How to Start a Blog #5: Content Plan and Keyword Research

How to Start a Blog #5: Content Plan and Keyword Research
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Planning your keywords and articles means to have a content plan.

You need a content plan so you wouldn’t need to keep figuring out what to write about every time you sit down to write an article.

Once you’ve installed your WordPress site, set up your WordPress plugins, and tweaked your general SEO stuff, you’re going to create a basic editorial plan. In a nutshell, It’s a list of article titles you’re going to write, and keywords you’re going to target.

In part one: Choosing a Niche I’ve showed how to do some quick keyword research. Now, we’re going a little deeper.

You probably already know some of the main keywords you’re going to write about. Those keywords will probably be the titles of your articles.

Now, you’re going to do some keyword research on those words, write down the ones that aren’t too difficult to compete in, and then create titles for posts using them.

I suggest Google Sheets or Excel, create 2-3 tabs and name them:

  • Potential Keywords
  • Article (or content) ideas,
  • Content Plan Calendar

What are they used for?

  • first one is for the keywords you’ve picked while doing research
  • second one will have all the good possible ideas for your posts, and
  • third one will have the definitive posts you’re going to write about, with dates.

Please note that a few of the links below are affiliate links, and I may recieve a small compensation, at no cost to you. Know that I also recommend only the best products that I’ve personally used and tested.

What is Keyword Research and Why Do it?

What is keyword research

Keywords are the words and phrases that people are searching for in search engines.

It can be just one word like “boots” or multiple words, called “long-tail keywords”, such as “best cheap leather boots”.

It’s almost always best to target those long-tail keywords.

Next to website speed and properly set SEO, keyword difficulty is one of the most important factors of being able to rank high on Google.

If you’re a beginner entrepreneur, it’s also probably best to use long-tail keywords, because they are less competitive and more specific. Both very good reasons to consider. They are usually 3-4 words in length.

To get visitors to your website, you need to write helpful content that answers questions (or satisfy needs) better than the competing posts.

Some people are simply looking for entertainment, some are looking for quotes or inspirational images, whatever it is – your posts must be better, or different in some way, than the competing articles for the same keywords.

Keyword research is a way of finding good article ideas, containing short or long combination of keywords, for which you can rank high on Google.

Rank high on google with good keywords

You will rank higher if your article is more helpful.

Or if it has some other advantage, compared to other similar articles.

When you create 10-15 articles, and put a date on when you’ll post them, with keywords you’re going to target in them, you pretty much have a content plan.

You want to have a content plan (editorial plan, content strategy) so you don’t get into situation where you’re not sure what to write about, and spend too much time on figuring out your article titles, and you end up drifting, tired and exhausted from researching all over again.

When you sit down to write an article, you need to know the title and the goal.

It’s much better to create 20+ article ideas right now.

To write on a blog consistently, without burning out, you need to have a content plan, and do some keyword research. Otherwise you’re setting yourself to fail.

How to Figure out What to Write About?

At the start of a blog, it’s important to have the main idea of what you’re doing. What are your main keywords, what is your brand, and what is your message.

To gain competitive advantage, leverage your own expertise and knowledge to create a brand, and simply go ahead and compete in the field that you know you’ll be successful.

Whatever you know well, if it’s useful, if you think people might Google about it – go for it. If you think you will enjoy learning and writing about it, it’s a good reason to start. If you can think of 10 articles from the top of your head, that you could write about at this moment, then you’re good to go.

Follow that road. And write at least some of your articles yourself.

I truly believe that you should write at least some of your articles, if not most of them, especially in the beginning. Because you need to develop your own voice for your brand. However, this is not necessary, as you can hire writers, it all depends on your blog type.

If you just focus on writing reviews, comparisons, etc. on products and services, and earn from Amazon or other affiliate programs and ads, then you may decide to quit one day. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but you don’t want to limit yourself.

Think broad, so you don’t pigeonhole yourself into a small segment of your sub-niche.

Open Your Horizons - think far and wide

If you still haven’t figured out the niche, then try to focus on:

  1. your expertise
  2. your passions
  3. and your effort.

When you leverage your expertise to your advantage, you have the road paved for you.

