What is Keyword Research for SEO?

Subscribe to our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Back to all posts

Keywords are the basis of every search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign. While Google is constantly changing up it's algorithm, one thing has stayed pretty solid. Keywords!

Less than 1% of searchers will click on the second page of Google so it's important to get your keyword research right [Source: Backlinko]. In this article we will discuss everything around keyword research, from what is it to how to do it and more.

What is SEO?

Before diving into keyword research, you need to understand exactly what SEO is. Keyword research makes up the basis of any great SEO campaign, so having a grasp on what search engine optimisation is will build a solid foundation for your campaign.

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. The way it works is through a variety SEO methods to make Google and other search engines see your website as authoritative, and serve it to searchers.

These methods are both technical and content based, making it easier for Google to crawl your website and thus, rank higher. SEO is one of the main digital marketing methods for many businesses because it brings in 'free' traffic. Unlike PPC and social media advertising, you don't pay a cost per click. Instead visitors who find you through Google search are classed as 'organic'.

As a long term strategy, SEO can increase your brand's authority, build trust with potential customers and create an on-going cycle of organic leads coming into your website.

What is Keyword Research?

Now that we've covered the foundation of SEO, we can discuss keyword research. Firstly, what's a keyword?

When you search for something on Google, the phrase that you type in is a keyword. For instance, when you're wanting to find a local butcher you might type in 'butcher Bayside'. That search term is the keyword that a butchers in Bayside would target on their website.

So, what is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of finding out what your potential customers are searching for. The main goal is to find which keywords and search terms are best to target in your SEO campaign efforts to get your potential customers to find your website.

The insights you discover from these keywords, search volume and difficulty for instance, will help to shape your SEO efforts and content strategy going forward.

Luckily keyword research isn't too difficult. Investing time can really make or break an SEO campaign, so make sure to explore every avenue. Even targeting search terms you wouldn't initially think of, could position you at the top of Google's results page.

Why are keywords important for SEO?

Keywords are crucial for any SEO campaign. If you're publishing content that nobody is searching for then you won't receive any organic traffic from Google. Lots of website owners make the same mistake of publishing content that they think their customers are searching for, without solid evidence to back up their efforts.

Keyword research importantly ensures that you are placing your efforts in the correct place. If you can achieve a high ranking for a well searched keyword then you're almost guaranteed a continued stream of organic visitors.

How to Do Keyword Research

Luckily, keyword research isn't too difficult. This does vary depending on your business and what you offer. For example, if you offer a product then your keywords will likely be easier to find in comparison to somebody offering a service.

Follow these steps to carry out successful keyword research and kickstart your SEO campaign.

Find your keywords

Seed keywords

Firstly, you need to find the keywords you want to rank for. You can start by coming up with 'seed keywords'. These are broad words or phrases that can help you and keyword tools identify your niche. Basically, think about what people looking for your service would be searching on a broad basis.

Going back to our earlier example, if you are a butcher then your seed keywords could be:

  • Butchers
  • Sausages
  • Steak
  • Chicken
  • etc.

It's important to note that while this is an important phase in your keyword research, seed keywords usually aren't worth targeting themselves. This is because they lack specificity and will usually lead to very low rankings.

Check exisiting rankings

Tools like Google Search Console can show you what you are already ranking for. By setting up your GSC you can see which search terms (or keywords) bring up your website and where they currently rank.

If you are a butcher in Bayside, Melbourne you are likely to already rank for the search term 'butcher Bayside', so take a look at where you are landing and if you are getting any clicks. Take any exisiting rankings and add them to your pool of keywords to be researched.

Competitor's keywords

Competitor and peer analysis comes in handy in many aspects of business. It can inform major branding decisions and service offerings, as well as your keyword research.

Find your competitors by typing in some of your seed keywords, then take a look at their content. You can use free tools, for example Detailed SEO Chrome Extension, to see the meta data of your competitor's pages. This can give you some insight into what they are ranking for.

Use a keyword database tool

Keyword databases are super handy in giving you lots of search terms, from those with high search volumes right down to ones with only a few searches a year.

Google Keyword Planner is one of the most popular keyword database tools. You can input your seed keyword and the location you're looking to target then the tool will serve you hundreds of keywords to choose from.

Keyword gap analysis

Next is finding keyword gaps between you and your competitors. Tools like SEMRush can help you find keywords that your competitors rank for that you don't.

Add these keywords to your campaign list and try to knock your competitors off the top spot to steal their traffic.

Choose your keywords

Now you've probably got a huge list of possible keywords and you're not sure you have the capability to target them all. Not a problem at all. The initial stage of discovering your keywords is important so you can start to be picky about where to place your marketing efforts.

To whittle down which keywords are best to target you should consider the following factors.

Search intent

Every time somebody searches for something there is an intent behind their search. Whether it's to find an answer to a question, a specific business or a service provider; each and every Google search has intent. The following are the four main types of search intent:

  • Informational: looking for an answer to a question
  • Transactional: looking to purchase a product or service
  • Navigational: looking for a specific page or website
  • Commercial: looking at options (usually the step before a transactional search)

You want to choose keywords that have the right intent behind them. Search terms with informational intent may be beneficial to target for blog posts, but not product pages.

When you're optimising your website for the first time, you want to focus on the correct intent search terms. So if you are a media website who makes profit by selling ad space then you'll want to target informational keywords. If you sell a product or service, then transactional or commercial terms are the best.

