Keyword research. The most important step of SEO.

Keyword research is the first and most important stage of every SEO project.

Keyword research is the most important stage for two main reasons:

keyword research
keyword research

1. If you rank your site highly for the wrong keywords, you can end up spending lots of time and effort, only to discover the keyword you have targeted doesn’t receive any traffic.

2. If you haven’t investigated the competitiveness of your keywords, you can end up investing lots of time and effort into a particular keyword, only to find it is far too competitive to rank, even on the first page.

These two pitfalls are often the ultimate decider on how successful any SEO project is.

This chapter will cover how to avoid these pitfalls and how to find the best keywords. First, we must define what a keyword is.

What exactly is a keyword?

If you are an SEO newbie, you may be wondering—what is a keyword?

A keyword is any phrase you would like your site to rank for in Google’s search results. A keyword can be a single word, or a keyword can also be a combination of words. If you are trying to target a single word, lookout! You will have your work cut out for you. Single word keywords are extremely competitive, and difficult to rank highly for in the search results.

Here’s some different kinds of keywords:

Head-term keywords: keywords with one to two words, i.e. classic movies.

Long-tail keywords: keywords with three or more phrases, i.e. classic Akira Kurosawa movies

Navigational keyword: keywords used to locate a particular brand or website. Examples would be Facebook, YouTube or Gmail.

Informational keyword: keywords used to discover on a particular topic. This includes keywords beginning with ‘how to…’ or ‘what are the best..’

Transactional keyword: keywords entered into Google by customers wanting to complete a commercial action, i.e. ‘buy jackets online’.

In most cases, targeting head term or navigational keywords for other brands is competitive and not worth the time or effort. Despite their high traffic numbers, they will generally not lead to any sales. On the other hand, long-tail, informational and transactional keywords are good keywords for most SEO projects. They will lead to more customers.

How to generate a massive list of keywords.

There are many ways to skin a cat. The same is true for finding the right keywords.

Before you can find keywords with loads of traffic in Google, you must first develop a list of potential keywords relevant to your business.

Relevance is vital.

If you spend your time trying to cast too wide a net, you can end up targeting keywords irrelevant to your audience.

For example, if you are an online football jacket retailer in the United States, examples of relevant keywords might be:

  • Buy football jackets
  • Buy football jackets online
  • Online football jackets store USA

Irrelevant keywords might be:

  • Football jacket photos
  • How to make your own football jacket
  • Football jacket manufacturers
  • How to design a football jacket

You can see how the first pool of keywords are more relevant to the target audience of football jacket retailer, and the second pool of keywords are related but unlikely to lead to customers.

Keeping relevance in mind, you must develop a list of potential keyword combinations to use as a resource, so you can then go and uncover the best keywords with a decent amount of traffic each month in Google.

Listed below are powerful strategies you can use to help with generating this list.

1. Steal keywords from competitors.

If you’re feeling sneaky, you can let your competitors do the heavy lifting for you and snatch up keywords from their sites.

There are many tools out there created for this sole purpose. A simple tool is the SEOBook keyword analyzer. If you enter a page into this tool within seconds it will scrape a list of the keywords your competitor is targeting on their page. You can then use this to bulk out your keyword list.

SEOBook Keyword Analyzer

2. Brainstorm your own master list.

Assuming competitors have been thorough with their research isn’t always the best strategy. By brainstorming combinations of keywords, you can generate a giant list of potential keywords.

To do this, sketch out a grid of words your target customer might use. Split the words into different prefixes and suffixes. Next up, combine them into one giant list using the free Mergewords tool. With this strategy you can quickly and easily build up a massive list of relevant keywords.



– buy

– where do I buy

Middle word

– NFL jerseys

– NFL uniforms

– NFL jackets


– online

Combined keywords

– NFL jerseys

– NFL jerseys online

– NFL uniforms

– NFL uniforms online

– NFL jackets

– NFL jackets online

– buy NFL jerseys

– buy NFL jerseys online

– buy NFL uniforms

– buy NFL uniforms online

– buy NFL jackets

– buy NFL jackets online

– where do I buy NFL jerseys

– where do I buy NFL jerseys online

– where do I buy NFL uniforms

– where do I buy NFL uniforms online

– where do I buy NFL jackets

– where do I buy NFL jackets online

– NFL jerseys

– NFL jerseys online

– NFL uniforms

– NFL uniforms online

– NFL jackets

– NFL jackets online


How to find keywords that will send traffic to your site.