When you follow your passions, you’ll have the motivation to walk that road.

And, when you follow your effort, it will lead you to your passions and to success.

If you create a brand around what you already know, not only is it going to be easy to figure out the content plan, but you’ll be writing about stuff you know and you’ll enjoy it more.

Success is not guaranteed, but failure is much more probable if you write about something you don’t like, or have zero interest in. Write about things that interest you. Develop your own voice and brand. Even if you don’t know much about it, just go for it. You’ll learn along the road.

First step is to write down a few main words and then do some keyword research.

Best Free Keyword Research Tools

AnswerThePublic

AnswerThePublic.com is one of the most helpful websites out there.

This is the perfect place to start your keyword research, because it gives an enormous amount of possibilities, and article ideas.

The only downside here is that it’s limited to a certain number of searches per day.

Regardless of this limitation, it’s a very useful tool.

How to Use AnswerThePublic

  1. Type your word(s) in the search box, click “Get Questions” and wait a bit

Down below you’ll have all the suggestions related to your keywords. Basically, these are all the most popular Google Searches related to your keywords. It’s difficult to read because it’s in a circle but you can,

  • Click “Data” and see everything nicely presented
AnswerThePublic.com Data

If you have Keywords Everywhere extension installed you could:

  • either “Download CSV” or (if you have keywords everywhere extension) “Export CSV”, which appears in lower right corner, and also use the extra data Keywords Everywhere gives.
AnswerThePublic.com Download or Export CSV

Pick 10-20 keywords that you know you can write something about.

Later steps:

  • After that, you would google these questions and check “related searches” for semantics, to better understand the psychology of those who search (check below)
  • Then you would check out the competition level using SEMrush or Ahrefs (check below)
  • Finally, though not always needed, you could take a look at Google Trends, just to figure out if it’s cyclical or not and whether the trend is changing (also check below)

Keywords Everywhere

Important: KE is no longer free. It is a paid tool now.

Keywords Everywhere is one of the most helpful tools for simple keyword research.

It’s free, and integrates into all these sites seamlessly:

  • Google Search
  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Trends
  • Bing
  • Youtube
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • UberSuggest
  • AnswerThePublic.com
  • Soovle
  • KeywordShitter
  • Moz Open Site Explorer
  • Majestic
  • Etsy
Keywords Everywhere Integrates into Google Search

Keywords Everywhere Integrates into Keyword Planner

I use it all the time.

Keywords Everywhere shows the monthly search volume, cost per click and competition data, and it shows this everywhere it integrates.

Additionally, it offers a way to download data in Excel, CSV or PDF file.

How to Use Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere is a browser addon. It’s available for Chrome and Firefox.

To use it you need to add it to your browser. We used to didn’t need an API key to use it, but now you need to get one. Just sign up and you’ll get the API key immediately.

Once installed it’ll be in the upper right corner of your browser where you can enable or disable it with one click.

Keywords Everywhere Extension

To use Keywords Everywhere, just go to one of the following services mentioned above, such as Keyword Planner or Google Search, and you will be shown all the extra data without the need to do anything.

For Google, you just search on Google, and check the data it shows, such as monthly general search volume, CPC and many of the additional related searches. This will give you a general idea of where the traffic is.

If you look on the right, you can see many related searches (some of them are identical to the bottom of the Google related searches).

For semantics, I would always rely on the bottom of the Google page, but this extension expands on it, and gives more ideas.

It’s usefulness is obvious, and it’s very easy to use. Mostly because it integrates everywhere so smoothly.

Note about Google Keyword Planner

This is a Free tool from Google for planning ad campaigns.

Important: Google Keyword Planner is not a great keyword research tool for bloggers who need traffic search volume. This tool is for advertisers.

I’ve seen many people recommending this tool for keyword research, but this is not what the tool is for. You may get a general overview of the traffic, but you won’t get accurate search volume data. Just remember that there may be much more traffic than shown, even if it’s 0, because of the commercial aspect of the keyword.

Google Keyword Planner is estimating the number of search volumes that will have ads. It’s not giving information on how many people search these keywords, but how many ad impressions you will get on these keywords.

