Introduction to Blogging: Choosing the Right Keywords

I started blogging, for personal reasons, many many years ago on this very site. Since then I’ve started doing it professionally both at work and at home. Writing has always been enjoyable to me (I nearly graduated as an English major) and with my passion for web development, blogging seems like the perfect combination for me. At work, I’ve spearheaded the launch of two separate blogs, both aimed at promoting a company or product. Those have met with minimal success, but that is due to a lack of time for content generation.

At home, where my time is my own, I’ve had significant success with my blog about the Fiat 500 Abarth, a new car model debuting in the US in 2012. It took 3 months before it made a single penny, but the income from AdSense steadily rose to $100 a month and then $300, and just this month it has made over $1,000! Now that I understand the power of passive income through blogging and niche sites, I’m aiming to replicate that success with a handful of other websites.

Through that first site, I’ve learned a lot about SEO, WordPress, writing, hiring writers, and everything else that is involved with running a revenue generating information site. I have done countless hours of research and had some success, so I feel qualified to talk about it with some authority. Hopefully my advice will help, if you’re just getting started.

Note: I originally wrote this content for a popular forum I frequent, when I was given the responsibility of restarting the blogging thread with a new introductory post. Now that enough time has passed, I’ve decided to republish my first post here, since it is my own content. I have taken the time to update the content with new bits of knowledge I have learned.

Blogging? Isn’t that for weird people with no jobs?

Well, yes. But you’re not going to be like them. You’re going to create a blog that makes money while you sleep!

There are lots of way to make money online: doing surveys, writing articles, etc. Most of those are very time intensive however, especially when compared to the passive income that blogging or niche websites can create. Don’t get me wrong, building a successful blog still requires a considerable amount of work, but once you get one going it can run with minimal input.

Blogging also doesn’t require any one particular skill, other than the motivation and determination to put in the time. In order to be successful, it certainly helps to be skilled at writing and web design and development, but all you really need is time and a willingness to learn. Even if you don’t have the time, there are enough resources out there to simply pay for the skills you don’t possess. I’ll get to that in a later post.

Enough with the pep-talk about determination and heart. Let’s get to the good stuff…

What do I write about?

Picking your blog topic is probably the most important step of the process. Pick something with too much competition (like “video games”) or too few keyword searches and you’re pretty much doomed from the start. First, think of something you might be interested in writing about. Then start typing keywords into the Google Keyword Tool to see what people are actually searching for. I recommend Looking for keywords with at least 1,000 local monthly searches and an Approximate CPC above $1. I used to only consider keywords with low competition, but there is an argument to be made that high competition validates the popularity of the keyword and is not a barrier to entry (if you know your SEO).

Some more tips on using the Google Keyword tool:

  • Start with a broad set of words that your blog could cover (‘sleeping bags’, for example), with ‘Only show ideas closely related to my search terms’ clicked. This should give you a big long list of potential long tail topics.
  • For the sleeping bag example a lot of it is stuff like ‘princess sleeping bag’, which may not be right for your blog, so be sure to filter out the bad stuff. You’ll notice a lot of duplicates as well, like ‘compact sleeping bag’ and ‘sleeping bag compact’, and I usually just write the one that gets more views, unless I can make the two posts reasonably different.
  • It depends on the niche, but for anything below 500 global searches or so, the competition is probably going to be low enough to warrant writing. Anything above that it might not hurt to just check the first page of Google and see.
  • Google keyword tool is useful, but you really need to go and actually look at the first page of the Google results for whatever the keyword is and see what kind of chance you have of getting there. This is a half decent guide on analyzing the first page of Google to see what your chances are, but if you’re willing to put more work in, more competition for the first page is acceptable.

You’ll want to target these keywords in all of your posts. You don’t have to write like a spambot, but you need to get those key phrases in. Just write like you normally do, make it engaging for real readers, then come back and insert those keywords where they are needed for SEO.

If you need more help picking a topic, here are some very useful articles from authors that are smarter than me:

What’s Next?

Next week I’ll start getting into the technical details of setting up your website with WordPress. There are a lot of different ways to build a website, including free services like Blogger and WordPress.com, but I always recommend owning your own domain and a self-hosted site using WordPress. This gives you the most freedom and flexibility for the future.