Podcast Episode 43: Keyword research for SEO writing

It will often be expected of you, as a freelance copywriter, to be able to not only carry out keyword research but also to know how to use it in SEO copywriting. In this episode I talk about the basics of undergoing keyword research, and also provides information about writing for SEO in a way that does not alienate site visitors.



This episode also contains a first – a custom-made video especially for A Little Bird Told Me listeners. Find out how to carry out keyword research using the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool at http://www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo



Show Notes

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Audio transcript

Hello, and welcome to episode 43 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me’. The freelance writing podcast, about the high’s the lows and the no-no’s of successful self-employment.

I am Philippa Willitts and I’m here doing a solo episode today, without my usual co-host Lorrie Hartshorn and today we’re going to be talking about how to do key word research when you are doing SEO writing.

First though, a little reminder of how you can find us, we are generally based at www.littlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and from there you will find links to subscribe to the podcast, whether you want to do that on iTunes via RSS or whether you prefer Stitcher smart radio. You can also find links there to our Facebook page, so come over and say “hi” to us there and also links to my and Lorrie’s websites, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages, all that kind of thing. So do come over, subscribe so you never miss an episode and say “hi” because we’re friendly, mostly. Also before we get started, I want to mention and thank Susan Johnston from Urban News Writer, who recommended ‘A Little Bird Told Me’ in a blog post about five podcasts for free for freelance writers.

We were so excited and really, really, pleased and were also in some great company along with Grammar Girl, The Accidental Creative and so on, so I will put a link to that blog post in our show notes. But if you’re not already a reader of the Urban News, do head over there. Again, I’ll link to it from the show notes because it’s got some amazing resources, I’m a long time subscriber to that blog and its very, very, good for any kind of writer, I think.

English: Effective keyword competitive analysis
English: Effective keyword competitive analysis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So anyway, as I said today we’re talking about key word research. Now lots of clients will expect you to already know how to do this. You might be asked to do it when you’re preparing some website copy or you might also want to know how to do it so you can improve the success of your own website or your own blog. There’s a lot of confusing information around about key word research and so what I want to do is really just get it down to the basics, what it is, how to do it and how to make a start. If you want to know more from there, there are plenty of resources about the very, very, very, detailed information you can glean, but what I’m doing today is, a general coverage of how it works and how to do it. I’ve also made a video, which I will mention later on that will help you to use a free key word research tool.

Key word research looks at the search terms that people type into Google or Bing or wherever and uses those as a way to boost the popularity of their own website. The general idea behind it is that it helps you to find the exact search terms that other people are using, because if you don’t take into account the wording and the questions that people ask, you’re going to miss out on traffic, basically. It’s a form of market research really, it gives you an idea of how many people want to know about a particular thing and the precise language their using. So if you’re selling/writing for a client who sells clothing, then key word research can show you the precise words, phrases and questions that people are typing into Google, which will help you then to write that website copy in a way that people can relate to.

SEO writing is basically a way of writing, which helps websites to improve their SEO, SEO being search engine optimization. Now there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad in SEO but, from a writer’s point of view, the things you need to know are basically about how and when to use keywords and how and when not to, that’s just as important. There are a lot of myths, you’ve got to use a key word three times per paragraph and you just end up with ridiculous copy then that makes no sense. If you’re looking to buy a blue dress then we sell blue dresses because lots of people like blue dresses and blue dresses are attractive and we sell cheap blue dresses because cheap blue dresses, you know, it’s stupid. If you click on a web page like that, you quickly click back because it looks spammy and its ridiculous, but equally if you want to buy a blue dress and you come across a website that doesn’t mention them at all your likely to skip past it and go to another one.

English: seo block
English: seo block (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So SEO writing when done well and when done correctly, is a way of keeping search engines in mind when you’re writing but still primarily focusing on news ability, focusing on the user experience and actually writing for people because there’s no point writing exclusively for search engines, if you get to the top of the search results but people can’t relate to what you’re saying when they click through. Plus Google recognizes, it’s called key word stuffing, if you use a key word, you know, too many times. Google recognizes that now, so even if in the past it did help to improve your rankings, these days it’s more likely to damage them actually.

