How to Choose Keywords for Your Blog

How to choose keywords for your blog? If you’ve ever seen me at a conference, giving a presentation, or ranting on any of the social media  hangouts, chances are good that you’ve heard me pick on bloggers for not choosing their keywords properly when writing their posts. In this article, I’ll explain what I see as the real problem, why it persists, and what you can do to fix it.

You need to understand that you can’t have flowery, creative language and be keyword focused. The two are mutually exclusive goals… 

IMHO bloggers who fancy themselves as writers are their own worst enemies. Maybe they think they are modern day novelists or maybe they think they will eventually turn their blogs into books by pulling a miraculous Julia & Julia move. Whatever the reason, they think of their words on the blog as a lovingly crafted piece of artwork instead of as a tool designed to do a job and do it well. When they sit down to write something, they strive to make it as interesting and noteworthy as possible. Keyword focus, using common language, and being easy to read and comprehend are lesser goals, if they are even considered at all.

As a case in point, consider this recent article from the Lonely Planet: Rio de Janeiro on a shoestring

Rio de Janeiro on a Shoestring

Even if you have a only a cursory knowledge of the travel space, chances are good that Lonely Planet is a brand name you recognize. If you take the time to read the article, you will see it has useful information. So where’s the problem? We need to discuss how someone discovers that the document exists.

If you are someone who enjoys reading travel blogs, you will come across this article and read it. If visiting Rio is on your bucket list, you might even bookmark it or send it to a friend. However, people who are searching for information on “how to plan a trip to Rio de Janeiro” or “how to save money on a trip to Rio de Janeiro” are unlikely to ever come across this article. Why? Because the author chose to go with a clever title instead of one with common language or keyword search volume. As humans, we can make the leap from ” shoestring” to “cheap” or “budget,” but the search algorithms can’t do it yet.

This is the point where bloggers moan and throw up their hands in disgust at the mere idea of being so pedestrian as to dumb down their artful language for the great unwashed masses, the common folk–or, worse yet, having to write for machine or search engine algorithm. If you are writing for yourself or for enjoyment, go ahead write about whatever you want and use what ever language and title you like. But if you want to make blogging an income source, yes, you will have to write using common language and for machines and search engines. Many many moons ago, Andy Hagans taught me a lesson: the value and monetization of your blog comes from your archives. Not all your posts will be winners but, when you’ve done your homework, found the right keywords, and kept the post interesting, you are sitting on the goose that laid the golden egg (in other words, passive income from an ATM machine) for years to come. If you’re willing to swallow your pride, put your ego in check, and write using keywords that people are searching for, your blog could become your car payment, mortgage payment, kid’s college fund, retirement fund, or even the key to a bathrobe lifestyle at your very own beach house.

So let’s talk about how to go from your flowery, poetic prose to getting posts that rank, drive traffic, and make money. You need to understand that you can’t have flowery, creative language and be keyword focused. The two are mutually exclusive goals. You can, however, be interesting, useable, and have a keyword focused post if you’re willing to try. First, sit down and write the post you want. Get it to the point where you are happy with it. Bask in its artistic glow. Then reach for the battle axe and get ready to hack it apart. Hopefully your post has a key concept that people are looking for and you just obfuscated it from search engines with artsy prose. Here’s an example:

Your title:
My weekend visit to Sin City for less than 50 sheckels

Now compare it to these with greater keyword focus:
How to Plan a Weekend in Las Vegas for less than 50 dollars
How to Plan a Cheap Vacation to Las Vegas for under $50

If you think someone will go to Google and type in “visit sin city for less than 50 scheckles” or something equally obscure and witty, close the laptop and step away from the keyboard. There’s nothing I can do to help you. However, if you agree that my suggested titles are much more likely to match terms users will actually type into a search engine, read on.

Sometimes you give up a little focus for text that reads better and makes more sense. But I said sometimes, not all the time…

 There are lots of tools to help you do keyword research like Google Adwords Tool, Wordstream, Wordtracker, SEMRush, and many others. Some are free, some are paid. Unless you happen to use a really crappy free one with data from Lycos and Hotbot, it’s pretty hard to completely screw this step up. Will the paid tools give you better data? Probably, but we need to start somewhere, and the goal of this post is to get you thinking about choosing keywords as a first step, not fine tuning for maximum value.

Once you have the keyword(s) concept, go back and start hacking up your original post, editing it for emphasis without making it sound too awkward. Striving for keyword focus is a bit art and science. Sometimes you give up a little focus for text that reads better and makes more sense. But I said sometimes, not all the time. You can use lots of tools to do this. My favorite is Scribe. Let’s get all the cards on the table: Scribe is a paid product (see my Scribe review) and, if you sign up from my link, I get a commission. That said, it’s a product I’ve been using for over a year. By helping me focus the keywords in my posts, I have made more money–far more money than it costs to use.

I use it much more heavily on my commercial blogs and as not as much here because my audience here is more well-established. However, sometimes I want that archive traffic to generate income, so I’ll turn it on. For example, when I wrote a post on how to get more followers for Twitter, Scribe showed the focus was on the term “follower raid,”, not “how to get more followers.” I had become my own worst enemy. I got attached to the jargon in my head. The phrase “follower raid” had that black hat barbarian appeal that resonated with me. However, I swallowed my pride, did the research, realized the core concept people were most likely to be searching for was “how to get more followers on Twitter,” and off I went. Using Scribe, I was able to get the keywordd focus where I wanted it without sacrificing too much of the post.

Scribe Keyword Focuse

Is the post as interesting as some of the other posts on Twitter about getting more Twitter followers? Probably not, but it is easier to understand and (more importantly) absolutely ranks, drives traffic, and makes income via adsense. The key lesson here is that, unless you were born rich, we all have to make artistic compromises to make our products commercially viable. Call it selling out, call it buying in–I call it putting a roof over my family’s head and food on the table. The question that you need to ask is whether choosing a title like “Rio de Janerio on a shoestring” and being artistic is more important and satisfying than compromising, being a common man, and going with “how to plan a cheap vacation to Rio de Janiero,” which will draw dramatically more income. Only you can make that choice.

If you are on a limited budget, go ahead and use free tools for choosing keywords and analyzing your posts. For me, the ability to do that work in WordPress without opening 2-3 tabs and bouncing back and forth is worth it, especially over multiple blogs, where the time saved is compounded.

To be clear, I am a paying customer of Scribe. I don’t get it free or comped. But I can justify the expense: it is more than paying for itself every month. If you would like to give Scribe a try and see how it works for you, you’ve got nothing to lose. They offer a 30 day free trial. So what are you waiting for? Get started today. I bet you’ll be making more money and less shekels …

photo credit: Photospin

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