What is keyword research? Simple! A practice that marketers use to find the right keywords to improve search engine results. Today we’re going to dive into exactly how this works

After finding a niche keyword, marketers use their research to generate other keywords, aiming is to come up with as many terms as possible that are relevant to a certain keyword without being obvious.

The goal here is, of course, to improve the ranking of their site.

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What is Keyword Research

Keyword research is, in its most basic definition, when SEO professionals try to find alternative search terms for subjects people search for using popular search engines. 

Ranking high on Google with keyword research

Still not clear yet? All right, how about an example?

This very same article you’re reading right now revolves around the keyword “keyword research.” I bet you didn’t notice that one. 

Ideally, people would view it based on their search for “keyword research.” But that’s not enough to rely on if one wants more visits from the right crowd. So, after diligent research and various scientific methods, a list of alternative keywords was generated. 

These keywords are ultimately relevant to what this article is trying to rank for and are the most used search terms when people on the internet decide to read about this subject.

What is a Keyword?

It’s worth briefly explaining what a keyword is. You’d be forgiven to think it’s just a single word governing your entire online presence’s traffic. Keywords can be anything from a couple of words to entire sentences.

They’re basically what people use to search for whatever topic comes to their minds. The more organic search terms are usually what people go for; somebody wanting to learn about cat fashion tips is going to search using things as simple as “cat fashion tips”, “top cat fashion tips,” or even “what are some of the best cat fashion tips 2021.”

different ways to carry out keyword research
Keyword research is important when trying to achieve any SEO goal but it is not something you only do once. It needs constant review. Credit: William Iven

But what’s the point of varying your keywords and doing all this keyword research? It sounds like a lot of effort for something so simple, but you’d be mistaken.

Keyword Research: Ranking Words for SEO Nerds

Keyword Research: What are You Looking for?

Of course, before we dive into how to research keywords, we must discuss what makes a keyword good or bad.

Let’s look at the main variable you should look out for.

Keyword Competition

Keyword competition is the measure of how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword. The competition for a keyword can vary depending on how popular the keyword is and industry competition.

Competitive keyword research is one of the highest return activities in search marketing. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. You can also learn more about your customers by researching your market’s keyword demand.

Most of all, it’s not always about getting visitors to your site but about getting the right kind of visitors.

The value of this cannot be overstated. With keyword research, you can predict shifts in demand, respond to changing market conditions, and produce the products, services, and content that web searchers seek.

Keyword Difficulty

To know which keywords to target, it’s essential to understand the demand for a given term or phrase and the work required to achieve high rankings. 

If big brands take the top 10 results and you’re just starting on the web, the uphill battle for rankings can take years of effort. This is why it’s essential to understand keyword difficulty.

Search Volume

Search volume is simply the amount or quantity of searches that occur for a particular keyword or term, often expressed as searches per month. The ideal combination is a term with high search volume and low search competition. These terms are hard to find.

Often, the popular search terms already have significant competition, making it very difficult to achieve top-position search engine rankings.  The competition is already there and has been there for a while.

How to Rank on The First Page of Google Using Long-Tail Keywords

How To Research Keywords

Next, let’s look at the stages of keyword research.


This involves looking for as many keywords as possible that can be used on your website. You can use online tools to find as many of them as possible fast. 

They also make it possible for marketers to determine the most popular ones.

Return On Investment (ROI) Analysis

After you have found several keywords that can be used on your website, you need to find the ones that would be most beneficial. Return on investment is a performance measure to determine how effective an investment is. 

The investment, in this case, would be your chosen keyword. If you want to yield high returns on investment, go for phrases that offer accurate and specific descriptions of the qualities of a site. Generic keywords are also great but do not always yield high returns.

Competitive Analysis

This involves using tools to find out the strength of competitors for your possible keywords. You need to determine how much attention competing sites pay to optimization issues and how many inbound links they have gotten.

It is advised to use related keywords with low competition and can still yield high returns on investment. This gives your website a chance of achieving a higher rank in search engines, generating high web traffic.

However, if a website is optimized for keywords other than the main one, it may not be very competitive. The keyword should be as closely related to the website’s subject.

Keyword Generator Tools: A Guide for Beginners, Long Tail keywords

Keyword Research Tools

Of course, keyword research is supposed to be scientific. With that in mind, here are some essential keyword research tools.

Google Keyword Planner

You can find free tools for keyword research on Google.

Google Keyword Planner makes it possible to create new keywords using a combination of other keyword lists, get estimates of search volumes for a keyword, and create new keyword variations from primary keywords. However, it has some limitations. 

