How to Do Keyword Research for SEO

Any online marketer, ecommerce store owner, or even a mommy blogger will tell you that a website is nothing without traffic. Now there’s a million ways to get traffic to your website but most will tell you that search engine optimization (SEO) is the best way possible. Before you even think about SEO, it all comes down to choosing the right keywords that people will use to search for your website. Here’s a quick and comprehensive guide on how to do keyword research for SEO.

I use Bing Ads Intelligence, free if you sign up for Bing Ads, It’s an add-on to Excel. There are several tools which can be used to expand your list, based on one keyword, several keywords, or a website. A snap to use, with great results. – Melody at Magic Kitchen

It’s important to select keywords that represent searchers in different stages of the purchasing funnel. Keyword searches are typically navigational, informational or transactional. Take a local pizza shop for example. They want to capture searchers with all three types of intent: navigational (Trevin’s Pizza Shop), informational (pizza shops in new york) and transactional (order pizza online new york). Make sure you cover all types of search intent when you layout your keywords otherwise you’ll miss a huge piece of the search pie. – Trevin at WebPageFX

The next way we determine keywords it to examine our competitors. They often think of words and circumstances that could add to your list of keywords. So we can stop by their site and look at their title tags and the meta descriptions and follow clues as to what they think is important. Additionally I can use a tool like SEMRush or Raven Tools that will give me an analysis of my competitor. I can see what words they optimize for and I can see what words they are bidding on in Adwords. It would be a good idea to put those words in the Google keyword tool as well to help expand the number of keywords you have access to. – Beth at SEO411

Interview customers and listen closely about what they call the product or service. It can be different than what you might call it. Listen in to customer service phone calls to hear what terms the customer uses. Pay really close attention to suggested searches and auto-complete searches in various engines. People will search however is easiest and quickest. – Matt at Fathom

The keywords that need to be used are all hidden in the phone calls that take place with potential customers and customer service calls. Record them and give them to your marketing team. List all the questions customers ask (great keyword phrases), list all the adjectives they use (great describers), list the answers the sales team and customer service experts use. Forget all the keyword research tools on the market. If I had one… it would be the ability to listen to conversations between potential customers and the everyday team members of the business. – David at InBusiness Inc

When choosing keywords to target other aspects have to be considered as well: how naturally can those keywords be integrated in the current content, the users searching for those particular keywords in which part of the sales funnel are they located, is the site ranking for those particular keywords already and so on. It is important to note that, on-site optimization for keywords is an on-going process; it is not enough to do it once. After an amount of time (in our case approximately one year), when the site was ranking high for the keywords previously targeted, the keyword list was revised, in which case more competitive keywords were included in the strategy as well. In addition, user behavior and trends change over time, so it is important to keep an up-to-date keyword list. – Peter at Webs9

Our method is to brainstorm as many keywords as possible and then we score each one on three criteria; 1) relevance, 2) search volume, and 3) competition. Relevance, because it doesn’t make sense to choose keywords that have nothing to do with your business, although that isn’t to say people don’t make this mistake. Search volume because you want to choose keywords that people are actually searching for. Ranking #1 for a keyword that nobody searches for won’t do you much good. And competition because the less competition, the easier it is to get high rankings. Those keywords that are highly relevant, are searched for a lot, and aren’t very competitive are your golden keywords because they provide the greatest return at the lowest cost. – Joshua at MWI

Instead of “guessing” about which keywords people will use to find your content, you can push your content live and then optimize. Making your content live then, based on search traffic to the page, discover and track the most valuable keywords and optimize from there is the perfect solution for publishers and e-commerce sites with lots of content that needs to be live quickly. – Erin at GinzaMetrics

One of my favorite tips is to “listen to the whispers of Google” by using the suggested search. For example, if I want to write a blog on travel tips, but have no idea what destinations to choose, I simply type in “tips for traveling to” and see what Google suggests I finish my search with. Since suggested search is based off of common user searches, I can always be guaranteed that it is a valuable topic. – Muhammad at HCC Medical Insurance Services

Visit a community question and answer site like Yahoo! Answers and make a list of the top 100 questions people ask about your industry/niche. Then write blog posts to answer these common questions. Your site will then be full of keyword-friendly, traffic-driving content. – Zane at Fahrenheit Marketing

Don’t be afraid of item numbers if you have a high volume sku. For example, on our website our tax software product, TAXSW-DL, is wildly popular during the months of January, February, and March, and an astonishing amount of users type the exact item number into Google. – Jennifer at Tops Products

The real trick is not simply looking at what we can RANK for, but what we can EARN for. One place I like to check is Google Adwords. We run a TON of PPC ads, and the data we get from this is hugely helpful for SEO. The main things I consider are CTR and conversion rates. Some SEOs target any traffic, but you want the right traffic. I pursue revenue. Traffic helps me get that, but I’d rather get more money from less traffic than less money from more traffic. This isn’t just for the main keyword either. It’s tough at times to track Title tag conversion success in SEO. Slight alterations might change your rankings, which color the facts. PPC data from Adwords is more capable of providing accurate tests on which words convert best. – Brian at Optics Planet

One of my favorite little tricks for finding new keywords is using Soovle. It’s a great (and free) tool that shows you the autofill on several search engines. The idea is to take your core keywords that you already have and enter them in to get additional suggestions. If you already have a solid keyword base, this can be extremely helpful in building your long tail list. – Michael at Pool Dawg

