The Only Keyword Research Guide You’ll Ever Need for SEO Success.

how to do keyword research in SEO.

The Only Keyword Research Guide You’ll Ever Need for SEO Success.

Keyword research is an essential first step in any SEO strategy. It involves identifying and analyzing which keywords your target audience is using to find content related to your business. Understanding keyword searches allows you to create content that matches user intent and optimize pages for ranking higher in search engine results. 

Effective keyword research provides significant benefits:

Discover the terms and phrases your customers are using to search for products/services like yours. This enables you to create content that speaks directly to their needs and interests.

Identify opportunities to rank for valuable keywords that are relevant to your business. Focus your optimization efforts on keywords that have high search volume and low competition.

Gain insights into searcher behavior and intent. Are they looking for informational content or ready to buy? 

What problems are they trying to solve?

Build a targeted list of keywords to guide your content creation and SEO activities. Optimize pages around keyword-rich titles, headers, content, URLs, etc.

Set a baseline to measure the impact of your keyword-focused SEO efforts over time. Track rankings and traffic from specific keywords.

Prioritize website content development. Identify content gaps where new pages/posts can improve search visibility.

This article will walk through the key steps of an effective keyword research process. Follow along to learn how to leverage keyword data to inform your SEO and content strategies. With strategic keyword research, you can attract more qualified traffic to your site.

Gather Keywords From Different Sources

There are several places you can look to gather keyword ideas when doing keyword research:

Google Autocomplete – As you start typing a keyword or phrase in the Google search bar, Google will suggest additional keywords and phrases based on what others are searching for. Pay attention to these suggestions as they reveal popular searches.

Competitor sites – Analyze competitor websites and blog posts to see what keywords they are optimizing for by looking at page titles, meta descriptions, headers, content, etc. Identify both primary and secondary keywords.

Related searches – When you search for a topic in Google, look at the related searches that are suggested at the bottom of the search results page. These show other keywords people search for to your initial keyword.

Google Trends – Google Trends shows you the popularity of search terms and how it change over time. This can reveal seasonal keywords and identify trends to take advantage of.

Online forums and communities – Look at discussions happening in forums, groups, social media, and Q&A sites to find keyword ideas centered around questions people are asking online. 

Social media – Monitor relevant hashtags and keywords people are using on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. This surfaces buzzwords and topics that could make for good keyword targets.

Other tools – Services like UberSuggest, SEMrush, and also help generate keyword ideas based on seed phrases.

Casting a wide net across these different sources ensures you brainstorm an exhaustive list of relevant keyword opportunities to evaluate further.

Identify Keywords Based on Search Intent

When doing keyword research, it’s important to categorize keywords based on search intent. There are three main types of search intent to be aware of:

Informational Keywords

Informational keywords indicate that the searcher is looking to learn or research a topic. For example:

what is keyword research

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how to do competitor analysis

These keywords show an intent to gain knowledge or information about a subject. Optimizing for informational keywords can attract users looking to learn about your industry or offerings.

Navigational Keywords

Navigational keywords show intent to find a specific website or webpage. For example:

Search engine nation blog page

Where is code web creation located

Optimizing for branded and website-specific keywords can help drive direct traffic to your site.

Transactional Keywords

Transactional keywords indicate that the searcher intends to make a purchase or acquire a product or service. For example:

buy shoes online

book airline tickets 

register for event 

These keywords show immediate intent to complete a transaction. Focusing on transactional keywords can generate leads and site conversions.

Identifying search intent helps categorize keywords so you can align site content with the needs of potential visitors. Understanding the differences between informational, navigational and transactional keywords enables more strategic keyword targeting.

Evaluate Keywords Based on Opportunity 

After gathering a list of potential keywords, the next step is to evaluate each one based on the opportunity it presents. Key factors to consider include

Search volume – The number of monthly searches a keyword gets indicates the level of demand and interest. A high search volume for a keyword signals high opportunity. Keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner can provide estimated search volumes. 

Competition – Look at how many other pages are already ranking for a given keyword. A keyword with low competition will be easier to rank for than one with high competition. Use a tool like SEMrush to analyze the top 10 results and see if major brands dominate.

