How to Find the Keywords that Work for Your Content Marketing Goals

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When you do keyword research, you’re working to discover the actual words your customers use when they search for information about your content topic.

Smart keyword research will let you uncover great information about your audience — how they search, how they speak, and how they think.

Accurate keyword research helps you optimize your website for the search engines, and it also allows you to shape your content strategy. So it’s vitally important that you use smart tactics to help you do your research in a fast, efficient way.

Hopefully at this point, you’ve conducted some initial discovery sessions using the steps in my previous post on keyword research. You’ve chosen some initial keywords to look into, started to examine particular characteristics of those keywords in search stats, and you’ve started a list of closely related words and phrases that you can add to your initial list of target keywords.

Now, we need to take this process one step further.

Once you’re done with your initial keyword research, you’ll need to dig a little further in your investigations. You’ll want to see whether a phrase is trending up or down (over a certain period of time) and how your phrases are being discussed in social media communities.

This post covers the second half of my No-Stress Keyword Research System, including tips on searching for trends, looking at social media conversations, and discovering which of your competitors are ranking well for your targeted keywords.

Let’s get down to business.

Tools for spotting keyword trends

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of target keywords, it’s time to uncover some broader information about them. You need to get your hands on trending information, so you can find out if your keyword is trending up or trending down over time.

Here’s why it’s critical that you find out this information — you don’t want to pick a keyword, optimize your entire site for it, hang all your hopes and dreams on it — then discover that the popularity of searches for that word have been trending down for two years (and at the current rate, searches for that word will die out to practically nothing within a year or two).

You want keywords that are not only popular, but have been steadily popular for months (or years). And you want keywords that have a good outlook for the upcoming months and years.

To find out the whether your keywords are headed up or down in popularity, you can use Google Trends. This lesser-known tool allows you to see how often certain keywords have been queried over a specific period of time. 

Google Trends even allows you to put in several keywords at a time, and runs a comparison of those keywords for you, so you choose the one that is the best fit for your and your business.

Run your possible keywords through the Google Trends tool, and take a good look through the data. Are your keywords trending up over time? Or trending down? If they are trending up, is this likely to be a short burst of interest in the topic, or does the topic have some staying power?

If you’re a Scribe user, this data is already built into your Keyword Research tool — just click on the Google Trends tab to view data on a particular keyword’s popularity over time.

Use trending information to eliminate some of your keywords and narrow down your target list, then move on to the next step.

Research your keywords in social networks

Your next step is discovering what social communities need and want, and how people talk about your topic when they’re having conversations with family and friends.

You will need to approach keyword research on social media networks slightly differently than you do for search — because users of search and social networks don’t necessarily use exactly the same language.

When people use search engines, they are generally looking for an answer to a specific question. Users on social networking sites are there to talk, share ideas, and interact with other users.

You can use social networking search tools to find out the answers to your burning questions about how people use your keywords in everyday conversations.

  • How are people actually using your keywords and phrases in their conversations?
  • What questions are they asking?
  • Are they speaking negatively or positively about your topic?
  • Are people using different language in their online networking communication, and if they are, do you want to change your target keywords to reflect the new language?

Repeat these questions over and over to yourself in the midst of your research, and they’ll take you further along the path to finding the right keywords.

Keyword research tools for social networks

I’ll give you a few of my favorite tools for social search here.

But the social networking world is changing so quickly that I encourage you to do your own research and find the tools that work best for you.

Twitter’s built-in search tool is one of the best in the biz. You can use their Advanced Search tools to look for anything you want (and include/exclude things like retweets, etc. so you only see the data that is really useful to you).

You can also try tools like Monitter and Topsy, both well-known Twitter search helpers.

Dashboard Twitter tools like HootSuite and Tweetdeck also let you set up streams for particular keywords to help you continuously monitor the Twitter conversation on your topic.

Google+ has a great built-in search function, too. Use the search box at the top of any Google+ screen to run an initial search, then filter your results for groups of people or geographical location using the dropdown menus on the search results page.

Searching on Facebook is trickier than some of other social networks, but it does have a limited search function. Run your search using the search box at the top of any Facebook page (click the magnifying glass to run your search and bypass Facebook’s annoying habit of just serving up some random Page it wants you to see.) On the search results page, click on “Public Posts” to view the public conversation about your topic.

There are some great all-in-one search tools for social media, too. For one-stop shopping, try Kurrently or 48ers.

Of course, I highly recommend you check out Scribe. Our customers have easy-to-use social networking research built right into the Social Research tool, so you can look at search and social network research on your targeted keyword all in one place.

Check out your competition

At this point, after researching your initial lists using search and social networking tools, you’ve probably got a short, well-thought-out list of words you’d like to target for your website.

