What is keyword research and how do you do it?
Chris Taylor - Content Strategy and Content Marketing

Chris Taylor

What is keyword research and how do you do it?

If you're serious about improving your website's search engine ranking, then you need to focus on keyword research. This process involves finding the right keywords to target that will bring traffic to your site. There are a number of different ways to go about this, but the most important thing is to make sure you're targeting keywords that are relevant to your business.

Keywords play a critical role in every aspect of SEO (search engine optimization). They determine whether your website appears in Google or other search engines. In addition, they affect your click through rate and conversion rates. Be in no doubt, keyword research is still an important part of any successful SEO campaign.

In this article we'll cover everything you need to know to get started with your own keyword research, including:

  • What does keyword research mean?
  • How should I go about researching keywords?
  • What tools should I use?

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is a practice used by SEO professionals to find and choose the best keywords to target for their clients’ websites. However, anyone can do keyword research and I’m going to show you how in this article.


Keyword research is the process of finding and selecting keywords that are relevant to your business, and which people are actually searching for on Google and other search engines. It's an important part of SEO (search engine optimization), because it helps you create content that is more likely to rank well in search results.


To do keyword research, you start by brainstorming a list of keywords that are relevant to your business. Then you use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to get data on how often people are actually searching for those terms. The relevance and effectiveness of the keywords selected can be determined by a number of factors, including search volume, competition level, and conversion rate. Based on that data, you can prioritise which keywords to focus on in your SEO efforts.


The goal of keyword research is to identify the terms that users are most likely to search for in order to find their desired information or products. Ultimately, keyword research is about understanding what people are actually searching for when they use Google and other search engines. By understanding this, you can create content that better meets their needs, and which is more likely to rank well in organic search results.


Keyword research can be a very time-consuming process, but it is essential for any website that wants to rank well and grow its organic traffic. If you need help with your keyword research, book a free consultation to find out how we can help your business today.

Why is keyword research important?

Google and other search engines use algorithms to rank websites in their search engine results pages (SERPs). These algorithms take into account a variety of factors, including the relevance of the website's content to the actual search term, the website's authority, and the search volume for the particular keyword.

SEO keyword research can be used to identify which keywords are most likely to result in a high ranking for your website. By understanding which keywords are being used by your target audience, you can focus your content and marketing efforts on the topics that matter most to them. You can use this knowledge to help you understand the search intent of people who are using those keywords. This is important for creating content that meets their needs.

Keyword research can also help you to identify new opportunities for growth and expansion. With the right keywords, you can make your website and brand more visible in search engine results, driving more traffic and leads to your business.

Keyword Research for Content Strategy

It’s important to note how keyword research can contribute to your other business activities. Content strategy addresses all of the content your business creates. By understanding how real people use search, or talk about your business or service, you can feed this into your content strategy. This will enable you to better communicate with all of your target audiences. Remember, content strategy is not just about external audiences. Therefore you can use keyword research to improve your internal communication or to improve offline content such as printed material.

Digital Marketing, Social Media and Content Marketing

Keyword research is one of the most important steps in any digital marketing campaign since it helps you to understand what people are actually searching for. You can input these terms into Google Ads Keyword Planner to find out if they are relevant for your Google Ads.

Hashtags are an important strategy for many businesses when using social media. Hashtags are basically keywords, so why not use your research to improve your hashtag strategy?

By putting the effort in, you will be able to use this research to inform your other content marketing activities. At the end of the day, you’re learning what language resonates with your target audience. Ultimately all of this hard work should pay off by contributing to your business objectives.

What is keyword intent?

Keyword intent is the purpose behind a keyword search. It is the reason why someone enters a particular keyword into a search engine. Keyword intent can be divided into four main categories: navigational, informational, commercial, and transactional.


  • Navigational intent is when a searcher is looking for a specific website or page. For example, if someone searches for "Facebook," they are looking to navigate to Facebook.
  • Informational intent is when a searcher is looking for information about a particular topic. For example, if someone searches for "how to make a cake," they are looking for information on how to bake a cake.
  • Commercial intent is when a searcher is looking to buy a product or service. For example, if someone searches for "buy shoes online," they are looking to purchase shoes from an online store.
  • Transactional intent is when a searcher is looking to complete a transaction. For example, if someone searches for "book hotel room," they are looking to book a hotel room and complete the transaction online.

What is the main objective of keyword research?

The main objective of keyword research is to identify which keywords are most relevant to your product or service, and to determine how difficult it would be to rank for those keywords on search engines. By doing keyword research, you can also get an idea of how much competition there is for each keyword, and what kind of traffic you can expect to generate from each keyword.

