Keyword research isn’t rocket science. But you must do it right if you want your website to get to the top of the search results. In this guide, let me take you through the step-by-step of doing keyword research for better site rankings and traffic.

Read on to learn about the latest tools and techniques of keyword research. Plus, how to go about hunting for the best keywords to optimize website content and landing pages.

What is Keyword Research?

In simple words, keyword research is the process of knowing about popular terms that people are typing in search engines like Google, Amazon, YouTube or Bing.

When you know about trending niche search terms, you can create and optimize content by targeting those keywords. That’s how search engines judge the relevance of branded content before pushing it up the SERPs.

 

How Important is Keyword Research?

Are you wondering what so much fuss with keyword research is? Keyword research lays the foundation of any SEO campaign. Here are some of the reasons to do keyword research for SEO.

a. Keyword research helps you know the latest search trends. Don’t forget that search trends keep changing, and optimizing for relevant keywords at the right time, makes a big difference.

b. Keyword research helps you study the informational and commercial needs of the audience.

 

c. It gives in-depth insights into the needs and preferences of the target customers. The keyword research process paves the pay for audience-centric content creation. 

d. Keyword research is essential to understand which keywords are easy or challenging to rank. It also helps you know about competition keywords and rankings. 

Thus, keyword research helps you select a set of keywords to target for your business website.

Selecting the apt search phrases for a website and outreach campaigns is vital for earning relevant and growing website traffic.

How to Do SEO Keyword Research - The Basics

Now that you know what keyword research is and why it’s critical for SEO let’s understand the keyword research process. In this chapter, I will teach you simple methods to perform effective keyword research for your business.

Ready, let’s get started:

Know your Niche

The first step is to get to know your industry at a deeper level. How?

Talk to existing customers or members of the sales team to know about the problems and challenges.

Create an audience persona to analyze the behavioural preference of your ideal customer.

Participate in niche communities on platforms like Quora, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Community conversations offer a peek into trending niche topics.

Define a Set of SEO Goals

A set of strategic goals should back any successful SEO campaign. 

Clear-cut objectives like these,

a. How do you want to position your brand and business amidst the target audience?

 

b. What do you wish to achieve with your SEO campaigns—more traffic and rankings or higher sales volume and revenues, or more blog subscribers?

A set of focused goals help you narrow down keywords that work best towards attaining them.

Brainstorm Niche Topics

The next step is to discuss and make a list of topics that are relevant to your business. What are the common industry problems? Let’s suppose you’re a travel company. 

Most travellers are searching for vacation ideas and destinations online. Sample these topics:

New Year Holiday Ideas

Honeymoon Holiday Ideas

Places to see in Bali

Think about the needs of the target audience when ideating topics. Once you have a list, you can start using them to find new keyword ideas.

Enlist Seed Keywords

What is a Seed Keyword?

Every keyword research process needs to start somewhere. These starting points are the ‘seed keywords’. 

Seed keywords are one-two word phrases that help germinate new keyword ideas.

For instance, these,

bali holidays

florida holidays

Here are some more examples from the motorcycle parts niche:

Identifying such seed keywords can help a business to identify topic clusters. Finding topic clusters enables you to build topical authority, which is a critical component of SEO success. 

How to Find Seed Keywords?

In the last two sections, we learnt the process of defining goals and brainstorming topics. 

Once you have these two, you can create a list of seed keywords. Let’s explore the seed keyword research process in greater detail:

Enlist Content Sources

Besides looking for content topics in online communities, you can list top industry blogs and publications. A simple way to do that is to use tools like Feedly and follow niche blogs.

Another cool way is to find the ‘best blogs’ in your niche by conducting a simple Google search. 

Find Trending Content

To find trending content, you can head over to Ahrefs Content Explorer and pop any topic. The tool will give you a list of popular, topical content pieces.

Pick out the headlines from these content rockstars. Now, start extracting possible seed keywords from them. 

‘The Ultimate Bali Itinerary 10 days covering the best places to see in Bali’

‘Ultimate Bali Bucket List: 30+ Must See Places in Bali’

‘5 Must-See Places in Bali For First Timers’

‘North Bali Introduction and places to see.’

