How to do basic seo keyword research

Keyword research is often looked at as a task which involves finding keywords that get the most visitors to your website, but it should be looked at as finding keywords that get the RIGHT visitors to your website. SEO keyword research is a process that every SEO should know and we will lay out a few rules and recommendations in this lesson.

For example, if you are optimizing a page on your website that is about car insurance, but are targeting the keyword “car” because it has a high volume of traffic then you are probably getting a bunch of irrelevant traffic. Instead, begin to look for specific keywords that are super relevant to that page’s content like “car insurance” or “sports car insurance”. Most likely these relevant keyword phrases will send less traffic volume, but more relevant traffic that converts at a higher rate. Let’s begin by looking at a few tools you can use to make your research easier. 

SEO Keyword Research Tool Kit

Putting together a toolkit and process around your keyword research is important and it can help you save a lot of time. The toolkit does not have to be completely made up of software because there are several manual processes that will help you find new keywords. Below are several seo keyword research tools you should take advantage of.

Let’s Begin Some Basic SEO Keyword Research

Step 1: Define Your Goals

It is important to define the overall goals you are trying to accomplish with your keyword research. What is the purpose of the page you are creating or optimizing? What is the purpose of the traffic you are trying to generate with these new keywords? Are you looking for high volume keywords or high converting keywords?

Step 2: Define Your Target Keyword Themes

Every keyword research project should be as organized as possible so you do not get lost in all the keywords you have identified as target keywords. A great way to do this is to create an excel file that looks something like the chart below. I recommend creating 3 to 4 keyword themes you would like to target and then find 5 to 10 keywords you want to target in each theme. These keywords will be used in content, on-site SEO variables, off-site content, social content, etc.

SEO Keyword Research Theme Table

Step 3: Find Valuable Keywords for Each Keyword Theme You Have Identified

You have identified a few keyword themes you want to target and now you need to find keywords for those themes. Before using the SEO keyword research tools let’s take a look at the competition. Remember that competitors may already be targeting high value keywords and identifying those keywords is not as hard as you may think.

  • Find Keywords Your Competitors are targeting by looking at their:
    • Page Titles
    • Meta Descriptions
    • Meta Keywords
    • Header Tags (H1 and H2)
    • Image Alt attributes
    • Page URL

A great example of this is looking at the page you are currently reading. What keyword phrase do you think we are targeting on this page? Take a look at the on-site SEO variables on this page. Hopefully, the page has true value to the visitor and at the same time it is extremely relevant to “SEO keyword research”. Just like the previous section let’s create a similar table for each of your key competitors.

Competitor SEO Keyword Research Table

Step 4: Find More Keywords Using Keyword Research Tools

By now you should have a good understanding of what keyword themes you are targeting and what keywords your competitors may be targeting. We are now going to begin the process of keyword discovery and refinement.

As an example we will use the car insurance theme again and let’s assume we are setting up a content strategy for the next quarter of business. Based upon the competitive research we have done we have created a preliminary set of keywords for each keyword theme we want to target listed below. 

Competitors Keywords Chart

In order to discover even more keywords we will use the Google keyword tool that is provided for free by Google. This tool is one of the best tools on the market and it is completely free to use. To get started we will simply breakdown the above chart into the four keyword themes we created. Starting with the first keyword theme “Car Insurance” we will copy the three keywords we research into the tool. Follow the steps below.

  1. Launch the Google Keyword Tool
  2. Copy the list of preliminary keywords
  3. Paste the list into the top search box on the page

Google Keyword Tool

4.  After you see the results you can select 5 to 10 keywords you want to target and download the csv file. Remember selecting all high volume keywords will not be a sound strategy.

    • Try to find a good blend of long-tail keywords and keywords you can realistically gain ground.
    • Consider manually checking how hard a keyword will be to rank for on the first page of a search engine by searching the term in Google.
      • Evaluate the first page results and how well established those websites are because they are your main competition. (We will go over this in the next step)

Google AdWords  Keyword Tool - Selecting SEO Keywords

Step 5: Organize Your Keywords in a Table with Keyword Volume and Refine

We have gone through several steps and by now you should have 3 to 4 keyword themes with each theme carrying 5 to 10 keywords. The next step might be the most important step in your SEO keyword research. We are going to start with one keyword theme and then repeat the process for each additional theme.

  1. Copy the keywords and search volume from the csv file you downloaded from the Google keyword tool to the graph below.Overall SEO Keyword Research Table
  2. Research the first page results from the search engines for each keyword you listed above.
    • Look for established brands
    • Well optimized page titles and meta descriptions
  3. Using Open Site Explorer find out how many links are pointing to the competitors URLs and the Page Authority of those websites.          
    • Most likely the higher the page authority and the more links they have the harder they will be to out rank.
    • Consider looking at the company’s history and their social accounts too.
    • The below image highlights the numbers you should look at within Open Site Explorer. Open Site Explorer Keyword Research
  4. Once you have finished the document for the first keyword theme simply repeat the process for the remaining keyword themes. 


Performing keyword research for the first time can be time consuming, but with practice you will be churning out several clean documents to help fulfill your keyword strategy needs. Keep in mind that you can  repeat the whole process again on the same keyword themes by picking the top 3 keywords you researched and doing the whole process again. 

Good luck researching! 

Check Out Lesson 9 – How To Write SEO Page Titles