How to Do Keyword Research

Find Keywords to Improve Your SEO

By Sarah Jamieson


Keyword research is essential for getting website visitors from the three major online traffic sources:

  • Search engine organic (free) rankings

  • Pay-per-click advertising

  • Social media

Targeting these three major channels creates business benefits from online synergies.

For example, when a business advertises on Google AdWords, it needs to include free content, like articles, on its site. This helps Google perceive a website as relevant to searchers and Google rewards the business with lower costs per click and better placement in the ad results.

The articles in turn help to improve search engine rankings in the free, or organic, search results. This is valuable because with organic rankings, a business doesn't pay for traffic and rankings can stay high indefinitely.

Keyword-rich content is the only way to achieve and keep high search engine rankings.

The search engines also monitor social media presence and how many shares, likes, and other actions followers perform. Using appropriate keywords in social media helps the search engines recognize that a business has a relevant online presence that users like and find useful. In turn, this can translate into higher rankings.

To be successful in search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and social media, a business needs to identify the right keywords through comprehensive keyword research and deploy these keywords in a properly structured way through its website, PPC ads, and social media marketing. To learn about site structures see: SEO Marketing - Site Structure.

Effective keyword research is faster and more accurate if you use a professional search engine optimization service, but this tutorial will show you an effective way to perform your own DIY keyword research.

SEO Themes, Not Keywords

When you think about search engine optimization and keyword research, think in terms of themes, not individual keywords.

What is a theme? It's a collection of related keywords, including synonyms. For an article on themes see: SEO Tips and click to the relevant article.

Theme optimization is a big part of how search engines assess relevance and whether you should rank on a given term.

Themes make sense as a way to give searchers relevant results, because an expert in a topic will naturally use different words and cover different areas of a subject, rather than just repeating the same word over and over.

Okay, let's get cracking with our keyword research ...

Identify the Top-Level SEO Keywords for Your Market

Start your keywords list with a broad word that sits at the “top” of your market. For example: travel.

This gives you a bird’s-eye view of the market, which will help you uncover new themes that you wouldn’t have found by starting with a small niche.

You may need to investigate multiple keywords that sit at the “top” of the market – the broadest terms. For example, if your product is Forex trading software, you’ll want to investigate the themes “Forex,” “currency trading,” and so on.

After zooming out to look at the market from the broadest point, you can then "zoom in" to decide how far “up” the market (how broad or narrow) you want to go.

You may want to start with a lower-competition niche of your market and expand into broader, more competitive themes over time.

How to Choose Top-Level Keywords

To determine the top-level keyword(s) for your market, make a list based on your own knowledge of the market. For example, if you're optimizing a hotel website, your terms could include travel, hotel, vacation, holiday, and so on.

Next, enter the terms on your list into a keyword tool like the Google Keyword Planner to find any related terms you may have missed.

Part 1: How to Do Keyword Research > Part 2: Keyword Synonyms >
Part 3: Keyword Competing Pages > Part 4: Keyword Analysis.

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