Since it is only made for Adwords, it does not show long tail keywords, which are useful for search engine optimization. It generates keywords targeted to advertisers and not for search engine optimization.

Google Suggest

Google Suggest is used as a live feature. As a user types a search phrase into the browser, Google Suggest tries to predict their input before they finish typing. Suggested keywords appear below the search box, and the user can just click on whichever they want, and the results will be displayed. 

It makes search processes faster. These autocomplete predictions are derived from the input of other users using an algorithm, so there is no human involvement. 

Marketers can use Google Suggest since it contains many keywords that could be closely related to a full or partial keyword. It is great because there is no human involvement. It is completely automated and, therefore, has some great keyword ideas.


Semrush-Digital Marketing Tools - Keyword Research Tools - Free SEO Tools

Making a modest list of keyword research tools without mentioning SEMrush would be a sin. 

Beloved by many as one of the premier competitor-based keyword research tools, SEMrush offered a feature around the time of its release that no other tool had in its belt – the ability to reverse-engineer the organic rankings of every one of your competitors. 

This gave it its everlasting edge over the myriad other keyword research tools around at the time and still to this day. Anyone remotely serious about their SEO endeavours ensured that SEMrush was their go-to tool. 


Keyword Research - MOZ logo
Moz is one of the biggest SEMRush competitors. Image credit: Moz

It’s unsurprising to find something from the good folks at Moz regarding SEO. Seeing as how they’re a veritable resource of SEO techniques, they decided to up the ante by introducing their Keyword Explorer to us humble SEO nerds. 

The first thing you’ll notice about Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a nice and intuitive interface. Not only is it easy on the eyes, but it’s also incredibly descriptive with the kinds of in it gives you a great tactic to reel in experts and apprentices alike. 

I am showing you numeric values and visual representations of any keyword’s monthly search volume, priority, and difficulty. In addition to giving you both SERP analyses and ideal keyword suggestions, all in a detailed and visually impressive layout. 

Did we forget to mention that over half a million businesses use Moz? 

That has to be an indication of how good it is, right?



  • Free tool created by entrepreneur Neil Patel
  • Generates keyword suggestions by entering seed keywords
  • Provides estimated monthly search volume for keywords
  • It helps find long-tail keyword variations and ideas related to core terms.
  • Easy to use with a simple interface, no signup required
  • Limitations include a lack of competition data and exact search volumes.


Ahrefs logo - Keyword Research Tools - free seo tools
Ahrefs is one of SEMRush’s top competitors, with a great focus on content research. Image credit: Ahrefs
  • Paid tool focused on backlink analysis and SEO
  • Offers detailed keyword data, including search volume, CPC, and competition
  • Tracks keyword ranking positions over time
  • Conduct competitor keyword research and gap analysis
  • Advanced filters and export options are available in paid plans.
  • It costs more than some other keyword tools but provides robust capabilities.


  • Affordable paid keyword research tool
  • Useful for discovering long-tail keyword variations
  • Provides search volume estimates but not competition data
  • Helps generate topic and question-based keywords
  • Beginner-friendly interface and setup
  • Limited in some features compared to larger SEO tools
  • Best for brainstorming long-tail keywords and initial research

Along with all the standards you’d expect from a keyword research tool, Keyword Explorer also gives you a “potential” metric to play with, allowing you to take all the data available into account and giving you an estimate of how close you are to a virtual sweet spot when it comes to keyword rankings. 

Keyword Research For YouTube

To create a YouTube video with many views, you must invest time and effort. A good video can be useful in getting more visitors to your website and improving returns on investment. 

The video could be a great tool for marketing your goods and services. This means you’ve got to create a really good video. 

The next step is to ensure that people get to see it. People can’t watch a video if they cannot find it. You can use keyword tools to ensure that they do. Keyword Tool

Keyword Keg

Keyword Keg makes it possible to use searches on YouTube to filter your data. You can filter by language or country if you are looking for specific results. Marketers can find out the search volume of every keyword, the keyword power and the worth of each keyword.


It is most suited for marketers who rely completely or almost completely on YouTube to increase website visitors. It does not focus on any other software package but YouTube. 

The keyword ideas from YTCockpit are derived from the autocomplete feature of YouTube, Google Suggest and Google Ad Words. It can be used to research competitors and monitor the traffic trends of various keywords. It is targeted, so a lot of marketers prefer it.

A Word about PPC

Pay Per Click Ads: An Unmissable Advertising Opportunity?