It’s not a bad idea to run your final list through the biggest search engines to see who is ranking for those terms. Google is a necessity, of course, but try Bing and Yahoo, too.

Check out the top three rankings for each search terms, and add notes about those sites to your research list.

Check out my article in this series on competitive research for more information on scoping out your competition.

Pick the winner(s)

It’s the moment of truth. You need to take a deep breath and decide on a few primary keywords that you’re going to target.

You can make an educated decision — based on all your keyword research — on what keywords you want your site to rank for. Write them down, put them above your desk, and then start the process of optimizing your site for those keywords.

For any one piece of content (blog post, article, etc.) , you want to pick one primary keyword to target.

For your entire site, pick three or four that will be your targeted keywords.

Need help optimizing your articles and website for those keywords? Check out our free report, How to Create Compelling Copy That Ranks Well in the Search Engines.

Go get ’em, detective

Keyword research doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it doesn’t have to be painful.

If you use the steps I’ve outlined here, keyword research (both in search and in social networks) is fairly straightforward.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this point, here’s the breakdown:

  1. Choose a few possible keywords to start your research
  2. Determine the popularity and competition score of each of your keywords
  3. Discover (and research) other related keywords
  4. Check the trending data on your keyword (is it trending up or down over time?)
  5. Do some research on how your keyword is being used in the conversations that are happening on social networks
  6. Take a deep breath, look at your final research results, and choose the keyword(s) you want to target for your site

That’s it!

Now it’s your turn to go through the steps of this keyword research process for your particular topic. Whether you’re writing about kickboxing, guinea pig care, dental hygiene, or professional organizing, this keyword research process can work for you, with just a little work, patience, and skill.

Our content research series continues …

This post is part five of my series on how to do effective keyword research as a content marketer. If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can read them right here:

  1. Research Ain’t Easy (But it’s Necessary)
  2. A 6-Step Content Marketing Research Process
  3. Become a Content Marketing Secret Agent with Competitive Intelligence
  4. A 3-Step Process for Painless Keyword Research

To get the full series, watch for future posts here on Copyblogger. If you’re not already subscribed, sign up to get new posts delivered straight to your inbox.

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Reader Comments (51)

  1. says

    Great post Beth.

    Keyword research has been done to death, but few people actually talk about picking keywords that make sense. I see many clients wanting to target keywords that have low competition, but unless those keywords are providing the right types of traffic, ranking is pointless.

    Worse still, if you target the wrong keywords, you either have to create slightly off-topic content in order to rank, or you won’t manage to rank at all!

    • says

      Agreed, Mark – I think so many people are worried about being found in the search engines that they neglect to think about WHO will be finding them. I should have mentioned that here to make it clear – folks definitely need to pick the right kinds of keywords (ones that are appropriate and accurate for the kind of content marketing they’re doing) before they go further in the research process.

  2. says

    You can also take a look at your own analytics to see how people are searching and finding your site. Maybe there is a long tail variation in there that is picking up speed. If your website is already doing well for that keyword without even trying you are in a great position to actively target and dominate for that growing keyword.

  3. says

    Good post Beth,

    It’s interesting I’m actually writing about a similar topic.
    I’m evaluation how to use content marketing to find a primary keyword.

    One of the things I’ve found is the wild card to winning the ranking competition is common sense.
    When you search Google who ever is beating you should be until you prove that your page is MORE relevant to the topic.

    Aside from the technical analysis, look at the winning page and yours and be honest with your self about WHY you are not ranked #1. There’s more to it than just backlinks. It’s all about the relevance of your content.

    Relevance is more of an intangible common sense type of thing, it’s not something that you can easily calculate.

    • says

      Hi Darnell – I agree that common sense plays a big part, but I also think it’s important to do some research, mostly because I often find the research so surprising. Half the time, people aren’t searching for the keywords that I THINK there’s searching for…they’re using a variation that never would have occurred to me. Common sense PAIRED with solid research is a powerful combination.

  4. says

    Great article! It came at just the right time, as I’m writing one on the same topic – I’ll be linking to you!

    Question about searching on Facebook. Now that I have Graph Search, I find I cannot search in the same way as before. I don’t see a way to get to posts at all, let alone searching for public posts. Help?

    • says

      Alisa – I have to admit, I’m not the right person to ask about Graph Search. It’s so new that I don’t know the specifics of it. I would check with Andrea Vahl – she is always up to date on this stuff and can probably answer your question!

  5. says

    Google Trends is an awesome tool, and one I just recently ran across. It helped me focus a new project and avoid the floundering keyword search mistakes that I have done so many times in the past. Highly recommended.

  6. says

    I love the Google tools and have used webmeup as well. I like Nick’s comment too about checking from your back-end —> how people get to you via Google or Bing. Long tail keywords are great for getting sales. Short ones sometimes lead to higher bounce rates or tire kickers.

