Keyword Research: Where and How to Start

I remember back in the day (say, eleven years ago) when I would manage my SEO strategy. One of the primary tasks for me was to make sure every bit of content that went into WordPress was optimized, tracked by Yoast SEO.

I would select one of the primary keywords that I was trying to market, make sure it had a decent density, followed all of the appropriate steps (tags, header, rich text snippet, etc) and I was ready to go the second that little color wheel at the top of the page went green.

Those were simpler times.

Now the world of keyword research has become a big, crowded one. Everyone is trying to corner their market keywords and big businesses have managed to so heavily saturate Google’s search results that the rest of us are having to get creative.

Sure, many of the same tasks still exist. We look for best keywords to optimize for, make sure our headers and title provide prominence to those chosen keywords, construct elaborate social media plans that help to enforce what we are doing in our content, etc. But the process of finding and then targeting those keywords is just not the laid back process of trial and error it used to be.

We have much more complicated algorithms to take into account these days. These days Google understands content quality beyond keyword, it looks for entities, concepts, depth and variety of angles. Google is getting smarter, so should we.

Lost? If you are new to the process – or getting back into the game after a hiatus – I am not surprised. The good news is that getting started may feel overwhelming, but it is easier to think if you know the first steps.

Back to Basics: Important Keyword Terms

Before we go into details and actions, let’s make sure we understand important terms and processes here.

Informational Versus Commercial Keywords

First, you need to know what keywords you are looking for. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that you are looking for conversions in some shape or form. Keywords are, after all, a major source of lead generation. One that already has a bit of a head start, because your customers already know what they are looking for.

Conversion driving keywords are known as commercial keywords. These are phrases that seek to answer a question or make a product suggestion. Nine times out of ten, these are the keywords you are going to be trying to target.

Informational keywords are the less helpful of the two. They are an educational resource, something that helps others learn something. If that is your main aim, to inform, then you may want to use this style instead.

Unfortunately, informational keywords just don’t have much driving force behind them. You can use them to lead a customer to some educational content that includes some kind of product or service suggestion. But why add in another barrier when they could be going right to the source from the beginning? Use these with caution!


Building Authority Through Keyword Research

What is the best way to show someone that you really know your stuff? Anticipate their questions before they ever get the chance to ask them. This is a favorite use of keyword research of mine and one that I have used to great effect many times before.

You start by doing some basic research into what your audience is searching for or talking about. Is there any question that keeps coming up? Perhaps some kind of interesting topic that you can shed some light on and help them understand better? That is your jump-off.

From there, start finding out exactly what people want to know. How does it relate to other topics that you are also well informed about? Asking this question has two benefits. First, it gives you additional content to work on and we can all use content ideas, right? Second, it anticipates what questions your audience might have before they even know they have them.

In the process of doing this research, you are going to find out some additional information that can help you out. Namely, you are going to know what keywords to target, their earning potential, their expected click through rate and how those can apply to different platforms. A keyword that is prime for you on Google might not be a great keyword for Twitter, for example. But with some tweaking, you can probably make it close enough to be applicable across many platforms.

Building Content Around Keywords

Alright, you have a good list of keywords and their associates questions. Now what? It is time to start building on that foundation and getting a good SEO strategy working by writing the content that includes them.

I am a big believer in content. I focus a great deal on content marketing and the way it can build authority, generate leads and establish a brand as more than just a point of sale.

With the ability to get more insightful information from our keyword research, our content is only going to get richer in response. So make that your primary focus when using the information you have. You won’t be sorry.

As for how to optimize your content for the chosen keywords, there are two basic rules you need to memorize from the start:

  • Forget about keyword density. This concept is outdated and dangerous: If you start focusing on keyword density, your content may end up sounding weird and artificial. Both people and search engines will see that.
  • Go beyond focus keywords. As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, you need to use more than just keywords in your content now. This includes related entities, synonyms, related concepts, etc. More on these below.

But first: What to do with that focus keyword once you identify it? To optimize your content, make sure your keyword is prominent in your content, i.e. it appears in important highly visible parts of the page, including:

  1. Title of your article
  2. URL path (or slug as it’s called inside WordPress dashboard)
  3. Beginning of the article
  4. At least one of the subheads


Don’t neglect your social media, either. Remember that the Internet has become more social than ever before. Everything is connecting; your popularity on Google may be directly influenced by your popularity on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

You can’t get by without using all tools at your disposal to take advantage of this interconnectedness. Your keywords are just as much a part of your social tactics as any other.

Keyword Research Tools You Need To Start with

One of the best parts about the increased importance of keyword research in the modern day is that it is now easier than ever to find tools that help you do it.

Here are some tools you should have at your disposal if you want to make keyword research a breeze (and none of them are Google Keyword Planner).

Traditional (FREE!) Keyword Research Tools



I have been recommending this one to people a lot lately and I stand by it. Ubersuggest is an easy way to get a ton of info on different keywords based on a general search.

You will find out the volume, CPC amount and competition. But it doesn’t just do it based on your search. It curates a huge list of related search terms and variations and gives you that information about them, as well.

For example, if you do a search for “chocolate frogs” you find out that the volume is 4400, CPC is $0.29 and competition is 1.0. But ‘chocolate covered frogs’ is a volume of 10 and a CPC of $0.06, making it an easier phrase to target.

Answer The Public

I will admit that the animation of an older gentleman waiting impatiently for you to ask a question on the homepage is a little off putting. But the data you get back is invaluable, so it is worth pushing through the awkwardness.

What he gives you back is a set of visual representations of breakdowns including questions, prepositions, comparisons, alphabeticals and related phrases.

Google Keyword Suggest Tool


Google isn’t the be all and end all when it comes yo keyword research, though even seasoned pros can be forgiven for thinking that. This tool also searches Bing, so it gives you a more rounded approach.

Google Keyword Suggest Tool is always one of my firsts ports of call when trying to come up with a starter list. The drawback is it isn’t as thorough ad other options out there. I wouldn’t suggest ending here, buy starting? Absolutely.

More Tools to Discover Related Keywords and Entities

So identifying a focus keyword is still a good first step but as I mentioned above, you need to give Google many more clues that your content is valuable and useful. Here are a couple more tools to help you with that:

Watsonâ„¢ Natural Language Understanding


This tool is an excellent advanced can text analyzer which should be used to extract entities, categories, and concepts from any article.



This one is an excellent synonym finder. Get into a habit of using it all the time to enrich and diversify your vocabulary.

Have some tips for getting started with keyword research? Share them in the comments below.

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