What are the benefits of keyword research?

A study by Ahrefs revealed that 90.63% of webpages receive no traffic from Google at all. You wouldn't want to create content that can’t be found by your prospective customers, would you?

We do keyword research as it's essential for improving a website's ranking and to generate more traffic.

However, the primary benefit of keyword research is that you create content that your target audience wants. You're using their language and search terms. Doing this should mean you drive people to your site who are actually interested in your products or services.

You use keyword research to build your story. These search terms or queries are what you can use to create content that is useful and relevant, but also powerful. When people visit your website, you want them to take action. Use those same keywords to create effective calls to action. Doing so will result in better content. You'll also have engaged visitors and better increased conversion rates.


Other benefits of keyword research include:

  • the ability to find new content ideas
  • learn the type of content your audience is interested in
  • improve existing content
  • research and better understand your target audience
  • identify potential advertising opportunities
  • as well as to find new keywords that you can use in your pay-per-click marketing campaigns.

What is the role of keyword research in digital marketing?

When it comes to digital marketing, keyword research is essential in order to determine which words and phrases potential customers are using when searching for products or services like yours. Without this information, it would be difficult to create targeted and effective marketing campaigns. Additionally, keyword research can help you to identify trends and patterns in customer behaviour which can be used to improve your marketing strategy. Learn how to create a successful digital marketing plan.

How can you conduct keyword research?

There are a number of ways to conduct keyword research. One way is to use a keyword research tool such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner or WordStream’s Keyword tool. Another way is to simply do a Google search for your topic and see what keywords come up. You can also look at the AdWords ads that appear on the results page to get an idea of what keywords are being used to target your audience. But, before you start doing keyword research, do you know what the different types of keywords are?

What are the different types of keywords?

There are three main types of keywords: broad match, phrase match and exact match.

  • Broad match keywords are used for general searches on Google. These are the easiest to rank for because they are often searched by users looking for a wide variety of products or services.
  • Phrase match keywords are used when you want to target specific phrases that people use in their search queries.
  • Exact match keywords are the most competitive type of keyword and should only be used if you have an extremely targeted audience who would benefit from using your product or service.

What are Long Tail Keywords?

A long tail keyword is a keyword that is very specific to what you are trying to rank for. It is usually made up of 3-5 words and is much more targeted than a short tail keyword. They are usually longer, more detailed phrases that are less commonly searched for, but can be more effective in driving traffic to your website. They are great for SEO because they can help you rank for very specific terms that your target customers are searching for.

The majority of keyword searches are for long tail keywords. Short tail keywords are better suited for instant search results, while long tail keywords lead to higher conversion rates.

For example, instead of just using the keyword “shoes”, a long tail keyword would be “women’s size 7 black leather high heels”.

Long tail keywords are more effective because they are more specific. They are often less competitive and can be a great way to get your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Due to this, long tail keywords are better for your content strategy if you want to generate sales or drive traffic to your site.

What is the keyword research process?

Relevance; authority; & volume. Those are the three key aspects to keyword research.

Your content needs to be relevant

That is, relevant to the user. It’s your job to create content that meets a user need and is therefore relevant to the search intent. Therefore, by creating relevant content that satisfies the search intent, you will be providing your audience with valuable content. In theory, Google should rank your content higher than a competitor.

Aim to become the authoritative source of information

It’s not just enough to write or create the most informative content. You must also be seen in the eyes of others to be a thought leader. In general terms, this means your content is shared on social media and other websites link to your content. Depending on your niche this could be easy or hard. This is another reason as to why keyword research is so important.

Monthly Search Volume (MSV)

Selecting the right keywords is a tactical decision. If you target phrases with little to no traffic, you may well rank at the top, but you may not derive any benefit. If you target highly competitive keywords, you will have to put in a huge amount of effort to rank higher than your competitors. Finding the balance is just one of the benefits of working with a content strategist.

Are you ready to do SEO keyword research?

Try and follow the steps below to start your SEO keyword research journey.

Step 1: Create a list of the most important topics about your business.

This is called a topic bucket. There are many ways to go about coming up with these topic buckets. But one thing is certain: you don't want to end up with too broad a set of buckets. Too broad a bucket makes it difficult to narrow down keyword research into something manageable. So how do you make sure you don't end up with too broad of a bucket? You need a seed keyword. Start by thinking about the things that matter to your customers.

For example, let's say you sell marketing software. Your buyer persona might be someone who wants to learn how to grow their email lists. They might look for articles related to "email marketing," "growth hacking," and "marketing automation". These could be your seed keywords.

