the posts and pages are about. This is where we get the labels mommy blog, celebrity blog, tech blog, etc. I’m a big fan of scotch, the delicious Irish whiskey. I even named one of my dogs Scotch when I was in the Corps because his fur was the color of the drink. That said, I have often thought it would be fun to start a blog about my love of scotch and my search for the tastiest varieties.
And that’s it. I just developed the theme for my blog.
2. Initial Keyword Research: The Tools of the Trade
Now that we know what we want the blog to be about in a general sense we need to figure out more specific key phrases that we want to write about. There are a number of free and paid tools that we can use to figure this out. For the purposes of this blog I am going to show you three free options that should get you more than enough information for you to write highly targeted posts.
- Competitive Research – Have you ever wondered how those pages on the top of the search results are getting there? Why not look at them and see for yourself? Often overlooked by people new to the search marketing game, competitive keyword research is a great way to figure out what you should talk about to get your own blog noticed. Follow these steps:
- Type a search into Google. In our case, we are going to do a search for “scotch whiskey”.
- Look at the first page of results. Start at the top of the page. The first thing we see on the page is Google’s “Related searches”. This is a great place to get ideas on what to write about because these are things that Google is blatantly telling us it finds similar. I could definitely see a post about “Single Malt Scotch” and “Johnny Walker”….blegh! (sorry). I could even see an entire blog page about different scotch brands (we’ll get to that).
- Click on the links to the pages and read the content. What is the main theme of the pages that are ranking well? It is important to remember that there are other factors that help pages rank well (links, social signals, etc), but if the search engines are doing their job this should be the most relevant content for the key phrase “scotch whiskey”.
- The Not-So Famous Tilde (~) – When writing content one of the biggest challenges is NOT using the same keywords over and over. Not only does this raise a red flag to the search engines, but it also makes your blog posts essentially unreadable. So, how do you figure out what terms are related to your keyword so you can write better content? The answer is the tilde (~). Simply type your search into the Google search bar with a tilde in front, like so: “~scotch whiskey” and hit the enter key. As you can see from the screenshot below, we could easily use “Scotland’s Whiskey”, “Bourbon” and “Whisky” without the “e”. Also, if you scroll down a little further you would see “Single Malt Scotch”. Now we’re cooking with gas, my friends.
- Google adWords Keyword Tool – A lot of bloggers don’t know about this one because there is normally not a lot of advertising for blogs. While the tool is a little more robust, you can still get plenty of great info from the free version, known as the Google adWords Keyword Tool External. After you type your search phrase into the “Word or Phrase” box and enter the Capcha the tool will return a ton of great information including related searches, the competition for the terms and the estimated monthly search volume as you can see in the screenshot below.
With the tools above you will be able to develop a pretty comprehensive list of keywords. Use a spreadsheet, such as Microsoft Excel, to keep track of the keywords you have found. To make your list even more comprehensive use a thesaurus or the synonyms feature on your document editor and place these on your list as well. Once you have your list together sort the list and remove any duplicates.
3. Grouping Keywords. Developing Content Ideas.
Now that we have our keyword list developed we will want to sort the list into themes. For our scotchconnoisseur.com blog, this could mean sorting the keywords into brand-related, scotch tasting, single malt scotch, single grain scotch, blended scotch, scotch regions – the list can go on and on. By grouping our keywords we can make a better decision on what terms we should use when writing a post or page for our blog. These lists can also help us as we research new ideas for new blog posts.
4. Post or Page? Which Keywords for Which?
A little earlier in the post we were talking about a page for scotch whiskey brands? You may be wondering how to decide between a page or a post for your blog. The simplest way to think about it is to ask yourself how permanent you want a content to be? A content about the different scotch brands out there probably has some staying power, and with a monthly search volume of 1,600 for the search “scotch whiskey brands” this would probably be a great content for a static (permanent) page.
Search volume should not be your only consideration on whether you want to utilize a key phrase on a page or post. If the keywords are highly important to your main concept and will help visitors understand your blog better then a page would be better. For posts, longer phrases, known as long tail searches, will usually work better and are easier to rank for, meaning that posts will have a better chance of ranking for them.
And that is content development in a nutshell. We could get more specific, but that may be confusing at this point. The most important thing to remember is to build relevant keyword lists, group them into themes and base your contents around the themes that will help your blog become an authority in the eyes of both the search engines and your readers.
If you have any specific questions be sure to leave a comment and stay tuned next week for the 3rd installment of the SEO Boot Camp for Bloggers series where I will be talking about optimizing images, videos and other blog elements that are often overlooked.
Jeff Loquist is a search engine marketer with more than seven years’ experience creating search-friendly content and optimizing websites for the search engines. He runs Zen Search Marketing, a Baton Rouge SEO Consulting, PPC management and content development company. Outside of search, Jeff enjoys making soap (yeah, you heard right…soap) and writing poetry and short fiction. Mostly, Jeff enjoys a good Scotch, a fine cigar and great conversation; pretty much in that order.