These should NOT be guessed. You don’t want to create content for a keyword you will never rank for. We need to know WHAT people are searching (keyword research) and whether your site is capable of ranking for it (keyword competition). A little research can greatly improve your chances of getting on page 1. This should be done before writing content… writing about ‘how to get out of debt’ vs. ‘how to get out of debt on one income‘ is different.
I recommend creating a full keyword list in a Google Doc so you can plan your content development. I would also use multiple tools (steps 1-3) so you don’t miss any keywords. Listing each keyword and it’s estimated competition will do… anything else can be overboard.
I wrote a definitive Yoast tutorial that shows you how to configure the ideal settings, verify Google Search Console and fix crawl errors, optimize content (there’s more to it than green lights), and add accelerated mobile pages (AMP). Be sure to check it out when you’re done.
Table Of Contents
- Start With Google Autocomplete
- Find More Keywords With Moz Keyword Explorer
- Find Competitor Keywords With HubShout WebGrader
- Choose Specific (Long-Tail) Keywords
- See Keyword Competition With MozBar
- Avoid Competing With Authority Websites
- Avoid Keywords That Show Strong Content
- Local Keywords (Small Town vs. Large City vs. National)
- 1 Keyword Per Page
- Secondary Keywords
- Blog Post Keywords
- Target Lots Of Keywords
1. Start With Google Autocomplete
To find even more keywords, try using different variations like plurals…
You can even use different word ordering…
Autocomplete works with most search engines including Youtube for video SEO…
- Choose specific (long-tail) phrases which are less competitive
- No need to include “best” and other nondescriptive adjectives
- Synonyms can be targeted on the same page (as secondary keywords)
- Most businesses have multiple keywords per service (Indian wedding photographer)
- Being more specific can mean choosing Chicago WordPress designer (instead of Chicago Web Designer) or WordPress SEO Consultant (instead of SEO Consultant)… targeting a geography or type of web design is one way to target more specific phrases
2. Find More Keywords With Moz Keyword Explorer
To make sure you don’t miss keywords, use Moz Keyword Explorer. This is similar to Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords) plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the same ones. Start with a broad keyword.
Click on keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions.
Moz Keyword Explorer Tips
- Group related keywords with low lexical similarity (use filter)
- Write down keywords you didn’t find in Google Autocomplete
- Start with a broad phrase, then look for specific, long-tail phrases
3. Find Competitor Keywords With HubShout WebGrader
Use HubShout WebGrader to see a full list of competitor keywords, or your own. Just run a website through it, let it process, and click ‘see full keyword analysis.’ Here are some of mine.
4. Choose Specific (Long-Tail) Keywords
Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for and usually have 3-7+ words in the phrase. They also attract a more targeted visitor (someone searching for Chicago WordPress Design instead of Chicago Web Design). Unless you’re targeting a small town and have 1 primary keyword like “Lake Forest Divorce Lawyer” you probably have other long-tail keywords you should target.
When To Get More Specific?
- Anytime you see a more specific phrase in Autocomplete…
- Chicago Painter is competitive, Chicago Interior Painter is better
- Chicago Real Estate is competitive, Chicago Commercial Real Estate is better
- Chicago Computer Repair is competitive, Chicago Macbook Pro Repair is better
- Yoast SEO Plugin is competitive, Yoast SEO Plugin Settings is better
- SEO Consultant is competitive, WordPress SEO Consultant is better
- SiteGround Review is competitive, SiteGround GoGeek Review is better
5. See Keyword Competition With MozBar (Chrome Extension)
The MozBar Chrome Extension lets you Google any keyword to see how competitive it is. Instead of hoping a page will rank high when you publish it, simply Google the keyword with MozBar. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the harder it is to rank. You’ll want to compete with keywords within your own DA/PA range.
