Creating Content That Search Engines Love

Leveraging Keyword Research for Article Ideation

Think about the last time you Googled something. Did you look past the top five or ten search results? Chances are, you didn’t, and most Internet users don’t either. Every website is fights for the top spots in search results, as the first page of Google results drives at least 75% of clicks.

Every blogger craves that top spot, but few understand the principles of search engine optimization (SEO) that lead to winning the number one search result. Many rely solely on well-written content to elevate their site without learning how Google determines what content should be ranked highly.

The trick is keyword research: identifying what terms readers are searching for, and writing content that answers their query. The core principles of compelling and well-written content still apply, but from a content marketing perspective, new content ideas should be based around this research.

Types of Keywords and Content

Brands and blogs alike use keywords to increase their SEO, but they don’t always use the same kinds of keywords and content. Although not all types of keywords and content will be relevant to all bloggers, it is important to understand how these kinds of content may appear in search engine results pages (SERPs).


Branded keywords are usually specific company or product names. They lead to branded content whose main subject is a specific product or service. Bloggers won’t typically rely on this content to gain page one rankings, but it is important to understand how branded content works.

Non-Branded Commercial

Commercial keywords are specific products without a brand attached. Terms like “yellow computer monitors” are commercial keywords: a consumer searching these terms knows exactly what they want to purchase. These types of searches often lead to pages with products that the user can purchase.

Check out this SERP for the term “red shoes”:

The top results here are from brands like Macy’s and DSW. In fact, the only non-sales page on this SERP is a Wikipedia page about a story called “The Red Shoes.” A blog or editorial post about red shoes will likely NOT rank for this term.

Enter non-branded editorial keywords.

Non-Branded Editorial

Bloggers and influencers can benefit the most from non-branded editorial keywords and content. These do not aim to sell anything, but rather try to answer a broader query.

For example, queries like “how to cook for picky eaters” will draw in readers who are seeking information and answers rather than a product. The Google search results for “how to cook for picky eaters” are all recipes, tips, and information (with the exception of the initial ad result):

Editorial keywords are easier to create content around as the keywords are often questions. However, it is a tricky balance to find queries and keywords that are popular searches, but not so popular that the competition for rankings will be too difficult.

There are examples of keywords that look like they should be commercial, but yield editorial results. A search query’s intent may be commercial, but further research may reveal that the top-ranking pages are editorial in content. A great example of this is the term “anti-aging treatment”:

Outside of the ads, most of the top results are articles about anti-aging treatments, rather than a sales page from a brand. Brands and bloggers can really take advantage of these keywords to drive new traffic. For example, VitaMedica (position #2) has a company “Wellness Blog” that leverages a lot of these types of informational articles.

Keyword Research 101

Knowing to create content that targets important editorial keywords is just the first piece of the puzzle. The next piece is to determine exactly which keywords readers are most likely to search AND will be easy enough to rank for.

This process called keyword research. The general steps for keyword research can be found below:

Identify the Target Market

Who will be reading this content? Companies often target their product or information toward a specific age, gender, or geographic location. Bloggers may do likewise, or may be focused on a profession, hobby, or stage of life. Getting in the mindset of this target audience will help determine who will be reading the content and why.

This influences keyword phrasing when conducting research and creating the content.

Learn What Content Already Exists

What else is the target market already reading? Look at the blogs of leaders and influencers in the same niche to determine what content ranks well and is popular with the target market. Use this information as a springboard to plan new content that expands or builds upon what is already out there.

Target Keywords Within Reach

Content is most likely to rank for keywords that have less competition. This can mean having unique content, but also depends on the authority of the sites that are already ranking for these keywords. Take a look at these search engine results for “causes of colds in toddlers”:

Many of these top results come from high authority sites like the National Institute of Health and WebMD. It will be more difficult to rank for these keywords due to the authoritative content that already exists.

For more insight, check out this guide from GetResponse.

Keyword Research Tools

A good keyword research tool will help narrow down large lists of keywords and provide difficulty scores and search trends for each, according to this resource from Ahrefs.