Now you have a list of keywords, you need to understand how much traffic these keywords receive in Google. Without search traffic data, you could end up targeting keywords with zero searches. Armed with the right knowledge, you can target keywords with hundreds or even thousands of potential visitors every month.

First, you have to sign up for a free Google Adwords account, link provided below. Once signed in, you need to access the Keyword Planner tool.

To do this, sign in, click on ‘Tools’ in the top-menu, click on ‘Keyword Planner’, then click on ‘Get search volume data and trends’, copy and paste your keywords into the box. Select your country, and then click the blue ‘Get search volume’ button.

When you are finished, you will have the exact amount of times each keyword was searched for in Google.

Mmm. Fresh data. This is just the kind of data we need.

Now we know which keywords receive more searches than others, and more importantly, we know which keywords receive no searches at all. You can focus on keywords that will lead to traffic to your site.

Google Adwords

How to find keywords for easy rankings.

Now you need to find out how competitive your desired keywords are. Armed with an understanding of how competitive your desired keywords are, you can discover keywords your site can realistically achieve rankings for in Google.

Let’s say you are a second-hand bookseller and you want to target ‘book store online’. It’s unlikely you are going to beat Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

But, maybe there’s a gem hiding in your list very few people are targeting—maybe something like ‘antique book stores online’.

You have the advantage if your competitors haven’t thought of targeting your keyword. You simply have to do better SEO than they are doing and you have a really good chance at beating their rankings.

You need a way to wash this list and separate the ridiculously competitive keywords from the easy keywords no one has thought of.

There are many schools of thought on how to do this. The most popular competitive research practices are listed below, with my thoughts on each.

1. Manually going through the list, looking at the rankings, and checking if low-quality pages are appearing in the top results.

This is good for a quick glance to see how competitive a market is. However, it is unreliable and you need to supplement it with real data.

2. Look at how many search engine results are coming up in Google for your keyword.

The amount of results is listed just below the search box after you type in your keyword. This tactic is common in cheap online courses teaching SEO, but completely unreliable. This is my least favorite strategy.

The reason? There may be a very low amount of competing pages for a particular keyword, but the sites ranked at the top of the results could be unbeatable.

3. Using the competition score from the Google AdWords Keyword Research tool.

Don’t be tempted. This is a common tool, lauded on the Internet as an easy way to judge SEO competitiveness for keywords, and it just simply doesn’t work!

The competition score included in the Google AdWords Keyword Research tool is intended for AdWords only. It is an indication of how many advertisers are competing for the particular keyword through paid advertising. Completely irrelevant for SEO.

4. Using a competitive analysis tool, such as Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool.

To get a realistic idea of your chances of ranking high for a particular keyword, you need to understand the strength of the pages in the top-10.

A great tool for this is Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool.

With Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool, you can simply enter your keyword into their tool, click ‘check difficulty’, and then click ‘view serp analysis reports’ and it will show vital stats for pages appearing in the top-10.

Of these stats, the most important are # root domains linking to the page, and # root domains linking to the root domain. These two stats tell you how many unique sites are pointing to the specific page ranking, and how many unique sites are linking to anywhere in the site in general.

Next up, if you enter your own website into Moz’s Open Site Explorer tool, you can see these same stats for your site, and then know how many links you need to beat the competition.

Armed with this knowledge, you can hunt around to find easy keywords with weak competition, and set targets for how many links you need for a top listing.

You can use Moz’s Difficulty Tool by signing up for a 30-day free trial. There are not many alternative keyword tools out there providing a decent level of accuracy in my experience, however, another tool I have found useful is Market Samurai, which offers similar reports to Moz.

Moz – Keyword Difficulty Tool

Moz – Open Site Explorer

Market Samurai