Take a look at these seed keywords that I extracted from the topics mentioned above.

north bali

bali itinerary

bali bucket list

bali travel

You can repeat this exercise when making a list of topics from popular content sources and community conversations. 

This way, you can make a list of hundreds of seed keywords. 

Let’s move further. 

Research Existing Keywords in Google Search Console

One of the things you can do while creating a keyword research base, is to head over to your Google Search Console dashboard.

It’s where you’ll find a list of keywords sending traffic to your site.

Click on the queries tab in your Google Search Console dashboard, and you’ll get a complete list of existing traffic keywords.

Up next, the keywords are sending traffic to competing sites.

Look For Competition Keywords

One of the best tactics to start doing keyword research is to look for keywords generating traffic for competition websites. 

The first step is to identify key competitors. You can simply type a few sample topics in the Google search bar to see which sites rank on the search results’ first page. 

A faster way to enlist competitors is to use the Ahrefs Competing Domains feature.

Once you have a list of competing domains, you can start by popping one of them in Ahrefs Site Explorer. Now look for the Top Pages report.

This report gives you a list of top pages of a site and the top keywords sending traffic to those pages. 

There you go, you have a list of a competition’s top priority keywords!

There is another cool way to find competition keywords. 

You can use the Ahrefs Content Gap tool to see what the competing site ranks for. The best part about this method is that you can exclude those keywords your site is ranking for. Here’s how to generate a quick report:

This way, you’ll get a list of keywords that are exclusive to competing websites.

Generate Keyword Ideas

Once you have a list of seed keywords, there are many cool ways to find keyword ideas. 

Related Searches in Google 

The first one is to look for related searches at the bottom of the Google search bar:

Fairly straightforward, right?

Google Suggest and YouTube Suggest 

One of the best things about today’s search engines and social media platforms is that they suggest search terms as soon as you start typing something. 

And what do you get? A bunch of keyword ideas!

Here are some suggestions from YouTube:

SEMrush

Next, you can pop the seed keywords in a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs. I use the SEMrush Keyword Magic tool to find some exciting keyword ideas. Take a look:

As you can see in the screenshot above, I have chosen the board match filter. As an SEO manager, you can use other filters like Phrase Match, Exact Match, and Related to find even more keyword ideas!

Let’s look at some keyword ideas by choosing the Related filter.

Wow, these are more keyword ideas. It’s easy to export these keyword lists so you can add them to your bucket list. 

Remember, you can generate new keyword ideas from seed keywords or the existing keyword ideas you have added to your bucket list. 

Hence, the keyword idea list keeps growing.

How to Qualify Keywords

As you continually perform keyword research, the list of prospective keywords keeps growing. But each keyphrase is different in terms of how much traffic it can fetch. Some keywords may be easier to rank for, while others might take a lot more time and effort. That’s why it’s critical to qualify keywords before putting them on the target list. In this chapter, let’s get an in-depth understanding of the keyword qualification process:

Search Volume

How would you know which keyword is more popular among the target audience? The search volume metric indicates the monthly searches of a search term. 

Pop a key-phrase in any keyword research tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to find its regional or global search volume. 

For instance, the keyword ‘bali travel guide’ has 300 monthly searches in the United States.

Its global search volume is 1.7k searches.

Let’s go deeper into this vital metric:

a. The search volume metric tells you the average monthly searches and not the number of people who performed those searches. 

b. The figure shows the average of the annual searches of a specific search term.

c. The search volume metric does not indicate whether the keyword will generate a high amount of website traffic.

How do you find which search-volume keywords are best for your website?

  • If a site is new, it’s best to target the low hanging fruits first. It’s a stage when you don’t want to target keyphrases in the 100k per month search-volume range.
  • It’s easier for new sites to rank for long-tail and regional keywords instead of generic and short key-phrases. 
  • Identify key markets and observe the search volume of a specific key-phrase in those countries. A higher volume is likely to fetch relevant traffic and a high rate of conversions. 
  • If a site is already ranking for low-volume keywords, you can step up the game and move towards more competitive search terms. 
  • Also, keep an eye on the volume trend, as shown in the image below:

The trend graph indicates seasonal fluctuations in a keyword’s popularity. 

