Why read this? : We share how to use keyword research for writing topic ideas. Learn how finding out what people search for helps you write more relevant content. Learn how to write content which fits what people are looking for. Read this to learn how to use keyword research for writing inspiration.
Business writing isn’t like other types of writing.
You don’t write about a topic you’re interested in, and then hope to find an audience for it.
Business writing works the other way. You find out what your audience finds interesting first. Then you write about that. You put the customer first.
So you need to find out what interests them. What they need. You do research to find out what problems they have.
Direct market research is one obvious option. You ask customers about their problems. But that takes time, and costs money. And people in focus groups don’t always know what they want anyway. Plus, you need to work though a lot of biases to get to what people really need.
But there’s a faster, free and less biased option. You can do keyword research to see what people search for.
Keyword research - what people search for online
What people search for (called keywords) can be very revealing. Search data which goes to Google (and others) is anonymous. Nobody worries about search engines finding out what they put in.
That means there’s no filters on the terms they use. These are exactly what people really want to know.
You can then look at the aggregated view of all those searches to understand what terms people use. You can find out how many people search on them, when and how often.
This is how you look for writing inspiration from keyword results. You write relevant articles and posts based on what people search for. That also means people are more likely to find your article when they search that term. That’s clearly a good thing. You want your target audience to find you.
And of course writing which solves a customer’s problem helps you strengthen the connection with them. After all, you’ve done something for them. So, when it comes time to buy, they’re more likely to buy you. That’s also good, obviously.
So, lots of reasons to do it. But where do you start with finding keywords for writing inspiration?
40 trillion gigabytes of inspiration
An unprecedented amount of data, information and knowledge has appeared online since the internet started 30+ years ago.
It’s a treasure trove of ideas, insights and inspiration for anyone who writes.
Latest estimates put the volume of data at over 40 trillion gigabytes. You can access this anytime, anywhere you want.
It’s mind-boggling when you think about it. The sum of recorded human knowledge at our fingertips.
But is that what people really need?
Well, yes. And no.
Having access to all that information is a good thing. But at any given moment, you don’t need 40 trillion gigabytes of it. You only need a specific piece of information for what you’re doing right now.
This is where search engines come in. They help people find specific information. Writers need to make sure their content is search-friendly, so people can find it. That’s why using keywords for writing is important. It’s how customers find you online.
Of course, you should only use keywords relevant to your products and services. But that still gives you lots of choice. From advice and tips which drive engagement to practical selling information like your store opening times, or your latest sales promotion.
You write about topics people search for. That’s how customers find you among the 40 trillion gigabytes.
Think about how online search works
We all search online, without thinking how it actually 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.
Because every time you search, it adds more data to the Google Search ‘machine’. And that’s every query that everyone searches on.
With that data, you can tell what people are searching for. How many people are searching for it. Which results give the best answers to those queries. It becomes a secondary research tool you can use to understand customer needs. That understanding drives what you write about.
Let’s look at how it works.
Search analysis tools
For most people, search means Google. As we share in our secondary research guide, Google accounts for over 90% of the world’s searches.
Part of why they’re so popular is how much information they give away for free.
Most of their income comes from advertising (mainly paid search and You Tube).
That means they can keep you hooked with free tools like Autocomplete, Trends and their Ads Keyword Research tool.
Start typing something into Google and up pops a list of suggestions. That’s Google Autocomplete.
It’ll include similar things you’ve search on recently.
But you’ll also see a list of other suggestions. Based on what you’ve typed in, Google’s algorithm tries to predict the best results based on what other people who typed those same letters searched for.
It’s trying to help you find answers faster. You don’t have to type the whole thing if you see what you’re looking for in the suggestions.
However, for writers, knowing what other people have searched for makes it an interesting research tool.
Whatever your topic, type it in the box, and you get a view on what people search for around that topic.
It’s an insight into what you can write about to pull in more readers. From a business writing point of view, that means you write about topics you know there’s already an audience for. It helps you drive reach and engagement. These are often part of your media objectives. Using the insights from Autocomplete helps your writing deliver against these objectives.
An Autocomplete example
Look at this example from our writing blogs guide.
You can see popular related search terms to writing blogs. Tips, money and SEO are the key writing themes you’d pull out of this list.
If we were writing a blog about writing blogs, those would be the ideal topics to cover. It’s what people want to read about.
Autocomplete predictions help you focus your writing on what people want to read about.
You can narrow down broad topics to focus on interesting and relevant sub-topics. These keyword suggestions give you an idea of what readers need. You can use them to identify key themes to write about.
However, there’s a limit to how much insight you can get from Autocomplete.
