Should you do keyword research for a post before you write it?
Or should you write a post on a topic and then do keyword research, only tweaking the post’s content as part of the publishing process?
At whichever stage you decide to do keyword research for a post, my techniques here apply 100% either way.
A focus keyword means a word or phrase that will be central to a post on your website usually determined through keyword research you conduct.
Keyword Research is the Best Free SEO Method
Why do keyword research?
Because it is one of the best and easiest (and free!) ways to achieve SEO for your posts and website.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. This simply means the stuff that helps your posts rank higher in Google searches.
Higher ranking posts = more visitors to your site = more conversions on your calls to action & affiliate links = more revenue and profits for you. 🙂
You must think about SEO all the time, including when writing posts and thinking about new posts to write in the future.
Keyword research will help you determine which keywords to focus on for a post, or series of posts. This in turn will boost the SEO of those posts and your site as a whole, helping you rise up in Google's search engine results, bringing more visitors to your site and hopefully more clicks and commissions too.
Focus Keywords are Important but Don’t Blindly Follow Them
You want to make sure each of your posts focuses on good keywords, especially posts that represent your cornerstone, flagship, traffic-generating and income-generating posts.
Keyword research is a bit of a chicken and egg situation as outlined above, but my advice is to check focus keywords as part of the publishing process rather than the writing process. I realize this advice goes against the tide. But let me explain.
This is my recommendation because the easiest way to implement a focus keyword for a post is to analyze it with Yoast and you can only do this once you have pasted the contents of your draft article into a WordPress post.
Plus, a well-drafted post will get you more traffic and goal completions than a poorly drafted post stuffed with target keywords, so focus on content first and foremost.
It is not a huge job to inject or tweak some juicy focus keyword(s) into an all but finished post, but don’t underestimate the time this process takes either.
How to Do Focus Keyword Research
You could spend years of your life doing keyword research. I don't recommend you do.
However, some basic techniques will go a long way.
For example, doing some quick keyword research can tell you whether your post will be going up against too much competition. If this is the case, it won’t have a hope of attracting visitors unless it is tweaked for less competitive keywords.
Or, your research might also help you come across a hidden gem of a keyword that propels your site forward.
The best way to research keywords is to look at predictive data with Google Ads’ Keyword Planner tool (free), especially for any new posts that you are planning.
KeySearch (free) is another great keyword and SEO tool you can use. You can use it completely free for a limited number of searches per day.
Top Tip - For existing posts on your website that already have a track record of 3+ months, you can also look at the historical data in Google Search Console (GSC). Follow my step-by-step guidance on how to follow up on GSC's rich performance data to give your posts and entire site an SEO boost.
How to Use Google Ads' Keyword Planner
Go to Google Ads’ Keyword Planner tool.
Get search volume for a list of keywords (not Get traffic forecasts ...)
Now sort by the volume of searches to see which keywords have the most searches per month but pay attention also to the level of competition.
To really make sure you are conducting thorough research, use the search churning technique to cover all related keywords, including some you hadn’t thought of. This means checking for keywords and then also their “related searches” as recommended by Google at the bottom of its search engine results pages.
Google Ads’ Keyword Planning tool lets you search dozens of keywords at a time, so take advantage of that functionality.
How to Use Google Search Console for Keyword Research
Another excellent resource for keyword data is your own website: which keywords have people already used to find your content.
Knowing this can really help you to understand what keywords to emphasize in a post and which posts to beef up, add to or tweak and how.
Google Search Console keeps data about your website for the last 18 months. It lets you see which keywords have brought visitors to a specific post and the posts’ SERP ranking for them.
This can truly be a gold mine of data.
For example, if the data shows that you are hovering just outside the 10th or 3rd position for a certain keyword, this tells you that with a little more work on that post you might be able to breakthrough and make it to the top 10 or 3.
Such movements in search engine rankings for your posts can make all the difference. Moving up even 1 rank can suddenly bring in hundreds or even thousands more dollars a month.
Of course, the more profitable a focus keyword, the more competition you can expect for it. Just try to get on the first page of Google’s search engine results for a popular keyword like “best vpn”. Good luck!
Even focus keywords made up of many words (so-called long tail keywords), including those of five or more words, can be very competitive, such as “best vpn for torrent file-sharing”.
Where to Place Focus Keywords in Your VPN Posts
Here are some handy tips how/where to insert focus keywords into a post for maximum SEO oomph.
