Keyword Research for SEO

Read Time: 13 minutes

Welcome to your comprehensive guide on how to master keyword research. But what is keyword research, and why should you care?

In simple terms, keyword research is the cornerstone of any search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. It’s the art and science of discovering the terms or phrases—known as keywords—that people enter into search engines like Google, when they’re looking for information, products, or services.

keyword research for seo

So, why is keyword research important? Well, the short answer is visibility. Imagine you have a shop; if you set it up in a hidden alley, hardly anyone is going to find it.

On the digital landscape, search engines are those bustling streets, and keyword research helps you set up your shop right where people can see it.

Understanding which words and phrases your target audience is using can significantly boost your site’s rankings, and in turn, bring more valuable traffic your way. And let’s face it, in today’s world, if you’re not on the first page of Google, you might as well be invisible.

Part I: Basics of Keyword Research

Understanding Your Goals

Before diving head-first into the keyword research process, it’s crucial to establish your objectives. Are you focusing on search engine optimisation to climb those Google rankings?

Maybe you’re aiming to create content that resonates with your target audience. Or perhaps you’re venturing into Google Ads and want to make the most of your investment.

Identifying the goal of your keyword research helps tailor your approach. For instance, if you’re looking to optimise your site for search engines, you might focus on keywords with high search volume but low keyword difficulty. On the other hand, if content creation is your game, then understanding search intent becomes paramount.

Your goals will determine not only which keyword research tools you’ll need but also how you’ll analyse keywords. This step sets the stage for everything that follows, helping you prioritize keywords in a way that aligns with your broader business strategy.

Starting with Seed Keywords

Let’s talk about where it all begins: seed keywords. These are the foundational terms that form the basis of your keyword research. Imagine you’re planting a garden; your seed keywords are like the initial seeds you sow to eventually reap a flourishing garden of relevant terms.

Start simple. If you’re a bike retailer, a seed keyword might be as straightforward as “bike” or “cycling.” The objective here is to expand these seed keywords into a variety of long-tail keywords and keyword ideas.

By using tools like the Google Keyword Planner, you can quickly grow your initial list into a full-blown keyword strategy. Don’t skip this step; it’s the cornerstone of effective keyword research for SEO.

Know Your Audience

We’ve got our seed keywords, great! But who are we targeting?

Understanding your target audience is a pivotal part of the keyword research process. You need to know the language your potential customers use. Are they searching for “budget-friendly bikes” or “high-performance cycles”? This is where search intent comes into play.

If you’re targeting small business owners, for example, they might use different terminology than a casual browser.

Various keyword research tools can provide search volume data, helping you get a handle on which terms resonate most with your audience.

Don’t just guess; research keywords that align with what your audience is genuinely looking for. Doing so ensures that your SEO strategy is not just about traffic, but about getting the right keywords to attract meaningful, high-quality search traffic.

Part II: Tools and Techniques

Popular Keyword Research Tools

Let’s face it: keyword research isn’t something you want to do manually. Thankfully, a multitude of keyword research tools are at your disposal to make this task easier and more effective.


When it comes to SEO keyword research, Ahrefs is a powerhouse. With its rich feature set, you can not only find keywords but also analyze keywords for ranking difficulty. It offers a comprehensive look at search volume, relevant keywords, and even SERP features for any given keyword.


Another top contender in the keyword research tools space is Semrush. One of its unique offerings is the keyword magic tool, which provides a broad spectrum of keyword ideas. Like Ahrefs, it also lets you gauge keyword difficulty and search volume. If you’re looking to prioritize keywords, Semrush’s analytics can guide you to make informed decisions.

Google Keyword Planner

If you’re looking for a free keyword research tool, don’t overlook Google’s own Keyword Planner. As it’s integrated with Google Ads, you’re getting data straight from the horse’s mouth. This tool is excellent for obtaining average monthly search volume, which can guide your content strategy.

Moz Pro

Last but not least, Moz Pro offers robust keyword research capabilities, including a keyword difficulty checker. The tool also gives you a sneak peek at top-ranking pages in search engine results, helping you understand what you’re up against.


If you’re on a budget but still want a tool that packs a punch, Ubersuggest is your go-to. It’s a fantastic free keyword research tool that doesn’t skimp on features. From long-tail keywords to search volume data, it provides a wealth of information to guide your keyword strategy.

