Today, I want to talk to you about SEO.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. And this is something that I really strongly and passionately believe that all online business owners should understand.

It can be the difference between slaving away at content on your website and having it be seen by two people, or strategically understanding how to craft content that your ideal client is already searching for so that you can get right in front of them for free.

This has been a game-changer in my own personal business and that of many of my students who have gone through my SEO course. So I wanted to take some time today and do a podcast episode on this topic because I really think it’s incredibly valuable. So today I’m going to talk about four key strategies that you can use to get more visitors to your website, which I have dubbed the REPS framework.

So we’re gonna cover exactly what SEO is, in regular people’s terms, how SEO can help you grow your brand and your following online, and share my REPS framework that you can implement to make it happen.

Prefer to listen? Check out the audio version of this post:

Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the products mentioned in this post. If you click my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a percentage of the sale.

What is SEO?

So what the heck is SEO? Well, as I said, SEO stands for search engine optimization. And basically, they just took the first letter of each of those words and mushed them together for the acronym SEO.

And what are search engines? Well, that’s basically where you go to search for things on the internet.

And I would guess that nine out of 10 of you probably think of Google when I talk about searching for things on the internet. Google is far and away the most popularly used search engine out there, by a landslide. They get nearly 100,000 searches per second or more than 8.5 billion searches per day.

So, as business owners, we should be thinking, “How can we get a slice of that?”

And any time you Google something, it will tell you, kind of right underneath the bar where you made the search, how many results are out there on the internet that Google thinks are even remotely related to whatever you typed in to search for.

And they will pull all of these results up for you in an infinite scroll format so you can scroll through 50 or 60 of the top results related to what you searched for and hopefully find the information you need.

But to be quite honest, most people only click on the first few results shown.

In fact, according to stats from Backlinko, the number one search result listing gets 10x more clicks than a result shown in the 10th position.

So the point of SEO is to learn how to get our content on our websites to show up at the top of the search results for things that our ideal readers or customer are looking for. That is search engine optimization.

Why should you care about SEO?

And why should you care about this? Well, visits to your site from search engines are known as organic search traffic.

“Organic” means it’s free. It’s not paid. So there’s organic traffic, which is basically traffic that comes to you for free through search engines. And then there’s paid traffic, which would be like if you were paying for ads on Google or any other platform.

So organic traffic is awesome because it’s free. Obviously, that’s wonderful. And the more of it you can get, the better!

So, you get this organic traffic, typically, by creating really strategic, high-quality content that brings your ideal customer right to you, and it really builds on itself over time. One of the best parts about understanding SEO and learning how to create content like this is that these pieces of content if you do them correctly, they’re often evergreen. So they’ll continue to work for you for years to come.

So, yes, you might want to go back and revamp them, maybe on an annual basis to keep them fresh and up to date. But those pieces of content that serve your readers, that base of amazing resources you have for people, will only grow on itself over time as you add to it and it will bring more and more people to you.

Unlike social media, where you are a slave to an algorithm and have to keep churning out content to stay relevant, with SEO, once you hit that critical mass mark where your content is ranking, you can take a month or two fully off and nothing catastrophic will happen. Your content will still be working for you in the background and bringing people to your website.

Benefits of organic traffic

And more people on your site can mean a lot of wonderful things. It can mean more email sign-ups, which is great, because once you have people on your email list, you can continue to nurture that relationship with them and potentially turn these visitors who were once strangers, into raving fans and customers.

Of course, more people on your site, also, just from a numbers game standpoint, means that hopefully, you will make more sales. Once you’re in business online for a long enough period of time, you can start to see what your average conversion rate is. So, based on how many people see your stuff, you should have somewhat of an idea of how many people will buy. Online conversion rates are often really low between 1% and 3% is pretty common, especially for colder traffic coming to your website.

But that means that if you can get the base number of people viewing your stuff to be higher, that 1 to 3% is gonna add up and lead to a lot more potential customers or clients.

For example, it’s not unusual for many successful bloggers to get over 100,000 people visiting their website every single month. If you were able to get, say, 1,000 of those people to join your email list each month, and just 2% of those new subscribers bought, that would be 20 new purchases every month. If you sell an online course for, say, $500, that would be $10k in online course sales per month, just from your blog and a well-written email sequence.

Additionally, getting more people on your site leads to greater brand awareness, a greater likelihood for people to share your stuff, and increases your odds that other people will link back to your content from their websites.

It also gives you the powerful ability to monetize through extremely passive methods, like affiliate links or display ads, where you’re not even selling anything, but simply earning money from people visiting your site or clicking on links to things you review or recommend and making a purchase.

And obviously, the amount of income that you could earn from ad revenue and affiliate income increases exponentially with the more people you can get on your site.

For example, with one of my newer websites, we’ve had the site live for just about a year now and have been publishing SEO-optimized content weekly for about 6 months, and have just started to see an uptick in traffic. Google is finally considering our site a decent resource that is worth ranking. I think last month we got about 2k sessions to the site and earned $20 in affiliate income from Amazon associates.

Now, that is obviously still a very small amount of traffic and a low amount of affiliate income, but we’re playing the long game with this site, trying to build a well-organized online resource vs just a bunch of hodge-podge articles optimized for SEO. I think it will pay off, but because of the way we’re building it, growth will be slower upfront.

But anyway, that means we are earning about $10 in Amazon affiliate income right now per 1,000 monthly sessions. Once we are able to grow to 100,000 monthly sessions, that means we can expect to earn around $1,000 per month in affiliate income. Not too shabby!

