As you know, I really don’t like the approach to blogging where you just write a random article and see whether it sticks.

I prefer a semi-strategic approach.

An approach that combines research with targeted traffic and an end-goal for every blog post.

And that means knowing what keywords to put in your title, text and promotion attempts.

In this article I’m going to show you one of the easiest ways to research the best keywords for your posts. You want to make sure you are writing about topics that you can compete and convert for. This means dominating Google as well as referrals.


Disclosure and quick interruption – Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you sign up through one of the links on this post I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

What the hell? Things you want to know about keywords

Okay, so many of you are new to blogging and have probably heard a little bit about keywords but aren’t sure how they fit into the whole blogging scene. Let me explain it for you as best I can.

What is a keyword?

Keywords are words or short phrases that you target in order to get web traffic from Google or other online sources.

How do we use them?

Once you have decided on a keyword(s) you then write titles and blogs posts and engage in SEO or advertising to rank for those keywords so that more people searching for those words can find you. You can then promote products, affiliates, etc. to them.

What are short and long tail keywords?

Marketers break keywords down into two broad types: short tail and long tail. For example, a short tail key phrase is “dog collars” while a long tail version might be “dog collars for German Shepards”. It is harder to rank for short tail keywords due to increased competition.

Before you start: choose your keyword outcome

Before you start researching keywords you want to know the outcome readers will need to take.

There is absolutely no point in ranking for a keyword unless you know what it is going to do for your blog. Getting lots of traffic is pointless if you don’t get any results from it.

Some of the outcomes you might want to think about include:

  • Selling a product
    If you have a product to sell then that can be an end-result for your keyword research.
  • Getting sign ups
    Getting relevant sign ups on a mailing list is a good (short term) outcome. As long as you also have a goal in mind for those subscribers too.
  • Creating authority
    Ranking some extremely good content on Google can go a long way to boosting your personal authority as well as the authority of your blog by encouraging more backlinks and social shares.

So before you start with all this make sure you have a clear idea of what you want these keywords to do for you.

Finding the best keywords for Google

Now, the first part of keyword research revolves around figuring out whether or not you have a chance to rank on Google and, if you do, figuring out which formation of your key phrase is the best suited for success.

So with that in mind let’s have a look at one way that I do it.

1. Use Market Samurai to get a feel for your target keywords

Market Samurai is a great tool that you can use in order to get an inside look at what your competition is doing, or how competitive certain keywords are. It’s a really good place to start because you can just punch in a bunch of different keyword or key phrase ideas and get a feel for the climate.

One of the things I’ve done in the past is use Market Samurai to decide whether my blog post title is the best optimised and has any chance of success.

For example, you might type in “paleo diet” and then see who is ranking up the top and how many back links they have for that particular post. This is useful because sometimes you find that they don’t have that many links or that, with a bit of work, you might be able to replicate the ones that they do have.

2. Investigate further using more tools

The next step you can take is to use some other online tools like SEMRush and Majestic SEO to dig a little deeper and get an overall picture of how your competition is getting their rankings. You also want to spend some time to see whether the keywords you are looking at actually get any traffic…

For example, you might find that a blog is ranking for your chosen keywords because they are an authority website and have lots of back links and age as opposed to just one single blog post that has garnered a lot of attention and grown its links. These are more difficult to compete with.

Don’t be disheartened if you find that there is a really authoritative site ranking there because there are a lot of other things that come into play. I’ll get more into that in a minute.

3. Personally investigate those sites

The next step I take is to visit each of those sites that are ranking for my keywords. This will help you give you an idea as to whether there is something you can do to compete.

Look for things like:

  • Interaction on post
    How many comments and social shares are they getting?
  • Top posts linking
    Do they have any other posts on similar topics that have done really well that are linking to the post keywords that you are researching?
  • Tools
    Are there any original tools or plugins that they have developed that are making that post particularly valuable in the eyes of Google?
  • Improvements
    Can you make any improvements to their article? Can you write about it in a different way?

One you have done all of that stuff you should start to get a pretty good idea of what you’re dealing with and whether or not your post is something that will work.

