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Keyword Research Guide for SEO: The Step-By-Step Manual

Keyword Research Guide for SEO: The Step-By-Step Manual

Table of contents


Part #1 What is keyword research?

Part #2 Why is keyword research necessary?

Part # 3 Keyword Research Tools

Part # 4 How to do keyword research in 10 steps?

Part # 5 Advanced Tips and Strategies



Keyword research is one of SEO's most important but often overlooked aspects. It can be a daunting task to figure out which keywords to target and how to rank for them. You'll learn everything about conducting keyword research for SEO in this step-by-step manual. We'll go over the fundamentals of how keywords work, how to choose the best ones for your industry, and some more sophisticated advice.


Part #1 What Is Keyword Research?

Finding and analyzing search phrases that people enter into search engines is part of conducting keyword research. This is done to use the data for a particular objective, frequently search engine optimization (SEO) or general marketing.

It entails making the effort to compile a long list of keywords that should be used to rank a website. Website owners must research their target market and search engines to find keyword lists. For example, when searching for a specific product, service, company, or type of organization, what search phrases do consumers enter into Google? What do they anticipate discovering? With the help of this list, website owners can produce content that drives more relevant traffic to their websites.

Part #2 Why Is Keyword Research Necessary?

The ideal keywords to target can be found with keyword research, which also offers useful information about the Google searches your target market is making. You can utilize the information you learn about these actual search terms to guide your content strategy and smaller-scale marketing campaign.

When conducting internet research, people utilize keywords to discover answers. Therefore, if your material is successful in showing up in front of your audience while they conduct searches, you stand to get more traffic. You should therefore concentrate on these searches.

You won't get any traffic from Google if you post a page on a subject that no one is looking for (or other search engines).

According to Ahrefs' analysis, a lot of website owners make that error, which contributes to the fact that 90.63% of internet pages receive no traffic from Google.

Using keyword research, you can ensure that there is a market for the topic you want to write about. You will therefore benefit from a steady flow of extremely focused visitors to your page if it ends up ranking well in Google for its target term.

The following are the most well-known advantages of doing keyword research:

Discover Market Research Trends

Effective keyword research may give you information about current marketing trends and assist you in focusing your content on the pertinent subjects and search terms your audience uses.


Many of these trends have been boiling below the surface for the past few years, according to market research numbers and trends. Understanding the major market research trends will put you in a good position to support your business with sane consumer information. This maintains the competitiveness of your business while fostering long-lasting, solid customer relationships.

Website Traffic Increase

Your website will have more visitors and a higher ranking in search engine results if you use more pertinent keywords in the content you submit. A helpful blog from Winterplay Studios can give you an idea of how to do it effectively.

Getting new clients

Let's say your business provides the knowledge that other business professionals require. If so, you might fulfill their desires and point them in the direction of a call to action that will guide them through the entire buying process, from the awareness stage to the moment of purchase.

By looking at the keyword's popularity, search volume, and general intent, you may determine the questions that the majority of the people in your audience want to be answered.

Topics vs. Keywords

We hear more and more about how SEO has evolved in the last ten years and how little of an impact keywords have on our ability to rank high for daily searches.

This is somewhat true. However, from the standpoint of an SEO specialist, it's a different tactic. Instead, it's the purpose behind the keyword and whether or not a piece of content fulfills that purpose (we'll cover the goal in more detail in a moment).

However, that doesn't imply that keyword research is an outdated practice. I'll explain:

If you utilize the correct SEO tool, keyword research will also reveal the degree to which those topics are truly popular with your target audience. The crucial word here is subjects; by looking at keywords that generate a lot of monthly searches, you may identify and organize your content into topics you wish to write about. Then, you may utilize these to determine the search terms and keyword phrases you want to target.


Part # 3 Keyword Research Tools

Are keywords discoverable without a tool? Yes. However, using a tool greatly simplifies the procedure. Following that, here are some recommended keyword research tools.

The Google Keyword Planner

The most trustworthy online resource for keyword information is Google's Keyword Planner. It's a free keyword research tool that helps you find keywords related to your business. Just enter a word or phrase into the Planner, and Google will show you a list of related terms and their average monthly search volume.

You can also use the Planner to see how much traffic a particular keyword is getting and whether that traffic is increasing or decreasing.



This is because the data you get from the Keyword Planner comes straight from Google, unlike the majority of other programs. Consequently, you're sure that they are true.

The GKP's primary drawback is that it's intended to assist users with their Google ad campaigns—not with SEO. Despite this, you may still utilize the GKP to get lists of keyword suggestions and popular search terms.