Now, let's take that list of topics and break it down further:

What kinds of topics could people be searching for that relate to growth hackers, marketing automation, and email marketing?

Maybe they're looking for tips on how to grow their email list, or maybe they're interested in learning how to market their product better.

You can keep breaking down the topics until you run out of ideas. At that point, you can start brainstorming broader categories. For example, you might consider "Marketing Tools & Software" as a category. This includes topics such as "CRM," "social media management," and "content creation."

Once you've narrowed down your topic buckets, you can move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Expand your topic buckets with keywords.

Now that you've identified what topics you want to cover, it's time to figure out what keywords you want to use to describe each one. You'll do this by filling in topic buckets with a list of keywords.

For example, let's say we're talking about a travel agency called "Travel-To". We could take our existing list of topics and fill in three buckets:

  1. Travel
  2. Hotels
  3. Vacation packages

We could then go ahead and brainstorm a bunch of relevant keywords that fit into each of those buckets. Here's what that looks like:

Travel

  • cheap flights
  • best deals

Hotels

  • hotels near me
  • hotel reviews

Vacation packages

  • trip planning
  • budget vacations

Once we've done that, we now know that we want to optimise for keywords such as "cheap flights" and "budget vacations."

Step 3: Understand search intent and its impact on Keyword Research.

The next step in our guide is understanding how search intent affects keyword research. This analysis is really important because there are multiple ways people use keywords to express intent.

For instance, someone searching for information about dogs might use the term "dog training tips," while someone looking for a dog walker might use the phrase "doggy day care."

In both cases, the person is seeking out information about a specific topic, so we'd consider those queries relevant to each other. However, the second query contains a lot less context than the first, since it lacks key words such as "dog walking service". As a result, the second query won't necessarily lead to relevant results.

This is why it's important to understand how search intent works. If you don't know what a particular phrase means, you'll struggle to write a compelling piece of content that speaks directly to a searcher's needs.

Step 4: related search terms.

If you're having trouble coming up with new keywords for a particular topic, take a look through the related searches that pop up when you type in your target keyword into Google and see if any of them give you ideas for keywords you could use.

Once you type in your phrase, scroll down to the bottom of Google’s results, and then click on the first suggestion. You'll see some suggestions related to your original input, which may be helpful.

Enter some of those related keyword suggestions into Google and see what comes up. You can use these keywords to generate ideas for other keywords you might want to consider.

Step 5: keyword research tools can save you time.

Keyword research tools are great for coming up with additional keyword ideas based on exact and phrase match keywords. Use these tools to create a list of keyword ideas by finding long tail phrases, high volume terms, and low competition keywords. You can also use them to generate ideas for blog posts, landing pages, social media profiles, google ads, etc.

Free Keyword Research Tools

By using these tools you can generate thousands of keyword ideas for your website.

How to Find and Choose Keywords for Your Website

One of the most important things you'll do once you've got your keyword research done is pick out the best keywords for your site. This is where you're going to start building your long tail.

When you want to improve your website or blog, you can use keyword research to help you figure out which keywords are most relevant to your topic. You can use keyword research to find out which keywords people are searching for that are related to your topic, and then you can use those keywords on your website or blog to help you rank higher in search engines and get more traffic.

Step 1. limit your keyword list with Google’s Keyword Planner

In Google’s Keyword Planner, there are many ways to find out what people are searching for online. For example, you can look up specific queries, or browse popular searches. And you can even filter your search to show you the most searched-for terms within a certain timeframe.

But sometimes, you want to know how often someone types a term into Google. This helps you determine if it’s worth investing in it. Plus, it gives you insight into the competitive landscape.

For example, let’s say you’re thinking about starting a blog. If you type “blogging tips” into Google, you’ll see a bunch of different blogs pop up. Some of those blogs are established brands; others are new startups trying to make a name for themselves.

You could spend hours browsing around, reading each post and checking out their stats. But luckily, Google makes it easy to filter your search by date range. So you can quickly scan through posts published over the last few months, and pick out the keyword trends that seem most promising.

This is especially helpful if you’re looking for ideas for niche topics. If you use Google Trends you can determine how popular your niche is and how much competition you face.

Step 2: target low-hanging fruit.

The second step in our strategy is to prioritise keywords that have a good opportunity to rank organically. These keywords tend to be ones that are highly searched, but aren't too competitive. They're also keywords that you don't have much competition for already.

Large companies typically go after high-search-volume keywords, and since these brand names are well established already, they usually have enough authority to rank across many topics. However, you can still find opportunities within smaller niches where these larger brands haven't been able to secure the top position.

You can also look for keywords that have little competition, because these keywords often won't have anyone fighting for the top spot in Google.

