In the post-Hummingbird and Panda era, content marketing has become the essential ‘buzz’ word for marketers and SEOs. Even back in 2014, 57% of marketers reported that content marketing was their number one priority, and the benefits of content marketing are becoming more apparent. Put simply, content marketing has the potential to dramatically increase your chances of ranking higher in SERPs, attracting more visitors and earn more business.

We’re going to be explaining how to do keyword research for content marketing. As an added bonus, we’ll also be looking at:

  • The evolution of content marketing
  • How approaches to keyword research for content marketing have changed
  • Why you need to do keyword research
  • How to conduct keyword for your content marketing.

The Evolution of Content Marketing

If you’re not familiar with the Google Hummingbird update, this might be a good place to start.

In 2013 Google made a significant update to its algorithm. Instead of ranking sites based entirely on related or exact match keywords Hummingbird was introduced to help create more search results relevant to the individual user. More specifically, it examines location, services, products and quality of sites (in addition to lots of other factors), in order to determine where web pages should rank. This meant that sites offering take-out pizza in California no longer needed to include that exact phrase on their site in order to rank for their audience’s queries.

However, This only works if a site has been well-optimized for local searches.

An earlier update to Google’s algorithm, in 2011 – known as Panda – filtered out low-quality pages, known as “content farms”.

These updates work together to ensure that the best performing sites with highly relevant and detailed content would rank well.

How does this affect our approach to content marketing?

The old SEO aimed for keyword density, stuffing sites with as many keywords as they could get away with. It wasn’t even necessary to include a great deal of content, which greatly degraded the user experience. Today, one of the ways that Google measures site quality is by quality and “freshness” (age) of the content being produced.

With such a focus on content quality, it’s apparent that great content that will benefit your users is essential to SEO. However, this doesn’t mean that keywords and keyword usage are obsolete.

Keywords are still necessary.

Why Do Keyword Research?

Keywords help search engines and users figure out the content on your site. Because of this keyword research remains a vital process in ensuring your content is found and converts users.

So, what are we trying to achieve with keyword research?

  • Popularity: How frequently the keyword is searched for. This is typically measured in average monthly searches
  • Competition: Gives an idea of how much competition exists, or how many sites are already targeting a specific keyword.
  • Phrasing: Get a better idea of how people phrase search queries. For example the term ‘cupcake recipe’ is searched for 10-100k times per month on average, while ‘recipe for cupcakes’ is only searched for 1-10k times per month on average, according to Google’s Keyword Planner.

  • Keyword difficulty: This can be investigated using specific tools like KWFinder. By measuring the quality of competing – by examining the number of the backlinks, as well as domain and page authority – it calculates how easily your site can rank for specific keywords.
  • Identify search terms: This can be extremely useful if all your blog ideas have suddenly dried up (don’t worry, it happens to us all). Stick the names of your products or services into a keyword generating tool like Ubersuggest and presto! In no time at all you’ll get a complete list of suggested keywords and phrases that should get your creative juices flowing in no time.

The process for conducting research for your content marketing is much the same as researching keywords for your site’s landing pages. What you really need to focus on is what subject matters are going to be the most beneficial to your users.

After all, we want to keep those Hummingbirds and Pandas happy.

Researching Keywords for Your Content Marketing

Step 1. Understand your audience

Knowing your target audience and customers is key to producing content. Utilize customer surveys, frequently asked questions, reviews and feedback to inform your strategy and create content that will inform and influence decisions.

Step 2. Identify the needs of your audience

Creating customer personas is a great way of tapping into your audience’s wants, needs, desires and motivations. Build these personas to identify what information your customers are looking for. Create content that will answer specific questions and connect with your audience throughout each stage of the purchasing process or cycle. The easiest way to do this is to create content based around search intent that will engage with audiences throughout the purchasing journey.

Informational keywords

These keywords are used at the start of the purchasing journey, where a user may not have a specific idea about what they need. For example if a user searches for ‘unique birthday cakes ideas’ the user may be looking for great recipes, beautiful decorating ideas or somewhere to buy a great cake. If your company sells birthday cakes then you will want make sure that you have content ready to grab their attention.

Keywords in this stage typically start with:

  • Do I need…?
  • How do I…?
  • How much is…?
  • What is…?
  • What are….?

