In this world of SEO, everyone is trying to be on the first page of Google search results. Believe it or not, keyword research should be the first priority.
Google has been tweaking its ranking algorithms regularly. Although the top ranking factors rarely change, the small factors always replace them with a new one.
Ranking higher for hundreds of keywords is a dream for every site owner and SEO professional. The dreams could come true with proper keyword research.
In this definitive guide, I will explain everything related to keyword research and all the process step-by-step.
So let’s dive into it.
What is Keyword Research?
Before discussing anything long on, let’s start with what is keyword research first.
Keyword research is the process of finding words and phrases that people enter in Search Engines.
Millions of searches are being performed in Search Engines like Google every day. All the search queries can be performed by entering some words or phrases.
Sometimes search terms may contain a single word and sometimes it contains a combination of many words.
In the keyword research process our ultimate goal is to find keywords that people are entering in Search Engines. Then we can use those keywords in content and optimize it around those terms.
We are not discussing content optimization here as I have already discussed it in On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO guides. So feel free to check them also.
Things You Should Know About Keyword
Even before starting the actual keyword process, you should be aware of:
1. Keywords Type
SEO experts divided the keyword into three main categories: Head, Body, and the (Long) Tail. It is usually defined by the number of words in it.
1. Head Terms:
Single word search terms are often considered as a head term. Some examples of head terms are “Hotels”, “Tax” etc.
These types of terms have:
- Millions of searches per month
- Extremely competitive thus takes a lot of time to rank
- Low conversion rates due to unclear search intent.
2. Body Keywords:
Body keywords contain 2-3 words. These types of keywords have:
- More specific search intent than head terms
- Body keywords are less competitive than head terms
Keywords like “Cheap Hotels” or “Tax Lawyer” are examples of body keywords.
3. Long-Tail Keywords:
Long-tail keywords have 4+ words. This type of keywords have:
- Least number of searches
- Most specific intent
- Less competition than body keywords
Keywords like “Cheap hotels in Mumbai” or “Tax lawyer in Mumbai” are examples of long-tail keywords.
2. Keyword Intent
As we already know Google’s search algorithms are always changing. This simply means that Google wants to show users the best results on its search result page.
If you have been in the internet space then you might notice that the Google SERP has evolved a lot. In the past days, you can only find search results with links to various pages relevant to that topic.
Now the search result is full of various formats of content like videos, images, podcasts, Q&A, etc. With the rise of this type of search results, a term also evolved i.e Searcher’s Intent.
Now you not only have to create content based on the keyword but also should match the search intent.
Search intent simply means, why the person searching. Google wants to rank pages higher that fit the search intent as well as the search term of a specific search query.
In this type of search, the searcher wants to get an answer or information. Sometimes it may be straightforward like “what is the height of the Statue of Unity”. Sometimes users may want a long more in-depth answer like “How Blockchain Technology Works”.
Based on that we can mainly categorize search intent into 5 parts.
A Few Other Examples of Informational Searches are:
“who is Robert John Downey Jr.?”
“how to make pasta”
“Scarlett Johansson age”
In this type of search, the searcher is looking for a particular website. Users already know what they are looking for but they don’t want to type the URL, or they might not know the exact URL.
Some Examples of Navigational Searches are:
In this type of search, searchers want to purchase something. You can say that the buying mode is activated. In most cases, users know what to buy. They look for a place to buy.
Some examples of Transactional Searches are:
“Buy Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max”
“Microsoft Surface Laptop price”
“Air Jordan 1”
4. Commercial Investigation:
Some people want to do some research before purchasing any product or service. This type of query falls under commercial investigation. They’re usually looking for reviews and comparisons.
Some examples of Commercial Investigation Searches are:
“Best WordPress Hosting”
“Mailchimp vs Convertkit”
“Best Drone Camera”
In this type of search, searchers want to find some local places. This type of search is being performed more than ever. Most of the time the search phrase contains “near me”. People search for local restaurants, shops, etc.
Some Examples of Local Searches are:
“Coffee shops near me”
“Restaurants near me”
“Spa near me”
“Salons near me”
Here our core focus would be only on keywords and the process of finding the right keywords for you. So let’s start with understanding the keywords first.