How to Use Google Keyword Planner

If you still want to use this tool for general overview, how would you do it:

  1. Go to Google Keyword Planner

2. Click on “Discover new Keywords”

Google Keyword Planner Discover New Keywords

3. Enter a few main keywords and click “Get Results

4. You will also need to select “Location”, “Language” and

Google Keyword Planner Location, Language, Date

5. If you’ve installed Keywords Everywhere extension you’ll get specific volume (but not the search volume which may be more accurate), then also CPC, competition level for ad placement (not relevant to you) and a few other columns

6. Click either “download keyword ideas” or “Export CSV” (button from Keywords Everywhere extension) and save it

Google Keyword Planner Download
Google Keyword Planner Export CSV

7. Do this for all your main keywords

8. Finally, open the files one by one, and write (or type) down the keyword ideas for your articles that you want. You can use this data as a general overview, but not as a confirmation about search volume.

After that, you can check the data on Ahrefs or SEMrush (see below). Otherwise, just use the data from Keywords Everywhere and take a look at Google Trends.

Google Trends

Another useful tool from Google, which often gets neglected.

To get Google to send traffic to your domain consistently, the popularity and trend of the keywords should lways be constant or increasing.

It’s mainly used to check for a general trend of a keyword. If it’s going down, or has spikes then you should be cautious about those keywords.

Google Trends shows the interest over time in a given keyword.

How to Use Google Trends

Google Trends shows relative popularity of a search query.

It doesn’t show you the actual volume of searches, just the normalized indication of interest, from 0 to 100. Popularity doesn’t always correlate with query’s search volume, but many times it does.

I won’t go deeper into how it is calculated, and it’s not really important right now.

What’s important is to properly interpret the data.

Long-term, mild spikes that keep going up and down, up and down, and seem almost identical, may indicate that it has a seasonal trend, and with this you would need to figure out articles that are relevant during the off-season time.

Google Trends Seasonality Spikes

If we take a closer look for 12 months, we can see when it’s the most popular:

Google Trends Popularity

Winter boots are being searched – slightly before winter. (what a surprise right?)

But, that tells us something.

If you’re a beginner entrepreneur, starting up with blogging and choosing a niche, just keep in mind that in order to rank at the highest possible spot on Google, most of the time it takes 4-7 months, depending.

So plan your articles for seasonal niches accordingly.

If you’re going to write about winter hobbies, write them in the summer, and vice-versa. Or, you can write complementing topics that bring in some money in the summer, next to those in winter.

To avoid having to wait this long, start your backlink strategy early, and try to do some guest-posting (more on that in part 10). You will then have higher authority and Google will trust you more and show your posts and pages higher up and sooner.

If Google Trends is showing a drop in searches consider why would that be. Perhaps the stuff is not popular anymore, and was just a passing fad.

Google Trends One-time Popularity

You’ll want to avoid these one time spikes (or capitalize on time).

If you have a Youtube channel, you can also check Youtube Search trending and popularity:

Google Trends Youtube Search

Another important thing is to try to look at “top queries” next to “rising queries”. You can then click on those to see how they are trending

Google Trends Top Related Queries

Additionally, make sure that searches are coming from all over the US (if you’re targetting US audience), or any areas you’re writing for. You probably don’t want searches coming from a few states only because it’s risky:

Google Trends Location Bias

If you’re an established blogger, or a small business with an already established blog, you may want to find relevant topics that are trending right now, and then capitalize on them.

Larger, more popular blogs do this constantly, and it pays off.

So you see why this tool can be very useful, but also misleading if not interpreted properly.

Google Search

This one may be either obvious, or silly to you, but Google Search Engine itself is a great tool for keyword research.

Mostly because of it’s suggestions.

Google Suggestions

Google Search Suggestions are very useful because it’s a direct evidence of what people are searching for, and it gives you ideas for your content.

It’s a “manual” way of searching for your article ideas, compared to answerthepublic.com.

I suggest doing it in “incognito”, because the way Google Search works, is that it shows different data to different registered users. It adapts to your own needs. Going incognito, mitigates this. Right click and open your browser in incognito. You could also just disable “private searches” in settings, though I’m not sure how effective this is.

