How To Do Keyword Research

Photo of author
Written By Maureen

In the first in our 5-part series on search engine optimisation (SEO), Maureen Shelley writes about how to use hacks and tools to develop your keywords to get your content ranking.

Part 1: Your Keyword List

The first step is to develop your keyword list (which is the first step in doing your keyword research). Your keyword list will help you work out what it is you want your potential clients to search for.

At TCC, we are content creators or copy writers. The problem with those terms is that they are vague and can apply to what we do, as well as to video creators, or advertising types or things completely unrelated to marketing and social media strategy. I mean, they include “content insurance” and “contented”. While we want our clients to be contented we don’t want randoms searching for insurance and finding our website.

So for us, we have to search for keywords that are a bit more specific. So rather than wanting to rank for “content” or “copywriter” or “copy writer”, we would aim for “content strategy” or “content marketing”. Those words describe what we do and are highly searched terms.

Once you have started your list, you can then add specific phrases that people search for that tie into your primary terms. For us, we would add in “marketing copy”, “marketing strategy”, “inbound marketing”, “blog post content”, “blog content writer”, or “blog post copy writer”.

If you don’t know what words to search for, type in one of your primary terms in Google and you will get a list of related terms.

The other thing you will find on your search page, will be a list of frequently asked questions that relate to your search term. If you click on one of these you will see a “snippet[1]“, which we will write about in a later post.

Google search for content marketing

In our field, content marketing, Neil Patel is pretty much the No. 1, and his snippet on content marketing is ranked No. 1 in Google search – and that is the best position you can have in SEO.

Google result with the definition of content marketing "a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services."

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will also give you some more terms to add to your keywords list. The third place to look on your Google search page is toward the bottom, where you will find a list of related terms.

google suggestions for searches related to content marketing; including type sof content marketing, what is content marketing in digital marketing, content marketing examples, content marketing agency

As you can see in the example above, at TCC, we would not want to send people to the Content Marketing Institute (although we love them), or to a course on content marketing; unless it was to one of ours. So when we create our keyword list, we would use “content marketing strategy” but not “content marketing institute”.

So now you have a good keyword list to start your research. What do you do next? You will be pleased to know that there are a stack of free tools that can help you. Given that Google is the elephant (or do I mean gorilla?) in every SEO room, it makes sense to use their tools. However, there are others.


3 Free SEO Tools to Help your Keyword Research

  1. The best tool is the Google Keyword Planner. To get access to it, you have to set up a Google AdWords account, but you don’t have to pay for any ads to use it. You also have to set up a campaign, but again, you don’t have to post ads or pay for them – you just have to plan to do so.
  2. My next favourite tool is SEMrush. You can sign up for a free trial and a free account. They have a keyword magic tool (it’s good), and you can type in your word or phrase and it will give you the:
  • search volume
  • trend
  • keyword difficulty (how hard it would be to outrank your competitors)
  • cost per click (CPC) if you were to pay for an ad campaign
  • competitive density (how much competition you would face if you want to bid)
  • number of search engine results pages that feature for that term, and
  • number of other websites that are ranking for the term.

For our industry, it gets pretty depressing. For the term “content strategy”, there are 1.4 billion other sites that are competing for the keyword.

  1. My other fav tool is Answer the Public, which is a great place to go for long-tail keywords[2] (more on that in our next part in this SEO series).

Apart from the weird dude nodding at you while you are trying to type in your keyword, and the also weird diagram you get as a result, Answer the Public is fantastic. It does have the option to download your list as a comma separated value (CSV) file, and for “content strategy” it offered up more than 200 long-tail keywords. Now some of them won’t be relevant, it wants us to promote HubSpot for one, but most will be.


What are Your Ranking Keywords?

The third part of your keyword ranking list, and the end of the first stage of your keyword research, is to find out what keywords you are ranking for now. Now this is something that might surprise you. Because of the internet, you may find that you are ranking for some unexpected terms. You may have written a post two years ago, and suddenly people are coming to your site for it. One of our contributors wrote a post on Australia Day a few years ago, and we’ve been ranking No. 1 for “true blue Aussie” ever since.

There are a few ways to find out what you are ranking for now. You can go to your content management system (CMS) on your website. If you have WordPress with the Yoast plug in, this will be straightforward. Log in, go to Yoast and find your keywords. Alternatively, you can log in to your Google account and find it there. Another trick is to type “what keywords does my site rank for” in Google and you will be inundated with free tools to help you.

Once you have your list of keywords you want to rank for and the list that you actually rank for, you have a clear picture of how much work you need to do to get from List A to List B.


The next post in this series on SEO will be How to Use the Google Keyword Planner, which will help you start that journey.

Get in touch on Facebook, and let us know what weird and wonderful keyword you are currently ranking for – can you beat “true blue Aussie”?


[1] A snippet is a result that Google shows to the user in the search results. It usually includes the link to a site, the search terms, and defines or explains the term being searched for. You want Google to find snippets on your site.

[2] Long-tail keywords are longer phrases that go in to specifics. Our friends at Yoast have a great blog