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How to do Keyword Research for SEO

Keyword research underpins your SEO strategy. Without putting in the research, you won’t be able to achieve the keyword rankings that really matter to your business.

If you want to succeed in the search results and attract the right target audience, keyword research is a must. So how do you get started? And why should you?

Why is Keyword Research Important?

The keyword research process is vital because it allows you to understand how users are looking for your products or services. This helps you uncover the relevant search terms and keyword phrases to help you capture search traffic. With a strong keyword strategy, you have the ability to outrank those competitors who don’t. Search engines bring so much valuable traffic to your website so determining the relevant keywords is still as important as ever.

What has changed in recent years is the extent and depth of the keyword research you need to carry out for SEO success. It goes way beyond looking for ‘seo keywords’ with high search volume. Today, you need to consider related keywords, entities, relationships and intent to do a thorough job.

A person checking Google Analytics on their laptop

Search Listening

Search engine optimization really begins with listening to the market. Answer the Public does a really lovely series of webinars about ‘search listening’ and I love this phrase. It’s what keyword research is all about. You really need to listen to what the data is telling you. There’s no point in chasing after keywords that nobody is searching for.

Keyword research is about aligning yourself with the key phrases that users are actually out there looking for. Think about that for a moment. It’s SO POWERFUL. Internet users are telling us what they want. All we need to do is respond. It’s a fabulous way of delivering qualified traffic to your website.

In fact, it can inform so many areas of digital marketing. Keyword research can help you to understand more about your target audience, and this depth of knowledge can be implemented in so many areas.

Search Intent

When you’ve started listening, the next step is to interpret. Understanding user intent is a great way to find the right keywords for your SEO strategy.

Most keywords or phrases can be classified by intent. The main search intent groups are shopping, customer investigation and information. Each different intent has a part to play in the sales or conversion funnel, but if your content doesn’t match the searcher’s intent, it won’t be useful to them.

When you’re doing keyword research, take the time to understand and appreciate the intent behind the search. Even if a phrase has high search volume, don’t go after it if your page won’t match the search intent. For example, if you know your page will be a sales page but the main keyword is broad and the intent is customer investigation or informational, don’t try to get your sales page to rank. Choose another target keyword for that page, and create informational content too, if your budget allows.

How Do I Find SEO Keyword Opportunities?

Before you start, think about your keyword strategy. This will determine which tools to use and which targeted keywords are useful to your project and which are not. It will also help you to decide whether this is a big or small project, and allocate the appropriate time and resources. Your keyword research task might be for:

A whole new website – you might be looking for the best way to label particular pages, opportunities for new categories or content you could create, language and ways to speak to visitors. This is a big project that will take some time and resources.

A new range of products – it’s useful to know how customers are hunting them down, whether they know them by many different names, and if they’re looking for bargains or offers. A small range could be a quick job that’s well worth doing to get your focus right.

Content ideas – you might simply be looking for great, relevant content ideas. You can uncover questions or areas of interest around a topic. These can help you to create a blog post plan or create content to support a product or range.

Keyword Research Tools: Primary Keywords

Though it’s never advisable to focus on a single keyword, it’s useful to determine a group of primary and secondary target keywords for main sales, service and lead-gen pages. This allows you to keep the focus of the main body content concise and targeted. Generally, these will be high-volume keywords that will bring a steady stream of organic traffic to the key pages on your website.

There are a variety of keyword tools you can use to do this. The one you choose for your keyword research will depend on the scope of the project (e.g. is it for the whole site, just a section or a new range?), your budget and your personal preference. If you have a limited spend, free keyword research tools might do the job, but if you want really detailed data you’ll probably opt for a paid option. 

Choose one keyword research tool and stick with it for your whole keyword research project. Each tool works in a slightly different way so if you mix results, you won’t get comparable metrics to work from.

Google Logo

Google Keyword Planner (Free, account required)

If you have a Google Ads account, you’ll be familiar with Google’s Keyword Planner. This is the original tool for keyword search volume and is free as long as you have an ads account. Whilst the tool is designed for advertisers, it’s still helpful for SEO. 

Adwords Keyword Planner

How do you use Google Keyword Planner?

If you’re wondering how to do keyword research with keyword planner, you’ll need to start with the ‘discover new keywords’ option. Enter the keywords or phrases that best describe your business or the area you’re interested in if it’s a subsection of your website. Click to get results.

You’ll get a list of keywords that are related to the terms you entered, which you can sort as required. You can select the ones you’re interested in and click ‘ad to plan’ to save the selections. 


It’s simple, free and easy to use. It’s ideal as a first step, providing you with monthly search volume data for a particular keyword and helping you to discover more search queries that would make great targets. 

SEMRush Logo

SEMRush Keyword Magic (Paid)

Discover new ranking opportunities with up-to-date metrics quickly and simply with SEMRush Keyword Magic

SEMRush Keyword Magic

How do you use the SEMRush keyword magic tool?

Just enter a keyword or phrase, set your location and hit search. You’ll see a list of keyword ideas, search intent, average monthly search volume, keyword difficulty and trend data. You can also use the top navigation to refine the results by broad match, phrase match, exact match or related searches. Select the keywords you’re interested in to create your keyword list. 


It’s straightforward to use and provides plenty of data. It’s also easy to add filters to reduce the overwhelm and focus on the keywords that really matter.  

Ahrefs logo

AHRefs Keywords Explorer (Paid)

Using exact match and partial match, AHRefs Keyword Explorer helps you to find the keywords your customers search for.

AHRefs Keywords Explorer

How do I use AHRefs Keyword Explorer?

