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Keyword research is time-consuming. Implementing a strong keyword strategy from start to finish in order to rank competitively can take hours and involves a combination of independent research and utilizing a keyword research tool. Having a solid basic understanding of keywords, how to research them, and how to use them properly in your blog posts is what I consider the second most important step, after setting up your Google Search Console and indexing your site, to getting organic traffic and getting seen on Google.

For this post, we are going to start with keyword research basics for beginners to help you develop smart keyword research strategies. You can then tweak these strategies to find a method that works well for you.

Both myself and Female Travel Bloggers use Keysearch for our keyword research basics. I will reference this tool from time to time in this post, but I will also try to be inclusive for those who do not have access to this tool. We highly recommend, Keysearch, as a relatively affordable tool that can take your SEO to the next level and reduce the amount of time spent on keyword research.

Important Keyword Terms

Keyword or Short-Tail Keyword: A keyword consisting of anywhere between 1-3 words. This is typically used to start the process of keyword research. It tends to have a higher search volume, but more competition. Ex: X = [location], X “in” Spring

Long-Tail Keyword/Key Phrase:A longer keyword consists of anything more than 3 words. This typically is used to attract a very specific audience and therefore can help you retain your readers providing them with the exact information they are looking for.  Typically fewer people are searching this keyword, but you have less competition and more changes to convert sales, make affiliate money, and lower your bounce rate. Ex: How to spend 24 Hours in X

Global Keyword: A keyword that targets a global audience. A global keyword is something that anyone around the world can search for unrelated to where they live. Ex: Long Term Backpacking Tips

Local Keyword: A keyword that focuses on a more local niche topic to bring traffic in from a specific area or region.  This keyword should Ex: Backpackers Guide to X City

Fresh Keyword: A keyword that targets specific events around the world to bring a burst of traffic. This type of keyword should only be included in posts intended to go viral for a short period of time and do not make sense in a long term keyword strategy for most posts. Ex: Is the Notre Dame open to visitors (after the fire)

Seasonal Keyword: A keyword targeting seasonal traffic. Optimizing for this type of keyword can bring you traffic year after year, but tends to peak during a certain season and taper off until the next year.  Ex: Where to see Spring Flowers in X

Evergreen Keyword: A keyword that is relevant regardless of season, global events. This is something that is going to bring you traffic year round and for many years to come.  Ex: Neighborhood Guide to X

Keyword Questions: a keyphrase that is also a question, answering some of Google’s most common questions. IE: What are the best neighborhoods in X?

A well-rounded keyword strategy will include several types of keywords and a variety of keywords within each category. Once you choose the topic of your post, you should easily be able to determine what types of keywords apply and use that to begin generating a list.

Getting Started with Basic Keyword Research

Choosing The Topic of Your Post

book titles and covers

There are two ways to write content. One is choosing a topic and then fitting keywords around your topic to write a well-optimized post. The other is to choose your topic based on keywords. Personally, I typically know what type of topics I want to write about ahead of time, so I often have a topic and then I do keyword research. However, sometimes I will do keyword research in order to come up with a less competitive topic to write about in an up and coming destination. It is totally up to you. 

It is important to ask yourself: Are you going to write about a viral trend, a lengthy evergreen guide, a seasonal post, etc? When choosing a topic it always helps to define and stick to your niche to allow you to pick a topic in which you are knowledgeable or an expert as this will help you naturally write in keywords and important information without having to do much work. So, say I live in London and I am an expert on this location. A lot of people have written about London, so I might try and find a niche with less competition. Perhaps I could write a neighborhood guide to my neighborhood, or maybe my blog focuses on food so I should write a food guide to local food, or maybe my blog focuses on art and culture, so I write about the best museums and cultural events. This is where having a niche defined on your blog comes in handy.

Generating Your First Round of Keywords

If you already have your topic or destination in mind then you can generate a basic short-tail keyword related to your topic. This short-tail keyword is the starting point for all your research. Write this down and then type that into Keysearch or search and see what some topics are focus areas that people are searching for related to your destination or topic.

Keysearch Keyword Research

If you are using Keysearch, this step is simple, type that keyword into the search function and sit back and let it analyze the keyword. On the right-hand side, you will see a list of alternative keywords listed, the search volume of those keywords, and how easy it will be for you to rank based on your Domain Authority (link) and the domain authority of your competition.

Below the search function, you will see a list of those who rank for this specific keyword and their DA.

