How to do keyword research for SEO in 4 simple steps

Optimizing a blog post or a website can feel like standing outside a locked door with no key. Reading ultimate guides from self-proclaimed gurus can make you even more confused. But, don’t worry.

Your key to dominating the search engine rankings starts with one thing: keyword research. Sounds confusing? It’s not. I’ll give you a step-by-step process for finding the right keywords so your blog starts to climb the Google rankings, unlocking organic traffic you never thought you could get.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of analyzing search engine data such as monthly search volume, difficulty, and user intent to find the right keywords to target for your website or blog. By targeting the right keywords, your website will rank higher in search engine results giving you better visibility and more organic traffic. 

Why should I do keyword research?

Using helpful keyword tools, you can discover keyword ideas that you may not have thought about on your own. Different people search in different ways. Doing research is a great way to know how other people search and what keywords are most popular for your specific topic.

You could write the best article in the world, but without keyword research as part of your SEO strategy you will end up in front of the wrong audience, or worse, no audience at all.

Keyword research tools

There are loads of tools out there that can do all sorts of things. When it comes to keyword research tools, you want something that can:

  • Analyze page content
  • Give you data like monthly search volume and keyword difficulty.
  • Export long tail keywords and “people also ask” data
  • Bonus if the tool tells you the intent behind the search, but we can figure that out ourselves.

I like to use:

Keywords Everywhere

This is a Google Chrome extension and Firefox plugin that is massively helpful. Turn it on, run a Google search, and the little widgets appear right inside the search results displaying monthly search volume, difficulty, long-tail keywords, and “people also ask” data. You can export this data into a spreadsheet.

SEO Minion

Also a Google Chrome extension, SEO Minion will give you word count and meta data like titles, descriptions, and search engine results page (SERP) analysis. It can also check all your links to find broken ones, which is not for keyword research but helpful for other things.

Google Keyword Planner

Of course they wouldn’t make you keep up with Google trends on your own. Instead, they gave you a great, free tool. Use Google keyword planner to help you generate keyword ideas after you’ve exhausted all your own.

Check out some other favorite SEO tools here!

Understanding user intent 

If keywords are the words people type in to find answers, user intent defines why they want the answer and what type of content they want Google to give them.

For example, if a user Googles “keyword research” are they looking for a step by step guide? Are they looking to purchase a keyword research tool? Are they simply looking for a definition?  It’s important to know how your potential customers search.

Here are the 4 types of user intent:

Navigational search intent

Navigational search intent is when someone knows where they want to go and needs help getting there. Google search example: “LinkedIn” or “Facebook login”.

The user wants to go to LinkedIn or login to Facebook, they just need the URL. Branding optimized content shows up here. The user already knows who you are.

Informational search intent

Informational search intent is when the user wants to learn about a topic. Google search example: “what is keyword research” or “how to do keyword research”.

The user doesn’t know what it is or how to to do it. They’re looking for expertise that they can learn from. This type of content creates awareness, and builds trust and authority.

Commercial search intent

Commercial search intent is when the user is looking for advice from an experienced person or doing research before a purchase. Google search example: “best charcoal gills” or “gas vs charcoal grill”.

The user wants to see what other people recommend. They may be weighing the differences in buying one of two different models. This type of content is one of many reasons to collect reviews and testimonials.

Transactional search intent

Transactional search intent is when the user is prepared to take a specific action such as purchase, download, sign up, etc. Google search example: “buy a weber grill” or “weber grills for sale”.

The user has made their decision and they’re ready to go. This is where the money is made.

All 4 of these serve a purpose in creating a content strategy and an SEO strategy. You need to understand the intent behind the search to create the right content for the query.

Step by step keyword research process

Step 1: Discovering the best keywords for your topic

Take a few minutes to come up with some different keywords you think people would type in to find the blog post or page you’re creating. I like to type them into a Google sheet or Excel spreadsheet.

Next, begin typing part of your best keyword phrase into Google and see what pops up in the auto- suggest. Add the relevant search terms to your spreadsheet.

Screenshot showing Google auto-suggest with a speech bubble that say "hello, I'm auto-suggest"

Then, type your best keyword phrase into Google Keyword Planner and let it generate a bunch of related search terms. Kick out anything that doesn’t make sense for your post or page, and add the relevant words to your spreadsheet.

Video for step 1

Step 2: Find long-tail keywords using keyword research extension

Now it’s time to use the Keywords Everywhere Google Chrome extension. You can buy 100,000 credits for $10 and that 100,000 credits will last you quite a while. Activate the extension and execute a Google search using your focus keyword phrase.

The widgets on the righthand side of the search results will display related search terms, long-tail keywords, and “people also ask” data. You can export these to a new spreadsheet for now.

Screenshot showing the long-tail keyword widget for the Keywords Everywhere Google Chrome extension

Grab the free on-page SEO guide and checklist here!

Step 3: Competitor analysis

In this step we want to analyze some of the top ranking posts and pages for your focus keyword phrase. This helps you understand why they are ranking and what’s working for them.

First, make sure Keywords Everywhere is running, open a Google search, and type in your main phrase.

Look at the top 4 results and pick one other result that’s further down on the page. These are your competitors.

Make note of their ideas, subtopics, and structure. Which pages seem closer to what you’re creating? Pick 2 and analyze each of them using the “analyze page content” function in Keywords Everywhere.

Pay attention to word count, headings structure, images, and overall layout of the page. Also look for gaps where they are not ranking for keywords that you could be ranking for. 

Export the results and eliminate the irrelevant words in the report. There are a lot of irrelevant terms in the report, but they’re easy to spot and remove.

Video for steps 2, 3, & 4

Step 4: Combine keyword data into one spreadsheet

Now you have a few large lists of keyword ideas. You want everything in one place to make it simpler. So, I copy and paste keyword data from my exports and the competitor analysis into one spreadsheet and begin organizing. It’s fine to keep long-tail keywords and competitor analysis separate within the same spreadsheet.

screenshot of a spreadsheet showing keywords organized

I’m looking for lower competition keywords with good search volume. You can easily find these specific keywords by sorting all your data according to search volume. 

Next, you want to highlight in green the words that make the most sense for the article you’re writing. This goes back to matching user intent. Make sure you’re delivering what the user is looking for.

In a seperate column I add the relevant questions that appear in the “people also ask” section from the Google search. These can make great section subheadings  or even a Frequently Asked Questions section at the end for maximum search engine optimization.

Your keyword spreadsheet is complete and you can begin crafting your outline!

Check out my full video series, SEO Chats on YouTube!

Bonus tip

There are many ways to land on the first page of Google. Taking advantage of SERP features  can help you do just that. SERP stands for Search Engine Results  Page. Google provides different SERP features within different search results. 

The featured snippet is a direct excerpt from a web page that sits at the very top of the results answering the query without having to click on the link to the website. Winning a featured snippet will boost your organic traffic quickly.

screenshot showing Google's featured snippet SERP feature

People also ask is a section that displays related questions that are frequently used as search queries. Clicking on one of the questions reveals the answer in a similar way as the featured snippet.  With your website linked to one of these answers, your visibilty goes through the roof.

screenshot showing Google's people also ask SERP feature

The video feature displays a Youtube video at the very top of the results page instead of links. If you see a video or multiple videos for your search phrase, it might be a good idea to create one yourself.

screenshot showing Google's YouTube video SERP feature

Search engine optimization  (SEO) does not have to be difficult. With proper planning and research you’ll be ranking on the first page in no time!


Rijswijk, South Holland
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