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Keyword Research For SEO: Actionable Guide To Ranking Higher On Google Search (2020)

Vineet Karhail

Last Updated: April 23, 2020

Bonus Material: Free Checklist for Keyword Research for SEO in Google Spreadsheet

A great keyword research is the difference between newbies and expert content marketers.

Writing hundreds of articles won't get you those top spots on the Almighty Google's 1st page.

But writing a few articles on specific keywords which are related to each other can boost your traffic significantly.

We recommend you to start with discovery the right keywords that are topically similar and then build your content plan.

For our clients, we at For the love of Growth, focus on three types of content:

  • organic content,
  • viral, pain-point content, and
  • results-oriented content

However, our content planning always start with a detailed keyword research for SEO based on client's market.

Today I'm going to show you how to find right keywords to write content that ranks higher on Google Search.

It is the first and the most important step when you're planning content for your website.

Target your content around the right keywords that people are searching for.

As a quick example, if you’re a global dog supply e-commerce business, you might not be interested in ranking for keywords like "best pet walking services in Boise Idaho".

You will get better traffic if you rank for "dog chews online", for example.

There are 3 main reasons to have a proper keyword research process:

  • It's easier to find content ideas
  • It improves your ranking for relevant keywords faster
  • You spend less time producing content

If I were to pick one thing that I’d do right in order to rank my content higher on Google, it would be to pick the right keywords.

Don't fret. I will help you with discovering new relevant keywords to write content on.

But first... Google Search Engine Algorithm

Before starting your keyword research, let me tell you how Google analyzes your content.

Google updates its search ranking algorithm regularly to show the most relevant information to its users. Its Artificial Intelligence algorithm to filter results is becoming smarter everyday.

Post Hummingbird and RankBrain updates, Google focuses on the topical keywords that cover the type of content that best serves users’ needs, rather than a single keyword.

One-keyword-one-page strategy is dead.

Google’s AI understands two things:

  • How users interact with organic search results
  • The search intent behind a query

In order to rank higher for your targeted keywords, cover a topic completely.

There's another advantage to this. If you rank high for a certain keyword, Google will also reward you by ranking your site for other related keywords in that topic.

This is what guides our content planning process.

We do believe in Big G!

In order to rank well for your targeted keyword, you will have to cover the topic completely. And google will also reward you by ranking your site for other keywords in that topic without doing much.

This is an important piece of information which guides our content planning, which you will read in another blog post.

Stages of Keyword Research

A typical Keyword Research is conducted in 2 phases: 

Phase I: Keyword Discovery

Phase II: Keyword Analysis

Phase I : Keyword Discovery

This phase covers everything from brain dumping keywords, exploring new keywords and shortlisting relevant keywords to analyze.

Before you do that, understand your market first.

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their solutions?

Read this article on how to find relevant topics for your content strategy.

Let’s talk about different methods with which you can find relevant keywords.

For the sake of this article, let’s assume you have a pet grooming business with multiple locations.

Method #1: Keyword Generator For Organized Keyword Research

Step 1: Brainstorm a list of seed keywords or Keyword group

First step is to add a list of keywords in Column A of the “KW Generator” sheet. 

These seed keywords can be your products and services, or topics your audience is interested in.

They can even be related products and services, but in the same market.

You can list down as many seed keywords as you want, but I recommend just 10 seed keywords is good enough.

Here’s a list of services in pets grooming space, I've found:

  • Dog grooming 
  • Cat grooming
  • Dog Supplies
  • Dog nail trimming
  • Dog boarding
  • Dog stylists 
  • Dog walking
  • Dog sitting
  • Dog daycare
  • Dog wash

Did you notice that some of these topics are related services like “Dog walking”, “Dog sitting”, etc. and not directly the services which a pet grooming store might offer?

You may ask why we added related services. 

That's because we want pet owners to visit our site... simple.

Even if we don’t provide dog sitting services, many dog owners are interested in this information and services. Our goal is to be relevant to them.

If we give them that information, they will trust us with more information regarding their dogs.

We can collect a lead from related services in the same market, and promote our services to them later on.

You can also add different varieties or breeds of dogs that you provide service for. 

Most dog owners are specific about their dogs, and are looking for services specialized to their dogs.

