Keyword research is, for lack of a better word, the key to monumental traffic to your blog.
It’s what helped me propel this blog to new and great heights!
In this post, I’ll show you how to do keyword research so you can also generate organic traffic to your blog.
Sounds good? Then let’s get into it!
The Ultimate Guide To Keyword Research
What is Keyword Research?
Before we get into the meat of bones on how to do keyword research, we need to know what it is first.
Keyword research is the pillar of a successful SEO campaign.
Basically, the goal is for you to find keywords that lots of people search on Google.
You also need to determine how easy it is to get your blog on top of Google search for that keyword.
Once you find these keywords, use them to create content that Google loves.
What I do mean here?
It means that you must observe the best on-page SEO practices on your post in relation to your keyword.
Pretty cut and dry, right?
While keyword research is simple in theory, it is also deceptively difficult.
Researching for the best keywords for your blog takes time.
There’s more to keyword research than just finding search terms that generate lots of searches from users every month.
We’ll get to these factors as we move forward in the article.
But here’s one thing I’ve done over the years to grow my blog traffic using keyword research:
I grouped similar keywords together to create content that targets multiple keywords at once.
Doing so allowed me to rank for these search queries for the same page.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot from Ahrefs of some of my best-performing posts:
One of my posts is ranking for more than 1,600 keywords!
And everything is by design! I know that I’ll be ranking for them because I optimized the post for these keywords.
This strategy of mine is what I am going to share with you later on this post!
So here’s the key to attracting LOTS of visitors to your blog:
It’s not about the number of blog posts you publish regularly.
Also, it’s not just about the quality of your post and how useful it is to your audience.
So what is it then?
It’s about how smart you approach keyword research!
If you want to smarten up about keyword research, then keep reading!
Types of Keyword Research
Now, onto the meat and bones of this post!
There are two types of keyword research: traditional and competitive.
Both follow different processes but can help you find the good keywords for your blog.
With traditional keyword research, you generate keyword ideas from a seed keyword.
The seed keyword, in this case, is your short-tail keyword.
Basically, you want to extract long-tail and medium-tail keyword ideas that contain your seed keyword.
More importantly, you want to find keywords that are easy to rank for on organic search and have lots of monthly searches.
You will identify these keywords using different metrics available on your chosen keyword tools.
Here’s an example on how to do traditional keyword research on Ubersuggest:
On the left, you will see a list of keyword suggestions for the seed keyword “content marketing.”
Clicking on each keyword will show you the Google SERP on the right side of the screen.
View the pages ranking for each and determine whether or not you can rank on the first page for this keyword with your content.
Traditional keyword research works best for newbie bloggers. They haven’t published blog posts yet and want to find keywords they can optimize for in their content.
On the downside, the traditional approach won’t provide you information about your competitors.
And that’s why we have the second type of keyword research.
Unlike the traditional way, you will come up with ideas from keywords your competitors are ranking for.
Normally, you type in the domain URL of your competitor on your premium keyword tool.
It should then process the keywords that it is ranking for on organic search. Also, you should see the position of each keyword on SERPs.
Once you have extracted their keywords, you can choose which ones to optimize for your blog.
What makes competitor-based keyword research more potent than the traditional method?
You gain access to proven keywords that you can target.
Think about it for a second:
If your competitors are ranking for them, then so should you!
However, this keyword research type only works if you have an established blog with pages ranking for certain search terms.
Also, you need to use premium keyword tools to conduct competitor-based research.
And as you know, these tools cost a fortune.
Still, these drawbacks don’t take away the fact that competitor-based keyword research is arguably the better approach in the long run.
In the screenshot above, I’m using Ahrefs to find keywords that contentmarketinginstitute.com is ranking for.
Not only do you see the volume and difficulty of each keyword. You also see the position where the page on the site is ranking on Google organic search.
Later, we’ll talk about how to effectively run a competitor-based keyword research using Ahrefs and other tools.
For now, however, you need to know how to determine the value of a keyword based on different variables. And we’ll discuss the most crucial ones below.
Factors of Keyword Research
Want to know why keyword research is difficult? Here’s why:
No keywords are ever the same.
Even if they share common words together, they are still fundamentally unique from each other.
People search certain keywords more often than others.
Some are much easier to rank for on search results than others.
Using this information, you can narrow down your keyword list to ones that work to your advantage, namely:
Keywords with high search volume and low competition!
To do this, you must manually analyze each keyword in your research using different factors.
They will help you determine which ones to optimize for.
Below are the factors I’m referring to:
1. Search Intent
To do keyword research effectively, you must find keywords that you want your audience to use for finding your blog.