Ranking difficulty

Some keyword tools will also offer you a keyword difficulty score. The higher this score, the harder it will be to rank for this search term.

The score is usually based on the domain authority of those already ranking for that keyword. Meaning if established websites are already ranking highly, it'll be harder for you to knock them off the top spot. Higher difficulty keywords usually have higher search volumes, hence why the big websites target them.

When you're trying to funnel your huge keyword list into a more manageable amount you should consider what is possible. For instance, choosing keywords with a medium or low difficulty may be more beneficial as you're much more likely to see results.

Cost (for PPC)

If you're keyword researching for a Google Pay Per Click campaign (PPC) you'll also want to consider the average cost per click. This can range hugely depending on the amount of other people targeting said keywords for PPC campaigns.

Set yourself a budget you're willing to spend per click and research keywords below this. Tools like SEMRush can give you insight into average CPC (cost per click).

Search volume

Finally, you should consider search volume. This is how many times that specific keyword gets searched per month. It might go without saying but you don't want to waste time targeting keywords that nobody searches.

Super high volume keywords are usually our seed keywords. So 'butcher' for example. There are also 'long-tail keywords', these usually have a lower search volume but are much more specific. They're likely to be much less competitive and great  keywords to choice. Examples of long-tail keywords include:

  • High quality butcher Bayside
  • Halal butcher Bayside
  • Local butcher near me
  • Premium butcher shop Bayside

Check out the search volume of all the keywords on your list and make note of those with very high and very low volumes. Ideally you'll want to put most your efforts behind keywords that are both relevant to your business and have a high amount of searches.

Keyword clusters

You're almost ready to start creating quality content and optimising your site! But there's one more hurdle to tackle before you get going. Keyword cannibalisation...

Keyword cannibalisation is a part of keyword research many people forget about and their website rankings suffer because of it. Cannibalisation is an SEO issue when multiple pages are competing for the same search term. This is where keyword clusters come in.

A cluster is a group of keywords that can be served a similar piece of content. Basically, if somebody is searching 'how to do keyword research' and 'what is keyword research', one piece of content can satisfy both.

By creating clusters you can ensure that each page on your website is optimised for specific needs and you're not wasting time competing with yourself for the top spot on Google.

Create quality content

High quality content will make or break your SEO efforts. You can spend a lot of time researching keywords but if you're not writing good content you simply won't rank on Google.

The aim of Google and other search engines is to satisfy their searcher's queries as quickly as possible. This means their algorithm will always serve the best quality content first. So you want to make sure that your content is:

On top of this you also need to use your chosen keywords strategically. This doesn't mean throwing them in whenever you can as this can read as unnatural to Google and actually harm your ranking.

Instead you want to naturally incorporate your keywords in headings, titles and copy in a way that feels correct. You should use your keywords in:

  • Title tag
  • Meta-description
  • H1, H2, H3
  • Body content
  • URL
  • Links towards that page

The last point is an added extra to help give you a boost. Find other pieces of content on your website and link to your new page with your keyword as the anchor.

Track your keywords

You're at the finish line! After you've published your content you're ready to go, it can take some time for Google to properly crawl and index your website but if done correctly you should start ranking soon.

But your SEO campaign is always on-going. Your competitors will always be trying to climb to the top of the results page, which could in turn affect your ranking. Google also consistently changes it's algorithm, meaning you need to keep on top of the factors used to rank websites by the search engine themselves.

By continuing to track your keywords you can ensure that all your efforts don't go to waste. If you notice a sudden drop, it might be time to write new content!

Best Keyword Research Tools

We've mentioned a few tools throughout this article that can be super helpful in your keyword research and on-going SEO campaign. Here's a list of the tools we love to use, both free and paid, to help you get started.


SEMRush is a paid platform, but a very good investment! It is a one stop shop for everything you could need to run a great SEO campaign. The platform itself analyses your search engine rankings every 24-48 hours and will show you exactly where you are positioned in comparison to your competitors.

The tool also has useful tools like the keyword magic tool and a huge database of keywords. It also can offer you great suggestions for your pages based off of your competitors and more!


Ubersuggest is a Google Chrome plugin that has both free and paid offerings. The tool works alongside Google search to show you search volume, keyword difficulty and related keywords whenever you search anything in Google.

It's super helpful in keyword research to give you extra ideas in a flash!

Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is one of the most popular keyword research tools out there. It's completely free and gives you insight into keywords and search terms for both SEO and PPC campaigns.

You can use the tool to analyse any keywords you've come up with yourself, but also to find new keywords for your campaign.

Detailed SEO Extension

Detailed SEO is another Google Chrome extension that gives you a sneak peek at your competitors meta-data. This is the content behind the page, for example meta-description and technical SEO.

The tool can be super helpful for inspiration and also in competitor and peer analysis.

Google Search Console

You need to track your traffic and keyword rankings so this is where Google Search Console comes in. The platform is also free and invaluable to any website owner.

You can see straight away if Google has had any trouble crawling your website so you can remedy any issues quickly. The tool also allows you to see valuable data insights that can inform future campaigns.

Final Thoughts

SEO isn't a one and done type of campaign, it should be constantly evolving with your website and business. You're now equipped to start your keyword research to build a strong foundation for a great SEO campaign.

Remember to always keep on top of tracking and improving your rankings and you'll be shooting to the top of the search engine results soon enough.

Request a quote

We'd love to hear from you

Provide some details below and we'll get in touch with you

Thank you!
We have recieved your enquiry and will be in touch shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.