CPC – Cost-per-click refers to how much advertisers pay in Google Ads for a particular keyword. Higher CPC indicates stronger commercial intent and more value per click. Aim for keywords with higher CPC.

Commercial intent – This measures how likely users are to follow through on a conversion after clicking on a search result. Keywords used in researching a product or service before making a purchase signal higher commercial intent.

Optimization difficulty – Consider how challenging it will be to optimize your page content and technical elements like title tags and URLs for each keyword. Easier optimization means faster ranking potential.

Thoroughly evaluating keywords for these metrics will help you identify the terms that offer the best possible return on investment. Focus on quality over quantity – a handful of keywords with strong opportunity trumps a long list with marginal potential value. Regularly review and refine keyword opportunities over time as market conditions and priorities evolve.

Perform Keyword Gap Analysis  

A keyword gap analysis involves comparing your list of target keywords with those of your top competitors. This allows you to identify potential gaps – keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t target.

To perform a gap analysis:

Make a list of your top 3-5 competitors. These should be websites that rank well for your target keywords.

Use a tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Ubersuggest to extract the top keywords that each competitor ranks for. 

Download the lists into a spreadsheet and combine them into one master list of competitors’ keywords.

Look for keywords on the master list that you aren’t currently targeting. These represent opportunities where you could potentially outrank your competitors.

You may also spot clusters of high-value keywords that none of the sites are optimizing for. These are prime targets.

Look at the estimated search volume and difficulty of ranking for each gap keyword. Identify ones with high volume and low difficulty as opportunities.

Make a shortlist of 10-20 gap keywords that represent the biggest opportunities. These become new target keywords to optimize for.

The gap analysis process reveals valuable openings within your space. It shows high-potential keywords you may have overlooked that could drive significant traffic to your site. Regularly updating the analysis ensures you stay on top of the latest opportunities.

Organize Keywords

Once you have gathered a comprehensive list of keywords, it’s important to organize them in a way that makes sense for your website and SEO goals. Here are some strategies for organizing keywords effectively:

Use Spreadsheets 

One of the most common ways to organize keywords is in a spreadsheet. This allows you to have different columns for things like keywords, search volume, competition, relevance to your site, etc. You can then filter and sort your spreadsheet based on the different metrics to prioritize which keywords to target. Spreadsheets allow you to keep everything neatly organized in one place.

Group Keywords into Categories

Group similar keywords into categories or clusters. For example, you may group keywords related to dog training, dog breeds, dog care, dog toys, etc. This allows you to identify gaps in your content strategy and develop content around keyword groups.

Use Tags and Labels 

Apply tags or labels to each keyword to indicate things like page theme, location on site, semantic relationship, commercial intent, etc. Tags make it easier to filter and analyze keywords. For example, you can pull all keywords tagged for the blog section of your site.

Set Up a Tree Structure

Use a tree structure to illustrate relationships between groups of keywords. Place more general keywords at the top and increasingly specific keywords in the branches below. This helps visualize keyword targeting strategies.

Utilize Keyword Management Software

Look into dedicated keyword management platforms like Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Übersuggest. These tools come with features to organize keywords like folders, labels, tags, etc. The platforms provide a centralized place to access and manage target keywords.

Update as Keywords Evolve

Continuously add new keywords and re-organize as needed. Remove outdated keywords that are no longer relevant. Keyword research is an ongoing process, so your organizational systems need to be updated over time. Maintaining clean keyword lists leads to more effective SEO.

Prioritize Target Keywords

Once you’ve compiled your list of potential keywords, you’ll need to narrow it down to the ones that should be the primary focus for optimization and targeting. Here are some of the key factors to consider when prioritizing keywords:


Look at search volume and how much traffic a keyword could potentially drive to your site. Focus on keywords with higher search volume, as these have the most opportunity. But also look for up-and-coming long tail keywords that may have lower search volume now but are gaining traction. 


Use keyword research tools to analyze the competitiveness of each keyword. Try to avoid extremely high competition keywords, and look for ones with lower competition where you can more easily rank on the first page. There is still an opportunity for some high-competition terms, but you’ll need to put in more effort.


