Keyword research is an important part of your SEO strategy. Before you can start injecting targeted keywords or key phrases into your content, you have to conduct research to see which keywords are high-volume and have low search difficulty. In this primer, we’ll show you the five critical steps to keyword research.

1. Understand the business and potential broad category keywords

First, you have to understand your niche market and the customer base you’re targeting. This will give you an idea of potential broad category keywords.

For example, if you’re a clothing boutique specializing in men’s business attire, what are the keywords users would be typing into the search box on Google or Bing? Just off the top of your head, you can probably list the following: suits, business suit, men’s suits, ties, three-piece suit, dress shoes. Now, what would be “broad category keywords”? Here are some examples: men’s fashion, business attire, business casual, men’s style, business clothes.

That’s the informal, impromptu version of keyword research. Now, it’s time to take it to the next level by actually conducting research and gathering data in a more methodical way, so that you’ll get accurate insights into what keywords you should use in your content.

2. Conduct the research using the right keyword research tools

Every research method’s twin is the research tool. More specifically, the right keyword research tool. One of the most popular keyword research tools available is SEMrush. You use it by entering your website’s URL and the websites you want to analyse. Next, select the type of keywords and then go back to your list of keywords. You can also enter a specific word and see where your website content ranks versus your competitors on the term. You’ll also be able to see the pages that rank the highest.

Another keyword research tool is Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. It works almost the same way as SEMrush, but what’s great about Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, as the name suggests, is that you can discover a lot of unique keywords you can target. Just insert one or several seed keywords in its search box and get thousands of relevant keyword suggestions.

If you are using what I call the Google Triumvirate (Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google PageSpeed Insights), then you should also try out the Google Keyword Planner. It has the same features as SEMrush and Ahrefs. Considering Google itself is where we all compete to rank high on, it’s only fitting that we use Google’s SEO suite as well.

Honorable mention: Long Tail Pro. You use this powerful keyword research tool by generating long tail keyword ideas, and then conducting a website competitive analysis of the top sites that appear in SERPs, among other features that are similar to the tools mentioned earlier.

3. Split the keywords into the categories initially mapped

This is a process called keyword mapping, in which you assign relevant keywords to the different pages on a website based on your keyword research. It’s an important aspect of on-page SEO and will allow search engines to see the page’s relevancy based on a user’s search.

Once you have your keywords mapped out, be sure to split the keywords into the categories initially mapped.

4. Export them into Excel with a focus on separate tabs

When conducting keyword research, it’s best practice to export the categories from your keyword research tool into Excel with a focus on separating tabs. Begin by creating tabs for categories of keywords that are relevant. For example, if you’re local pet shop owner, you’ll have separate tabs/categories for pet food, pet toys, pet accessories, and other relevant categories.

Then create a list for keywords related to terms entered. Create a second list of additional keywords to consider.

Your columns for both lists should be the following (in order):

  • Keywords
  • Local Search Volume [Month]
  • Global Monthly Search Volume

5. Focus on targeting the keywords with low search difficulty and high volume

In your keyword planner or research tool, focus on targeting keywords with low search difficulty but are high-volume. You can do this by entering your competitor’s domain name and hitting search. You will then get a list of keywords that your competitor are ranking for in Google or other search engine.

Find the keywords that are relevant to your business, but are high-volume because millions of people are searching for them. For instance, “car mechanic” or “restaurants near me” are probably two of the most high-volume queries in the world. However, using high-volume keywords is also akin to throwing a penny in a wishing well. It’ll get lost in a sea of competitors who are also doing the same SEO strategy as you.