How to Perform Keyword Research


In continuation with our SEO Like a Pro blog series, today we are discussing a basic introduction to performing keyword research to enhance your search engine optimization strategy.

A keyword is the search term that a person enters into a search engine in order to find results.  This can be a single word like “Thailand” or it can be a multi-word phrase like “tips for traveling to Thailand in January.”  The latter example is considered a long-tail keyword.  

Remember: download your free glossary of terms.

Knowing your audience is a critical step
for performing keyword research.  

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Without knowing who your audience is and how they are searching, you can’t really get a bullseye with the keywords you yourself are using.  

The goal is to find the keywords that are most likely to create website conversions — or in non-nerd speak: keywords that get people to your site (!!).  That’s it, friends.  The strategy to do this varies, hence why we are sticking to basics in this post.


01. Use tools to help you understand what keywords are best

There are different tools and programs out there to assist you with your keyword research.  

For many, Google Keyword Planner comes to mind.  This tool is great in showing you average monthly searches, whether a keyword as a high or low competition, and provides keyword suggestions for you to use.  However, the program isn’t super user-friendly (eg, there’s a learning curve).  In order to use the Google Keyword Planner you will need a free Google Adwords account.  Google has an excellent step-by-step way to use the Google Keyword Planner for keyword research and we’ve provided a quick screenshot using a search on common business keywords:

For something a little less complicated, we recommend Keyword Tool.  For free, you can just get some great insights on long-tail keyword suggestions in one step: type a search term, click enter and then you’ll see your suggestions.  However, you need to pay for the pro version to see anything more than that.  But it really is a good start if you’re a little stuck.

Regardless what tool you are using, you are looking for the same things:

  1. how competitive is your keyword?
  2. what is the search volume of your keyword (aka average monthly searches)?

02. keyword competitiveness

Keyword competition is a quantifiable attribute that is assigned to a keyword based on how well it would perform on a SERP.  In other words, how high you website will rank (or pop up in the top results) when a certain word or phrase is used for search results?  There are several factors that go into how a search engine defines a website or webpage’s competition, hence why SEO strategy is important. 

Read more: Establishing Authority, Trust, and Relevance in order to increase your page rank.

Ideally, your strategy should have a good balance of low competition, medium competition, and high competition.  As you can see in the above image, the right red circle includes three low and three medium competition rankings for the six keywords shown.  To improve strategy, replacing two of those terms with two high competition keywords would be a helpful consideration.

03. keyword search volume

Keyword search volume, or average monthly searches for Google, is simply a number indicating how many people are searching using that keyword.  Refer back to my picture above from the Google Keyword Planner and you’ll see that the keyword “business” got an average search of between 1 million and 10 million times in the past four week period (28 days) whereas the long-tail keyword “how to build a business” got an average search of between 1,000 and 10,000 times in that same period.  Therefore, “business” has a higher search volume than “how to build a business.”

As with keyword competition, it isn’t always the best strategy to focus on words with high search volume.  It’s best to have a balance or even focus on the low to medium search volume words depending on your business, product, service, or idea.  Why?  Because of your competition.  

04. A Case Study

Go type in the keyword “planners” in Google.  As we’re writing this post, Google yields 122,000,000 results for “planners.”  Of them, the first results listed are, as always, paid advertising.  Among the top five organic search results are Target, Staples, Office Depot.  Erin Condren is numero uno.  She has a pretty darn good SEO strategy to surpass Target, Staples, and Office Depot if we do say so ourself.  Even Amazon is more toward the bottom of page one.  However, we know of some really good planners that aren’t from Erin Condren, Target, Staples, or Office Depot.  You most likely can buy them on Amazon, though — but you have to scroll down a bit before Google shows you that search result, and even then you’ve just essentially entered another search engine.

Now, by using a long-tail keyword, “small business planners,” Google yielded 2,040,000 results: still in the millions, but definitely a lower search volume.  The competition for small business planners starts weeding out Target, Staples, Office Depot, and Erin Condren.  What is left is blog posts comparing and contrasting planners like Day Designer and Passion Planner — two popular planners in the creative solopreneur worlds.  So, maybe the webpage didn’t pop up for Day Designer, but a blog post about Day Designer did and that’s some pretty good marketing.

In summary: know your audience, then know the trends.

Know your audience first.  Our audience is more likely to search for small business planners than just average everyday planners.  Not saying you won’t just want a plain everyday planner, but more than likely you will want a nice comprehensive one to juggle life plus the side hustle.  That’s just one example.  

Simultaneously, you can start factoring in details like search volume and competition.  It can be a bit of trial-and-error, but it will start making more sense and kick off your SEO strategy quite nicely.


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