There are two ways I use keyword research. First, to determine what kind of content people have demand for. Second, to determine how I can optimize a post that I had validated demand for through other means.
Here’s an example of the latter.
I wrote a post about how to find freelance writers, to solve a problem myself, a client, and a few other people I know want solved.
After finishing it, I wanted to make sure the post has the best opportunity to show up on Google when someone is searching for content to solve this problem.
To increase my chances of obtaining traffic from search, I want to incorporate the words and phrases that people are searching for into my title, content, headings, etc., where possible while balancing quality.
So, the first thing I needed to do was determine what people are actually searching for.
I started by simply brainstorming a list of words and phrases that someone might search if they were looking for an article on how to find freelance writers. Here were the highest volume terms that were relevant:
I was surprised the related search terms are relatively low volume, particularly given the interest I had interpreted through informal customer development. It was also surprising how high the bids are/how competitive they are.
Therefore, I do not expect this post to gain much traffic through Google because there is relatively low search volume, and there is extremely high competition, so the traffic is likely to be gained by the sites paying for ads, and high page rank sites.
If you search “hire freelance writers” on Google you will see ads (from large/well funded companies), followed by a couple high page ranking sites, and them some relevant blog posts.
I actually like targeting “long-tail” keywords, words/phrases with low search volume, because they’re usually easier to actually rank for. But, given the competition, it will not be so easy to rank in this case.
Now, SEO is not my only strategy for acquiring traffic. I also acquire traffic through social, guest blogging, and my email list. Therefore, I aim to create extremely high value content that solves a problem and delivers value to an audience, even if only a small audience.
So, while I probably wouldn’t have written this post if my only goal was to get traffic through Google, I do want to increase my chances of being found on Google.
Thus, I chose “hire freelance writers” as the target keyword and incorporated it in the title and where appropriate in the text.
This is how I back into SEO. I do not sacrifice content quality for SEO, and I do not use keyword research as my only strategy for determining what to write about. But I do my best to optimize each post I write.