A tool like Google Keyword Planner, which is available for free through a Google AdWords account, will provide a long list of similar keywords, their search volume, and their difficulty.

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In this screenshot, average monthly searches refers to the number of times that keyword is entered into a search engine on an average month. (With an active AdWords campaign, you’ll get a specific search volume number rather than a range.)

Search competition (sometimes called difficulty) refers to a calculation based on how many sites are bidding on those terms. In other keyword tools, such as SEMrush, “difficulty” refers to the strength of the other domains that are ranking and how much effort is needed to rank for a specific term.

The suggested bid column again refers to AdWords, but is a useful indicator of how valuable the traffic from those keywords would be: the higher the suggested bid, the more valuable the traffic.

Pro tip: Finding keywords that you don’t rank for but already have an article on that topic? Update that older post with another section based on those target keywords!

For more options and information on keyword research tools, check out this list from Backlinko.

Writing Keyword-Oriented Content

Selected keywords must be incorporated in specific ways in the content to rank well for these keywords. Randomly including keywords throughout the content does not demonstrate their importance to the search engines.

1-2 Primary Keywords per Page

Each piece of content should be focused around one or two main “head” keywords that provide information on that topic or query. While other keywords may make an appearance, targeting specific terms is what makes the keyword focus most effective.

Meta Data

Include the head keywords in the meta data of your page as this signals to search engines that these are the terms this content should rank for. There are three main places to put these keywords: Title Tag, H1, and the meta description.

Let’s look at this example from The Spruce in an article on “How to Eat Ice Cream.” You will see that the title tag and the H1 are different, likely because these are the two main keywords:

Be sure that your H1 is almost exactly the search term you are trying to rank for, even if it is on the longer side.

Let’s look at two real world examples in the “business world.” The first is from efficiency platform When I Work and the second is from TransUnion’s new brand ShareAble for Hires:

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As we can see, the H1s (and titles) of these articles are very, very specific and are likely targeting specific long-tail keywords.

For further reading, this article from Hubspot includes additional tips on key placement for head keywords.

Keyword Density

It used to be possible to implement “keyword stuffing,” or overusing head keywords to increase rankings, but search engines now exclude these attempts, as they are not valuable or user-friendly. Head keywords should be used naturally but prominently, with some experts agreeing that a head keyword density of 2-5% is ideal. Use a keyword density checker like Live Keyword Analysis to monitor the frequency of these keywords as you write.

Use LSI Keywords

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are a list of related but not synonymous words and phrases. LSI keywords help avoid keyword stuffing and help differentiate content on synonymous topics, which is discussed in more detail in this resource from Content Wrangler.

LSI keyword searchers like LSI Graph, shown below, can help determine what related keywords might be available. The example below shows a selection of LSI keywords for the term “jogging shoes.”

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Pro tip: Internally link between articles on your site to demonstrate to search engines what content is important for what keywords. These links must be relevant and natural in the copy and should use variations of the head keywords as the anchor text. Read more about internal linking in this article from Yoast.

Mimic Competition for Ideas

The top influencers and bloggers in your niche are so for a reason: they implement strategies that appeal to both readers and search engines. Mimic these sites in strategy, but make sure your actual content has a unique draw to it and does not simply copy top competitors


Search engines need keywords to understand and rank content created by bloggers all over the web. Taking the time to understand SEO content and undertake keyword research for a blog not only elevates content in the eyes of a search engine, but also helps in coming up with new content ideas. Keyword research gets to the core of what a target audience wants and is looking for, and helps bloggers create that content and get it in front of their target market.

Sam Wheeler is a graduate of Northwestern University and an expert in all things digital. From website analytics to PR outreach and brand management, Sam prefers to spend his working time on the Web. He volunteers at the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association as the co-host of the radio show and will be the VP of Content in July of 2018. At Inseev Interactive, he is an SEO manager and has clients of all shapes and sizes, ranging from Fortune 500s to small "Mom & Pop" shops.

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