And if we paired that with display ads, which often bring in $30 or more per 1,000 monthly sessions, we could easily bring in at least another $3,000 per month in ad revenue as well.

And honestly, this type of income often feels like just extra money. You spend the time upfront to create really epic, high-quality, well-optimized pieces of content that show up at the top of the search results and then reap the benefits of that for literally years to come. As long as that content continues to rank well, you will continue to get eyeballs on it and earn money.

And if you do that enough, it really compounds on itself over time and affiliate income and ad revenue can become really solid streams of income. And I am all about diversification of income. So just something to think about.

My blogging experiences before vs after understanding SEO

So I want to give you some real examples of the power of SEO. Before I knew about SEO, (if you listened to the first episode of this podcast, you’re probably familiar with this story) I tried to start a food blog. So I was food blogging on and I was pretty good at creating the content. Like, my photography was pretty top-notch, I had been dabbling in that for a few years, so I’d gotten pretty good at it. I knew my recipes were good and the food was good, but something was missing.

I was posting stuff and it wasn’t really getting a lot of traction. It wasn’t getting seen by a lot of people, and at the time, because I didn’t know about SEO, I was really perplexed about why this might be. I had this perception that the way to get found on the internet was to create really creative sort of out-of-the-box recipes.

So I had, like, I’m looking at some of the recipes that I had on my blog back then, and I was posting things like shrimp, tomato pasta with miso dressing. Like, literally nobody is looking for that. Or chicken breasts with balsamic mushrooms. Sounds pretty yummy and easy, but also, no one is searching for that. So I was just creating the wrong type of content, so I was doing everything backward.

Like I would go to the farmer’s market or wherever, be inspired by the ingredients, be like, oh, this is a really cool abstract thing I could make and then I would make it and share it, and maybe it would get some traction on social media. But Google itself was not doing anything for me because I wasn’t creating content that anyone was searching for. And in order to get found on Google, you have to create content that matches up with the things that people are searching for. You will never show up on the first page if there is no search query to match your content.

So if literally, no one is searching for shrimp and tomato pasta with miso dressing, yeah, it doesn’t matter how great that recipe is, because if no one searching for it, then there’s no reason for Google to display that recipe on the first page of the search results. So that was the main missing piece in my food blogging career.

At the time, I actually had over 150 recipes posted on that website. I had been publishing new posts 1 to 2 times a week for two and 1/2 years. Yes, years. Like I really gave it my all. And I never got more than 2000 visitors per month from Google searches, which, if you do the math on that, equates to about 13 monthly visitors per recipe. Womp womp.

Like that’s so disheartening, right? Like you do all this work and 13 people a month are seeing it. You know you can do better. So, after flopping a little bit with that food blog, I finally wrapped my head around SEO.

At this point, I had sort of given food blogging a pause. But I still loved blogging and I wanted to keep doing it because it’s my favorite form of content creation. I love writing. I could write forever and pretty much never get tired of it. So I decided to refocus my efforts and create a nutrition-related blog to go alongside a membership site I had been running at the time called The Functional Nutrition Library. So I started a public-facing blog about nutrition, where I was going to do long-form nutrition articles about functional nutrition topics that people were searching for.

And I called that blog Functional Nutrition Answers. And before I actually dove in, this time I actually spent six months teaching myself about SEO. Search engine optimization. I went all in and basically read and consumed any piece of content that I could about SEO and sort of crafted, along the way, my own framework of what I perceived SEO to be and how it could be beneficial, especially for dietitians and myself, and came up with a game plan on what I was gonna execute on this new blog to do things right this time.

So from the very beginning, from the very first blog post and from the way that I even set up the website from the jump, I was doing everything with an SEO strategy in mind. And as you can imagine, there was a night and day difference.

As I mentioned, I only posted one time a month. So one blog post per month. Yes, they were very in-depth, highly researched, well-composed blog posts. Usually a couple of thousand words.

But with just 10 blog posts, I was able to get over 20,000 visitors from Google per month. And if you do the math on that, that’s more than 2,000 monthly visitors per post. Remember my old food blog? If you recall, I was only getting 13 visitors per post, on average, after 2.5 years of publishing 1-2x per week!

When I rethought my framework of how I was blogging and why I was blogging, it just completely flipped.

I posted LESS and I got exponentially BETTER results. Once a month blog posts and more than 2,000 visitors per post per month. So 20,000 visitors total each month. So that’s insane, right? Like I couldn’t believe what I was missing out on before and I just pinched myself and like, Oh, I wish I had understood all of this, you know, three years ago when I was working so hard because if I had just been working a little smarter, I can’t even imagine what I could have accomplished.

Again, I had been working hard, but I wasn’t working smart, and that really came to bite me in the butt in terms of not seeing the results that I was really hoping for with that food blog.

Why I am so passionate about SEO

So because of my own experiences, seeing the dramatic difference between the amount of effort you put in and the results you get out of it just by understanding SEO and having a strategy, I feel incredibly passionate about this topic. And I think it’s maybe one of my like big life purposes to help spread the word about this to other healthcare professionals.

Because we spent all that time and money to go to school and get all this training and knowledge around whatever topic that we’re an expert in, and then we go out into the world, and of course, we want to be found by people but we’re never taught how.

And I want to be a resource for people who do want to get found on the internet. To understand how to do that and not fall into the trap that I did, where I was really giving it my all for years and getting no return.

