Keyword Research for Blogs & Publishers

Search engines are one of the most valuable sources of qualified traffic for websites, but especially for bloggers and media companies.

While social media gets all the hype, search can drive new visitors to your site every day like clockwork.

Audience development consultancy Define Media Group shared that across the large media sites they work with, 39% of their total traffic comes from search.

keyword research for bloggers

From big media players to small bloggers, search is a great traffic source for publishers to build their audience and drive high intent traffic.

Let’s dive into how smart publishers can do keyword research – and understand how to create exactly the content your visitors are searching for.

Understanding Your Goals

Driving Traffic

Everyone wants more traffic – and the good news is that search traffic is out there – you just have to find out what people are looking for and give it to them.

Getting that traffic is the first step – but you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not also getting those people into permission marketing funnels – that brings us to our next topic:

Audience Development

In addition to simple, pure traffic, smart mediapreneurs should be thinking about audience development – building out these permission marketing assets that will ultimately make you immune to the vicissitudes of the Google algorithm. I’m specifically talking about developing email lists.

Social media audiences are great – but in an era where Facebook’s organic visibility is shrinking on an almost daily basis, increasingly sophisticated publishers are turning to email to drive visits – and search to drive email subscriptions.

When you’re thinking about keyword research, it’s important to not just look at the keywords that can drive traffic today – but rather those that can drive traffic into the future as well.

This means a set of terms that you know drives email opt-ins or builds your social following is potentially dramatically more valuable than a search term that drives traffic that visits, reads, and leaves permanently.

To find out what sorts of terms, we can use tools to understand which keywords are driving traffic to different pages on your site – then investigate which pages organic search traffic converts to email opt-ins or other positive actions. Sadly, due to the (not provided) change and secure search, it’s very difficult to tell what specific terms drive search traffic.

But with some clever analytics work – and a new tool from Google – you can dig into your data and understand what’s driving your email list.

How to Look at the Keywords Driving Your Email List

Note: For this to work, you’ll need to have an email opt-in set as a Goal in Google Analytics, as well as Google Webmaster Tools set up.

These are generally good things to have in place anyway, and the more historical data you have, the more valuable these tools will be.

You can learn:

Begin by finding the pages that are driving the most opt-ins on your website from search.

First, select the custom segment of “Search Traffic” from Google Analytic’s default segments:

search traffic custom segment

Then navigate to the ‘Reverse Goal Path’ Report under the Conversions report. (Again, for this to work, you’ll need to have your email opt-ins set up as a Goal in Google Analytics.)

reverse goal path

This report should give you a list of the pages where search traffic is driving the most opt-ins:

pages driving opt-ins

Copy and paste this list, or export it if it’s gigantic – we’ll need it in our next step.

Finding Which Keywords Are Driving Traffic to Those Pages

With the rise of (not provided), it’s between difficult and near impossible to get direct keyword information in Google Analytics.

Fortunately, Google recently launched the ‘Search Analytics’ feature in Google Webmaster Tools, which gives us some of this data back.

With your list from the last step in hand, navigate to the Search Analytics screen:

webmaster tools search analytics

Next, click on the Pages report:

search analytics in webmaster tools

Now go to every page on your list from your Google Analytics account, and click the >> icon on the right:

full search queries report

Then click Queries, at the top, and you’ll be presented with a list of keywords driving traffic to your pages with the most opt-ins.

Click ‘Download’ at the bottom of the page, and you’ll get a spreadsheet of the number of clicks, impression, CTR, and position for the highest opt-in pages on your website.

Do this for all of your pages with a meaningful number of opt-ins for search – these keywords will come in useful later, especially if you’re using an expansion and keyword intelligence tool like Term Explorer.

Types of Keywords

As a blogger or a media site, you’ll want to think about a few different sorts of keywords.  They all play a different purpose across your keyword portfolio, and will drive different parts of your traffic.

Categorical Keywords

These are keywords people search for when they’re looking for more general information on and around common topics – think about something like “Paleo diet recipes” or “Fast Workout Plans.”

These informational terms mean that these searchers have not yet gathered enough information to inform their queries to be navigational, i.e. have a sense of what they’re looking for such as “paleo diet recipes with chicken” or “fast workout plans to lose belly fat.”

These searchers are looking for a set of resources on a topic – rather than a specific post or factoid. Often these will be plural.

In many cases, these terms are going to align to category pages – like the kind automatically spun up by WordPress – which are great opportunities to bring people looking for information on topics you cover onto your site, and present them with a list of options that might meet their needs.

Alternatively, if you uncover concepts that will work for you in the course of your keyword research you can go ahead and create pages around them – that talk about the topic and link to some of your best resources and writing on it. This is actually one of the most effective places to use content curation as a strategy to extend the life and reach of your existing content (And don’t forget to collect those emails.)

