You might think that the days of “Ask Jeeves” are over. But as it turns out, people still just want to ask questions and get helpful, straightforward answers back from search engines. In the early days of search engines, people asked questions using complete sentences, while the search engines (anyone remember Lycos, WebCrawler, or LookSmart?) spat out results based on keywords. And now, some two decades and robot learning years later, Google and other search engines are implementing search intent optimization, where they suss out the intent behind searches. Today, Google is better equipped than ever to respond to your grandma’s full-sentence queries or your keyword research questions.
As a business owner and content creator, your goals are closely related to these search trends. When you’re the one who answers the pressing questions of grandmas—as well as professionals, teens, and anyone else typing their queries into Google—your blog can really take off.
But when you have a specific keyword in mind and THEN form a blog idea around it, your post will perform better SEO-wise AND align with your searcher’s intent. (The holy grail!)
The key is pinpointing the long-tail keywords that will perform best for your industry or niche. Why long-tail keywords, you ask?
There are three main reasons:
1. Long-tail keywords relate more closely to the actual questions your audience is asking.
2. Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for.
3. Long-tail keywords target your specific audience, directing more relevant traffic to your blog.
Normal keywords are too broad to answer questions. For example, if your blog is about dogs, the keyword “dog,” aside from being ridiculously competitive, is almost meaningless. Unless you’re planning to write a Wikipedia-style article about dogs in general, you should focus on specific issues regarding dogs that your readers are likely to ask. People seeking to housebreak a poodle are probably not going to type “dog” into a search engine. They will, however, type in the long-tail phrase “how to housebreak poodle” or pose it as a question such as “how do I housebreak a poodle?”
Long-tail keywords, then, are relevant but less competitive phrases that your audience is searching for. It’s often more beneficial (and economical) to rank for long-tail keywords than to waste precious time and resources scrambling to rank for extremely popular or generic keywords. Long-tails are not only easier to rank for, but they’re also more specific and targeted. For example, if your blog post is about losing weight with a paleo diet, consider long-tail phrases such as “lose weight fast on paleo diet” rather than much broader keywords such as “paleo diet” or “lose weight.”
Let’s explore how to do keyword research and find blog ideas at the same time.
Finding Long-Tail Keywords that Answer Questions
#Realtalk: If you’re not answering a question for your readers, you probably have no reason to write a blog post.
Think of the specific questions your audience has and then plan both your keywords and your posts around them. Not sure what questions your readers are asking? Start by performing some basic long-tail keyword research.
One of the simplest ways to come up with good long-tail keywords is to type in a Google query. Using the above example, entering “housebreak poodle” with Google autocomplete brings up “housebreak poodle puppy,” “housebreak poodles,” and “housebreak toy poodle.” Note that, in addition to suggesting several keywords, this informs you that people use housebreak as both one and two words.
There are also a multitude of tools to help you with long-tail keyword research. Ubersuggest is a free site that’s useful for coming up with fast keyword ideas (and lots of them). Keyword Keg and Wordstream both offer free and paid tools. Another very useful site that can help you come up with long-tail keywords is Faqfox, which crawls different websites to help you find the specific questions your audience is asking online.
Your approach to keyword research will depend on your niche and the focus of your blog. Here are some additional ideas for researching keywords and blog topics.
- Discussion forums in your niche: Even if you don’t join and participate, look at topic headings and at the questions members are asking the community.
- Q & A sites such as Quora and Yahoo Answer: Joining Quora and receiving notifications on your main topics provides a regular stream of relevant questions to your inbox.
- Education sites such as Udemy: Popular courses indicate topics that people want to know more about.
- Amazon: Creating successful nonfiction books and popular blog posts require similar strategies. Best-selling titles are good for inspiring blog topics.
- Twitter chats: TweetChats are held on every imaginable subject. They’re usually filled with questions and answers, making them a valuable resource for mining keywords and blog topics.
Going Deeper With Keyword Analytics
Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, also provides a powerful resource for keyword research that can lead you to engaging blog topics. This is a free resource, but in order to use it, you need a verified Google account. Search Console integrates with Google Analytics to tell you which keywords are actually bringing traffic to your blog.
Moz Keyword Explorer is another tool that provides comprehensive keyword information. Simply “view all results” to see what long-tail keywords are pulling traffic. From there you can pluck out the keywords that you think would be most relevant to your readers and start fleshing out a blog post that perfectly meets their needs! (Please note you only get two searches per day for free.)
Keyword research is well worth the effort when it helps you to actually rank well for strategic keywords. In a recent Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) case study, we discussed how we went from not ranking at all to appearing on the first page of search results for the long-tail keyword “outsourced blog writing.” One of the biggest lessons from this experience was simply recognizing how easy it can be to rank for relevant and targeted keywords. In just four months and four blog posts, we started ranking for a long-tail keyword that, despite its low search volume, is valuable to our business. What’s valuable is that this keyword is highly relevant to our target audience and well within the scope of phrases they’re searching.
Don’t Stuff Your Keywords
Many content creators are guilty of keyword stuffing or shoehorning keywords into blog posts after they’ve been written—and readers can tell. But if you flip the script and start a blog post AFTER you have your keyword and idea fleshed out (with a title, even better!), it helps focus the post on JUST the intent without misleading the reader.
To make sure you never run out of ideas for blog posts, there’s extreme value in the exercise of creating a running list to which you’re constantly adding. Jot down ideas whenever they pop into your head. It’s crucial to have a column for keywords that correspond to your topics.
Do you need an editorial calendar with a tab dedicated to just blogging ideas? Download Verblio’s below!