So if you read about SEO writing you’ll find lots of contradictory information, some people say that key words have to make up a certain percentage of the overall text and there are tools where you can input your key word and your copy and it will tell you what percentage you’ve used. But really, that kind of thing often overlooks that you are writing for people with search engines in mind, that’s how good SEO writing works and I will keep repeating that all day, because people don’t always get it first time. It can be a good idea to use the key word in your page title. It can be a good idea to use it early on in the copy. It can be a good idea to use it towards the end as well.

But what’s most important is inserting the keywords and key phrases in a way that is natural, in a way that doesn’t sound out of place and in a way that reads well. That key word research is still incredibly important even with all the changes with Google alga rhythms and Panda and Penguin, Penguin 2.0, which has just recently come out. A lot more people have found themselves losing, losing their position in Google because of bad SEO practices. But keyword research remains useful for both SEO and making sure you reach the peak that you want to reach.

When you carry out the key word research you find out a lot about your customers, or your clients’ customers. You might want to know how many people search every month for blue dresses but you might be pleasantly surprised to see that theirs actually a very low competition key word you could also use that could really help you to rank the website highly. The other thing that Keyword research does is it kind of qualifies for visitors in some degree. It goes beyond just numbers of site visitors what keyword research allows you to do is make sure you get the right sort of visitors, which might be visitors who are ready to buy, or visitors who are interested in a very specific niche area. The days of just having a visitor counter on your website and everybody impressed by a high number are long gone really. What matters now is getting the visitors that will be useful or more to the point, getting the visitors that you can help with your business or your clients business.

So, how to go about carrying out keyword research, first thing you need is a bit of common sense. Ask yourself what you would search for if you wanted the information you’re providing. Take out of your head the thoughts of what you have already done, think of yourself as the position of somebody who wants a blue dress, and think “what would I search for if I did?”, it’s a good place to start.

Now bear in mind the importance of what’s called ‘Long tail keywords’, now these are, it’s like a string of words really, a phrase that people search for usually when people search for a very specific thing. Now there are a lot of cases where you might have a keyword in mind but you have no hope of getting to number one in Google for that keyword. If you do a search for that keyword now and find that number one in Amazon, at number two is Tesco, you know it’s possible to beat them to the number one spot but it’s very, very unlikely.

And this is where long tail keywords come in. These are phrases that people use to search for something and the thing about long tail keywords is that they have a lower search volume, which means that not as many people search for them. However they often have low competition, which means that not a lot of other websites are targeting that key word phrase in particular and that you have a higher chance of rising through the search engine positioning’s. So long tail keywords are really useful for instance, you might not be able to rank for the word ‘teapot’ but you might be able to rank ‘small blue teapot with a red lid’ or if you can’t rank for something like ‘cheese’, you might have a chance with ‘best Lancashire local organic cheese’. Looking for the long tail keywords that people are using that people are genuinely searching for, looking for how many people search for that phrase each month, and I will show you how to do that in the video I mentioned using the free Google tool.

You have a much better chance of getting those exact customers who search for that if you do your SEO correctly once you’ve finished your keyword research. Another thing about long tail keywords which is really interesting, is that people who study this kind of thing, have found that long tail keywords are often better converters because they, the people using them are more likely ready to buy. So if somebody searches for, oh I’m sick of the blue dress what else can we be searching for, ‘new laptop’ they are probably researching and wondering if they search for ‘best price for new HP laptop’, which is a long tail keyword they are much closer to buying it suggests at that stage by looking for prices, they know what they want. So that’s another reason that long tail key words are good to be aware of.

Now the tool I’d recommend you start with, with key word research is called the ‘Google Adwords Key Word Research tool’. I will put a link in the show notes to it; it’s a free tool that anybody can use. If you have a Google account you can sign in, but you don’t actually need one you can use it without. Now I have made a video, which shows how to use the Google Adwords tool, in the video you will find out how to conduct a search and what the different results and numbers and figures mean. It can look, when you first open it, a very confusing tool but hopefully the video will show you how to find what you need to know, how to download the Google Adwords key word results to your computer, to a spreadsheet so you can analyse them further if you want to. It’s actually a very good tool, especially given that it’s free, and it’s not perfect and people want a lot more information for which there are much more specific tools, but for basic key word research you do get a good amount of information.

So what you need to do is go over to www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo, all one word, no dash or anything. www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo and that will redirect you directly to the YouTube video that I have uploaded for this episode. So do head over there to find out how to get the best out of the tool and it can really help your SEO writing, whether that’s for your clients’ or your own site.

