How to Do the Right SEO Keyword Research

seo keyword research tips

When it comes to search marketing, one of, if not the most, important and valuable things that you can do is keyword research. Keyword research gives you the ability as a business to better understand your potential customers, and what they are searching for, and how you can match your marketing to that. The SEO keyword research tips below will help you do just that.

This gives you a better understanding of how to reach them in the search rankings, but also gives you a better understanding of your target audience in general. We’ve run a lot of SEO campaigns, here at Visiture, and unfortunately this is one area where we see a lot of people mess up before coming to us.

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Sure, you want your company to get in front of as many people as possible, but you want those to be the right people, and you can’t do that without the right keywords. However, in addition to that, you can’t just see a keyword and think you can go after it. The keywords that you select to focus your campaign around have to be the best group that are relevant and attainable.

So, how do you figure out which keywords you should go after? With research, and we’re here to tell you exactly how to do so, the right way.

SEO Keyword Research Tips

Types of Keywords

Before any type of research starts, you first need to understand keywords and what makes a good keyword. Not only do you want to find keywords that are going to help you convert, but you also need to consider which ones you have a shot at.

The first thing you should take into consideration is the number of people searching for a keyword. This is a good indication of how big and relevant it is. The bigger a search is for a keyword; the more people you have a shot at reaching. However, you have to take into consideration that at some point a keyword can be too big for you. You aren’t going to rank higher than a national retailer who has a high domain authority for the word “women’s shows” when you are a smaller merchant.

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This leads into our second point: You have to consider if you can actually rank for a keyword. Short, one-word keywords are going to be borderline impossible. Consider long-tailed keywords that give you a better chance of ranking for something, but we will get to that later.

SEMRush has a keyword difficulty tool where you can see how difficult the keyword will be to obtain:

SEO keyword research tips: SEMRush's keyword difficulty tool

Start with Topics

Now that you have a little background on keywords, and what you need to keep in mind, you can start your keyword research. The first thing that you want to do is to make a list of topics that relate to your business. These aren’t going to be your keywords—these are to help you come up with keywords later on.

Think about your business:

What’s your target market?
Are you marketing to businesses or consumers?
What’s the demographic?
What terms is that audience searching for now?
What type of terminology do they use?

Generally, this is fairly easy if you sell products online. If you are lead generation, finding the phrases and topics is much more difficult.

SEO keyword research tips - Topics

General Keywords

Once you have the topics, you can use your AdWords Keyword finder to acquire good keywords associated with these phrases.

For example: “SEO Company” is a phrase, and when we put this in the AdWords tool we get back some other good phrases: “Atlanta SEO Company,” “SEO Services & Company,” etc. We want to pick the keywords based on search volume and CPC.

The more people searching, and the higher it costs in AdWords, generally the better the keyword phrase. Remember, if the keyword seems too hard to achieve, use your keyword difficulty tools to see how hard it truly is.

Also, you can start by using keywords which you already rank for. Not only can you use those as inspiration for other keywords, but they can also be used to get you some quick rankings. It is much easier to jump up to number 6 in the rankings from number 20, than it is from being unranked at all. SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Searchmetrics are good for this!

SEO keyword research tips - General Keywords

Related Terms

After you have a general list of keywords and phrases, check out related search terms. You can do this by heading over to Google and typing in your keyword. At the bottom the search results it will bring up a related term list. This can help you find keywords you might not have thought of. If you really want to find more keywords, keep the process going. Type in that related search term and see what comes up there, and keep going until you are satisfied.

Using the Google AdWords keyword tool does a very similar process, but, if you like the manual process and want more finite specific control, the method above is better for related terms.

Check Out Your Competitors

Another great way to see what keywords you need to focus on (or not focus on) is to check out what your competitors are doing. Keep in mind that just because your competitor is trying to go after a keyword, it doesn’t mean that you should. It might not apply to you, but seeing it helps to give you insight and work on your own list.

If one of your competitors is ranking for a keyword that you already had on your list, then you want to work on your own rankings for that one. Checking out your competitors can also show you what they are not trying to rank for. If your competitors don’t seem to care about a certain keyword, it will make it easier for to you rank for it.

In order to check out your competitors, you can use SEMRush, which gives you free reports on keywords for the domain you provide. Searchmetrics and Ahrefs do a good job of this as well.

Long-Tailed Keywords

You definitely don’t want to forget about long-tailed keywords when you are doing your research. These are phrases that are longer and which generally contain three or more words. You don’t want all of your keywords to be long-tailed, but there should be a good mix.

While short-tailed keywords are generally searched more often, they are more competitive, and it’s less likely that you can actually rank for them. Say you are a clothing boutique in Atlanta. It’s going to be very hard to rank for the keyword “clothing,” but you can try to rank for “clothing boutique Atlanta.”

Not only are long-tailed keywords easier to rank for, they generally also give you better traffic. There is no point reaching someone who is searching for a clothing boutique who is in Boston, if you are in Atlanta and they have no plans on going there. When you rank for “clothing boutique Atlanta,” you are more likely to get people who will actually come to your store, because they are searching for your specific niche.


After you have looked at your general keywords, related terms, keywords that your competitors are trying to rank for, and long-tailed keywords, you should have a pretty good list of keywords that you can base your campaign on.

However, this shouldn’t be a once in a lifetime process. You need to keep coming back to your keywords and evaluating them. SEO is a quickly evolving sphere, and you want to stay ahead of the game before you find yourself slipping in the rankings.

It also might be that your business objectives change as you grow. Some companies re-evaluate their keywords as often as every month or so, but we advise at least every quarter. You will also want to add more, as you grow in your SEO presence, so that you can gain more rankings for more keywords.

SEO Photo via Shutterstock

Ronald Dod Ronald Dod is the Founder and Owner of Visiture, an internet marketing agency that focuses on Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click management for eCommerce businesses. Ronald holds a Masters in the Science of Marketing from Florida State University and is certified in Google Adwords & Analytics.

8 Reactions
  1. Adebayo Oluwole

    Thanks for the insight. I buy your idea of long tailed keywords. I think it is better to rank No 1 in a long tailed keyword of 500 searches per month than to rank No 40 in a keyword of 20,000 searches per month.

  2. Tushar Bhardwaj

    Excellent Ronald! I was desperately searching and looking for some really insightful tips on keyword research and finally i got my answeres.
    Thank You! For such a great article!

  3. Thank you for this great article. I’m always learning more about SEO for my shop.

  4. I tend to focus mainly on the broad and medium tail keywords as I find that once these rank, the long tails rank pretty easily and almost automatically with no real effort.

  5. This is a great article. I have been focusing on the long tail keywords for the most competitive niches. I have also seen the relationship between map pack and organic listings to give me an idea of how competitive the niche is. Great article Ronald.

  6. Thanks for this to-the-point article. I love that you touch on the importance of focusing on long tail keywords for extremely competitive niches. Yes, there are less searches for those keywords but ranking for many long tail keywords can lead to way more conversions than a specific 1 word keyword that all the competition is fighting over!

  7. I tend use my own strategy where I create one very informative keyword relevant content which will be my main page that focuses on the subject but in the meantime I also think 3-5 blogs that surronding my main content page. That way I gain not only very good onpage linking power but those other webpage also can generate valued customers for my business.

  8. I tend to use my own strategy where I create one very informative keyword relevant content which will be my main page that focuses on the subject but in the meantime I also think 3-5 blogs that surronding my main content page. That way I gain not only very good onpage linking power but those other webpage also can generate valued customers for my business.