Because clearly, if you just tweak your strategy a bit, the results and the outcome can be astoundingly different.

Ways you can earn money from organic traffic

So why would you want to do this? Like, what is the benefit of getting higher levels of traffic? Well, again, if you’ve listened to episodes one and two of this podcast, I talked about different ways that you could make money online as a dietitian. We’ll recap them here really quickly.

The 1st 3 are really passive income sources. So you’re not really doing any active selling, but you can still make really great money.

1. Ad Revenue

So number one is ads. If you have at least 50,000 people a month coming to your website, typically, that means you’re eligible to apply to higher-end ad networks. One popular one is Mediavine, AdThrive is another popular one. But that one requires 100,000 pageviews per month before you’re eligible.

But once you’re on one of those ad networks, you can expect to earn maybe anywhere between $15, $30, and sometimes even $40+ per 1,000 sessions. So that’s great, right?

So if you were getting 100,000 sessions you could expect to make anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000+ a month, just from ad revenue, with just display ads being shown throughout your blog posts to your visitors.

You don’t really have to do anything, and as your traffic rises, your ad revenue income grows as well. And there are actually lots and lots of bloggers out there making over $10,000 a month in ad revenue from their blogs, so it’s definitely a really viable business model. It does take a long time, or a longer time, to get to that level of traffic, probably at least 2 years. But then, once you’re there, you’re kind of golden.

2. Affiliate Income

The second income stream, which I mentioned, that you can kind of start doing from the beginning, is affiliate income. So placing special affiliate links within your blog posts and of course, disclosing that you’re an affiliate, and if any of your blog’s readers ever click on that link and make a purchase within a certain time period, which varies depending on which affiliate program you go through, you will make a commission. So that’s amazing, right? And that feels super passive as well.

3. Sponsored Content

Another way to earn income from your blog is with sponsored content. This is really popular, especially for food bloggers, where you can get paid to create content featuring a brand’s products. So you make a recipe featuring some brand’s pasta and they pay you for that. A flat rate upfront, typically, and that’s another great way to monetize and get some income out of the content you were gonna create anyway.

4. Digital Goods

You can also start to create your own products and sell them to that audience. You could sell digital goods like e-books, handouts, or templates.

5. Online Courses

You could create an online course that teaches something, and typically courses go for several hundred to even several thousand dollars. So that’s a great way to scale and leverage your expertise and create a whole nother passive income stream for yourself.

6. Membership Sites

If you don’t have a clear outcome that you’re trying to offer, that’s typically what courses do, like they’ll be like “By the end of this course, you will achieve X Y Z” like my SEO course. I’m like, by the end of this course, you will have a solid SEO strategy to take and implement on your own business so you can build a real audience online. But if it’s a different topic, where there’s less of an outcome and more just like ongoing support and education, then you could even consider doing something like a membership site where people pay you a monthly or annually recurring fee for access to your exclusive content.

And for those, people will charge anywhere from, $10 to $100 a month, typically, for access to this type of exclusive content or a more direct relationship with you.

So those are all great ways to monetize online outside of working with people one on one.

7. 1:1 Client Work

But of course, if you do work with people one-on-one, you can use this strategy too, because having people come to your website is just a great way to establish yourself as an expert and an authority in your niche and build trust and relationship with them and then at some point, invite them to work with you one on one.

If you don’t have an SEO strategy, you’re not reaching your full potential.

So long story short, if you don’t have an SEO strategy, you’re really, truly missing an opportunity. Like, you’re not reaching your full potential online if you don’t understand this yet.

So again, it’s really important. And I’m really passionate about helping us all wrap our heads around this and implement it.

So let’s get into the tips here. As I mentioned, I spent six months kind of going through the world of SEO and figuring out what I needed to know and what I needed to do to improve my website and my content and help me get found more easily.

The Four Pillars of SEO

So I created what I like to call the REPS framework for SEO, which summarizes the 4 key pillars of SEO that you need to implement in order to start seeing real results.

1. Research

Pillar number one is keyword research.

So taking the time, before we write any piece of content, to do the background research first. Figuring out whether we’re writing about topics that people are actually searching for because in order to be found and displayed on page one of the search results, you need to create content that matches what people are typing into the Google search bar.

That’s the way it works, right? People are searching for things. Google’s job as the search engine is to comb the entire internet and find the best pieces of content that answer their questions.

So our goal is to reverse engineer that and create the content that matches those search queries. That is how it works, and that is what I did not understand for the longest time. But beyond that, you also need to do a little work to see if you have a shot at ranking for the search query you have in mind because some of them are too competitive.

So if you’re a newer blogger and you don’t have a lot of authority on your website yet, you just want to make sure that you’re looking for topics that are realistically within the difficulty range that you can compete with.

If you are trying to write about a topic and you Google that topic and everybody at the top of the results is like Healthline, WebMD, Medical News Today, Linus Pauling Institute, like, you’re just probably not gonna have a shot at getting your content towards the top of the search results when the competition is that steep.

So instead, we’re trying to look for kind of niched-down topics that are not as widely written about, so that we have a chance to slide in there and take one of those spots on page one.

2. Execute

The second pillar of SEO is all about execution. I.E. taking all of our SEO knowledge and using it to create optimized content, aka really high-quality content that both satisfies your readers and looks good to Google. So there is sort of a science and an art to crafting content in a way that Google really prefers.

