Have you read a lot about keyword research, but still struggle with how to actually DO it? Then this post is for you! I take you step by step through how to do keyword research for your blog, plus provide you with the perfect tool to make keyword research simple – my FREE Keyword Research Spreadsheet! This easy to use spreadsheet calculates which of your post ideas are most likely to perform best on your blog.
One of the biggest SEO mistakes bloggers make is not doing enough (or any!) keyword research for their blogs.
Keyword research is vital if you want to see your blog grow and make money.
Because keyword research is all about finding out what your ideal readers are actually searching for and then providing them with that.
Keyword research is like market research for bloggers.
No business would get very far without doing market research and likewise it’s very hard to grow your blog if you don’t do any keyword research.
A lot has been written on the web about what keyword research is and a high level view on how to do it – but there is very little help available that teaches you practically, step by step, how to actually DO keyword research on your blog.
That’s what this blog post is all about.
I take you step by step through how to do keyword research in order help you write the right posts for your blog – posts that your ideal readers are actually searching for and posts you actually have a chance to rank for!
Still a little confused what keyword research actually is? Then I suggest you start by reading my beginner’s guide to keyword research for bloggers which explains more about what keyword research is, why it is so important and the different tools available to help you. Once you are comfortable with what keyword research is, you are ready to get started with this post!
Ready to start actually DOING keyword research? Download a copy of my keyword research spreadsheet and let’s get started!!
Step 1: Brainstorm ideas
Chances are, if you’ve been blogging for a while, you have tons of ideas for your blog already. In which case you can give yourself a big tick here and move on to step 2.
If you are new to blogging, or don’t really have much of a list of ideas, head over to this post where I share with you how to create 52 ideas for your blog in less than 2 hours
If you want to take your ideas generation to the next level, you should also check out my post on Google Search Console for bloggers, where I share how to find keywords that you are currently ranking for on Google – but that you don’t even have a post for yet!!
For the purposes of this tutorial I am going to share an example from my food blog, Easy Peasy Foodie. So here are my ‘ideas’.
I have just jotted down a few ideas for this example, but in real life you should be aiming for about 30-50 – more if you can!
Step 2: Type up your blog post ideas into the Keyword Research Spreadsheet
The next step is easy: simply type up those keyword research ideas into the Keyword Research Spreadsheet.
At this stage it doesn’t matter at all what order they are in (they are all going to get resorted shortly anyway!). Just type them in in any old order!
OK so here are my example ideas typed up into my spreadsheet
Step 3: Find a ‘benchmark’ keyword
To do this keyword research, we are going to be using a free tool called Google Trends. Google Trends doesn’t give you absolute values – just comparative values. So we are going to need a ‘benchmark’ keyword to measure the relative popularity of all your search terms against.
To find a ‘benchmark keyword’, go into your blog statistics (Google Analytics or Jetpack or whatever you use – it doesn’t matter here) and look at your best performing posts. Choose a post which gets good but not amazing traffic from search engines. If you are not sure, I suggest choosing your 10th most popular post.
Go for a post with an obvious keyword too – so, for example, if I look at my statistics, I see my Easy Chicken Korma is in 10th place. Easy Chicken Korma is a nice obvious keyword to use here.
For this exercise it really does not matter if your benchmark keyword is 9th place or 11th or even 12th – we are just looking to lay down a rough benchmark against which we can measure the popularity of other keywords you want to target.
Step 4: Type your benchmark keyword into Google Trends
The next step is simple: go to Google Trends and type in your benchmark keyword – in my case Easy Chicken Korma.
Make sure you also set the location parameter for whichever location you are targeting – for example, do you want to reach people who are only located in a particular country or do you want to target potential readers from everywhere? In which case select ‘worldwide’.
Step 5: Assess the search volume potential of your first keyword
Now go back to your spreadsheet and select the first idea you came up with – in my case: ‘Easy Tomato Soup’. Type that into Google Trends and see how it compares to your benchmark. Is it higher, lower or about the same?
You are going to give each new keyword idea a score for ‘search volume’, depending on where it appears on the graph.