So I’m assuming now, it may or may not be true, but I working on the assumption that you have paused this, gone over and watched the video and are now back. So you’ve got all this data from the Keyword research tool, you know which terms, which search terms have a high competition so maybe more difficult to rank for. You also know those that have medium or low competition so it may be easier to get to the top of Google for. However those that have low competition may have only twenty searches a month so spending a lot of time and effort to rank for a search term that has low competition but that so few people search for might be waste of your time. Similarly if you find something that 45,000 people search for but it’s got incredibly high competition that may be just as much as a waste of time, or it might not be, it just depends it really depends but often where people start is search terms that Google identifies as having medium or low competition. And which have, now the actual search numbers really vary for niche websites like AdSense websites or that kind of thing, you might just want say, 200 searches a month, or you might want 1,000 or 2,000. If you’ve got a big e-commerce site you might want 10,000 or 15,000. It very much depends on the context, but if you’re unsure and if don’t want to spend tons of your time doing SEO then something with low competition and a decent numbers of searches is probably the best place to start.

Now Google tells you generally whether something low, medium or high competition but you want to do a bit more study than that, and the obvious thing to do is to do Google searches of your own. So, say you choose twenty key words to target or key phrases the next thing to do is too search for each of those in Google, see what people find if they search for it already. If you’re very lucky you will find search results that are vague not that relevant, where you think you can really rocket to the top of the results in no time. Other times you’ll find results that you think I just can’t compete on this, at this stage there are too many good, big, well optimised sites in the first ten results that I wouldn’t be able to get on the first page let alone to number one. So get an idea of what results are coming up with the keywords you’ve chosen. Another thing to look at is the PPC ads, the pay per click search ads that pop-up in the right hand side column of the search results and at the top and the bottom of the search results. If there are lots and lots of search ads this suggests that this is a keyword that lots of people are really trying to target.
So it could feel that the competition is too high in that case or alternately it could mean well this is clearly a very lucrative keyword I really want to get to the top for this one. It also suggests that this is a keyword that converts well and that other people have done their keyword research and that this is a prized one. So again judge it based on the time you want to spend on SEO, judge it on how much you want or your client wants to invest in SEO copywriting, if it’s a lot, if they really, really, really want to dominate the search results for their entire sector then this is, these are the ones to target. If it’s a minor site that just wants to rank for a few small things then ones that are highly competitive are probably ones to avoid.

So as you can see keyword research isn’t 100% cut and dry, it’s not a matter of choosing the keywords that have 4,000 local searches per month with low competition. First of all there are fewer and fewer of those around because so many people do key word research. But also it very much depends on your or your client’s aims and goals for the site. When you have found your keywords and your writing, maybe, articles or blog posts or category pages on e-commerce sites then don’t use the keywords to a ridiculous degree write something that’s worth reading not that’s just good for the search engine robots. Write well, use the keywords there’s no point doing all the research if your then not going to use them at all, try and stick one in the title early on in the copy but really focus a lot more on the people that will be reading it while incorporating the keywords in a sensible, realistic way. If you haven’t yet watched the video head over too www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo and all will become clear.

And now it is time for The Little Bird recommendation of the week. Lorrie and I have talked a lot over the past 42 episodes about people asking writers and other freelancers to work for free. Now my recommendation this week is a stunningly good response form a writer who was asked to work for free. She was invited to contribute some writing for a company called Equal, which makes some kind of artificial sweetener. Now this woman Katherine Devani, found out that the company behind Equal, had a revenue of $232 million last year as so wasn’t too impressed with being asked to write for nothing. So this is how she responded:

‘Hi Ann, great to get your email and when I say great I mean hilarious. Just one question why would I work for a multinational chemical company for free? Do you? How incredibly unprofessional to develop an advertising budget where you do not pay for the content and how rude to ask people to work for nothing. Did you pay the graphic designer, the web developed, the Internet provider? Do you pay for the petrol in your car, the hairdresser?

“This is my job and, joining the debate about the choices women make, here is the choice I make: not to work for multinational companies for free or any businesses. I am a single mom and I pay every single person who works for me. Women are 50% of the population, do 2/3 of the work, earn 10% of the money and own 1% of the property and you have the gall to frame this opportunity to work for free as some kind of feminist jamboree. And while we are on gall, promoting a dieting aid with feminism, excuse me while I throw up in my mouth, sorry what? It’s about health, lifestyle and choices? No its not! It’s about selling to dissatisfaction and self-loathing; I think you’ve picked the wrong girl. You don’t give a rat’s about women and if you did you would not ask them to work for free, you would pay them. How patronising and unprofessional.’

