The Beginner’s Guide on How to Research SEO Keywords

Robyn Kyberd | optimise + grow
7 min readOct 14, 2018


You can debate until you’re blue in the face whether keywords are dead or still important for a successful SEO strategy.

It comes down to this: search engines still need some way to figure out what your site is about. Until search engines become psychic, they still need keywords as a guiding tool.

Now, the days of stuffing keywords and ranking well are gone, after all, search engines are getting smarter. But good keyword research can still yield positive results for your digital marketing ROI.

If you’re new to the game and have no idea where to start, or you’re a novice who’s unclear whether you actually know how to research keywords correctly, we’ve got your back.

What is Keyword Research?

First, the basics. What is keyword research? This definition is more important to your understanding of keywords in SEO than you might think.

Keyword research is when people use keywords to research the actual search terms people type into search engines. Basically, it’s the fine art of figuring out what your customers are looking for when they open Google.

This information shapes your content strategy. This ensures your customers find your site when they search for answers to their most pressing questions.

Why Do You Need Keyword Research?

That’s all fine and good, but why do you need keyword research?

It’s simple. By doing keyword research, you can figure out the search terms your audience is actually using. That way, you can optimise for those search terms and make sure your company shows up when they search.

It seems pretty basic, but many companies are guilty of using certain terms online to describe their products. Some of these don’t match their target audience at all. So instead of attracting the audience they’re looking for, they get an audience that isn’t interested in buying.

And until search engines start using sorcery to figure out where to display your site, you still need to rely on keywords to ensure your site gets indexed correctly. So if you want your blog to get read across the Internet, you need to incorporate keywords.

Keyword Terms You Need to Know

Great, so it’s time to start researching, right?

Hold your horses, cowboy.

Before you venture into the brave new world of keyword research, there are a few basic terms you should understand to make your research more productive. Otherwise, you could wind up doing the search engine equivalent of reading an advanced electrical engineering manual (i.e. missing 90% of the context).

Short-Tail vs. Long-Tail Keywords

The most basic terms to understand are short-tail and long-tail keywords. Specifically, the difference between the two.

Short-tail keywords only contain one word, which means they result in broad searches with a ton of search results.

Long-tail keywords are more specific. They contain a minimum of two to three words in a phrase that help narrow down the search.

For example, “vegetarian chilli recipes” would be a long-tail keyword, while “chilli” would be a short-tail keyword.

Short-tail keywords are good for driving traffic, but if your site is new to the game, long-tail keywords are better for bringing a target audience to your site. Plus, short-tail keywords can become expansive fast because of the search volume.

Keep in mind that any of the other types of keywords listed here, by definition, are also either long-tail or short-tail keywords.

Market-Defining vs. Customer-Defining Keywords

Next are market-defining and customer-defining keywords.

Market-defining keywords are the most common, top-of-mind keywords out there. They’re the keywords that first pop to mind when you’re drafting a digital marketing campaign. In simple terms, they’re the terms your target audience uses when talking about your business or industry.

In general, these are broad terms. This means they’re harder to rank for than others. But they’re nonetheless critical to your on-site optimisation because it lets a search engine’s web crawlers figure out where to index you.

Customer-defining keywords are the keywords focused on your target customers. For example, if your business is related to scuba diving, then one customer-defining keyword would be “scuba divers”.

These keywords are important because they’ll help you discover others who relate to your target audience. This allows you to figure out how to frame your site in a way that entices your target audience.

Related Vertical Keywords

Next up are related vertical keywords. These are keywords related to the industries and markets which are, in some form, related to yours. They can be anything from customer industries to suppliers, but they still have a clear connection to your target audience.

For example, to go back to our scuba diving example, a related vertical keyword would be, “underwater photography”.

Geotargeted Keywords

Finally, there are geotargeted keywords, which are a type of keyword that focuses on location.

These keywords are vital for local SEO. And if you’re not sure how local SEO is helpful to you, think about this: 50% of customers who did a local search on their mobile device visited the store on the same day.

For example, if you’re a bakery in Townsville, a good geotargeted keyword would be, “bakery Townsville” or “bakery in Townsville”.

How To Research Keywords

Now that you know the lay of the land, let’s get to the fun part: keyword research.

State Your Mission

Before you open a single Google tab, you need to do some soul-searching (for your company, that is).

For example, ask yourself and your marketing team:

  • Who are we?
  • What is our company like?
  • What makes our company special?
  • What kind of service do we provide?
  • How do we provide it differently from the competition?
  • What promises do we make to our customers, especially on our website?

Many marketing teams have the same problem in keyword research: they can’t effectively answer these questions.

That’s a major issue, because if you don’t know what your company offers, then you don’t know what your target customer will be searching for when they find you online.

Write the questions and write down the answers. Break out a sheet of paper and a pen, or your iDevice, and answer these questions in detail.

Make a List of Relevant Topics

Once you’ve figured out who you are as a company, you can start creating topic buckets.

These aren’t keywords–these are the topics you want to rank for that those keywords will fall under.

Let’s say you’re a crafts company. Relevant topic buckets might be things like, “handmade crafts,” “home decor,” and similar topics.

Let’s say you’re an SEO agency. Topic buckets might include, “inbound marketing,” “blogging,” “website optimisation,” and the like.

When you do this, you’re creating a buyer persona.

Aim to create up to 10 topic buckets that are truly cornerstone subjects for your business.

Fill in Your Topic Lists with Keywords

Once you have your topic buckets, it’s time to fill them in with keywords.

These aren’t randomly generated words and phrases, though. These are phrases that are important to rank for in SERPs (search engine results pages) because your target customer is conducting search queries using similar terms.

The good news is, there are all kinds of great tools you can use to do this and plenty of them are even free!

One of the best tools out there is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which allows you to find a ton of new and related keywords. Pro tip: ignore the search volume data unless you plan to spend money on Google AdWords on those keywords.

You can also use Google Trends to compare traffic for keywords. You can even see traffic for certain geographical regions.

Alternately, you can use KWFinder, which is a tool for long-tail keyword research with awesome functionality.

But our personal favourite way to research?

Open up a Google bar and start typing words that you might think are relevant. It’s free, it’s simple, and with a bit of finesse, it’s a great way to find out what search terms your customers are actually using.

Research Related Terms

Once you have your keyword list, start researching related search terms.

Again, there’s a pretty simple way to do this.

Type your one of your listed keywords into a Google search bar, click the little magnifying glass, and scroll down to take a look at the suggested searches.

For bonus points, dig into those suggested searches and their related search terms.

For both your main keyword list and your list of related terms, make sure you’re incorporating a healthy mix of long-tail and short-tail keywords.

Optimise and Grow Your SEO Strategy

Now that you know how to research keywords, are you ready to take your SEO game to the next level and tackle the competition?


And if you still want a bit more guidance, that’s great too — we can help with that. We offer a variety of SEO services, including a blog writing service that puts optimisation first.

Ready to find out what we can do together? Us too. Use our contact page to get in touch.

Strategic Optimisation + Growth consultant for lean start-ups and change-making entrepreneurs enabling them to grow their business in a sustainable and profitable way. My super-powers are business optimisation, CX, SEO, and leveraging data insights for business growth. #fuelledbycoffee

Originally published at on October 14, 2018.



Robyn Kyberd | optimise + grow

Business Development & Optimisation Consultant with a serious soft spot for Operations Optimisation, CX, Analytics.