Here at BlogMutt, a lot of our clients know that SEO should be an important part of their blogging strategy, but many aren’t quite sure where to start.
You probably know that in order for your blog posts to start ranking highly on Google, you need to incorporate the right search keywords. But, how do you figure out which keywords to focus on? This is where an intuitive, well-designed, robust, and FREE tool could really come in handy, right?
Thankfully, the Moz Keyword Explorer tool is here to save the day. Moz is probably the most respected thought leader in the world of SEO, so when they designed a tool to make keyword research as easy as possible, it’s no surprise that they thought of everything. The keyword explorer lets you analyze any keyword you are interested in ranking for, using specific metrics that were chosen for their usefulness.
If you have a free Moz account (which is easy-peasy to setup if you don't already have one), you are limited to 20 queries per month, so keep this in mind before you begin exploring. We’ll give you a few tips for making the most of these free searches later in this blog post.
If you upgrade to a Moz Pro account, that number jumps all the way to either 300 or 5,000 queries per month depending on your subscription, and your account comes with access to several other valuable SEO tools as well. When you’re first starting out, the free account will probably work great, and you can always upgrade when you’re ready to get more serious about investing in SEO.
Moz Keyword Explorer Metrics: The Basics
The main metrics Moz’s tool focuses on are Volume, Difficulty, Opportunity, and Priority. Throughout this article I am going to be using an imaginary client--a small interior design business--as an example of how to use the tool.
To start off, let’s enter a broad keyword, in this case “modern interior design.”
As you can see, you are then presented with clean, easy-to-understand numeric and visual representations of each major metric.
Now, let’s look at each of these metrics, figure out what they mean, and most of all, why they matter so much.
Volume, Difficulty, Opportunity, & Priority: Your New Best SEO Friends
In the first example, the keyword “modern interior design” yielded a volume of 851-1.7K. This is how many times the keyword is searched for in the average month. As you can see from the bar graph, this is a modest but respectable amount of searches--there is definitely interest in this keyword, though it may not get a ton of traffic. Just think, though--if we managed to rank for this keyword that would approximately come to 1,000 new people searching for something that’s relevant to our business and potentially clicking through to our blog each month. Not too shabby!
When we make the keyword even broader--just “interior design”--the volume jumps to between 30,000 and 70,000 searches per month.
When we home in on a more narrow keyword--let’s try “Scandinavian modern interior design”--the volume shrinks to 51-100. Not a lot of people are searching for this particular keyword, but there are still some very qualified, valuable, specific searches every month.
This metric measures how challenging it will be to rank for a given keyword on a scale of 1-100, 1 being the easiest, 100 being holy-heck-impossible-to-rank. Sticking with our examples, you can see in the second screenshot that if we try to rank for something as broad as “interior design” we face a difficulty rating of 74. Yikes! Probably not going to make it very far in our SEO strategy if we choose this keyword to focus on. The Difficulty score for “modern interior design” is a still-challenging-but-perhaps-doable 53.
Easiest of all is the more targeted keyword of “Scandinavian modern interior design,” with a Difficulty score of 39. Since my imaginary interior design business client just happens to specialize in modern Scandinavian-inspired interiors, this seems to be a very effective keyword to focus on for SEO purposes in a much lower-stakes competitive environment for keywords.
The Opportunity score is a little more complex. This score identifies how much opportunity for click-through traffic you have for any given keyword. This score takes into account all other results an internet user sees on the Google page when they search for a specific keyword.
Will you be competing against all sorts of distracting results, including paid ads and featured snippets? Then your Opportunity score will be lower. This score is on a scale of 1-100, and the higher the number, the better your chance to rank highly.
I tested it out with the keyword “Persian rugs in interior design” and received an Opportunity score of 60, which was pretty average for the various keywords I played around with. If my interior design client managed to rank on the first page of Google with this keyword, they would definitely have some competition for clicks, but not a hopeless amount as with wider-ranging keyword search terms.
This one is probably the most important metric of all. The Priority score takes into account an aggregate of the other scores. This score is also on a scale of 1-100, with anything over 80 being really ideal and search terms you should prioritize more highly, and anything in the 50-80 range still being quite promising, but less like low-hanging fruit.
Since this score aggregates the other scores, it takes the guesswork out of determining which score is the most important. Is a keyword searched for often but difficult to rank for? Is a keyword easy to rank for but difficult to get click-through traffic for? The algorithm that calculates the Priority score takes all of this into consideration, saving you from any really agonizing decisions when deciding which keywords to tackle first.