Step 1. Pre Keyword Research Process [Optional]
Before jumping into the research process you need to consider some aspects.
The first and the most important thing to consider is your niche. Your research should be based on your niche and all the contents are surrounded by this.
Many people skip this step and pick random keywords that are nowhere related to their niche. This creates dissatisfaction among their existing audience base and the site is no longer considered as an authority site in a particular niche.
Try to focus on your audience and know what they are looking for. Then you have the areas that you would target in your keyword research process.
It is hard to digest that there is no universal approach to executing proper keyword research. Some people might be against it but it’s true. As we know it varies from niche to niche.
It also depends on your website authority, number of pages, quality content, link profile, etc. Website authority is a matrix given by some keyword research tools.
Your goals and objectives also impact the research process. Are you doing keyword research for building branding, exposure, more traffic, more leads, more sales? Your whole process would be according to that. Define your goals and objectives first before researching.
Your budget and time are also an aspect to consider. Keyword research is a time taking process and you need to define your deadline and budget for this.
The simple logic is that the more time you will invest in the research the better keywords you would find. But you have to ask yourself what would you have that much of time to do this? If you are outsourcing the research process or using expensive tools then you need to define your budget also.
Another thing to consider is your competitors. No matter which niche you belong to, you would find many competitors trying to rank for the same terms. Keep an eye on your biggest competitors analyze their efforts. This way you can figure out how you can do better or be different from them.
After analyzing these aspects, you would have a better vision. Then you can go out for keyword hunting.
Step 2. Find Keyword Ideas
Finding a keyword idea is a vital part of keyword research. Now it’s time to find some keywords. As per your niche, you have some subtopics.
Let’s say you want to find keywords in the Blogging Niche. So think about what topics your targeted audiences would search?
Some topics that first come to your mind are:
- Affiliate Marketing
Note: These are topics, not keywords. This type of topic would help you to find keywords around it.
You can follow the below methods to find the right keyword for your site.
1. Google Search Suggestions & Related to Section
Millions of searches are being performed in Google every hour. So Google knows what users are searing the most.
You have noticed that when you type something in the Google search bar, it automatically suggests some suffix. Here you can get the keyword idea.
When I start typing “Best SEO ………………..….”
Google automatically suggests some phrases. Find it in the screenshot.
If you are searching for some keywords, then here are some keyword ideas as well.
After the search was performed, have you noticed that Google also suggests some keywords at the bottom of the search result?
These are called Google-related keywords. This is also a goldmine of the keyword. Google analyzed millions of searches and knows what people search for related to this. So you should not ignore it.
I searched for “Email Marketing” and here’s what Google shows me in the Searches related to the email marketing section.
I can take how to do email marketing, Email Marketing Tips, Email Marketing Templates as keywords and create content on them.
2. Find Keywords on Quora
Quora is also my favorite method to find untapped keywords. As you know Quora is the Biggest Question & Answer site in the world having millions of active members.
People ask a question on every topic under the sun. No matter which industry you belong to, the chances are you would get many keywords here.
I just searched for SEO and here’s what Quora shows me with a lot of answers to these related questions.
I can grab some keyword ideas here also. In addition to that, I also click on the suggested questions to get more suggestions as well.
3. Find Keywords on Reddit
Reddit is also a crowded place and people always discussing various topics here. You can find a subreddit on almost every topic in the world.
So first search for a subreddit according to your niche.
On a simple search on SEO Reddit shows me these subreddits.
You can scroll down and find that there is a lot of discussion going on various topics. Otherwise, visit some more subreddit and you will have some keyword ideas.
4. Find Keywords on Wikipedia
Many people often overlooked Wikipedia as a keyword and topic source. But do you know that Wikipedia is a goldmine of topics?
Thousands of industry experts and contributors continuously working on this platform to make it the best. No need to explain long about this platform.
Head to the Wikipedia home page and perform a search here.
Assume that you have a blog on the dog niche. So simply search for the dog.
Usually, it shows a broad topic. Wikipedia will show like this.