Some other things to remember

When you are looking at keywords to see how they will perform on Google you have to remember a few little things:

  • Differentiation matters
    Just because the first result is an article about “How to set up X” doesn’t mean that the second one will be. Google likes to show a variety of types of information so that people get their questions answered. Consider competing with a different take on things.
  • Plurals and stuff matter
    One of the main reasons we check out traffic levels is to see if small things like plurals make a difference to traffic numbers. For example, the phrase “dog collar” might get 1,000 visitors a day while “dog collars” gets 40,000. Some people don’t think it matters but I still do. I also think you should look at word variations and spellings like is it a “movie ticket” or a “cinema ticket”?
  • Asking questions
    The latest update to Google wasn’t about changing how sites are indexed as much as it was about changing the way Google itself tries to answer questions. This means you need to spend more time thinking about how a person might ask a question in Google in a natural way in order to find an answer for the keywords that you’re looking for. For example, do they type in “keyword research” or “where do I research blog keywords”?
  • Freshness
    As Glen from ViperChill has been saying for a long time, the Google results are now heavily dominated by newer articles vs older (better quality) ones. Make sure you check whether your target keyword is showing fresh results or not.

Now that we’ve looked at the SERPs (search engine ranking position) side of things we need to move on to the next important area of researching keywords for blog posts.

Remember, that stuff ain’t everything…

What I really want to point out now is that researching keywords is not just about what will work well on Google. It is a much more multi-layered topic than that.

And in any event, if you want to rank on Google nowadays you need to think about more than just the amount and types of back links that you’re going to need.

Yes, that is important.

No, it’s not the whole story.

So while the first section above dealt with keyword research based on an SEO approach, you then want to move on and look at your target keywords in a more holistic manner.

So what’s next?

1. Consider your blog’s funnel

I’ve talked about a funnel quite a few times on this site so I won’t go into too much detail again other than to say it’s really important to consider this when thinking about your keywords.

Basically what we’re trying to consider here is how the traffic will behave when they arrive on your site. How does your content and site layout “direct” them and where do you want them to go?

If you do all this keyword research for a phrase that brings lots of traffic but doesn’t fit well with that funnel you’re wasting time. For more on this read my article about getting useless traffic.

2. Consider your promotion methods

Ranking on Google is one promotion method. There are many, many more.

For example, the particular keyword that you are going after might lend itself really well to some StumleUpon advertising. Or perhaps it might be a really solid, long term Google Adwords campaign. Or Facebook might respond well to it if it is something that is likely to get shared.

When you’re thinking about your keyword, think about the landing page and then the promotion method. It’s important to think about how you will popularize it aside from just Google rankings.

3. Think about the people searching and “activate” the keyword

Okay so now we are really getting into the more fun and sophisticated part of keyword research for bloggers. It’s very important to think about the type of keyword and whether people searching for are it are in an active or “buy ready” mode.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you write an amazing post and rank number one for the term “healthiest food” and let’s say it brings you 1,000 unique visitors per day. Well, are those people then likely to buy something from you once they’ve found out about the food?

Maybe. Maybe not.

This comes back a lot to the end outcome we talked about at the start but is slightly different because you can tweak the phrase to maybe make it more likely to earn. You can activate it. For example, you might switch it around so that (assuming the food is a chia seed) you target “buy chia seeds online”.

4. Think about the demographic

Okay so one thing I also think about is the demographic of the person searching. This can help you determine what product or style of sales page will work best.

For example, if you are promoting a game for kids then you need to be aware of things like the fact that an adult will need to have a credit card to purchase, and the fact that Facebook isn’t allowed for people under a certain age thus rendering the Ads pointless.

You also need to think about how tech-savvy those people might be and change your landing page depending on how they might react. An old grandma, for example, won’t want to see pictures of girls in bikinis.

5. Think about potential alliances

As I wrote in my previous post on blogging success, your online friends and contacts are a huge part of what you need in order to do well online.

After having chatted with Chris Ducker, for example, I feel like I could comfortably ask him to Tweet out an article on outsourcing if I had written about it.

This is extremely important for rankings as well. A good +1 from an authoritative Google+ account can boost your success in the SERPs really significantly. Think about that when you’re choosing your target keywords.

You don’t have to over do this

At the start of the post and in the title I said this was the “easy” way. Well, after 2,000 words you’re probably thinking that it doesn’t seem so easy.

If you’re planning to start a new blog then you’ll want to spend a lot of time planning all this out. That is important.

If, however, you are just planning on writing a blog post then you’ll only want to spend 10 – 20 minutes going through all this. Sometimes I spend a bit long if I have a plan for a series of articles around one keyword.

Time pays off when it’s thousands of visitors

Just think about it for a second. A 30 minute keyword research session before you start writing might bring you an extra 1,000 visitors per day. That’s over 300,000 per year. If you’re converting 2% of your traffic to your email list then, well, that 30 minutes was well spent.

Furthermore, I often spend eight or nine hours writing just one blog post. Why then wouldn’t I want to make sure it had the best chance of success based on the above criteria?


The above graphic is just a quick little way to visualise how I think about post titles before I go and write the post. You don’t have to take too long and after a while you’ll start to get pretty quick at it.