What makes Ubersuggest especially useful is its ability to generate new keyword ideas, including similar keywords and long-tail keyword variants.

For those hesitant to invest in premium tools, Ubersuggest is a robust alternative for conducting keyword research effectively.

Free vs. Paid Tools

The Value of Free Tools

Free tools can be a godsend, especially if you’re just getting started or are working with a limited budget. Many free keyword research tools like Ubersuggest offer a solid range of features that can help you identify target keywords, gauge search traffic, and even analyze the average number of searches each month. They can be particularly helpful for small business owners who are just dipping their toes into content strategy and SEO.

The Limitations of Free Tools

While free tools are undeniably useful, they do come with limitations. Often, they provide less keyword data than their paid counterparts. You might find caps on daily searches, fewer keyword ideas, and limited data on search intent.

These tools may lack more advanced features like keyword difficulty checker or serp features analysis, which can be crucial for refining your SEO strategy.

How to Use Keyword Research Tools Effectively

Starting with Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool provided by Google Ads, and it’s a great starting point for anyone new to keyword research. Simply enter your seed keyword and let the tool generate a list of related keywords and monthly search volume. It can even help you prioritize keywords based on competition and potential ROI.

Navigating Semrush

Semrush is lauded as one of the best keyword research tools for good reason. The platform offers a feature called “Keyword Magic Tool” that can generate a comprehensive list of relevant keyword ideas. It also allows you to analyze keywords, checking their search volumes, search intent, and keyword difficulty.

Advanced Features in Ahrefs

For those looking for more in-depth analysis, Ahrefs offers an extensive range of advanced features, including ranking difficulty and top ranking pages data. With Ahrefs, you can get more granular insights into organic search, which can be invaluable for a more sophisticated SEO strategy.

Budget-Conscious Choice: Ubersuggest

As mentioned earlier, Ubersuggest is an excellent choice for those on a budget. It’s not just a free keyword generator; it also provides information on search volume and even search intent. It’s a well-rounded tool that covers the basics pretty effectively.

Part III: Digging Deeper

Search Intent and Why It Matters

Understanding search intent is like having a secret window into the minds of your target audience. Sure, you can come up with many keywords, but if you don’t know why people are using those terms, you might miss the mark entirely. It’s not just about identifying popular keywords; it’s about aligning those terms with the actual needs and desires of your audience.

Let’s get specific. Say you’ve identified “organic food” as a particular keyword with high search volume. But what are people actually looking for? Are they looking to buy organic food online, or are they seeking information on the benefits of organic eating? Your keyword tool might tell you the search volume, but it’s up to you to dig deeper and analyze the search intent.

By doing this, you’re not just filling your blog post with keywords for the sake of it. You’re purposefully selecting the best keywords based on real user needs. This can significantly improve the performance of your landing page, drive more focused search traffic, and yield higher conversions.

Knowing the search intent can also help you decide which SERP features to target, such as featured snippets or local packs, thus opening up new avenues for optimizing your search results. This step involves analyzing keywords more deeply and possibly using more advanced features in your best keyword research tool to gain these insights.

And don’t forget about long tail keywords, which tend to have very specific search intent. For example, “best organic food for weight loss” is a long-tail keyword that reveals a lot more about what the searcher is looking for compared to just “organic food.”

In a nutshell, understanding search intent is a key aspect that can make or break your keyword research efforts. So, it’s not just about the what, but also about the why and the how. It’s a fundamental step in crafting a strategy that delivers the right keywords for the right audience at the right time.

Monthly Search Volume (MSV)

Alright, let’s talk numbers. Monthly search volume, or MSV, is a metric you definitely want to pay attention to during your keyword research.

It essentially tells you how many times a specific keyword is searched for in a month. Sounds simple, right? But don’t underestimate its power. High search volume indicates a significant level of interest in a topic, but it’s not just about chasing high numbers.

Remember, high search volume often means higher competition. If you’re a small business, targeting a keyword with a massive search volume might be akin to a minnow swimming with sharks.

You’re better off focusing on long tail keywords, which might have lower search volumes but are also less competitive and more specific.

MSV can also help you identify seasonal trends. For instance, the term “Christmas gifts” will naturally spike in November and December.