This site uses data from Google AdWords and trends to compile a list of keywords that are being searched for the most. You can use this information to create content that is more likely to be seen by potential customers. Similar to Google Trend but superior is this new tool. Exploding Topics searches the internet for words that are becoming increasingly popular. Additionally, it suggests those terms to you. Their 14-day trial is available for $1. After that, their plans cost between $47 to $97.



The list of subjects can even be sorted by category.



Keyword Surfer

Using the free keyword research tool Keyword Surfer, you can discover popular keywords that are associated with your primary keyword. Simply enter your main keyword into the search bar, and Keyword Surfer will generate a list of related keywords, as well as their monthly search volume. You can then use this information to create content around these keywords, which has a higher chance of ranking in Google.



Installing the Chrome extension is all that is necessary. And the next time you conduct a Google search, you'll receive a list of potential keywords along with information on each one.




Google's search suggestions are still a source of keyword ideas for Ubersuggest. Additionally, it provides information on each keyword, such as search volume, CPC, keyword difficulty, and more.




SEMrush saves SO MUCH time. SEMrush provides you with the precise keywords that a site already ranks for rather than letting you enter random keywords into a tool. Therefore, enter the URL of any website that you are competing with on Google into SEMrush, and you can copy all of its keywords. Their plans start at $119.95 up to $449.95. You can also use it for free, but you won't be able to access all the data or utilize additional features.




Ahrefs is typically thought of as a link-building tool. However, fewer people are aware of Ahrefs's effective keyword tool. Ahrefs' "Keyword Explorer" is useful because it gives you a ton of valuable information on each keyword, which might assist you in determining whether the keyword is worthwhile pursuing. Their plans range in price from $99 to $999. Additionally, if you own a website, you can register for Ahrefs Webmaster Tools to receive free, restricted access to Site Explorer & Site Audit.



One criticism of Keyword Explorer is that it struggles to generate fresh keyword suggestions. Usually, it comes up with terms that are just straightforward variations of the one you entered in.



Having stated that, the tools available in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer are the best for narrowing your search to a particular term.


This is a simple but effective tool. What, therefore, makes Jaaxy special?

First off, it provides you with LOTS of potential keyword ideas, including a few that are absent from the majority of other tools. Additionally, you receive useful information, such as competition, search volume, and potential traffic, for each keyword that it creates. You have a choice between a free trial and paid subscriptions that cost between $49 up to $99 per month.



QSR is a fantastic feature of this tool. Quoted Search Result is referred to as QSR. This is just another way of asking: "How many other websites are vying for this identical position?". It goes without saying that your chances of ranking #1 are higher the lower this number is.




This is the Swiss Army Knife of tools for keyword research. You enter a seed term into SECockpit, just like any other keyword tool, and you'll receive a results list. However, what sets SECockpit apart is the integrated capabilities that provide you with a ton of insight into search trends, organic competition, and traffic projections.

This indicates that it is a tool primarily made for SEO specialists.

Yes, beginners can benefit from this tool. But there's no denying that SECockpit is intended for those who live, breathe, and sleep SEO. The sheer quantity of options in this program may be too much for you if you're new to SEO. However, you'll undoubtedly get your money's worth if you're searching for a ton of detail. Their plans range in price from $25 to $99. Additionally, they provide free webinar training to help you with traffic problems.



You can utilize more than 100 filters with its Filtering tool to locate the terms you're looking for.



Do you, for instance, only want terms with at least 10,000 monthly searches? Done. Or perhaps you're looking for terms with the best search volume to competition ratio. You got it.


Examine the competition on the first page. A package of SEO tools called Serpstat includes tools for creating content and building links. Therefore, Serpstat is not a keyword research specialist. But it still has an excellent keyword research tool, though. Their plans range in price from $55 to $499. In addition to their set plans, they also provide specific services to businesses or services that require more data.



Its Competitors Graph feature lets you see the websites competing for a certain keyword and similar terms. Therefore, it's generally time to hunt for an alternative term if you observe large bubbles for "Wikipedia" or "Amazon."



You may identify the ideal keywords for your company using a number of excellent keyword research tools. Try a few of these out to see which ones suit you the best.


Part # 4 How to do keyword research in 10 steps?

Now that you have an idea about some excellent tools you can use in keyword research let us now look at how you can do keyword research in 10 steps.

Step 1: Consider your mission and choose your SEO objectives.