Your post title and text should then be based on keywords that have a balance of the above four things.

Does this help you?

Please let me know if this kind of thing is helpful for you. I’d love to know what problems you have with your own keyword research before writing a blog post or whether or not you even do keyword research! Please leave a comment and let me know.


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  1. jamie flexman on February 19, 2014

    Hi Ramsay, What’s your take on the difference between writing a headline that generates curiosity (like mentioned in Glen’s recent articles about viral nova) or solely dedicated to Google keyword rankings?

    Can we successfully integrate both? Or is it better to favour one over the other?

    Also what is the current trend about keyword density within a blog post, does that still matter as before? (seeing that it can be gamed so easily..)

    1. Hi Jamie.

      Glen’s article was good. Annoying though cos it’s another thing to get distracted by! 🙂

      I think they should always be integrated. Even if it’s a popular title for the initial link gathering and promotion and then using an SEO plugin to change the title for the SERPs.

      Keyword density; for me it’s about making it look natural.

      1. jamie flexman on February 19, 2014

        Call me stupid – but I had no idea that was possible.. I just always assumed you could only change the title from the permalink, not the title on your article to the title that appears on the Google results page..

        Now that you mention it.. that makes total sense 🙂

        1. Yeah, both All in One SEO and Yoast will do it. I often have different titles for SERPs vs on the blog. Try to think of the Google SERP more as an advert you need people to click. Plus it’s limited by 70-odd characters.

          1. Oh, now that is genius – thank you for mentioning it!

  2. liz@lifedreaming on February 19, 2014

    tres tres helpful as usual.

    full of flu bugs so a lot of what you wrote went into the brain mush AND I have saved this post [as I do with nearly all our posts] for a later more thorough read.

    Are there other sites that do word searches or do you prefer Market Samurai? Just interested in exploring the options.

    Really need to think about this whole area for my future blog posts.

    I’ve taken February and part of March to take a high level view of the whole Life Dreaming biz and that included the blog.

    I’ll be chunking in time to re read your posts and fine tune things like keywords. I’m also buying some vid editing software and will be starting vid blogging.

    Thanks as always Ramsay for a thoughtful and very practical post.


    1. Do you just have a run of the mill flu or something serious like the man flu? That would be very bad.

      Market Samurai is nice but those other ones I mentioned do pretty awesome things as well. Aaron Wall’s SEO Book tools are also good.

      1. liz@lifedreaming on February 19, 2014

        I’ll check out the others as well Ramsay.

        The flu is a great BIG woman flu makes man flu look like a cold!!

        Nasty few days but getting better slowly. It’s so damp here in Ireland that coughs and colds stay for ages.

        Thanks again for a brilliant post mate.

        Stay well.


  3. Do you ever use keywords for your Facebook? Maybe that’s silly.

    1. Long time no chat! How are you and the little one?

      I use them when I’m targeting for ads but that’s about it.

      1. We are well! Thank you. 🙂 How is Sir Ramsay?
        Thanks for the info!

        1. Sir Ramsay? That sounds funny. 🙂

  4. I’ve found Long Tail Pro to be another good option for keyword research.

    One way that I’ve used keyword research in the past was for tweaking titles to posts in the archives of my blogs. For example, I had a post a few years ago that started getting a lot of search traffic so I did some research to see where it was ranking for different phrases and to see the competition and search volume. I realized that a similar but slightly different keyword had a lot more volume so I made a small change to the title and within a few days it started bringing in a lot more traffic. Over the course of a couple years that small tweak led to a few thousand dollars more in AdSense earnings from that post. Since that post already had some authority it was easy to get it to rank for another phrase just by changing the title a little bit.

    1. That’s what I’m talking about! Nice one.

  5. Super read. Another one that’s bookmarked.

    I’ve known abut most of these strategies for quite some time, but I find it difficult to implement them on (personal) travel blogging – and I also have to admit that I just often forget.
    Well, I don’t forget to do the basic keyword research, but I don’t often look at the competition.

    1. Oh and a question: how valuable would you say Market Samurai is?


      1. Some people don’t like it as much as when it first came out but I still find it pretty useful.

  6. Vinny Polston on February 19, 2014

    Really good overview Ramsay! Got to love that low hanging fruit!

    1. Thanks Vinny.

  7. Hey Ramsay,

    A little off topic here but there’s something I’ve noticed after discovering your awesome blog! You close comments after a certain amount of time. What would you suggest to someone at different points in their visibility to close comments? I assume you do it to avoid hundreds if not thousands of spam comments.