So, if you’re in the retail sector, you might want to prepare for these peaks by crafting blog posts or launching ad campaigns ahead of time.

Keyword Difficulty and Business Potential

So you’ve found a keyword with a reasonable monthly search volume. Great! But hold your horses—there’s another factor to consider: keyword difficulty.

This metric gives you an idea of how hard it’ll be to rank for that keyword. Many keyword research tools will provide this data, and it’s something you can’t afford to ignore.

Here’s the trick: You want to find keywords that have a good balance between search volume and difficulty. If a keyword is too difficult to rank for, it might not be worth the effort, especially if you’re just starting out.

Now, what about business potential? This is where you need to put on your thinking cap and evaluate whether ranking for a target keyword will actually benefit your business.

For example, if you sell handmade soap, ranking for a keyword like “DIY soap recipes” might drive traffic, but those visitors are looking to make soap, not buy it. Therefore, the business potential is low.

Remember, keyword difficulty and business potential are like two sides of the same coin. You want to target keywords that are achievable to rank for but also drive the kind of traffic that’s likely to convert.

So, before you jump into optimizing your blog post or webpage, remember to look beyond the monthly search volume and consider both the difficulty and the business potential of your keywords. It’s a strategy that will help you get the most bang for your buck, or in this case, the most clicks for your content.

Part IV: Advanced Concepts

SERP Analysis

As you advance in your keyword research, you’ll want to pay close attention to the Search Engine Results Page, or SERP.

Ever noticed how Google’s search results aren’t just a list of website titles and descriptions anymore?

Well, there’s a whole host of SERP features, like featured snippets, image packs, and local business listings, that can dramatically affect how your website ranks.

The importance of SERP analysis can’t be overstated. It helps you understand the landscape you’re competing in.

Are the top-ranking pages mostly blogs, product pages, or news articles? The answer will give you insights into what kind of content Google thinks is relevant for that specific keyword.

Beyond understanding the competition, SERP analysis can also unearth more keyword ideas for you to target.

If you see a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section in the SERP, those questions could be great long-tail keywords to go after. Yep, long tail keywords tend to have lower search volume, but they are easier to rank for and can target more specific search queries.

Examining the SERP features can also guide you on what additional elements to include in your page.

If the top-ranking pages include videos, consider creating a video to go along with your blog post. If local business listings dominate the SERP, that’s an indication to boost your local SEO efforts.

In short, a detailed SERP analysis equips you with the insights to craft a more effective SEO strategy, pick the best keywords to target, and understand what type of content you should be creating. So don’t skip this step; it’s a goldmine of information that can elevate your SEO game to the next level.

Competitor Analysis

Alright, you’ve got your keyword list, you’ve checked the search volume, and you’ve even analyzed the SERP. You’re doing great, but there’s one more area to explore: your competitors. Knowing which keywords your competitors are ranking for is like finding a treasure map in the world of SEO.

To kick things off, you can use various keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or third-party platforms to spy on your competition. These tools provide valuable keyword data, showing you not only which keywords your competitors are targeting but also how well they’re ranking for those terms.

Once you’ve got that list, take a closer look. Are there keyword ideas there that align with your business goals? If so, put them on your keyword list. But remember, it’s not just about adding any old keyword; the keyword difficulty and search volume should align with your capabilities and objectives.

Next, head over to Google Search Console to gauge how your current keywords are performing. Are some of them closely related to the ones your competitors are ranking for? If yes, you might consider tweaking your content to improve its relevance to these search terms.

Knowing what keywords your competitors are ranking for can give you a competitive edge. Why? Because it not only expands your keyword list but also helps you understand market trends. Tools like Google Trends can further help you validate the timeliness and relevance of these new keyword options.

If you’re working on a budget, don’t worry! There are free keyword research tools and free keyword research methods to help you gather this competitive intelligence without breaking the bank.

So go ahead, turn your competitors’ strengths into your opportunities. Use this information to enrich your keyword list, prioritize which target keywords to aim for, and construct a strategy that doesn’t just mimic but outperforms your competition.

Using Google Search Console for Insights

If you’re diving into the depths of keyword research, you’re going to want to bring the right tools along with you. One of the best keyword research tools out there is one you might already have access to but might not be using to its full potential: Google Search Console.