And this is another thing that I did not understand when I was blogging with my food blog. We’ll talk about this in a second, but essentially I was doing things so incorrectly and formatting my stuff totally wrong, to the point where Google didn’t even know that I had recipes on my website because I didn’t format the content properly for them to know that. This is another reason why I was never showing up in the Google search results for my recipes because Google didn’t even know they were recipes! So that’s a big one.

3. Promote

The third pillar of SEO is promotion. It is not enough to hit that publish button on your website and call it a day. It is essential to properly promote your content and get backlinks in order to boost your website’s authority.

And if you’re not familiar with what a backlink is, a backlink is just a link on someone else’s website to a piece of content on your site. For example, if you were quoted in an article on Healthline and they linked back to your website in the post, then that link is a backlink to your website.

Backlinks can pass on PageRank to your site and help boost your authority in the eyes of Google.

Now, it’s important to understand that “promotion” doesn’t mean that you have to spend all day posting on social media. Far from it. Promotion strategies that will boost your website’s authority are a lot different than you might expect.

I talk about this extensively in my SEO course, and I’ll touch on it briefly again later in this episode.

4. stand out

And then the final pillar is doing extra things that help you stand out amongst the competition. Things like having a high-quality, fast, mobile-friendly, and secure website.

All of these things are direct ranking factors for Google.

If you have a horrifically slow site, then it could potentially hurt you in the rankings. So it’s important to do your best to make sure you’re at least not in the super slow range.

And we want it to be mobile-friendly. We want it to load well on phones because Google is now doing mobile-first indexing, which means they’re basically ranking the mobile version of your website over the desktop version. So they are first prioritizing how your site looks on mobile when they decide where to put it in the rankings. So that’s very important.

We want it to be secure. So in my course, I also show you how to figure out whether your website is fully secure, and if it’s not, some tips on how to fix that.

I also show you how to speed up your website, which is very helpful. And then we want to make sure that we’re providing a good user experience so that our website makes sense and is easy to navigate and is a pleasant place to be for our readers.

Diving Deep into Keyword Research

So for today, I really want to focus mostly on keyword research, because I think it’s probably the least understood concept for new bloggers and also the most important.

So again, keyword research is taking the time BEFORE we write anything to make sure that we are writing about a topic that people are searching for and that we also have a shot to rank for.

So the main point here is we don’t want to GUESS what to write about. We want to do keyword research. We want to find topics that lots of people search for every month, but that hasn’t been written about by tons of authoritative sites.

What are keywords?

And just to recap here, what I’m talking about when I say keywords…. A keyword or keyword phrase is just literally verbatim what someone is typing into the Google search bar.

So, for example, if someone is looking for a recipe, maybe they’ll type in something like “Turkey Meatloaf recipe” , “what is the best multivitamin”, or “what to eat before running?”

Typically, it’s a topic or a question that someone has that they want to learn more about. And then when someone types something into the Google search bar, Google’s job is to try to understand what that person means and what they’re looking for.

Then they have to search their index of all of the content on the entire internet, which is an incredible job, and then they have to select the content that best matches that searchers’ intent.

So what were they looking for? And what content can Google pull up that they think best satisfies that person’s search query?

And then they will display the results in order from most helpful (in their opinion), to less relevant as it goes down.

And again, our goal is to be towards the top of the search results for the search query, and the higher up on the page that we can get, the better.

Choosing the right keyword

And when we’re thinking about keywords or keyword phrases to try to target and write content around, we want to avoid really broad or non-specific keywords. Those are really difficult to rank for, often because we can’t really tell what the person is looking for.

And if it’s unclear what someone is looking for, it’s very difficult to create content to match the keyword.

Like, if someone types into the Google search bar, “nutrition” or “vitamins” or “fish oil” or “meatloaf”, what are they really looking for? Google doesn’t really know, so they’re going to be hedging their bets and displaying a whole bunch of stuff.

Like if someone types in meatloaf, I mean, probably they’re looking for a meatloaf recipe, so that’s probably going to be up there at the top of the search results.

But Google could also be like, Oh, maybe they want to eat meatloaf out. And so maybe they’ll put a list of local restaurants that serve meatloaf with a map, that’s gonna take up one of the spots, so that’s already cutting into your chances. Maybe they’re like, Oh, maybe they want to know about Meatloaf the singer.

So they’ll put a couple of results about meatloaf, the singer. Maybe there’ll be an informative article from Wikipedia or something about what meatloaf is. Like, it’s just really a hodgepodge and not ideal.

So since they’re showing such a wide variety and smattering of results for such a broad search query, only the highest authority sites are really gonna slide in there. Cause the availability is very limited.

So those types of broad terms do get searched a lot, but they’re extremely difficult to rank for. There’s more competition, and there’s just no clear user intent to target. So we typically don’t want to create content targeting those types of short-tail keywords.

The value of long-tail keywords

So what we are looking for are longer, more specific keywords or keyword phrases. Those are called long tail keywords, and those are gold for us because it’s very easy to tell the user intent when someone types in more words and gets more specific.

So examples of long tail keywords could be like “accredited online nutrition courses” Well hey, we know exactly what they’re looking for.

Or “what are the health benefits of vitamin K” or “what is the best fish oil supplement” or “best turkey meatloaf recipe”.

These search terms will be searched a fewer number of times per month, but there’s often less competition, and they’re more targeted, so they’re typically easier to rank for.

So again, keywords are what people are typing into the Google search bar. Those tell you what people are looking for, and you want to be the one to create the content that answers their questions the best.