So how do you do that?
You need to understand search intent.
It explains why people typed in that phrase on search engines.
By researching for keywords with the search intent that fits your blog, you drive more qualified traffic to your pages.
As a result, you get to increase your sales, email subscribers, and others!
Below are three types of search intent:
People search for informational keywords if they want to know the answer to a question.
For example, “selling shoes” is a keyword phrases. However, its intent is unclear at the moment.
To make a keyword’s intent informational, you need to answer this question:
What do people want to learn about this topic?
In most cases, keywords that start with an interrogative word or the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why (and 1 H: how) are prime examples of informational keywords.
To find this using Ahrefs, type in the keyword in the search bar of Keyword Explorer.
To filter the keywords with informational intent from the results, click Questions from the left sidebar.
From here, you will see a list of keywords related to selling shoes that begin with any of the 5 Ws and 1 H.
The search phrases come in the form of a question. This means that the user wants to find out all there is to know about selling shoes.
Informational keywords are perfect for bloggers whose goal is to share information.
They can build a content strategy revolving around these keywords so they can grow their traffic.
But how about bloggers who want to earn money? Let’s say they use their blog to sell products and services and to promote affiliate programs.
Then they need to optimize for keywords with the next type keyword intent.
I’m pretty sure you used Google Search to compare products and services before making a decision.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you used commercial keywords in your buyer’s journey.
People use these keywords if they have plans on buying something but are not sure which one yet.
An example would be “best professional drones.”
The user wants to know the top-of-the-line commercial drones in the market.
Most of the results from Google SERPs are list posts from e-commerce and review sites:
Usually, a keyword (usually a product or service) has commercial intent if you add the following affixes to it:
- Top 10
As mentioned, e-commerce and review sites benefit the most from optimizing for this keyword intent.
Most review site owners are affiliate marketers who recommend affiliate products to buy for their target audience.
They help guide customers make the best decision based on the available information.
In return, they earn a commission from every successful transaction!
Let’s say your audience knows what to buy already. What’s the next step?
That brings us to the third and last type of keyword intent.
Unlike commercial intent, keywords with transactional intent point you to where and how you can buy the product you want.
For example, I want to buy a DJI Mavic 2 Pro as my professional drone.
Here are affixes added to the keyword that changed its intent into a transactional one:
- Buy DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro deals
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro discount codes
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro shipping
As you can see, there is a clear intent from the user to buy the drone judging from these keywords.
I mean, nobody would search for discount codes and deals about the product unless they’re interested in buying it!
True enough, the results on Google SERPs show the different discount codes you can use to buy this drone.
For bloggers with products to sell on their site, you need to research for keywords with transaction intent.
They should help bring in more conversions to your blog if you optimize them correctly.
Now that we’ve covered search intent in depth, let’s talk about search volume.
5. Search Volume
Search volume refers to the number of times users searched the keyword in a month.
Ideally, you want to target keywords with high search volume for your blog.
Here’s the simple math:
More searches means more chances for people to find your site on Google.
Of course, this is only possible if you rank on the first page of search results for your keyword.
So you must be asking yourself:
How much traffic can I generate from a keyword based on its search volume?
Let’s refer to Advanced Web Ranking’s CTR study, in which:
- The top result garners approximately 30% clicks of all users
- The second result generate more or less 15% of all clicks
- The third result receives 10% clicks
Here’s a screenshot of the graph for your reference:
Let’s say your keyword has a search volume of 2,000 and you rank second on organic search for it.
The 15% of 2,000 is equivalent to 300 clicks.
That’s how many visitors you can expect to receive in a month.
And that’s quite a lot!
So does that mean you should always target keywords with high search volume?
There’s more to a keyword that the volume of searches every month.
In fact, the factor below is arguably the most crucial one in this list,
6. Keyword Difficulty
Keyword difficulty refers to the degree of competition you must face in getting your blog to rank for a keyword.
Understanding how keyword difficulty works is crucial to your keyword research.
As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t just find keywords that generate lots of monthly searches.
They’re the most competitive to rank in organic search.
Keywords with high search volume promise the greatest visibility for sites that rank on the top three spots in Google Search.
That’s why almost all sites want to get a piece of the action and understandably so!
So instead of optimizing for a keyword that everybody wants to rank for, why not travel the road less traveled instead?
In other words:
Why not target keywords with low competition?
The lack of competition gives your blog a much easier path to rank on top on SERPs.
However, and here’s the kicker with keywords with low competition:
There have abysmal search volumes.
We’re talking here of less than 100 searches in a month!
Obviously, that doesn’t discredit the value that keyword difficulty brings to the table.
