Does any of this sound familiar? You heard that longform content matters and blogs are powerful tools for organic website traffic, so you spent hours writing posts. Except your website still feels like a deserted island AND now it feels like that time was wasted because no one is seeing any of it. If you’re certain the content is valuable and high quality, but you aren’t seeing any results or increased website traffic, it’s probably time to rethink your SEO (search engine optimization) strategies with these keyword research tips for beginners.
First, you need to understand what keywords are. You might be thinking something like, “Aren’t keywords just the topics for your posts? How difficult could they be??” Keywords sound simple, but keyword strategy involves more than just using words like ‘literacy tips’ in the title of your posts. A well-defined keyword strategy is much more involved. It’s a lengthy and well-researched process. These keyword research tips for beginners can help!
A well-defined keyword strategyinvolves understanding keyword basics, tapping into buyer personas, creating categories and subcategories of keywords, utilizing online tools for expansion and analysis, and considering search intent… all before bringing everything together to actuallywritethe blog post!Building this solid foundation will help ensure your posts show up in search results so others can find your valuable content.
If you’re brand new to SEO, you should consider my SOS… SEO! How To Help Your Website Show Up in Search Results course. It’s designed for SEO beginners and provides a training video and workbook to help cover the basics with eight ways to improve SEO. You can pair it with these keyword research tips for beginners to learn more about how to apply the keywords you learn to research in this post.
Okay, let’s jump into keyword research tips for beginners. You need to define keywords first when developing your content. Then you’ll use the keywords throughout the post text AND “behind the scenes” in your on-page SEO (alt text, meta descriptions, slugs, etc.). This FREE guide has more tips for how to use your keywords once you define them.
So what are keywords? Keywords are the words (and ideally phrases) users type into a search engine when looking for information and answers. The keywords might be part of a question, a specific product they want to learn more about, or even the name of a website or local shop they want to visit.
Two Types of Keywords
There are two basic types of keywords: focus and long tail.
Focus keywords (sometimes called short tail or header) are short and simple like ‘literacy tips’. These words are generally harder to rank for because they experience higher competition due to volume.
Long tail keywords are three or more words in a phrase used by people looking for something specific. These words are extremely valuable! If we took the focus keyword “literacy tips” and changed it to “literacy tips to improve reading scores,” we’d now have a long tail keyword. Make sense??
When you use long tail keywords in your content with proper quantity, quality, and placement, you will see an increase in your rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher you rank in search results, the more likely you are to get traffic from Google!
Your goal is to find the ideal balance between keywords like “literacy tips” that are too generic and keywords that are so long/specific that they don’t naturally rank. Keyword research, along with a little trial and error, will help you find the sweet spot.
Bonus Tip: You’ll also need a variety of keywords. It’s tempting to research a favorite keyword phrase and use it for all similar posts on your website, but ideally each post should have its own unique long tail keyword. This way you’re covering a variety of keywords and aren’t competing with yourself for which post should rank highest for that specific phrase.
Many small business owners start with a great idea for a product or service, but lack a detailed picture of their target audience. Deeply knowing your target audience is an important business step though! This is where buyer personas matter. Buyer personas are a vision of your ideal customer, which you use when creating content that meets their needs. All content should be created with a specific buyer in mind. This holds true for keyword research as well.
If you create resources for other teachers to use in their classroom (lessons, centers, games, etc.), an example of a persona you might use is: 3rd-grade teacher, female, mid 20s, teaching in an urban school.
You might be thinking “That seems a bit too detailed. How does it even relate to keyword research?”
Surprisingly, that’s the perfect amount of detail. It relates to keyword research by giving you a mental picture of who is searching for your content, which in turn helps you determine what types of keywords they might be using. The needs of a brand new teacher (in her mid 20s) will often vary from the needs of a more experienced teacher. Who are you writing for??
When you know your audience, and know them well, you’ll be able to create content based on what they are actually searching for, not what you are searching for as an expert on your own content.
This is the foundation of keyword research… identifying what your target audience is actively searching for so you can create the content they want to see.
Once you have a mental picture of a buyer persona, it’s time to move on to determining what they want to know more about.
Start with 5-10 main categories for your content. These won’t be the exact keywords you’ll use, but are instead broad topics that cover your multiple content areas. Using the same teacherpreneur example, the following categories would be a good starting point:
- Social Studies
- Art & Music
Notice these are very broad categories with only one or two words. They should encompass any topic you cover that your buyer personas might be interested in.
If you are struggling to come up with ideas, look at blog posts that have done well, frequently asked questions, existing product data, Pinterest, other creators in your niche, etc.
Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into the minds of your buyers and exactly what they need from you by breaking the category into more specific subcategories. A few examples:
- Book Recommendations
Create Longtail Keywords
Finally, it’s time to create content within each subcategory around longtail keyword phrases based on what teachers are searching for. An example of some longtail keywords:
- Teaching figurative language through pictures
- Reading comprehension passages for third graders
- How to create a narrative writing center for third graders
- Best third grade test prep tips
- Exploring grammar through games
- Daily writing prompt printables
- Reading intervention tips for struggling third graders
- the best way to encourage journaling in elementary school
Have you ever searched for something and then scrolled through the results and noticed the “People also ask” or “Related searches” sections on Google?
You can use these features to expand your research. Simply type one of your subcategories into the search bar, scroll down to those suggested sections, and add the options there to your list.
You can also utilize autofill. Start by typing the first few words of your subcategory into the search bar and see what suggestions populate beneath it.
For example, typing in “reading intervention tips for’’ in the search bar brings up several different autofill options including parents, teachers, kindergarten, and more.
All of this research is important for gathering keyword options, but it doesn’t determine which option would be the best for SEO. This is why the next step of analysis is so important.
There are several free and paid options that can help you analyze your keywords to help predict performance.
- Google Keyword Planner (free with Google Ads account)
- Ahrefs (paid)
- Semrush (limited access free plan or paid plan)
- SurferSEO (paid, also has a built-in writing tool to help incorporate keywords into content)
- Ubersuggest (free trial, then paid plan)
- Answer the Public (limited access free plan or paid plan)
- Wordtracker (limited access free plan or paid plan)
- Coschedule (limited access free plan or paid plan)
You will enter each longtail keyword phrase into your tool of choice. At this point, your focus is on two indicators: search volume and competition/difficulty.
The tool will analyze the specific phrase you entered and provide you with its rankings, along with a list of related keywords and rankings. You need to identify keywords that achieve high search volume with low competition or keyword difficulty. This means there are a lot of users searching for that phrase, but not a lot of results already out there. THAT is the recipe for winning content.
As an example, I searched “test taking strategies.” That had a volume of 6,600 monthly searches a 49 difficulty score. Those are good results for an established website with well-structured content, but a brand new site would have trouble ranking for that term.
To put those results in context, “how to study” had a volume of 8,100 monthly searches and an 81 difficulty score. This would be much harder! When I got more specific with “test taking strategies for middle school” the monthly volume was 1,000 and the difficulty was only 31. That would be much easier.
You can use your keyword tools to explore related terms that may be a better fit for your content. You need to assess if the new keyword accurately reflects what you want to write about or if you want to slightly revise your original plans based on this new information. When used like this, these tools can also help you generate new content ideas.
I know this can seem like an overwhelming keyword research process, but it is necessary for your content to achieve high rankings. Over 80% of search engine users use Google, which has supposedly employed an algorithm made up of at least 200 rules (according to nerd SEO speculation) to determine how your content will rank.
If you want your content to rank well, your only choice is to play the algorithm game using these keyword research tips for beginners.
Once you’ve identified the most sought-after keywords your target audience is searching for, it’s time to create valuable content.
Verify Keyword Intent
For example when typing the keywords “repeated reading intervention” into Google, the results are mostly informational. This means it’s a great topic for a blog post that shares helpful advice and highlights your related product.
Consider Keyword Placement and Quantity
Your keywords should be used throughout your blog post and in the title, headings, and copy. It should also be used “behind the scenes” in your meta descriptions, alt text for images, page slugs, etc. This FREE WordPress post checklist has more SEO details.
Keep It Specific
You need to use the keyword phrase exactly because that is what you researched and confirmed as most useful. Rearranging the words or using only a few of them negates the research you did and will not rank your content the same way. However, you also need to use the keywords as naturally as possible. Readability is one of those algorithm factors used for rankings, and it knows when keywords are shoved in where they don’t make sense.
If you want need scoring your posts for the keywords you’ve researched, consider Yoast SEO or Rank Math. Both plugins help optimize posts, assist in keyword research, analyze readability, offer previews, etc.
If you’d prefer more personalized help, my WordPress SEO Tune-Up package offers access to my SOS… SEO mini course and includes my practical advice to improve your site’s SEO.
Finally, remember keyword research and SEO take time to work. It’s a continual process that requires regular evaluation and adjustment. I recommend detailed checks quarterly. Keyword research is worth the effort though! Consistently applying these keyword research tips for beginners will result in higher traffic to your site, improved ranking, and increased sales.