Keyword research is one of the most important things you need to do to rank on Google. There is no point doing perfect SEO and optimising your blog posts for Google if a) nobody is searching for that topic, and b) you don’t stand a chance of ranking for it.
Since I first started doing keyword research and implementing proper SEO on my blog my traffic from search engines has increased from less than 1,000 sessions a month in October 2017 to 75,000+ in March 2019. That’s a 7,000% increase in 1.5 years. See for yourself in the screenshot below (a lot of my content is about summer destinations so it’s normal for there to be a dip around October and November).
While I get a fair bit of traffic also from Pinterest (click here to check out my guides on how to get thousands of views to your blog from Pinterest!) Google is by far the biggest source of traffic to my site. I wouldn’t be able to do that without a solid keyword research plan.
In this guide I outline the exact process I follow before I start writing any article for my blog. Keysearch is my preferred tool but alas, it’s a paid one. I will walk you through my initial search steps with free tools, and then if you’re ready to take your keyword research one step further, how you can consolidate this with Keysearch.
Finding keywords with Google Chrome
Keywords Everywhere will show you the monthly search volumes of every term you search for, plus it will add helpful “related keywords” and “people also search for” on the side, all with the relevant search volumes.
Keywords Everywhere used to be a free tool but it is now a paid one. However it’s very affordable. You can purchase 100,000 keyword credits for $10. Every keyword you search for will take up one credit, when you finish your credit you will have to top it up.
100,000 will last you quite a while, especially when you’re first starting out. For reference purposes, I purchased $10 worth of credits 6 months ago and still have more than half.
When you add the MozBar extension this will show you the DA and PA of every website that appears for that search result.
When I first think of a topic I want to write about I search for it in Google Chrome and see what the monthly volume is. If the search volume is 0, you know that nobody is searching for that term and spending however long to write it, add photos to the post, create pins etc is probably not a good use of your time.
One thing to note is that the volume displayed by Keyword Everywhere isn’t 100% accurate. I will sometimes write posts that have a keyword volume of 100 or less (granted that it’s a topic I know well and it won’t take me too long to write) since there are often related keywords that aren’t taken into account that could bring additional traffic.
For example “10 days in Italy” might have a volume of 50, but “Italy 10-day itinerary” could have a volume of 150. That’s already 200 searches, plus if you add together all the potential keywords, it might reach a good total monthly volume.
When I find a keyword I’m happy with in terms of volume, I then browse the results that appear in the first page of Google. The three things I look out for are:
- Their DA
- If they’re an established website vs another blog (eg. Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet etc)
- If they’re a local tour agency with the name of the destination in the domain name – if you’re writing about a kayaking tour in Dubrovnik kayakingtoursdubrovnik.com might have a tiny DA, but destination or activity specific websites like that are hard to outrank
I usually look for at least 2-3 blogs with a DA similar to mine or smaller, I click on their links and check out their articles.
This is where it’s time to be critical and realistic. Can you write a better article than the ones currently on the first page of Google? Do you have better photos? Do you have more up to date information about that topic? Do these articles leave any important questions un-answered that you can provide more details on?
If the answer is yes, then you have a keyword winner. Keyword research and optimising your posts mean nothing if the content you write isn’t of value to the reader. Google displays first the articles that they believe are the best answer to that user query, so make sure your blog posts are the most detailed and comprehensive guides on that specific topic. A common saying in the blogging world is “Content is King”, and that is always true.
Now while thanks to MozBar you can see the DA of the posts on the first page of Google, and get a rough idea of how challenging it will be to rank for that specific keyword, it doesn’t really tell you how competitive the term is. Moz Keyword Explorer does this but it has a limit to how many searches you can do. This is as far as free tools will take you, if you want to take your keyword research a step further, you need to invest in KeySearch.
How to do effective keyword research with KeySearch
KeySearch is the most used keyword research tool amongst the bloggers I know. It’s 17 USD a month but trust me when I say, you will make that money back when you start ranking and monetising your blog.
