The topic of SEO and keywords drives me nuts.
Why does it have to be sooooo complicated and mysterious?
Ask 20 pimply 20-something “SEO experts” how to use keywords in your blog and you’ll get…
Here’s the bottom line:
The most important way to increase ROI from your blog is to publish and promote relevant content consistently.
In this post, I will try to demystify how keywords work, where to find them, and how to use them.
And I’ll keep it simple.
If you want something more confusing, ask a pimply 20-something.
Let’s start with the question you might be embarrassed to ask…
SEO explained (simply)
“SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” Moz.com
Every minute billions of people are searching online. They are looking for addresses, books to gift, barbecues for burgers and some are looking for you.
You’ve done it, right?
You’ve needed something and went to Google to find it. Sometimes you type a group of words, sometimes it’s a proper phrase:
- “Leadership expert online courses”
- “Divorce lawyer in Seattle”
- “Manitoba financial planner retirement”
- “Dog trainer doodle puppy”
Your job is to show up in that search.
At the same time, search engines use bots to search the web for content that can be indexed.
Don’t be – the concept is actually pretty simple: search engines attempt to catalogue and rank all the content on the web and match it with searches.
You use keywords to help the search engines rank your content and deliver it to searchers.
We’re going to stop there.
Beyond this simple explanation, it gets crazily complicated (because Google doesn’t share exactly how this works, everyone is guessing).
Remember the goal is to publish and promote relevant content consistently.
Let’s get started.
Start with a system
The biggest mistake with keyword research is to reinvent your approach every time you sit down to write.
You won’t produce anything.
You need a simple system you’re happy to repeat every time you write.
That’s why step #1 is to build a system.
Our 5-part system at BlogWorks is:
- Find your topic
- Pick keyword phases
- Write a great post
- Bonus SEO points
- Promote your post
After you read the rest of this article you might want to create your own system. But, let’s start with understanding how this simple system can help you get great content quickly.
1. Solve a problem
Before you mess around with keywords, you need a topic.
When I started writing blogs I treated it like a journal—random topics that I found interesting enough to spend 2 hours writing about.
Big mistake.When I started writing blogs I treated it like a journal—random topics that I found interesting enough to spend 2 hours writing about. Click To Tweet
Your clients aren’t searching for random topics that popped into your head while brushing your teeth!
They are looking for solutions.
Here’s the rule to follow: every blog topic should solve a specific problem your customers have.
For example, you might want to explain how to save for retirement, but what your customer is searching for is how to save for retirement on a fixed income.
You might want to write about how to have a happy marriage, but what your customer is searching for is how to survive a renovation as a couple.
Here are some great examples of blog topics that tackled a specific problem and attracted lots of traffic.
- 50 Smart Ways to Segment Your Email List Like a Pro (OptinMonster)
- 21 Incorrectly Used Words That Make You Look Dumb (BlogWorks – that’s us!)
- Where To Find Free Images Online (ProBlogger)
- The Best Ways to Do Market Research for Your Business Plan (Entrepreneur.com)
- 10 Productivity Strategies Backed By Science (Inc.com)
Now that you have your topics it’s time for….keywords (don’t worry I’ll keep it simple.)
2. Google has your keyword
For some reason, SEO experts love to recommend 12 tools to do the job of keyword research. I don’t have time for that.
So let’s keep it simple.
You have a dynamite topic, now you need one keyword phrase to use in your article, ideally your headline and the SEO settings for that blog article (I’ll get to that).
But, here’s the most important thing: don’t make it frick’n complicated or you’ll never get it done.
Yes, there are loads of amazing tools that will bedazzle you with numbers, graphs, charts, and helpful tips. Some are free, some expensive, all are more than you need.
Confession: at BlogWorks we do use a keyword research tool. But, we’re in the business of delivering lots of brilliant blog posts every week and a research tool saves us time.
The fastest, most accurate, and creative way to get keywords for your articles is to let Google suggest them.The fastest, most accurate, and creative way to get keywords for your articles is to let Google suggest them. Click To Tweet
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say the topic for your next blog is relationships. And because you paid close attention to my rant about finding a narrow topic (above) you have gone with: how to survive a renovation as a couple.
You think it’s fun, you’ve been through it yourself (drywall an all), and lots of couples tackle renovations together.
Okay, so far so good. Now we need a killer phrase that people are actually searching for.