Consider your mission before beginning anything. Think about things like What is the main objective of your company or organization? What distinguishes it? Who are you attempting to contact? What assurances do you provide on your website, too? Then, take your time and jot down your purpose in writing. If you have a thorough understanding of the answers to these queries, you may proceed to the first and most important phase in developing your keyword strategy.

Whether you can rank highly with your chosen keywords depends on your market. In some highly competitive markets, big businesses predominate the search results. These businesses have enormous marketing expenses overall and for SEO in particular. Ranking in these markets will be difficult because competition in them is fierce.



Perhaps you provide Hawaii cruises. The cruises are especially ideal for parents with younger children because of the excellent kid-friendly amenities you provide. The thing that sets your service apart may very well be the best family-friendly cruises to Hawaii. Therefore, look for the characteristic that sets your product apart from the competition. Your specialty should be this, and this is what you have to give your audience.

Your best bet is to start off modest when entering a crowded market. Then, you might try to advance and market your cruises to a larger (more general) audience once you start to "own" a tiny portion of that niche and establish a stronger reputation in your industry. Then, your mission will also broaden in scope. Your business's mission statement's scope should match your SEO objectives. Given the size of your business, be realistic about the rankings you can expect, and focus on what will help you get closer to your objective.

Step 2: Make a list of the search terms you believe people will use

The next step is to list your keywords, preferably in a spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Sheets. While keeping your purpose in mind, try to imagine yourself in the position of your target audience. What will be on their search list? What keywords might people enter when looking for your fantastic service or product? What "issues" does your product address for them? Take note of as many responses as you can. If your objective is clear, you will have a good idea of your target market and points of difference (the things that set your business apart from others). These are the search phrases for which you want to show up.


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Step 3: Do some research on the terms you've chosen

After making this initial list, it's time to dig a little deeper into your keyword research. Fortunately, various tools help to simplify keyword research.

Google itself is the first. First, check the searches Google proposes as you type using the keywords you have previously thought of. These are the inquiries that users actually made to Google! Then, check out the "similar searches" listed on Google's results page. 



These resources will offer you several key phrase variations, synonyms, and related key phrases. Check them out, then add all the pertinent key phrases to your list. More information on how to use these and other tools will be discussed later, so read on.

Step 4: Find long-tail variations of your keywords using research

People frequently concentrate on highly searched-for "head" terms when conducting their initial keyword research. Unfortunately, large companies have largely stolen those head keywords. On the other hand, although there is less search traffic for long-tail terms, there is also less competition. You may therefore rank for those keywords more easily. Long-tail keywords even have a better conversion value because they concentrate more on a certain item or subject.

A long-tail keyword is frequently longer and more specific than a head phrase. For example, a long-tail keyword might be [positive puppy training for Labradoodles in Amsterdam] if your head phrase is "puppy training." You can identify more long-tail keywords by utilizing the tools indicated in step 3. You may also come across some less popular variations of your keywords that you might use to your advantage.

Don't forget to include your keyword variations and long-tail keywords in your spreadsheet. As you add (many) columns for long-tail keywords and variations, place the head terms in the first column. Additionally, it will assist you in later developing a suitable site structure. The deeper your landing page is buried in your site structure, the more long-tail your search phrase is.


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Step 5: Examine your rivals' websites for those keywords

Whether you should go for long-tail keywords depends on your competitors. You will struggle to rank for competitive head keywords if there is a lot of competition in your niche. You can rank for more of your head keywords if there is little competition. Therefore, you'll need to conduct some SEO benchmarking.

Search for the keywords you found throughout your keyword research. With your most "head" term, begin. View the results page from the search engine (SERP). When you optimize your content for such a term, you will be competing with these websites. Look more closely: Do you spot any credible websites? Are you able to compete with these businesses? Are you sure that your website belongs among these? Is your business's size and level of influence comparable and centered around the same market?



When you're up against websites with well-known brands, like Royal Caribbean and Princess, in Athe example above, it's more difficult to rank. Your chances of ranking highly will decrease even further if consumers associate your brand with TV or radio ads. But it won't harm to look at what they have to say. Is the content properly optimized and written? You can have a chance to outrank your rivals if they have poor content.

Remember to record your findings for the keywords you looked at in your spreadsheet! If you find it more convenient than taking notes, you can use colors like red, yellow, and green to indicate which keywords are more or less competitive.

Step 6: Examine each keyword's search intent in more detail

Most SEO tactics used today should focus on giving individuals the best answers to their inquiries or the best solutions to their "problems." Anyone who types a search term into a search engine is looking for something. Every question has a particular response that is required.

