What is Keyword Research and How to Do it Right

what is keyword reseach and how to do it

Ever wonder how some sites write posts that seem spot on with what you have been looking for?

How did they read your mind to be able to tailor the post to your exact need?

The magic they have performed before writing their article is called keyword research. We will be looking at what keyword research is and how to perform it.

What is a keyword?

A keyword is a word or phrase upon which a post is based.

Usually a post is trying to address a certain phrase or search query that online searchers have input in the search engines.

For example if my search phrase is “how to make money online” , that phrase would be the keyword or keyphrase upon which a savvy blogger would base their post on.

Types of keywords

Keywords can take a short, middle, or lengthy form.

Short-tailed keywords consist of 1 or 2 words. For example “make money” is a short-tailed keyword.

Medium tailed keywords consist of 3 or 4 words. An example is the phrase “make money online”.

On the other end, long tailed keywords are phrases consisting of 4 or more words. An example of a long tailed keyword is the phrase “how to make money online fast”.

But what is keyword research?

Keyword research refers to the practice of finding or discovering those phrases that searchers are actively using to find answers  online.

Here is an example of searches that people make online

Five ideas have been generated from the initial search query.

And if you were doing keyword research you would find the suggested ideas above pretty useful.

As a blogger you would naturally want to provide answers to certain challenges within your niche.

To provide intelligent answers you would need to know the exact phrases or words that online searchers use in their quest for information.  

As a result, your post or answer would strongly be based on those search phrases you have discovered.

Why is keyword research done?

Keyword research is done for primarily two key reasons:

1.  To know what your audience wants (in their own words and intent!)

 2.  To answer your audience with regard to what they want ( in their own words and intent)!

The picture below sums up some reasons for doing keyword research

what is the importance of keyword research

Other reasons for keyword research fall under those two main ones and are as follows:

1. Keyword research helps determine content strategy.

As a blogger you would not want to just write random posts on whatever topic that comes to your mind. Keyword research helps you to be organized.

In that way you can devise a publishing schedule informed by the topics readers mostly want answers on.

That schedule or sequence  would in turn be based on your perceived priority of the topics before you.

2. Helps determine profitable search phrases to focus on.

Keywords are not equally profitable in the business sense.

Some keywords indicate the readiness of customers to buy, whereas others just indicate a quest for information.

Therefore depending on your business or purposes, you may want to focus on search phrases that bring the most return on your investment of time and money.

On the other hand, you may also want to attract those searchers that are purely seeking for information.

You can then lead them into a carefully designed funnel based on nurturing and information sharing. Later on they can become your customers.

3.To be seen in the vast ocean of the internet.

Keyword research is an inherent part of SEO, a practice aimed at signalling the relevance and importance of your site and its posts to users and the search engines.

Posts based upon proper keyword research will be targeted to searchers wants and will therefore attract more targeted traffic to your site.

Targeted posts also have a better chance of ranking high in the search engines than non-targeted posts.

Talking about targeted keywords brings us to talking about the difference between types of keywords.

The Importance of long tail keywords  vs short tail keywords

The graph below indicates the amount of search volume  and competition with regard to type of keyword.

what are long tail keywords and why are they important

Short tailed keywords get the most amount (in hundreds of thousands) of search traffic  per month. An example of a keyword phrase in this regard would be “keyword tool.”

At the same time as getting many searches, short tailed keywords also attract the most competition. This is because most authoritative sites rank for these kind of keywords.

In addition, these keywords are ambigous. That means you cannot target the search intent as you don’t know what the searcher wanted.

Did they want to know the names of keyword tools? Did they want to use a keyword tool? Or did they want to buy a keyword tool?

The picture is better, though still highly competitive, with medium tailed keywords. These phrases get search volumes in the thousands.

An example of a short tailed keyword here would be “best keyword tool”. While informative, the phrase is still highly competitive.

Long tailed keywords get searches in the hundreds and tens per month. However, because they occupy the bulk of all search queries on the internet, they offer great opportunity of traffic when combined.  

And, because they are highly specific, long tailed keywords get more targeted traffic. This means the rate of conversion is much higher than with generic phrases that usually characterize short tailed keywords.

In addition, because long tailed keywords are precise as to the search of the clients, using them also means less ambiguity on your part in answering those search queries.

An example of a keyword in this regard is “what is the best keyword research tool?”

How To  Do keyword Research : Finding Keywords For Your Site


To find the keywords which users mostly search on, which your site has a high and realistic chance of ranking for, and which your articles should therefore be based upon, do the following:

1. Brainstorm

what is keyword research and how to do it

1.1 First establish your seed keywords

As the name suggests seed keywords are the foundations from which your list of keywords will grow. They reflect the major areas that your site is all about.

