Are you ‘doing’ SEO? Probably. But are you doing it well? Maybe you don’t want to answer that. Between working out a content-creation process that works, sticking to word counts, deadlines and budgets, it can be easy for marketers to let keyword research fall down the priority list. So how do you overcome this and make time for vital SEO practices?

Keyword research needs to become a standard part of preparation, ahead of creating a final piece of content. But if you don’t have a dedicated SEO team, or even freelancer, you probably need quick, easy and cheap SEO strategies to help you target the right audience fast.

We’ll look at just four things busy marketers can do at the start of every campaign to increase your chances of appearing higher up SERPs and yet that won’t take up precious time. These include:

  1. Long-tail keywords
  2. People Also Asked (PAA)
  3. Keyword planning
  4. HubSpot SEO tool.

1. Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are phrases which are very specific to whatever you are selling. You want to be ranking on Google whenever a customer uses a highly specific search phrase. This is because:

a) It’s less competitive and you have more chance of appearing on page one to searchers.

b) These searchers are far more likely to be in a buying frame of mind because they know exactly what they are looking for.

If you haven’t already, targeting long-tail keywords instead of frequent, competitive keywords should be part of your overall SEO content strategy. They can be used in a range of ways, from blog post titles, to subheadings and image alt text, as WordStream puts it:

"The long-tail keywords you find could be used as the title and main topic for a highly targeted blog post or article (or video, or infographic, or any other type of content), or you could use them as variations to better optimise a longer guide or article targeting one primary keyword – for example, by using the long-tail keywords in your subheads and image file names."

This strategy is so easy to do and takes less than five minutes. Start with an idea of what you want to write about; for instance, I might have decided to put a pillar page together collecting all my different milkshake recipes. I type the following into Google: ‘Milkshake recipes for…’

And here are the results that come up before I finish typing the sentence:

search engine optimisation SEO

The Google algorithm throws out suggestions which are based on factors such as search volume and popularity, so this trick provides you with ideas you can use in your primary keyword research. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the search page and look at the related searches, too – they offer another clue as to the phrases people are searching for online:

related search Google SEO

Top tip:

Only select three or four of these phrases – from the search bar and related searches – to get maximum use out of them. Use these same three or four phrases a few times within the content, but keep it natural. It’ll soon become clear to readers and Google alike if you’re overusing or shoe-horning odd turns of phrase into your content.

2. People Also Ask (PAA)

Another strategy you can employ to increase your search engine optimisation is making use of the People Also Ask box. This is a feature that’s probably appeared in your own searches many times but you may not have thought to use it for content purposes.

When you type a search phrase into Google you will often – but not always – be offered a PAA box. For example, I searched ‘Where is tea grown?’ and the following box also appeared:

People also ask box Google SEO

You could incorporate these statements word for word in the body copy of your content, but they can be used in other ways, too. These questions can be fantastically helpful in structuring your content.

Top tip:

PAAs give you more of an idea of specific questions searchers are typing into Google – these can then form the outline of sub-headings throughout your content. In this case, when writing a blog post about tea, I may choose to not only include the long-tail keywords that come up in my Google search, but to include sub-headings throughout such as, ‘Where does tea come from originally?’ and ‘How is tea grown?’

3. HubSpot’s keyword tool

For HubSpot users, keeping track of your long-tail keywords couldn’t be easier. And why do you need to track them? Because creating an organised online ‘map’ of your content, with keywords linked between blog posts and long-form content is something that makes Google very happy.

If you can show your keywords are being linked together across all your content in an orderly fashion, Google will love you for it and ensure it’s you that searchers find high up on SERPs. This can quickly become a standard part of your content-creation process.

In our blog post earlier this year about the HubSpot SEO tool, we explained how to use it and how it benefits your planning. By adding ‘hub’ content to the centre (or, a pillar page) and ‘spoke’ content around the outside (blog posts and website pages) you can construct a neat map of all your content (here is one of ours as an example):

HubSpot SEO tool

Top tip:

It can also act as a guide to planning your upcoming content because you can see the gaps and further content opportunities for hub and spoke content, based on monthly searches. It really is a fantastic tool which, if you’re not already, you should be taking full advantage of.

4. Keyword strategy planning

So now you have these strategies, how can you get into good habits of including them in your content every time you create it?

It sounds very simple, but ensure you have a ‘long-tail keywords’ section at the top of your content creation documents. When you’re interviewing people about your next campaign, make sure you ask them for an idea of keywords, and if they don’t know, try the above techniques to find some relevant ones.

If your templates and playbooks include sections about long-tail keywords, then you will regularly be prompted to ask about them, research them and include them in content until it becomes second nature.

Top tip:

At ESM Inbound, when we want to make sure we are including our keywords and PAAs, we highlight or colour the text to make it stand out in the draft. This not only shows customers where the keywords have been included, but reminds the writer to work them consistently into the copy.

With these quick, simple strategies, we hope SEO becomes a focus of every piece of content you create. While working on your "big picture" strategies, these tips will help tide you over, ensuring your webpages appear on SERPs and you get a better understanding of the keywords you should be targeting.