Keyword Research: Tactics for Beginner and Advanced SEOs

Keyword research is much like market research, but it’s easy to confuse one with the other. But if you understand the basic concept behind market research, you probably already have a good idea of what keyword research is all about.

keyword research

During keyword research, you don’t just try to determine what consumers need and how you can satisfy their needs profitably, but you dig deeper. That’s what our goal is all about – delving into a market and uncovering profitable terms that potential customers type into search engines.

By the way, the phrase ‘search engines’ doesn’t just stand for the likes of Google and Bing. Ebay, Amazon, etsy and similar platforms have search engines too and visitors to these sites are typing buyer keywords into there too. In other words, most large e-commerce sites with a search are a goldmine of profitable keywords! I’ll expand on this later…

Why Bother to Engage in Keyword Research?

There are tons of keywords you can target, rank for, and make some money off, but a good number of keywords are not worth your time. I know this might sound like a no-brainer, but I’m sure you would ignore a keyword like ‘free vacuum cleaners’ if you found it in a keyword tool, wouldn’t you?

We all know that the vast majority of people searching for keywords starting with the word ‘free’ don’t plan to buy anything from anywhere. They’re just looking for articles that speak their language – the language of free.

Although those types of keywords are too easy to identify, there are tons of keywords that fall into the same category that don’t begin or include the word ‘free’.

For example, ‘cat pictures’ or any long tail variations of it. Who in the world searching for cat pictures online would ever buy anything from you?

It’s just not possible, and targeting such keywords is an easy trap to fall into if you don’t know what you are doing.

Who is Keyword Research Important to?

The simple answer is everyone. If you’re serious about search engine optimization and getting traffic from Google/Bing/etc, this should matter to you.

Here are a few examples that may resonate with you:

Affiliate marketers: If you’re promoting products, you might want to do some keyword research to find out what terms individuals are typing into Google to find Amazon products.

For example, if you have a site in the home and kitchen niche, a good keyword might be ‘best slow cookers’. Most people looking for the best of anything are ready to buy. They just need you to show them what to buy or what is worth their money. Without keyword research, you can’t discover profitable keywords like this.

Local businesses: If you’re dentist in Houston, keywords containing the words ‘dentist’ and ‘Houston’ are the kind of keywords you want to optimize and try to rank for.  Be sure to include nearby cities and suburbs that are close to you as well as optimizing for your zip code.

E-commerce businesses: If you own an e-commerce business, you probably want to look for keywords that potential customers are using to find products you sell. For example keywords like ‘Nike shoes’, ‘size 10 Nike Air Max’ and everything in between.  Note that often the more specific the term, the hotter the prospect will be because they’re further down the research->buy path.  Those longer tail terms will typically have lower search volume and lower competition as well.

How Long-Tail Keywords Impact Buying Decisions

Long-tail keywords are keywords that have a low monthly search volume, but typically higher conversion rates for buyers.  These keywords tend to have less than 1,000 monthly searches in most cases, but higher profitability because they are usually easier to rank.

It’s important to note that long-tail keywords aren’t necessarily keywords that contain 3 or more words as most internet marketers wrongly think.  Long-tail is all about search volume. Search volume indicates demand, and if a keyword has low demand, it’s a long-tail keyword.

Long-tail keywords (in commercial niches) are also keywords that customers at the end of the customer purchase life cycle tend to type into search engines, also known as buyer keywords.

A customer having trouble with pet hair may just type ‘how to get rid of pet hair’ into Google and click the search button. That’s an example of a customer at the beginning of the purchase life-cycle and they are harder to convert into paying customers.

After reading some articles and learning that vacuum cleaners can get rid of pet hair fast, they may proceed to search for ‘best vacuum cleaners for pet hair’. Perhaps, after happening upon and reading an article on the best vacuum cleaners for pet hair, they may, based on their research, conclude that the ‘BISSELL 9595A vacuum cleaner’ is the right product to buy.