Try to determine your target audience's purpose when they enter a particular key phrase into Google. For example, do they have a transactional intent (seeking to make a purchase immediately) or a transactional intent (searching for information on a certain topic)? Do they have a navigational intent (wanting to access a particular website) or a commercial intent (wanting to investigate something before buying)?

By carefully examining the kinds of pages that already rank for a given query, you might discover more about the search intent of that query. Most often, do you view product pages? Or a bunch of blog posts with information? Are videos present? Or is it a combination? These are all indicators of what Google thinks a particular query's search intent is. This article outlines how to use search results to generate outstanding content that accurately reflects the intended audience.

Discover what categories of intent your key phrases fall under, and add your findings to your spreadsheet!


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Step 7: Choose your keyword strategy by deciding which key phrases to target

You can choose the best keyword approach based on your gathered information. If you followed the preceding instructions, you need to have a spreadsheet with a good number of key phrases and details on the competitors and the search intentions of your target market.

Consider this now: How does my website fare in comparison to the websites included in the SERPs? Are your marketing budget and size comparable? So go ahead and concentrate on those vocabulary words. If not, start by attempting more long-tail keywords. Concentrating on many long-tail keywords at once may result in high traffic. Aiming for more head terms will be simpler once you've been able to rank for those long-tail keywords.

Consider the type of material before you dive in. What was the purpose of the searches for my key phrases? What does my audience want to see? In addition, what new material can I produce, and how can I differentiate myself through superior products or services? This will assist you in choosing the kind of content you will produce.

Step 8: Create landing pages that are optimized for your keywords

This process is, in theory, outside the purview of keyword research. Nevertheless, if you want to drive traffic to your website, developing excellent landing pages is crucial. You must therefore create landing pages that are optimized for your search queries just like this:



It's unnecessary to finish all these pages immediately; you can work on them gradually. You can prioritize with the help of your keyword strategy. You will write cornerstone content articles that offer the best and most comprehensive information about that keyword for your most crucial key phrases. Links to your cornerstone content pages should be included in all of your supporting long-tail articles.

Step 9: Check the effectiveness of your keyword approach and make improvements

Wait a little while after you've published some excellent articles (and optimized them appropriately), thoroughly analyze your chances of ranking for each individual term, and do your publishing. Analyze your rankings. Is your article visible? Did it appear on Google's first page of results? Or is it buried on pages 2 or 3? Make sure to assess your SERPs performance. You can consider this standard from Neil Patel:



No matter what you do, it's a good idea to see if your efforts are yielding results. If you can't get on the top page, try writing another post with an (even) longer term in mind. Make it a little bit more niche and specific. And monitor the outcome. Review once more. Keep doing this till you reach the first page of the SERPs!

Step 10: Regularly update your content and keyword research

Things will evolve with time. For instance, you could need to include new keywords in your list because your target audience might start using alternative terms while conducting searches for what they need. Or the level of competition could shift, making it simpler or more difficult to target specific keywords. In addition to all of those external changes, your website may have improved since you first launched, giving you a chance to target more head keywords.



Out of 641 sites, 187 of them saw a 10% increase by refreshing their content. Therefore, be sure to keep your outdated content current. Because when they can rank something new and helpful for consumers, why would Google want to promote stale, outdated content? Given all of these scenarios, it's critical to update your keyword research periodically. However, refreshing your keyword research every month is likely too frequently because these things rarely change quickly. On the other hand, a lot can change if you compare the scenario year to year. Therefore, you should periodically update your sheet with the most recent data.


Part # 5 Advanced Tips and Strategies

After mastering the fundamentals of keyword research, it's time to discuss some fun advanced topics. So here are a bunch of tactical keyword research tips you can implement immediately.

Barnacle SEO

Barnacle SEO is the tactic of exploiting the authority of existing websites to rank highly. I guess looking at the word "barnacle's" etymology will help you better comprehend what barnacle SEO is all about.

Arthropods, called barnacles, live in salty habitats like seas and are somewhat comparable to crabs, lobsters, and shrimp. In addition to attaching to objects like rocks or ships, they live in harmony with whales.



You are the barnacle in this situation, using the authority and deference of the ocean's whales. Simply put, if you can't defeat them, join them and use their strength to help you succeed.

Say you discovered the PERFECT keyword. And for that word, you are among the top 3. So you're almost done, right? Truth be said, not really. It turns out that Barnacle SEO can help you obtain even MORE traffic from that term.

For instance, one of your posts on YouTube SEO is among the top 3 for that term. Yes, a top-3 rating is fantastic. However, it only occupies one position in the SERPs. Would it be possible to make a YouTube video that is optimized for that phrase? And has it also landed in the top 3? You would then have two positions in the top three for the same keyword. And that might start to make a significant difference.