Head over to your favourite search engine (I’m using Chrome) and start typing in your topic. But, don’t type all of it—let Google suggest the rest of the phrase.
In this case, I started with “survive a renovation” and got this:
Already I’m seeing the phrase “survive a renovation project”
Let’s scroll to the bottom of the page and look at more suggestions.
Here I see the phrase “overwhelmed by house renovation”. It still feels too general, so I next use that as the search term and Google suggests articles about “renovation stress”
I like this the best – I don’t see a lot of competition and I can include the aspect of couples doing renovations together. My headline could be:
- How to avoid renovation stress as a couple
- ## tips on how to avoid renovation stress as a couple
- How to prevent renovation stress from wrecking your marriage
Now that we have our keyword it’s time to grab a mug of java and start writing.
3. Follow a template
The secret to a great post is to follow a template.
I know you are a creative genius and don’t want to be constrained, but I have a secret for you:
Most writers use a template—it makes their writing better and saves you a ton of time.
For this article, I want to introduce you to the most important part of this template: the opening.
- OPENING – The first job of the opening is to stop the reader from clicking away. Start with a story, a bold claim, a question, or a statistic or fact.
- PROBLEM – Make the problem you are solving obvious. Remember, you need to hook the reader with a problem you know they have.
- PERSONAL – You’ve grabbed the reader’s attention, now you need to establish why you are writing this article. What’s your personal experience with this problem? Or, how have you helped a client overcome this issue?
- PROMISE – Before you get to the solution, let your reader know what to expect. For example, in this article, I told you: “In this post I will try to demystify how keywords work, where to find them and how to use them.”
4. Bonus SEO points
You’ve made it this far – now for some techy stuff.
Search engines index more than just blog article content. If you want to earn bonus SEO points (come on, who doesn’t), these are easy tactics that can get you big results.
At BlogWorks we not only write amazing blog articles that attract readers we can publish your article as well – including doing everything listed in this section.
Think of the meta description as a small advertisement of your web page or blog post. It’s what the reader sees when she searches for a result.
Try to start your meta description with a keyword or something to entice the reader to click that result. Google truncates your description at 160 characters, so get to the point!
Your Title Tag (otherwise known as the SEO title) is the clickable title of the search result and is normally truncated at 60 characters.
If your site is built on WordPress you will edit your meta description and title tag in a plug-in like Yoast.
This is the heading at the top of your article. While it can be the same as your Title Tag, it can be different. Remember, the Title Tag is used to draw in readers from related Google searches, your headline is not.
Imagine a book without chapters or subheadings within the chapters – pretty awful, right? Same with your blog post:
Your subheadings break up the reading and draw the reader down to through the article.
If they are done well.
The trick with subheadings is to try to include the keywords you chose for the article and to attract the reader to read more. Here are the subheadings I used in this article:
- SEO explained (simply)
- Start with a system
- 1. Solve a problem
- 2. Google has your keyword
- 3. Follow a template
- 4. Bonus SEO points
- 5. Promote your post
One of the easiest ways to optimize your blog post for SEO is to add internal links (you may have noticed lots in this article!). This is what the SEO experts at Moz.com say about internal linking “On an individual page, search engines need to see content in order to list pages in their massive keyword-based indices.”
I add these links after I’ve finished writing the post and my goal is to add 2-3 relevant links to pages on my site.
5. Promote your post
Finally, we get to promoting your post. Just like your system for writing, you should have a system for promoting your post.
As a busy person you want to avoid thinking about your promotions strategy—you are better off doing less, but doing it consistently.
A simple routine you can start with is:
- Link from other, related articles on your site to the new article.
- Email your list. This article explains how to get started building a list.
- Schedule updates to go to social media.
- Wait a week and then publish your article to LinkedIn (publish as an article, not a post).
- Wait a week and then publish your article to Medium.com
Obviously, there are many ways to promote your blog posts, including creating video, repeat posting on social media, cross-linking, seeking backlinks, and more.
This article is for the busy person (not the pimply 20-something living in his parent’s basement).
Enjoyed this post? Here are 3 more articles all about getting blog traffic to your site:
21 clever ways to attract more readers and boost blog traffic this year
How to increase blog traffic by almost 30% in only 90 days – a case study
How to overcome writer’s block with this 7-step template
This article was originally published in 2017, and has been updated in 2020 just for you!