So here’s why ranking for keywords with low competition is easy:
The sites that rank on the first page for the keyword aren’t optimized.
Basically, the content in these pages don’t observe the best on-page SEO practices.
Also, it’s possible that the keyword doesn’t have a specific content ranking on SERPs.
These are huge opportunities for you to capitalize on!
Keywords with low competition is a prime characteristic of long-tail keywords.
In a nutshell, these are search phrases that contain at least four words.
These might have low search volumes. But long-tail keywords usually come in question format.
All bloggers such as yourself need to do is provide the best answer to these queries. Then, optimize the page so you can rank on top of search results for the keyword!
The benefit of ranking on top of search results for a long-tail keyword is you enjoy higher conversions.
The reason for the high conversion rates of long-tail keywords is they answer a specific question.
By creating content that answers the needs of users, you compel them to take action on your blog. It’s that simple!
Therefore, you need to find long-tail keywords to complement your content creation.
Now, I know your chomping at the bit to start with the actual process of keyword research.
Since we just wrapped up the crucial factors in determining the best keywords for your research, let’s jump right into it then!
How to Do Keyword Research: Two Types
You can opt for free and paid ways to do keyword research.
If you don’t have a budget available for your keyword research, then the free approach is for you.
The only drawback with the free method, which you will see later, is you don’t have access to features that will speed up the research process.
Therefore, it’s best to go the paid route by using any of the best keyword research tools available.
They help you filter which among the keywords are the easiest to rank and group similar keywords together to help facilitate you in developing your blog’s content strategy.
So let’s begin with the free approach:
How to Use Google Keyword Planner For Free
Google Keyword Planner is totally free to use. You don’t need to spend a single penny on AdWords ads to access it. All you need is to have a Google account. Click here to get a free Google account if you don’t have one already.
However, here’s what usually happens when you try to use the tool:
You’ll be required to create an AdWords campaign.
Google is very serious with this that it often seems like you cannot possibly use the tool without first giving them some cash. Well, there’s good news:
You can actually gain access to the tool even without running an AdWords ad campaign. You simply need to bypass a few steps.
Click here to get started, then click on the bold “Go to Keyword Planner” button as shown below:
NOTE. They may ask you to re-enter your password for verification (which is normal).
Now here’s an important part:
You’ll see a page that reads “what’s your main advertising goal?” You don’t want to select any of the three options provided.
Under the provided options, click the small “Switch to Expert Mode” link instead.
On the next page, select the “Create an account without a campaign” option, and click the “Continue” button to proceed.
Click the blue “Continue” button on the next screen. (No! Google will not ask for your credit card details).
Then, this screen will show up (Congrats, you’re all done):
Now, click on the “Explore your account” link to go to the next page.
Here, click on the “Tools” tab on the upper right corner of the menu bar and select “Keyword Planner.”
You now have full access to the wonderful Google Keyword Planner! You don’t need to enter your billing information or run an AdWords ad.
How to Use Google Keyword Planner
To get started, Google Keyword Planner offers you two options, which are:
- Discover new keywords: This allows you to get new keyword ideas that will help you get to the people interested in what you offer
- Get search volume and forecasts: With this option, you’ll be able to see search volume and other metrics for your keywords, and forecasts on how their possible future performance
You can also click on the “How to Use Keyword Planner” link under the two options to learn more about the tool, but I’m sure you won’t be needing that after reading this article.
The two options will take you to the Keyword Planner; however, what you’ll see will be a bit different depending on your choice.
When it comes to performing keyword research, these tools are more than enough to give you thousands of potential keywords.
For clarity, this tool is specifically created with PPC advertisers in mind. So the tool has lots of features (such as the keyword bidding features) that you won’t need if you’re using the tool to find keywords.
That said, it’s time to learn how to perform keyword research using each of the tools in the Google Keyword Planner.
Let’s explore each in more detail.
1. Discover new keywords
You’ll want to start here if you want to discover new keyword ideas.
Based on Google’s instructions, simply “Enter words, phrases, or a URL related to your business,” as you can see on the screenshot below, Google will then bring back some keyword suggestions.
It’s worth mentioning that the value you’ll get from the tool is entirely based on the information that you put here. So you have to be strategic about the keywords you enter into this field.
To help you get the most out of Google Keyword Planner, let me break down each of the three options for you.
Enter Words: These are single words that are related to your products or services (for example, “skin care” or “SEO”). This lets you access Google’s database of keywords for different niches and industries.
Phrases: This is where you’ll enter your “seed keywords” and get a list of related terms. It’s best to enter at least two keywords here. For instance, if you operate an ecommerce website that sells bracelets, you’d want to enter terms like “tiffany bead bracelet” and “pandora bracelet charms” here.