GSC Keyword Research

The Google Search Console offers a ton of keyword recommendations.

The procedure is as follows: Log into your GSC account and go to the "Performance Report" first.



The terms that generate the most clicks from Google searches are displayed to you in this report.



This displays keywords with strong impressions but maybe low clickthrough rates.



Create a piece of content that is optimized for that same term before moving on.

Why is this a successful tactic?

You KNOW people are searching for these terms. Additionally, you are aware that Google considers your website to be a suitable fit for its search results. So, you're good to go and simply publish content that is laser-focused on that phrase or tweak an existing piece of content to include that term.

Optimize content using Related Keywords and Synonyms

Yes, you should center your page's optimization around your primary keyword.

Don't stop there. By basing the content of your page on synonyms and closely similar terms, you can increase the amount of search engine traffic it receives.



Ahrefs Content Gap

You may use Ahrefs to examine the precise keywords that another website ranks for, just like with SEMRush. You may also improve this kind of competitive keyword analysis with Ahrefs Content Gap.

This is how:

Visit the Ahrefs content gap. Then, add a few sites that compete as well.


This will provide keywords for which at least two of your rivals are currently ranked, but you are not.



You also know that you stand a decent chance of making the top 10 because these terms have a lot of competitors ranking for them.

Search for "Shoulder Keywords"

Most website owners ONLY focus their optimization efforts on keywords that are relevant to their products.

And it's a major mistake for two reasons in particular:

  1. The competition for product keywords is frequently intense.
  2. When people aren't looking for what you sell, they may search for hundreds of different keywords.

Additionally, your consumer is far more likely to make a purchase from you in the future if you can get in front of them with some fantastic content. 

Shoulder keywords have nothing to do with what you sell. However, they are keywords that your clients use when searching, which makes them worthwhile to pursue.

For instance:

Let's imagine you manage an online store where basketball hoops are sold. You should, of course, optimize some of your pages for keywords like "buy basketball hoops online."



Don't stop there, though. After all, someone looking to purchase a basketball hoop might also lookup:

  • How to make more accurate free throws
  • Highlights of slam dunks
  • How to attract college recruiters
  • athletes' nutrition in basketball
  • How to enhance your broad jump

Therefore, you should also write content using these "Shoulder Keywords."

Keyword Difficulty

SEO experts with experience usually manually assess the complexity of each keyword's ranking. Specifically by looking at and examining the search results for each keyword. They consider a number of factors to decide if ranking will be difficult or easy:

  • A search query
  • Richness, relevance, freshness, and authority of the content
  • Backlink quantity (and quality)
  • Site Rating
  • SERP attributes
  • Etc

There is no agreement on precisely what is and isn't important in this process because it differs from person to person. For example, domain Rating may be significant to one individual, while relevancy may be more significant to another. The opinions may also fluctuate based on the kind of search query being examined, as Google favors certain factors for various kinds of inquiries. You might want to consider an example from Ahrefs' Keyword Difficulty Scale. 



KD stands for the roughly same number of websites that need to link to your page in order for it to rank in the top 10, as you can see in the picture above.

Was that clear to you? It is not the approximate quantity of backlinking websites required to rank first. It's the approximate number you need to get a top-10 position. The struggle is drastically different once you reach #1.

Many users abuse the KD metric by adjusting the filter from 0 to 10 and concentrating just on the simple keyword suggestions. But here's why it might be a mistake to steer clear of high KD keywords:

  1. You should target high-KD keywords as soon as possible rather than waiting- Ranking for high-KD keywords requires many backlinks, which requires a lot of effort and resources. Therefore, it pays to start building your page and promoting it immediately. You'll arrive there faster the earlier you start.
  1. Consider high-KD keywords as link opportunities- The existence of several backlinks on some of the top-ranking pages for particular keywords indicates the existence of a "link-worthy" subject. There is a good likelihood that many people will connect to you if you produce something unique on that subject.

In conclusion, KD is not intended to discourage you from pursuing particular keywords. Instead, you can use it to determine what it will take to rank for a particular query and the "link worthiness" of a particular topic.

Just be aware that you should never completely base your selection on any tool's difficulty ranking; rather, you should always personally evaluate keywords before pursuing them. The complexity of Google's ranking system cannot be reduced to a single score.


Now that you are fully informed about keyword research, you can begin. Winterplay Studios is able to assist you if you lack the time or resources to conduct keyword research on your own content. Do you want to know how we can help you? Contact us today!

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