She goes on ‘I will make sure everyone in my network hears about this – exposure don’t pay the rent, I look forward to your response’. Now I loved this when I read that far, but what’s even better, she has published the response she got which reads:

‘Hi Catherine, you’re right and I apologise for offending you and not being fair. I totally agree with your comments below, I do care about women and no one should work for free. I will let my client know that were being patronising and unprofessional. Every person who works on this project has to be paid fairly, I will also contact the other women I have reached out to and apologise. I will let them know they will be paid. It is my mistake for asking I’ll let you know how things progress’.

How incredible is that! Catherine Devani says underneath these texts, that she was tempted to take her post down before; she posted her letter on her blog before she got this incredible response. And so when she got the response she was tempted to take the post down because it had been responded too, so incredibly well, but actually she’s decided to keep it up on her website because she wants to show what she thinks of working for free. But she also wants to show what can happen, if you challenge somebody. And she says she wants to show what an excellent corporate response looks like. She says that in previous years she was offered paid work, and she refused it on the grounds that others were not being paid and the company changed their tune and paid everyone.

So what this goes to show, this blog post, first of all a great examples of a writer responding to a request to work for free for a profit making company. But what it also shows that sending these responses and refusing to work for free and demanding pay can actually change things, so I will put a link in the show notes so you can read the entire thing but I really liked it, not just her email which was very good but also the fact that it had such a positive effect. So big yay to Catherine Devani there, I loved it.

I really hope you have enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to head over to www.littlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and subscribe. Next week it will be Lorrie and I doing a joint episode and you don’t want to miss it. I have been Philippa Willitts and I will see you next time.

Video Transcript

This is a video from The A Little Bird Told Me freelance writing podcast, find us online at www.littlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com.

So in this video we’re going to look at the basics of how to use the Google Adwords Keyword tool. So we’re going to use the example, of having a keyword of ‘blue teapot’. Now the first thing you want to do is change the match type from ‘broad’ to ‘exact’ and then click search. If you find you don’t have enough results you might want to change back to broad, but exact is better if you can get that to work.

I'm a little teapot...
I’m a little teapot… (Photo credit: Joming Lau)

Now the first results you get will be under this tab called ‘add group ideas (beta)’ and what this does is group together different categories that it spots from the different keywords you’ve offered. So if you’re selling a blue teapot you want to look down and see which of these matched the most, and I’d say ‘tea set’, so click on that and it gives you suggested keywords: ‘tea set’ ‘tea sets’ along with the number of global monthly searches, local monthly searches and whether it’s high, medium or low competition.

So tea sets for sale have a high competition, flowering tea gift set has a higher competition; they all have a higher competition frankly. If you want more detail then head over to the keyword ideas tab instead. Now this gives you lots and lots and lots of keywords to look at. It shows you the phrase ‘blue tea pot’ itself has a high competition with 260 global searches. Now it looks at lots of other options and for each of them tells you whether it’s a high, medium or low competition, how many searches there are, and whether that’s globally or locally. And in this case there are 675 results it’s given you, so there’s plenty of data to work with.

If you want to order them in terms of, the highest searches then click on ‘Global monthly searches’ and it will order them so that the first result has the most. So it’s showing you that ‘Tea pot’ has 27,000. If you click it again then it goes to the opposite, it shows you the lowest and here you have lots and lots of options, fewer than 10 searches a month, which is pretty much a waste of your time really. Similarly, you can scroll through the results and find that it’s gone up to 12 global monthly searches here, so still not much use for you, and so on.

Now if you want to prioritise by the most local monthly searches, again, you just click on local monthly searches at the top of the column, we’re still three pages in there so, we need to go back to the first page for the highest results. And we see here that ‘tea pot’ has 4,400, ‘tea pots’ 3,600 and so on. You can also see that a few there have medium competition, so it may be worth looking at.

You might want to then, start selecting ones that seem relevant to your business or your client’s business. So here were selecting ‘tea gifts’, ‘flowering tea’, ‘tea pots’, ‘glass tea pots’ for instance. And if you click on download, you’ve got the option of downloading either my keyword ideas, which is the ones you’ve just selected or alternatively you can download all of the results you get, choose the format, click download and there you are.