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The Ultimate Guide to SEO Copywriting Keyword Research

Guest Post by Brad Shorr

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Good SEO begins with keyword research before writing copy.

Copywriters make themselves more valuable to clients and command higher rates when they know how to research keywords for SEO: If a writing assignment is worth “x” dollars without optimization, it is worth “x-plus” with it. For SEO copywriting, keyword research is a three-step process of reviewing intent, volume and competitiveness.

1. Keyword Intent

The concept of intent is closely tied to relevance. If you were writing a product information Web page, relevant keyword phrases would express a user’s intent to make a purchase; for instance, “widgets on sale.” If you were writing a blog post describing how the same product was designed, relevant keyword phrases would express a user’s intent to learn; for instance, “how widgets work.”

Considering intent is important for three major reasons:

  1. The more relevant the content is to the search query, the more likely the user who clicks on the link will take action — placing an order, submitting an inquiry form, etc. Nobody likes being taken to a page that does not meet his or her search expectations.
  2. Intent narrows the focus to the people most interested in it, again improving conversion rates. Overly general keywords may attract a high volume of traffic, but not relevant traffic. Non-relevant traffic does the client little, if any, good.
  3. Intent forces you and the client to clearly determine the focus of the content. While this may sound simplistic, how often is Web content written without a clear purpose? Vague, meandering content does little to attract readers to the product, service or brand; instead, it bores or confuses them, reducing current and future conversion opportunities.

2. Keyword Volume

Keyword search volume is important because unless a targeted keyword phrase generates a minimum threshold of search queries, it will not generate enough traffic to produce a dial-moving number of conversions. For instance, “how widgets work” may be a perfect keyword phrase in terms of intent, but if its search volume is 50 searches a month, you should look for a related term with 10 or 20 times the volume.

Consider the value of a conversion when evaluating keyword volume. Back to the same example: While a search volume of 50 is too low in general, if the client’s product is worth $100,000 or if its lifetime customer value is $500,000, a single organic search conversion will pay for itself and then some — making the search volume of 50 strategically sensible.

3. Keyword Competitiveness

Keyword competiveness helps you determine whether your targeted phrase has actual as well as theoretical conversion potential. If large competitors with big SEO budgets dominate the phrase in question, your attempt to gain high organic search visibility for that phrase may be futile.

On the other hand, if there does not seem to be a dominant group of companies holding top positions for the phrase, you’ve probably found a golden opportunity for your client to generate leads and revenue.

Generally, the higher the search volume is, the more competitive the term. This is why long-tail keyword phrases — longish phrases with highly specific intent — offer the best opportunities for small and midsized companies to rise to the top of organic search, such as:

  • “widgets under $40 for sale”
  • “semi automatic widget product specifications”
  • “how to use widgets for stain removal”

Tools and Tips

Copywriters can use a variety of online tools to assess search volume and keyword competitiveness. Among the many good options are the Google Keyword Planner and the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool. A few additional tips to refine your keyword research:

  • When considering search volume, make sure it matches with the client’s target market. For instance, if the client sells in the U.S., exclude non-U.S. search volume.
  • Blog posts and off-site content are excellent for long-tail optimization. Core website product and service pages are generally more suitable for higher volume, less specific search terms (since users coming to these pages may be interested in information, making a purchase, general vetting of a supplier, etc.).
  • Optimizing a piece of content for more than a few keyword phrases is difficult, unless the content has a high word count (in excess of 1,000 words).
  • To brainstorm or validate potential keywords, check with the client’s sales and/or customer service teams. These people speak the language of the customer and know the types of phrases they use when asking about products and services.
  • Track SEO performance of your content. This is somewhat difficult now, since Google no longer provides SEO keyword data in its website analytics. Nevertheless, by tracking the source of traffic to the pages you’ve optimized, you can get an idea of how many visits are coming from Google and other organic sources over time.

Author Bio

Brad Shorr is the Director of Content Strategy for Straight North. They are a Chicagoland-based Internet marketing company that offers businesses throughout the United States SEO, PPC and web design services to improve their online presence and drive more leads to their website. With Brad’s industry experience, he’s been featured on sites, such as Salesforce, Smashing Magazine and Moz.


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