    I’d also assume that this number would be different based on each scenario. Maybe it would be longer if someone doesn’t have a certain amount of traffic or readership. I’m definitely interested in hearing your opinion on that.

    1. Hey Nathan.

      I have a video on that:

      I close comments also because I think it helps to bring people up to new articles.

      Hope helps!

  8. I’ve never done a keyword search in my life. I’m going to give this a go and see how it works for me.

    One initial concern I have is if you’re using keywords to dictate what you’re writing specifically about, how do you keep your content authentic?

    I hope this isn’t a stupid question– it’s just that when I think about my blog writing process, (I paint stories) it feels unnatural, the idea of adding in keywords. How to keep it real?

    1. oops, I meant “keyword research”. Obviously I’ve done plenty of keyword searches 😉

      1. I think it’s important to not put the keywords before the stories. But, if you have a topic in mind you may as well just do a quick bit of research to see whether the word you’re thinking about is the best option from a traffic point of view.

  9. Fantastic Article Ramsay.

    What I particularly like about this one is that although many of us have started blogging or have been blogging for a while, these effective strategies of keyword research tend to take a backseat and the end results is never what we hope for, especially the case for those not blogging about blogging.

    Great way to be fresh on a popularly topic.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Zak.

  10. Keyword research is key and vital. Great reminder about the basics. The Google keyword planner is all one really needs along with your brain and thought. It often takes much more than 20 minutes. I recommend making a list of relevant keywords and the traffic number next to them just to keep them in mind. Then once the post is done you can define a focuse keyword in Yoast then use the secondary keywords from your list in the URL, H1 titles, meta snippet and especially image titles and tags appropriately. Google is simply an answering machine or a magic eight ball of sorts and attempts to answer people’s questions with answers even if they really didn’t know their question – it’s good to always keep this in mind. Using such techniques I have got over 3,000 page one primary and secondary keywords on a 50 post extremely competitive site. It takes a bit of work but very much worth it.

    1. Congrats Brendon! But wouldn’t you say that the Google planner tool isn’t very good for analyzing SEO competition or discovering back links?

  11. AfricaInside on February 19, 2014

    It is helpful but also overwhelming. I just want to write. I would love to hire someone to help me figure out all of my keyword stuff… any ideas?

    1. Absolutely. Check out Virtual Staff Finder by Chris Ducker or even

  12. Nice piece. I agree with most of what you said here, I do not use marketing samurai anymore but the tool itself is still pretty good. Keyword research is such a big part of any content or SEO strategy- I think a lot of people forget that and just jump straight into writing before they really think it out. Thanks for the piece!

    1. Thanks Brady. Not a fan of MS anymore?

  13. Thanks for a fantastic article! I am thoroughly confused with how to come up with the right keywords, and this has been a helpful article. Any chance you could walk us through an example of one of your recent posts? I would love to get the hang of this. I recently purchased Market Samurai but I’m still not sure if I’m using it how I should. Thanks!

    1. Not a bad idea. Maybe I should do a walkthrough video.

  14. Andrea Martins on February 19, 2014

    Yet another excellent article. Thanks Ramsay!

    1. Thanks Andrea.

  15. Hey Ramsey

    Great post man keep it up. I have 2 questions for you and hopefully you can answer them.

    1.) Which keywords did you consider when you wrote this article, and what were your aims for it?

    2.) What are your thought on putting the writing quality and content first and then thinking of how to implement SEO, do you always think SEO and build an article around that?

    I personally lean towards writing an article first then considering SEO but I’d love to know how you do it and what you think of my approach – I’m sure there is many others out there that do the same?

    I think your SEO articles are excellent, actionable and easy to understand.

    Thanks mate always a pleasure reading your content.


    1. Hey Paul.

      You well?

      The strategy for this article was less about Google rankings and more about having a resource. I constantly get emailed about this topic and wanted something I could refer readers to. That being said, I did narrow it down to “keyword research” and “the best keywords” somewhat. They are very competitive phrases though so hold out little hopes.

      You’re 100% right about number 2. I just wanted readers to start thinking about and end-goal, be it keywords or sign ups or whatever, instead of just going for that random big post to go viral. It has to connect with the rest of the plan.

      I always go for easy-to-read stuff before SEO but, in fact, they are one and the same these days.

      Hope helps.

      1. Thanks Ramsey, I’m going well :)and yourself?

        Cheers for the reply, I was curious to see how much of a fine line there is between SEO and great content, sometimes its hard to distinguish- its very reassuring to hear you say that.

        cant wait for the next article 🙂


  16. Susan O'Dea on February 19, 2014

    Hi Ramsay,

    Your explanation on the keyword research preparation before starting a new post or blog is excellent!