For example, if your site is about weight loss for women, you might identify your seed keywords as: weight loss foods, weight loss exercises, weight loss recipes – breakfast, recipes – supper, herbs for weight loss, weight loss pills, morning rituals, organic foods, weight loss products

1.2 Put yourself in the shoes of your audience

Ask yourself the following questions:

What area(niche) or subset thereof (subniche) are you in? : this is where your audience is!

If you were your audience what would you want to search for?

What keywords or phrases would you put in the search bar on google, yahoo, or bing in searching for solutions to your challenges?

To answer all these questions,  do the following exercise:

1.2.1 List the services or solutions that you offer

In the weight loss example above, my services or solutions would be: weight loss recipes, weight loss exercises, advice, weight loss programs, workshops on weight loss, weight loss gadgets/equipment, and confidence in being overweight

1.2.2 List problems or challenges of your target audience

 An example of a challenge in this regard would be : overweight people struggle with walking long distances, breathing, eating a lot, and confidence and self-esteem

1.2.3 List phrases likely to be used by those who have no real idea of the exact names of the product solutions you offer

What exact words or phrases do you think they would employ as they typed their queries in the search box, in search of your solutions?

In the weight loss area, somebody might search the engines using the phrase “difficulty in breathing”, “I can’t walk for long before I run out of breath”, “how to lose weight fast”, “how to reduce eating a lot”, “what are the best weight loss products” bla bla….

Brainstorm all these anticipated words or phrases and note all of them down.

2. Expand your keyword ideas

Its time to discover the fullest potential and possibilities of our keywords.

In plain language we want to determine the following very important factors:

1. The search volume (number of searches per month) performed on the keywords,

2. The difficulty or competition in ranking for the keyword (keyword difficulty),

3. The domain authority of other sites ranking for the same keyword, and

4. The chance of ranking for the keyword.

Without determining these factors before using our keywords, we will be shooting in the dark.

But before that:

What are keyword tools and why are they important to keyword research?

Keyword tools are applications or software programs that help you expand  the broad range and determine the quality and potential of phrases/keywords that users searching for a solution type in the search engine.

Here are some great keyword tools you can use to both expand your keyword ideas, and test the potency of your keywords

KW Finder

how to do keyword research using the KWFinder

KW Finder has a great interface that gives you a lot of ideas at once.

You get such data as Search (search volume), CPC (cost-per-click), PPC (pay-per-click), and KD (keyword difficulty). All on one page.

These metrics will help you plan your keyword strategy intelligently.

The second half of the interface gives you the search engine results page for that keyword.

Using the SERP, you will see the backlinks and domain authorities of the sites ranking for the keyword. Using these factors, you will be able to decide which keywords are within or beyond your site’s ranking potential.

The other striking features about KW Finder are the “Question” and “Google Autocomplete” features.

These features will enable you to search for question based phrases as well as get valuable suggestions from Google. All without leaving the tool itself.

The tool also enables the viewing of your search history.

In addition, you can save your keywords in lists. This means you can readily retrieve and re-evaluate keywords without having to search for them afresh.

KW Finder plans start at $29.90 per month and make it one of the cheapest keyword tools around.

With the paid plan you will get access to the whole suite of tools which includes: SERP Checker, SERP Watcher, Link Miner, and Site Profiler.

If you want to see KWFinder in action you can try it free here


How to do keyword research using Ahrefs tool

Ahrefs scrapes keyword suggestions from a whole host of search engines including Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, Google, Amazon, and YouTube.

While it goes far beyond the conventional keyword tool for its depth, some of the outstanding features about Ahrefs are:

“Clicks”: this feature shows the average number of clicks and percentage share per month of both paid and organic results for the target keyword.

This information is crucial for determining the worth or average expense of a keyword in the paid results, and also the click potential it has when ranking organically.

Global volume: Ahrefs also sorts the search volume by country. So you can make an informed decision on your target region

Diversity of keyword ideas: When you enter you seed keyword, Ahrefs will present an overview screen. On this screen will also appear different categories under which your keyword may fall.

These categories are: “Having same terms,” “Questions,” “Also rank for,” and “Newly discovered.”

Clicking on a topic in each of these columns opens a gold mine of potential keywords.

This feature enables you to get keyword ideas from a variety of angles. With this information you can optimize existing posts, generate new blog posts, and add new topics to an existing blog post.

Export feature: You can download potential keywords and use them in your future expeditions.

The Ahrefs explorer trial lasts for a week and costs only $7. Thereafter plans are dependent on your type of business, and start from $99 per month.

Paid plans open access to the whole range of Ahrefs’ tools, including the Site Explorer and Content Explorer.