Clarifying your goals first

So how do we pick out the best keywords to write about? Well, first, I think it’s helpful to get clear on your goals.

Like, what are you trying to do with your web traffic? Are you trying to get people to work with you one on one? Because if that’s the case, you probably want to craft content around queries that your ideal client is searching for.

So what type of stuff do your clients ask you? And can you do some research to figure out what people are typing in, exactly, into the Google search bar around those topics? I’ll tell you how to do that in a second.

Or if you’re trying to get people to purchase an e-book from you or an online course, you probably want to be creating content around that topic. Around the topic of the things that you are selling.

Or if you’re just trying to get a lot of pageviews so you can earn ad revenue or affiliate income and you don’t want to sell anything or you don’t want to work with people one on one, then you should probably be targeting the highest volume keywords that you can find within your difficulty range and niche.

Because in that scenario, it’s less about finding the right person coming to you. You’re just going purely for eyeballs because that’s how you get paid, right?

If you’re monetizing with ads, you want eyeballs on those ads. So there could be a slightly different strategy here.

With trying to attract people to work with you one on one, you probably are going to go for lower volume search terms, but that are highly targeted to your ideal client, versus trying to monetize with ads, you’re going to go for volume.

Where does keyword research fit?

So where does keyword research fit in the overall blogging process? Honestly, this is what you should be doing first.

Before you write anything, think about your goals. What type of audience are you trying to attract and what is your monetization model? Use those to hone your research and then do that keyword research before you ever write a word of a blog post.

So the order of things is keyword research first, content creation second, and then third, and an often forgotten piece, promotion. You want to make sure you also take the time to promote that content after you create it.

So keyword research basically tells us how many people are searching for that topic every month so that we can choose popular topics to write about.

It tells us the exact verbiage that they’re using so that we can make sure we include it in our content so that Google can more easily match us up. So if someone is searching for”best vegan multivitamin”, if you title your article Best Vegan Multivitamin {2023 Rankings} or something like that, then that just increases your chances that Google is going to be like, oh, this person is answering this exact question, and it can help boost the likelihood of your content being put towards the top of the Google search results for that keyword.

Keyword research helps us avoid wasting our time

And keyword research also tells us how difficult the competition is for any given keyword so we don’t waste our time. And there are actually multiple ways we could accidentally waste our time.

We could accidentally waste our time by writing about things that no one is searching for, in which case we’ll never get found cause no one searching for it.

We could accidentally waste our time writing about things that the wrong people are searching for. So if we don’t take the time to think about why we’re creating this content, maybe we are writing about totally unrelated topics that aren’t gonna bring our ideal client right to us.

Or we could accidentally be writing about the right topic, but too difficult of a keyword. So if you are, for example, an intuitive eating dietitian, if you try to create a blog post called Intuitive Eating 101, and you’re targeting the keyword “intuitive eating”, it’s probably not gonna happen for you. Because that is a very competitive keyword. A lot of people have already written extensive posts about that topic, and the people who are ranking at the top of the search results are really authoritative.

So we need to find a smaller sub-niche of that topic to write a piece of content around so that we can get found through a different search query if that makes sense.

So you’re probably wondering, okay, this sounds good, but where do we do keyword research? How do we actually do this?

Two of my favorite Tools for Keyword Research

Well, there are some tools that you can use to make this process easier.

There are two different ones that I talk about in my SEO course and often recommend.

1. KeySearch

The tool that almost all of my course students start out using is called KeySearch (affiliate link). And it’s $17 a month normally, but if you use the coupon code KSDISC, which I think stands for keysearch discount, that’ll bring it down to, like, $13 a month. So it’s a very very affordable SEO tool.

Once you have an account, you can put in your own website URL and they will tell you what keyword difficulty score you should be targeting in their tool if you want a really good shot at ranking toward the top of the search results.

So essentially any time you type in a keyword, that keyword and all the other keyword suggestions that keysearch gives you will have an accompanying difficulty score. That score is calculated based on a proprietary algorithm by Keysearch, but it’s looking at things like how many quality backlinks the top-ranking websites have and whether they’re using the keyword in their URL

Keyword difficulty scores in keysearch, go from 0 to 100 and the lower the number, generally, the easier it will be to get your content to rank if you created a well-optimized post on that topic.

So let’s flesh this out with an example. Let’s say you put your domain into the “Explorer” tab of Keysearch and it told you that your keyword difficulty score to target was 32 or below.

Then when you’re doing your keyword research and trying to find topics to write about, you want to find keywords with difficulty scores of 32 or lower.

So the way it works with keysearch, is you can type in the root topic you’re interested in within the keyword research section of the tool and it will spit out a bunch of related keyword ideas around that topic alongside their difficulty scores.

Side Tangent: How to do keyword research

The way you do keyword research is, you don’t want to go in super specific.

So if you’re thinking you want to write about turkey spinach meatloaf or something like that, and you type that in, it could happen that you went too specific and no one’s actually searching for that. And then it’s just gonna spit back out zero searches per month and you’re gonna get frustrated because you’re going to keep typing in these things, and it’s gonna keep telling you, zero people are searching for this a month, and you’re like, this doesn’t make sense. I don’t like this, and then maybe you put this whole blogging thing aside.

But the way that you actually want to do it is you want to peel back all of your preconceived notions about what people are searching for, and when you use these tools, type in just the most basic phrase.

