TL;DR: What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing the specific words and phrases (keywords) that people use when searching for information, products, or services on search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo.

The main objective of this research is to optimize content, advertising campaigns, and overall website performance by aligning with the language and intent of your target audience. By understanding the most popular and relevant keywords related to your niche or industry, you can craft content that caters to the specific needs and inquiries of your audience.

Benefits of Keyword Research

Keyword research isn't just about boosting search engine rankings or website traffic. Here are some of its undeniable benefits:

  1. Informed Content Creation: By knowing what your audience is looking for, you can create tailored content that speaks directly to their interests and needs.
  2. Higher Search Visibility: Proper keyword usage enhances your website's chances of ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
  3. Increased Organic Traffic: Websites that are optimized with the right keywords tend to attract more genuine, organic traffic.
  4. Better Conversion Rates: Aligning your content with user intent can lead to higher user engagement and conversions.
  5. Understanding Market Demand: It gives a clear picture of current market trends and can guide product or service adjustments.

Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research

Start with Seed Keywords

Seed keywords are the foundational terms that define your niche or industry. They are broad and general, forming the base from which more specific keyword variations emerge. For example, if you run an online shoe store, your seed keywords might include "shoes," "footwear," or "sneakers." By establishing these primary terms, you can branch out to discover more detailed and long-tail keywords relevant to your business.

Analyze Competitor Keywords

Observing your competitors can offer a wealth of knowledge. Competitor keyword analysis entails identifying the keywords your competitors rank well for and leveraging that information to find gaps in your own strategy. Tools like Semrush or Ahrefs can help you uncover these terms. This doesn't mean copying their strategy, but rather using their successes and failures as a learning opportunity. 

Use Keyword Research Tools

There are various tools available that can help streamline your keyword research process:

Google Keyword Planner

Housed within the Google Ads interface, the Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that offers invaluable insights. Although initially designed for paid advertising campaigns, it provides data like search volume, competition level, and potential ad costs, making it a robust tool for organic search insights as well.

Semrush Keyword Tools

Semrush offers a suite of keyword research tools catering to the process's different aspects. Whether you want to dive deep into competitor keyword analysis with the Organic Research tool or explore new opportunities with the Keyword Magic Tool, Semrush has something for every stage of your keyword journey.

Ahrefs SEO Tools

Ahrefs, while known for its backlink analysis, also boasts a range of SEO tools. Its keyword research tools provide in-depth data on search volume, keyword difficulty, and even how many backlinks you might need to rank for a particular term. The insights gleaned from Ahrefs can significantly impact your SEO strategy.

Understand Keyword Metrics and Analysis

To effectively select keywords, understanding various metrics is crucial:

Search Volume

This indicates how many times a particular keyword is searched for within a month. Higher search volume signifies higher demand.

Keyword Difficulty

It represents how tough it is to rank for a keyword considering the competition. A higher difficulty score suggests that it might be harder to rank for.

Cost Per Click (CPC)

Primarily used for paid advertising, CPC denotes the average amount an advertiser pays for a click on their ad for a particular keyword. Although typically used in advertising, CPC data can provide insights into which keywords are most competitive and, by extension, potentially more valuable to rank for organically.

Targeting the Right Keywords

Identify the Primary Keyword

Your primary keyword is the central term or phrase around which your content is based. For example, if you're writing about "vegetarian pasta recipes," that entire phrase could be your primary keyword. This term should be highly relevant to the content, have a decent search volume, and preferably, lower competition. Once identified, this keyword should be incorporated into key areas like the title, meta description, and throughout the content.

In addition to the primary keyword, you should also identify supportive secondary keywords that are usually longer-tail, similarly-worded keywords to the primary keyword. The inclusion and analysis of these secondary keywords will help you more fully understand the topic and create content to support it.

Understand Search Intent

Search intent refers to the reason a user conducts a particular search. It's crucial to discern why someone might search for a particular keyword and ensure your content meets that need. There are typically four types of search intent:

  1. Informational: Users looking for answers or more information on a topic.
  2. Navigational: Searches to find a specific website or page.
  3. Transactional: Searches made with the intent to purchase or sign up.
  4. Commercial Investigation: Searches to compare products or services before buying.

By aligning your content with the right intent, you increase the likelihood of satisfying the user's query and, consequently, boost your rankings.

Advanced Keyword Research Techniques

Analyze Trends and Seasonality

Using tools like Google Trends, you can track the popularity of keywords over time. This helps in identifying seasonal trends (like "Christmas gifts" spiking in December) and ensuring you're capitalizing on timely opportunities.

Leverage Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases. They might have lower search volumes, but they often bring in more targeted traffic. An example would be "best leather boots for winter" instead of just "boots."

Consider Local and Industry-Specific Keywords

For businesses catering to a local audience or those in a specific industry niche, using localized or industry-specific terms can be invaluable. For instance, "dentist in Brooklyn" or "industrial cooling solutions."


By diligently tuning into the language, inquiries, and curiosities of your target audience, you set the stage for organic growth, increased visibility, and a heightened user experience.

However, as with many things in the digital world, keyword research isn't a static process. As trends shift, technologies evolve, and user behaviors change, the importance of regular and meticulous keyword research only grows. It serves as a continuous dialogue between creators and their audience, ensuring content remains relevant, engaging, and effective.


How often should I conduct keyword research?

While the fundamentals of your niche might remain the same, online search trends change regularly. It's advisable to revisit keyword research at least quarterly, if not monthly, to stay current.

Can I use the same keywords for multiple articles?

While it's possible, overusing the same keywords can lead to keyword cannibalization, where your content competes against itself in search rankings. It's better to focus each piece of content on a unique set of keywords while maintaining topical relevance.

Are keywords still relevant with the rise of voice search?

Yes! While voice search has led to a rise in conversational queries, understanding and targeting keywords remains crucial. It's just that these keywords now often come in the form of natural language phrases.

Does keyword research only apply to Google?

No, keyword research applies to any search engine, including Bing, Yahoo, or platforms like YouTube or Amazon. While Google dominates the market, optimizing for other platforms can be beneficial depending on your target audience.

Should I prioritize high-search volume keywords?

Not necessarily. While high search volume indicates demand, these keywords often have high competition. Sometimes, targeting lower-volume but more specific keywords can yield better results due to their relevance and lower competition.

How do I differentiate between short-tail and long-tail keywords?

Short-tail keywords are generally 1-2 words and are broad (e.g., "shoes"). Long-tail keywords are longer phrases that are more specific (e.g., "red leather boots for women").

Is it necessary to include exact keywords in content for SEO?

While it helps, search engines have become smarter at understanding context. It's essential to maintain a natural flow and avoid keyword stuffing. Using synonyms or related terms can also be beneficial.

How does keyword research tie into content strategy?

Keyword research should guide your content strategy. By understanding what your audience searches for, you can tailor your content to address those topics, ensuring it's relevant and valuable.

Are there risks in targeting high-competition keywords?

Yes. While high competition keywords indicate demand, they can be challenging to rank for, especially for newer websites. It's often advised to balance targeting these with low-competition keywords.

How do keywords impact PPC campaigns?

Keywords are the backbone of PPC campaigns. They determine when and where your ads appear. Proper keyword research ensures your ads reach the right audience and can lead to better click-through rates and conversions.