How to do keyword research: a guide for beginners

J@vier M@rceli

Keyword research is the foundation of any search marketing strategy, but where do you start with this daunting task?

If, like myself, you are new to the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) game, knowing where to start with keyword research can be challenging. Search intelligence specialist Pi Datametrics refers to it as ‘an extensive and ongoing process’, which is sure to instil a modicum of fear into any novice. But with the right techniques and tools, it’s not as difficult as it seems. 

What is keyword research and why is it important?

Keyword research is the process of finding and analysing terms that searchers use when looking for specific things online. It allows marketers to understand the language prospective customers are using to search for their products or services. Marketers are then able to use this to create content centred around the search terms, with the aim of appearing as high on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for these queries as possible.

By assessing the SERP for a query and analysing top-ranking competitors, you can understand the type of content your target audience is typically served – which means you can also understand what sort of content to produce in order to appear in these searches.

Keyword research not only tells you what people are searching for, but also how often they are searching for it. A lot of time and effort goes into writing content for websites; so you want to ensure it is seen by as many people as possible. Analysing keywords enables you to uncover how popular certain search queries are. You can then use the most popular queries to form the basis of content topics for your website.

How to find and analyse keywords

Keyword research can be a lengthy process, but breaking it down into a few steps makes it a lot easier. Jon Earnshaw, CTO of Pi Datametrics, says: “It can easily take a day of work to generate less than 1,000 terms, and while this may seem extreme, a great keyword set is the foundation of everything we do in SEO. It’s worth the time.”

Step one: build a list of important words that are relevant to your business

To begin the keyword research process, you will need to establish your core keyword set of initial topics that are relevant to your business. These are often referred to as ‘seed keywords’ because all your other terms will stem from them.

Think about the main topics that refer to what you have to offer. They will form the foundation of the search terms you are aiming to rank for on the SERPs. This stage should be relatively simple, as the words you come up with will be linked to obvious themes related to your business.

For example, a business which sells footwear may have seed keywords such as:

  • Shoes
  • Sandals
  • Trainers
  • Boots

If you are a blogger, your seed keywords will be the main topics that you write about on a regular basis. A travel blogger’s seed keyword list may contain terms such as:

  • Destinations 
  • Travel itineraries
  • Hotel reviews

Also consider the types of topics your target audience would enter into a search engine in order to find your business or service. Your potential customers may not know your business, therefore it is important to identify topics that combine your area of expertise and their interests. These are the topics which customers search for at the ‘see’ stage of the see, think, do, care framework, which is a marketing model used to reach consumers at all stages of the buyer’s journey. People at the ‘see’ stage tend to use generic search terms.

For example, searchers looking for a business which sells furniture may use phrases such as:

Step two: three ways you can use a search engine to research terms related to your seed keywords

Search bar

When typing your seed keywords into Google, you’ll notice that, as you type, the search engine will suggest other words or searches. Google makes these suggestions based on what other people are searching for when they enter these keywords; this is a useful way to dive deeper into the types of things your target audience is looking for.

Another way of finding these suggestions would be to use a tool like AnswerThePublic, which can quickly scrape Google’s suggestion lists for you and break the keywords up into lists of questions, prepositions and comparison terms.

Related searches

Once you have entered your seed keyword in Google, you can also take a look at the related terms which appear on the SERPs. By scrolling down to the bottom of the results page, you will see a feature called ‘related searches’.

These are a list of searches people have tried after first using the seed keyword. You can add these searches to your list and use them to think about other queries that you may not have considered. The keyword possibilities are endless!

Uncover what prospective customers are searching for with keyword research


People Also Ask

Typically appearing in the middle of SERPs, People Also Ask carries an ever-expanding list of popular questions that searchers type into Google which link to your seed term. They are queries which the search engine has mapped to seed keywords, based on the journeys previous searchers have taken.

People want to know the answers to these questions – you could provide these in an article on your website, providing your potential customers with the information they’re looking for and allowing them to discover you.

Step three: use a keyword research tool to analyse your keywords and discover more

Finally, you are ready to hit the keyword research tools, that will enable you to find the search volume of your initial keywords and discover more related terms.

Regardless of the keyword research tool you choose, the practice remains the same. You enter your seed terms one-by-one and then the tool pulls keyword ideas related to it from its database. It will analyse your seed keyword and inform you of:

  1. Its search volume (usually the average number of monthly searches for the term over your defined time period)
  2. Cost per click (how much it would cost on average to bid for the keyword in Google Ads)
  3. Keyword difficulty (a measure of how hard it is to rank organically for the keyword in search engines)

The same metrics will also be shown for the keyword ideas that the tool provides.

Step four: use your keyword research to target searchers throughout the marketing funnel

Queries with high search volumes are often harder to rank for and are more competitive. They tend to be more broad terms and are known as short tail keywords.

Lower search volume keywords tend to be more specific and longer in length, which is why they are known as long tail keywords. Despite long tail keywords having lower search volumes, they are excellent keywords to target as they are often very specific and have a clear search intent, making it easier for you to understand how to meet the informational needs of the searcher.

Ideally, your keyword target list should have a good mix of both short tail and long-tail keywords, ensuring you are targeting searchers at all points of the marketing funnel.

Now you know the basics of keyword research, you are ready to put it into practice and immerse yourself in the world of SEO.

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