One thing to look for the “contents” section of the page.
Here you will find a lot of subtopics. Digging down deep will give you more topics and keyword ideas. Sometimes you would find keywords in the content section as well. So try this method also.
5. Use Forums
Forums are a great place to find your targeted audience and what they are discussing. People use forums to find a solution to their problems.
If you find what they needed then you can target them through your content also. So the use of forums is a good practice.
But how to find forums in your niche?
Well, you can use Google Search tricks to find forums around your niche.
“Keyword” + “Forum”
“Keyword” + “Forums”
“Keyword” + “Board”
After performing a search you will find many forums directly in the search result. Visit each of them and analyze what people are searching for. You may bookmark them or make a sheet and note all the sites with URLs. So next time you can visit those sites directly using your sheet.
Dig deeper into the forums and you found some good keyword ideas. In the next step, you can produce content in those keywords and share it with the community. This way you can drive some targeted audience into your site.
6. Find Keywords on Amazon
If you have a product-related website or making an affiliate website, then there is no better place than Amazon.
Millions of people purchase products from Amazon each month. So they search for various products here. You can do the same to get topics and keyword ideas here.
If you are not sure about what product to search then use the category feature of the site. Simply click on the down arrow button on the search bar and you will find a lot of categories are there. Just choose one of them and you will find a lot of sub-categories that can be treated and topics.
I just chose a random topic as Baby. Then here’s the result I got.
I just keep scrolling down and discovering many new topics that can be targeted. This can be a goldmine for Micro-Blogs that targets a very specific topic.
You can choose your niche here to get ideas about what people are purchasing. This way you have the idea of what people are really purchasing and what should you target.
Dig deep and you will have more and more topics ideas that you can use. Find some keywords using the Google suggestion method.
Step 3: Speed Up Keyword Research Process Using Tools
As we already know that keyword research is a time-consuming process. But if you want to accelerate the process then you should use keyword research tools.
All you have to do is just enter the seed keyword inside the Keyword research tool and it will filter out thousands of keywords for you.
There are many free and paid tools available for this. So let’s discuss some of the best ones in both categories.
Best Free Keyword Research Tools
Free keyword research tools lack some features but are good to go when you don’t have money to spend. Have a look at these free tools.
1 Google Keyword Planner:
Do you know that Google itself has a keyword research tool? Yes, it’s Google Keyword Planner. This is a free tool and you can use it to find the best keywords for you.
This tool is actually designed for PPC ads in mind. But it comes in handy to find new keywords using words (head terms), phrases, websites, and categories.
After searching for the above terms, you will get hundreds of keyword suggestions. In addition to that, it shows average monthly searches, competition level, organic impressions, ad impressions, CPC, etc.
You can also set various filters to narrow down the keyword suggestions.
2. Google Trends:
Google Trends is a great tool to visualize the search popularity of a keyword over time.
For example, if we check the term “Christmas Tree” for the past five years, then we see that popularity spikes every December.
This is because of Christmas.
Let’s check another example of this type. If you check the term “thanksgiving gifts” for the past five years, then you see that the popularity spikes every November.
Why? This is because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
If you are building a site around these keywords then you should put more effort into these months.
On the flip side if you are relying on these types of keywords throughout the years then you are not going to do as you expected. You may get traffic in those months and your site will be like a desert in other months.
3. Keyword Sheeter:
We have already discussed the power of Google search suggestions earlier in this article. Keyword Sheeter pulls thousands of keywords from Google autocomplete.
To get those thousands of keywords enter one or more seed keywords and click “Sheet keywords.”
It will generate thousands of keywords within a few seconds. You need to click “Stop Sheeting” to stop the process. Otherwise, the tool will keep running and generate more and more keywords.
You can export the data in a .csv or .xlsx file with one click. The tool doesn’t show you the global search volume and CPC in the free version.
4. Answer The Public:
Millions of people are searching on Google for questions. Answer the Public is a great tool to find questions, prepositions, alphabetical, comparisons and related searches.
Enter a seed keyword in the text box and click on “Get Questions”. Then it will show you hundreds of question-related keywords in different categories.