Keyword Difficulty

When we say that a keyword’s difficulty or competition level is greater, it means that the search phrase is harder to rank. Here are things you need to know about this crucial keyword metric:

  • A keyword’s difficulty level depends on the quality of domains and content that already rank for it. 
  • The higher the quality of sites ranking for a keyphrase, the harder it is for you to beat them and earn yourself a place in the SERPs. 
  • When a business is small and still working to build niche authority, the right way is to go for low-medium difficulty keywords.

  • You can check a keyword’s difficulty score in a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush.
  • At some point in time, a business must look at targeting higher Difficulty search terms. 
  • Ranking for higher Keyword Difficulty terms has the potential to fetch a lot more backlinks for a domain. That’s because such search terms are usually associated with link-worthy topics. 

Clicks

Search volume is typically the tip of the iceberg. Look beyond, and you figure out a keyword’s true worth. 

  • The Clicks metric displays the average monthly clicks on the search listings from the said keyword.

  • On some occasions, you’ll find that the bulk of the clicks come from paid results—it’s better to stray clear from keywords with a higher percentage of paid clicks. 
  • At times a lower number of clicks results from Google answering a particular query—that’s when users don’t visit a site to get the information they’re looking for. 

So what’s the bottom line?

The higher the clicks, the better. You must analyze this critical metric before qualifying a specific keyword.

Traffic Potential

As I said earlier, a keyword’s search volume is the primary metric to learn about its worth. You don’t gather how much traffic a keyphrase can fetch.

How to find a keyword’s traffic potential? 

  • Within Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, you need to head over to the ‘SERP Overview’. What you’ll find here is the top-ranking pages of the said key-phrase. 
  • The Traffic column displays the monthly visits of the top-ranking pages of the search term.

As you can see, traffic potential is a fantastic metric when you need to select between similar keyphrases with an equal search volume and difficulty level. 

Cost Per Click

CPC is a metric used by Ad professionals, also comes in handy when doing keyword qualification for SEO. 

  • CPC is the dollar value that advertisers are paying for each click from a keyword. 
  • A higher CPC represents the commercial intent behind a search term.

A lower CPC, on the other hand, shows that the searcher’s intent is informational.

What does this mean for an SEO professional?

 

  • As an SEO manager, you need to target high CPC search terms for commercial pages such as your website’s products and services pages. 
  • Low CPC terms are more suitable for the blog section or content related pages of the site. 
  • Remember that CPC as a metric fluctuates more than search volume.

Frequently track the CPC data while optimizing the commercial pages on the site, and make amendments accordingly. 

Short Tail vs. Long Tail Keywords

A short tail keyword has a length of three words or less than three words. For example, ‘bali travel guide’ is a short tail keyword.

Some searchers type longer search queries. It happens when they are looking for answers to specific questions. Take a look at this search query: ‘best season to visit bali for honeymoon’.

When we look at an overall comparison, long-tail keywords have a lower search volume. At the same time, longer queries have higher rates of conversions. Here’s another example of a long-tail keyword:

What does it mean for you?

  • First off, short tail keywords are likely to get higher traffic than long-tail keywords.
  • Short tail keywords are also challenging to rank. Since their search volume is higher, these keywords are highly competitive. 

A new site with low traffic should start with long-tail keywords. These keywords are easier to rank as their competition level is comparatively low.

Voice Search Terms 

Voice search makes it easy for online searchers to get answers to their queries without typing them. That’s why voice search has become so popular. 

Did you know?

How are voice search queries different from text-based searches?

  • Voice searches are conversational. 
  • The queries are much longer and can go up to 10 words.

Voice search queries are conversational. Take a look at this key-phrase for instance:

Considering the growing relevance of voice search queries, targeting super-long conversational search terms is critical for SEO success. 

Targeting Google Featured Snippets/People Also Ask

You must have seen blocks of text that offer a relevant answer to a search query. These are called featured snippets. Google launched featured snippets as a way to improve the searcher experience.

Featured snippets offer SEO managers and content creators a tremendous opportunity to earn the desired website visibility. If you optimize a site’s content for Google’s featured snippets, there are chances it will get featured.

