You know you need to do keyword research. After all, you’re producing content to support your business growth, not writing a love letter to your grandma.

The goal is to get as many qualified leads as possible to find your post, including new people finding you through Google search. But how can you make sure that what you’re writing is what people are looking for?

The secret is to do the overall topic research before you begin your content planning, then fine-tune the keywords once the blog post is written.

How do I find what my audience is interested in?

Lacy’s first step in editorial content planning is to divide your services into “buckets,” or categories/themes that you want to write about. Brainstorm different blog posts you can write for each topic, just to get the ball rolling.

Let’s say that you’re a health coach; your top 3 category buckets could be: clean eating, creating exercise habits, and dealing with stress.

Step 2: Discover the questions people are asking

Before you write anything, find out if people are interested in this topic. It’s much easier to drive traffic to content that people are already interested in than it is to educate them about why you think it’s important.

There are a few free research tools I love to use to discover the questions that people are asking about your bucket topics. My two favorites are:

  • Google Trends
    • After searching for your topic or keyword on Google Trends, scroll down below the ‘Interest over time’ and ‘Interest by subregion’ sections. You’ll find the ‘Related topics’ and ‘Related queries’ that people also search for. These tell you exactly what people who are interested in your topic are curious about right now. It will initially list the top five, but you can click through to see more.
    • Our health coach, searching for inspiration to fill her ‘Clean Eating’ bucket, would see that related hot topics in her field include the ketogenic diet, finding sugar substitutes, and cooking with the instant pot.
  • Answer the Public
    • Wondering exactly how people are asking their questions? This site compiles the exact phrases people are using to search for any given keyword; if you use these same words, you’re more likely to show up in their search results.
    • Sample questions for our health coach: Can the ketogenic diet cause anxiety? How ketogenic diet cure inflammation? Are ketogenic and paleo the same?

Step 3: Expand your list

Now that you know what you want to talk about and what people are searching, let’s figure out exactly what people who are looking for you are asking.

  • Google Search
    • Autocomplete
      • Start typing your topic into Google, but before you click “Enter,” see what phrase it auto completes; our search for “keto” autocompletes with “keto recipes,” “keto diet,” “keto for beginners” and “ketosis”
    • People also ask
      • Now click enter and scroll down in the search results, to about the 4th or 5th listing, and you’ll probably see another box called “People Also Ask,” which is a great place to get complimentary ideas to expand the blog post or create a new one. “Keto” has a few alternate questions: “What foods to eat on keto diet?” and “Is being in ketosis safe?”
  • Ubersuggest
    • This is a great place to discover new phrases and to find out how many people are searching for each specific keyword. The chart displays:
      • search volume (how many users are searching for that phrase every month),
      • the cost-per-click (CPC) which is how much it would cost to purchase Google AdWords for that phrase; a higher CPC means that the phrase is both desirable and competitive;
      • and the competition (0 would be easy to rank on the first page of search results, 1 would be nearly impossible).

Step 4: Build out your editorial calendar

I highly recommend Lacy’s Content Intelligence Academy. (I’m not only a member of the Content Direction Agency team, I’m also a client!) Figure out what you’re trying to promote, then work backwards to educate & inform people why they need your product or service.

Step 5: Map one specific focus keyword to each blog post

Once you have your editorial calendar sketched out, choose ONE key phrase for that post. Think about your readers: If they were looking for the information in that post, choose the phrase you’d expect them to type in to lead them to that exact answer.

It’s important that each post gets its own keyword, even if the topics are similar. or example, one post could be “how do I eat less sugar?” and another could be “5 sugar substitutes already in your pantry.” They both talk about sugar, and encourage the reader to eat less of it, but they’re bringing in audiences with different approaches to the same goal.

(Bonus: You can link them to each other to keep readers on your site longer and continue to educate them!)

Step 6: Forget about the keyword & write the whole damn blog post

Before you worry about working your keyword into your copy or perfecting your title, write the whole post—and write it like you want it to be engaging, authentic, and useful to your audience. Yes, eventually, we want the Google robots to read your content & share it with the world… but it’s more important that people actually enjoy reading it! If it sounds too robotic or stiff, people will click away (and Google notices how long people spend on your page).

I also recommend drafting the content loosely before worrying about keywords, because blogs have a tendency to shift in the writing process.

I can’t be the only one that totally changes topics in the middle of writing a blog post, right? Then suddenly realizing that I’d written 3 separate blog posts in one rambling Google Doc, and needing to find time to finalize all of them… good, glad it’s not just me that has that issue.

Step 7: Add a compelling headline that includes your keyword

You might have the most incredible blog post ever written, but if your headline doesn’t interest people? Nobody’s going to click through to find out more.

I suggest writing at least 7–8 headline options and running them through the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer before selecting one. If possible, try to make your focus keyword as early in the headline as possible, but don’t force it. It’s more important to make it interesting.

Step 8: Optimize, optimize, optimize

Now that you have your draft done and your headline selected, it’s time to make your blog post Google-friendly!

Remember that focus keyword? Try to include it in the headline, meta description, image name, and throughout the body text.

Find a few other related keywords and incorporate them into subheads and into the copy.

Don’t let the need to fit keywords into your copy make you feel robotic; f the keywords don’t fit in naturally, err on the side of sounding human.

Step 9: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Finally: Publish your post! Share with your networks!

Then, in a month or two, check Google Analytics to see how your post is performing.

If it barely gets traffic, you have two options: Let it go into the blog post graveyard (RIP), or give it a second chance by targeting a new keyword or headline and republishing it.