Below is a screenshot of the dashboard of KeySearch when you search for a keyword. I know it can be a bit overwhelming so let’s look at each section individually.
Number 1 is fairly easy. It shows your chosen keyword, how many posts there are that try to answer that specific query, the monthly search volume and the competition score. This is a score out of 100, where the higher it is, the harder it is to rank for that keyword.
It also has a helpful “competition is fairly difficult” note and a streetlight green to red colour coding system for the more visual learners, to help you interpret the score. The difficulty score that you can aim to rank for depends on how established your site is; I usually tend to choose keywords below 35. For a new blog you want to look for a difficulty score in the 20s.
On to the second section of the dashboard, this shows you the seasonality of your keyword over the past 12 months. This is very useful as it shows when people search more for that specific term, and it can help you plan your content calendar. Ideally you want to write blog posts a couple months before their peak search period, so as give them time to mature and reach the first page of Google when everybody is searching for them.
The third section shows you other relevant keywords and their volume and difficulty scores. This is useful since it allows you to find related keywords that you can also add to your post or new ones if your current one is too competitive.
The final three sections is where it gets a bit complicated, but once you learn to interpret it it’s incredibly useful. This is your competition analysis section of the dashboard. It displays the first 10 results that appear on the first page of Google and will show you tons of additional information that MozBar doesn’t provide.
In the SERP Analysis tab the main columns you need to look at are DA, Links, Title, Desc, URL. Let me break these down for you.
- DA: The domain authority of the website – how established it is in the eyes of Google
- Links: How many external websites and internal pages are linking to that specific post
- Title: Is the keyword included in the title?
- Desc: Is the keyword included in the meta description?
- URL: Is the keyword included in the URL?
The idea is that even if the articles currently on the first page of Google have a DA that is higher than yours, you might still be able to outrank them if you can build more links to that specific post or include the keyword in the title, description and URL if they haven’t.
If you click on the Rankings/Traffic tab this will show you how many keywords that website ranks for and how much search engine traffic it gets. It’s not 100% accurate but it does give you an indication of whether it’s an established website or it just has one lucky well-optimised post.
The social tab is an interesting one. Again the count isn’t 100% accurate, but it shows you how many times that post has been shared on Facebook and Pinterest. This is where social media plays into SEO. Google see social shares as one of the validating factors for an article’s quality. After all, if it was shit people wouldn’t be sharing it right? If all other factors are equal you might be able to push your post up the first page of Google by getting it tons of reshares on social media.
These screenshots are a good example of this. For the keyword “best things to do in London” The Crazy Tourist has a lower DA than any of the posts that come after it, but they were able to outrank them by including the keyword in the title, URL, meta description and by getting more social media shares than the other sites.
KeySearch also has other useful features in addition to the keyword research. For example in the Competitive Analysis tab you can see the backlinks to a competitor site or in Rank Tracking you can select keywords to rank over time.
KeySearch is an extremely useful tool that will show you so much information that its free counterparts are unable to do. For 17 USD a month you can have a competitive edge over other bloggers. As more people become aware of SEO, keyword research and start optimising their sites, you need the additional information it provides if you want to rank on Google. My traffic wouldn’t be what it is today without KeySearch, it’s an investment that will pay for itself.
If you’re looking for more guidance on keyword research and more generally how to get more page views from Google, check out SEO The Easy Way. This is a course by Make Traffic Happen that goes through step-by-step exactly everything you need to do to improve your SEO and explode your organic search traffic.
I hope you found this guide to finding killer keywords to rank for on Google useful, if you have any questions let me know in the comments below! I walked you through the exact process I go through to select a keyword before I start writing an article. I included both free tools and a paid one, so that you have the option of choosing whether to invest in KeySearch or not. I personally think you should since it provides additional information and it will be worth the investment.
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