Try Ahrefs here

Moz’s Keyword Explorer

how to do keyword research using Moz's Keyword Explorer

Moz provides a suite of tools of which the Keyword Explorer is just one.

Other remarkable tools in their arsenal include the Link Explorer and MozBar.

Some of the important information you can get from Moz includes:

Unique long tail keyword suggestions: All you need to do is input your seed keyword (however short-tail it is), and the tool will give you a wide range of unique long tail keywords.

Unique long tail keywords are always an advantage for getting targeted traffic.

Organic CTR: this is the an indication of the amount of clicks that can be expected if you should appear in the top 10 results.

Using this information, you can make a decision on whether your listing on the SERP will gain enough useful traffic as to be worth your efforts.

Priority: Priority indicates the potential of a keyword taking into account the keyword difficulty, search volume and clickthrough rate.

In essence, priority is a measure of the potency of a given keyword and whether or not you should target it.

If you are looking to test out Moz you can choose to use Moz’s free tools or access the Pro version for 30 days. The Pro version will give you access to all their tools.

Alternatively, the paid plans start from $99 per month.

Access Moz’s free tools here

Long Tail Pro

how to do keyword research using LongTail Pro

Long Tail Pro, like its name, prides itself on discovering long tail keywords for you.

With Long Tail Pro you can enter up to 200 seed keywords at once and get more than 400 long tail keyword ideas back.

Long Tail Pro has filters that you can use to select for the kind of keywords you want. Outstanding filter metrics include: Average KC , Bid, Words, and Rank Value.

Average KC is another name for the keyword difficulty. This metric is represented by a figure and colour which together denote how difficult it is to rank for that keyword.

Bid represents the lowest amount you can expect to use in order to use the keyword in your PPC campaigns.

“Words” refer to the number of words in your targeted key phrase. This feature enables you to find highly targeted long tail keywords as the more the number of words, the more targeted the phrase is.

Rank Value is the value in dollars of a given keyword. This is based partly on the domain authority of your site as well as the ranking potential of the keyword.

One other great feature of Long Tail Pro is the Rank Tracker.

This feature will track your ranking progress for a given keyword, and update you accordingly. This will in turn enable you to make decisions based on timely data.

Long Tail Pro plans start at $37 per month when billed monthly, or $25 per month when billed annually.

See LongTail Pro in action here


how to do keyword research using SEMRush

SEMRush is a tool that will keep you ahead of the competition.

It gives crucial information on both keywords that your competitors are ranking for, and on long tail keywords that you can use instead of short tail ones.

If you want to check out keywords that your competitor is ranking for, just plug the domain name into the keyword tool and you will get a report on their keywords.

SEMRush also gives you the ability to see who is ranking for the keywords that you are ranking for. In addition, you will be given the competition level they are giving you, in terms of percentage.

Besides these, SEMRush also gives insight into 3 important areas. These are the SEMRush Rank, Keywords, and Traffic Cost. These factors appear in the organic search section.

SEMRush Rank is the same as your site’s overall rank on the world wide web. This will enable you to see how your site is performing and the work needed to improve its ranking

Keywords refer to the monthly number of organic visitors from Google. The higher the number the more the organic visitors.

Traffic Cost is the estimated value of the traffic. The higher the traffic cost, the more valuable the keywords a site is ranking for.

SEMRush offers a free 7 day trial to test their products on both the Pro and Guru plans. From there, the paid plans start from $99 per month, depending on the type and scale of your business.

Try SEMRush for free here

We have come a long way.

In case you are lost, we have so far brainstormed our potential keywords, and reviewed different keyword tools to that determine their keywords’ potential for different purposes.

The determination of ranking potential from keyword difficulty deserves special attention. Let’s see how you can do it

3. Keyword list refinement by difficulty

Having now a good list of potential keywords, you need to distill them to a profitable group.

You want to see keywords you can keep and prioritize for now, those you can keep for later, and those you can discard.

You can use several criteria for this, depending on your purpose.

For SEO, I usually use the following criteria:

I determine the keywords with a combination of high search volume and low competition/low keyword difficulty.

The second thing I check for is the domain authority of sites ranking for the particular keyword I want to target.

My favorite tool for both expanding my seed keywords and determining their potential is the KW Finder.

I use this tool to first enter my search phrase.

The tool would then tell me what long tail keywords associated with that phrase are being searched for online.

Like here i’ve filtered for keyword suggestions based on questions

how to do keyword research using KWFinder

After sorting by search volume (highest to lowest) or keyword difficulty (lowest to highest), I would get to see which keywords to focus on.

But the story does not end there. I continue on to check out the keywords one by one.