    This is one of those times I wish I had thought to write it all myself…but would have left many of the points you made out.

    I am guilty of assuming the plural word or not is a non-consequence, however you make a valid reason to research further.

    Thanks for the friendly reminder!


    1. Glad you enjoyed it Susan!

  17. I have now realized the importance of keyword research, as my blog traffic is just not increasing.

    Wish there was a quick and easy way for keyword research.

    1. The easiest way is to outsource it. I have a post with Chris Ducker coming up soon about just that.

  18. Hey Ramsay,

    Whats this thing with Market Samurai? I dont like it at all and i am really not sure whats the difference with semrush and majestic. I feel sucked in by installing that program which can do everything with my data etc etc.. Off course you wanna make money, i completely understand… But at leasy tell your subscribers what you are doing.



    1. Hi Niels.

      Thank you for your feedback.

      I mentioned Market Samurai just because it is my preferred program for keyword and competition research. Plus it is pretty reasonably priced for a full version.

      I’m sorry if you don’t like it. They do have a 30-day money back guarantee, however, so please do contact them if you’re not happy.

      Thanks again.


  19. David Black on February 20, 2014

    I’m sure you’re right about finding the right keywords, the trouble is it looks a daunting task for an amateur blogger like me!
    I find it hard enough to come up with good article ideas without the constraints of using exactly the right keyword and checking out all the competition..
    I’m not sure I’d ever get a new post written!

  20. Great article! Keyword research seems to be vital. I should give it a go seriously!
    Thank you for sharing your advice.

    1. No probs Ally.

  21. I second the video walkthrough idea. It is a bit overwhemlning and I tend to learn best through practical application, so I’d love to see it pulled altogether.
    Otherwise great article. I just recently statted following and am excited to start planning out my blog better this year to drive more traffic?

  22. Hi,
    I kinda got thrown into the deep end with my website,because through searching for ways to make money online, I bought a book guiding me to start a website and without actually knowing what I’m doing – one year later I’m still around, feel I spent too much on registering the domain, hosting and theme to just give up.
    The reason I mentioned this is because I wish I found Blog Tyrant a year ago – from all the e-mails I receive in my in box I always open these (no matter what time of the day or how busy I am), because I know, HERE I WILL LEARN SOMETHING NEW THAT YOU DON’T FIND ON EVERY SECOND WEBSITE.
    I love being a Blog Tyrant troop!!!

    1. Linda, you are amazing. Thank you for the feedback. We are glad to have you here.

  23. Hi! Newbie here. I, too, am really thrilled I found your blog! I have only just-about finished my new website. I understand how keyword search works, but what I am finding is that all the keyword search sites cost money. When I signed up for my web-hosting, I get $100 to use towards using Google Keyword Planner. After that, AdWords says that it costs about $50 per month to use their tools.
    Could you suggest the least-expensive site for keyword search? Is it Market Samurai? Someplace else? Thanks!

    1. Hi there.

      Google Adwords tools aren’t paid tools as far as I know. I use them regularly without paying anything.

  24. comment

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  26. Taswir Haider on February 27, 2014

    Great Article. it’s Really helpful tips to find Best Keywords Easily. Thank you very much for Sharing.

  27. Brian Jones on March 6, 2014

    Thanks for this post Ramsey i was struggling to find the right keywords to help me with my blog i use Google add words at the moment and am hoping this will help me to increase the traffic.

    Thanks Again these types of posts helps us newbies allot.

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  29. Susan Browne on March 15, 2014

    Dear Ramsey,
    Your blog is beyond awesome!
    I think I will call you Lord Ramsey … as one of your commenters did … How I LOVE you Brits!

    I am new.
    My Blog started 4 months ago, and for the first time, just this week I have been averaging 65 comments per day. I believe it is because my topic is unusual and there is a large pent-up demand for information on the subject.

    I think I should focus on maintaining the integrity of the uniqueness of postings … and learn what you teach as I am able.
    I am fast, but all this information is a bit overwhelming. Especially since I need to write a series of EBooks elaborating on my theme which is mainly Connecting with God without Religious Dogma.

    Do you have any suggestions of ABSOLUTE DO’S or DON’Ts I must do to keep me out of the tall weeds later on. I plan to take my PhD on BlogTyrant, but must put it off until later.

    BTW, My website is … The portion of the site everyone is commenting on is

    I am spinning off that portion to its’ own website.

    My other four sub-topics: Powerful – Financial, Home & Hearth, Health, and Human – Connections are suffering from lack of attention. I would actually like to find a blogger to take over this portion of these sites. Do you think this is a good idea? All four of these topics are my passion. But the spiritual is first.

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