So, for example, I don’t want to type in turkey spinach meatloaf. I just want to type in meatloaf. Maybe turkey meatloaf, if I’m dead set on doing turkey meatloaf, but ideally, just meatloaf. Because I don’t really care what type of meatloaf. I want to choose based on the data, right? Not my preconceived notions.

So I’ll just type in the word meatloaf, and then these tools will bring up hundreds of keyword ideas. So keyword phrases that people are actually typing into search engines, along with an estimated monthly search volume and difficulty score.

It will bring up a list of all these ideas like best meatloaf, dairy-free meatloaf, veal meatloaf, meatloaf with bread crumbs, like whatever.

There are so many more ideas than you could ever think of off the top of your head. And then you can sort them by how many people are searching per month and the difficulty so you can try to find the highest volume item that’s still within your difficulty range.

Not every single difficulty score will be revealed off the bat, sometimes you’ll need to click to reveal it, or sometimes the score is displayed in a lighter color, which means that it’s older data and you can refresh it by clicking on the score to update it.

And on the lowest cost keysearch plan, you can reveal or refresh the difficulty of up to 200 keywords a day, but don’t forget you also get a good number of freebie reveals from the scores that are already displayed. And the hope is to be able to find a good keyword on a topic in your niche with a decent monthly search volume and within your suggested difficulty range.

So if you’re looking for keyword scores of 32 or below, you can sort the massive list of hundreds of keywords from easiest difficulty to hardest and try to find one that has a decent volume, maybe a couple hundred or more searches per month, and that is still easy to rank for.

Then you can be like, okay, that’s what I’m writing about.

The data is clearly telling me this is the highest volume topic within the range that I can realistically rank for and this is something that my ideal people are looking for. So I’m gonna write about it. So it’s a win-win.

You’re writing about something that hasn’t been written about a ton. Whatever the topic is because if it’s a lower difficulty, that means that a bunch of big, authoritative sites haven’t already covered that topic, which is why you have a shot of sliding in there and serving your people and getting to the top of the search results.

So it’s serving your people, it’s serving you, because you do have a shot at ranking for that and getting your ideal people to come to your website, for free, just for you creating that awesome content. And then you have confidence that you’re not wasting your time.

So keysearch is a really great, low cost tool that you can use to do keyword research. It’s not my absolute favorite keyword research tool, I prefer a more premium tool called semrush which I’ll talk about next, but it’s definitely good enough to grow your blog into something earning thousands of dollars a month before you perhaps decide to upgrade.

2. SEMrush

So my preferred SEO tool, which is a lot more expensive, but also a lot more powerful, is called SEMrush (affiliate link).

It costs $119 per month, but it’s worth every penny to me. That’s what I have used to grow all of the blogs I have started or consulted on since 2018.

I just find it to be the most efficient way to do keyword research and time is money to me at this point in business.

With SEMrush, you’re not limited to revealing 200 keywords a day. In fact, there is no “revealing” at all. All the keyword scores are displayed from the get-go, so you don’t have to waste time figuring out what scores to reveal or worrying about maxing out your daily limits.

When you search for a root keyword, keysearch will only show you 700 keyword suggestions at a time. Semrush, on the other hand, gives you ALL of them, straight out of the gate. So you can be pretty confident that you are finding the absolute best opportunities out there on a given topic, instead of just the best out of the 700 options you were shown.

All the options that semrush has in their database are all right there. And you can sort them however you want. So you can do your keyword research much more quickly and feel really confident that you actually have found the highest volume, lowest difficulty keyword combination, and it takes, like, seriously five seconds. So that’s what I use.

I would say, that keysearch is fine for most beginners, but if you have the budget to invest in semrush, it really is worth the additional hundred or so dollars per month based on the speed at which you can get mass amounts of research done and they have some really incredible tools for tracking your progress as well.

Also, in addition to doing keyword research, you can also do a full technical audit of your website with semrush, which will tell you any technical issues that might be impacting your rankings, things related to that last pillar of SEO that we talked about – having a good, fast, secure, user-friendly website. It does all of that for you as well. So it’s incredible.

It’s an amazing tool. I’m obsessed with it. If I had to cut back in my business anywhere, this would be one of the last things that I would stop paying for. So highly, highly recommend it.

The Benefits of Keyword Research

So, yeah, that’s how it works. You type in the most basic root word that you’re thinking of, like biotin or meatloaf or, I don’t know, baby-led weaning, whatever topic you want to write about, and then you just literally let the data guide you. You’re looking for a high-volume, low-difficulty keyword within the suggested range for you.

And that’s how you create your content calendar for your blog. So you’re not guessing. You’re never stuck wondering what am I gonna write about this week?

You spend, you know, maybe a few hours every quarter doing the keyword research and coming up with blog topic ideas and vetting them a bit and you’re done. And you write them down and you’re like this one I’m gonna post this day, and then I’m gonna do this one, and then you execute.

You can outsource it. You can hire writers. You can have your interns help you. You can do it yourself. Whatever you love, lean into what you love. And if you love writing, you know you don’t have to think about it once you have your plan.

You’re like, sweet. I’ve got my content calendar. I know I have a list of blog post ideas that are going to pay off and not waste my time. It’s gonna move the needle, and you can feel really good about it.

How to come up with topic ideas

And if you’re really struggling to come up with things that your ideal reader or customer might be searching for, Facebook groups are a great place to kind of scope around and see what hot topics are coming up. So join Facebook groups where your ideal clients are and just see what they’re chatting about and what questions they have because that’s gold right there.