A URL related to your business: This is specifically meant for Adwords advertisers. However, you can sometimes find a few good keywords here using your website’s homepage… or a blog post from your site.
Here are the keyword suggestions for “Skin Care”:
There are a total of 888 keyword ideas.
For each keyword suggestion, you will see:
- Keyword ideas
- Average monthly searches
- Top of page bid (low range)
- Top of page bid (high range)
The good thing is that you’re not limited to only single or two words; phrases work as well. And you’re allowed to enter up to ten seed keywords at a time.
They also have the option to use a website or URL as your seed.
However, the bad thing is that whatever you do, Google won’t show you more than a few thousand keyword suggestions per search.
Even when I entered up to ten seed keywords (which is the maximum number of keywords you can enter) and a URL, I still only got 4,424 keyword suggestions.
2. Get search volume and forecasts
This is the perfect place to start if you already have a list of keywords that you want to see metrics for.
Just copy and paste them in and click on the “Get started” button:
You will be taken to the Forecasts section. Here, you’ll still see the same “Keywords Results Page” you see when we used the “Discover new keywords” option.
The little difference is that:
- You get data only on the terms you searched for
- Google will tell you how many impressions and clicks you’re likely to get from the keywords you entered
The majority of this data is clearly meant for AdWords advertisers.
But here’s a little trick:
Click on the “Historical Metrics” tab, and Google will show you 12-month average search volumes for the keywords you entered:
These are the exact same ranges you see when you use the “Discover new keywords” tool.
That’s it about using the Google Keyword Planner for keyword research. Now, let’s quickly learn how to do the same using Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest.
How to Use Ubersuggest for Keyword Research
Ubersuggest is a new keyword research tool launched by Neil Patel, and I’ve got to admit, it’s a very wonderful tool for search engine optimization.
In this section, we’re going to go through the step by step process of performing keyword research with this powerful tool.
That said, let’s get started:
The keyword research process of Ubersuggest is broken down into three sections:
- Keyword ideas
- SERP analysis
The overview looks like this for the keyword “skin care.”
On the first section, you’ll see a graph that breaks down the keyword’s search volume over time.
It’ll show you the search volume for your chosen keyword in any country and language for the last 12 months.
On the graph, you can see if the keyword is gaining in popularity or declining or if it’s a seasonal keyword.
Aside from that, it also breaks down the cost per click (CPC), the SEO difficulty (SD), as well as the paid difficulty.
The difficulty scores range from 1 to 100. In other words, the higher the number, the more difficult it will be to compete for the keyword, and vice versa.
The second part of the Ubersuggest keyword research process is the ideas section. Using our “skin care” keyword as an example again, click on the “View all Keyword Ideas” button to view all the keyword suggestions for your target keyword:
Here, you’ll see a list of related keyword ideas. On the screenshot below, you can see we have 348 keywords to analyze:
The keywords are generated using both AdWords recommendations, and Google Suggest. This way, you can get a complete list of potential keywords you may want to target.
And just like the overview section, you can equally see volume data for every keyword as well as its cost per click (CPC), SEO difficulty (SD), and paid difficulty (PD) data.
Additionally, on the right side of the “keyword ideas report” section, you will see all of the websites that are ranking in the top 100 of the search engine result pages (SERPs) for that keyword.
This is the keyword ideas report part that I love the most as it also shows you the estimated visitor count based on ranks.
The metric checks whether a keyword is seasonal and if there are any paid listings or rich snippets for the term.
Apart from showing you the estimated visits based on ranking, you will equally see each URL’s domain score and how many social shares it has.
As you might have known, domain score ranges between 1 and 100 – and the higher the number domain has, the more authoritative it is and the tougher it will be to beat the website.
And for the social shares, this is an indicator of how much people loved the particular web page. If it has more social shares, then the website’s audience must have really enjoyed it.
Ubersuggest also gives you the ability to Export your results to in CSV format:
The final feature in the keywords idea report is the filtering:
Here, you can easily filter the keywords based on your preferred data point. From limiting the results to just “keyword suggestions or “related keywords” or by filtering keywords based on their competition and popularity.
And if there are too many results, you can also include or exclude certain phrases or terms. With this, you will be able to filter the results even faster.
The next section is the SERP analysis, which basically shows you a simple view of the top 100 websites that are ranking for any given keyword.
Lots of people perform keyword research in different regions and languages, and you can do that with all the reports, the SERP analysis included.