In fact,

Ahrefs studied 2 million featured snippets, and they discovered that a featured snippet steals a significant percentage of the clicks that would otherwise go to the first page of the search result.

Google offers many types of featured snippets to online searchers. These include paragraphs, lists, and tables. 

Now, here comes the critical question, 

How to find keywords to target and get listed on Google’s featured snippets?

Look for question-based search queries. Keyword research tools like KWFinder offer a Questions tab—an easy way to find such search terms.

Next, you need to look at the search terms in the ‘People also ask’ section of the Google SERPs.

You can also find question-based search terms in tools like Answer The Public and communities like Quora. 

This way, you can find a bundle of keyword ideas to earn your site a place in Google’s Featured Snippets and People also ask sections. 

Geo-Targeted Keywords

There are also keywords specific to a location. If you’re a local business, then these keywords are your bread and butter. Take a look at these search terms:

architects in san jose, ca

architects in california

Whether you’re running a local architectural firm or a restaurant or a salon, you need to ensure that you’re looking to target geo-targeted keywords first. It’s the best way to find a place in Google’s local search results.

Branded Keywords 

If your business is a well-known brand, then it’s likely to get included in popular search queries. If that’s the case, then targeting these search terms is essential to drive the relevant traffic from these queries. Here are some examples of branded search queries:

nike jogging pants

hubspot training videos

Product-Centric Keywords

You don’t want to miss out on potential customers who’re typing product or service related queries in the Google search bar. Take a look at the following example:

Customer Focused Keywords

Most businesses have multiple audience personas and customer segments. You can target a separate set of keywords for each of these customer segments. All such keyphrases can be categorized as customer-focused keywords. 

Take a look at this example:

What Makes a Good Keyword?

It’s a common question SEO managers and business owners ask all the time. You would be looking at all of the above parameters to define the right set of keywords for your business.

As a general rule, however, you must include targeted and broad keywords. Such keywords are likely to help your business meet some of its vital SEO objectives. 

Targeted Keywords

Targeted keywords are those search terms that are relevant to specific products and services. Take a look at these search terms, for instance:

website development services

software development services

Targeted keywords are likely to fetch traffic that’s apt for your site. Plus, it increases the conversion rate of site visitors. 

Broad Keywords

Every niche has specific services under one umbrella service. For instance, many digital marketing agencies offer website development, social media marketing, search engine optimization, content creation, etc. 

Hence besides targeting keywords about these specific key-phrases, they need to choose umbrella search terms. This way, they can connect with audiences who are typing either of the two types of keyphrases. Now take a look at these keyphrases:

digital marketing services

digital marketing agency

Therefore, a set of good SEO keywords is a healthy mix of broad and targeted search terms. Choosing between the two types also depends on how you wish to position your business among the target audience. 

For instance, some companies may find it profitable to become specialists and focus on targeted keywords. While others may lay equal emphasis on broad search terms, it works to come across as a one-stop solution.

Investment vs. Returns

Everything ultimately boils down to those goals you have, the worth of a keyword in terms of those goals, and the possible outcomes. 

  • For instance, if you’re looking to build a content audience, you’ll focus on informational queries. 
  • For an SEO campaign focusing on product sales, product-specific keyphrases become more worthy. 
  • For higher brand visibility, you’ll have to focus on targeting branded search terms.

 

And so on.

You’ll also come to realize that some of these goals are interlinked, and you can tie them together through integrated SEO campaigns, 

Once you have a bunch of targeted keywords, you need to analyze their performance every few months; why?

Tracking keywords will help add more to the kitty. Plus, you can make the necessary amendments to the keyword targeting strategy.

Keyword Search Intent: Everything You Need to Know

This chapter will discuss everything you need to know about searcher intent for selecting keywords based on user intent and query purpose. How each query has a different purpose, and why do you need to know about it?

There was a time when you could stuff a bunch of keywords in a content piece, and it would rank on SERPs. We’ve come a long way since then. The search algorithms have evolved—they’re still changing. 

Search engines are working harder to offer a great experience and the right content to online searchers.

