How to Research Keywords: Step 1 of 4 on Getting the Most SEO Bang for Your Buck

This is part one in a four part series on the 4 Steps to Getting the Most SEO Bang for your Buck.

How do you know what your audience is searching for? Do you just guess? Take a stab in the dark?

No longer, my friend.


Start by brainstorming a list of keywords. Here’s a great guide to help you create that list from a ton of different angles.

Once you’ve got your list, it’s time to do research and figure out what people are actually searching for. Research may mean you’ll be surprised that your audience isn’t searching for the keywords you guessed, but a similar term instead. That’s what we’ll find out with keyword research tools.

Keyword Research Tools

There are a ton of keyword research tools out there, some paid and some free. Here’s a smattering of both:



The goal in using any of these tools is to find those diamonds in the rough: keywords with low competition and high search volume.

In this example, I used the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and searched for “internet marketing”.

How to Decipher Keyword Research Tools

Some really quick background if you’ve never used this tool before:

  • Keyword – keyword or phrase that users have searched for on Google, pretty self-explanatory
  • Competition – based on Google’s algorithm to identify the number of other websites (in this case) bidding on the keyword. (From a relative sense, the numbers will be about the same for an organic search.)
  • Global monthly searches – the average number of searches for the term, worldwide
  • Local monthly searches – the average number of searches for the term, nationally
  • Local search trends – how the searches for the term change over the past year, nationally

From these results, I can see that:

  • “Internet marketing” has a ton of searches and mid-range competition, so I’ll want to use that term. Depending on the page, however, it might be a little too vague.
  • Terms like “internet marketing marketing”, “internet marketing firms(s)”, “internet marketing companies”, “internet marketing on line”, and “online internet marketing” are probably not going to make sense for the page I’m creating; so I’m going to disregard those.
  • “Internet marketing tool” gets a ton of searches, but it also has extremely high competition. If this is applicable to the page I’m optimizing for, I would certainly use it, but also supplement with less competitive terms.
  • “Internet marketing [for] businesses”, “business internet marketing”, and “business to business internet marketing” all have high search volume and mid-range competition, so I’ll definitely want to incorporate those terms.
  • “Internet marketing strategies” also has a high search volume/mid-range competition. It may be too abstract for the page I’m optimizing for, but it would be perfect for a blogpost!

Create your list

From there, I typically separate my terms:

  • Terms that don’t apply/don’t make sense (these get deleted altogether)
  • Terms with high search volume/high competition – these might be able to be used in conjunction with less competitive terms
  • Terms with high search volume/low competition – these are our diamonds in the rough!
  • Terms with medium search volume/medium competition – we’ll also want to hold on to these
  • Terms with low search volume/high competition – these are rare, but more than likely aren’t worth the effort
  • Terms with low search volume/low competition – these may be better suited for blogposts or supplementing highly competitive terms
  • Terms best suited for blogpost/article ideas (how to’s, questions, lists, etc.)

Now that you have a list of keywords to optimize for, it’s time to optimize your pages. We’ll cover that next time…

Photo credit: shutterhacks

Nicki Hicks
Keyword Researcher

4 Responses to “How to Research Keywords: Step 1 of 4 on Getting the Most SEO Bang for Your Buck”

  1. Shane

    I am in the process of launching a few different contractor sites. One of which will be or
    How do I go about optimizing such a site. There is only a few words to optomize. Roofing roofers roof jobs etc, so my point is everyone will be striving for those key roofing words. There is no real niche in the roofing market, at least for us, we just mostly do asphalt roofing shingle installs. So is it just a battle to the end to be placed on google roofing rank, or is theta an actual process I can take to seo the roofing site properly.


  2. Nicki


    I would argue that the roofing industry itself is a niche industry. Since it sounds like your competitors will (or already are) using these keywords, I would try to differentiate by location – which, I would guess, is huge for people searching for your services. Another opportunity is quality content. What do your customers constantly ask? What are the different types of shingles available? Which is best for them? Put all of that on your website. That content will most definitely help you stand out from the crowd!

    Good luck!

  3. Gabbymaine

    Thanks. Nicki I will use your ideas for sure. It’s hard to have content on a roofing site, but I will just load content on the inner pages in hopes to draw some attention tonthe site. I can always remove at a later date if it is overwhelming.

    Thanks again.