If your business blog isn't delivering the kind of traffic and conversion you expect, it's probably because you're focusing on the wrong topics. Many companies have a list of topics that they think are the most important - but their audiences don't always agree. To ensure your content gets in front of the people you need to attract, careful keyword research is essential - here are the tools we use.
My colleague Fabian wrote about keyword research a few years ago, but I thought it was time for an update. Since his article was published, we've started using a topic cluster approach - a content strategy where you create a collection of relevant content around a certain topic to achieve credibility and authority for both your readers and search engines.
For the topic cluster approach to work effectively, you need to ensure that your audience is actually searching for the topics you are writing about. You may think it would be valuable to create an article on one particular aspect of your business - but if no one is searching for it, your time would be better spent elsewhere.
We choose the topics we write about based on their search volume - and the higher, the better. When you find out the search volume before you start creating content, you can be confident there's already an audience online ready to consume it.
There's a huge number of tools available to help you analyse search patterns and discover topics and trends you should be covering. To keep things short, these are the tools we use:
KeywordsEverywhere is the keyword tool that I use the most. It's available as a Chrome plugin, and when you want to do some research, you simply switch it on and start searching.
Some of the most basic figures you need will then appear right on the results page. As you can see in the screenshot, three figures show up just below the search bar:
Volume - The search volume of the searched-for term. This is the approximate number of searches that are made for this term every month.
CPC - CPC stands for 'cost per click'. It's the approximate amount of money you would pay for a click if you were to run an advert focused on this search term.
Competition - This figure shows how difficult it is for you to rank for a particular keyword on a 0-100 scale. If the difficulty is very high, putting time and effort into ranking for the keyword may not be worthwhile - there's so much competition that your chances are very low. Ideally, your keywords will be relevant to your business, have a high search volume and a low difficulty - but unfortunately, this isn't always the case!
This feature makes it very quick to research and compare keywords - if you're choosing between two very similar keywords for a particular topic, you can quickly compare them just by Googling.
However, there are also more sophisticated tools available. You can get access to trend data that shows how the search volume for a particular keyword is changing over time - useful if you want to get involved early with an up-and-coming trend. There's also a handy long-tail keyword finder, which shows relevant data on keywords similar to the one you searched for. For example, after searching for 'business blogging', I can use this tool to find out that 'what is business blogging', 'business blogging ideas' and 'benefits of business blogging' also have high search volumes, which helps me to plan additional content around this main topic.
KeywordsEverywhere isn't free, but it's fairly cheap. There's no subscription - instead, you buy credits, which are used up as you research. Getting the volume, CPC, competition, and trend data for one keyword costs one credit, and you always get a list of a few related keywords when you search, so a single search usually costs a few credits. You can buy 100,000 credits for 10 USD, which will probably last you a long time.
The imaginatively named Keyword Tool is a good alternative to KeywordsEverywhere. There's no Chrome plugin, so you need to do your research through the site instead. It's got the typical features you would expect from a tool like this - type in a keyword, and you'll get a list of long-tail keywords along with their search volume, CPC, competition, and trend data.
The difference is that it doesn't just focus on Google. You can also find keyword information for networks like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and e-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay. You can also get specific data for different countries, languages, and cities, which would be useful if you're an international company with a multi-language online presence.
It's a sophisticated and popular tool, but it's more expensive than KeywordsEverywhere. If you want access to all the same figures it offers, you'll need the Pro Plus package at 79 USD a month. If you can live without CPC and Google Ads data, the slightly cheaper Pro Basic package would do. It costs 69 USD a month.
Google Keyword Planner
Plenty of keyword research tools use the figures provided by Google's Keyword Planner in their services, so why not get the figures straight from the source?
You need a Google Ads account to access the Keyword Planner, but you can easily set one up in a few minutes. You can either 'discover new keywords' or 'get search volume and forecasts when you get started.
The good thing about the 'discover new keywords' feature is that you don't need to have any existing desired keywords to get started. Instead, you can add a few terms that describe your business, and you'll get a long list of related keywords. In Zooma's case, I added the terms 'digitalisation', 'online marketing', and 'inbound', and got suggested keywords like 'inbound and outbound', 'inbound sales', and 'online content marketing'. If I were thinking about what content to prioritise, I would probably focus on terms like these to reach people interested in our services. The 'get search volume and forecasts' requires you to enter a list of existing keywords and then shows you the figures for each one - which isn't so useful if you don't have any targeted keywords to start with.
It's possible to use Keyword Planner to search for popular keywords in specific countries and cities, and different languages. You can sort and filter your results to find the most relevant options that will hopefully drive traffic to your site. You can also start your search with a website rather than a list of business-relevant terms - and if you start with a competitor's website, you can often get a broad list of solid keywords that you may not have thought about initially.
There are a few flaws with keyword planner - you only get a range of figures for the search volume, such as 1K - 10K or 10K - 100K. Similarly, competition is always described as either 'high', 'medium', or 'low', not as a specific number. So choosing between two equally popular keywords can be tricky. It's also designed for use with Google Ads and not SEO, so many of the figures it focuses on aren't relevant unless you plan to run ads. However, the tool is free to use as long as you have a Google Ads account, so you get what you pay for.