They use specific keywords belonging to their dog’s breed like English bulldog grooming, best shampoo for Pomeranian, Pug nail trimming, etc. See an example below:

Step 2: Add key themes that define your products and services

Once you have these topics listed down in the first column, it's time to add key themes in the first row.

These themes can be words that define your products and services.

Think about what your users are interested to know about your products viz. features, benefits, price, location or store location, discounts, etc.

Dog owners might be interested to know “how to” perform dog grooming at home, or “benefits” of your dog grooming services.

They might be looking for these services in a “city” like “Chicago” or “Austin”, or a certain “area” in a city like “Upper West Side, NY” or “Irving Park Rd, Chicago”.

You get the idea. Add these themes to the first row.

Step 3: Mix keyword groups with the themes using Concatenate function

Concatenate the entries in first column and first row to generate a large list of keywords. 

Use formula =CONCATENATE(C$1,” “,$A2) or =CONCATENATE($A2,” “,C$1) and copy/paste this to the rest of the cells.

This method does require some brainstorming on your end, but it can be extremely useful if you know your market well.

Method #2: Google/Youtube Search Suggest

This is one of the most obvious ways to discover keywords. You’re probably already familiar with keyword suggestions by Google.

However, I’ll show you a technique that you might not have ever seen before. This will make keyword discovery so much easier and less boring.

When you search for any keyword on Google, it shows you related search keywords suggestions.

But rather than mindlessly searching for more keywords, you can use this technique to structure keyword discovery.

Confused? Let me explain...

Step 1: First, type a keyword that can best describe your services

Let’s say, your business also provides luxury products or services for pets. 

So I will type “luxury pets boutique” on Google

Step 2: Type "a" after the keyword

So I will type “a” after “luxury pets boutique”.

Google will suggest more keywords which start with “Luxury pet boutique a”.

Copy the ones you think are relevant to you and paste them in your list in the spreadsheet.

Step 3: Type "b" after the keyword, get more results

I will type “b”, and do the same process again.

In picture below, we have discovered new keywords starting with “Luxury pet boutique b”.

how to find keywords

Here are some of the keywords that seem useful to our business:

  • Luxury pet boutique beds
  • Luxury pet boutique boarding
  • Luxury pet boutique bowls
  • Luxury pet boutique beds for dogs

Go on and add these keywords in “Google Suggests” sheet of the Keyword Research spreadsheet.

Step 4: Rinse & Repeat

Do the same process over and over again with "c", "d"..... and so on.

Step 5: Go long-tail

Want to go long-tail with the keywords?

You can use the same process and go back to the beginning of the list and start with "a", "b"... 

keyword research methodology

Try this technique right now to discover new keywords that you didn’t think about.

Similar to Google Search YouTube Search is a great source of finding keywords.

Youtube is the second largest search engine online and people use it to find videos related to their keywords.

You can also use YouTube search engine to discover new search keywords which people are using to find relevant content.

This gives you an idea of what topics or content people are interested in, whether it’s the videos format or text format. See an example below:

Method #3: Related Keywords - Google Search

Similar to Google suggested keywords, you can find 8 related keywords suggested by Google at the bottom of each search page.

These are the keywords that Google thinks are similar to your search keyword, and are popular keywords that people use to search on google.

So when Google says that you should consider them for your analysis, it’s usually a good idea.

related keywords google search

You can go deeper by searching for these keywords in different tabs, and scroll down to the bottom of those pages.

You'll find more related keywords.

Add them all in the Keyword Research spreadsheet.

Method #4: Keywords Everywhere

You might have noticed volume and CPC figures next to keywords in the images above.

They come from a tool called Keywords Everywhere.

It is a Chrome and Firefox extension that automatically shows volume and CPC data next to any keyword that you search on Google, Bing, Youtube Search, Amazon Search, etc. 

It also shows Related Keywords and People Also Search For Keywords, and their volume and CPC data.

keywords everywhere

Do not worry about the volume/CPC data for now and just add these keywords to the spreadsheet.

Method #5: Uber Suggest For Efficient Keyword Research

If you’re not tired of discovering new keywords, here’s another tool that I strongly recommend - Uber Suggest.

This tool was quite popular among digital marketers and SEO professionals to discover new keywords, and in 2017, it was acquired by expert marketer Neil Patel.

