SEO, Digital marketing, Digital Strategy

An introduction to keyword research

An introduction to keyword research

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a practice that is forever changing and one which businesses operating in the online space will always need to adapt to. Whether it’s Google’s algorithm updates or a change is user behaviour on search engines, things are always evolving.

However, some factors remain the same. In this case, it’s the need to carry out the research. No matter how often algorithms change, keyword research will always be vital.

In this blog we’re going to provide a definition, tell you why it’s important, and identify best practices for researching keywords as part of your SEO strategy.


What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying and analysing the actual words, phrases, or questions that users type into search engines. This helps inform your SEO strategy to ensure that the keywords you rank highly for on Google actually increases the amount of people who visit your website.

In carrying out the research you can learn which terms are more frequently searched for, how easy or difficult it will be to rank highly for that term, which terms your competitors rank for, and much more.


Why is it important?

If you’ve had a chance to read our complete guide to SEO, you may have got the impression that keyword research is vital to SEO, and that would be right. The reason it’s so important is that keywords are the bridge that connect the user to the information they’re looking for.

People use a wide range keywords when searching for something specific and, based on their search intent, are presented with a list of websites by search engines. You need to ensure your business ranks highly for the keywords and phrases people are using when searching for your product, services, or information. To achieve this, you need to optimise your website and create content to be suited to relevant and high performing keywords, as well as your target audience. To understand which keywords are relevant and how they perform, you need to research them. It’s that simple.

Without researching keywords you may be trying to optimise your website for words that are rarely used and are difficult to rank well for, and would therefore be wasting your time and effort.

Put simply, researching keywords allows you to identify the keywords and phrases you should be optimising your website and its content for to give you the best chance of obtaining high rankings. The more extensive your research, and the better your execution at the optimisation stage, the great likelihood you’ll achieve strong ranking positions and drive traffic to your website.

How to carry out Keyword Research

1. List of important, relevant topics for your business

The very first stage of the research is to outline the topics for which you want to rank. These topics should be highly relevant and important to your business. For example, as a digital marketing agency, one of our key topics would be ‘SEO’ as it is one of our main services. We’d recommend coming up with around 5-10 unique topics.

When formulating the topics, you should put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas. Think about what they would most likely type into a search engine in order to find your products and services that you offer.


2. Create baskets for each topic and fill with as many keywords as possible

Once you have your list of topics, you should create keyword baskets for each of them. This process focuses on building out lists of related keywords for each of your topics. The keywords that you include here should be ones that will help you rank in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Don’t worry about making this your final keyword basket just yet. This stage is more of a brain dump of as many related keywords as you can think of. We’ll refine the lists later on.

One thing to consider when selecting your keywords is the buyers journey. There are 3 stages in the basic sales funnel, and these are reflected inside the buyers journey. They include the awareness, consideration and decision stages.

keyword variations at different stages of the funnel

In the awareness stage your buyer is researching solutions to a problem they have. So using SEO as an example they may be Googling ‘how to get more website traffic’ before discovering things such as SEO and Google AdWords.

In the consideration stage the searcher is wanting to learn more about SEO and Google AdWords and the benefits of each. Search terms in this stage may include ‘how does SEO work’, how to do SEO’ and ‘the benefits of PPC’. It is here they are deciding how and why they should do or buy something.

Finally, in the decision stage, your searcher has made up their mind and are prepared to adopt an SEO strategy. They will now be searching terms related to implementing SEO, whether that be internally or using an agency. Search terms may include ‘Learn SEO online’ or ‘SEO companies’.

It is essential to think of relevant keywords and phrases for every stage of this funnel. This enables you to deploy targeted keywords and phrases accordingly, ensuring that your website is found by users at all stages of the journey, especially the decision stage. This is part of the inbound marketing theory where providing your prospects with helpful content and nurturing them though the buyers journey will contribute towards your company name being remembered and should therefore feature highly when they decide to make an enquiry or purchase.

3. Research related search terms

This is a relatively quick step and not one that needs too much explaining. Once you’ve built out your lists using your own keyword ideas as well as the suggestions from the SEO tools, there's one other way to add related search terms. All you need to do is type a search term into Google, scroll to the bottom of the page and see the related search terms Google suggests.

related search terms in Google

4. Don’t forget the long-tail keywords

When you think of keywords you can often fixate on maybe one or two words only i.e. SEO. These are called Head terms, which are generally shorter and more generic keywords. On the other end of the scale are what we call Long-Tail keywords which usually contain more than 3 words and are more precise. A Long Tail keyword for SEO might be: 'how to devise a successful SEO strategy?'

People often use Long-Tail keywords when searching for something more specific and it’s important to have a mix of Head and Long Tail keywords in your baskets.

5. Refine the list

By this point you should have built up around 5-10 keyword baskets focused on 5-10 key topics relevant to your business. For each basket it would be great if you had at least 10 keywords for every stage in the funnel. The final step is to refine your keyword baskets and focus on those which will provide the best opportunity to rank well in search engines.

To do this, we recommend using Moz’s Keyword Explorer and Google Trends. These platforms will allow you to review keyword data such as search volume traffic, difficulty in ranking for particular keywords, how many ads will appear above the first organic result, which SERP features are available, and more. This information will help inform your decision as to whether certain keywords are worth keeping in your basket or whether you can afford to discard them.

After this stage you’ll be done! You’ll have a collection of keywords and phrases which you’ll be able to focus your efforts toward ranking for. These keywords should form part of your content both on your website and your digital advertising. You should specifically produce content for these keywords and publish on your website to help inform Google that your site is relevant and valuable for these keyword searches.


Keyword research and the creation of keyword baskets are a very important and highly valuable tactic that forms part of your overall SEO strategy. While it’s a step that needs to happen early on in the development of the SEO strategy, it’s not one that is ever finished. You should always be reviewing, analysing, and building your keyword baskets based on trends and performance.

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Jack Kennedy
Jack Kennedy
Jack is the founder of Invanity marketing and has worked in digital marketing since the age of 17. Having been involved in both the client-side and the agency side of the process he is building Invanity with a vision of creating a marketing agency that truly delivers on the results it has promised.