If your new keyword idea has search volumes about the same as your benchmark keyword, give it a score of ‘3’. Give it a ‘4’ if it is a little above your benchmark and a ‘5’ if it is A LOT above your benchmark. If it is a little below your benchmark give it a ‘2’ and if it is a lot below your benchmark, give it a ‘1’.
So we can see from my example that Easy Tomato Soup is a lot higher than Easy Chicken Korma on the graph, so I am going to give it a ‘5’.
Put that number in the column on the Keyword Research Spreadsheet marked ‘Volume’.
Step 6: Assess the relative competitiveness of your first keyword
Now open up Google in an incognito window and type in your keyword – in my case ‘Easy Tomato Soup’.
Try to make a judgement about the competitiveness of that keyword based on the results you get. If the keyword is very competitive (lots of very well-known websites with pages which correspond exactly to that search query) then give it a ‘1’
Conversely, if the keyword is not very competitive (no good results for that search query at all), give it a ‘5’.
If it’s somewhere in between you’ll have to make a judgement call. Keyword research is unfortunately not an exact science and there is a lot of guesswork involved. But the good news is, the more you do it, the better you get at it!
Put that number in the column on my spreadsheet marked ‘Competition’.
So, in my example, if I type in ‘Easy Tomato Soup’, I can see that there are lots of recipes from well known websites, such as the BBC, Jamie Oliver and All Recipes – it’s pretty competitive!
However, I can also see that not all of these results have fully optimised recipes (star ratings, calories, cooking time etc.) and not all of these recipes are actually called ‘Easy Tomato Soup’. So, I think there is a small amount of potential here – I’m going to give this one a ‘2’. If I wrote a really good Easy Tomato Soup recipe and optimised it fully, there is a chance I’d get onto page 1, but it’s a slim chance.
Step 7: Repeat for all the keywords on your spreadsheet
Now all you have to do is repeat this exercise for all the blog post ideas / keywords you have on your spreadsheet.
Let’s do a couple more examples to show you that in practice…
Pressure Cooker Chicken Korma
Let’s first check out the search term ‘Pressure Cooker Chicken Korma’ in Google Trends…
Oh dear – this does not seem to have much potential. The search volumes are very low! This goes to show how doing keyword research is really important. I would have thought ‘pressure cooker chicken korma’ would have been much more popular – turns out I was wrong! I’m going to give this a ‘1’.
Let’s now look at the competition…
As you can see from this screengrab, this keyword is moderately competitive – some big names, but not as many. Most mention ‘pressure cooker’ but there’s one or two that don’t and there’s even one entry for ‘lamb’ korma – which is a terrible result for someone searching for ‘chicken’ korma. I’m going to give this one a ‘3’.
So here is what my Keyword Research Spreadsheet now looks like…
As you can see Pressure Cooker Chicken Korma comes out much worse than Easy Tomato Soup!
Now let’s try Chocolate Soda Bread…
Chocolate Soda Bread
So again we’ll first check out the search term ‘Chocolate Soda Bread’ in Google Trends…
As you can see ‘Chocolate Soda Bread’ has similar search volumes to ‘Easy Chicken Korma’, so I am going to give this one a ‘3’.
Next let’s look at the competition…
Oooh now this is really interesting. Although there are some big names here, none of the results seem to be for Chocolate Soda Bread! The top result is for Caramel Soda Bread and most of the rest seem to be for Chocolate Chip Soda Bread – not what we’re after! So actually it looks like there is very little serious competition for Chocolate Soda Bread – I’m going to give this a ‘5’!
So now my Keyword Research Spreadsheet looks like this…
Step 8: Sort your blog post ideas list by the ‘Score’ column
You will have seen as you filled in your Keyword Research Spreadsheet that the ‘Score’ column automatically populates with the total of the two scores (i.e. score for search volumes + score for competitiveness).
A keyword that has low search volumes and is highly competitive comes out as a 2. Conversely a keyword that has big search volumes and low competition comes out as a 10.
It doesn’t take a genius here to see that you should be focusing your efforts on blog posts which score 10 – these have the biggest potential for generating the highest amount of search engine traffic. It’s obvious really: these are problems a lot of people are searching for the answer for, but the current results are pretty poor (like with our Chocolate Soda Bread example).