Then I would also suggest, to check that you are searching from the desired country you’re targeting. Perhaps you’re not from US or UK, but your target audience is. You can change this here:

Google Search_search settings

Select your target audience location and click Save:

Google Search_search settings_location

This will give you a more correct result.

How to use Google Suggestions

Use a method called “alphabet soup”.

What you do is start typing your keywords, then put * (asterisk sign) at the end of your query, like this:

Google Suggestions_alphabet soup method

Then just go a, b, c, … and so on.

This will not only give you all the ideas for those keywords, but also many other possible keywords and ideas. You could go without the asterisk sign and see how it goes.

Once you find the question you like, search it and check some of the articles.

Always check the competition, at least to see the general idea of quality and quantity.

Make sure the query and the needs for the Google Search are specifically answered in those articles. If they are not specific, then you can do better. Write those keywords as ideas. If the posts are small, less than 1500 words or without images – you can do better. Write them down.

If the first 4-5 posts aren’t anything special – you can rank on number 1. Write them down.

You can see how many possibilities this opens.

It may look discouraging if you’re just starting, and everything you search seems to have an answer on it.

Don’t get discouraged. You’re just lacking experience and don’t see all the angles.

Keep going. Look closer, they may be old articles, or mediocre or not answering specifically. Look at Google related searches – are the needs really being satisfied by those articles? Write stuff down. Type stuff down. Write notes.

Keep these things in mind:

  • if it’s a sub-niche, you’re shooting for number ONE on Google.
  • In which case, you don’t need to check all the results, just the first few.
  • “how to do something” is not the same as “tips to do something”
  • Always check “related searches” for semantics
  • Try to look at all the angles, to get an edge with your own article

Google Related Searches (Semantics)

Google related Searches are the suggestions at the bottom of the Google Search page.

When you search something on Google, you usually get 6-8 related searches as suggestions at the bottom of the page.

Google Search_related searches

Semantic search is the meaning behind the search, distinguished from the lexical search, where the search engine looks for the literal matches of the query words

Semantics has been more and more important for SEO, especially since 2015.

How to Use Google Related Searches

Semantic Search gives you an idea of what users need, the psychology of searchers.

When you understand what their actual needs are, you can better answer the questions in your post.

Similar to what LSIGraph does. LSIGraph is nothing more than semantic suggestions to your searches.

This is also useful because it gives you ideas for articles.

You can also click those related searches, and go even deeper to find even more ideas.

Once you’ve found a few good ones, check the number of general search volume, if it’s above 500 at least, for US, and seems like the competition isn’t fierce, you can go for it.

Best Keyword Research Tools

SEMrush

SEMrush

SEMrush has so many options, so many tools, that it’s unreasonable not to try it.

Ahrefs seems to not take keyword suggestions and similarities when calculating KD sometimes, and shows very low KD for many words which should almost certainly have high KD.

That’s why I prefer SEMrush for keyword research, and sometimes I combine them.

SEMrush is free for a few searches daily, however, they have a free trial, which is free for 7 days. Their paid plans are a bit pricey, and may be a bit too steep for a solo blogger, but if you have an established blog with regular income, or have a small business and the budget – it’s a good investment.

How to Use SEMrush

SEMrush_Keyword Magic Tool_1
  1. Go to SEMrush (You can try out a SEMrush Trial as well)
  2. Go to “Keyword Analytics” and click “Keyword Magic Tool
  3. Enter your keyword, select US and hit “Search”
  4. Look at Volume, KD, trend and CPC

Keyword Difficulty tells you how hard is it to compete for that keyword.

You get the “average KD” on the top of the column which tells you generally how difficult it is to rank for such keyword(s).

SEMrush is slightly different than Ahrefs when calculating KD, and tells you the difficulty for ranking in the first 20 results on Google Search.

You should aim for below 70.

The higher the difficulty, the better and longer your posts need to be. Also, if you’re just starting out, to shorten your time for Google to start sending you traffic, it may be smart to write some response posts (~1500 words) targeting low KD words. Otherwise, start guest posting, or wait for 5 months for Google to rank your posts organically.