Enter some seed keywords, select your country and search. You’ll get a huge list of keyword ideas, along with search volume data and keyword difficulty metrics. Select any of the keywords that are relevant to your business and select ‘add to’ to create a list that you can add to later or export to Excel or other formats. 


You can use this tool specifically for Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Amazon, YouTube and more. This makes it versatile and useful for a whole host of keyword research projects.

Mangools logo

Mangools KW Finder (Paid)

Find related keywords, autocomplete phrases or questions using this simple and intuitive KWFinder.

AHRefs Keywords Explorer

How do I use KWFinder?

Select search by keyword, enter your keyword phrase and select your country and language. Hit the green arrow to go. Use the check box to tick any keywords that you’re interested in, and tap to load the keyword difficulty for each one. Loading the difficulty score adds an extra step, so this tool is often better suited for smaller projects. Export your selection or create a list that you can update at a later date.


This straightforward tool is really easy to use. You can select autocomplete or questions if you want to dig deeper into a topic. I like the SERP overview panel as it helps me get an instant feel for who is ranking in the search engine results pages for specific keywords, the search intent and the strength of the competition.

I also love the import function, where I can enter an existing keyword list or just try out specific ideas to see how the search volumes and difficulty scores compare in an instant.

Getting the Right Keywords for Your Website

All this keyword data can be overwhelming. The next step is to assess the metrics to make strategic decisions. If you’re new to keyword research, this is the really difficult part. It’s an art form in itself, and it takes experience.

You’ll need to weigh up the search volume, difficulty and intent to decide where the best targets are for you and your business. The good news is, that you know your business better than anyone. Ruling out irrelevant keywords is probably a fairly simple task, but you will need to weigh up some other SEO metrics to choose the best keywords for a successful SEO strategy.

Colour coding your metrics can be a helpful way to interpret the data more clearly. You can do this once you’ve exported the data into Excel or Google Sheets.    

Colour coded keywords in a spreadsheet

Keyword Research Tools: Long Tail Keywords & Clusters

When you’re producing content, it’s more effective to work on identifying topics related to your specific niche and cluster keywords accordingly. This type of long-tail keyword strategy is often overlooked when it comes to keyword strategies because the search volumes for any given phrase could be anything from very low to zero.

However, if you’re writing an in-depth article, you can group a whole host of related questions and answer them in detail. Every page ranks for many, many different keywords and each one will bring in some organic traffic. Even if this is a small amount per individual keyword, it can build up to thousands of visits per article. All you need to do is research the questions, cluster them and build your article around them.

Here are some of the best tools to get you started in this process.

AnswerThePublic Logo Icon


Using Google’s autocomplete, AnswerThePublic visualises a list of questions, prepositions, comparisons and alphabeticals. You can view these as a list or a visual map. 

Answer The Public

How do you use AnswerThePublic?

Using the tool is simple. Just enter a seed keyword and hit search. I like to refine the search as I start to discover themes (e.g start with a broad keyword like ‘marketing content’ then refine to something more specific like ‘marketing content strategy’ to get more detailed results).

Is AnswerThePublic Free?

No, this tool isn’t completely free. However, you can try it for free, with limitations based on their traffic. Paid plans are available to get unlimited searches.

AlsoAsked Logo


AlsoAsked finds other questions that searchers asked, based on the input you provide. I love the way these ‘people also ask’ questions are illustrated, showing the journey from one query to another. This can be really helpful for setting out content outlines. 

Also Asked

Answer Socrates Logo

Answer Socrates

This free tool works in a similar way to AnswerThePublic and AlsoAsked. It combines autosuggest, also asked and trends data to find interesting questions. At the point of writing this, searches using were available free of charge.

SEO Minion Logo

SEO Minion

A helpful Chrome extension, SEO Minion has the option to download ‘people also ask’ data for a query or view a PAA tree visualisation similar to AlsoAsked. This makes research really quick and easy within your SERP view. 

Missed Opportunities: Keyword Gaps

Now you know how to conduct keyword research, you might be keen to go beyond the basics. A keyword gap analysis is really helpful. It provides a useful way to perform competitive analysis, understanding where your competition is ranking but you aren’t.

This might open up further keyword opportunities and ideas. You can use SEMRush keyword gap analysis or AHRefs content gap to find this data.

NLP, Entities and Semantic Keywords

All the keyword research tools above use phrase matching to generate results. To support Google’s natural language processing and phrase-based indexing, it’s also useful to identify semantically related keywords as part of your research process.

These are words or phrases that don’t contain any part of your seed phrase but are closely topically related to them. For example, if you were writing about ‘The Beatles’ you would probably also mention Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Abbey Road, Hey Jude, Sgt Pepper, Albums, music etc. 

The Beatles albums

The best way to do this if you don’t have access to lots of SEO tools is to think about the topic you’re writing about yourself, ask others, and assess other articles written on the subject. Make a list of related terms that often come up and try to include them. Search engines are trying to understand our language and the connections between words and things like a human does, so provide that human input into your content and remember not to just focus on the keywords you’ve discovered in your research. 

Do I Really Need to do Keyword Research?

All great SEO strategies are underpinned by keyword research. Whilst there’s much more to SEO, keywords matter. They help you run great search marketing campaigns and get organic search results that bring in potential customers or qualified leads. The only way to get started is to look for relevant information, process it and make strategic decisions, then act on them.

I really hope this has given you the knowledge and confidence to get started on your first keyword research task or helped you to refine your own process.

If this all sounds a little too involved, or you’re too busy running your business to spend hours upon hours (yes, it does take time!) on keyword research why not have a chat with us? At Boom Online there are people (like me!) who love keyword research and all it entails. We can work on your keyword research project as a one-off job or as part of a wider SEO retainer. Get in touch to find out more!

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