Step 3: What is the monthly search volume (MSV) for keywords you've chosen?

There are many tools out there that allow you to check how much traffic certain keywords bring to your site. Searchvolume.io provides insights about the monthly search volume (MSV) for different keywords, while Google Trends offers similar information. Once you know the popular keywords people search for, it helps to understand whether those words generate enough traffic. This will tell you how competitive and what the keyword difficulty is. You don't want to waste time and effort optimising for keywords and phrases that won't generate a return on your investment.

Step 4: Consider how SERP features work with your keywords.

Google’s featured snippets allow people to quickly learn about products, places, and events without having to read long descriptions. They show up in the first few search results and include rich snippets such as product reviews, directions, phone numbers, and event times.

The most common type of featured snippet is called "answer box," where the answer to the searcher’s question appears directly under the keyword. For example, if someone searches for “VAT rate”, Google might return the following:

VAT Rate UK

In addition to answering questions, Google uses featured snippets to provide additional information on topics. These include things like movie ratings, restaurant menus, local weather forecasts, and flight status. Other types of featured snippets include maps, images, videos, and shopping suggestions.

If you want to know how to use featured snippets, it’s important to understand the different types, because each one requires a slightly different approach. In fact, there’s even some overlap among the categories. For instance, you could use an image featured snippet to promote a specific item, or you could use a video featured snippet to describe something.

Step 5: Mix head terms and long-tail keywords in each bucket.

Head terms are keyword phrases that contain one to three words. They tend to be shorter, less specific, and more competitive to rank for than long tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that contain three or more words. These are generally used to describe products and services, but they can also be used to target a niche audience.

As you build out your keyword list, make sure you include both head terms and long-tails. This way you'll have a good balance of short-term wins and long-term goals.

Step 6: Run competitor analysis for your keywords

You've done the research. You know exactly where your competition is ranked for each of your keywords. Now it's time to see how they're actually performing. There are a few ways to do this. One easy way is to use a tool like Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer. This tool allows you to enter up to 10 keywords at once and compare how well your site ranks for those terms versus how well your competitors rank for those terms.

The second method is to simply look at your competitors' rankings over time. Using tools such as Screaming Frog, you can crawl your competitors' sites and pull out the data you need. Then, you'll want to take a look at their monthly traffic numbers to see how often they're ranking for the keywords you want to improve.

If you find that your competitors aren't ranking for some of your keywords, there could be several reasons why. For example, maybe they're just not interested in those terms at all. Or perhaps they're already ranking for them, but they're just not very competitive. In either case, you still have options.

For instance, you might decide that even though your competitors aren't ranking, they're still getting enough traffic from those terms to make them worth pursuing. So, you could focus on optimising your site around those keywords. But, if you really want to compete against your competitors, you might consider focusing on different keywords altogether.

Why it's important to target the right keywords for your business

It’s a common misconception that if you have a website, then you don’t need to worry about keyword research. That couldn’t be further from the truth! If you want people to find your site and read what you have to say, then you must know how to use keywords effectively.

Keywords are not just words; they are ideas, concepts, and even emotions. As such, they should be carefully chosen and thoughtfully crafted. They should also be closely related to your company or brand identity, as choosing too many unrelated ones will dilute your message and make it harder for visitors to understand what you have to offer.

Finding the right keywords for your website could be the difference in having a successful business or no business at all.

Tips for conducting effective keyword research

Some tips for conducting SEO keyword research include:

1. Define your goals and objectives.

What are you trying to accomplish with your keyword research?


2. Identify your target audience.

Who are you trying to reach with your keywords?

3. Use a variety of keyword research tools.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner, AnswerThePublic.com, and semrush.com are all great options.


4. Do your research.

Don’t just rely on one source of data. Try to get a variety of perspectives to get a well-rounded view of the keywords you’re considering.


5. Analyse the data.

Once you have all of your data, take some time to analyse and think about what you are trying to achieve.

6. Content Type

Consider the search intent behind the keywords. Depending on the needs of the user, you may be able to create different content types to better serve the search query. These could be as simple as a video, a form, an infographic, a spreadsheet, a downloadable template etc.

Are you ready to start doing keyword research?

Keyword research is a critical process for any business that wants to ensure its website is optimised for search engines. By taking the time to research the right keywords, businesses can avoid missing out on potential website traffic. Once the right keywords have been identified, businesses can then focus on creating content around those keywords.

Are you looking for help with your keyword research?

Highly.Digital can find keyword opportunities for your website or blog content.

We can create content that works for your business.

Content that is optimised for your target audience.

Contact us today to find out how we can boost your rankings.