In the first keyword exploration we tried, for “modern interior design,” the Priority score is 59. This tells me this particular keyword is promising overall and worth exploring.
A Few Key Takeaways
After experimenting with Moz’s free Keyword Explorer tool, here is what we’ve discovered:
1. It’s Our Current Favorite
By designing this SEO tool, Moz combined the best features of other keyword exploration tools on the market (think SEMRush, UberSuggest, etc), and designed something much more accurate and useful.
In addition to the main four metrics, the free keyword explorer also offers relevant keyword suggestions and SERP (search engine results page) analysis, to help take your keyword strategy even further with minimal pickup.
The Moz Keyword Explorer tool is simply the most robust, accurate, and user-friendly way to home in on the best keywords out there today--and it comes from THE trusted SEO authority, so we feel good--really good--about recommending it to our customers. It helps that it’s free, though those 20 queries go by pretty quickly so we can definitely see many upgrading or at least taking advantage of the free 30-day trial for long-term keyword planning.
2. Focus On the Priority Score
While all of the metrics are useful, a great strategy is to focus on the Priority score, since this is a reliable, quick way to determine which keywords are going to be the most successful.
This score should be a driving factor behind how you create your content. If you build your blog strategy around keywords with high Priority scores, you can feel confident about your ROI because you know these are keywords that your target audience is searching for and that you have a great chance of ranking for. Gotta rack up those win-wins.
3. Complete Your Keyword Research First
Some BlogMutt clients tend to come up with blog topics without having a specific keyword in mind, and then after they receive a post they attempt to optimize for a keyword after the fact. This is a lot of extra work and often results in cramming a keyword into a post in a way that reads as unnatural and obvious. Avoid this!
If your writer knows the keyword upfront, they will write a post that naturally focuses around and incorporates the keyword. Your SEO strategy will be more seamless and your content will be higher quality. Within the BlogMutt platform, we recently added a few SEO fields to our topic descriptions to make it even easier to get on the same page as your writer.
Completing your keyword research first is sound, smart SEO strategy. This approach means knowing what your prospective clients are searching for and then focusing your SEO in that direction.
Something that really works for our keyword strategy here at BlogMutt is sitting down with Keyword Explorer (yes, we absolutely use it!) and tackling all of our keyword research for the following month in one sitting. Taking an hour or two to get this out of the way streamlines our SEO strategy and makes it much easier to come up with plenty of useful blog topics.
4. The Keyword Explorer Lets You Do Deeper Research
As you become more comfortable with SEO and keyword research, you may find yourself wanting to look at and analyze more data. While Moz’s Keyword Explorer is easy enough for total beginners, it also offers more robust data for users with a bit more SEO experience.
For example, the “SERP Analysis” feature allows you to explore live search engine page results, including all of the competing results, ads, and images searchers will be confronted with in the current state of affairs. This effectively mimics the experience of your prospects and tells you what competition you’re up against if you manage to rank for a target keyword.
A Few Tips for Making the Most of Your 20 Free Queries
If you're like us and revel in things that are free, here are a few ways to really maximize the value of your 20 free queries per month:
- Resist the temptation to enter every keyword that pops into your head. The Keyword Explorer tool is really fun to use, but those 20 queries will be used up more quickly than you may think, so use them wisely.
- You may want to start your keyword research by simply Googling keywords you are interested in, and then using the results to determine if a keyword is viable or targeted enough to research further using the Explorer.
- Take advantage of the Keyword Suggestions. You can actually click on “See All Suggestions” and then “Export CSV” to export all of the suggested keywords into a sortable spreadsheet on just one search. This means you get hundreds of viable keywords for each keyword you enter into the tool, which definitely adds a great deal of value to this free resource.
We hope you enjoy getting to know this useful keyword research tool as much as we have. If we’ve sparked an interest in taking your SEO game to the next level, be sure to check out these supplemental posts, which are chock-full of tips:
- This post on the best small business SEO tips
- Or how about this post on the difference between external and internal links, and how they affect your blog strategy.
- Want to do keyword strategy and find blog ideas at the same time? This post helps you kill two birds with one stone.
- Finally, if you haven’t already downloaded our SEO checklist, it's friendly for SEO beginners and full of resources.