How to determine the best keywords for SEO

SEO marketing is more important than ever, yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to get seen on the first page of Google as competition picks up across every niche in the online space.

A slack approach to SEO simply doesn’t cut it anymore. To rank high, you need to be precise with your keyword selection, strategy, and implementation.

Taking the time to properly research the SEO keywords and SEO phrases that your audience are actually using to find what they’re looking for online will allow you to find search terms that will enable real growth for your business. That’s why you’re here.

Knowing how to research keywords for SEO is crucial if your aim is to a create a genuine impact on your online niche. By outlining our proven method of keyword research in SEO and keyword analysis, we hope to provide you with the SEO tools you need, and the most up to date insight on choosing keywords for SEO, leaving you with an actionable plan to getting on the first page of google search.

Download our 2018 keyword planner.

Keyword Research

A few things to keep in mind throughout your keyword research…

  • Know why you’re doing your keyword research

Your aim is to bring qualified leads into your sales funnel. It’s all about marketing ROI. Try to keep this in mind.

  • The wrong keywords can mean months of work for no ROI

Meaning – getting your keyword research right from the start is very important. The more depth you go into, the better your chances of success in SEO marketing!

  • Keyword research is not a one-off thing

You should be doing keyword research for every SEO blog post, every piece of SEO content, every website page, etc.

How to conduct keyword research in 6 steps

Step 1 | Keyword Audience Research

Using Keywords to tap into your audience is part art, part science.

You need to find search terms that are going to create the biggest impact on your specific audience. To do this, you need to learn their specific search habits, their specific challenges, and their specific goals.

Popular search keywords and SEO phrases used by each of your audience segments will tell you a lot about the services and products they want to receive and allows you to build content that will be directly useful, educational and engaging.

Creating buyer personas

To guide your SEO strategy for a given campaign, you need to determine a buyer persona for your target audience. This is imperative to the success of each SEO campaign.

A buyer persona should be made up of the basic info on the type of person this is, plus more in-depth insight into their challenges, the business problems they are facing, their search habits, their ambitions and short-term goals.

This insight will allow you to understand what they are searching for and why! And keep you on track throughout your research and content production processes.

To help you build your buyer personas and kick off your SEO campaigns, you can download our handy guide on how to build an effective buyer persona.

Download our 2018 buyer persona template.

Step 2 | SEO Tools

All good keyword research techniques require online SEO tools. But what are they? Do they cost money? There’s a lot out there and a lot to know. We’ve tried to make it as simple as possible for you to get started.

What are SEO keyword tools?

An SEO keyword tool is a programme that helps you see the volume and competition (along with many other statistics) on what is getting searched online.

They let you understand audience search habits, the type of language being used in search terms and, ultimately, they help you get keyword ideas.

Using the Google search box to see related search terms for queries surrounding your audience challenges is a great way to find keywords free, however, there are some great tools that are worth investing in to give you a huge advantage over the competitors in your niche.

We’ll go into more detail about how to implement them later on, but in general, we recommend using some combination of the following SEO tools…

  • Moz – Allows you to see important information about web pages via your browser (Domain authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA))
  • Buzzsumo – Allows you to analyse what content performs best for any topic or competitor
  • SEMrush – An all-in-one Marketing Toolkit for digital marketing professionals
  • Ahrefs – Allows you to grow your search traffic, research your competitors and monitor your niche

Knowing how to identify keywords, and more specifically, understanding how to find niche keywords will prove highly valuable to your SEO marketing efforts. Having subscriptions to the right SEO tools will offer a huge boost to these efforts and can help you set your business apart from your competitors.

Most offer free trials so you can try them out for your first SEO campaign before committing. Different business needs will suit different SEO tools, so it’s smart to try them out first.

  • Ahrefs – Offer a 7-day free trial
  • Semrush – Offer a 7-day free trial

Step 3 | Build a list of key seed search terms

With a full understanding of your audience and an idea of the SEO tools that are out there to help you, the next thing to do is start building a list of seed search terms.

Seed search terms are keywords or phrases that are there to get your SEO keyword research started, guiding you towards the focus areas for your more in-depth research and analysis.

Your initial keyword lists don’t have to be immaculate, at this stage, it’s just a matter of getting the ball rolling.

To begin, use Google Keyword Planner to check which keywords you’re already ranking for in the top 100, this will give you a good indication of where you should place your energy.

Then, take these search terms and split them into 3 key areas relating to the different audience intentions:

Attract             |          Convert            |          Delight

With lists starting to form under these headings, you can add in every important topic that’s relevant to your business. This will give you a clear understanding of your focus areas going forward.


To do this, simply brain-dump on these areas of your business, noting down anything that you think is relevant to the attract, convert and delight stages of your audience journey.