I will then write down about 5 or keywords on the right-hand side. I only write them down if they are related to what I want to write about and don’t have a red number next to them. I often check those keywords in Keysearch as well to scope out my competition.

keyword research with keysearch

Volume: is an estimate of how many people are searching for this keyword per month. A higher search volume means more people are searching for it. I will target just about anything if it is green in Keysearch. Some of my best performing posts show a search volume of about 700, but because they are so niche I get a significant of the traffic that is coming on. Often times the volume on Keysearch can be a bit skewed and you may even see a search volume of 0, but there is often still some traffic, it is just very small. It is up to you whether you want to target something will smaller search volume. It has worked well for me to rank for more keywords and get traffic from a targeted audience.

Score: This is a score based on how easily you might be able to rank for this keyword based on DA, volume, competition, and other factories. If something is green with at least 30-500 search volume it is worth considering to use it as a keyword in your post. If it is green with a search volume of 1k+ then you definitely want to use it. I often utilize keywords that are the putrid green color, and rethink anything that is red.

CPC: If a keyword has a high CPC, then most likely there is an ad or a search box in position 0, which may mean that it will be more difficult for you to convert clicks.

Independent Keyword Research

google search keywords

If you don’t have Keysearch, you can do this the old fashion way. Open an incognito window in Chrome. Type your first short tail keyword into Google and see what comes up. Scope out your competition. You might not have access to their DA, and all the other data that Keysearch shows you, such as search volume, seasonal traffic and easy color system to help you determine what to target, but you will be able to tell if they are big name bloggers and companies, smaller bloggers, or if there are a lot of ads at the top, and that will help you determine your competition. 

I actually recommend everyone does this step regardless if they have Keysearch or not, as you can get tips and hints from Google. Here you can see common questions related to your keyword that people are searching, such as, “Where are the nicest neighborhoods in London.” These are great keyphrase questions to insert into your post to help you answer some of Google’s FAQ.

At the bottom of your search, you will also see related searches and you can use this to generate your first list of keywords, similar to what Keysearch provides.

Additional keyword Search Terms for Google

Expanding Your List

At the end of this first round, I will have a list of 5-10 long and short tail keywords similar to “best places to stay in… “ “Best Neighborhoods in…” “Where to eat in…” These additional keywords come from the right-hand panel in Keysearch and the bottom of Google search.

Digging Deeper into Your Keyword Strategy

Now that I have an idea of a niched topic with 5-10 long and short tail keywords, I need to continue to refine our list and topics. To do this, I  continue to use Keysearch to type new keywords into the search and using the right-hand table to list new keywords that are ripe for picking.

Even though I use Keysearch, I still generate an independent list of what I think people might be Googling and type those searches into Google search and Keysearch. This is because sometimes a human (you) can better predict what other humans are going to be searching.

I also read some of the top ranking blog posts and write down what information they cover well, and what information I think is lacking that I can cover with keywords they are not targeting. For example, if someone wrote a city guide, but didn’t talk about where to eat, then that is something I can consider including in my and targeting a subheading about where to eat in XYZ.

It is important to run some of these new keywords through Google search, in order to see how things really look in search and to determine if your keywords have competition from ads, and snippets.

At the end of this process, I have about 20 long, short, local, evergreen… basically a good variety of strong keywords I think I can potentially rank for on a topic. While you are writing you don’t need to include all 20 of these tags, but having a serious arsenal allows for you to use a variety of key phrases and words as you write your post.

Choosing Main Keywords

From this list of 20, I want to choose one main keyword that will be included in the most prominent locations such as the title, URL and Meta. It should be the most searched keyword relating to my topic and the main theme of my post. So maybe “The Best Neighborhoods in X to Explore” would be my title and X Neighborhoods might be the keyword I am targeting.

I then highlight 5-10 more sub keywords and these will be used in my subheadings. I might have a heading that says Best Neighborhood in X For Food, where I am targeting X food neighborhood, or I could target the names of the neighborhoods I am using.

This is where having a well-structured blog post helps you. All of your headings should be sub keywords you are targeting to increase your chances of ranking for multiple keywords.

Your main keyword as I mentioned should be in your Title (H1), URL, and meta description, but you might have different versions of this keyword to optimize for each location. In all three versions, I am targeting a variation of the keyword X Neighborhoods Explore

  • Title: Your title should be a cohesive and catchy phrase that directly states what your topic is and encourages people to click. Ex: The Best Neighborhoods in X to Explore
  • URL: In your URL you want to cut our filler words from your title like and, in, etc. It should be a boiled down version without the fluff. Best-x-neighborhoods-explore PLEASE NOTE THAT IF IT CHANGES THE MEANING OF YOUR URL THEN YOU NEED THE FILLER WORDS.
  • Meta: Should be 1-2 short powerful sentences that describe the content of your post and entice readers to click. Explore the best neighborhoods in X like a local, discovering alternative hot spots, food haven, nightlife districts, and more!
  • Body: Your main keyword should also appear in the first 100 words, the end, and the middle of your post.
  • H2-H4 Headings: Including your main keyword in at least one H2-H4 heading, but not all of them.

