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Finding keywords for writing inspiration

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Snapshot : This week we look at keyword research. Using keywords for writing inspiration helps you write content that better meets their needs. Finding out what people search on gives you ideas and insights you can use to boost your writing. Learn how to make your writing more likely to be found on search and more likely to be read by your target audience. 

Business writing is different from most other types of writing you might do.

Most writers write about what they find interesting, and then hope they find an audience. But business writing works the other way round.

You start with the audience.

You find out what they need first, then find relevant topics to write about. Business writers need to think like marketers and put customers first. 

Most business writing is about solving customer problems. You try to find out what problems they have. You write content that fixes that problem. And then you make it easy for customers to find.

Market research can obviously help you identify customer problems. But that takes time and costs money. And people in focus groups and quantitative research don’t always tell you exactly what they think and do anyway. There’s another option that’s easier, quicker and tells you exactly what people are thinking about.  

Search online for what customers need

What people search for online reveals a lot about them. Searching is anonymous. There’s no judgment from the search engine about what you search for. 

But those search terms all go into a collective data bank. And the search engines make this data available for anyone to research.

It won’t tell you who searched for a particular term. But it will tell you what words were searched for (known as keywords). And it’ll tell you how many people searched for a keyword and how often.

Google hone page on a Samsung phone lores

There’s a number of different online tools you can use to access this search data.  Keywords are the single word or phrase that online searchers put in to search engines to find what they’re looking for.

Writers and marketers can research what these keywords are and how many people search on them. You use this keyword research to write more relevant articles and posts. 

When your writing features those keywords, you’re more likely to show up in search results. That’s good obviously. You want your audience to find you. 

And of course when your writing solves customer’s problems, then it’s more likely to build a connection with them. The more customers feel connected, the more they’re likely to choose you. That helps you hit your business objectives. That’s also good, obviously. 

So, where do you start with finding keywords for writing inspiration? 

A treasure trove of insights and inspiration

In the 30+ years the internet’s been around, an unprecedented volume of data, information and knowledge has been moved online.

For writers and marketers, this is a treasure trove of ideas, insights and inspiration. 

Latest estimates put the volume of data at over 40 trillion gigabytes. And every one of us has access to almost all of that.

We can access it all anytime we want, anywhere (with an internet connection) we want.

Close up of a man's hands holding a light bulb that's illuminated

It’s mind-boggling when you think about it. The sum of human knowledge and experience at our fingertips. But is that what people really need? 

Well, yes. And no.

Being able to access all that information is important for sure. But at any given moment, you don’t need 40 trillion gigabytes of information. You need specific pieces of information for what you need right now. 

And this is where search engines come in. Search is how you find that specific information. So writers and marketers need to make sure their content is search-friendly, so people can find it. That’s why using keywords for writing is so important. It’s how customers find you.

You write content using keywords that meets people’s need AND that’s relevant to your products and services. That could be anything. From advice and tips that drive engagement to practical selling information like your store opening times or your latest sales promotion. You write content that people are searching for.  That’s how customers find you among all that 40 trillion gigabytes of data. 

Think about how online search works

We all search online without really thinking about how it works. Type what you’re looking for in the little white box. Up pops the results. Easy, right? 

It’s how the internet ‘works’.

But hold on a second. Think about what’s actually happening when you search. For writers and marketers, that interaction between the customer and the search engine is a crucial moment.

Every search query adds more data to the Google Search ‘machine’.

Woman wearing a grey sweatshirt and looking at her phone in a dark room

What people are searching for. How many people are searching for it. Which results give the best answers to those queries. 

What many people don’t realise is you can access a huge amount of that search data. It’s an an important secondary research tool you can use to understand customer needs. It gives you inspiration so you can write your content with keywords based on those needs. 

Let’s look at how you do that.

Search analysis tools

Let’s be honest, when you think search, you think Google. As per our secondary research guide, Google accounts for over 90% of the world’s searches and no-one else comes close. 

One of the ways they hold on to that dominant position is by making a lot of the information they gather available for free.

Most of their income comes from advertising (mainly paid search and You Tube). That means they can keep you hooked in with free tools like Autocomplete, Trends and their Ads Keyword Research tool.

The word Google spelled out with blue, red and yellow M&Ms with a M&M bag and a laptop also in the image

Google Autocomplete

When you search on Google, Autocomplete is what generates those suggestions before you hit enter.