You only get 9 suggestions. And they’re specific to you, and what Google thinks you’re searching for. Other people see different suggestions.
And it’s only a list, with no indication of scale. You don’t know how many people search for each term, only that they’re among the most popular.
There’s also no time frame. The suggestions give you the most popular options right now. But you don’t know if those have changed recently, or will change in the future. To get an idea of a search term’s history, you need to search elsewhere.
The next place to look for keywords for writing is Google Trends. It’s a great tool for getting deeper into what people search on.
It also lets you compare over time the popularity of different search terms. That helps you prioritise which keywords to use in your writing.
This history goes from today all the way back to 2004. Being able to look at trends over time makes it a very helpful tool for writers.
It can help you identify increases in search triggered by external events. (for example, see our Covid-19 search trends article).
It’s also good for identifying seasonal search trends. Times of the day, week or year when searches are more or less popular.
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, with the hotter weather.
We can also see Magnum topped the “rising” list because they launched a vegan ice cream during this search period.
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. Useful when researching markets overseas. 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.
Writing based on popular trends is a good way to become part of those trends. You use these trending keywords for writing inspiration. They keep your writing more interesting and relevant.
Google Ads Keyword Research tool
As per our digital media guide, there’s 2 types of search engine marketing.
There’s organic search, which is based on the quality of the content on your website.
And 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 which underpins paid search.
You use that tool to research and choose which keywords to buy.
This is based on the number of searches they get, and how competitive the bidding is. But, you can also use the tool for ideas and topics to write about to boost your organic search writing. It gives you the actual number of times keywords have been searched for.
It’s free to sign up to Google Ads. All you need is a Gmail account. However, you’ll need to pay for some ads to access the most detailed level of search data.
You can find the Keyword Research tool in the top menu bar. You start by putting in a couple of keywords (maximum of 10) you think are relevant to your writing objective.
It tells you the number of searches for each term and how competitive the bidding is for it. The most popular keywords are more competitive and harder to rank for. So, it’ll also give you more keyword suggestions to see if you can find less obvious, less competitive keywords.
It’s the only Google free tool which tells you how many people search on that keyword. That helps you work out which topics are the most popular, interesting and relevant.
An example of choosing a better Keyword
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 popular.
More searches on “market research” meant by using that term in our writing rather than “consumer insight”, we could potentially reach more people.
More reach means potential website visitors
So that’s why we used the Keyword market research in that section.
(See also our article on the importance of market research for more on this).
Another example using the Keyword Research tool
When we started to write the content in our writing skills section, we had an open mind about what the topics would 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 to see which were relevant for our target audience.
So, some suggestions like ‘essay writing’ and ‘letter writing’ weren’t relevant. We ignored those.
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 where the ideas for those articles came from. We wrote all those articles based on keyword 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
Google doesn’t have a monopoly on Keyword research tools though.
There are others you can use.
So, answerthepublic.com, for example. Here, you enter a general topic. It finds the most common questions searched for about that topic.
These questions start with who, when, how, why, where as well as others like which, will, can and are. The example here shows the most common questions searched for about marketing.
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’ aren’t prepositions. But don’t let that stop you using the tool).
It works on the same principles as Google Autocomplete. The interface is more practical though. And you get a wider range of ideas. This is also helpful for finding keyword inspiration for writing more relevant content.
There are also Search research tools like Ahrefs, Moz and SEMrush where you can analyse competitor websites. These sites tell you which keywords those competitor sites use. You can identify where they’re strong and weak on different search terms. This helps you decide which keywords to use on your own site.
It also gives you information on backlinks they’ve set up. You can follow those to see what related sites write about. That gives you even more ideas about what to write about on your website.
Using these keyword insights for better writing
Writers can uses all this free search data to find insights and come up with new ideas.
It means you’re no longer writing in the dark, trying to guess what people might want to read about. You’ve got reliable data which shows what interests them.
The next challenge is how you apply those insights.
You still need strong writing skills. You need to build good writing habits which include thinking about your audience. Good editing skills so your writing is clear and concise.
Keyword research doesn’t tell you how to write. But it gives you a good idea what to write about. And it helps your writing be more likely to be found on search. (See our SEO writing guide for more on this).
Conclusion - Finding keywords for writing inspiration
Great business writing always has a specific customer or segment in mind. The writer finds out what readers need, and writes content which helps answer those needs.
They do this by accessing the large amount of free search data on keyword research tools like Google Autocomplete, Trends and Ads.
Use these tools to identify the most popular keywords on a topic. And use those for ideas and inspiration to make your writing more relevant for your audience.
Check out our guides to secondary research and SEO writing for more on this. Or email us, if you need help finding keywords for writing inspiration.
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