But don’t be too spammy about it. If your keyword injections start to smack of keyword stuffing, Google will punish you accordingly by dropping the rank of your posts in its search engine results. And your readers will punish you too by getting annoyed and bouncing away from your website.
Post Title / H1 Heading
You are probably already familiar with this. It's basically the first you do and see when you create a new post in WordPress.
Make sure the focus keyword appears in the title, ideally at the very start of the title, provided it sounds natural to say out loud. Don't "force" the keyword at the start of the title if it doesn't make sense.
Try to make your post title interesting and actionable. You need a title that contains the keyword and draws readers in.
Note that the post title will also be used as the H1 header of your post as well as the default SEO title tag for your post (see below).
Once you type in a title for your post in WordPress and select Save Draft (or Publish), WordPress will automatically generate a URL for the post.
Don't blindly accept this URL!
Make it as short as possible while still containing the focus keyword.
SEO Title Tag
The SEO title tag is what Google will display in bolded text in its search engine results.
By default, your post's SEO title tag will be the same as its title.
If you want the SEO title tag to be different than the post's title, it is easy to change (see next screenshot). But I wouldn't recommend you change it too much. In particular, make sure the SEO title tag continues to contain the post's focus keyword.
The meta description of your post is like a summary of your post for the benefit of search engines.
For example, sometimes Google will display the meta description for your post in its search engine results. But other times Google will display an excerpt from your post instead.
Although there is no guarantee Google will display the meta description, it is good practice to draft a good meta description that includes your focus keyword.
Think of this meta description as a free ad. Draft something that will interest potential readers and encourage them to click and visit your post.
The easiest way to ad/change meta descriptions for your posts is to use the free Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress (see screenshot).
In addition to ensuring your images are fully optimized before uploading them to WordPress, follow these additional tips for an SEO boost.
When saving the image, include the focus keyword in the image's filename. For example, ExpressVPN review screenshot.jpg.
This filename will be used as the default image title once it is uploaded to WordPress. You can change it if you want, but if the focus keyword was already part of the filename, there should be no need to change the image title in WordPress.
Once the image is uploaded to WordPress, you can try to include the focus keyword in the alt text tag of the image. Technically, the alt text tag should be a description of the image. This is used, for example, in web browser readers for the blind. Only include the focus keyword in the alt text tag if it is accurate to do so.
In other words, don't add the alt text tag "An awesome ExpressVPN review" if the image is just of their logo. In such a case you should put as the alt text tag, "ExpressVPN logo".
Lastly, make sure the focus keyword is contained in the image's caption. The caption is the text that is displayed immediately under an image. This is a great opportunity to inject the focus keyword into your content. Just do so using naturally worded text.
In the actual content (meat) of your post, you should use focus keywords as naturally as possible. Don't artificially inject them into your writing. Google will detect this and punish you with a poor ranking.
Plus, readers will be turned off by your "keyword stuffing" too.
Be practical and be guided by SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO and Rank Math. They do a pretty good job of telling you if you have used a focus keyword too much (or too little) and whether you have used it in all the right places in your content.
Sub-headings are important, especially as readers increasingly tend to skim rather than read content these days.
Make sure your focus keyword appears (again, using natural language) in at least one sub-heading if not more.
Opening Line & Closing Paragraphs
A great opening line for a post is to have a question that contains the focus keyword, such as:
A common question I often get asked is: “How can I be sure my VPN is working?” or “How can I test my VPN?”
The last paragraphs of your post should be a recap of your post.
This is helpful for SEO because your last heading can then repeat (legitimately) the focus keyword for the post. For example, “<keyword> Wrap-up / Conclusion / Bottom Line / Final Thoughts / Summary”.
You can do that with the content at the end too, not just the heading. For example, you could match the opening paragraph above with closing content such as: “You should now easily be able to answer the question, "Is my VPN working?”
Keyword Research Wrap-Up
Keyword research is one of those things that you just have to start doing to understand.
It is tempting to read blog post after blog post about it, but you just have to jump in and get your hands dirty. The information above is more than enough to get you started.
In fact, reading too much about keyword research can be counterproductive. That's because, most articles you read about it are trying to peddle expensive "solutions" to "help" you. But it's more likely they are trying to help themselves to commissions by convincing you to buy software you probably don't even need.