One of the keys for a successful website content strategy is creating content that appeals to your specific marketplace. You need to create content your prospective customers are actively looking for.

How do you know what they are looking for?

The answer of course lies in doing effective keyword research.

While you should always focus your content primarily on providing value to the visitor, you use the results of your keyword research to optimize the content for search.

In doing so, you can have long-term content assets in the search engines that continue delivering quality leads to your business for years.

For example:

  • Content I created on this blog – using the keyword research strategies shared here – helped increase my traffic from search by 1,465% in 12 months.
  • An older blog, which no longer has fresh content created for it, continues to attract thousands of visitors every month thanks to content created years ago. That content was created based on keyword research that ensured the content was targeted effectively for the visitors I wanted to attract.

In other words, learning how to do keyword research for SEO is one of the best investments you can make for your business. You continue to attract traffic, at no further cost to you whatsoever.

Achieving the same traffic from paid advertising would suck up thousands of dollars a month. And content found organically often achieves higher conversion rates.

This post aims to show you exactly how to approach keyword research, and find out what your market is interested in.

As you’ll see, it’s relatively straightforward and simple.

What’s more, as this post shows, you can do all the research you need using freely available online resources you can freely access right now.

How To Do Keyword Research For SEO

As the most popular search engine on the planet, Google powers the vast majority of searches online, and the data it provides as a result is invaluable to business owners the world over.

In May 2013, Google announced their new Keyword Planner tool, which is what we’ll be using for this tutorial. This was a replacement for their previous Keyword Tool, which was finally killed off towards the end of August 2013.

To access the Keyword Planner, you firstly need an Adwords account. That doesn’t mean you need to load the account with any cash (although learning to master Adwords is valuable time spent), you just need to have the account available.

Access the Keyword Planner via the Tools menu within Adwords:

Click the Tools menu with Adwords to access the Keyword Planner

Click Keyword Planner on the Tools menu within Adwords

(Note, Google changes things around within Adwords fairly frequently, so don’t worry if certain parts look a little different to what I’m describing here.)

Click to Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category, as shown:

Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category

You’ll then have a number of options through which you can get keyword ideas for your content.

You'll see a number of options you can use for the keyword research

You can do one of the following:

  • Enter your product or service (i.e. what do you do – for example, financial planning, sell light bulbs… whatever your business is).
  • Enter the URL for your website or a particular page on it.
  • Select your product category.

For this tutorial and to keep things as straightforward as possible, we’ll be sticking with the first option. But you should explore the other options too as you increase your familiarity with the Keyword Planner.

Let’s run through a quick example, using dark chocolate as the keyword in question.

So enter the keyword, and then click the Get ideas button:

Entering 'dark chocolate' as a keyword example

You’ll get a listing of ideas, with a couple of tabs as follows:

  • Ad group ideas: groups similar suggested keywords together.
  • Keyword ideas: lists the keywords in a more conventional fashion.

You should explore both options, but for this tutorial, we’ll focus on the former.

If you hover over the listed keywords in each group, it will show you all the keywords it has grouped together as shown:

Hover over the keywords for a preview of the full list.

You can then click through on any grouping to get individual details for all the keywords in that group:

And this is where it starts to get interesting, and the real research begins. You can see:

  • Exactly what people are searching for, related to your business or industry.
  • The number of people conducting those searches each and every month.

One important note.

You can ignore the Competition column completely.

It relates to the advertising competition level within Adwords, rather than organic search competition levels.

It does not indicate the level of competition in the organic listings, which may well be markedly different.

You’ll see how to assess organic competition levels shortly.

Let’s just focus on the keywords themselves for a moment longer.

Scan down the list of keywords in the Keyword Planner, and you’ll see a huge amount of data. You can drill down into each keyword by using it as the basis for a new search.

The possibilities are endless.

However, you’re primarily looking for long-tail keyword terms to use as the basis of new content.

Let’s say you sell a premium dark chocolate product.

You would want to attract people conducting dark chocolate-related searches.

To do so, you would need quality content to show in the search listings for related keywords.

For example, your keyword research might lead to the keyword dark chocolate benefits, and associated similar keywords.

Possible keywords after doing keyword research

A range of suitable content could be developed on just this topic.

You could also take it further, and devote a whole area of your site, such as a blog category, to the keyword. Over time, you would likely attract hundreds or more to your site each month.

Such content also means you would be soft-selling your products by extolling the benefits of dark chocolate.

