July 17, 2024

Content Marketing - Keyword ResearchContent Marketing – Keyword Research

Content Marketing requires that you do proper keyword research that relates to the content you intend to create. To do this means that you will gain insights into searcher volume and the keyword phrases that they use when searching for solutions to their problems.


This section will explain a method for doing keyword research which also includes research on competitors for the keyword phrases you choose.

This content marketing keyword research will help you in two significant ways. It will help you to determine whether there is a commercially viable online marketplace for your product or service and how do you engage it. Complete research will also tell you about the quality of the specific competitors.

Your content needs to be found in search. Content that cannot be found when people are searching for it is not very valuable content. Your content becomes much more valuable if it can easily be found in search.

Your Content Is Not as Valuable

if the Market Is Small or

if Your Content Cannot Be Found Easily.

The success of your Search Engine Optimization effort depends on getting keyword research right. Achieving high search position for phrases that no one searches for is a waste of time. Selecting keyword phrases that are too vague and that do not relate to your purpose well will not attract interested readers, and selecting keyword phrases that have too much competition can create a great deal of unnecessary work and expense for you.

You want (need) your content to be visible and to relate strongly to your target audience. Your keyword optimization effort must support your content marketing purpose. You want your content to be found without a long, drawn out, and expensive SEO effort.

Let’s get the keyword research done right!

I will reference three free online tools for this explanation.

The first is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and the second is Google Trends. The third tool, by Open Site Explorer, will be a way to gain insights into your competitors.

The AdWords Keyword Tool provides us access to the massive amount of data available from Google. The Google Trends Tool shows us the relative number of people searching for specific keyword phrases as a function of time. Together these tools provide useful analysis.

Now, before we get started, I want to outline the steps that we will take to conduct this vital research. Here is the step-by-step process that I recommend:

  1. Brainstorm keyword phrase ideas
  2. Expand the list of keywords
  3. Study search volume
  4. Narrow down the list
  5. Study the competition
  6. Focus
  7. Study Trends
  8. Finalize your list

Let’s review each step in more detail.

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas

The key focus for this step is to make sure that your keyword ideas relate to the purpose of your content. Your purpose could be:

  • Educating potential customers on your products or services
  • Building brand awareness
  • Capturing leads
  • Providing post-sales support

There are no bad answers at this point. Simply brainstorm. The analysis will determine which keyword ideas are valuable and which are not so valuable and the research will provide us additional ideas.

Step 2: Conduct Basic Research to Generate More Ideas

The Google AdWord Keyword Tool will show many more phrases that relate to the list from Step 1. A big list will offer greater chances of finding better business opportunities.

Step 3: Study Search Volume

Using the Google AdWord Keyword Tool will also provide us with the number of people searching using the keyword phrases in the list. This is known as search volume. Once you understand the relative search volume you can start to narrow down the list. You need to know the search volume of your keyword phrase to determine whether creating specific content pieces and having the content optimized is worth it.

Another concept that I want to define is the “Long Tail” of search. Most search volume is in the long tail. The graph below helps us to understand the long tail concept.

Content Marketing - The Long Tail of Search

The long tail refers to profit possibilities of items that are not individually popular, but if properly combined together into a content marketing plan form a profit opportunity that rivals the popular keyword phrase opportunities.

It is fine to be out on the long tail of search. Content Marketing works very nicely for long tail keywords. If your objective is to use content marketing to advertise and increase awareness of your product or service then long tail keyword research is perfect.

A long tail content marketing approach is authentic, organic and a great way to drive engagement and to create brand awareness.

Step 4: Narrow Down the List

Based on what is revealed in step 3, define phrases that demonstrate good commercial value based on search volume. A viable commercial opportunity exists only if there is sufficient search volume associated with the keyword phrases. If the search volume is too low, then you do not want to spend time creating content and optimizing it as this effort would be connected with a small audience. However, before discarding a particular phrase, determine whether the phrase is closely related to other phrases that could be lumped together into a keyword phrase set.

If you can lump phrases together so that they all will fit into a nice keyword theme and the total search volume of all the phrases associated with the theme has sufficient search volume then this is very viable.

It is important to have a keyword set that you can focus on. The keyword set needs to be closely associated with your purpose and have sufficient search volume. A focused set of keyword phrases also enable you to focus your writing.

Step 5: Study the Competition

As you study your competition ask yourself the following questions. First, how good are your specific competitors and what do they do well to be found in search? Then ask whether you have a reasonable chance to replace your competitors in the organic search results?

Note that the competitors you find in your search results will vary based on the keyword phrase. For each keyword phrase and set of phrases you need to define the top five competitors. You are looking for the opportunity to replace one of your top five competitors. Type the keyword phrase into Google and then note the URL of the top 5 competitors in the Google search results. These specific pages are your competitors. You need to out-perform one of them to gain a top 5 position.

To judge the worthiness of your competitors, note whether the keyword phrase appears in any of these page components:

  • URL
  • HTML title tag
  • HTML description tag
  • H1 and H2 HTML tags
  • Bold, underlined or italicized font
  • Image alt text
  • Hyperlink text

Also note the length of the text for the page and the keyword phrase density. You will also want to determine if the website that includes this page has an XML Sitemap.