You can do the same thing on other websites like Quora, which is sort of like a question and answers forum. You can see what people are asking related to your topic there. You can do the same thing on Reddit, another sort of forum.

You can even go to your competitor’s website. So if you know someone who is basically doing what you want to do and has a great thriving website around the topic that you love, what are they writing about? What topics seem to be doing well for them? And then you could do keyword research on those topics and see where you could find an opportunity there.

Think about what your clients ask you if you work with people one on one. What questions are coming up again and again and again? Like, can you create evergreen content online to address those? Because that will continue to serve you forever, not only through SEO, but if someone asks you that question, you already have a resource you can point them to.

And then take a moment to flush out your customer journey. Like if I’m teaching about SEO, which is a strategy that people can apply when they create content on their website. But of course, then that means they must have a website. So thinking backward, what supporting, like sort of pre-steps can I create to help move people along and get them ready to implement an SEO strategy?

So in my case, maybe that would be helping people set up their websites. Can I create some excellent free resources there get people used to my teaching style and learn to trust me and my recommendations? And then that will just increase the likelihood that when they’re ready to implement SEO they’ll purchase my course.

So you could do something like that as well. Like, what are the roadblocks that people might be having before they would want or need to purchase your program or your course or work with you? And create free content to address those.

Staying organized

And I just organize all of this on a spreadsheet. So I have a Google doc. I have a brain dump for all of my ideas. And then I have separate tabs on that document where I go into more detail for keywords in each category of my site. So if I’m looking up, for example, gluten-free article ideas, and then I’d have a tab for gluten-free articles and I’d list out all of the keyword phrases that I’ve found that I could potentially add to my content calendar and write about.

I’ll put the difficulty score, the volume, and then the date that I researched it, so that if it’s been a while, I can go back and make sure I double check it again before I create the content, just in case things have changed. You know, if it’s been months or something like that.

So that’s what I do. I just keep a running list of high-volume, low-difficulty keywords that I’ve taken the time to research and know are worth my time to write about. And I just work off that list when I’m creating my content.

And yes, in case you’re curious, I share links to my keyword planning spreadsheet and my content calendar with all students inside my SEO Made Simple course. If you’re interested in learning more about it, definitely add your name to the waitlist at to be notified the next time it opens for enrollment!

Analyzing the Search Results

Okay, but there’s one more really important thing we need to talk about here. It’s NOT enough to just look at the data in a keyword research tool and assume you have everything figured out. We also need to do some manual research to figure out what Google thinks people want when they Google that search term and figure out the type of content that is currently ranking at the top.

So once you think you’ve picked a keyword that you want to write about, I want you to Google it, and I want you to analyze what Google is putting in the first ten or spots of the search results.

Because that’s what Google thinks that person is looking for. So if what you were thinking of writing about isn’t in alignment with what’s already ranking well, then maybe that’s not the best term to target. So you wanna make sure that what you were thinking of writing about matches with what Google is ranking because you want to create content that matches with what Google thinks the searcher is looking for.

So click on each of the first 10 results, skim through the content, and see what people are talking about and writing about. Pay attention to the titles and the headings that they’re using. How they’re laying out their article.

What are they including? Make a list of that stuff, cause you need to have that as well. You want to basically try to create the best piece of content on this topic on the internet. And in order to create the best piece of content, you need to know what your competition looks like.

So you have to look and see what is Google already ranking. Cause you can see, in Google’s opinion, what the current top 10 posts are. And how can you create something just as good or ideally better?

How to make better content

So then put your professional hat on and think about what are the current posts missing. What can you add to the conversation? Because, to be quite honest, many freelance writers don’t have the topical expertise you might, as an actual degreed professional, and they most likely don’t have a great understanding of SEO and probably aren’t applying this type of strategy.

So this is an amazing golden opportunity to be like, oh, cool. They’re talking about XYZ topic, but as a professional with actual experience in this niche, I notice that they aren’t covering this little aspect of it. Like, as someone with real-life experience in your niche, you likely know what’s happening in real-time in your industry. And so this is your opportunity to insert those golden nuggets and elevate your content to be better than lay people could create.

And then eventually, over time, you should be able to outrank some of those other people with enough intentional, consistent action. It won’t happen overnight, SEO is definitely a long-term play, but 1, 2, 3, 4 years in, you’ll look back and be amazed at your progress.

But the point I’m trying to make here is not just to look at what other people are doing, but to think about how you can do even better.

What is high-quality content?

So what, exactly, makes high-quality content? I’m going to share 9 general factors with you right here on this podcast.

Obviously, this is a HUGE topic and I have a whole lesson devoted to creating high-quality content in my course, but I’ll give you the big-picture view right now.

1. Comprehensive

Good content is comprehensive. We want to be the one-stop shop for answering someone’s question. We want people to type in that search phrase and click on our article and not have to go anywhere else.

We want to fully address their questions in our content. So again, that’s part of why we evaluate what other people are doing so that we can be as comprehensive and even better than theirs.

2. Matches the search intent

We want to make sure we’re aligned with the search intent. So what is that person looking for when they’re typing in that keyword? And then we create the content that matches their search intent.

3. Only As Long as it Needs to Be

And we just want our content to be as long as it needs to be to fully answer someone’s query. No more, no less.

But you don’t need to go crazy and add a bunch of unrelated things just to try to hit some artificial word count that you think, or an seo tool says, is going to help you rank better. That’s not what it’s about.

It’s about addressing the search query to the best of your capabilities, and that’s it. So you don’t want to go off on all these tangents just to create a longer blog post.