Here are some examples:

Financial and life success blogger Ramit Sethi has a great landing page on How to Negotiate:

ramit sethi landing page

This page ranks #3 for the phrase ‘How to Negotiate’, and sends people deeper into Ramit’s content about negotiating everything from raises to cable bills. It also encourages people to opt into Ramit’s email list (see the offer at the top.)

Diet publisher Paleo Leap has a beautiful landing page for ‘Paleo Diet Recipes’ that brings people deeper into their content as well:

paleo leap

Evergreen Content

Next, as you’ve probably noticed, individual articles often drive traffic from people searching for them, often for a long period of time.  And while some articles will briefly peak and never get traffic again, articles that target the right search terms and offer perpetually useful information can continue bring in those visitors over a long period of time.

Evergreen articles stay relevant for a long period of time, as opposed to say coverage of current events (we’ll get to those next) – and these will continue to be a source of traffic over time, provided it’s stays accurate and current.

Each article should get keyed up for Google and include relevant keywords in the headline, title, URL string, and within the article. (Keyword density and creating articles with the same phrase over and over again were relevant tactics in the past – but fortunately for creators everywhere Google has gotten smarter.)

So rather than long, metaphorical titles, try descriptive ones matching search demand and intent instead – what you get may surprise you.

This is going to be most relevant on your Evergreen content – things that go out of date soon won’t necessarily be great at capturing long-term search traffic.

(We’ll look at how to find these keywords in the next section.)

Trending Topics

In evergreen content, the other strategy that some bloggers and media sites employ – typically more on the media side – is to try to rank for trending topics, and acquire search traffic from people looking for information on current events.

The canonical example of this is “What Time is the Super Bowl?” During the big game, trending searches spike, and media sites can get lots of traffic.

You can look for trending topics with Google Trends (which we’ll get to) but often it’s best to find trending topics in your area by monitoring industry news or Twitter.

The best way to capitalize on these types of searches is to set yourself up for success by being accepted as Google News publisher. This requires a bit of extra leg work in terms of URL formatting, a Google News sitemap, and applying to be included in the program.

If you have the resources to research and report on breaking news, this can be a very powerful method of audience development.

So How Do You Find These Keywords?

So now that we know what we’re looking for, how do we go about finding them?

The good news is there are lots of great keyword tools on the market. Here’s a quick tour of some of the most popular ones – which one will be the best for you depends on your circumstances and goals.

Google Adwords Keyword Planner & Google Trends

Google’s tools are always a great place to start – as they have the original source data, and they’re free.

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner is the original tool from the Big G.

It’s designed for paid search advertisers – so often it’s not the most useful thing for bloggers – but it’s a good place to start poking around, and see what you find.

It’s especially good for finding category page and landing page terms.

For example, if you wrote a blog about your search for happiness, you could use it to generate landing page terms, as well as ideas for blog posts:


Google Trends

Google Trends is Google’s free tool focusing on search volumes over time. For bloggers and publishers, it’s useful in a couple of different ways:

  • Finding trending topics

finding trending topics with google suggest

Google Trends shows you trending search terms – so if you want to jump on a short-term trend, it can be a good place to find them.

  • Understanding How Search Volume Changes Over Time

Google Trends also tells you how searches trend and change over time – so you can make sure your landing pages and posts are geared towards keywords that will increase in demand over time – rather than decrease.

search trends over time

Suggestion Tools

The next type of search tool you should use is a suggestion tool – basically they take all of the results from Google’s Autosuggest feature and aggregate them.

For bloggers, these are very useful for understanding searches around your topics – what are people looking for? What questions are they asking? You can then find post titles that will do well in search, as well as understand what content searchers are looking for.

These tools are all very similar – has the newest UI, UberSuggest is free and doesn’t prompt you to upgrade, and Soovle includes searches from Amazon and some other services – but try them all and see which one you like.

keyword tool io





Competitive Analysis Tools

The next set of tools we’ll look at are great at identifying what keywords are driving traffic to your competitors and other blogs in your niche.

This is a useful source of keyword data – especially when you start with it and then expand beyond it with a tool like Term Explorer.

These tools are both free, with paid access for more data.



Spyfucompetitive search tools

Term Explorer

And of course, Term Explorer is a great keyword research tool for bloggers and publishers.

It allows you to do two important things:

  • Generate new keywords and find related keywords to your searches
  • Understand how difficult those keywords are to rank for

term explorer keyword analysisterm explorer keyword expansion

Term Explorer is a great tool for mapping out terms for future blog posts and landing pages. Sign Up for a Free Account Today!

Good Luck and Good Keyword Research!

5 Responses to “Keyword Research for Blogs & Publishers

  • Killer info here, Nick! I love SEMRush and I’ve been looking at Term Explorer ever since hearing/reading about it from you in your writings. I love seeing an article completely devoid of CPM’s, Advertising (traditional), etc… just focusing on keywords!

    • Thanks Nathaniel! Yeah it’s my go to tool and the one I’ve literally built my entire research process around.

      I’m more than happy to support something I genuinely use so frequently.

      Thanks for reading and especially for taking a few moments to drop a comment.

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