Your sub keywords should be in sub-headings (H2-H4), alt-image texts, link anchor text, sprinkled throughout your body, formatted text, and incoming links.

  • Sub-headings: All of our subheadings should target various versions of your 20 or so long and short-tail keyphrases. Making smart use of your headings can seriously boost your SEO game and is one of the best ways to target and rank for multiple keywords.
  • Alt-Image Text: While it is critical to remember that this should first and foremost describe your image for people with disabilities, but you can also ensure your description has a keyword in there. Try describing the food in the image and include the neighborhood name to imply that X neighborhood is a good place to get a certain type of food while allowing for those with disabilities to know what is in the image. Please don’t just keyword stuff here, it is not nice those with assisted reading options.
  • Internal Link Anchor Text: If you read my latest SEO Mistakes You’re Making, you read that including anchor text that says “click here,” is not helpful. Use a Keyword you are targeting to link to another relevant post on the topic.
  • Body Text: As you write keep in mind your list of keywords and just thinking about them means you might naturally write them in and target them. Instead of having the same keyword stuffed in your post naturally use your whole list if you can.
  • Formatted Text: If you can include your keywords in bullet points, bold, or italics, then do so, you’ll get a little extra boost.
  • Incoming Links: If you link swap with other bloggers, make sure you ask them to include one of your keywords in their anchor text.

Yoast keyword strategy assistance

Does Word Order Matter?

Does it matter if I say, X Neighborhoods, or Neighborhoods in X? No, not really, as Google sees these as different versions of the same keyword. Google is able to read these individual words and understand that both of these words when searched together essentially have the same meaning.

Word order can make a difference if the meaning starts to change, but generally speaking, the order doesn’t matter.

So, what order should you use? You want to most important words relating to your topic first and I always suggest including your location closer to the front of your H1, for example. I wouldn’t suggest writing, “The Very Best Neighborhoods for Eating and Drinking in X” as it takes both Google and the reader a lot longer to determine if this information is relevant and in what location. Instead, try “Best Neighborhoods in X for Eating and Drinking”, or “X Neighborhoods for Eating and Drinking”.

Keyword Density

Keyword stuffing is a HUGE no-no. Which is why having a list of 20 or so keywords can be helpful. Your main keyword should have a density of between 2-3% with tons of keywords and phrases even dispersed with maybe .5% or so.

Do Filler Words Matter in Keywords?

I touched on this earlier, but let’s dog a little deeper. Do words like “And”, “In”, “Or”, really matter? No, not really, as Google essentially takes the main words and ignores filler words to determine the topic of your post. So, if you type in “Best Neighborhoods X” into Yoast and it says it shows up 0% because you wrote in your post, “Best Neighborhoods IN X”, you don’t need to worry. The filler words are necessary for cohesive sentences, but not always needed for Google.

The exception is if the filler word changes the topic or meaning of your post. For example, the URL, “growing-up-in-a-military-family” is not the same as “growing-military-family”. One is about one’s experience growing up in a military family and the other might be about the growing number of military families.

Don’t Overthink Keyword Research & Strategy

Sometimes overthinking keywords can be your downfall. As professional bloggers, our brains are often honed in on keywords that seem to optimize well, but we forget most people type really silly or incohesive keywords into search. Sometimes sitting down and naturally writing about a topic you are an expert in is the best way to generate a list of keywords. I find this approach for the body of a post works really well and just make sure to use a more formal keyword research strategy in the headings, title, URL, links, etc.

What is your best tip for keyword research? Where are you struggling? Let us know in the comments.

Susanna Kelly

Susanna Kelly

FTB Member

Susanna Kelly is an adrenaline junkie from Alaska, on a quest to explore the great outdoors.

However, she openly admits to being a total geek at heart. Her blog, the Wandering Chocobo, focuses on adventure travel and eco-tourism, while hitting pause for what she’s defining as hipster city travel. Her hipster city guides explore craft cocktail bars, boutique hotels, markets, local businesses, and geek hideouts.

When she’s not creating content for her travel blog or freelance ventures, she likes to work on her fiction novel, LARPing and gaming, volunteering and getting to level 99 in life. She currently lives in Munich, Germany.

Connect with Susanna at her site Wandering Chocobo.