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How to Do Keyword Research for Your WordPress Blog

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A key way to get traffic to your website? Understand how people search for things on the internet.

By tapping into search behavior, you can help optimize your website for high rankings in search engines. With a well-positioned search engine spot, you have a better chance of getting found by internet audiences.

Keywords are vital for search engine optimization (SEO). Doing some research into the things people are searching for will not only help you better understand your target audience but also to plan and utilize high-value keyword phrases in your blog posts to earn better rankings in search engines.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to conduct smart keyword research, then how to use those target keywords on your site to boost your organic traffic and earn prime search engine rankings. Let’s get started!

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What is Keyword Research?

First, let’s talk about what a keyword is. When people are searching Google for something, they use certain words to find what they’re looking for. Those words or phrases are keywords.

Keywords used in a Google search

Doing research into the keywords people use when searching online can help you optimize your website for those keywords — helping improve your blog posts and increase your traffic.

The great thing is, you don’t need to take a stab in the dark at guessing the keywords people are using to search the internet. There are actually smart keyword research tools available to help you make data-driven, effective decisions when it comes to accomplishing essential tasks, such as:

  • Identifying the keywords people are actually using
  • Creating relevant content that ranks well
  • Understanding your audiences (and adjusting your offerings to meet their needs)
  • Scoping out your competitors’ SEO strategies
  • Earning more web traffic
  • Building a loyal audience

Long story short: Making keyword research a part of your content strategy will help you build visibility and, ultimately, grow your site.

Of course, optimized keywords aren’t the only way to earn your content prime search engine real estate, but it’s an essential building block for SEO, increased conversions, and rush-hour e-traffic. Plus, if one of your overall goals is to monetize your site, you need to embrace SEO as the foundation of your site’s content. The numbers prove it: 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making purchases.

How to Get Started with Keyword Research

Now that you know how vital the keyword research process is, let’s get into the real nitty-gritty: how to do keyword research for your WordPress blog.

The obvious place to start is Google. Today, Google handles more than 100 billion searches every month — around 60,000 every second. But even with billions of searches and the abundance of available info on the web, 60% of all organic clicks go to the top three organic search results, so the ranking of your site in search engine results matters.

Most SEO-focused keyword research for WordPress focuses on Google — the powerhouse search engine fuels more than 76% of all global desktop search traffic, and over 94% of the mobile/tablet searches. Plus, Google’s free Keyword Planner is one of the most popular keyword research tools, allowing you to identify the most searched keywords, and use that essential insight to better your blog’s visibility.

Before really diving deep into keyword research, it’s important to understand a few terms:

  • Search Volume: The number of times or volume of searches that are conducted for a particular keyword during a specific time-frame.
  • Search Traffic: The number of visits to a website measured by search results clicks.
  • Search Intent: The reason why a consumer is conducting a specific search. It indicates what they’re looking for — whether that’s information, a particular brand’s webpage, an answer to a question, or a product they intend to purchase.

Understanding these terms is critical, as they indicate different data that you can use to do better keyword research and content development. Some keywords might get a high search volume — meaning, they get searched a lot — but don’t receive a lot of search traffic, meaning the number of clicks.

Capital of Maine Google search query.
The search volume for this query is likely higher than the search traffic — because it displays an answer box, the results might not receive as many clicks because the searcher has to take no further action to find what they’re looking for.

In that regard, search volume can be misleading. In addition to volume and traffic, it’s essential to understand not only what keywords people type in a search engine, but also what their search intent is — meaning, what they’re actually looking for. Don’t worry — search intent doesn’t require any mind-reading, as most search queries can be separated into a few main, easy-to-identify categories:

  • Informational: How-to or what-is searches, (i.e., “how to make tea”)
  • Navigational: Branded searches, (i.e., “Facebook login” or “Capital One”)
  • Commercial: Specific attributes queries (i.e., versus or best queries, “women’s plus size dresses”)
  • Transactional: Searches directed toward a purchase (i.e., buy, download, etc.)

There are generally certain types of content that are displayed in the results for each search intent category; for example, informational search intents might include guides, and commercial investigations will likely include comparison articles. When planning and creating content for your site, you’ll want to gear it towards what the searcher is looking for — their search intent — so that you can meet a need and create value. Additionally, when competing for keywords (more on this later), you’ll want to investigate the content types of the top-ranking pages so you know how to build your own content.

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How to Do Keyword Research for Your Blog — in 3 Steps

If you’re just starting out and looking for a free or very low-cost keyword research tool to get you going, we’ve got you covered:

  • Soolve: a simple but great tool for building a keyword list from multiple search sites.
  • Moz’s Keyword Explorer: a comprehensive keyword research tool that analyzes keywords by search volume, sorts by predictive keyword metrics, performs competitive keyword analysis, and allows you to review SERP details by keyword. In addition, you can find keywords in question format and access Moz’s proprietary Keyword Difficulty score that shows how easy (or hard) it is to rank on each SERP. Requires an account setup and allows 10 free queries a month.
  • Keywords Everywhere: a paid browser extension that’s easily installed on Firefox or Chrome that offers valuable data on monthly search volume, cost per click and competition data of keywords on multiple websites. This tool works by credits; 1 credit = 1 keyword, $10 for 100,000 credits.
  • Ubersuggest: This tool goes beyond simply offering keyword suggestions, extending its capabilities to competitor insight, top SEO pages reports, valuable backlink data, and deep dives into well-performing content pieces.

If you’re looking to up your SEO game, check out a few above-and-beyond paid keyword research tools, like MarketMuse, BuzzSumo, Ahrefs, or SEMrush.