Out of that list, I choose one keyword with high search volume and low keyword difficulty.

In this step, I would usually purge keywords with keyword difficulty far above (i.e. about 1 and half times above) my own site’s domain authority, as that would mean that keyword has some pretty significant difficulty of ranking for.

For example, if my own domain authority is 30, I would not go for keywords of SEO difficulty 45 and above.

In the next step, I am interested in determining the domain authority of sites ranking on page 1 of Google for that keyword.

I access this information by going to the SERP Overview section within the keyword tool.

what is keyword research

If I see a site with a domain authority near mine (i.e. 5 or 6 domain authority units slightly higher or lower than mine) ranking for that keyword on page 1, I know I can rank for it too.

what is keyword research

I would then add the keyword to my list of keywords to be used in the future.

I would then copy this spreadsheet to Microsoft Excel where I can further sort my list by priority.

The high priority keywords would have the lowest keyword difficulty sorted on lowest competitor domain authority, sorted on highest search volume, and so on.

Now, having determined the potential ease or difficulty of ranking on page 1 for a given keyword, the final step in keyword research follows.

This step is optional but highly recommended.

4. Keyword Segmentation by intent

Search intent refers to the underlying motive or impulse of one  in performing a search query.

It’s either one wants to know about a certain topic for informational purposes only, or that they want to see how different categories of the same subject matter fare.

The searcher may also be driven by an intent to buy. The graph below indicates the intent stage or level at which the user may enter the search funnel.

how to segment keywords by search intent

Different kinds of intent are conveyed by the language used in the search query.

Therefore specific phrases are indicative of the stage or intent behind the searcher’s query.

 For example, “email autoresponder” is a pretty generic phrase that signals only the search for information on the part of the searcher.

“Best email autoresponder” however indicates a notch higher in the search for information.

Here the underlying intent is comparison among a group of email autoresponders.

The phrase also indicates that if presented with satisfactory information and reason enough, the searcher may likely buy one of the options presented.

The search phrase “GetResponse vs Aweber” shows that the searcher has narrowed down their search to only 2 options out of the several autoresponders available.

The searcher is now more closer than ever to making a purchase.

The use of a single brand name, together with a combination of buying words like “ buy, purchase, coupon, cheapest, cheap, discount, promo code” are almost definite indicators of the decision reached by the searcher to buy the item.

They are just a shopping cart away from purchasing.

The graph below shows how search intent and search volume perform alongside type of keyword.

how to segment keywords by search intent

The majority of search intents are informational, with the middle volume group being research or comparison based, whereas the lowest search volume goes to transactional intent type of search queries.

In direct disproportion, transactional keywords rise with the decrease in search volume.

This indicates that purchasing intent increases as searchers become more specific with their search intent.

The graph also indicates the entry, middle, and exit points of the customer journey.

The funnel gets progressively purchase-motivated as the searcher’s awareness of what they want  is raised.

So all in all the process looks like this:

Information -> Investigation -> Transaction

Keyword segmentation by search intent helps you group your identified keywords into classes or groups of relatedness.

You will have information-seeking phrases in one group, investigation or comparison phrases in another, and purchase-oriented phrases in yet another group.

Following this line of thinking, your general blog posts will include more of informational phrases of intent.

Comparison posts will have more of “better than, best, cheapest” keywords.

On the other end,  your review posts will include many keywords denoting buying, like “purchase, promo code, coupon” keywords.

Segmentation by intent ultimately helps you target the searcher and tailor information and suggest purchases, according to their search intent.

Capitalizing on the knowledge of search intent, you can design your blog such that the visitor will move along a carefully designed path.

In this manner, they will be carried from only intents of finding information to ultimately purchasing.

They can be taken from informational posts to either comparison posts or reviews, which will hopefully end in a purchase.

Overall, keyword segmentation by intent helps with developing a content strategy.

Using this content strategy, you can make a publishing schedule based on the type and priority of your keywords.

how to do keyword research
what is keyword research

Wrapping it all up

Keywords are the very fabric of your blog.

All your posts should be founded upon targeted keywords. Your audience searches for you through keywords. You got to answer them through their keywords!

The value of proper keyword research cannot be underestimated.

Your success and profitability online depend on it!

Your keywords should be selected on the basis of a realistic idea of their ranking difficulty and search volume.

This will necessarily involve checking out the keyword difficulty and domain authorities of your competitor sites.

The keywords you target per article will depend on your purpose for that article.

Whether its all for information sharing, for making comparisons between products, or for suggesting a product which requires monetary investment, you need to know what search phrases to use in your article so as to attract your readers.

Is there  any trick you use to find your keywords that you  could share with others here?

Comment below

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