That said, you need to create content that meets searcher-intent. And to do that, you need to get behind the purpose of each keyword you’re targeting. 

The ideal way to start is to segment keywords based on searcher intent. So let’s understand the types of searcher intent and the keyword types that fall under it:

Informational Search 

When a searcher types a query like this, she is looking for some information. Sample these search queries:

bali travel guide

who is roger fedrer’s best friend

rafael nadal’s net worth

You can put all informational intent search terms in a separate list. That’s how you begin creating content that meets the informational needs of the audience. 

Navigational Search 

Searchers often type in specific site names in the Google search bar. Such users know about their destination. These searchers could either be interested in your business or they’re probably existing customers. Take a look at these search queries for instance:

hubspot login

beginners guide to CRM hubspot

hubspot free website grader

When you know that several people are searching for your site or brand name, you can optimize some pages on your site for those keywords. 

Put such search terms under the navigation segment.

Solution Investigation

Some buyers know the solution to their current challenge. That’s when they go online to search for the best products and services. Take a look at the following search queries, for instance:

mailchimp vs. mailerlite

mailerlite review

best restaurants in san jose

The intent is commercial, but the user is looking to understand individual products and services’ worth. 

So whether you target these search terms with comparative product pages or by getting backlinks from such pages, these keywords make a big difference to the overall conversions. 

Transactional Search  

A buyer is ready to make a purchase, and this is when she uses transactional search queries. The idea is to find websites or stores that offer the said products and services. 

buy macbook air

book bali holiday package

trello premium price

A user looking to make a purchase needs to land on a page that makes it easy for her to do so. Create such products and services pages and optimize them with these keywords. But before that, you need to add all such keywords to your transactional intent bucket. 

Search intent governs the branded content you create. 

  • Once you have a complete list of keywords, segment them into the above categories. 
  • The strategy is vital to align keyword targeting with SEO goals.

Intent-based content optimization is indispensable to attract relevant traffic and higher search rankings. 

Keyword Research Tools

Successful keyword research is about hanging in there and staying hungry. It’s also about using the right tools. In this chapter, let’s learn about all the popular tools for performing keyword research for SEO.

Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner is probably the oldest tool to find keywords for your SEO campaign. Input a seed keyword and your website URL to get a bunch of new keyword ideas. 

  • Track monthly search volumes and competition level for each keyphrase. 
  • See global and local search volumes. Google Keyword Planner shows the average price of keywords for running ads—the metric helps understand individual keywords’ commercial nature. 

The tool is available within Google’s free Adwords tool.

You can also see historical statistics to see a keyword’s past performance. 

Answer The Public

Answer the public is an exciting keyword research tool. 

  • The keyword research tool provides a visual rendition of the most probable searcher questions around a topic. 
  • What you get is a bunch of keyword ideas. Answer The Public comes with a free as well as a paid plan.

  • You can use this tool to visualize different categories of keywords such as preposition specific keywords, alphabeticals, and comparisons.

Use this tool for free or upgrade to the pro version for a starting price of USD 79 per month. Here’s what all you get in the paid plan:

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a popular end-to-end Search Engine Optimization tool. The tool comes with many intuitive features. 

  • Ahrefs displays unique keyword metrics, such as Clicks and Clicks Per Search. The metrics are useful to understand which keywords will generate the desired amount of web traffic.

  • You can also see the Return Rate metric. The value displays the number of times a person searches a keyword over 30 days. 
  • This keyword research tool also helps SEO managers analyze competitive keyword gaps while finding the best keywords to target.

  • Plus, you can create alerts to map the progress of keywords for any domain, including your site and competing websites. 
  • Also, keep tabs on the new keywords that a domain is ranking for. 

Ahrefs comes at a starting price of USD 99 per month.

SEMrush

SEMrush is another popular SEO tool useful for keyword research. 

  • It’s a fantastic tool to track basic keyword metrics such as search volume, difficulty, and CPC. 
  • The tool helps keep tabs on competitive keywords and decide which keywords are suitable for your website. 
  • Use the Trends feature to know if a keyword’s popularity is going up or not. 
  • Tack the domains ranking for a keyword along with their respective SEO data. 
  • Use the Keyword Magic tool in SEMrush to generate hundreds of valuable keyword ideas from your seed keywords.

