How To Conduct Keyword Research

How To Conduct Keyword Research


arnold on Jan 28, 2019

***updated 1/21/2024***

Keyword Research:

In the previous guide you were introduced to search engines and keywords, and the different sections of a search engine where information can be found depending on the keyword that is searched. In this guide we are going to talk about conducting keyword research for an organic SEO strategy. This is in reference to coming up in the organic search results. Later on in this course we will do keyword research for Google Ads where we will come up with keywords that we bid on.

What is a keyword?

A keyword in the context of digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) refers to a word or a phrase that users enter into search engines to find relevant information, products, or services. These are the terms that websites aim to rank for in search results. Keywords are fundamental to SEO strategies as they help dictate website content and structure, ensuring that a site appears in search results for relevant queries. They serve as a bridge between what people are searching for and the content a website offers to fulfill those needs. Keywords are essential for optimizing web pages, blog posts, and online content to increase visibility and relevance in search engine results.

Keyphrase, often interchangeably used with ‘keyword phrase,’ is a critical concept in the realm of SEO and digital marketing. Unlike single-word keywords, keyphrases consist of two or more words that form a specific query a user might enter into a search engine. These phrases are highly targeted and often more effective in driving relevant traffic to a website than broad, single-word keywords. For instance, while a broad keyword might be ‘shoes,’ a keyphrase would be more specific, like ‘women’s running shoes in Boston.’ Keyphrases are instrumental in optimizing web content to align with what potential customers are actively searching for, thereby enhancing the visibility and relevance of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Why are we researching keywords?

To start, keywords are what guide our digital strategy and they are the foundation for each page of our website. Every page of our website can be considered a landing page for a keyword. Our Homepage is the landing page for people searching for our brand or company name. If people search for the name of your company you want them to find your website.

If you sell 20 products you can’t possibly rank for all 20 products using just your homepage. If you have any sort of SEO strategy, you will most likely have one page for each product with the focus keyword for each page being the name of the product on that page.

However, the best keywords are not always going to be as obvious as a brand name or a product name. We need to do some keyword research to 1) find out what keywords people are searching for, 2) make sure there enough search volume, and 3) make sure we are targeting keywords that we stand a chance to rank for.

As an example, I have a Marine Fuel Line Supply Company that has been a client of mine for about 12 years. When I first took over their website the owner was very proud of their number 3 ranking for “outboard fuel fittings” and was adamant we not lose that ranking and do whatever we can to get to number one for that keyword.

The first thing I did was some basic keyword research and it ended up having a monthly search volume of  less than 10 searches a month in the entire United States. We identified a few other possible search terms and we found that other variations of that search term had searches that numbered 1300+ searches a month. On all of those keyword he wasn’t even top 100. One of the terms we identified was “fuel line fittings” and you can see in the Google Keyword Planner chart below that it has 1300 searches compared to 10.

Google Keyword Planner


As this example illustrates, ranking for the right keywords can make or break the goals or value of your website.

What are the best keywords for a page on a website?

As I just mentioned, 1) we want to identify keywords that are relevant to our company, product or service, 2) we want those keywords to have a higher search volume and 3) we want to find keywords we stand a chance to rank for. If we are a small shoe seller we are not going to stand a chance to rank for a keyword such as “buy shoes” because there are 20 big brands with million dollar SEO budgets that we could never compete with, with our much smaller budget.

Is there a place that we can tell Google what keyword we want to rank for?

No. This is a common question I get. There used to be a keyword meta-tag  years ago but it was quickly abused by SEO’s and determined not to be a relevant indicator of keyword quality for website. A lot of website still use this keyword metatag but it is worthless.  In the SEO guide next week we will cover what to do in order to attempt to rank for keywords.


How do we research keywords?

We first need to understand the difference between a broad keyword and a long-tail keyword. A pretty common beginner mistake is to come up with broad keywords. A common example given is “shoes” as a keyword. Yes there are probably millions of searches each day that contain the word “shoes” but there is no way to determine the intent of someone who searches for “Shoes.”

Google Keyword Planner

Hubspot Image

Are they interested in buying shoes or are they looking for an image of shoes online? If they are looking to buy are they looking for men’s shoes? Women’s shoes?  You just don’t know.

Google Keyword Planner

Hubspot Image

In contrast, a long tail keyword such as “Hiking Shoe Store Fort Collins” is very specific.  We know exactly what the person who is searching is looking for. Granted… there isn’t going to be millions of searches for that keyword. But what is better? Getting 50% of the visits from a keyword that gets searched 50 times a day or 0% of visits to a page from a search that occurs millions of time a day? The following graph illustrates the search volume of broad versus long tail keywords.

The Search Demand Curve

Moz graphic


How To Come Up With Your Initial List of Primary Keywords:

Once you understand the difference between broad and long tail keywords you can start to brainstorm initial keywords. This might sound really simple, but from past experience, people often struggle to come up with a good primary keyword when asked.

To help come up with our base set of keywords we can ask ourselves a couple different questions. I will use the lawn service company as an example.

1) What products or services do you offer?

Lawn mowing, lawn maintenance, yard maintenance

2) What problems do your customers have that your company can help solve?

Company to cut lawn, someone else to maintain my yard, take care of my yard

3) How would you describe your business to someone who has never heard of your company?

We cut lawns, we maintain yards, and we provide landscaping service.

4) Ask someone not connected to the industry how they would search for your product or service.

“If you needed to hire someone to cut your lawn, what would you search for in Google?”  This is one of the best ways to come up with keywords you would never have thought of yourself.

What to do with your initial keyword list?

