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How to Research Keywords for Your SEO Strategy

Step 1: Make a list of important, relevant topics based on what you know about your business.

To kick off this process, think about the topics you want to rank for in terms of generic buckets. You’ll come up with about 5-10 topic buckets you think are important to your business, and then you’ll use those topic buckets to help come up with some specific keywords later in the process.

If you’re a standard blogger, these are likely the points you blog about generally much of the time. Or, on the other hand, maybe they’re the subjects that surfaced the most in sales discussions. Place yourself in the shoes of your purchaser personas. What sort of themes would your intended interest group look through that you’d need your business to get found for? On the off chance that you were an organization like HubSpot, for instance: offering advertising programming (which happens to have some marvelous SEO instruments … yet, I diverge ;- ) – you may have general subject containers like “inbound promoting,” “blogging,” “email advertising,” “lead era,” “Search engine optimization,” “online networking,” “marketing analytics,” and “marketing automation.”

Make sense?

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Step 2: Fill in on ideas for topic buckets with keywords.

Now that you have a few topic buckets you want to focus on, it’s an ideal opportunity to recognize a few keywords that fall into those buckets. These are keyword phrases you believe are imperative to rank for in the SERPs (internet searcher comes about pages) in light of the fact that your target customer is likely leading searches for those particular terms.

For instance, if I took that last topic bucket for an inbound marketing software company — “marketing automation” — I’d brainstorm some keyword phrases that I think people would type in related to that topic. Those might include:

  •  Marketing automation tools
  •  How to use marketing automation software
  •  What is marketing automation?
  •  How to tell if I need marketing automation software
  •  Lead nurturing
  •  Email marketing automation
  •  Top automation tools

And so on and so on. The point of this step isn’t to come up with your final list of keyword phrases — you just want to end up with a brain dump of phrases you think potential customers might use to search for content related to that particular topic bucket. We’ll narrow the lists down later in the process so you don’t have something too unwieldy.

(Note: If you’re a HubSpot customer, you’ll actually be able to spend a little less time cutting down your keywords list. HubSpot’s Keyword App lets you sort through your keywords easily based on criteria like visits, rank, and difficulty, so you can cut through the clutter pretty quickly.)

More and more keywords are getting encrypted by Google every day. Another smart way to come up with keyword ideas is to figure out which keywords your website is already getting found for. To do this, you’ll need website analytics software like Google Analytics or HubSpot’s Sources tool. Drill down into your website’s traffic sources, and sift through you organic search traffic bucket to identify the keywords people are using to arrive at your site.

Repeat this exercise for as many topic buckets as you have. Keep in mind that if any trouble comes up regarding relevant search terms, then you can always head on over to your employees on the front lines. Just likes Sales o Services. You can ask them what types of terms their prospects and customers use, or questions they have. Those are often great starting points for keyword research.

Step 3: Research related search terms.

This is a creative step you may have already thought of when doing keyword research. If not, it’s a great way to fill out those lists.

If you’re struggling to think of more keywords people might be searching for a specific topic, go to Google.com. Then take a look at the related search terms that appear when you plug in a keyword. When you type in your phrase and scroll to the bottom of Google’s results. Here you’ll notice some suggestions for searches related to your original input. These keywords can spark ideas for other keywords you may want to take into consideration.

Want to learn more about how you can achieve the perfect Research for Keywords? For more information chat with our partnering SEO Consultants.

Want a bonus? Type in some of those related search terms and look at THEIR related search terms.

What another bonus? HubSpot customers can get suggestions for keywords to consider within the Keywords App. In fact, I used it to do keyword research for this very post about keyword research 😉

Step 4: Check for a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords in each bucket.

If you don’t know the difference between head terms and long-tail keywords, let me explain. Head terms are keywords phrases that are generally shorter and more generic. They’re typically just one to three words in length, depending on who you talk to. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are longer keyword phrases usually containing three or more words.

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It’s important to check that you have a mix of head terms and long-tail terms. This is so since it’ll give you a keyword strategy that’s well balanced with long-term goals and short-term wins. That’s because head terms are generally searched more frequently. Making them often (not always, but often) much more competitive and harder to rank for than long-tail terms. Think about it. Without even looking up search volume or difficulty, which of the following terms do you think would be harder to rank for?


If you answered #2, you’re absolutely right. But don’t get discouraged. Head terms generally boast the most reach volume (meaning greater potential to send you traffic). Frankly, the traffic you’ll get from the term “how to write a great blog post” is usually more desirable.


Because someone who is looking for something that specific is probably a much more qualified search for your product or service (presuming you’re in the blogging space) than someone looking for something really generic. And because long-tail keywords tend to be more specific, it’s usually easier to tell what people who search for those keywords are really looking for. Someone searching for the head term “blogging,” on the other hand, could be searching it for a whole host of reasons unrelated to your business.

So check your keyword lists to make sure you have a healthy mix of head terms and long-tail keywords. You definitely want some quick wins that long-tail keywords will afford you. Although, you should also try to chip away at more difficult head terms over the long haul.

Curious about how much it costs to engineer the perfect Research for Keywords? Book a free consultation with us now!

Step 5: See how competitors are ranking for these keywords.

Just because your competitor is doing something doesn’t mean you need to. The same goes for keywords. Just because a keyword is important to your competitor, doesn’t mean it’s important to you. However, understanding what keywords your competitors are trying to rank for is a great way to help you give your list of keywords another evaluation.

If your competitor is ranking for certain keywords that are on your list, too, it definitely makes sense to work on improving your ranking for those. However, don’t ignore the ones your competitors don’t seem to care about. This could be a great opportunity for you to own market share on important terms, too.

Understanding the balance of terms that might be a little more difficult due to competition. This is against those terms that are a little more realistic, will help you maintain a similar balance that the mix of long-tail and head terms allow. Remember, the goal is to end up with a list of keyword. A list that provides some quick wins but also helps you make progress towards greater, more challenging SEO goals.

How do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, you ask? SEMrush can manually search for keywords in an incognito browser and see what positions competitors are in. Aside from this, it allows you to run a number of free reports. This is done to show you the top keywords for the domain you enter. This is a quick way to get a sense of the types of terms your competitors are ranking for.

Step 6: Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner (or HubSpot’s Keywords App) to cut down your keyword list.

Now that you’ve got the right mix of keywords, it’s time to narrow down your lists with some more quantitative data. You have a lot of tools at your disposal to do this, but let me share my favourite methodology.

If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can narrow down your list easily within the Keywords App. Data on visits, rank, difficulty, historical performance, and even how your competitors are performing is accessible right within the tool where your keywords live.

If you don’t have HubSpot software, I like to use a mix of the Google AdWords Keyword Planner (you’ll need to set up an AdWords account for this, but that doesn’t mean you have to create an ad), and Google Trends.

In Keyword Planner, formerly known as the Keyword Tool, you can get search volume and traffic estimates for keywords you’re considering. Unfortunately, when Google transitioned from Keyword Tool to Keyword Planner, they stripped out a lot of the more interesting functionality. But you can make up for it a bit if you take the information you learn from Keyword Planner and use Google Trends to fill in some blanks.

Use the Keyword Planner to flag any terms on your list that have way too little (or way too much) search volume, and don’t help you maintain a healthy mix like we talked about above. But before you delete anything, check out their trend history and projections in Google.


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