PPC keyword research differs from keyword research for SEO and should be treated as such.

For SEO keyword research, the goal is to find the keywords that people frequently search for and find the keywords for certain topics.

For PPC, however, the goal is to find keywords to bid on to make you more money per click. PPC keyword research, therefore, focuses on profit or achieving certain goals.

The error margin for PPC keywords is not as large as for SEO because SEO does not cost fees per keyword, and there is always a chance to adjust keywords that do not work. For PPC, every little error is money out of your pocket.

The Best Free SEO Tools Online | SEO | Build a Website | Website Tutorial

Competitor Keyword Analysis

  • Research keywords that top competitors are ranking for in organic search and paid ads
  • Use tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz to analyze their ranked keywords
  • Identify high-traffic keywords they rank for that your site does not
  • Uncover keyword gaps representing opportunities to target and rank
  • Prioritize winnable keywords so your content and optimization can outrank competitors for

Track Keyword Rankings

  • Use rank-tracking tools like SEMrush, Moz, and Serpstat to monitor your keyword positions.
  • Track both primary keywords and supporting long-tail keywords
  • Set up ranking reports to see changes over time.
  • Identify keywords dropping in rank to address any issues
  • Optimizing existing content can help increase rankings for more keywords
  • Compare your rankings to competitors to benchmark performance

Regular competitor analysis and rank tracking ensure you maintain visibility for important keywords while identifying new opportunities.

Tips for integrating keywords naturally into content:

  • Use the exact keyword phrase 1-3 times in the content, ideally once near the beginning. Please don’t force it.
  • Include variations of the keyword in sentences – “quality shoes” vs “shoes of quality” vs “top quality shoes”.
  • Work keywords into headings and subheadings. These have more SEO weight.
  • Mention synonyms and related keywords in the surrounding text.
  • Use keywords in image file names, alt text, and metadata to reinforce.
  • Link out to authority sites also targeting the keyword.

To avoid overuse:

  • Don’t repeat keywords excessively. Keep usage at 2-3% of word count.
  • Vary terminology using synonyms, related terms and natural phrasing.
  • Check that keyword use flows naturally in sentences. Don’t overstuff.
  • Read the content out loud. It should sound natural, not awkward and repetitive.
  • Look at top-ranking competitor content as a benchmark for natural integration.

Proper keyword usage takes practice. Seamlessly weaving in keywords improves both user experience and SEO simultaneously.

Step-by-step checklist for performing keyword research:

  1. Identify Target Keywords
  • Brainstorm a list of primary keywords and phrases relevant to your content and business goals.
  1. Use Keyword Research Tools
  • Input seed keywords into tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz, etc.
  • Extract keyword suggestions, search volume, competition, trends, etc.
  1. Analyze Keyword Data
  • Review keywords ranked by volume, competition level, CPC, trends
  • Prioritize keywords aligning with business goals and viability
  1. Competitor Keyword Analysis
  • Use tools to analyze keywords competitors rank for
  • Identify gaps representing opportunities to target
  1. Categorize Keywords
  • Organize keywords into groups for different pages/uses
  • Top priority, secondary priority, long-tail variations
  1. Track Keyword Rankings
  • Use rank-checking tools to monitor your keyword positions.
  • Compare to competitors to identify areas for improvement
  1. Optimize Content
  • Update existing content targeting more keywords
  • Create new content optimized for priority keywords
  1. Iterate and Refine
  • Continuously analyze performance and iterate on keywords
  • Stay updated on trends and searcher intent.

Keyword Research FAQ

Q: What are the main keyword research tools?

Some top tools are Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs, UberSuggest, and KWFinder.

Q: What metrics are important for keyword research?

Key metrics are search volume, CPC, competition level, and search trends. Prioritize keywords based on these.

Q: How can I find keyword opportunities?

Analyze keywords your competitors rank for using SEO tools to uncover gaps you can target.

Q: How often should I do keyword research?

Ongoing keyword research is important, but conduct a full review quarterly to identify new opportunities.

Q: How do I know if I’m over-optimizing with keywords?

Read content out loud. Keyword usage should sound natural. Limit to 2-3% density.

Keyword Research Conclusion

Thorough keyword research provides the foundation for effective SEO and content marketing. By identifying high-potential keywords aligned to business goals, analyzing competitor rankings, and tracking performance, companies can drive more qualified organic traffic to their website.

Keyword optimization should feel natural, not forced. Maintain relevance for users while also connecting content to effective keywords. With the right data and insights, companies can develop an intelligent keyword strategy.

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