So why use Google Search Console? It’s a free tool, first of all, so it’s perfect for those on a budget or just starting with free keyword research. More importantly, it’s like having a direct line to Google, providing real-time keyword data that can’t be found anywhere else.

For starters, you can get information about the search volume and performance of your current target keywords. But it doesn’t stop there; Google Search Console also gives you a look into search results. This is where you can see how often your site appears in Google searches for a single keyword or a group of relevant search terms.

By diving into the search results data, you can gauge the effectiveness of your existing keyword strategy. Are you showing up on the first page for your target keywords? Are people clicking through when they do see you? These insights can tell you a lot about search intent, helping you understand not just which keywords to target, but how to use them effectively.

Using Google Search Console, you can also identify any keyword ideas you may have overlooked. Maybe there are long-tail keywords or brand keywords you haven’t considered yet. Either way, these insights can help you fine-tune your existing strategy or build a new one altogether.

So go ahead, make Google Search Console your best friend in your keyword research journey. It’s like having a crystal ball that tells you where to direct your efforts for the best outcomes.

Part V: Putting It All Together

Creating a Keyword List

You’ve done the hard work: you’ve used keyword research tools, studied the avergae number of monthly searches, and gathered a mountain of keyword ideas. Now what? It’s time to sift through the data and put it into a format you can actually use. Here’s where creating a keyword list comes into play.

So why is a keyword list important? Think of it as your keyword strategy’s backbone. It’s the central hub where all the keywords you’ve gathered live, making it easier to integrate them into your SEO efforts, PPC campaigns, or content marketing plans.

Start by using the best keyword research tools you can find. Excel or Google Sheets work well for this. You’ll want columns for various metrics, such as monthly search volume and relevance to your target keywords. If you’ve been using Google Keyword Planner or other free keyword research tools, you can usually export this data directly into your spreadsheet.

Don’t forget to add a column for search volume; it’s a crucial metric that can guide you on keyword priority. High search volume means more eyes, but it may also mean more competition. Balance is key here.

Next, add a column for your free keyword findings. Yes, long-tail keywords or those you discovered accidentally during your research should not be ignored. These can often be easier to rank for and may attract a highly targeted audience.

Once your keyword list is set up, it’s time to use it. Refer back to this centralized list whenever you’re crafting new content, optimizing old posts, or setting up new PPC campaigns. A well-organized keyword list isn’t just a spreadsheet; it’s a dynamic tool that evolves with your business needs.

So go ahead, dive back into your keyword research, this time with a structured approach. A well-crafted keyword list can be your roadmap to SEO success.


There’s no understating it: keyword research is the bedrock of any successful SEO strategy. Think of it as the foundation upon which you build your digital house. From determining what your target audience is actively searching for, to understanding competition levels through metrics like monthly search volume and keyword difficulty, keyword research informs almost every other aspect of SEO. It shapes your content, guides your meta tags, and even impacts your link-building strategies.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve walked you through the crucial steps for executing a successful keyword research campaign:

Understanding Your Goals

Start by knowing what you aim to achieve with your SEO efforts, whether that’s increased web traffic, higher conversion rates, or improved customer engagement.

Utilizing Tools

Platforms like Google Search Console and various keyword research tools are your best friends in this journey. They offer invaluable data that can refine your strategy.

Delving into Metrics

Understanding important metrics like search volume helps to gauge the potential success of your chosen keywords.

Analyzing the Competition

Knowing what keywords your competitors are ranking for can give you the upper hand in devising your own strategies.

Evaluating and Adapting

Finally, regular tracking and adjustments are necessary to stay on top of your game.

Additional Resources

For those looking to deepen their understanding, here are some tools and resources for further reading:

Google Search Console

Your go-to for tracking how your keywords perform in Google search.

Ahrefs and SEMrush

For a more in-depth analysis and a wider array of metrics, these are some of the best keyword research tools available.

Google Keyword Planner

A free tool that’s especially beneficial for those just starting out.

Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO

A comprehensive guide that covers all things SEO, not just keyword research.

SEO Blogs and Webinars

Keeping updated is key in the ever-changing world of SEO.

  • Check out the latest blogs
  • Join upcoming webinars

So, there you have it. Keyword research isn’t just a one-time task; it’s an ongoing process that demands attention, analysis, and adaptability. Armed with the right tools and a strategic approach, you’re well on your way to dominating those search engine rankings.

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