SEMrush_Keyword Magic Tool

Volume is obvious, and represents the general monthly search volume. If you’re writing content for US audience primarily, go for at least 500 Volume from US. The higher the volume the better, but the higher it is the more competitive it is.

Remember that there are more variations for the given keyword, so just because it’s below 500 doesn’t mean that you can’t target similar keywords and get it to above 500. And finally, 500 is just arbitrarily taken number, feel free to be flexible.

CPC means “Cost per Click” and tells you how much advertisers are paying to put their ads next to such keywords. It also tells you the buying power of the general reader.

The higher the CPC the higher the buying power, and the bigger the probability that your readers will happily pay for something, either for themselves or their business.

For example, CPC for “account based marketing” is ~$30 while for anything that has a “free” word in it ~$1.

That’s because account based marketing is for B2B entrepreneurs and companies who pay hefty sums for ABM software, and “free” connects to anyone who is not ready to spend money to get the necessary products or services.

If you want to make a living out of this, then you need to have at least “some” of your main keywords in the medium and upper range (at least $5+ range). The rest can be in the lower range.

Ahrefs

One of the better tools out there, especially for backlink checking on your domain.

There is so much useful data on Ahrefs, it’s almost irresistible not to keep using it.

They used to have a free trial, but now the trial costs $7 for 7 days. I still recommend it.

You can even use their standard plan during this period as well, which is more than enough for a blogger to keep doing keyword research daily. You can also cancel it before 7 days expire, so they don’t charge you anything above $7.

Tools you should check on Ahrefs at this point is Keywords Explorer.

How to Use Ahrefs

Once you’ve either bought the 7 day trial for $7 or monthly subscription, click on “keywords explorer”.

Ahrefs keywords explorer

Enter a few keywords and hit search.

Here, you’ll have all kinds of useful info. The most useful being:

  • Keyword Difficulty (KD)
  • Volume,
  • CPS, and
  • CPC
Ahrefs_keyword research

KD, Volume and CPC are now familiar to you (check SEMrush part above).

However, as previously mentioned, Ahrefs and SEMrush are different in their KD calculation.

On Ahrefs, if you’re a newcomer to blogging, you should be going for the Keyword Difficulty of less than 30 (max 40). Unless you know how to write excellent posts, set up SEO, draw your audience in and have them have a good time.

Everything else is very similar to SEMrush (check above) except CPS.

CPS “Clicks per search tells you how many searches actually resulted in clicks.

There are searches that get shown in Google as a snippet (a direct answer in Search) and people don’t click. Or for whatever reasons the keywords get low CPS.

If the CPS is low, be cautious or avoid it because it means Google isn’t sending all the traffic to those keywords.

So keep that in mind, if CPS is 0.5 it means only half of the Volume result in actual clicks.

Important: Once you generate a search, download it from ahrefs in a .csv and keep them in separate folders easy to look over later on. Keeping things organized will prevent from getting overloaded with data.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Another great tool, especially for backlink checking. Keyword Explorer very much the same as all the other keyword research tools.

Once you sign up, you get 10 free searches. That’s it. Everything else you need to pay.

The data they provide is similar to SEMrush accuracy, but they don’t have all those other additional SEMrush tools, the functionality and advanced interface.

Moz keyword explorer

However, they have access to a lot of data, so their reports are fairly accurate.

Create a List of 10 Articles

Now it’s time to use the final keywords and make titles out of them.

Best thing to do is to start a new Google Sheets or Excel file.

In this file you’ll write down all the Article ideas in one tab, and final article titles in another.

In that second tab you’ll also want to write the date when you’ll be publishing it and main keywords you will be targeting.

This way you’ll have an editorial calendar and a clear plan of what to write and when.

Having a goal for every article, date when it will be published and keywords to target, creates a crystal clear path for you to successfully walk on.

When you sit down to write your posts, you’ll know exactly what you’re doing.

And no matter how much research you need to do for them, it’ll be so much easier to do, and you’ll always publish them on time.

Nothing will be left half-baked.

So go get them, my fellow entrepreneur! I want you to succeed.

See you in part 6: Create Static Pages and a Sitemap, where I’m going to show which pages are the important ones for a blog, and why is it useful to have a sitemap.


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