How to do Keyword Research With SEMrush
Semrush is one of the best and most popular search engine optimizations tools on the internet, and in this section, you’re going to learn how you can use SEMrush for conducting keyword research in any niche.
Before we start, you will need a SEMrush account – and if you don’t have an account already, simply click here to get 14 days free trial of Semrush.
With that out of the way, let’s quickly jump to the process of finding good keywords with SEMrush.
Visit the SEMrush dashboard, and click on the “Overview” tab (on the left-hand sidebar) under keyword analytics options:
Here, you will find a search bar where you will be required to enter your main topic from which you want to find good keywords to target.
You can equally choose your desired/target country (which is highly recommended) for which you prefer an audience of.
For this example, I’m still going to use our keyword “skin care,” and below is the result you’ll see:
In the screenshot above, we have four different reports for our chosen parent keyword “skin care.” Let’s quickly look at that:
1. Organic Search
This tells you how many people search for the keyword in Google (49.5K in this example), and how many websites are ranking for that keyword (3.1B). That’s pretty competitive as you can see.
2. Paid Search
This section tells you if any brands or websites are bidding for that keyword via paid ads. It also shows you the average cost per click of the term, in case you also want to bid for it.
3. CPC Distribution
This part shows the average CPC of the term based on your chosen country.
This is actually one of the best key factors to look at while performing keyword research. It typically shows you the monthly distribution of the term, which will enable you to know if a keyword will drive you traffic all the year round or if it’s seasonal.
These are important information that’ll give you an insight into what you’re about to enter so you’ll know if you actually stand a chance of ranking at all.
Phrase Match and Related Keywords
Right under the “keywords overview” section, you will find the “phrase match and related keywords” option.
This is where significant keyword research happens.
What we did in the first part was just to find some parent keywords which could eventually form the pillar for our content strategy.
It’s almost impossible to target them or any similar parent keywords, especially if you’re just starting as such keywords are always super competitive.
In that case, the idea is to find the low-hanging fruits (less competitive keywords) and utilize them to build a strong ranking profile for your website first.
How to Use SEMrush Phrase Match Option
Phrase match is an excellent option when you already know what topic or product to target, but it’s too broad.
With the “phrase match” feature, you’ll be able to find every possible keyword that is closely related to your parent keywords together with alternative words.
Apart from that, you can equally use the phrase match feature to discover a bunch of long-tail keywords and alternatives to product names you can target on your blog posts.
In the screenshot above, you can see that we have a lot of keywords to work on. You can also select different types of keywords, which include:
- Broad match: These are the broadest range of possible keywords that are still somehow related to your searched keyword.
- Phrase match: Keywords that include the exact phrase of your searched keyword
- Exact match: These are the exact keywords or close variants of your seed keyword
- Related keywords: As the name suggests, these are the keywords that are highly related to your seed keyword
You also have the option to either see all the keyword suggestions or to see only the “question related” keywords:
And then, there’s the “keyword magic tool” feature, which basically lets you choose exactly what the suggested keywords should be about. For example, in the screenshot below, I choose to see “products related” keywords:
Then, if you notice any keyword you like from the suggested list, you can just click on the little (+ sign) to add it among the keywords you’ll properly analyze later. From the image above, you can see the pointer on the keyword “facial skin care products list.”
Finally, on each of the SEMrush keyword suggestions, you’ll be able to see the:
- Keyword volume
- Keyword trend
- Keyword difficulty (KD)
- Cost per click (CPC)
- SERP feature
- Results in SERP
The keyword difficulty calculator is a handy tool that tells you how challenging to rank each keyword is.
Basically, it measures between 1 and 100. The higher the KD, the more difficult it’ll be to compete for the keyword, and vice versa, and this makes the process of finding good keywords much faster.
That’s it about keyword research.
Why You Need to Start Using SEMrush Today
SEMrush is undoubtedly one of the best SEO tools out there, and it’s used by lots of SEO enthusiasts and bloggers all over the world. The tool combines a bunch of databases data to offer you accurate keyword research details.
At the moment, SEMrush is used by more than 1 million people, and it has more than 800 million keywords data, which are generated from 30 geodatabases with the details of more than 130 million domains worldwide.
Even if you are a newbie, SEMrush can turn you into an SEO expert within the shortest possible time (not exaggerating).
To put succinctly, it’s the best tool for all your SEO tasks, and it can help you with the following:
- Keyword research
- Content research
- Backlink analysis
- Competitor’s research
- Find out the traffic of any website
- Domain comparison
- Detailed website audit to know if your website has issues and how to fix it
If you’re really serious about SEO, then I’d suggest you get SEMrush today. The good thing is that you can actually use it for 30 days without paying a dime.