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How To Do Keyword Research: A 5 Step Guide

Keyword Research is a fundamental part of any SEO campaign. Without it you might as well be throwing darts in the dark. When you look at the 3 Pillars of SEO, keyword research forms a huge part of the analysis at the top and in the foundation. It also filters through into the site structure, the words on your pages, the content you produce for your blog and the links you place to gain authority.

Keyword research is fundamental and must be done well in order to be a valuable business review.

This article will take you through what keyword research is and why it’s important, how people search, the buying cycle, and what the future of keyword research looks like.

Finally, I’ll give you How To Do Keyword Research: A 5 Step Guide.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is a practice used by search engine optimization professionals to find and research actual search terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search.” –

The main focus of keyword research is finding keywords which have high volumes of converting traffic.

Keyword research is the bedrock of a search campaign; whether PPC or SEO.

Every aspect of SEO and of PPC strategy is built upon Keyword research:


  • Site: Navigation, architecture, title tags and descriptions, h1 tags, optimised content.
  • Words: The tone of your content on your landing pages and blog articles.
  • Citation: What type of anchor text people use to link to your website.
  • Ad copy: How you write your advertising copy.

Plus, if it’s done correctly, it will help you to uncover and identify the right kind of keywords to target your customers, predict shifts in demand and respond to changing market conditions.

In short, when keyword research is done correctly it can help you offer new products and services, and content that web searchers are already actively seeking.

How People Search: Understanding the Buying Cycle

In the past, search marketers would focus on single key phrases which would focus on driving traffic to a single landing page which would be optimised appropriately. Then they would build links to that landing page. This lead to a lot of spammy pages and spammy results on the SERPs.

Google now rewards sites with good quality, relevant and authoritative content.

This also reflects the way people search online. When searching out a new pair of trainers, they might search “mens Trainers”– but you’d be foolish to throw all your arsenal at this keyword. Instead, creating content around multiple long-tail phrases, like “mens black running trainers” and branded terms like “mens Nike Air Max Thea trainers” is far more suited to what users are likely to be searching.

The Decision Journey

It’s worth us looking at this point at the Decision Journey:

Pre awareness: Users are conducting informational searches, collecting and understanding information.
e.g. “How to get fit”

Awareness: Searchers are more likely to be using industry relevant terms – they know and understand the industry jargon and are using this within their searches.
e.g. “Running trainers” because they understand running is a way to get healthy.

Consideration: The searcher knows what they are looking for, and begin to search for more relevant, niche terms. They are getting ready to buy.
e.g. “Best running trainers 2014”.

Then the searcher begins narrowing down a product or service using transactional search queries:

Preference: The searcher has made up their mind following the research they have done, so they are looking for a specific product.
e.g. “Nike Performance AIR MAX Cushioned running shoes”

Action: This means that the searcher is looking to make a purchase and is looking to find the right supplier. They are looking for the best deals.
e.g. “Cheapest Nike Performance AIR MAX Cushioned running shoes”

Loyalty: Providing great customer service will mean people return. This is called a navigational search query, which means that people are typing a brand or URL directly into a search engine next time they want to make a similar purchase or recommendation.

So how is this decision journey relevant to keyword research?

Take a look at the search demand curve below:


What you will see here is the number of monthly searches vs the number of keywords. With short tail keywords at the top, like “shoes” and long tail keywords at the bottom like “where to buy shoes online”.

Many marketing professionals only target the short tail keywords, and are missing out on the valuable long tail keywords at the bottom which make up 80%!

Flip the search demand curve on its head, and pit it against the decision journey, and you’ll see which traffic is most likely to convert:



You can see how many keywords are targeting the top pre-awareness queries made up by short tail keywords, but not the longtail keywords which make up the valuable decision making phases. These are your “money keywords”. There is a huge opportunity to capitalise on these crucial decision-making keywords.

Topic Mapping

We’re beginning to see a shift in the SEO industry, away from targeting single header keywords to now look at the bigger picture and at groups of keywords to make up a topic.

This shift is focused on improving whole directories of landing pages for a topic rather than single keywords for one landing page. The result is that we are now targeting landing pages at people rather than search engines, which helps to improve the visibility of landing pages to your target audience during their decision journey.

How To Do Keyword Research – A 5 Step Guide

The key elements of keyword research are:

  1. Time: Good keyword research takes time. It’s a little like analysing your business via keywords and is such a fundamental foundation of your SEO strategy that you need to spend time on it.
  2. Patience: Because it takes time to research, you need patience. But also, in order for your keywords to do their job, they need time to develop and mature. It won’t happen overnight.
  3. Attitude: Don’t just focus on quick-wins, but the longer-scale key phrases that are going to win you more business.