Once you have some initial keywords to consider you need to take a look at the words you came up with. Then do a few searches in Google.  I did this with some of the words above and I found a couple more in the descriptions of Ads and company names.  Some possible keywords I missed were Lawn mowing service, Lawn Care, Lawn care services, & lawn Care Company.

The next thing I want to do is check my similar worded keywords and find the most searched for version of that keyword.  In the example above I essentially came up with two parts of a keyword:

Lawn Care Keyword Parts


On the left side I found words that describe the service and on the right I found modifiers that show different ways to describe providers. If this were for Google Ads I would use a keyword combiner to combine all variations of the keywords and run them through the keyword planner tool.  We’ll discuss that process in the Google Ads guide.

For SEO, I always like to go to Google trends to find the standardized value of the search volume for a keyword.  In the example below I compare 5 of the most popular keywords from the list we came up with. I left some of the keywords off and used the top 5 keywords for the example below.

MOZ Keyword Explorer Lawn Service Results

The keyword lawn service is searched about five times as much as the next searched for keyword which is lawn care service. What this tells me is that is that when people want to hire a company to mow their lawn they search for lawn service more than any other search term we tried.

One last thing I want to mention is that once you find a keyword you have to make sure it makes sense to your website and the service you provide. Initially I searched for LAWN CARE and there were twice as many searches for that as LAWN CARE SERVICE.  However, LAWN CARE by itself could come up in hundreds of searches not related to someone wanting to hire a company (DIY LAWN CARE, LAWN CARE PRODUCTS, LAWN CARE IN DRY CLIMATES, etc.).  This goes back to the broad versus long tail keyword discussion we just had above.

Once I have an initial keyword that I am starting to like I then go back to the search engines and I do a Google search. I am constantly looking to make sure that the keywords I am using are relevant to my product or service. The websites that are coming up for that keyword are competitors that provide the same service as I do so I know I am on the right track. However, it is very possible that we missed a good keyword at this point that could be better than what we came up with.  So it is important to look at a couple other keyword tools.

My next step is going to be to check my numbers with the Google ADS Keyword Planner Tool. This is a tool used to come up with keywords for when you use Google Ads but it has been used by SEO’s for a long time to look for keyword opportunities.  To set up a Google Account and use the Keyword Planner for Free please read this article.

I ran my keyword through the keyword planner and the results are posted below.  In the image, you can see all the keywords that came up. Some are related to a lawn mowing service and others are not. Of all the words related to a lawn mowing service the number one keyword is LAWN SERVICE. And as an added plus the competition for that keyword is only medium.

Google Keyword Planner



Another keyword tool I could use, would be the MOZ Keyword explorer.  It works similarly to the Google Keyword tool. To use this tool, you will need to sign up for a quick, free MOZ account. It is worth signing up so you can at least see the data it provides.

When I do a search for LAWN SERVICE I get a screen that looks like this:

MOZ Keyword Explorer Lawn Service Results

This tells me that they estimate my terms coming up in about 3 to 4 thousand searches a month.  MOZ doesn’t think the competition for my keyword is too difficult and they predict a percentage of clicks which could occur organically.  Again, this looks like a really good keyword for me to target. But still… it never hurts to double check another couple keywords.  MOZ does provide some other keyword suggestions but nothing is better than what I have so far.


Another really good keyword research tool is WordTracker.  Our keyword research with this tool is going to show some similar results to the previous two tools.  LAWN SERVICE is still the highest volume but they predict a little bit higher competition at this website.  They provide some keywords and there is a new suggestion we haven’t seen yet which is “MOW THE LAWN SERVICE.” This is a keyword that someone would type when they don’t know what the service they need is called. It provides an additional 22,000 searches a month and since my primary keyword Include part of that keyword I can still rank for some of the searches with the longer tail keyword.


I have one more keyword tool that I really enjoy using that I wanted to mention. This is a tool I use to find long tail keywords for content marketing and blog posts. This is not a tool to use to find a primary keyword. With answer the public you enter one of your primary keywords and it will give you a variety of different versions. For example, it will give all the queries people type for Who, What, Where, When and Why for Lawn Service. It will also give you what people are searching for with every letter of the alphabet.  You can try it out yourself and take a look at how it works.

Answer The Public Lawn Service Results

So now I have a primary keyword, what next?

Once I have a primary keyword such as LAWN SERVICE I am going to make a page that has that word as a focus. I will usually use my homepage to target my brand keyword unless I only have one product. With multiple products I am going to make a page for each one.  The first page I would create would be a lawn service page. And since this is a local business it will have the keyword FORT COLLINS in there to make FORT COLLINS LAWN SERVICE. So my URL might be

Then, I am going to create a page that describes anything and everything about my lawn care service.  I am going to have lawn service images that are optimized for my keyword and I will include information about all my lawn services, prices, and a really informative FAQ about Lawn Services.

The focus of the page will be LAWN SERVICE and I will work that keyword throughout the page.  However I will not overdo it and “keyword stuff”. For keywords, over-optimization is a real thing and it can turn away your customers and send you to Google’s dog house.” This question underscores the critical importance of using keywords judiciously in your digital content. Overuse or inappropriate deployment of keywords can not only deter potential customers due to poor readability but also negatively impact your website’s ranking in Google’s search results.

The content I create for that page will also be better than any of my competitors. (We will talk about all the details of this along with the technical aspects of SEO in our SEO module next week.)

Finally, when I finish creating and optimizing that page for my keyword I will conduct keyword research for my other services such as tree trimming and tool repair and I will repeat the process for each one.


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