But you also don’t want to leave stuff out. You want that sweet spot of fully addressing this person’s question within your article so they don’t need to click back and visit any other sites.

4. Well organized

You want your post to be well organized, so you want to use headings and maybe formatting like bullet points or lists if you want.

5. Uses graphics and images

Use graphics and images whenever possible to make your points and break up the text.

6. Easy to read

You also want your post to be easy to read. So correct spelling, good grammar, an easy reading level, not using too much jargon. Or, if you do use jargon, make sure you define it.

And keep your paragraph lengths short. So maybe not any longer than a couple of lines per paragraph for computer reading. People like to skim on the internet, and if you think about what it’s gonna look like as well, on like a phone screen, uh, the phone screens aren’t as wide, so the paragraphs get longer.

So I advise people not to have paragraphs longer than two or three lines on a desktop. Any longer than that, people zone out and they’ll read like the first and last sentence maybe of your paragraph and skip the middle, so you want to space your sentences out, make it easy to skim through on a tablet or a phone type of device.

7. Uses the keyword

And then in terms of how to use the keyword that we were targeting, you want to take that exact keyword phrase. For example, low histamine diet. And you want to put that in the title, first and foremost, of your blog post.

Ideally, it’s best if you include it verbatim. So, for example, if I’m targeting the keyword low histamine diet, I might title my article “Low Histamine Diet 101: What to eat, what to avoid, and why.”

And that’s my title. And that’s great, because the actual keyword, low histamine diet, is together. Those exact words in the same order, at the beginning of my title, very prominent.

It’s clear that that’s what the article is about. And then you want to include it naturally throughout your text as well.

You don’t want to keyword stuff, so you don’t wanna throw that keyword phrase in there an excessive amount of times because that looks spammy, and that can actually hurt you in the rankings. But you want to use that phrase as it flows naturally.

8. Uses related keywords

You can also use related search phrases in your headings and content as well. I talk about this in my course, how to find related search terms and include those as headings and subheadings in your post so that you can rank for a lot of related searches as well.

That’s basically the goal here. We want to use the keyword in our title and in a natural way throughout our content and use lots of semantically related keywords as well. And that’s how Google is gonna be able to tell that our content is a good match for that keyword search.

9. Has proper schema

And then last but not least, do you have proper schema set up on your website and in your specific blog posts, if relevant? And this is what I struggled with when I was food blogging.

Schema is basically like invisible code that is placed on the back end of your content that Google can read but that people visiting your site don’t see. And it’s basically extra information that says to Google, Hey, this is a blog post or hey, this is a news article, or hey, this is a recipe.

And you need that, especially for food blogging, you need to have recipe schema on your content in order for Google to even see that it’s a recipe and realistically rank it.

If you don’t have it, you’re not gonna be ranking, because food blogging is a very competitive space. Now you can get that schema in your blog post by using free or paid plugins like WP Recipe Maker (affiliate link) to add that to your post. It’s super super easy. You just have to know to do it.

So you know, it’s stuff like that. It’s like a you don’t know what you don’t know, type of situation.

And if you just write blog posts, not recipes, you can add article schema to your posts through any of the main SEO plugins like Rank Math or Yoast. And you can even expeirment with more advanced types of schema, like FAQ, or how to schema.

But long story short, each piece of your SEO strategy has a purpose. From picking the right keywords, to executing some amazing content, to promoting and building backlinks, to creating a technically sound website that shows of your experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Focus on quality over quantity, but don’t overthink it to the point where you aren’t actually putting any content out. You want to find that sweet spot where you can publish as many high-quality posts as you can realistically manage each month. I’d aim for at least one post per week, if possible.

The Main Takeaways

So the main takeaways I was trying to establish in this episode were:

First, think about your online business goals and how content creation and SEO and evergreen content can play into that. Like what kind of content can you create to attract your ideal customer or reader?

And then do keyword research to find high volume, low difficulty topics to write about. And then aim to create the best piece of content on the internet about that topic.

And then again, as I mentioned, don’t forget to promote. Promoting is super duper important. You can share it on social media, to your email list. etc. Anything you can do to increase the visibility of your blog post, do that.

You don’t just write it and post it and forget about it. Be actively promoting it. Promotion can really help you get out there and connect with other people and increase your chances of getting backlinks back to your content and increase your domain authority.

And again, there’s that whole other component that we also didn’t touch on today, about the technical side of your website. But that is covered super extensively in my SEO course.

Today I mostly wanted to focus on keyword research because again, I think it’s a new concept for a lot of people. But so, so, so incredibly important.

Like, understanding these concepts is essential to evergreen content marketing on your website. Doing keyword research and creating high-quality content is going to give you an advantage and an edge above other people and help us dietitians and healthcare professionals get out there and spread our really important messages.

So, doing that, getting backlinks, building your authority, creating a good user experience on your website, optimizing that technical SEO, all of those things which, again, I teach you exactly how and what to do to implement these things in my SEO course, but all of that stuff will make you unstoppable.

So I hope you enjoyed today’s episode.

If you have any questions about this, head on over to The Unconventional RD Community on Facebook. Great place to discuss this stuff.

And of course, you’re welcome to join me inside my signature course, SEO Made Simple. The best way to sign up is to add your name to the waitlist at If you’re on that list, you’ll be the first to get an email as soon as the course is open.

And other than that, I will see you next week with another wonderful episode.

Have a great rest of your day!

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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.