All the questions would be shown in two formats Visualization and Data. By default, it shows the question in the Visualization format. But it is quite difficult to read. So switch to Data format to have better clarity.
5. Keyword Surfer (Keywords Everywhere Alternative):
Have you been using the popular Chrome extension, Keyword Everywhere? Then you may be worried because the extension is no longer free.
Don’t worry, there is always an alternative to something. You can use Keyword Surfer as a replacement for Keyword Everywhere.
Keyword Surfer is a free Chrome extension. It shows estimated global monthly search volumes of any query searched into Google. It also shows the estimated monthly search volume for 19 countries.
Beyond this, the extension also shows monthly search volume in the autocomplete results. In addition, It also shows 10 similar keywords on the right side of the search result.
We also discussed how to get keyword ideas from Reddit earlier. Keyworddit is a unique keyword research tool that pulls keywords from Reddit.
Just enter your keyword in the search box. It shows a dropdown list of some similar or exact words. So click on that. Then you will get a list of keywords at the bottom of the page.
It shows 3 columns like keyword, monthly search volume, and context. There would be a long list of keywords shorted by the monthly search volume. If you want to know more about the keyword and the source where the tool extracts, then click on the context link.
If you don’t know some sub-Reddit then you can click on the “name of a subreddit” and it will show you a long list.
This tool only shows you the estimated search volume of the US. This might be a con of this tool but it is sufficient to get some idea about the keyword.
Ubersuggest is a very popular keyword research tool offered by world-famous SEO expert Neil Patel. This tool is feature-packed and offers all the necessary aspects.
The best thing about this tool is its simplicity. Mostly Ubersuggest extracts keywords from Google search suggestions.
The tool got some massive upgrades in previous months. Now the tool has almost the same features in paid tools.
Enter a keyword and shows you various stats like search volume, CPC, SEO difficulty, paid difficulty and more. It also shows you many keyword suggestions with the same stats.
You also put your competitor domain to get their organic traffic, top-ranking pages, backlinks, etc. You can also get many keyword ideas that your competitors are ranking for.
Soovle is a unique tool that scrapes keywords from different sources like Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Bing, Yahoo, Answer.com, Amazon.
The best thing about this tool is, you don’t have to go to different places to get keyword suggestions. All the keywords would be visible as soon as you start typing.
I like the “drag & drop” saved suggestions feature. With this feature, you can drag & drop a keyword to the saved list. Then this can be exported.
Best Paid Keyword Research Tools List:
Have a look at these paid tools.
SEMrush is another popular tool for keyword researching. It has also many features that are helpful for various SEO aspects like backlink analysis, site audit, competitor analysis, etc.
Just enter a seed keyword and it will show you hundreds of suggested keywords. All the keywords will show monthly search volume, Keyword Difficulty (KD), clicks, and tons of other information.
SEMrush is also pricy and the plan starts from $99 per month.
Ahrefs is the most popular SEO tool with many necessary features. It can perform backlink analysis, site audit, keyword research, content research, and many more.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer might be the best keyword research tool on the market. You can search Ahrefs’s database of 5 million keywords in seconds with Keywords Explorer.
Go to Keywords explorer inside their website and enter a few seed keywords. Then it will show you thousands of keywords with monthly search volume, Keyword Difficulty (KD), trends, clicks, and tons of other information.
There are many things to play with and get the best keywords as per your needs. Ahrefs is pricy and the plan starts from $99 per month.
KWFinder is a part of Mangools and also another good tool specific for research of keywords. If you are searching for a tool to get started for the first time, then you can go with this tool.
If you have used other paid tools and just want to try this then the first thing you would notice about KWFinder is its user-friendly interface. This keyword tool and the simple design are clearly aimed at beginner bloggers and beginner SEOs.
Just enter a keyword and the tool shows you the monthly search volume, keyword trend, CPC, PPC, and keyword difficulty.
As you know the most demanding feature of any keyword research tool is the ability to calculate the keyword difficulty score for any given keyword. Perhaps most people use paid tools for this purpose only.
