When you do keyword research, you’re working to discover the actual words your customers use when they search for information about your content topic.
Smart keyword research will let you uncover great information about your audience — how they search, how they speak, and how they think.
Accurate keyword research helps you optimize your website for the search engines, and it also allows you to shape your content strategy. So it’s vitally important that you use smart tactics to help you do your research in a fast, efficient way.
Hopefully at this point, you’ve conducted some initial discovery sessions using the steps in my previous post on keyword research. You’ve chosen some initial keywords to look into, started to examine particular characteristics of those keywords in search stats, and you’ve started a list of closely related words and phrases that you can add to your initial list of target keywords.
Now, we need to take this process one step further.
Once you’re done with your initial keyword research, you’ll need to dig a little further in your investigations. You’ll want to see whether a phrase is trending up or down (over a certain period of time) and how your phrases are being discussed in social media communities.
This post covers the second half of my No-Stress Keyword Research System, including tips on searching for trends, looking at social media conversations, and discovering which of your competitors are ranking well for your targeted keywords.
Let’s get down to business.
Tools for spotting keyword trends
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of target keywords, it’s time to uncover some broader information about them. You need to get your hands on trending information, so you can find out if your keyword is trending up or trending down over time.
Here’s why it’s critical that you find out this information — you don’t want to pick a keyword, optimize your entire site for it, hang all your hopes and dreams on it — then discover that the popularity of searches for that word have been trending down for two years (and at the current rate, searches for that word will die out to practically nothing within a year or two).
You want keywords that are not only popular, but have been steadily popular for months (or years). And you want keywords that have a good outlook for the upcoming months and years.
To find out the whether your keywords are headed up or down in popularity, you can use Google Trends. This lesser-known tool allows you to see how often certain keywords have been queried over a specific period of time.
Google Trends even allows you to put in several keywords at a time, and runs a comparison of those keywords for you, so you choose the one that is the best fit for your and your business.
Run your possible keywords through the Google Trends tool, and take a good look through the data. Are your keywords trending up over time? Or trending down? If they are trending up, is this likely to be a short burst of interest in the topic, or does the topic have some staying power?
If you’re a Scribe user, this data is already built into your Keyword Research tool — just click on the Google Trends tab to view data on a particular keyword’s popularity over time.
Use trending information to eliminate some of your keywords and narrow down your target list, then move on to the next step.
Research your keywords in social networks
Your next step is discovering what social communities need and want, and how people talk about your topic when they’re having conversations with family and friends.
You will need to approach keyword research on social media networks slightly differently than you do for search — because users of search and social networks don’t necessarily use exactly the same language.
When people use search engines, they are generally looking for an answer to a specific question. Users on social networking sites are there to talk, share ideas, and interact with other users.
You can use social networking search tools to find out the answers to your burning questions about how people use your keywords in everyday conversations.
- How are people actually using your keywords and phrases in their conversations?
- What questions are they asking?
- Are they speaking negatively or positively about your topic?
- Are people using different language in their online networking communication, and if they are, do you want to change your target keywords to reflect the new language?
Repeat these questions over and over to yourself in the midst of your research, and they’ll take you further along the path to finding the right keywords.
Keyword research tools for social networks
I’ll give you a few of my favorite tools for social search here.
But the social networking world is changing so quickly that I encourage you to do your own research and find the tools that work best for you.
Twitter’s built-in search tool is one of the best in the biz. You can use their Advanced Search tools to look for anything you want (and include/exclude things like retweets, etc. so you only see the data that is really useful to you).
Dashboard Twitter tools like HootSuite and Tweetdeck also let you set up streams for particular keywords to help you continuously monitor the Twitter conversation on your topic.
Google+ has a great built-in search function, too. Use the search box at the top of any Google+ screen to run an initial search, then filter your results for groups of people or geographical location using the dropdown menus on the search results page.
Searching on Facebook is trickier than some of other social networks, but it does have a limited search function. Run your search using the search box at the top of any Facebook page (click the magnifying glass to run your search and bypass Facebook’s annoying habit of just serving up some random Page it wants you to see.) On the search results page, click on “Public Posts” to view the public conversation about your topic.
There are some great all-in-one search tools for social media, too. For one-stop shopping, try Kurrently or 48ers.
Of course, I highly recommend you check out Scribe. Our customers have easy-to-use social networking research built right into the Social Research tool, so you can look at search and social network research on your targeted keyword all in one place.
Check out your competition
At this point, after researching your initial lists using search and social networking tools, you’ve probably got a short, well-thought-out list of words you’d like to target for your website.
It’s not a bad idea to run your final list through the biggest search engines to see who is ranking for those terms. Google is a necessity, of course, but try Bing and Yahoo, too.
Check out the top three rankings for each search terms, and add notes about those sites to your research list.
Check out my article in this series on competitive research for more information on scoping out your competition.
Pick the winner(s)
It’s the moment of truth. You need to take a deep breath and decide on a few primary keywords that you’re going to target.
You can make an educated decision — based on all your keyword research — on what keywords you want your site to rank for. Write them down, put them above your desk, and then start the process of optimizing your site for those keywords.
For any one piece of content (blog post, article, etc.) , you want to pick one primary keyword to target.
For your entire site, pick three or four that will be your targeted keywords.
Need help optimizing your articles and website for those keywords? Check out our free report, How to Create Compelling Copy That Ranks Well in the Search Engines.
Go get ’em, detective
Keyword research doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it doesn’t have to be painful.
If you use the steps I’ve outlined here, keyword research (both in search and in social networks) is fairly straightforward.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this point, here’s the breakdown:
- Choose a few possible keywords to start your research
- Determine the popularity and competition score of each of your keywords
- Discover (and research) other related keywords
- Check the trending data on your keyword (is it trending up or down over time?)
- Do some research on how your keyword is being used in the conversations that are happening on social networks
- Take a deep breath, look at your final research results, and choose the keyword(s) you want to target for your site
Now it’s your turn to go through the steps of this keyword research process for your particular topic. Whether you’re writing about kickboxing, guinea pig care, dental hygiene, or professional organizing, this keyword research process can work for you, with just a little work, patience, and skill.
Our content research series continues …
This post is part five of my series on how to do effective keyword research as a content marketer. If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can read them right here:
- Research Ain’t Easy (But it’s Necessary)
- A 6-Step Content Marketing Research Process
- Become a Content Marketing Secret Agent with Competitive Intelligence
- A 3-Step Process for Painless Keyword Research
To get the full series, watch for future posts here on Copyblogger. If you’re not already subscribed, sign up to get new posts delivered straight to your inbox.