All-in-all, SEMrush is a user-friendly and feature-rich keyword research tool. You can use SEMrush for a starting price of USD 99.95 per month. 

Google Trends 

If you’re looking to analyze a keyword’s relative popularity, this free tool from Google is a terrific option. 

  • The keyword research tool goes beyond metrics like search volume and competition. 
  • It helps you peep into the ongoing content trends to decide between a set of similar keywords. 
  • The tool gives you location-wise and periodic trends, so there is quite some practical information there.

KWFinder

Keyword research tools like KWFinder help find long-tail search-terms that have a low difficulty level.

  • This keyword research tool helps enlist keywords that worked for a competing site. 
  • Enter a domain, and KWFinder lists all those search terms that the domain is ranking for. 
  • This keyword research tool is a terrific option for tracking historical search volumes and long-term keyword trends. 
  • You can also use this tool to find location-specific keywords for your business.

This robust keyword research tool comes at a starting price of USD 29.90 per month.

Ubersuggest

If you’re a small business owner and looking for a cost-effective keyword research tool, then Ubersuggest might prove to be your best bet. 

 

  • You can use this tool to find hundreds of keyword suggestions and ideas for free. 
  • Get to know the search volume, competition level, and trends for each keyword. 

This tool’s starter plan comes at a throw-away price of just USD 12 per month. Now that’s a steal because Ubersuggest also offers you additional features such as Domain Overview, Top SEO Pages, Content Ideas, and Backlink Data. 

Moz 

Moz is one of the oldest solutions for end-to-end SEO needs.

  • Pop a URL or keyword to discover the right set of keywords for your business. 
  • You can use Moz’s keyword explorer for free by simply creating a community account. The free version allows you to conduct up to five keyword searches every day.
  • Moz allows you to generate and save keyword lists. 
  • Make use of predictive CTR metrics to understand a keyword’s future performance. 
  • Track keyword and competitive metrics to optimize keyword research decisions for better business outcomes. 

Moz Pro comes at a starting price of USD 99 per month. If you pay annually, the SEO solution will cost you USD 79 per month.

WordStream

WordStream is another incredible free platform to help find the right keywords for your SEO campaign.

  • WordStream comes with an easy-to-use interface to find new keywords and track all the relevant metrics. 
  • You can add a website URL or a competing domain to find contextual keyword suggestions. 
  • Filter keyword results by industry and by location.

If you’re looking for a free keyword research tool, then WordStream is undoubtedly an excellent option for you. 

LSIGraph

LSIGraph is a unique keyword research tool that helps find semantically linked search terms.

  • The tool shows the current trends, volume, and CPC of LSI keywords. 
  • You can use this tool to include contextual keywords and keyword synonyms in branded content. 
  • LSIGraph comes with unique features such as Project Creation and Management and Semantic Classification.

You can upgrade to the premium version for a starting price of USD 12 per month.

Optimizing Content for Keywords and Synonyms

So now you have a list of priority keywords, what next? You need to optimize the landing pages and website content for these keywords. In this chapter, let’s briefly look at the keyword optimization strategy.

  • You can make use of SEO content editors like Surfer SEO. The tool creates a system to help include keywords and their synonyms in branded content.
  • Study the user-intent and audience persona in detail. Make sure to make branded content relevant and useful to the audience. That’s one of the best ways to create content pieces and website pages search-friendly. 
  • Use LSI keywords in the content and meta tags to ensure that a content piece is relevant to your niche. LSI keywords are specific terms that display the contextual relevance of your content. 

a. Create content from your experience by covering all the relevant topics that you found in your keyword research. Being familiar with a subject will automatically help you create content that includes keywords pertinent to your niche and the context.

Final Thoughts

Keyword research is the foremost step of any successful SEO strategy. The exciting part is that it's through keyword research that marketers get a deep understanding of their target audience.

Knowing about the current search trends and picking the precise keywords are two critical ways to earn higher search rankings and relevant web traffic. I hope this guide helped you understand the nitty-gritty of keyword research. Do share your experience and ideas in the comments section below.