Keyword research: Your guide to getting the most out of your SEO strategy

Keyword research is the process of discovering words and phrases that people use in search engines to find content. It’s a fundamental aspect of both SEO and broader marketing strategies.

However, keyword research is no longer as simple as finding a list of keywords that people type into Google.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to do effective keyword research, covering the following:

  • Understanding the audience search intent.
  • What factors to consider when selecting and researching keywords.
  • How to use your keyword research for SEO.

Keyword research should be a cornerstone of any digital marketing strategy. To perform keyword research, you must first understand what it is and why it’s important.

What is keyword research?

Keywords are the words or phrases people type into a search engine to find information on a particular subject. For instance, if you were looking to book a holiday, you might type ‘cheap flights to’ followed by the destination. Search engines display results matching your keywords. Travel sites like Skyscanner are among these displayed results.

Search engines use keywords to determine which websites and webpages contain information relevant to your search query. Search engines may exclude a website from results if it lacks relevant keywords for your specific query. Keywords are essential.

A few years ago, keyword research was simple. To rank for popular search terms, identify them and incorporate them into your content related to the topic.

This strategy has a short-sighted drawback. It doesn’t consider recent search engine shifts towards content quality and user preferences. It overlooks the importance of content substance, authority, and user engagement. Thankfully, there are better ways to do keyword research nowadays.

Why is keyword research important?

Keyword research is important because it helps you understand the words and phrases your audience is using to find information online. It also allows you to see how much competition there is for those terms.

Without keyword research, you have no idea what customers are actually searching for. You might think you know what your audience wants but unless you carry out effective keyword research, you can’t be sure.

When users carry out an online search using keywords, they are looking to find solutions. Well-targeted content matching search intent can attract visitors, increasing traffic and visibility.

Choosing keyword research tools

Nowadays, there is an abundance of keyword tools available to choose from. Whether you are seeking a paid-for tool or a free one, there are many options available that can help with your keyword research. Remember that certain tools are designed for particular marketing tasks.

For example, the Google AdWords Keyword Planner is designed for those running Google Ads campaigns, whereas Moz’s keyword explorer is more general. Another popular tool, Ubersuggest, allows you to get insightful data on keyword monthly search volumes and other competitive data. Each tool has its own unique features so it’s worth trying a few to see which one works best for you and your needs.

Understanding audience search intent

The first step in keyword research is understanding your audience’s search intent.  The best way to do this is to research their pain points. Which problems do they need to solve? What information are they looking for? Once you know this, you can start to research the keywords they are using.

When someone searches for something online, they have a reason for doing so – whether it’s looking for information, shopping for a product or service or looking for entertainment. Marketers need to understand the intention behind a keyword phrase before targeting it in content. This also means understanding which keywords are most relevant to your audience and how they use them to find the information they’re looking for.

There are different types of user intent that marketers should be aware of:

  • Informational intent. These searchers are looking for information on a topic and aren’t necessarily looking to make a purchase.
  • Transactional searches are people who are ready to buy.
  • Navigational searches might be for someone looking for a specific website.

When a user is looking to make an online purchase at the time or in the near future, they will use ‘high intent’ keywords which are based on buying, deals, shipping etc.

For example, a search for ‘men’s shoes size 12’ is likely to be higher intent than a search for ‘shoes for men.’ Keyword research can help you understand which keywords are being used by people who have transactional or high intent. This means you can create content that is more relevant to their needs and is more likely to convert.

Elements of keyword research

The main elements of keyword research are as follows:

  • Search Volume – The number of times a keyword is being searched for in a given period (usually monthly).
  • Keyword Difficulty – A measure of how hard it would be to rank in the top positions for a given keyword. It takes into account factors such as the number of searches and the number of competing websites.
  • Relevance – How relevant a keyword is to your business, products or services.
  • Competition – How many people are competing for a given keyword. It considers factors like search volume and keyword optimisation across websites.
  • Authority – How much authority a source has. It’s essential to choose keywords that will help improve your site ranking. You can achieve this by creating informative content, sharing it on social media, and earning backlinks. Without visitor recognition or amid strong competition, high ranking is less likely, unless your content is exceptional.

Analysing your competition keywords is one of the easiest – yet most undervalued ways to perform keyword research.

Considerations for keyword research

Step 1: Understand your audience

The first step in any keyword research is to understand your audience and what they’re looking for. This is known as user intent and will help you determine the right keywords to target. Here are some examples of how this can be done:

  • Use Google Analytics to track your website traffic and see which pages are being visited most often. This will give you an idea of what topics are most popular with your audience.
  • Use Google Search Console to see which keywords people are using to find your website. This will give you an idea of the kinds of keywords you should be targeting.
  • Use keyword research tools like those found in SEMRush and Moz. You can then find popular keywords that are relevant to your business.

Once you’ve figured out what your audience wants, you should use that language when thinking about keywords. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and imagine how you would search for a solution to their problem if you were them.

Step 2: Focus on topics

Next, think about topics that are important to your audience. Create content around topics instead of keywords. People don’t always search using exact phrases; they may use related terms or concepts. It’s important not only to optimise content at specific points throughout your website (such as title tags) but also to create content around topics. Put those topics into an excel sheet and brainstorm the different types of keywords that could be used to find information about them (eg: “how to X” or “what is X”).

