Keyword Research

How to Do Keyword Research with Examples and Tips

Digital Marketing

Starting with an astounding fact – a staggering 68% of online activity commences with search engine inquiries via industry titans like Google and Bing, making it abundantly clear that keyword research must be the cornerstone of any online marketing strategy.

The primary aim of keyword research is determine the search terms and phrases that your target audience is using to find relevant information online and to ascertain the best approach to ranking for those keywords in search engine results pages.

Without a clear understanding of the keywords to focus on, it is impossible to optimize your website, devise a link-building strategy, or even create engaging content for your audience. Fear not, as you have stumbled upon the ultimate guide to keyword research.

In this comprehensive article, I will walk you through my meticulously crafted step-by-step process for discovering, analyzing, and selecting the most valuable keywords for your SEO campaign. With this guide in hand, you will gain an in-depth understanding of how to conduct effective keyword research and drive targeted traffic to your website like a pro.

What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is an integral part of any digital marketing strategy, enabling you to identify the specific search terms that your target audience uses to find businesses like yours in search engines. By optimizing your website’s content for these keywords, you can dramatically increase your chances of appearing prominently in search engine results and drive high-quality traffic to your website.

With the power of local keyword research, you can narrow your focus to specific geographic areas and target your content to customers in those regions. This is especially beneficial for small businesses operating in a particular city or state, as it allows them to pinpoint the keywords that their local customers are using to search for their products or services.

As an expert in the field of SEO and digital marketing, my target audience is primarily made up of marketers and small business owners seeking to enhance their online presence. Therefore, I ensure that my website’s pages rank highly in search results when my audience searches for SEO and digital marketing-related topics.

By conducting comprehensive keyword research, I have meticulously targeted every SEO-related keyword, from universal nationwide or global topics to specific local search terms, to achieve top-ranking search results. As a result of my hard work and dedication, my website consistently appears among the top results for relevant search queries, earning me valuable traffic and boosting my online visibility.

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

Keyword research is a fundamental skill for any digital marketer. It not only involves developing a comprehensive keyword list for PPC and SEO purposes but also plays a crucial role in content marketing by enabling marketers to identify the most relevant topics and phrases to use while creating content.

For businesses of all sizes, whether it’s a blog, e-commerce site, or local service provider like lawn care, having a solid strategy to ensure your target audience can find you online is essential. This is where keyword research comes into play.

Did you know that the top result in Google search results for a given keyword captures 49% of the clicks, while the second result receives 22% of the traffic? Shockingly, less than 1% of users click through to the second page of Google. Therefore, identifying the most effective keywords that resonate with your audience’s search queries and tailoring your content accordingly is crucial to drive traffic to your website.

In addition to targeting the most popular search queries, it’s equally important to identify related search terms that help boost the authority and relevance of your content. By optimizing your content for the most relevant keywords and related phrases, you can effectively drive traffic to your website, establish your authority and boost your online visibility. So, mastering the art of keyword research is a vital skill for every marketer looking to make an impact in the digital realm.

How to Do Keyword Research

Do you want to know how to conduct keyword research? The good news is that there are numerous methods and tools available for conducting keyword research. We’ll go over some of these methods and tools in more detail below so you can pick and choose what works best for you.

Preparation: Create a Spreadsheet

To conduct effective keyword research, the organization is key. The first step is to set up a comprehensive spreadsheet to record your data. This spreadsheet will serve as your blueprint for success. By keeping track of critical information such as competition, monthly searches, and approximate cost per click, you will gain valuable insights into which keywords to target for your digital marketing campaigns. The MOZ Keyword Explorer tool will also help you to determine keyword difficulty and analyze your competitors. With a well-organized spreadsheet and the right tools, you can optimize your website and content to rank higher in search engine results pages and attract more traffic to your site.

Google Docs Version Saving

If you’re logged in to your Google account, simply select File > Save to save the spreadsheet to your documents and begin filling it out.

Excel and Open Office versions can be downloaded

If you don’t have Google Docs or prefer to save it locally, go to the Google Docs version and select File > Download As to save it as your preferred file type. For the most functionality, I’d recommend Excel.

Step 1: Keyword Discovery

Effective keyword research is crucial for any successful digital marketing campaign. In the first phase of this process, your goal is to develop a comprehensive list of targeted keywords that accurately reflect your brand and the products or services you offer.

This can be a challenging task, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the nuances of keyword competition. Many people make the mistake of selecting overly broad terms, such as “pizza,” “hotel,” or “Los Angeles,” while others choose obscure, unsearchable phrases that won’t help them rank at all.