One thing that I like to do, whenever it’s possible, is to have a client engage in a PPC campaign. So that we can test the validity of keywords (ensure that we get a good number of clicks/traction from a keyword and check for conversions on a keyword-level). This helps to determine those words which don’t merely have search volume, but have – now – a history of being “converters” into leads/sales, etc.. SEO can be a process that takes several months to reach goals (it can be expensive in terms of time and money allocated). How upset might you be if you put in a lot of effort to “naturally” rank for a keyword/phrase only to find out that that keyword/phrase doesn’t add to your bottom line? – Mark at Vizion Interactive

Using the Google suggest box as a way of identifying new terms is a great way to find new ideas. For example, input “designer jeans” and you’ll get non-obvious suggestions like “designer jeans for sale” and “designer jeans for curvy women”. A second method is by going into Google Analytics and finding referring terms converting well that you might not be aware of. There is generally opportunity to improve targeting on the page, as well as pointing in internal links, to quickly improve traffic to those terms that you might not have been aware of before. – Ross at Siege Media

First off and foremost its good to use a tool such as SEMrush to input your core keywords to see the modifiers they have, their average search volume as well as their competition. Secondly, its important to see trends, and year of year data for your keywords. I turn to Google Trends for such information. – Conor at Perfect Search Media

If you don’t have content, don’t bother: If you want to rank for “blue widgets” but don’t have the content specifically related to that keyword phrase you will not be able to hold onto top rankings. Lots of companies will go too broad on their targeting. We target keyword phrases like “classifieds”, “online classifieds”, and “free online classifieds” which is in line with our on-page content. We cannot rank for terms like “used cars” for the homepage, even if we wanted to. – Steve at List Here

When choosing keywords, compute the potential profitability by assigning value to each keyword or group of keywords – whether that is the average price per sale of that product, the lifetime value of the customer or revenue per lead if doing lead gen. After assigning value, forecast your revenue potential by analyzing competitors in the space and estimating your potential placement in Google’s search results. A great tool for this is SEOmoz‘s SERP analysis tool or Traffic Travis for a free tool. – Matt at Veterans United Home Loans

My favorite “out of the box” tip when it comes to keyword research is to research competitors’ backlinks – particularly those that come from a media outlet. I then take a look at the media outlet to see which keywords appear most frequently in media placements as well as which keywords were in pieces that garnered the most social shares. Because SEO relies on great content, backlinks, and social signals much more now than in the past, I make it a point to then utilize the “trending” keywords I’ve found to create compelling content for media outlets that have already shown an interest in the subject and have strong, engaged audiences. – Janeesa at Astute Solutions

Use exact match. Broad match (the default) is just too noisy. You already know that a bunch of people are searching for “something kind of similar to widgets,” that’s not helpful information. You need to know exactly where the volume is in order to make informed decisions. After exact match has been exhausted, then phrase match might be helpful in finding new starting points for research into more exact match queries. My favorite trick of all: take your best exact match keywords and enter them into Uber Suggest. This gives you a list of the instant suggestions that pop up for users as they type in their query. You can now enter these entire lists into the keyword tool, which is guaranteed to find you a few gems. – Chris at Contempo Space

One tool we use to help find the best keywords is Twitter. Twitter provides a search option that is a great tool for finding questions and topics surrounding your industry. Not only can you answer questions directly to those that asked them- but you can also find popular keywords that searchers are using in your industry. – Margaret at Models4TradeShows

One of the best tactics I have found in performing keyword analysis to find those “golden” keywords is by doing competitor analysis. Perform some search queries for your top or second level keywords that you would like to rank for and look at the top listings which are shown in the search engine of your preference. Analyze your competitors rank for these keywords. Check their title tags, their branding, what keyword variations they use within the context of their landing page. If they are using META data (keywords and descriptions) you can right click on their page, view their source code and search for “keywords” within their code and actually see what keywords they have targeted for their page. – Erica at Little Things Favors

Rinse, refine, and repeat. Test out a set of keywords, analyze your results over a 3 month(ish) period, refine the list, and repeat the process. Users change how they search every day, so more than half the battle is maintaining and updating your keyword list to produce the most effective results. – Rachel at Advice Interactive Group

To prioritize keywords, you should run all of your target keywords through the Google AdWords Keyword Tool on Exact Match. Then export that data to Excel. Next pull the ranking data for those keywords and the pages that rank for those keywords. There are multiple free tools to do this. Combine this data by keyword in Excel and order it from the most popular keywords to the least. There is your simple list of words to go after by “market size” Furthermore, I would focus on these two areas first: 1) The top x (let’s say 10-50 keywords) that have the most monthly search volume and you currently rank between 11-20 (page 2). These are the pages where if you can give an extra bump, you will start driving real traffic to those pages by getting them onto page 1. 2) High volume keywords that do not rank at all. This indicates that you have a great opportunity to write new content to specifically target these “new” keywords. – Michael at Shoretel Inc

This one is tough to gauge, but a good way to ballpark this is to see how competitive the pay per click is for the keyword. If there’s lots of competition, it’s safe to assume the keyword converts. Lastly, sometimes there are keywords a client wants to rank for that is outside the normal scope of their products or services pages. This is where a blog comes in handy! You can create a content calendar around the additional keywords. – Ryan at Ballantine Digital

Thanks to everyone for sharing their tips! Subscribe to get alerted when we release advanced methods of doing keyword research and how we found one golden keyword that lead to over $44,000 in sales!

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