More directly, you can also build sales by:

  • Inviting them to opt-in to your list, for example through content upgrades. Lead magnets might include exclusive new recipes, discounts, special videos and so on.
  • Tagging the visitors with a special code for remarketing, so you can show them ads of your products, your email list or more content after they’ve left your site.
  • Encouraging them to connect with you on social media and build your relationship with them further over time, while building your own authority and credibility.

Keyword research also often provides highly-targeted titles for content, or with only minimal adaptation required. With this example niche, some possibilities include the following:

  • Is Dark Chocolate Vegan? – 1K to 10K searches/month
  • History of Dark Chocolate – 90 searches/month
  • Recipe ideas, such as:
    • Dark Chocolate Brownie Recipe- 100 to 1K searches/month
    • Dark Chocolate Mousse Recipe – 100 to 1K searches/month
  • Or just general informational content, such as Dark Chocolate Nutrition at 1K to 10K searches/month.

When you are doing keyword research in order to uncover content ideas, remember you’re not particularly seeking keywords containing ‘buyer’ or ‘money’ words in them. An example would be buy dark chocolate.

Instead, you are looking for informational topics that content can be created about. Such content helps market your business – in other words, content marketing.

The content is designed to appeal to people looking for information on a particular topic. In so doing, such people raise their hand as having an interest in your niche. You can then further market to them, and build the relationship with them over time from one of prospect to customer.

In other words, your focus isn’t on the immediate sale, but on acquiring a long-term prospect who may become a long-term customer in future. Each piece of content created, and optimized for search, as a result of your keyword research is effectively a lead generation tool for your business.

For more information about how all of this works, see the Content Authority Formula.

Assessing Keyword Competition

For any keyword you might be interested in, you need to judge whether it’s worthwhile creating content optimized that keyword.

To do so, you assess the level of competition for the keyword in question.

That involves determining the number of competing pages in the SERPs (search engine result pages) ranked for that keyword.

The reason is obvious.

It’s infinitely harder to rank for a keyword with hundreds of millions of competing web pages, compared to a keyword with just a few thousand competing web pages.

In practice, it’s not that difficult to rank well for a keyword where the number of competing pages are a few million or fewer. Most of those pages will be focused on other keywords entirely, and just happen to have the keyword in question on the page somewhere.

So the actual competition level will be far less than might appear to be the case at first. Competing pages will generally consist of pages from sites where the site owner is:

  • Not even trying to rank for that keyword.
  • Unaware their pages are ranking for the keyword in question.

So How Do You Assess Competition Levels?

You can do so using Google’s search engine directly.

Wrap the keyword in quotation marks, and Google will tell you the number of other pages containing the same exact phrase. This is your competition level.

Assess the competition level of a keyword by wrapping it in quotation marks and searching on Google. Google will show you the number of pages you will be competing with, if trying to rank for the keyword.

With a single keyword, there’s no need for the quotation marks.

But, as you can see, trying to rank for a single worded keyword is rarely a good idea. The competition level will simply be too high.


There’s no need for the quotation marks for single words. But the high competition level means it will be generally unwise to try to optimize content for it.

By getting more specific and focusing on longer tail keywords, the possibility of optimizing and ranking for a particular keyword become more realistic:


In contrast to the single worded keyword above, this long-tail keyword has just 3,000 competing web pages and will be relatively easy to rank well for.

This illustrates just how valuable keyword research is.

As shown above, the same keyword has up to 10,000 searches a month.

Example showing keyword demand level

In other words, thanks to keyword research, you have the basis of a content item – or perhaps several, and across multiple content platforms – that could attract dozens, hundreds, even thousands of visitors to your site a month.

Here’s another…


Still very low competition levels for another keyword attracting up to 10,000 searches a month.

So dark chocolate nutrition has just over 20,000 competing pages. For SEO purposes, that’s still very low and relatively easy to rank for.

So you can use these keyword research techniques to create and optimize content that appeals directly to your target market.

However, don’t forget to always create content primarily for the visitor, not for the search engines. Optimize the content for search, but never at the expense of the consumer of that content.

Providing as much value as you can in your content is a key SEO factor. It helps ensure positive SEO signals such as social sharing, linking and time spent on your site after clicking through from search.

Where Do You Go From Here?

The worst thing you could do is learn how to do keyword research for SEO, and then take no further action.

So take the first step by downloading the Keyword Research Guide, and start optimizing your content and attract your marketplace.

The Guide contains some additional factors you need to be aware of when conducting keyword research.

Just as one example, some keywords are much harder to gain visibility for on search, even if competition levels are relatively low.

To avoid disappointing results, incorporating these factors into your keyword research and SEO activities is essential.