Finding Keywords Part 1: Reading the Minds of Your Readers

finding keywords mind reading

Careful. She’s reading your mind!

Finding Keywords is a foundational skill for any successful blogger or internet marketer. It is a window into the thought processes of millions of potential readers. It tells us what our audience is thinking; what they’re wondering about; what they want to buy; even what they’re afraid of.

Most people think of finding keywords only as a way to find out what keyword phrases people search for so that we as writers can target those phrases with our SEO, increasing the potential “organic” traffic that comes to our sites through the search engines.

This is, of course, one very important aspect of finding keyword research. However, that misses the other side of the coin. Finding keywords also helps us build great content that not only meets the needs of our audience, but does so using the language that they use. It helps us understand and connect with them better.

A magazine author in the 1970s would have been amazed to see Google Keyword Planner. This free tool allows us to see the exact language used for millions upon millions of searches. Each one of those data points is a person, sitting in front of their computer, looking for something.

In the aggregate, this sea of data that Google gives us for free lets us understand not only how many people are searching for the answer to a certain question, but also how they are searching for it. By understanding this data, we can answer their questions using the language that they are using.

Three Steps to Find Keywords

Any time we search for keywords, we’re looking for three things:

  • Search Volume
  • Commercial Intent
  • Competition Analysis

Search Volume simply shows how many people per month are looking for a given phrase. This is the total market for this phrase. Using search volume, we can find the more popular questions asked of Google in our niche.

Commercial Intent is an indicator of whether we can make money from this phrase. When people search “best umbrella” they’re probably looking to spend money on an umbrella. If they search “rain frequency in Vancouver” they may still need an umbrella, but their credit card isn’t already in their hand. It’s much easier to sell to the first searchers than the latter ones.

Competition Analysis is potentially the most important factor of all. If you want to rank in the top spots of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you need to see how powerful your competitors are. After all, they’re the ones you’re going to have to knock down a peg. If you can’t beat the pages already on the SERP, then you will receive very little organic traffic.

Long Tail Keywords

As you begin to research keywords, you’ll find that some have massive search volume. These are words like “finance” or “boats.” Many of these keywords also have great commercial intent. They might seem like great targets to go after, but they usually aren’t.

Granted, a small piece of a very large pie is still pretty tasty, but the competition for these keywords is huge. You’re unlikely to even register on the 10th page of Google.

These huge keywords are known as “head” keywords. Next down in volume are “body” keywords. These are somewhat more specific. They have lower volume, but also lower competition. Examples might be “personal finance” or “small sailboats.” You may be able to rank for some of these body keywords, but again, it will be difficult.

Most people concentrate on “long tail” keywords. These are more specific phrases that are usually a few words long. They have lower search volume but also lower competition. These might be “personal finance tips for single moms” or “launching small sailboats from a trailer.”

finding keywords long tail

The Long Tail from Search Engine Partner

There are so many long tail keywords that it’s still possible to find phrases that aren’t well served with content. These are your opportunity to rank well in the SERPs.

Another great advantage of long tail keywords is that it is easier to write a very specific article that will exactly meet the searcher’s need. Who knows what’s on somebody’s mind when they type in “finance.” Your chances of helping them are pretty slim. You might be able to build a great resource for single moms on a budget, though. When they type in “personal finance tips for single moms,” you can really connect with them and help solve their specific problem.

When to Use Keyword Research

Remember that Google ranks pages, not websites. This means that each time you write an article for a website, you should find specific keywords for that article.

Before you even start a website, though, you need to understand whether the niche you intend to target is one that you can make money in. This means that you will need to find a series of keywords related to your niche and examine the commercial intent and competition for those keywords.

How many good keywords you need to find depends on the scale of your website. A niche site may need a dozen related keywords. An authority site will need hundreds. Ideally, each page will have a different focus keyword so that you aren’t competing with yourself.

Finding Keywords to Validate your Niche

find keywords don't panicDon’t Panic. You don’t need to find every keyword you might ever use before you launch your website. The key here is to understand your chosen niche website idea. You need to do enough research that you become confident that there are plenty of keywords that you will be able to rank for.

While you spend time digging through the keywords, you will find the language that people in your niche use, whether they tend to spend money on the niche, and who your competitors will be.

This is critical market intelligence. You need to be able to answer these questions before you ever choose a brand and start a website.

You will also be able to use keyword research to decide if you need to “niche down” further. If you find that there are many very strong websites that are targeting personal finance in general, you may find that there are lots of great keywords in the personal finance for single parents niche.

By defining your audience more tightly, you’ll be better able to serve those specific readers and to build a community that keeps coming back. By being more specific, you can distinguish yourself from all the other personal finance bloggers.

The key is to find the right sized pond in your chosen niche. You want to niche down until you’re a medium to large fish, but still have enough of an audience to create a sustainable income.

Luckily, it’s possible to adjust your focus as time goes on. You will get to know your audience and what is working and what isn’t. You can drive down deeper or broaden your horizons as your blog develops.

Finding Keywords for Online Passive Income Journey

So when I did the research for this blog, what did I find? To be honest, I found that I shouldn’t be in it. Here’s why:

  • The search volumes are very high. There are a lot of people interested in how to make money on the internet. There are many, many long tail keywords with decent volume.
  • The commercial intent is very high. People are willing to spend money to learn how to make money passively. They see it as an investment.
  • The competition is very, very high. Here’s the killer. Because of the two points above, there’s a lot of competition. This competition has been around a long time and they’re very good at what they do.

So this is a great market, but my chances of making money in it aren’t great. People teaching internet marketing tend to be pretty good at internet marketing! It will take me quite some time to gain the skills to compete against these people.

So why am I here? As I explained in this post, I’m choosing to compete in this niche as a way to learn the skills and to help others learn from my Journey.

I’ve already seen huge benefits. I’ve been doing this for 6 weeks, but I already have some readers who come by regularly to read my posts. I’m getting to know these people through the comments and in emails. I don’t want to disappoint or mislead them, so I’m much more rigorous in my research than I would be if it was just me.

I spend many hours researching topics and thinking about the best way to explain them. This helps organize my own thoughts. Just writing things down can reveal holes in my knowledge that I’ll then spend a couple more hours filling. It’s hard work, but it’s making me a much better blogger.

I don’t really expect to make much money from this blog. I do expect to hone my craft and help others on their own journey while I’m at it.

I’ve only begun the keyword research for my sailing website. I believe I have a good sub-niche and I’m starting to find some great keywords with competition that looks beatable.

In Part 2 of this series we will look at finding search volume and commercial intent to find some likely keywords, and then Part 3 will cover how to evaluate the competition.

How do you find and use keywords?  Do they help you understand the minds of your readers?  Leave a comment below. 

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