After the acquisition, the new team added Cost per click data into the tool for free.

ubersuggest - most popular keyword research tool

Just this feature alone brings a lot of value to advertisers, who are looking to find this data without having to pay for it with other similar tools.

Type the keywords you have already found, and get keyword ideas from this tool.

Method #6: Keyword Research on Amazon, Facebook, Bing

Google and YouTube are the two biggest search engines. But do not ignore next three largest search engines that can be just as valuable - namely Amazon, Facebook, and Bing.

Amazon is the largest e-commerce website in the world.

Their search engine is very robust, and millions of people use it to find products to buy.

Doing keyword research on Amazon can give you ideas of what products your target audience is buying.

In other words, these are the keywords on which your target audience is actually spending money on. Such keywords have strong user intent of buying and are quite valuable.

While searching for keywords on Amazon, you should focus on product related keywords.

Facebook search can be a good source of keywords. Millions of people are using Facebook search to find people, groups, pages, services, local businesses for their needs.

facebook for keyword research

Similar to Google, you can use Bing to find keywords related to your business.

Bing (by Microsoft) is a popular search engine, and shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of the keywords ideas.

Bing’s search volume might be smaller than Google’s, but there is also less competition.

keyword research with bing

With Bing’s search ranking algorithm, you might find it worthwhile ranking for keywords which people are using to search on Bing.

Method #7: Use Competitors' Keyword Research

If you’re just starting out, you can always get great keyword ideas from your competitors.

Your competitors have already done the job of finding keywords that are working for them.

If it works for them, it works for you. I’ll show you how.

Assuming that you are a pet care clinic, trying to steal your competitors' keywords.

First, hop over to Google and search for “cat nail trimming services”, which is the keyword that we want to rank for, let's say.

After that, I look at the top search results, and find out a direct competitor who is ranking high for that particular keyword.

I'll quickly open the websites of top 10 search results.

It seems like the “VIP Pet Care” website has a dedicated blog, and a good amount of content.

There’s no need to analyze much. Just pick up one or two competitors that you think are ranking well with their content.

Next, I’ll just take their root URL ( and paste it into SERPSTAT.

SERPSTAT is an all-in-one SEO platform with several features - Keyword Research, being one of them.

You can also use other Keyword Analyzer tools like Ahrefs, and SEMRush.

Once you paste the root URL, you will be able to see all the organic keywords for which your competitor is ranking.

keyword research tool serpstat

You'd want to take this list, and try to get ranked for only these keywords. But wait... we haven't yet reached the Keyword Analysis part.

So now, I have a list of all the keywords that is ranking for.

Method #8: Google Ads Keyword Planner

The most obvious method to discover keywords is to use Google Ads Keyword Planner.

Simply log in using your Google or Ads account.

Use the keywords you have already collected to find more keywords.

In this case, I used “dog services”, “dog grooming”, “dog stylists”, “benefits dog grooming” and “dog grooming services”.

keyword research google keyword planner

Using that, I found new keywords like mobile dog grooming, dog daycare near me, etc. (see below)

If you have an active Adwords account, you’ll be able to see CPC, Competition, Volume, trend data next to the keyword.

I will discuss how to use the data in the next phase.

So that’s it! Phase I of our Keyword Research is over.

You can collect tons of keywords by going through all these steps one-by-one.

Let’s do the Keyword Analysis in the next phase.

Phase II: Keyword Analysis

Once you have a list of keywords, you should focus on only the keywords that are going to generate high relevant traffic.

In this phase, you are going to learn how to prioritize the long list of keywords that you have just discovered for your site.

Go through the long list of keywords you have found, all of them again.

Remove any obvious keywords that you think are not related to your business. 

If you went through all the steps in Phase I, you must have gathered several hundred keywords.

But truth be told, there are many which are not as relevant.

Also, you can’t work on all the keywords at the same time. So it's even more important.

Once you have removed unwanted keywords, add the relevant keywords in the first sheet named “KW Analysis” of the Keyword Research spreadsheet.

Typically, a list of 100 - 120 keywords is more than enough to begin with.

Next, add data for each keyword in this sheet that you want to analyze.

