3 Steps to Optimizing Content Using the Google Keyword Planner

3 Steps to Optimizing Content Using the Google Keyword Planner

When you hear about tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, you probably associate them with SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) -- and then run away, fast.

Well, we’re here to tell you to slow down. Sure, there are some tricky looking features in Google’s Keyword Planner that aren’t entirely relevant to content marketers. But, don’t let that scare you away.

Used wisely, the tool can give you fundamental insights about your brand and a launching point for your content. We’ll go so far as to say that the Keyword Planner is the best free keyword tool out there to help you find content ideas, research and track the volume of your target keywords, and identify popular alternatives to your keyword list.

Let’s face it – keyword research is at the heart of effective SEO, and crucial to building a content marketing strategy. As Outbrain points out, “Content created from keyword research will continue to provide value months and years after people stop sharing your content on social media, driving your cost per acquisition through the floor and your content’s lifetime value through the roof.”

It’s time to shove those fears aside and put the tool to work for you. Follow this streamlined approach to using the Keyword Planner, and enjoy the meaty content marketing wisdom without getting stuck trying to navigate through the technical features that just aren’t relevant.

3 easy steps to integrate the Google Keyword Planner into your content marketing strategy

While this tool is powerful, your content shouldn’t begin and end with the Keyword Planner. Think of it as the filling in your sandwich – it’s an integral part – but not the sum total. The pieces we’ll start and end with -- niche market research and leveraging the data you find -- form the “bread” that holds all that keyword research together. Here’s where to begin:

Step 1: Make a Seed List Based on Your Niche Market

Before you start using the Keyword Planner, you need to have established your seed list terms: words that most accurately describe your brand and/or product, based on the interests of your niche market. As Kissmetrics suggests, you should use a combination of brainstorming and investigation to compile your list. If you’re not sure where to start, try developing buyer personas and doing competitive analyses to identify words that most accurately define and differentiate you.

As a practical benchmark, aim for a list of five to twenty words organized into themes or categories.

As you narrow your brainstorming down to a reasonably sized list, be sure to focus on longer body and long-tail keywords rather than one-word generalizations (also known as the head keywords).

For example, for the hypothetical tea company I run to illustrate this post, I would avoid using “tea” (a head keyword) as one of my seed list words. The term “tea” is far too broad, so it’ll encounter the greatest amount of competition in search results. Instead, I’ll aim for 2-3 word terms – something like “organic tea,” “organic green tea,” or “herbal tea” (body keywords), or longer phrases like “how long to steep herbal tea” (long-tail keywords).

Remember this: the more specific your seed list terms can be, the better. If you’re doubting your list, keep going -- the Keyword Planner will help you along.

Step 2: Gain Insights From the Keyword Planner

Once you’ve identified a list of seed terms that you believe to be relevant to your brand and audience, work can begin with the Keyword Planner.

Start by signing up for a free Google Adwords account. You'll have to put in some business and payment information, but don't worry too much about detail here -- you can immediately delete the campaign but retain access to the tools. Once you're in, navigate to Tools --> Keyword Planner. There are three feature options (out of four in total) that are relevant for content marketers:

  1. Search for New Keyword and Ad Group Ideas
  2. Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups
  3. Multiply keyword lists to get new keyword ideas

Each of these features will help you add valuable insights to your content efforts. Here’s how:

1. Search for New Keyword and Ad Group Ideas

How this helps your content strategy: find new keyword and content ideas

The “Search for New Keyword and Ad Group Ideas” feature is designed for finding new keywords. However, as Backlinko reminds us, the words generated from this search will be very similar to the seed words that you put into it. That’s why it is so important to have a seed list to begin with: because the tool won’t generate entirely ‘new’ words.

That being said, if you’ve done your seed list research, you should get some useful alternatives to your keywords. You will also get some nifty new content ideas to sift through. Let’s get started.