Research will reveal how serious each competitor is about being found for the specific keyword phrase. If they have not done a good job with the optimization of the page that Google displays in the search results then you may have identified a competitor that you can replace with your content. You need to determine whether there is a weak competitor and the weakest of the top five.

To help you with this effort download the Competitor Evaluation Worksheet.

A perfect score is 50 for the worksheet. If your competitor has a score close to 50, they are serious about maintaining a high ranking. A score close to 50 shows that they have done enough of the essentials on the specific page for you to know that they are serious. Most top 5 positions are not achieved by accident.

The last comparative item is to measure the in-coming links to the page and the in-coming links to their home page.

For an easy-to-use tool that lets you analyze all 5 competitors at once, go to Open Site Explorer.


Special Note: This is a great free tool but they allow only 3 free analysis reports per day. A Pro Account allows you an unlimited number of analysis reports for a fixed fee per month. The one-month free trial will give you plenty of time to analyze your competition.

With the page score for the competitor and the in-coming link analysis you will have great insights into the quality level of the top 5 competitors for each commercially valuable keyword phrase. The next step is to focus your keyword phrase list even further.

Step 6: Narrow Down the Keyword List

By studying search volume and the quality of the competition you decide where you want to compete. You need to have defined a set of keywords that have sufficient search volume to be a good commercial opportunity and to be a good opportunity there has to be a competitor that you can compete well against.

Narrow down your keyword list to a set that meets these criteria.

This further helps you to focus.

Step 7: Gain Insight from Google Trends

I recommend using Google Trends to gain even greater market insights. Is your market cyclical? When does search volume peak? If the purpose of your content is to stimulate sales and the search volume peaks well before actual purchasing decisions are made you may miss an entire sales cycle without the insights from Google Trends.

Good selling means being prepared.

If your market is cyclical and you miss the peak search period when people are conducting research you will most surely not realize your full revenue potential.

Is your market growing in search volume or declining? Google Trends can provide you with year over year insights. In a declining market you may need to work harder to maintain revenue levels. This is something you will want to know about.

Step 8: Finalize the Keyword List

Keyword research is one of the most important and valuable activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the “right” keywords can make or break your online marketing efforts. Through this detective work you define your market’s keyword demand. You learn which terms and phrases to use in your content marketing and search engine optimization and you learn more about your customers as a whole. You also learn about your competitors.

To have a well-defined keyword list means that you can be crystal clear. You will be clear about your target audience. You will be clear about the language they use to find things related to your business. You will be clear about your competitors and you will be clear about your copywriting and how to optimize your content for the search engines.

Being “clear” in business is a distinct advantage.

To see how this research works, I invite you to download a real-world case study. This case study is for a Home Inspection Company serving the Salt Lake City,Utah Marketplace.

Content Marketing Keyword Research Case Study

Content Marketing – Keyword Research

How valuable is this research?

To answer this let’s ask another question. How valuable is being found in a high position for a specific keyword phrase?

Here is a table that shows click-through rate as a function of position in search. It is clear that success relates strongly to position in search.

Content Marketing - Search Position and Click-Through RateLet’s illustrate the value question with an example. Let’s say that you do some research and a particular phrase has 48,000 searches per month. This is 1,600 per day.

To achieve a top 5 position in search results in visitor traffic of 8% of the total or 128 visitors per day. Your page converts visitors into customers at a rate of 2% which means that for every 100 visitors you gain 2 customers. Your product sells for $40. Therefore, 100 visitors produce $80 in sales and the 128 visitors you attract each day produce about $100 in sales per day. Not bad once you get things rolling.

The value of this keyword in terms of sales is $100 each day, $3,100 per month, or over $37,000 per year and this is for just one keyword phrase. This assumes that you do what it takes to achieve a top 5 position.

To do what it takes means to create great content that is related to this keyword phrase and to optimize the content so that it can be found in the search results. To make this happen:

  • You need to know search traffic volume.
  • You need to ensure that your business is in a position to provide a product or service solution that relates to the traffic.
  • You need content that demonstrates you have the solution.
  • You need content that is optimized so that the searching audience finds your content.
  • You may need to acquire in-coming links to ensure a top-five position in search.
  • You need a page that converts at an effective rate.

It pays for you to define the keyword phrases that will generate traffic. It pays for you to know that you can compete in search so that these phrases will generate traffic that converts into sales. Know that some phrases will be more competitive; phrases convert at different rates; some phrases will be worth more than others.

Content Marketing – Keyword Research Summary

You need to get this right in order to reach your audience. Content marketing is all about creating useful and engaging content than will be found when someone is searching for it.

Businesses that do this well love the search engines for bringing them the traffic that supports the purpose of their content marketing efforts.

How confident are you that your content has been optimized for sufficiently high search volume traffic? Have you done the research to define your key competitors and noted their weaknesses so that you can focus and concentrate your content marketing efforts? Keyword research is essential and the tools are available if you do this then you will be ahead of many of your competitors.

Content Marketing - Keyword Research

Up next:

Content Marketing – Beat The Competition