Mangools (where you will get KWFinder with some other SEO tools) costs $49 per month and if you billed annually it would cost $29.90 per month. This is the half price of Ahrefs and SEMrush. So if you are looking for a cheap keyword research tool then this is for you.
Step 4. Keyword Selection
As of now, we have discussed a lot from getting keyword ideas to keyword research tools. So you may have a bucket full of keywords.
Now you might ask me which keyword should I choose and what would be best for me?
Well, the short answer would be it depends.
I think you’ll agree with me if I say there is no to the point answer for this. There are some factors you may consider to decide which keyword is best for you.
Metrics to Look out Before Finalizing a Keyword
1. Search Volume:
Most people targets keyword based on their search volume. If they found a keyword with a high number of searches then they jump into it.
Actually, keyword volume is not everything to consider.
In some niches, the average search volume might be 1 million. But in some industries, the average search volume of keywords is 1 thousand.
So it is very difficult to set a standard for “good” search volume.
You need to decide the high and low end of search volume according to your industry. Rather than preferring high search volume keywords, you need to consider the following things as well.
2. Organic CTR:
The search engines and the SERP evolved a lot. If you are in this space for a while then you might know that the organic click-through rate (CTR) has decreased a lot.
This is because of Google Featured Snippets and knowledge graphs. Featured Snippets gives the answer directly in the search result and no need to click on any results.
Knowledge graphs also do a similar thing and provide brief information about the query.
Think about it in this way. If people are getting answers directly in the search results then why they would click on any result?
In addition to this, now Google is also showing more ads in search results than ever.
You can check for your keywords and see whether the featured snippets or ads are dominating the SERP or not.
Some tools like Ahrefs and Moz pro also show an estimated organic CTR. You can enter your keywords there and get some ideas.
CPC (cost per click) is a critical matrix to consider when choosing a good keyword. This value shows how much money advertisers are spending on Google ads for that particular keyword.
Let’s say one advertiser is spending $2.57 CPC on the “SEO tools” keyword. This means when someone searches for “SEO tools” and clicks on the ad, the advertiser should spend $2.57 on it.
Someone who is spending more on a keyword means it is valuable and the advertiser is getting the benefits.
If you are using Google Keyword Planner, then you noticed that every keyword contains a CPC value. So I can get an idea from that. Keyword tools also show the CPC as well.
4. Commercial Value:
The commercial value of the keyword is also a good factor to consider. As per your industry, your keywords are the driving path for your business.
If you are selling some product or service then this might be more important for you.
If you are just want to write informational stuff then you may skip this as you have to aim to sell products or services.
Based on your niche try to figure out some business value keywords that drive potential customers to your site.
5. Keyword Difficulty:
Keyword difficulty is a factor that might be the top priority in the stack. Every keyword tool has some sort of metrics to measure the difficulty of a keyword.
There is no standard rule for this. Tools use their own algorithm to measure the difficulty and show on a 0-100 scale. These tools measure the top-ranking pages and analyze them in various aspects.
If you put a keyword on different tools, then you will find that the keyword difficulty will vary. This is because the algorithm used the tools.
If your site is new and doesn’t have authority, then go for low competitive keywords. Similarly, if you have an established website and have authority then you can go with medium competitive keywords.
6. Keyword Trend:
We have discussed Google Trends earlier in this article. It is a handy tool to find the trend of a keyword over time. So it is also a factor to consider when you are choosing the right keywords.
Some keywords lose trends and fewer people searches for them. Over a period of time, people won’t search that keyword. So should not target this type of keyword.
For example, “fidget spinner” was a sensation in 2017. But now there is no spike these days.
Some keywords getting popular over time and many people search for them. So you can target this type of keyword.
For example, the “fitness band” is the latest trend in 2019 and beyond. So you can see that the graph is increasing.
Before choosing any keyword, check it on Google Trends for a better understanding.
So these are some of the things you need to consider when you are out for keyword research. It is nearly impossible (unless you are extremely lucky) to have a successful On-Page SEO strategy without performing proper keyword research.
Do you know any untapped source to get keyword ideas or have some tricks for it? Then feel free to share and let other people help. I would love to hear from you.