Make sure the keyword is highly relevant to your content and offerings. If a keyword will attract the wrong audience and result in high bounce rates, it may not be worth pursuing even if it has a high volume. Relevant keywords will convert better.

Commercial Intent 

Prioritize keywords where users are further down the funnel and ready to take action, like purchasing a product or signing up for a service. Keywords with more commercial intent convert better than informational keywords.

Optimization Difficulty

Consider how easy it will be to optimize your site and content for each keyword. If a keyword will be difficult to rank for given your site’s structure and content, it may be better to focus optimization efforts on more attainable keywords.

By carefully evaluating each of these factors, you can determine which keywords are the best match for your website and business goals. Focus your SEO efforts on just a few primary keywords, while also optimizing for a longer list of secondary keywords. Continuously review performance and refine your targets.

Track and Refine Over Time  

Keyword research isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it process. You’ll want to monitor your target keywords on an ongoing basis and refine your list as needed.

Tracking keyword performance is crucial. Look at metrics like impressions, clicks, and click-through rates in Google Analytics. Are your target keywords driving traffic? If not, you may need to refine your list or optimize your on-page content.

It’s also important to keep an eye on search volume and competition. Keyword trends change over time as user intent and interests evolve. A keyword that was low competition 6 months ago may now be highly competitive. Continuously analyze how target keywords are performing to ensure they still present opportunity.

In addition to analytics, use keyword tracking tools like Google Trends, Keyword Planner’s historical data, and SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool. These provide insight into rising/declining search volume so you can stay on top of trends.

Periodically repeat steps of the keyword research process to find new, valuable keywords to add to your target list. Search intent, trends, and competition levels will change over time, so you’ll want to keep iterating to identify lucrative new opportunities.

Aim to refine and expand your target keyword list every 3-6 months. Audit existing keywords, prune ones that have lost value, and integrate new keywords with high opportunity. A dynamic, evolving approach ensures your keyword strategy remains effective.

Optimize Site Architecture

Keyword research should directly inform decisions around site architecture and content structure. The keywords and topics identified during research should guide

Site structure and URL naming. The site and page structures should be organized in a logical hierarchy based on relevant topics and themes. URLs can directly include important keywords where appropriate. 

Metadata optimiziation. Meta titles and descriptions for each page should reflect relevant target keywords and searcher intent. The keywords used in metadata help search engines understand the page content.

Internal linking structure. Internal links between pages help communicate relevancy and site structure. Link important pages together using anchor text with target keywords.

Content expansion. Look for related keywords and subtopics that could warrant creating additional content to fill out your site’s topical structure. Developing new content to target secondary keywords can expand your reach.

Topic clusters. Identify related keywords and topics that should be grouped or interlinked. Create logical topic clusters throughout your information architecture.

Media integrations. Use alt text and file names with keywords for images, videos, and other media that supplement your content.

Proper site architecture greatly improves both SEO and usability. Performing keyword research guides many on-page optimization decisions, helping align the site structure with relevant topics and searcher intent. This ultimately produces a site architecture tailored to ranking for high-value keyword targets.


Keyword research is an essential part of any successful SEO strategy. By taking the time to research and identify the best keywords for your site, you ensure that your content targets terms people are searching for. This helps attract qualified visitors who are ready to engage with your business.

In this guide, we covered the key steps for conducting effective keyword research:

Gather keywords from a variety of sources like search engines, competitors, forums and social media

Identify keywords based on search intent and volume  

Evaluate keywords for opportunities and difficulty 

Perform gap analysis between your existing keywords and potential targets

Organize keywords into groups or categories

Prioritize the best target keywords to focus on 

Track keyword performance over time and refine as needed

Optimize site architecture using keywords 

Conducting ongoing keyword research helps align your content with search intent and consumer demand. It enables you to reach people when they are searching for solutions you can provide. 

Make keyword research a regular part of your SEO and content marketing strategy. 

Now that you understand the fundamentals, you can begin implementing keyword research for your website. Start optimizing your pages for valuable keyword targets. Monitor performance to identify new opportunities and inform future content development. With the right keywords, you can attract more organic traffic and increase visibility in search engines over time.

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