As we mentioned, Google has a great (free!) tool — called Keyword Planner — that helps conduct keyword research for your WordPress blog. While its features are geared primarily toward PPC advertisers, the Keyword Planner is still an excellent platform for identifying keywords that will help you build a strong SEO strategy. Because we think Keyword Planner is the best place to start, we’ll focus on how to use this particular tool in our guide.

1. How to Use Keyword Planner

First, you need to get set up with a Google Ad account — if you don’t already have one. Click on the “Tools and Settings” button, then under the Planning Tab, click “Keyword Planner.”

Then, click “Discover new keywords.”

In the search box, you’ll enter words and phrases related to your business and/or enter your site URL and click “Get Results.” You can adjust or add keywords, or add filters to refine your search.

Let’s say you enter a few keywords related to your niche — for example, “custom smartphone cases.”

The resulting data displays additional keyword suggestions, along with a broad, average monthly search range, competition level (how many people have bid for that particular keyword in Google AdWords), and bid price ranges for specific keywords (this can help you judge the commercial intent of a searcher). You can analyze and utilize the data by filtering results, downloading keyword ideas, adding keywords to your plan to get detailed forecasts, accessing visualizations broken down by categories, and searching volume data.

When conducting keyword research, start by searching broader keywords, then gradually narrow results down to identify keywords with low competition and more search volume. Focus on selecting keywords that answer your customers’ questions and aid them in making smart buying decisions. With the tool’s results, you can see your own keyword performance and then compare it with your competitors.

With the displayed results, you can build a list of potential keywords for use on your site.

You’ll likely want to target those keywords that earn high search volumes in order to bring crowds to your blog.

But don’t forget about long-tail topics — a way to smartly utilize keyword research.

Long-tail keywords are search queries with a low individual search volume, but as a group, they usually have a large total search demand. Targeting long-tail keywords can help you rank well and drive traffic to your blog. The easiest way to identify long-tail topics? Scout out your competition’s traffic-generating pages.

2. Incorporating Target Keywords on Your Website

Next, incorporate your list of keywords into your WordPress site.

Essentially, you need to include those keywords on your site — on landing pages, documentation, in content like articles and blog posts, as well as in titles, descriptions, and categories for products you sell. Keywords are vital for helping you create better content that meets your audiences’ needs and get found by your target consumers.

Now, you’ll want to take your keywords and incorporate them into your site to start optimizing your site for search engine rankings. Start by adding your strongest keywords to your site’s title and tagline. To do this, go to the Settings tab on your WordPress dashboard, then click General.

WordPress site title and tagline.

An important caveat: this is more appropriate if you’re just launching your website. In fact, it’s the ideal time to make SEO decisions about your domain, title, and tagline. If you’ve got an established site, proceed carefully with rebranding. You’ve likely already built a following and should avoid whiplashing your visitors with sudden changes. If you’re still looking to boost your SEO — and every website should be — focus on adding your keywords in other places.

Outfit your header, slider, and individual page headings with customized keywords. Make sure your site’s images have descriptive alternative text and don’t skimp on writing a solid meta description for each blog post — take advantage of every opportunity to include relevant keywords on your site.

Then, add optimized keywords to your individual posts and pages. Try to add targeted keywords at the beginning of each blog post in a natural way. Meaning, they should fit the content and not confuse, annoy, or distract your audience. An SEO-specific WordPress plugin — like our fav, the Yoast plugin — can help.

3. Analyze Your Efforts

Now, it’s a good idea to get analytical. Meaning: review the success of your keyword research efforts.

How do you know if your keywords are earning you prime search engine real estate and successfully driving traffic? Tap into the Google Search Console and Google Analytics by using a tool like MonsterInsights on your WordPress blog to track analytics and user engagement from your keyword implementation. The results can help you adjust your strategy as necessary.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console helps you understand and improve how Google sees your site. The tool gives you an overview on search and site performance, helping you check indexing status and optimize the visibility of your website. The Coverage section is particularly important, giving you insight on which of your site pages Google can and can’t index, as well as intel into keyword queries. It alerts you to technical issues that need to be resolved in order to earn better site SEO.

While Google Search Console is used to improve and optimize your site, Google Analytics is another valuable resource that gives you data about the performance of your site, including information on the number of visitors to your site, where visitors are coming from, how much time they spend on your site, what devices they’re using, and other useful insights.

Google Analytics homepage

Under the Acquisition tab, you can identify which channels bring visitors to your site. The “site search” section under the Behavior tab can show you what users are searching for on your site —  this can also help you develop valuable content ideas and improve the usability of your navigation. Bounce rate is another important metric that can clue you in to the UX of your website, as well as the success of your keywords.

Understanding analytics can take some time. But utilizing Google’s free tools to improve upon even the smallest aspects of your site can boost your website’s visibility in search engines. Keep working!

Searching High, Not Low

Strong SEO begins with smart keyword research. Targeting smart keywords and optimizing them on your site helps you to not only attract more traffic to your WordPress website but also to build authority and trust with your audience.

The ultimate goal for your site? Get more traffic by providing what people are looking for. Keyword research helps you target the correct keywords and gives you insight into how to utilize those keywords on your site and in your content, in foundational ways that will improve your SEO and bring searchers to your site.

When they find you, your site should wow them. With our award-winning services, DreamHost can help bring your WordPress site to the next level. Check out our web hosting solutions today.

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Kasee Bailey has been crafting copy for DreamHost since the ye’ ol’ yesteryear of 2017. She’s on a valiant quest to discover what makes a great website — and then share those secrets with DreamHost users. Her specialty: relating tech to pop culture (the Kardashians and payments gateways, anyone?).