If you’ve searched on something similar recently, you’ll see that.

Plus you’ll always see a list of the nine other search suggestions. These are what Google’s algorithm thinks you might be looking for based on what other people have searched for when they’ve started typing those letters. 

Its main aim is to make life easier for searchers. You don’t have to type the whole thing if you see what you’re looking for in the suggestions. 

However, for writers and marketers, that part where we said “what other people have searched for” makes it an interesting tool.

Google search corona

Because for whatever subject you’re searching (or researching), it gives you the top related search results for that term.

Google’s data about what everyone searches for drives those autocomplete predictions. It shows you those predictions based on the most common and most engaged with search terms around the topic. 

Just think about that for a moment. For whatever topic you write about, you can get an instant sense check of what interests people about that topic. From a business writing point of view, this means you can write on topics that are more relevant and more likely to reach a bigger part of your target audience.

An autocomplete example

Look at this example from our writing blogs guide.

You can see related or common search terms around writing blogs. We can see that tips, money and SEO are important themes people who search on writing blogs want to know about.

If we want to write a blog about writing blogs, that gives us ideas about which topics to cover. 

These Autocomplete predictions give you ideas to narrow down the focus of what to write about.

Writing blogs - screengrab of Google Autocomplete for writing blogs

Use them on any broad topic you want to write about to identify interesting and relevant sub-topics. 

It’s a great way to start understanding your audience’s needs. You can write your content outline using keywords around those needs.

However, interesting as this is, there’s clearly a limit to how far this will get you.

Those nine related search terms are what Google think you, based on what Google knows about you will be looking for. They’re specific to you. Other people may see a different list of suggestions. 

And it only gives you a list. Though they’re listed in order of popularity, there’s no scale. You don’t know how many searches each term gets, compared to the others. The first suggestion could be 2% of searches or 99% of searches. 

There’s also no time frame. The suggestions are what’s most likely right now, but you don’t know if this has changed recently or is likely to change in the future. To understand if a search term’s popularity is going up or down, you need to search elsewhere. 

Google Trends

The next place to look for keywords for writing is Google Trends. It’s a great tool for getting deeper insight into what people search on.

This is a free service where you can compare different search terms with each other.

You can also get a history of their relative popularity going back as far as 2004. This comparison and timeline capability make it a more insightful tool for finding keywords than Autocomplete. 

Google Trend screenshot - Vegan, ice cream, vegan ice cream

You can use it to identify seasonal spikes in searches for example. This example of using Google Trends to research vegan ice cream case study comes from our secondary research guide. 

It shows ice cream searches go up in the summer when the weather’s hotter.

Trends also showed us that Magnum topped the “rising” list because they launched a vegan ice cream in the period we searched.

It also gave us interesting themes like flavours (Blueberry) and formats (Ice Cream Sandwich) which we could use as keywords for writing about vegan ice cream. 

Google Trends also lets you change the country. This lets you tap into local trends if you target overseas audiences. You can also narrow your keyword and trend research down to specific timeframes. From the past hour all the way back to 2004, and all points in-between.

It’s a useful place to identify broad topical subjects you can write about.

You drill down from these broad subjects to look for related and trending search terms. It’s a good way to understand what’s going on with your target audience. You use these trending keywords for writing inspiration. They help you write more interesting and relevant content. 

Google Ads Keyword Research tool

As per our digital media guide, there are two types of search engine marketing.

There’s organic search, which you influence by the quality of the content on your website.

And then there’s paid search (known as Pay-per-Click or PPC), where you pay to appear at the top of search listings with sponsored posts. 

Through your Google Ads account, you can access the Keyword Planner that sits behind it.

Google Ads Keywords tool

This tool’s aim is to help you choose keywords to buy via paid search. 

You choose keywords based on the number of searches they get, and how competitive the bidding on them is. But, you can also use that tool generate ideas and topics to write about to boost your organic search writing. It tells you how popular certain keywords are for writing into your content.

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend signing up with Google Ads. All you need is a Gmail account to sign-up. It’s free to access, though to get the most detailed level of information, you will need to run some PPC ads. 

You access the Keyword Research tool through the top menu when you log in to Google Ads. We recommend you start with a couple of keywords you think might be relevant for your writing objective. 

Look at the volume of searches and how competitive the keyword search term is.  Look at the keyword suggestions to see if you can find less obvious keywords and phrases that’d be more useful for your writing. 

