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How To Do Keyword Research For WordPress (Pick A Yoast Focus Keyword + More)

Last Updated on February 8th, 2021

Published on September 12th, 2018


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If you want your site’s content to rank well in search engines like Google, learning how to do keyword research for WordPress is essential.

While there are lots of other SEO tactics you should implement on your WordPress site, keyword research is going to have a huge effect on whether or not all the posts and pages that you publish rank well in search engines.

If you’ve been confused about what a focus keyword is in Yoast SEO, this post will also be really helpful for you because it’s going to show you how to generate the keyword that you put in Yoast SEO’s focus box.

But you don’t have to be using Yoast SEO to benefit. No matter what tool you’re using, you’ll get beginner-friendly explanations for:

  • What keywords are and why they matter
  • The different types of keywords
  • How to do keyword research for your WordPress site
  • What to do with those keywords once you find them

Let’s dig in!

What Are Keywords In SEO And Why Are They Important?

Keywords are the specific words or phrases that people use to search in Google and other search engines.

Think about the last thing you typed into Google – that’s a keyword!

By using keyword research tools (which I’ll show you in a second), you can figure out exactly how many people search for certain keywords each month. And you can also get suggestions for popular keywords that you might not have even thought of before!

Here’s Why Keywords And Keyword Research Matter For Your WordPress Site

Keywords are important because you want to optimize your content for what people are actually searching for.

For example, take our recent post on the best WordPress LMS plugins. LMS stands for Learning Management System, so we could’ve just as easily titled our post “The Best Learning Management System Plugins”.

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But in performing our keyword research, we saw that most people just search for “LMS Plugins”, which is why we opted to use the abbreviated version in our title.

You shouldn’t let keyword research rule your life. Nor should you go out of your way to “stuff” your content full of keywords (that hasn’t worked for a while!).

But you should always perform at least a little keyword research before you publish a post to make sure that you’ve matched the content of your post with the words and phrases that people actually use to search in Google.

There Are Different Types Of Keywords – Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords

Ok, let’s get a little more advanced now! There are typically two “types” of keywords that you’ll see people reference:

  • Short-tail keywords
  • Long-tail keywords

Short tail keywords are generally only 1-3 words long. They usually get lots of searches every month. For example, think of all the people that just search for “WordPress”. “WordPress plugins” and “WordPress themes” are two other short tail examples.

While short-tail keywords might be attractive because of their popularity, they’re often not the best focus keyword for a blog post because:

  • They’re very general. That is, you have no idea what someone searching for “WordPress” actually wants. Are they looking for WordPress.com? WordPress.org? Who knows!
  • They have high competition. It’s typically very difficult to rank your site for a short tail keyword unless you’re a big authority.

Long tail keywords are more specific phrases, generally with 3+ words. For example, think of the big phrase “How to Add Google Analytics Tracking to WordPress”.

While long tail keywords don’t usually have anywhere close to the popularity as short tail keywords, the benefits are that:

  • You know the exact intent of the searcher. Because the search is more detailed, you know exactly what people want. That’s why we were able to write our post on Google Analytics and WordPress.
  • They have lower competition. Long-tail keywords are usually less competitive, which makes it easier for you to rank your site highly in Google or other search engines.

For most blogs, targeting long-tail keywords is the best option. I recommend that you ignore the gaudy search numbers you see with short tail keywords and focus on targeted long-tail keywords that you can actually rank your site for.

How To Do Keyword Research For WordPress (Using Free Tools)

Ok, so how do you actually do keyword research for WordPress then? Here’s how you can find the best keywords to optimize your content for.

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If you’re using Yoast SEO, this is how you find what you should put in the focus keyword box.

Brainstorm What You Think People Will Search For

To get started, just brainstorm the phrase(s) that you think most people would use to find your blog post.

You’ll validate your list with data in a second…

But for now, just use your intuition and come up with two or three keyword phrases that you think people will use.

Use A Keyword Research Tool To See Volume And Get More Suggestions

Once you have your brainstormed list, you’ll take those ideas and plug them into a keyword research tool to:

  • See exactly how many people search for that phrase each month.
  • Get suggestions for related phrases that also get searched for (often the tool will suggest a term that never even made it onto your brainstormed list!).

There are a ton of great keyword research tools, but most of them are exclusively paid.

Don’t worry, though! I will share two awesome free tools that give you a limited number of searches. While the limits aren’t high, they should give you enough to get started.

First, there’s KWFinder. If you register for a free account, you can perform up to 5 searches per day without paying a dime.

To use it, just head to the website and plugin one of your phrases:


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Then, you’ll see a list of results. Here are some things to pay attention to while analyzing the results:

  • Pay attention to the other Suggestions, as you can usually find some good ones.
  • The Search column shows how many people search for that phrase each month, with Trend showing how that search volume changes for each month.
  • Ignore the CPC and PPC columns – those don’t apply to your needs.
  • The KD column gives an estimate of how difficult it is to rank your site for that term. It’s not a perfect measurement – but in general, lower scores mean you have a better chance of ranking on the first page of Google.
  • The Results filter option helps you…filter the results. It’s good to explore once you get the hang of basic research.

kwfinder results

Another good keyword research tool is the Moz Keyword Explorer. If you register for a free account, you can perform up to 10 searches per month.

To use this one, head to the site and enter your keyword:

moz keyword explorer

Then, you’ll see similar data to KWFinder on the first page. Make sure you check out the Keyword Suggestions area too to find other potential keywords:

moz keyword explorer results

Even with the limits on the free plans, those two tools should help you find the best keyword(s) for your post.

BONUS: Get Keyword Ideas From Google Autosuggest

Beyond using dedicated keyword research tools, another neat trick to come up with keywords is using Google autosuggest – yes, the automatic suggestions that pop up when you start an actual Google search:

Google autosuggest

Google bases these on what people are actually searching for, so it’s a great way to come up with long-tail keywords.

You can also get more creative with your suggestions by adding a “_” sign at the beginning or in the middle of your phrase. That way, Google will give you suggestions for new words at the beginning or in the middle (rather than just autocomplete):

Google autosuggest help

You can then validate these ideas using a keyword research tool if desired.

How To Use Keywords In WordPress Once You Find Them

I don’t want to make this post too much about on-page SEO. But in general, once you find the ideal focus keyword for your blog post, you should try to naturally use it:

  • In the blog post title
  • A few times in the body of your post (again – don’t “stuff” keywords in – only do it naturally)
  • In your post’s URL slug

And that should give your post a great chance to rank for a quality term in Google.

Have any other questions about how to do keyword research for WordPress or what to put in the Yoast SEO focus keyword box? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to help out!

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.