If your business is located in a specific area, it’s important for local SEO purposes that you include this location in all of your page titles and descriptions. This helps when people search for businesses within their own community which might be different from where they currently live or work. You don’t just want any traffic – make sure it’s relevant!

Step 3: Analyse your competition

Your competition can actually be one of the greatest sources of information when it comes to keyword priorities for your site. Analysing your competition keywords is one of the easiest – yet most undervalued ways to perform keyword research.

One of the most important advanced tips on carrying out effective keyword research nowadays is to choose those with low keyword difficulty scores. This is a metric that shows how easy or difficult it will be to rank in the top search engine results pages (SERPs) for a particular keyword.

A low KD score indicates that it will be easier to rank for that keyword, while a high KD score suggests that it will be more difficult. There are various SEO tools available online which can help you to research and find keywords with low KD scores.

Step 4: Target both broad terms and long-tail keywords

Broad terms are single words or short phrases that are generally used to describe a broad topic. They have a high search volume but are also very competitive. On the other hand, long-tail keywords (also known as ‘low-hanging fruit’) are more specific and tend to have a lower search volume. However, they’re much easier to rank for and can be just as effective in driving traffic to your website.

When doing keyword research, it’s important to target both broad terms and long-tail keywords. This will give you a well-rounded SEO strategy that covers all the bases.

With a robust and growing list of keywords, you can mine for opportunities to rank for more relevant and specific terms by picking out the ‘low-hanging fruit.’ These are the terms that may provide a lot of value but aren’t as hard to rank for. Many keywords might be extremely competitive, lowering your chances of ranking for them. Low-hanging fruit keywords, on the other hand, are those where it will be easier to rank well.

For example, find long-tail keywords with low competition that are also related to a high search volume keyword. This is where you might see the best results.

Step 5: Don’t forget about semantic search.

Semantic keywords are similar keywords that are associated with the main keywords in question and this is how Google understands your content naturally. It’s important to use these in your keyword research as they will help Google understand the context of your content and index it accordingly.

This is an example of a semantic search:

If you search for “best SEO tips”, some of the related searches that show up are “SEO tricks”, “SEO tips for beginners” and “SEO secrets”. These are all related searches that you could use as semantic keywords in your content.

To find these related searches, you can use a range of SEO-related reporting tools as well as Google’s “People Also Ask” feature or the “Searches related to” section at the bottom of the SERP. These are all great places to find ideas for new content and keywords to target.

How to put your keyword research into practice

Now that you know how to do keyword research and you have a bunch of keywords to target, here’s how to practically apply them to your content:

Prioritise and group your keywords

Once you have researched and prepared a list of keywords, it’s important to group them. This will make it easier to target them in your SEO strategy and prioritise those that are most important. The list should ideally consist of both broad match keywords and long tail keywords. These can be grouped by topic, product, service or any other way that makes sense for your business.

Map your keywords to site content

The next step is to map your keywords to existing content on your website or blog. This will help you to see which pages and posts are already optimised for certain keywords and which ones need more work. You can also use this mapping process to plan new content ideas, such as new landing pages or blog posts. It’s important to understand the purpose of each page, what do you want your visitors to do? Is this informational content or commercial content? If you are planning a new website this will be established during your planning and UX phases where you design the site architecture and develop your content plan.

Include keywords throughout your website

Use your keywords in the title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, alt text and body copy on your website. However, these should appear naturally and read well within content, avoiding any keyword stuffing (adding too many instances for the purpose of trying to rank better in the Search Engine listings).

Create keyword-focused content

Write blog posts, articles, guides and other forms of content that are focused on your target keywords. Research shows that long-form content tends to perform best in SEO so the content should be quite lengthy and at least the same length as the top performing articles which are already ranking for your target keywords. Remember you are writing for humans first and foremost, your content needs to be useful and meet their needs. Algorithms are very sophisticated these days, even if you rank well for a particular term and get visitors to your page, you will be penalised in the SERPs if your audience doesn’t engage with your content (high bounce rate, low dwell time, no onward journeys etc). 

Use SEO tools

There are many SEO reporting and tracking tools available which can help you to improve your website’s performance in the search engines. These tools can also be used to track keyword rankings, helping you to monitor your progress and identify any areas where you need to make changes.

Build links with keyword-rich anchor text

Linking to your website from other websites is a key ranking factor in SEO. When building links, use keywords in the anchor text to tell Google what the page you’re linking to is about.

By following these tips, you can start to see some real SEO results from your keyword research. Just remember to keep your keywords relevant, targeted and used in a way that sounds natural. With a bit of practice, you’ll be a keyword research pro in no time.

In summary, keyword research is an important part of SEO that should not be overlooked. By understanding your audience’s needs and wants, you can select the right keywords to target which will help you to rank higher in search engine results pages. With a little time and effort, you can easily find the best keywords for your website which will result in more traffic and leads.

If you need help with your keyword research or how to plan an effective digital marketing strategy, get in touch with us at Think. Call our Marketing agency today on 0161 507 2410 or send an email to


Written by

Alan Attias

SEO Manager

Data driven with eighteen years’ experience as a Digital Marketing and SEO Manager, Alan is our expert for our customers search engine optimisation, search engine marketing and PPC, employing integrated analytics for on-going ROI optimisation.

Stay up to date and subscribe to our newsletter.