Here’s how, in three easy steps, you can use free keyword data to inform and inspire your publishing strategy.
At L&T, we think of search keyword data as business intelligence. Your target audience leaves hints as to their desires, needs, intentions, and interests each time they use Google.
This data represents demand, and it can inform the way you create supply with your brand publication. Follow these three steps to make the most of the valuable insights offered by this data.
1. Source Your Data
Imagine that Google is a person. This person has an opinion about every page on your site that it knows about. This opinion is derived from the quality of your content, whether and how often users click on your links in Google results pages, plus a number of other factors. Google’s opinion is then expressed via your rankings.
To uncover these rankings, there are innumerable sources of keyword data online (both free and paid). We like to use SEMrush — you can pull a lot of very useful data for free, and access some more in-depth information through the paid version.
Let’s demonstrate with our publication, EQ. Checking where your site ranks for particular keyword searches is a great place to start. If you plug in your domain, SEMrush will show you the keywords for which you rank, where you rank, estimated searches per month, which page ranks, and more.
See the above screenshot. A raw breakdown like this gives you two insights, right away. Firstly: what Google thinks you’re good at and the topics for which you’re an authority. Secondly: how, linguistically, people search for those topics.
Let’s say you’re looking to generate more traffic, fast. The best place to start is to write about the subjects for which Google already considers you an authority, as you have a head start. Given the data above, EQ should clearly be writing more articles about coworking in St Louis.
This data also shows how real people, in the wild, are actually looking for services like yours. For example, people are using the phrase ‘shared working spaces’ to refer to what I would call coworking spaces. This demonstrates that there are multiple labels for coworking, all of which we should use in our stories.
In this instance, the difference is minor. However, we’ve used keyword data like this to reveal major missed opportunities for clients who are writing about their field using the “wrong” language, i.e. writing about what they do using words that nobody types into Google.
2. Identify Articles and Beats of Interest
Now it’s time to consider the actual process of creating a publishing strategy using this data.
The chart below breaks down the same site ranking data, filtered to show only keywords relating to “spaces.” The bars show monthly searches, the “position” where EQ ranks in Google search results, and the specific page that ranks.
Virtually every one of these keywords represents a great article to write. Noting which pieces of existing content rank is important, too. For example, our article 6 Affordable Office Spaces For Entrepreneurs In St. Louis County ranks for ‘affordable creative office space st louis’.
This is great because the existing article doesn’t actually talk about “creative.” So, an article that focuses on creativity and creative spaces is likely to rank well and will add new information to the conversation.
Now it’s time to get into advanced mode. ‘Beat’ is the phrase we use to describe an idea, topic, or subject that a publication covers consistently. Fashion entrepreneurship, for example, is one of EQ’s beats.
Not only will creating a beat establish your expertise among members of your audience — it will establish your authority in the eyes of Google. Write regularly about the concept at hand, linking back to other articles in the beat where relevant, and collect it all under a tag or category: this is what Google wants to see.
So, how do keywords help?
It’s time to use SEMrush’s “Keyword Magic Tool,” for which you’ll need the paid version of SEMrush. (You want the data for free? Use keywordtool.io — most of the keywords are there, but gathering and organizing them will take longer and is less helpfully sorted).
Until now, we’ve been working off keywords for which we already rank; now it’s time to explore the unknown. Let’s use ‘coworking’ as a starting point. As you can see below, this gives us a mountain of ideas to write about (conveniently organized by SEMrush into categories).
You could make coworking into a beat, or you could use any one of coworking’s subgenres. The keywords ‘how to promote a coworking space’ and ‘how to manage a coworking space’, for example, would fall into an excellent beat relating to the day-to-day running of a space like this.
3. Pay Attention to the Human Behind the Keyword
There are, however, pitfalls to this strategy. For one: focusing on the data at the expense of the people behind it.
Here’s an example: ‘can coworking spaces be profitable.’ This keyword is relevant in that it includes the word ‘coworking’. However, the person behind this keyword is probably interested in the concept of coworking from a business perspective, not actually interested in joining a space. So, if you run a space, this phrase might not be that useful to you.
That example was pretty obvious, but it can be much more subtle. Ultimately, you know your customers best, so you’ll be able to tell, instinctively, which keywords are relevant and which aren’t.
For me, keyword data is the most interesting “boring” thing in marketing. You get an insight into billions of searches by real people, seeking information and things, in their own words. All that’s left to do is speak to them.