In this section you have the option to enter information into one or more of following three categories:

  • Your Product or Service (i.e. your seed list keywords)
  • Your Landing Page (i.e. your website or campaign URL)
  • Your Product Category (i.e. your niche market)

We’re only going to focus on the first: the 'Your Product or Service' category. As an example, I’ll enter a body keyword we discussed in part one, “Organic Green Tea,” into the Product or Service category. Once I’ve done that, I get a list of keyword variations with an indication of their average monthly searches and competition:

Google Keyword Planner

Scrolling through this list, I can easily take note of some potential content topics:

  • Best Organic Green Tea
  • Organic Green Tea Benefits
  • Organic Green Tea for Weight Loss
  • Organic Green Tea Extract

As I continue to scroll though my results, I note particularly strong keywords. For example, I can see that “green tea benefits” might be a particularly useful keyword phrase because it has a high volume of searches and low competition (the definition of a ‘good’ keyword):

Google Keyword Planner

I can also check out the “Ad group ideas” tab (next to the keyword tab) to find more content ideas. Here’s what that looks like:

Google Keyword Planner

Based on my initial search of “Organic Green Tea,” I find that “Tea Recipes” offers some relevant topics based on these related keywords:

  • Green Tea Latte Recipe
  • Green Tea Ice Cream Recipe
  • Green Tea Cake Recipe
  • Green Tea Frappuccino Recipe

Just like that -- within a few minutes -- I’ve generated an entirely new list of content ideas and have a rough idea of how useful they will be. And all that came from one seed list word. How’s that for awesome?

Protip: If you’re looking to play around with this section a little further, use the additional filters like 'Targeting' and 'Customize Your Search' to see what kinds of results you get.

2. Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups

How this helps your content strategy: test your keyword performance

This feature allows you to see the average monthly searches and estimated competition of your seed list terms. Plug your list of keywords into the search box (or upload a CSV file) to evaluate. You may also want to add some of the commonly used alternatives you’ve found from the Planner.

Here’s a short list of keywords I’ve compiled with the results:

Google Keyword Planner

Seeing them side-by-side, I can easily compare to determine where my focus should be. Remember, a good keyword has high search volume and low competition. So, this feature is extremely useful to help you figure out which terms get the most traffic and most competition. It also gives you an objective benchmark for how your keywords are performing. Should you live and die by this data? Not at all -- but you should make careful considerations if you see that a keyword ranks poorly.

3. Multiply keyword lists to get new keyword ideas

How this helps your content strategy: discover hybrid keyword combinations

The “Multiply keyword lists to get new keyword ideas” feature allows you to break down your keywords into different list columns and see what kind of keyword combinations come up from these lists. You’ll want to start by taking your seed list terms (which are ideally divided into themes or categories) and enter them into the “List 1, List 2, etc.” columns.

Continuing with my example of my business as a distributor of tea products, I might start by breaking down my lists by tea types and accessories.

Here’s what that would look like (click the gray X to add more columns):

Google Keyword Planner

For example, this particular set of keywords gives me some of the following combinations:

  • Organic Tea Speciality Tea Cups
  • Organic Tea China Tea Sets
  • Herbal Tea Speciality Tea Sets
  • Organic Green Tea Tea Saucers

By testing out different category options, you are more likely to find some unexpected (and useful) combinations that you can use in your content.

Step 3: Leverage The Data You’ve Compiled

All of this research is for naught if you don’t put it to work. We like to evaluate our keyword research discovery insights based on the Content Marketing Institute’s 3Vs of gaining search authority online: volume, variety, and value.

Here are some examples of how the 3Vs can help you leverage your keyword research into tangible actions -- improving your content and providing more relevant information for your audience:

Volume: High-ranking, low competition seed list words will allow you to produce a large volume of content on that topic. Use them as a launch point for a topic brainstorming session and see how many ideas you can come up with. Targeting these high-ranking, low competition seed list words helps with your search rankings and your authority in this niche subject.

Variety: The Keyword Planner divulges some unexpected alternative keywords, which enable you to establish a new interest area of your audience. As a result, use the new keywords to brainstorm a series of videos, blogs and podcasts addressing this gap. By diversifying your content production different areas, you widen your audience, increase your website traffic and improve your search rankings.

Value: You know that 34% of customers break up with a brand from receiving disruptive or irrelevant marketing materials. After using the Keyword Planner, your research has helped you establish the most relevant queries and interests that your audience has about your industry. Now that you’ve tested your keywords against objective data, you can be confident that you’re providing your audience with loads of valuable, targeted content. Building a content marketing strategy based on information your audience wants and needs establishes a relationship based on trust and increases your brand’s positive exposure.

Google Keyword Planner: the hidden secret in your content marketing strategy

Google Keyword Planner is unparalleled when it comes to a free tool that will help you find content ideas, research and track the volume of your target keywords, and identify popular alternatives to your keyword list.

If you’ve shied away from using the Keyword Planner -- shrugging it off as a tool only for the search engine pros -- you’re missing out on what could be the best tool in your content marketing toolbox.

Are you using keyword research to optimize your content? What tools are helpful for you? Leave us a comment below.

[Photo credit: Sarah Reid]

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