The 5 Steps to Identifying the Right Keywords are:

  1. Objectives
  2. Topics
  3. Target Audience
  4. Keyword Research Tools
  5. Keyword Mapping

1. Objectives: What does your business want to achieve?

You’ll need to understand what you are trying to accomplish for your business. Is it lead generation? Sales? Brand awareness? And how do you plan on achieving that? Do you want to drive traffic to your site? Do you want to inform users of what your offline activities include?

Are you a local business? Are you global? Knowing where your target audience is geographically is vital. You can use keywords which have a geographic location modifier, but also you want to make sure you are targeting the language correctly. Even targeting Australian or American traffic in English will need modification. The industry terms, local slang used and colloquialisms will make a difference to whether you are truly able to unearth those long tail keywords.

2. Topic Mapping: What do you do, and how do you categorise it?

Topic mapping is about forming different categories around the products and services you offer using a visual mind map. These topics or categories should be those that your business wants to be found for.

For example if you sell sports equipment, you could be selling “womens” or “mens sports equipment”, “outdoor” or “indoor sports equipment”, “clothing”, “footwear”, “accessories” and then within these categories you can drill down again to products, brands, sizes and more.

Tip: Use the Google AdWords Ideas Tool to help generate more ideas and keywords.

3. Target Audience: Who do you want to buy your products?

“One of the most important elements to building an online marketing strategy around SEO is empathy for your audience.” – Moz
Do you know the:

  • Age…
  • Gender…
  • Location…

Of your audience?

Once you have identified who your target audience is, you need to then identify where they hang out online and offline, what they like and don’t like, what language they use to describe products, services or problems.

Is there a lack of information or resources on a particular topic? Is your market very text rich and lacking clear data? This could give you the opportunity to create a clear infographic, or blog content written around a particular topic. The words, descriptions and problems your target audience is using should all become part of your topic mapping (above).

Tip: Use the Google Analytics Demographics report which pulls in Age and Gender of who is visiting your site.

4. Keyword Tools: Generating keyword ideas, identifying the best keywords, and their search volumes

You need to prioritise your keywords by search volume in each topic. Obviously you will find that longer tail keywords and more niche, targeted keywords will have a lower search volume. This is why you need to look at the search volume of the overall topic.

Using tools like Google AdWords keyword tool to identify search volumes of keywords, and adding this to a spreadsheet is the quickest and easiest way to conduct this research.

Tip: Add the keyword data and search volumes to an Excel spreadsheet. This will help you to keep track of everything and sort by topic and by search volume.

Keyword Tools are great for helping you to identify keywords which are actually being searched for and give you loads of ideas under your topics.

There are a whole host of keyword research tools which can be used:

Note: The list of keyword research tools is endless. A lot of tools pull information from Google AdWords Keyword Planner and this is also my go-to research tool that I would recommend you use. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t use tools with untrustworthy data.

Tip: Got a search bar on your site? Use the analytics Site Search Report
If you have an internal search bar, you can use the site search report in Google Analytics to see what people are searching for if you haven’t got information or products they are looking for immediately available.

Tip: Webmaster Tools Search Queries Report
Within your WMT account you can find out what people have searched to get to your site and you can see the top pages, which is useful to see what is ranking so well, and why. This is the next best thing since Not Provided was introduced.

5. Keyword Mapping: Mapping your keywords against your pages

This simply means pulling together all of the research and analysis you have done, and applying it to your websites navigation.

For example, fat head keywords will make up the upper layers of your site navigation, consisting of the main categories your products and services fall into. The deeper into your site you navigate, the more long tail keywords you’ll be optimising for.

This might result in a need to change the navigational structure of your site to better optimise for products or services your visitors are searching for.

Tip: You will always have left over keywords, ideas and topics which you just can’t fit into your website – don’t worry you don’t have to chuck them in the bin. The left over keywords from your research can be integrated into your content strategy – to craft brilliant content around what your target market is searching for which can be used in your blog and resources section of your website.

Writing valuable content which helps answer your user’s questions is invaluable in bringing new visitors to your site and grabbing their attention during the purchasing cycle.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people and let them know your content is answering their questions!

Key takeaways:

  • Keyword research is evolving into market research.
  • Understanding your buyer’s journey means a bigger opportunity to grab your audience.
  • Focus on researching topics, identifying keyword groups and improving user experience.
  • Think about your whole website, not just single landing pages.