- Learn your own DA using OSE and compete for keywords within your range
- Broad phrases usually have high DA + PA, specific phrases have low DA + PA
- Build your DA by getting more links to your site (through awesome content)
- Websites (especially new ones) will have low DA, so target very specific phrases
- If you’re targeting competitive keywords in Google Maps, see my local SEO guide
- You can build PA by improving the content and pointing internal links to the page
6. Avoid Competing With Authority Websites
Avoid competing with websites that have a high domain authority in OSE, like the ones below. Sometimes it’s OK to compete with these websites if they do a poor job of covering the topic.
- and so forth…
7. Avoid Keywords That Show Strong Content
The best opportunities are when you Google a keyword, weak or irrelevant content appears in the top results. Just Google the keyword and skim through the top results to see if people cover the topic extensively. If not, that means it’s the perfect opportunity for you to rank high.
8. Local Keywords (Small Town vs. Large City vs. National)
The larger the area, the more specific your keywords will be, and the more you will have. Smaller towns will have broad keywords while larger cities will have more specific phrases…
Small towns have a small number of broad keywords…
Large cities tend to have multiple specific keywords…
National keywords are even more specific, and there’s more of them…
Multiple Locations – each location should have it’s own page (sometimes multiple pages) depending on whether multiple keywords are being searched in each area. Each location should also have it’s own citations (online directories like Google My Business, Facebook Page, Yelp, Bing Places…) which is exactly what my WordPress local SEO guide walks you through.
9. 1 Keyword Per Page
Only synonyms can be targeted on the same page. This is because Google wants to show the most relevant results so keywords that mean 2 different things should have their own page.
10. Secondary Keywords (Synonyms)
All you have to do is research a synonym of your primary keyword then incorporate both of these in your page title, SEO title, and meta description. This is by FAR the most important part but you can also sprinkle your secondary keyword 1-2 times in your content. You do NOT have to incorporate both as full keywords (exact matches) otherwise your headline will look spammy. Crafting a headline that sounds nice AND includes partial matches is the way to go.
Here’s an example:
Step 1: Research your primary keyword…
Step 2: Research your secondary keyword…
Step 3: Write a headline that incorporates both and still sounds nice…
Step 4: Rank for both keywords…
You can use the same strategy in your meta description and (sparingly) in the content body.
11. Blog Post Keywords
Getting traffic to your blog is all fine and dandy, but how do you use non-promotional blog material to get more customers? Here’s what I did…
I offer WordPress speed optimization as part of my SEO services. I wanted more of these projects so I learned what phrases people Google when they have a slow WordPress site. I looked at Google Autocomplete for “slow WordPress…” and saw some results. Then I really put myself in my searcher’s position when I Googled “why is wordpress” and saw it completed the phrase with “why is wordpress so slow” with that keyword on top. There are plenty of variations below it in Autocomplete, indicating that keyword has a good amount of searches. It’s also within my competition if you Google the keyword using MozBar. We have a winner!
And so my blog post was born: Why Is WordPress Slow And How To Get .3s Load Times
People read my guide, realize they don’t have the technical skill to do everything, and some inquire. Completely coincidental that this happened while I was writing this post (seriously, I haven’t gotten one of these for weeks) but I literally just got this comment 3 hours ago:
What kind of phrases can you do this with? Update: that guide has now been viewed over 50,000 times with 145 comments – many from people who were able to get a 1s load time. If you need help reducing your page load time in GTmetrix or Google Page Speed, check it out.
12. Target Lots Of Keywords
Relying on a single source of traffic (through 1 keyword) is never a good strategy… unless you’re in a small town and your keyword is something like “Lake Forest Divorce Lawyer.” Otherwise there should be plenty of keywords to choose from, and you should be trying to target as many as possible. That is the whole concept of “growing your business through SEO.”
Put It All Together And Here’s What You Get…
If you found this post helpful, please share – I would appreciate it. And if you have any questions about Yoast focus keywords or Yoast in general, drop me a line in the comments.