How to Use Keyword Research to Win at SEO

Last Edited September 11, 2023 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization

keywords research seo

Ever increasing in modern times, effective keyword research is an important skill for those embarking on digital marketing. Not only must these individuals know how to develop a good list of keywords for SEO and PPC (pay-per-clicks), but content marketers that are smart will use keyword research to discover what topics they should be writing about and what phrases they should be putting to use while writing. By the time you have landed here you already know just how important it is to do research on keywords. But how can it be done in the most effective way? There are so many research guides for keywords available on the internet and they will all tell you the three main things that you'll need to do:


  • Create a seed list comprised of starting terms

  • Expand the list using a keyword research tool, and then

  • Refine it with competitive research

As there is more being discovered about keyword research, there are increasingly different approaches, and it is becoming more and more obvious that some keywords will work better than ever others. This is because the different types of keywords are representative of different levels of interest and intent of the consumer. There are several categories of search terms and they are representative of different levels of curiosity, and how close they are to the conversion. These categories should be used when brainstorming to ensure that you are developing a plethora of keywords in order to understand which ones are more effective than others.

Audience Terms

These words are not covered in the other categories but they may be typical to the people you are targeting. Terms would include semi-vague phrases like “natural products”.

Complementary Product Terms

These keywords are used by customers that are looking for something that may go with what you sell. They are not directly in the market for the product you are selling, but you can remind the customer that they needed as well.

Substitute Product Terms

These terms are used when customers are looking for something similar to the product that you sell and may be willing to try your product before another. Think in terms of jam and jelly, butter and margarine.

Competitor Terms

The customers that are looking for these terms are educated in the market, enough to be interested in specific brands. They could be convinced to look at your brand instead of another

Product Terms

This would be what the product you are selling is or does. The customers that search using these words are still in the process of educating themselves about what exactly they want to buy and may find what they are looking for with your product.

Brand Terms

The customers that are searching for these terms have done their research and know your brand. They are relatively easy to convert. Though there are not a lot of these terms in the library and these terms do not create many impressions, they do provide a higher rate of conversion.

The idea behind this is that each keyword will represent a different level of interest. An individual that is closer to a conversion will use a different search term than someone who is still in the early stages of their research. Your other keywords are categorized by their type and then arranged by exactly how effective they will be at converting. It is suggested to invest the most money and time in keywords that are closer to conversion. Only after these have been fully maximize should you invest in keywords that are further from conversion.

Using this Model in your Own Keyword Research

Now that you know where to find the best keywords for their conversion rate, you can apply it to your own keyword research.

Your Seed List

A seed list is the initial set of ideas for keywords. You should write down each of the keyword categories listed above. Then using a combination of investigation and brainstorming, fill out the list with your keywords and spend the most effort on product and brand terms. This list should be thorough, in that it captures all of the things that your product does as well as the problems that it will solve. But you should not overdo it when coming up with synonyms at the step. In the next step you will need to research the audience, find out the search terms that are in use now, find suggestions, and check out the competition.

When research think the audience, you should find out what term they are using to describe your goods or services. You should also find out the other relevant terms that they use in their day-to-day life. You should be looking at blog posts, comments, forums, groups, and support requests for your own brand.

To find out the search terms that are being used now, put to use your current analytics tool, Google Webmaster tools, or your own weblogs to see which search terms people are using in order to get to your website. If you are able to access data on your own internal site search, look at these terms to find out what people are looking for to discover you.

To get suggestions, there are plenty of tools available online. There is a tool named Soovie that will allow you to enter a keyword and then see what the top auto complete is for different search engines. It is not worth the time and effort to invest in running every keyword through this site, but try a couple to see if you've overlooked anything.

Checking out the competition can be done with a number of tools. SEM Rush and SpyFu are tools that allow you to see what your competitors are bidding on. There is no need to spend hours doing this, but they will help you to check if you have overlooked any keywords.