To get started, consider brainstorming and jotting down keywords associated with the main topics on your website. Use a spreadsheet application, such as Microsoft Excel, to create a seed list of initial ideas that you can explore further with keyword research tools.

Focus on brand and product terms, and aim to create a list that is comprehensive but not exhaustive in terms of synonyms and related keywords.

To conduct effective keyword research, there are a few key steps to follow:

  1. In order to truly understand your audience, it’s important to research and analyzes the terms they use to describe your products or services. This includes taking a deep dive into their day-to-day lives, as well as investigating blog posts, comments, forums, LinkedIn groups, and your own support requests.
  2. By utilizing tools such as Google Search Console and weblogs, you can identify the search terms people are using to find your website. Additionally, analyzing data from your internal site search can provide valuable insights into what your audience is looking for.
  3. In order to generate even more keyword ideas, consider using a tool like Soovle, which provides autocomplete suggestions for a variety of search engines and sites.

By following these steps and using high-quality keyword research tools, you can effectively identify the most relevant and valuable keywords to help your website rank higher in search engine results and reach your target audience.

Keyword Discovery Tools

The following is a fantastic collection of free and premium SEO and PPC keyword analysis tools that will assist you in discovering new keywords related to your website or business.

Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator Tool

The Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator Tool is a free online tool that allows users to generate keyword ideas for their SEO and content marketing efforts. It is a simple and easy-to-use tool that helps users identify relevant and high-volume keywords in their industry or niche.

Users can enter a seed keyword or a phrase related to their business, and the tool generates a list of keyword ideas along with their search volume, keyword difficulty score, and the number of clicks per search. The tool also provides other useful metrics such as cost per click (CPC), global search volume, and the number of search results for each keyword.

The Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator Tool is designed to help users identify new keyword opportunities and expand their keyword lists for SEO and content marketing purposes. It can be used by businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises, to improve their online visibility and drive more traffic to their websites.

Search Volume – the number of times a keyword is searched in a given month.
SEO Difficulty – estimated organic search competition

The Google Ads Keyword Tool, also known as the Google Ads Keyword Planner, is a free tool provided by Google for advertisers to research and analyze keywords for their advertising campaigns. It provides data on search volume, competition, and cost per click (CPC) for keywords, allowing advertisers to make informed decisions on which keywords to target and bid on.

Some of the main uses of the Google Ads Keyword Tool are:

  1. Keyword research: Advertisers can use the tool to find new keyword ideas related to their product or service.
  2. Traffic estimation: The tool provides estimates on the amount of traffic a particular keyword can generate based on its search volume.
  3. Competition analysis: Advertisers can analyze the competition for a particular keyword, which helps in determining how difficult it would be to rank for that keyword.
  4. Bid estimation: The tool provides information on the estimated cost per click for a particular keyword, which helps in determining how much to bid for that keyword in an advertising campaign.

Select this option in the filters on the left side of your screen if you want a quick way to see a broader or narrower range of keywords.

By clicking the “Modify search” tab and scrolling down to the “Plan your budget and get forecasts” option, you can also select specific Match Types.

Inputting your search term with additional punctuation will change the traffic volume for Global and Local Monthly Searches based on Google’s approximation of traffic for a keyword.

The Google Ads Keyword Tool provides essential information to help businesses conduct effective keyword research.

One of the key features of the tool is the ability to analyze search volumes for specific keywords using different match types.

For instance, the “Broad” match type combines search volumes for related words, synonyms, and grammatical variations of a keyword, while the “Exact” match type shows the search volume for that exact keyword. The “Phrase” match type, on the other hand, combines search volumes for all search terms that include the exact phrase. This level of specificity is critical for businesses to tailor their PPC campaigns and optimize their organic search results for better visibility and conversions.

By using the Google Ads Keyword Tool, businesses can determine which keywords to target and adjust their strategies to get the most out of their campaigns.

More information about match types (including some not included in this list) can be found in Ads Help.

The data from the exported spreadsheet can then be copied to your keyword research spreadsheet.

You can also obtain this information for the keyword ideas you generated using SEMrush and suggested search by copying and pasting those keywords into the Word or phrase box and checking the box to only show ideas that are closely related to my search terms.

Then, under the Search Terms section, check the boxes next to the keywords and phrases you want to export data for.

Google Search

You can even conduct keyword research using Google’s own search engine. When you enter your keyword into Google, it will show you other questions people have asked as well as several other related search terms.

