If you’re new to running a blog or website search engine optimization (SEO) can look and sound like black magic; do this, do that, and kazam – you’re #1 on Google.
In reality there is nothing too mysterious about it. Search engines (most prominently Google) have ways of indexing and ranking content. Search engine optimization is nothing more than a process of consistently applying certain best practices that help make it easier for search engines and the people using them to find your content. This process begins with making an SEO keyword list; a list of words and phrases used when referring to (and therefore in searching for) your product or service.
To do that, you’ll need to do a bit of research.
Tools for Keyword Research
To quote the very wise Joost de Valk, creator of the indispensable WordPress plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast, “Keyword research has one goal, and one goal only: to get you to understand how your visitors think and talk about your product or services, so you can talk to them about it in their language.”
When it comes to running a blog, your blog itself is the product and its main subject or subjects should serve as a good starting point for your keyword list. But since people don’t always search for a specific topic – but rather that topic within a certain context – it is necessary to expand that core list of keywords with useful related keywords.
I suggest using the Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool. After entering your main blog subjects into the search field (make sure to use the exact match type) you will be given a long list of keyword ideas with helpful data for narrowing down the ones best for you.
Make Competitive Decisions
As you can see in the screenshot below, I searched for the term “logistics” and I was given a list of 100 keyword ideas. Each keyword idea comes with a few stats attached: the estimated competition (high, medium, or low) and the estimated number of monthly searches.
A lot can be gleaned from this information. Generally speaking keywords that are highly competitive are profitable for people who have actual products for purchase. But as a blogger you’re after traffic and subscriptions. So for you the best bet (most likely) is to focus on low competition keywords with high monthly searches. The goal being to quickly rank higher on popular searches, resulting in more visitors/readers to your site, resulting in blog subscribers or possibly affiliate income and display ad clicks/impressions.
Practice Clustering and Focus on the Long Tail
Sometimes you simply cannot avoid highly competitive keywords. While not ideal, it’s not the end of the world either. Unless you’re developing a blog to “flip” or sell for a quick profit, most people blog about things they are passionate about and the plan is to be in it for the long haul.
Well if you are indeed in it for the long haul, there are proven ways to go about improving your search rankings – even for tough keywords.
First, there’s clustering. I already alluded to this earlier in the post but the point remains: pick a core word or phrase and then “surround” it with related words (preferably each individually lower in competition than the core keyword itself) and steadily work them in to regularly updated content.
Next, there’s something called “the long tail” of keyword demand. This is a term used to describe what may seem like a surprising trend in web searches: the vast majority of searches performed are unique searches that may only be conducted just a few times each day but accumulatively make up over 70% of all searches.
Here’s an example:
Lets say you blog about books. It’s going to be really difficult to ever, no matter how much time or money you spend, rank highly for the keyword “books”. You’ve got Amazon, Barns & Noble, Apple, Good Reads, and countless others to compete against.
But you may rank #1 for several “long tail” keywords such as…
“mint condition first edition of [specific book]”
“strange collection of tiny spanish children’s books”
“art books for budding illustrators”
And the list goes on.
For more reading on the subject of long tail keyword demand I highly recommend checking out the SEOmoz blog.
How to Implement Your Keyword List
This is the part that is easiest for me to explain and the hardest for you to do. Why is it hard? Because it requires consistent work.
Now that you have your list, I recommend organizing it and it’s various clusters in a spreadsheet, it’s time to concept great content (posts and pages) that effectively use those keywords to provide the highest possible value to readers. Once you have some solid, valuable ideas, publish often.
And once again, I cannot recommend using the free WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin enough.
Study Results, Pivot, Repeat
As you publish new content use google analytics to track the types of keywords people are using to find your site, pages and posts (study). Drop the keywords that are not working, continue using the keywords that are, and add new keywords to your list as they are revealed (pivot). And then keep writing great content (repeat).
If you have any questions or if there’s something you feel I should have mentioned, let me know about it in the comments below and I’d love to respond.