Keyword research is a lot more difficult than you might imagine. Finding popular keywords is only the start. You also have to be able to spot which keywords your blog can realistically rank for and where your competitors are vulnerable.
In this article, I’ll teach you my five-step process to identifying which keywords are worth pursuing. Let’s get to it!
Step 1: Research Potential Keywords Using Ubersuggest
There are a lot of tools you can use for keyword research. As far as sheer volume data goes, my top pick is Google Keyword Planner. However, Keyword Planner is not the only good option.
These days, I’ve become a huge fan of Neil Patels’ Ubersuggest tool. It’s a user-friendly keyword-research service that you can use for free (with some limits) and it enables you to navigate keyword suggestions using multiple categories.
For example, if you look up the search term “paella” (which I love), Ubersuggest returns over 500 keyword ideas:
As you can see, keyword ideas are separated into SUGGESTIONS, RELATED, QUESTIONS, PREPOSITIONS, AND COMPARISONS. Usually, long-tail keywords are the easiest for newer blogs to rank for since there’s less competition. If you take a peek into the QUESTIONS, PREPOSITIONS, and COMPARISONS tabs, you’ll find plenty of viable long-tail options:
More importantly, Ubersuggest includes some of the most reliable difficulty scores in the field, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
For now, here’s what I want you to do with any potential keyword ideas you have:
- Look up long-tail variants using the filters I mentioned above (QUESTIONS, PREPOSITIONS, and COMPARISONS).
- Make a list of any relevant suggestions with search volumes of ten or above.
- Separate the keyword suggestions with the highest search volumes (numbers in the hundreds).
At this stage, you want to put together two lists of potential keywords. One list will include options with high-search volumes and the second will cover the rest.
For the best results, you want to focus on the list of options with decent search volume and use the others as secondary keywords throughout your content. However, we still have a lot of filtering to do, which brings us to difficulty scores.
Step 2: Analyze Keyword Difficulty Scores
Most keyword research tools include what we call difficulty scores for each suggestion they give you (unless they don’t have enough data). In a nutshell, that score is a number from one to ten that tells you how hard it is to rank for that specific keyword.
For a new blog, your ideal difficulty score should be between 0-20. That range tells you a specific keyword can be vert easy to rank for. However, keywords with those scores tend to have very small search volumes (hence the low level of competition):
Since you may not find many keyword opportunities worth pursuing within that range, you need to aim higher. A happy medium, for me, is within the 20-50 difficulty score range.
That range tells you a specific keyword has traffic and that there’s competition, but not so high that you can’t beat them. Scores higher than 50, on the other hand, are extremely difficult to rank for with a new website that doesn’t have much authority.
Now that you know how difficulty scores work, let’s prune the list of keywords you put together during step number one. Go ahead and remove any results with difficulty scores over 50.
To make your life easier, I suggest you put together all this information in a spreadsheet. We’re going to keep adding more data, so an organized approach will make your life easier.
Step 3: See What Your Competitors Are Doing
The true challenge when it comes to ranking for a keyword is doing a better job than your competitors. To do that, you need to do some research.
That means taking the keywords you’ve put together so far, one by one, running Google searches and analyzing the results. For example, let’s say you want to target the keyword “jambalaya vs paella” (sorry if this is making you hungry). Here are the top results:
Most of the top results are simple breakdowns of the differences between both recipes. However, once you open them, here’s a breakdown of those top three results:
- A simple blog post with a recipe and little to no formatting (which is a big no-no).
- We have a forum thread with a couple dozen responses.
- A full-blown post including subheadings, lists, full recipe instructions, and even a video.
Out of all those results, only the third one would be hard to ‘beat’ since it’s very comprehensive. To do so, you’d need to write a more thorough piece with better formatting, pictures, and keyword use.
Despite that outlier, that quick research shows it would be easy to rank for the “jambalaya vs paella” search term. Getting the first spot would take more effort, but it’s a keyword that can give you an easy win.
This research should also give you insight into what type of content to write for each keyword. Go ahead and add that information to your list next to each search term, so you know what type of ideas to build around it.
Step 4: Look Up Related Keywords That You Can Use
There’s another nugget of information we can take from Google search results when it comes to potential keywords. If you look up any search term you’re interested in and scroll to the bottom of the results, you’ll see this:
Most keyword research tools will give you related search term information. However, Google search results filter that data down to the most relevant terms.
What I like to do is take those related keywords and determine which ones I can use within the content I want to write about. For this example, our best bet would be to write a thorough tutorial on how to cook jambalaya and paella and the differences between both recipes (bonus points if you include their stories as well).
With that in mind, we can throw out two of the related search terms you see above:
- Jambalaya vs gumbo
- Gumbo recipe
Those two are not relevant to our imaginary audience, so including them wouldn’t be necessary. Now, take the remaining keywords and add them to your spreadsheet. Here’s what a single entry in your list should look like:
That right there is all the information you need to start putting together a content calendar that targets the keywords with the best chance to get you traffic in the short-term.
What order to tackle that content in depends on you. I’d recommend starting with the keywords that have a good difficulty score and search volume ratio. However, those tend to be unicorns and you want to publish content often, so you can proceed in any order you want.
Keyword research goes well beyond being able to look up popular search terms. You need to be able to identify which opportunities are worth pursuing, what terms can give you the best short-term returns, and how to beat your competitors when it comes to content.
I’m not going to lie, that’s all a lot of work. However, if you put a few hours aside every month or two, it’s perfectly possible to plan a content calendar that will yield you the best results possible. Here’s how to get started:
- Research potential keywords using Ubersuggest.
- Analyze keyword difficulty scores.
- See what your competitors are doing.
- Look up related keywords that you can use.
Do you have any questions about how to determine which keywords are worth pursuing? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below.