  • Rank: Current rank of your website for that keyword. If it’s a new site, leave the column blank since you are not ranking for anything yet.
  • Monthly Search Volume
  • Cost Per Click (CPC)
  • Competition: Competition Index of Paid Ads
  • Keyword Difficulty: Difficulty in search ranking for a keyword
  • Competitor 1: Who's the main competitor for this keyword
  • Competitor 1 DA: What's the DA of the that competitor
  • Competitor 1 Unique Referring Domains: Number of domains that are referring to this website
  • Add 1-2 more competitors, and their data

So what does it each these metric mean?

#1: Search Volume

Monthly Search Volume is the number of times people search for a particular keyword in a month.

This is probably the first thing you need to look at, while analyzing which keywords to focus on.

A keyword with higher volume is not necessarily better than a lower volume keyword.

For example, search volume for “clean dog ears by yourself” might be 1900, but it indicates that the users are looking for a DIY solution for cleaning dog ears.

Another keyword “dog ear cleaning salon” might only have 500 monthly searches, but is more relevant to your dog grooming business as anyone who is searching with this term is clearly looking to pay for such services.

Having explained that, it’s still useful to sort your list according to the search volume of the keywords.

#2: Cost Per Click

Cost Per Click (CPC) is the indicator to amount of money you’d be paying to get a user to your website, if you were running ads on that keyword.

In another term, it indicates how important a particular keyword is to advertisers.

Marketers spend more money on more relevant keywords, because those search terms convert more.

Simply put, the higher the CPC, the more money a visitor is paying to the website where he/she lands.

But if you rank #1 on google for high CTC keywords, you’re improving your website’s revenues for free, thus saving that cost.

You may choose to focus on a high CTC keyword rather than a high volume keyword, simply because the former will bring you higher revenues, than the latter.

In our example, “dog boarding services” has around 120 searches and a high CTC of $5.25.

At first, this looks like a terrible keyword with only 120 searches a month.

But you know that everytime someone searching for this keyword clicks on an ad, the company is spending $5.25.

And if they’re paying $5.25 to bring a user to their website, it’s because the user is much more valuable and will spend more than another keyword with lower CPC.

If you can get these “high CTC visitors” to your website by writing a special content around that keyword, you’ll increase your site’s revenue without spending any dollar.

#3: Competition

Competition data shows the number of advertisers bidding for a particular keyword, and how easy/difficult it is to get your ad placed for that keyword.

If you’re not placing Google ads, you don’t have to give much weightage to this data.

But if you’re interested to see which keywords advertisers are more valuable to place their ads because they might be very useful, this is what you’ll look at.

#4: Keyword Difficulty

Keyword Difficulty, like the name suggests, is an indicator of how difficult it is to rank #1 for a particular keyword.

While you may find that a keyword has high volume and low ad competition, it might be very difficult to rank in the SERP, because it might not be a money keyword.

What it means is that most people who search for that keyword are probably looking for information, but there is not much money you can ask them to spend.

These keywords might be useful to grow your business, and a lot of top websites are already ranking for these keywords.

Usually, this is the second most important factor, after volume.

#5: Competitor’s Domain Authority (DA)

Competitor’s DA is a score from 0 to 100 which describes the authority of each domain on the internet.

DA is an important factor for google to rank your content in SERPs.

If your website has a low DA, it might be more difficult for you to rank for a particular keyword which is also targeted by a higher DA website.

That’s why it is important to note down your competitor’s DA.

If the top results for a particular keywords are taken by websites with low DA websites, you might want to focus on those because it’d be easier to rank for them.

#6: Competitor’s Unique Referring Domain

Similar to competitor’s Domain Authority, check how many unique referring domains or unique root domain name that are linking to your competitors in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

The higher the number of unique domains referring to a domain, it would be more difficult to rank for such keywords.

But on the other hand, if you find a keyword whose top results do not have a lot of domains linking to them, it might be much easier to rank for such keywords.

And if you’re going after quickly ranking your content, you should pick these keywords.

New To Keyword Research?

Started a new blog?

Found a new job as a marketer in your favourite startup?

Don't go out there churning content without first finding the relevant keywords!

Try these techniques that we discussed and see your new blog going up through the roof.

If you want me to help you or your team with discovering relevant keywords for your business, write to me on [email protected] or send a message on Linkedin.

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