The People Also Ask section for Search Engine Optimization looks like this:

And here’s what the related searched section looks like at the bottom of the page:

These suggestions provided by Ubersuggest are a valuable resource that can aid in further expanding your list of potential keywords. It is crucial to take the time to thoroughly examine these suggestions, as they may present opportunities that were not apparent before.

By delving deeper into these suggestions, you can uncover additional possibilities that were not visible at first glance. With an extensive list of keywords at your disposal, the next step is to evaluate each one and determine which are most relevant to your specific needs.

In the following section, I will elaborate on the benefits of utilizing the Moz Keyword Analysis Tool, an exceptional resource that can provide you with the necessary information to refine your list of keywords and help you focus your online marketing strategy with confidence. If you are not a Pro member, I will also outline an alternative method to achieve comparable results.

Step 2 – Analyzing and Choosing the Best Keywords

Let’s move on now that you have a base spreadsheet to use for keyword data entry.

I’d like to show you some methods for gathering additional information about each keyword and narrowing down your results.

Please keep in mind that this data will take some time to compile, so go through the keyword list and remove any obvious ones you don’t want.

For this part of the process, I usually limit myself to no more than 100 keywords.

Keyword Analysis with Moz

Moz provides valuable information to help you refine your target keywords, with its sophisticated suite of tools. Moz Pro membership offers you access to an excellent feature, the Keyword Difficulty & SERP Analysis tool.

This tool provides you with the percentage of difficulty for each keyword, giving you an insight into the effort required to attain a high ranking for it. Additionally, you can view the top ten sites that rank for each keyword, along with their domain authority and the number of root domains that link to them.

This critical data is instrumental in selecting the right keywords to target. With the ability to input five words at a time, you can now select from a choice of keyword, root domain, subdomain, or page options.

Whether you are a seasoned marketing professional or just starting, Moz’s Keyword Difficulty & SERP Analysis tool provides valuable insights into keyword analysis, ensuring the success of your online marketing strategy.

You can see the results of the difficulty assessment, search volume, organic click-through rates, and the balance of ranking ease and end results using our keyword phrase “social media management” (Priority).

Although this information provides some insights, it merely reaffirms our initial decision to pursue this particular keyword phrase. However, it is always prudent to cross-check the information to confirm its accuracy.

Moving forward, the SERP analysis of the keyword is where the real value lies. Here, you will find an extensive analysis of the search engine results in pages, including the domains ranking for the keyword and their backlink profiles. The suggested keywords are also useful for additional brainstorming, but the SERP analysis offers valuable insights for refining your keyword strategy.

A short list of mentions for your keyword can also be found at the bottom of the page.

This is helpful in determining who is using the keyword and how recently they have created content with it.

While this information is useful, the true competitor information can be found by clicking on the SERP full analysis for each keyword, as shown in these results for a social media company.

For convenience, I like to open them in new tabs.

Opening individual mentions in Moz.

This section offers valuable insights that can elevate your understanding of the competitive landscape for your target keyword.

By analyzing the top ten search results, you can gauge the level of competition for your keyword phrase with a highly competitive keyword difficulty of 61%.

If your website does not appear in the top ten results, you can benchmark your website’s domain authority and linking root domains against those of the top-ranking sites to see where you stand in the pecking order.

Domain authority is a metric that ranges from 1 to 100 and is indicative of a website’s ability to rank well for optimized keywords.

Linking root domains refer to the number of unique domains that link to a website.

It’s worth noting that having the highest domain authority and linking root domains doesn’t necessarily guarantee the top spot.

To compete for the #1 position, your site may require a domain authority score of 28 or higher and hundreds of linking root domains.

Additionally, the SERP analysis can also shed light on whether your keyword is drawing commercial or informational results, which will help inform your content strategy.

For instance, in the case of “social media company,” the top search results include seven actual social media consulting companies and agencies, indicating that this keyword is likely attracting commercial intent searches.

Mentions results from a social media company within Moz.

In comparison, if I conduct a full analysis of the keyword phrase “what is social media,” the first page of results is entirely informational. All of the results come from highly reputable domains.

Organic results on page 1 from Moz.

As a social media company, strategically targeting the keyword phrase “social media companies” on your main business homepage can have a significant impact on your website’s visibility and search engine ranking. Additionally, creating valuable and informative content focused on the keyword phrase “what is social media” and posting it on authoritative platforms such as YouTube and SlideShare could potentially attract a vast audience of over a million monthly searches. By leveraging such tactics, your company can establish a strong online presence and potentially increase your customer base.