All you have to do now is write an awesome blog post on that subject and optimise that blog post brilliantly for search engines and you have a very good chance indeed of appearing on page 1 – maybe even at position number 1!
So, to find out which blog posts you should be writing first, sort your ideas by the ‘Score’ column.
To do this select all the blog post ideas and scores as well as the column headings by clicking on ‘IDEA’ and dragging diagonally down and across to the score total for the last idea – 8 in our example…
Now go to ‘Sort and Filter’ in the top right and select ‘Custom Sort’ from the drop down menu. Choose to SORT BY ‘Score’, SORT ON ‘Cell Values’ and ORDER ‘Largest to Smallest’. Like this…
Click ‘OK’ and your Keyword Research Spreadsheet should now be sorted with the best/most promising keywords at the top (the ones with the highest search volumes and the least amount of competition) and the worst/least promising keywords at the bottom (the ones with the lowest search volumes and most competition). Like this…
Step 9: Write your highest scoring blog posts
The next step is easy (well, sort of!) all you have to do now is write a really good blog post on the subject of your highest performing keyword and optimise that blog posts for search engines.
To write a really awesome blog post on that topic, take a look at my article all about how to write the perfect blog post (for readers and search engines).
To learn how to optimise that blog post for search engines check out my post all about how to use the Yoast SEO plugin to optimise a blog post.
To take this strategy to the next level, use your highest scoring keyword ideas you have generated to populate your blog content calendar.
Obviously, you need to use a bit of common sense when adding your ideas to your content calendar: if your top idea is seasonal, it would make more sense to plan that idea into the right season! But in general, you should by planning in your best ideas first (those that scored 10) and then your ‘9’s and then your ‘8’s.
I suggest, certainly the first time you do this, you only plan the next 3 months of content. Then come back and repeat the process in 3 months’ time.
Things will almost certainly have changed in the intervening time – with some searches becoming more popular, or more competitive, and others less. Not only will external factors have changed, but you will also find that YOUR BLOG has changed, and YOU have changed – you be more savvy about keywords and keyword research AND you will have a whole new set of ideas!
Step 10: Rinse and repeat!
Once you’ve used up all your best keyword ideas (and hopefully seen a steady increase in search engine traffic as a result), it’s time to repeat the process again!
I suggest you repeat this process once every 3 months or so. In the intervening time, simply jot down any good ideas that come to you at the bottom of the keyword research spreadsheet. That way it will be much quicker to go through the process second time round – as you will already have done steps 1 and 2!
What kind of results can you expect?
This process, if done properly, will provide you with the keywords which have the most potential for your blog. In theory, if you do everything right, the blog posts you write for your level ’10’ keywords should start appearing on page 1 of Google for that keyword.
However, how well you do exactly will depend on multiple factors – how well you write that blog post, how well you do the rest of your SEO, how well established your blog is etc. etc.
But taking all that into account these are the blog posts that, if you write them, are most likely to perform best in search engines.
If you want to make sure you are doing everything else right, head over to my post on SEO for bloggers (which gives a really good overview of everything you need to be doing SEO-wise on your blog) as well as my post on how to set up the Yoast plugin properly! (You’d be surprised how many bloggers don’t have this set up correctly – and it can really affect your SEO negatively if you don’t set it up right.)
Don’t forget to download your FREE Keyword Research Spreadsheet!
Ready to get started? Don’t forget to download your FREE Keyword Research Spreadsheet. Put this into practice on your blog and get ready to watch your search engine traffic EXPLODE!!
Want to know more about SEO?
If you’ve enjoyed this post you may like to read more about search engine optimization. Here are some of my most popular posts on this topic…
- A beginner’s guide to SEO for bloggers
- How to do keyword research for bloggers
- What is Google’s BERT update? A guide for bloggers
- How to use cornerstone content to increase blog traffic
- FREE DIY SEO AUDIT
I’d love to help if you have any questions about this topic. Let me know in the comments below or over in my Productive Blogging Community.
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