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Finding good keywords for an SEO campaign is not as complicated as it seems. Many blogs, articles and my fellow professionals have made it out to be harder than it actually is.

Now don’t get me wrong, the process takes a little time. If you are willing to do some thinking, you can find some great words and phrases to make your website or blog into an SEO superpower.

This article is the first in a series of topics that will be combined and featured on our blog as the SEO Playbook. It is a basic but practical set of steps to create excellent search engine rankings with proper SEO.

Get your yellow pad, whiteboard, or excel spreadsheet ready to make a big, long list of words to explore.

Let’s start with your customer:

1. Explore Popular Questions and Topics
The most common step people overlook when starting their keyword journey is research. You may think that sounds like a crazy statement because most people do a fair amount of research when looking for keyword targets.

They are looking in the wrong place.

The standard process typically looks something like this:

Talk to the business about their products and services
Fire up a keyword tool
Assemble a large group of keywords that have low competition and high traffic
Pick the top 10
Go write your blog

Not only is this less than effective, it is fundamentally the wrong approach in order to achieve long-term results. Google itself will tell you to create your website for people, not search engines. The place to start your keyword list is with people.

Magazines are one of my favorite sources to use when researching a new topic is. No one puts more time, money and focus into fledging out topics than magazines. They do such an awesome job finding the 5 -10 topics their readers care about most and then writing about those topics in hundreds of different ways. This is content gold free for the taking!

Take one of my favorite magazines for example. See if you can tell what the readers of this magazine care about most.

similar SEO terms

See anything similar?

Find any similar topics between these two covers that are 3 years apart???

  • Six pack abs
  • More Sex
  • Gain Muscle
  • Lose Pounds
  • Best Body
  • Cardio Plan

Do you think that the multi-million dollar publishing company Rodale, just ran out of ideas?

NO! They know what people like, and people continue to come back. So follow the lead (and money) and research of magazines to see what’s popular. Here is one of my favorite places to look for magazines: amazon.com/magazines

Can’t find a good magazine that covers your industry? Try LinkedIn Groups. Almost every industry on the planet is networking on LinkedIn nowadays. This is a great place to research what the top questions and topics of discussion are.

LinkedIn Groups for SEO

Lot’s of SEO groups here.

There are not many magazines out there discussing the topic of SEO, but there are plenty of groups talking about it on LinkedIn.

Take the time to find out which groups are active with discussions and have more than 23 members. Once you locate these groups, look for the most popular discussions in the group. Oftentimes the group will have a featured set of questions at the top of the Groups homepage.

Popular LinkedIn Topics


Remember the 80/20 rule – 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the work. This is that step.

By using other people’s research and expertise you can get a great idea of what to expand on in your next step, Google search.

2. Ask Google
A neat trick to find the keywords people are searching is to use the Google suggest bar. In the image below we typed in the phrase ‘find keywords’ and then stopped. We know this is a popular topic because people ask us all the time how to do it, and you are here reading it aren’t you? 😉

effective keywords

Google suggest is awesome!

As you can see, the fourth result down that Google suggests is ‘finding effective keywords’. This was the seed for our keyword research tool that we will cover here.

We also could’ve continued to search by typing in ‘find keywords f’ and continued through the entire alphabet, resulting in different suggestions. This is such a wonderful shortcut because Google is giving us phrases that people are entering without out us having to do all sorts of digging.

Instead of writing about what we thought was important, we went to look at what people were actually searching for.

Another nice option from Google is the “similar phrases” feature listed at the bottom.

similar searches

Find more.

At the bottom of the page on the very same search for ‘finding keywords’ is this list of phrases. Google gives us another clue to what people want by telling us other similar searched words or terms that people have entered recently that are close to ‘find keywords’.

Alas, more free research and content from Google—just from paying attention. We love to copy and paste these findings into a blank document and save it into the clients file we are writing for. This saves everyone time when going to make the next blog editorial calendar.

As you can see, we could have just as easily named this blog ‘finding the right keywords’ instead.

Bonus item for this section: Those of you willing to get on Google+ can use the search bar at the top of your homepage to do the same steps mentioned above.

The difference between the usual Google search and this search is that you get a more dynamic set of results. Photos, videos, hangouts, blogs posts and articles appear here and give you a much richer view of what others are reading and writing about.

3. Use keyword tools to expand your research.
The purpose of a keyword tool is really two things:

  1. Idea expansion
  2. Clarification/confirmation of good target words and phrases

The purpose of a keyword tool is not to give you original ideas. That is why the previous section on research is so important. If you rely on a keyword tool to give you the basis for your campaigns, then you will get weird keyword phrases like this:

‘Dallas ranking seo words’
‘rank for dallas keywords’
‘keyword phrase find for right’

These are not compelling subjects to write about! They are pieces of data spit out of an algorithm.

There are far too many paths a keyword tool can take you down. By waiting until the third step to use a keyword tool, you can expand on the words and phrases around what your research revealed.

It would be easy to have just named the blog “How to Find Effective Keywords for Your Blog.” Google Suggest lets us know that people recently entered that phrase, but doesn’t tell us how many people used that phrase. It also doesn’t tell us how competitive that particular phrase would be.

As we mentioned earlier, “find effective keywords” is the query we typed into the keyword tool. Oftentimes, the hardest task when researching with keyword tools is knowing where to start. This time we already had a great phrase.

You can see below that “find effective keywords” has no consistent measurable traffic. However, right below it is a similar phrase with 1,000 searches a month. That’s a nice little chunk of people to target!

Alternate phrases

Look for similar terms and phrases

That’s all it takes sometimes. The amount of research that is required inside of a tool really just depends on the industry and topic you choose to go with. If you are having problems with step three, there are many great articles discussing how to extract similar phrases and words to your entry. Most likely, though, you will need to return to step one and find some new ideas.

So there you have it: three simple steps to get you the best keywords for your blog posts. The beauty of this process is that you are using data provided by people who have done their homework and by the actual customers that you are looking to reach.

Have any additional tricks for finding blog keywords that you want to share? We love to hear your best practices. Add yours below!

Jake on Google+>

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