Of the three free Google tools, it’s the only one which gives you a sense of scale for different keywords. You can work out how popular certain keywords are, and how likely what you write will appear in search results.

Identify commonly searched Keywords

For example, when we were writing our market research section, we initially called that section ‘consumer insight’. 

Until we looked at Google Ads Keyword Planner, and saw ‘market research’ was a much more commonly searched term.

More searches on “market research” meant by using that term rather than “consumer insight”, the content would be found by more people via search. 

And that would mean more potential website visitors

Person holding glasses in front of them against a blurry street background

So that’s why we use the Keyword market research in that section.

(See also our article on the importance of market research for more on this). 

Another example using Google Ads Keyword Research tool

When we started to write the content in our writing skills section, we’d no preconceptions about what the topics should be. So, we used the Google Ads Keyword Research tool to help generate ideas.

We started researching broad subject areas like ‘writing’. ‘writing skills’, ‘how to write better’ and ‘get better at writing’.

From this initial list, the Keyword Research Tool gave us more suggestions. We reviewed these and decided which were relevant for our target audience.

Close up on person writing (typing) on a MacBook

So, some suggestions like ‘essay writing’ and ‘letter writing’ weren’t relevant. Those we ignored.

But we found some suggestions like ‘persuasive writing’ and ‘business proposal’ which generated a new set of keyword ideas to research. And from those ideas, we got to ‘business writing’, ‘advertising copy’ and ‘sales copywriting’. That’s why you’ll find articles on those topics in our writing skills section. They use keywords we found through that research.  

So you can see how we went from broad “writing” keywords down to much more specific ideas. That’s what the Keyword Research Tool helps you do. 

Other search tools you can use

Those who use SEO and keywords for writing regularly will use these Google tools often. But they’re not the only tools you can use. 

There’s other tools like for example. Here, you put in a general topic. It finds the most commonly related questions to those topics.

These questions start with who, when, how, why, where as well as others like which, will, can and are. You can see the most common marketing questions in this example here. 

You also get similar visualisation for prepositions (for, to, with, without, near, is, can) and comparisons (like, or, vs, versus, and). (pedantic people might observe is and can are not prepositions, but don’t let that stop you using the tool).  

It works on the same principles as Google Autocomplete. But it’s more practical and generates a wider range of ideas. It’s another tool you can use to find keywords for writing more relevant content. 

There are also SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz and SEMrush where you can analyse competitor websites. You identify who your competitor websites are by searching on the keywords that interest you, and see who tops the current search rankings. Then you enter those sites into Ahrefs, Moz or SEMrush and get an SEO analysis of their sites. 

This competitor research gives you ideas on keywords they use for writing. It  also gives you information on backlinks they’ve set up and how well their sites perform from a search point of view. These give you further insights about what to write about and how to set it up on your own website.

Using these keyword insights for better writing

All this freely available data gives writers and marketers, invaluable insights.

It means you’re no longer writing in the dark, trying to guess what people might want to read about. You’ve got clear evidence and data that shows what they want to know more about. 

The next challenge comes in how you interpret and apply those insights. You still need strong writing skills. For example, structuring your writing clearly, and editing it so it’s easy to read. 

Person wring at a table - close up of their arm with a coffee mug in front of them

You build keywords into your writing so search engines recognise that’s what your writing about. Be careful to not over-do it though. Use the keywords too often and your writing sounds clunky and forced. It’s a tricky balance to write content that works for both search engines and real people.

Check out our SEO writing guide for more ideas on how to do this. 

Conclusion - Finding keywords for writing inspiration

Great business writing always has a specific customer or segment in mind. The writer finds out what their audience needs, and writes content to meet those needs. 

Keyword research tools like Google Autocomplete, Trends and Ads make a large amount of search data freely available to writers and marketers.

You use these tools to identify the most popular keywords on a topic. Those give you ideas and inspiration to make your writing more relevant to what the audience wants. 

laptop google search

Check out our guides to secondary research and SEO writing for more on this topic. Or contact us, if we can help you getting better at finding keywords for writing inspiration.

Photo Credits

Google on a laptop : Photo by Benjamin Dada on Unsplash

Woman writing on a laptop : Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Google Tablet : Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels

Light bulb : Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Woman looking at phone in dark room : Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash 

Google M&Ms : Photo by lalo Hernandez on Unsplash

Glasses : Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

Person typing on a laptop : Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


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