A substitute for the Moz Tool

If you don’t want to pay for a premium tool, simply search for each keyword and look at the websites that appear on the first page of the results.

If you’re looking for domain authority statistics, another Moz tool called Open Site Explorer can help. However, free accounts have a limited number of stats.

You can also use the free version of the SEOmoz toolbar to compare it to the domain authority of your own website.

At the very least, you can use this data to determine the commercial vs. informational usage of a keyword, as well as some basic statistics to compare against your own website.

Keyword Analysis with Competitors

Before proceeding to eliminate more of my keywords at random, it is essential to conduct a thorough competitive analysis. In my extensive experience with keyword research, I have noticed that many individuals overlook the significance of assessing their competition.

Failure to understand the competitiveness of the keywords estimated ROI and budget allocation required to contend with competitors can lead to suboptimal results.

Therefore, it is imperative to undertake this critical research stage. Typically, a competitive keyword analysis involves identifying competitors and analyzing their URLs to determine their ranking performance. To facilitate this process,, or similar tools, can be utilized to analyze each competitor in detail.

But, in order to save time, I’ll do things a little differently.

I’m going to Google my chosen keywords and see what sites already have a content based on those keywords.

For example, when it comes to Social Media Marketing, I first see three ads that will not appear in any Keyword Research tool. It’s important to understand that searchers won’t see organic results until they scroll.

Upon closer examination, it is evident that the search results for this particular keyword phrase are dominated by industry giants such as Wordstream and Sprout Social. Given their sizable authority and reputation, it will undoubtedly prove challenging to surpass their position in the rankings. If your website is to stand a chance against these industry leaders, it will require an equally authoritative and trustworthy online presence.

This is something I can do for a few of my chosen keywords to see what larger sites are in my competition.

I can always do regular competitive keyword research from here using another tool (entering in those URLs), but if I’m in a hurry, I can just make a note for now.

At this point, I should have a good idea of how difficult my keywords will be and which keywords will have the best chance of ranking against my competitors on SERPs.

Then I’ll be able to narrow my list even further.

Step 3: Putting It Together in the Spreadsheet

The process concludes with taking the spreadsheet and interpreting the data.

In Excel, I like to use Conditional Formatting to highlight cells in a specific colour based on the numerical value in the cell.

Simply select the cell range to be compared, then select Conditional Formatting > New Rule.

Choose the 3-Color Scale Format Style and, where applicable, change the Lowest Value / Highest Value color.

Certain fields in your spreadsheet will need to show that a higher number is better than a lower number.

You should leave the color settings for those fields (global and local monthly searches) at default, as shown below.

Other fields in your spreadsheet must show that a higher number is bad and a lower number is good.

Change the lowest value color setting to green and the highest value color setting to red for those fields (GAKT – Competition, GAKT – Approximate CPC, SEOmoz KA – Difficulty, SEOmoz KA – Competitor DA, SEOmoz KA – Competitor RDLRD), as shown below.

When you’re finished, select the top row and apply a filter by selecting Sort & Filter > Filter.

I like to start by selecting the SEOmoz KA – Difficulty column filter and sorting it from smallest to largest.

This yields the following results (click on the image below for a larger view):

As you might expect, having the ability to highlight and sort a spreadsheet with up to 100 keywords would be extremely useful.

You could quickly see which keywords have the most searches but the least competition, or which keywords have the least competition but the most searches.

If you wanted to rank first, you could then look at the actual competition for each keyword.

Step 4: Making the Final Keyword Choices

My recommendation for the final keyword selection is as follows:

  • If you have a commercial website (one that sells products or services), choose keywords that appear to have the most commercial intent based on the currently ranking websites. If your website is informational (think blogs), choose keywords with the most informational intent.
  • Look for a “sweet spot” with high search volume and low difficulty/competition.
  • Examine keywords with a high search volume that have top competitors with lower domain authority and backlinks.
  • If your website is already ranking on the first page, but not in the top five spots (or beneath other search result areas such as images, local results, and so on), and the keyword has a high search volume, concentrate on moving those keywords and phrases up.

Compiling the right data can often be the most time-consuming aspect of the decision-making process, rather than the actual decision itself. It’s crucial to keep in mind that informational keywords can be repurposed as content topic ideas to further boost your website’s visibility and engagement.

In conclusion, this is our comprehensive approach to uncovering and analyzing keyword ideas, culminating in selecting the most optimal ones for your website. We acknowledge that there are multiple techniques for conducting keyword research, and it’s essential to experiment with different methods to determine which ones resonate with you most when it comes to making strategic keyword decisions.

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