Think about…

  • business related search terms
  • industry terminology (specific jargon in your niche)
  • audience insights
  • industry insights
  • personal insights
  • short terms
  • longer phrases
  • And anything else that you think will make a good base for your keyword research going forward

After doing this, you’ll have 3 quite extensive lists of potential search terms and business-related terms. This will be your core list of SEO search terms for your campaign.

Step 4 | Start expanding your keyword list

Now it’s time to expand your core list of search terms into an extensive list of SEO keywords, related search terms, SEO phrases, query searches and other long tail keywords.

Don’t worry if your keyword list starts to seem enormous. You’ll begin to refine it soon enough. This expansion is an important part of the process to identify the best keywords that will have the most impactful balance between high search volume and low competition.

You can start your list expansion using google suggest. Many people often overlook this opportunity to learn about audience search habits, but it can be very insightful. Simply Google the search terms and phrases from your lists to see which related search terms and query search phrases the search engine suggests. This will offer key insight into how people are typing in specific concerns related to your business-offering and what related or alternative concerns there may be.

Another great place to start when expanding your list is by reviewing your own existing analytics. If you have a CRM in place (which most B2B businesses do) you can look into the data you have already to see the search journeys that led people to your content.

To further expand your lists, you can turn to keyword tools for SEO. Doing keyword research online this way can tell you vast amounts about your audience. The first thing to examine, your competitors! This is how to identify and search popular keywords and how to get keywords for your website that will resonate with the audiences you are trying to tap into.

Step 5 | Research competitors keywords

Researching your competitor’s keyword strategy (or lack thereof) will tell you a lot about what resonates with your target audiences.

Again, using Google Keyword Planner, check the keywords they are ranking for in the top 10 positions on Google, and look to see if they’re ranking for any of the keywords that you’ve selected. You can use keyword planner to identify the strengths of their SEO and also their weaknesses. Don’t be put off if certain competitors are dominating the space. There are ways to work around this, targeting different groups of search terms and more specific long tail keywords.

This insight will help you narrow down your keyword list. Overall, you should aim to compete for search terms where they rank well, whilst looking to forge ahead in search areas they haven’t touched. There may be plenty of untapped search terms in your field just waiting for you to optimise your content around.

Getting serious with your competitor keyword analysis means using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Buzzsumo to look into their content, analysing their keyword usage. By identifying high performing content in your focus areas, you can pull out keywords and analyse them to see if they are worth targeting. Again focusing on search volume and keyword difficulty statistics.

Step 6 | Determine your final keyword master list

Once you’ve made a well-researched list for each focus area, you can use free tools such as Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush to narrow down your lists to those keywords that will have the most impact with your audience.

Compare the search volume and keyword difficulty for each keyword and select realistic targets for your final list. Being realistic and smart with how you select and target keywords in your focus areas can bring you a huge advantage in the online space, so don’t rush your research.

Finally, use Google Keyword Planner to get more keyword ideas. Using the ‘get ideas’ tab you can explore more and more variations to identify those most worth your energy. This tool can show you long tail keyword variations of shorter search terms, offering endless insight into the search habits of your audience. It really is just matter of how deep you want to go.

The importance of long tail keywords

And remember, research long tail keywords too! Having a good split between short business specific keywords and long-tail keywords will set you up for short term and long term impact with your audience.

Targeting long tail keywords is a great way to tap into highly specific audience challenges that other business may have overlooked. These may be search terms that have a low search volume but those that are searching for them will know specifically what they’re looking for and what they want.

This means they could be amazing leads for your business to pursue. So they may have greater impact in the short term that more competitive short keywords.

A keyword planner for keyword planning

For each campaign or piece of SEO content, you should be aiming to compile a unique master list of relevant and impactful keywords. Creating this, and staying true to it, is how to make content that will create a real impact on your niche.

Bringing all the steps together can be quite easy, especially once you get into the rhythm of SEO.  To streamline your SEO process you can download the keyword planner below.

As an SEO and content marketing agency we wanted to share some wisdom and some resources with you to welcome you in to the world of SEO.

Our SEO keyword planner will allow you to easily compile your competitor keyword analysis in clearly defined sections. 1 tab for each competitor.

You can easily export the data straight from the online SEO tools, so the process to arrive at a comprehensive list doesn’t have to take long at all.

After your competitor research, you should bring in your research from AdWords. Then, by going through the lists to identify those keywords that are most appropriate (high search volume / low keyword difficulty) for your means.

Knowing how to determine the best keywords for SEO is becoming more and more vital across B2B. Having an SEO strategy in place is now becoming necessary in order to stay competitive and compete in our digital world.

For more information on staying up to date with your marketing strategy, we wrote a more general piece on How to develop a digital marketing strategy fit for 2018.

We’d love to hear how you’re getting on with your SEO efforts, especially if you put our process in place for your next campaign.  Feel free to get in touch for a chat with one of our SEO experts if you have any questions or would like some advice about implementing the process!