Evaluational keywords

At this stage customers have come to the conclusion that they have a problem and are in need of a solution. In our cake scenario a customer may have decided to look for recipes rather than buy a cake, in which case their queries will commonly start with:

  • Best places for free….
  • Top 10…
  • Best recipe books on…
  • Review for….

Transactional keywords

Because at this stage customers are looking for places to buy a particular product, keywords used here have a high conversion rate. Take a look at your landing pages and product pages and make sure they are optimised for your product’s keywords. You can also create helpful content that focus on the phrases:

  • Best places to buy….
  • Where to buy…
  • Deals on [product name]…
  • Cheap…

Step 3. Identify your objectives

Since you’re creating content that addresses audience needs at each stage of the conversion funnel, you should have unique objectives for each type of keyword as well. Perhaps you want to:

  • O*btain more followers:* Share general help and informative guides
  • Raise your profile: Content with viral potential places less emphasis on keywords and focuses on its shareability in order to get your brand out there. Primary research can really work wonders at raising the profile of your brand. Not only will it help establish your business as an industry leader but good, evergreen content will earn vital backlinks for your site too.
  • Convert readers: Create content around a product you sell or you’re actively trying to promote. If you’re a baker, create a blog about unique birthday cake ideas. Remember to include a call to action and a link to your online store.
  • Enhance the user experience: Helpful, step-by-step guides will enhance the user experience. It also helps to demonstrate your knowledge should they wish to purchase your products or services.
  • Increase web traffic: Content is a great way of getting more people to visit your website. Again, helpful and well-researched content that uses the right keywords can not only attract more visitors but will also get you ranking higher in search results pages.

Step 4. Build topics for your content

Once you’ve got a good idea of who you’re targeting, what information they need and what you’re trying to achieve, you should be able to put together a list of topics to cover. Use these topics as your seed keywords (I find spreadsheets easiest to work with). Using our bakery example here is a list of keywords based on the topics I may want to cover:

  • Cakes for picnics
  • Cupcake recipes
  • Healthy children’s cakes
  • Pancake recipe
  • Unique birthday cakes

Step 5. Generate keyword ideas

Use a tool like Ubersuggest or Answer the Public to create a list of potential keywords for each topic.

Ubersuggest creates a list of keywords based on the seed keyword used which can then be exported or copied into your existing spreadsheet. Repeat this with each of the seed keywords or blog topics until you have a well-populated list for each one.

Answer the Public works by adding interrogatives in front of the keyword and checking Google’s autosuggest.

Step 6. Identify the ‘good’ keywords

In this stage you need to refine your list – getting rid of any keywords with low search volume and high competition. You can use Google Keyword Planner to do this but you will only get a data range for monthly search volume (Keyword Tool has precise search volumes though) and the competition relates to the number of people bidding on keywords, rather than targeting them.

KWFinder on the other hand, lets you delve deeper into keywords, allowing you to assess how they will perform on your site.

A tool like KWFinder allows you to see which sites appear in SERPs for a specific search term, along with their domain and page authority. KWFinder calculates the SEO difficulty (0-100) of ranking sites so that you can determine whether to target that specific keyword or choose another.

Ahrefs is also really useful for establishing keyword difficulty and even allows you to assess how many organic vs paid for clicks a keyword achieves, and the number of clicks per search – the number of different search results people click on after performing a search for this keyword.

Follow the process above with all your keywords to eliminate poor performing keywords or search terms that are going to be too difficult to rank for. Don’t avoid difficult keywords completely, but be mindful that it may take more time and more effort for your site to rank.

Step 7. Create, measure, repeat.

Create your content using your keywords and remember to use your keyword several times throughout your article (ideally in the opening and closing paragraphs and a few more times throughout). Don’t stuff content with keywords! Check our guide to keyword consistency to use keywords to the greatest effect.

Monitor your keywords using WooRanks Keyword Tool to track movement in your keyword position. This will help to identify ways that you can help promote your content or share it to obtain backlinks.

Use Google Analytics to measure how much traffic specific articles are generating.

Getting It Right

Keyword research is so much more than finding clickbait search terms, especially when researching keywords for your content. Remember that the sole purpose of updates like Hummingbird and Panda was to prevent sites with weak, irrelevant content from showing up in search results. Focus on helping your audience and use this knowledge to begin generating your keywords.