Building the Keyword List

Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool comes as the most recommended means for building a keyword list. In the United States, most internet traffic comes from Google, so it would only makes sense to get your list of keywords as well as traffic estimates from the authority on the internet. Use these tips when implementing this tool:

Group your words by topic. When you start putting your keywords in, you may enter more than one key word at a time but make sure that they are grouped by topic.

When asked about match types, choose “exact”. Basically, the “exact match” will give you the number of searches for that exact term. This is a more conservative estimate of the traffic that you might get from a search term.

Through Advanced Options and Filters, you may select the language and location that you are interested in. When you do this you'll see only the results matching the criteria in the local monthly searches.

When setting up the columns, choose the columns called Competition and Local Monthly Searches. These columns contain other data including approximate CPC (cost per click).

Tick off the keywords that you find interesting and then check the "Download my Keyword Ideas" option. This will give you a spreadsheet of the results. The keyword ideas will then stay in the left column as you put in more seed terms so that it may be downloaded when you are finished.

How to Refine Your Keyword List

Once you have compiled a long list of keywords, it is now time to refine it and focus on the best. This is extremely important—especially if you are creating a keyword list for SEO where there is a restriction on how many words that can provide reasonable optimization. There aren't any concrete rules to adhere to, you are really just trying to get rid of the words that are less interesting. These are some factors you should consider as you go over the list:

The keyword category is very important. Focus on the categories in which are closest to conversion. Also use these categories to take the mystery from the intent of the search.

You should also be considering the competition. You will want to use a tool to find out the keyword competition as it will help you find the keywords that have a better chance at winning. Don't shy away from going after more competitive words, just know that it could be harder to convert with them.

Keep in mind the search landscape. You should input some of the most important terms you are using into Google and see what comes up. If any of your terms are mildly ambiguous, it could be worth it to drop from the list or modify.

As you go through your keywords, create a column that will group them semantically. These will be tightly connected keywords, or groups of words, that may be used later as PPC advertisement groups.

Optimizing for Conversion vs. Optimizing for Traffic

In general, SEO will either focus on traffic or conversion. Sometimes, a marketer will make the mistake of putting their SEO emphasis on traffic rather than conversion. While this is not overtly a bad thing, it just depends on the end goal of the brand. Those who are in a service or e-commerce based business, it will be more valuable to invest resources and making sure that the website will rank well for the terms that are likely to lead to a sale. That is to say that the aim is optimizing for conversion not just to gain a website view.

On the other hand, someone in the publishing or advertising business would receive their revenue directly from the number of visitors in views of their page. They would need to optimize for traffic.

Your brands optimization strategy needs to be dictated by the goals of your campaign. If your highest goals are something straightforward like increasing revenue, then you should decide which path will be the most effective for your business. Will more traffic directly relate to more revenue or will you need to acquire more traffic for specific keywords that are focused on conversion?

Page title keyword research should also consider your ultimate goal. When optimizing a page title for search results, it should be a combination of intent and volume. If your goal is to gain more traffic, aim to find combinations to increase the use of search terms with high volumes. When optimizing for higher conversion rates, the brand will need to pay mind to page titles with intent. Either way it is suggested to look for new ways to combine exact match phrases with strings of keywords that contain a few target keywords but they must not come off as stuffed or just awkward/forced. It needs to sound like a real page title that lets the visitors of the website know that they are in the right place and will find what they are looking for.

When to Do the Research

As soon as possible, to be frank. You can't build a house until the foundation has been laid, and your SEO plan is the foundation for your website. By now, SEO has existed long enough that there are hundreds of tools available on the internet that can be used for assisting your researching endeavor. There are tools that will provide related suggestions, pull search volume, and much more.

Keyword research is a vital component for SEO because when it is used in the correct way, it will provide a road map for the design and execution of constructing a website and then developing content. Lots of people want to know how large their keyword list needs to be and this will depend greatly on how sizable or complex their good or services are, but it does not need to be huge. Unless they are developing a list for a larger enterprise, think of tens or hundreds and not thousands. Don't wait any longer to use keyword research to step up your SEO game, don't let the competition get ahead of you.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Former Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.


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