  7. says


    Nice post. I’d love to see you discuss the ways keyword research can be used to help locally-focused pages. What would you recommend for a company who only cares about getting local traffic on their site?


    • says

      It’s basically the same process. Start with the area you’re after, such as [town]. You’ll start seeing the most common searches related to that geographic area. Then you can dive down deeper for long-tail phrases.

      • says


        I see validity to your point, but I had another idea in mind I’d to see discussed. I believe that phrases like “pizza parlor” and “barber shop” will be less effective than ” pizza parlor” or ” barber shop.” Even if a person searches Google for “pizza” or “haircut,” these KWs will help a page with proper SEO to display in the SERPs. But, then again, there is also plenty of room for branding.

        Thanks for your input,

  8. says

    Thanks so much Beth.

    What a fabulous info post. I do a lot of keyword research for my articles. I used some of the “tools” you suggested but I have never tried some that you have mentioned.

    I really like doing keyword research and your suggestions are going to refine my search even more.



  9. says

    Your point about researching how they are used in every day conversation is exactly right. Much to often we get caught up in keyword research tools and data, but forget about about the human element.

    Great post.

    • says

      Thanks, Andrew – I totally agree about the human element. I think a lot of writers on the web are so concerned about SEO that they forget they’re writing for real people (and that we need to put ourselves in their shoes as we’re writing and optimizing).

  10. says

    Hi Beth. Thanks for the load of information you’ve presented in this wonderful post. I seriously wouldn’t have known about Google Trends had you not linked it here. I tried it just now and wow, it really gave a lot of useful data for my keyword research. Thanks again.

  11. says

    I use Google analytics to see what keywords are leading people to my site. It sounds like I’m just touching the surface. Great post. My question would be: how do you get people to use certain words? People find my site most often by my name “Dan Erickson.” But I want them to find me by the name of my book “A Train Called Forgiveness,” or through terms like “forgiveness,” “author,” and “cults.” I suppose it takes time.

  12. says

    Hi Beth
    Thanks for a great post, I like the focus on trends for new or upcomming keywords. Just a question; can you perhaps recommend any other tools other than Google Trends? here in Denmark the amount of searches on specific keywords is not so high and often I experience that its to low for Google to register any data on it.

    Will follow your blog.

    • says


      Have you thoroughly investigated the KWs that benefit your competitors using It’s not completely accurate, but I’ve found a few nice, low competition KWs that I probably never would’ve came up with on my own.


    • says

      Russell, I’m not sure what you mean – I talk about using Google Trends under the subheading “Tools for spotting keyword trends”. Let me know if you have further questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them…

  13. says

    Actually I did not know ny thing about Google Trend or other keyword research.. How it works, its value ?? I was focusing on my analytic results and then writing contents of keywords which is not on our blog but was helpful in impression. Thanks for magical tool, Let see how much it will be useful for us..

  14. says

    Wow… really different approach; in most articles about keyword research you just see the same bla bla bla over and over again.
    Great article! I am not using Google trends for keyword research though; I use it more as a niche research tool.
    Thanks for sharing your views!!

  15. says

    If i have to speak about you a great view, i think copybkogger will be soon a leading space for marketing.
    My opinion about keyword never changed. Write for human beings and then check what keywords you have done.
    But the article is really helpful .

  16. says

    Thanks for sharing Beth – i learned a ton wrt focusing on trends, then mining social networks with different, more conversational phrases related to your keywords. I’m in the process of honing in on 3 or 4 keywords for my site and i can say it’s a bit difficult and overwhelming trying to figure out what these should be.

  17. says

    Hi maybe you can add NewsAssist to your list of tools? It is a great productivity tool for bloggers that takes care of searching, editing, publishing and distributing blogtext. NewsAssist is an open source Firefox add-on that can be found here ( Thanks

    “firefox add-on”:

  18. says

    Between this blog and a few others, like Income Diary and SPI, I’ve learn an awful lot about keyword research. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job, based on the slowly increasing trickle of search engine traffic to the site.

    Now that I’ve got the long tail keyword research down, I can really get into what you’re talking about here with Google Trends. I really do think there’s huge earning potential in my main site keywords.

    Thanks for all your help :)

  19. says

    It is important to research keywords so as to optimize one’s site with keywords that are trending up as opposed to using keywords that search engine usres no longer using to search for what they need on-line

  20. says

    Hi Beth, Great article. Looking forward to implementing your tips. On the sidelines how many words do you think am article should be for you to rank high on google? Any data to back this up.

    • says

      Hi Peter! I don’t have any hard data on this In general, what I recommend is that you use exactly the amount of words that you need in order to get your message across – no more, no less.

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