When you’re writing health content for websites, it’s important to do keyword research before you start the writing process.
Even if ranking well in Google isn’t a priority for you, keyword research can help you to choose an appealing angle or area of focus for your content.
It takes some of the guesswork out of your content creation – particularly when you’re using interchangeable medical terms.
Keyword research is not only about finding out which terms get the most monthly searches and trying to rank highly for those terms.
It’s also a way of ensuring you’re answering your readers’ questions.
What can keyword research tell you?
Keyword research is actually a strategic approach to your content creation.
It can tell you that more people use the term prenatal than preconception.
It can tell you that more people spell hayfever as one word, not two.
It can tell you that more people type in “how to get pregnant” instead of “trying to conceive”.
It can tell you that very few people are searching for “how goose grease can relieve chest congestion” but that thousands of people are searching for “natural ways to relieve chest congestion”.
Essentially, keyword research can help you to position your content so it will appeal to the majority within your target audience.
This could mean better search performance. But it could also mean better engagement, because you’ll be using phrasing that’s more desirable to your readers (ie “getting pregnant” as opposed to “trying to conceive”).
This means you’ll have the best chance of writing clearer, high-quality content that your readers will remember.
What is keyword research?
Simply put, keyword research is research that analyses the terms that people are searching for in given subject matters. It can show you search volume as well as phrase variations.
Using Google’s Keyword Planner tool, you can discover roughly how many people are searching for terms, narrowed down by country.
The tool will also suggest popular terms related to your keywords – giving you more options and choices for the theme of your content.
Other ways to get keyword suggestions based on popular suggestions include:
- looking at what Google suggests when you start typing in the search bar
- looking at what Google suggests when you scroll to the bottom of the first page of the results
In these options, you won’t get a sense of how many people are searching for these terms, like you do when you use Google’s tool. However the search terms will be somewhat popular, because they’re being suggested by Google.
Performing keyword research in the health niche
Before you perform your keyword research, it’s important to have a clear sense of who your target audience is and what you think they want to know.
If you know these things, you can use the research to verify your assumptions and then answer your readers’ questions.
Keyword research for health terms is tricky, because there are so many different ways to reference conditions, health topics, treatments and medications.
- Should you use PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome?
- Should you use cold and flu, cold, flu, or influenza?
Google does account for some of these variations. You can experiment by typing “influenza” in the search bar and seeing if the content that appears is about “influenza” or “flu”.
If you’re not sure whether Google will account for the variation, it’s usually best to choose the terms that the majority are using.
You’ll also need to consider different ways of spelling (for example, UK English versus American English).
The most important thing to remember when you’re applying keyword research in the health niche is to ensure your terms are accurate.
Some terms are similar but mean slightly different things.
- Is it accurate to use skin cancer instead of melanoma?
- Is it accurate to use eczema instead of dermatitis?
- Is it accurate to use heart disease instead of heart attack?
Be aware that you’re not confusing similar terms.
How to apply your findings
When you’ve determined the most popular terms, the idea is NOT to write articles that are stuffed with those terms.
Rather, it’s about using the results of your keyword research for inspiration, because these terms are showing you exactly what your readers want to know.
The following is an example I use in my Introduction To Health Writing course in the writing for the web week.
Imagine you’re writing an article about people who can’t get pregnant and have no clear explanation why.
You decide the topic of your article will be “unexplained infertility” – but you need an angle.
Keyword research can help you determine a useful angle.
When you type “unexplained infertility” in the Google search bar, Google suggests:
- unexplained infertility and ivf
- bfp (which stands for big fat positive)
When you scroll to the bottom of the page, Google suggests:
- unexplained infertility possible causes
- unexplained infertility success stories
- unexplained infertility statistics
- unexplained infertility iui success rates
- unexplained infertility clomid
- unexplained infertility ivf
- unexplained infertility blog
- unexplained infertility ivf success rates
Already, you have plenty of ideas for angles for your article.
You could stop there – but you could also carry on with a variation of the term “unexplained infertility”.
Consider “can’t get pregnant” – a more colloquial way of expressing “unexplained infertility”.
Searches related to “can’t get pregnant” include:
- can’t get pregnant what’s wrong
- can’t get pregnant after abortion
- can’t get pregnant after miscarriage
- scared i can’t get pregnant
- know if you can’t get pregnant
- have pcos can’t get pregnant
You can see that these terms are far more emotional than those related to “unexplained infertility”.
These terms show you that:
- women want reassurance
- they are scared, worried and concerned
- they are looking for hope
- they are looking for answers
You can now use this research to write a high-quality, well-researched article that will make an emotional connection by allaying some of these fears and addressing these concerns.
The idea is to be reassuring but within reason. Encourage your readers not to panic, provide hope, but don’t give the impression that everything will definitely be okay for everyone (as it may not be for some).
Remember, keyword research isn’t just a numbers game. It can actually help you to write better, more useful content.
Do you use keyword research in your writing? Do you have any tips to share?
Want to know more about writing for the web? Check out Health Writer Hub’s Introduction To Health Writing course.