So, the next logical step would be to search for a review of the BISSELL 9595A vacuum cleaner. A customer searching for this kind of keyword is very likely to buy and very close to the end of the purchase life-cycle. They won’t hesitate to purchase this vacuum cleaner from your store or through your affiliate link if you can affirm their choice.

Our fictional customer may not buy after reading a review of the product but could go ahead to search for terms like…

  • BISSELL 9595A best price
  • Buy BISSELL 9595A vacuum cleaner
  • BISSELL 9595A discount

Customers searching for terms like these are at the very end of the purchase life-cycle, credit card in hand, and ready to buy – and those terms are very good examples of long-tail keywords.

So, you want to target keywords that potential customers at the middle or end of the consumer life-cycle are typing into search engines, but definitely not at the beginning.  These terms are not only easier to rank for but will also lead to more sales.

How to Rank for Multiple Long-tail Keywords Through Siloing

Google loves websites containing organized content, and one of the best ways of structuring your content is best achieved through siloing.

Siloing is the process of grouping related content on a website into separate categories so Google understands what your website is about.  Publishing random content on random topics and in random categories or not having categories at all is a sure way for Google to be confused about your site’s topic and therefore not rank you as well..

Using the home and kitchen niche as an example again, if you had a website in this niche reviewing small appliances, you could have categories for each appliance and have all related content go into each relevant category.

If your site is set up this way, it will appear super relevant to Google and ranking will be much easier. A perfectly siloed website will rank for multiple long tail keywords due to the following reasons:

  • Google loves siloed websites and thus rewards them with higher rankings for more keywords.
  • Each silo is a target keyword. Although, the silos higher up a website’s architecture are focused on broad keywords, the lower silos and the post pages all target long tail keywords in most cases.

Here are some strategies that amplify the benefits of using silos:

  1. Interlinking between pages and categories in the silo using relevant anchor text to spread link juice evenly throughout the whole website.
  2. Improving on-page SEO by sprinkling related keywords (LSI keywords) in your articles to enable them rank for multiple keywords.

Siloing produces great results. Siloing + interlinking + good on-page SEO produces the best results.

How to Determine Keyword Ranking Difficulty

A good rule of thumb here is the higher the search volume, the higher the competition. This is the most basic way to determine keyword difficulty and it’s what I use whenever I feel lazy (and because it’s a good first guess).

That said, the accuracy of this method varies across keyword categories (commercial vs informational).

If you’re dealing with informational keywords, like how-to type keywords, search volume is usually very high for low competition keywords. An informational keyword that gets searched 10,000 times per month could have a keyword ranking difficulty rating equal to a commercial (buyer) keyword that gets searched just 1,000 times per month.

Now that you understand the difference, let’s move on to more advanced tactics.

90% of keyword research tools have some sort of competition estimate and the harder a keyword is shown in there really means it’ll be more difficult to rank for.  (I love and use Keyword Supremacy, but competing tools do a good job as well.)

There’s one caveat you need to be aware of, though. Keyword tools retrieve data and compute keyword difficulty automatically, so they are not always accurate.  The best way to determine keyword difficulty is by examining the top 10 sites ranking in Google and comparing their authority with your website’s authority.

Content farms, forum threads, Q&A sites, and small/weak websites are generally easier to beat, so if you see such sites appearing on the first page of Google for the keyword you’re considering, it’s probably an easy keyword.

On the other hand, if strong e-commerce sites like Amazon and Best Buy or sites owned by big brands (Tech Radar, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, etc.) appear on the first page, it’s probably going to take more effort to rank on the first page.

An example of the kind of keywords you should avoid is ‘vacuum cleaners’, and here’s what the first page result looks like:


Notice how the top 3 results are large e-commerce/product review sites? In fact, the entire first page is dominated by sites like this so much so that it would be a complete waste of your time and resources trying to rank for this keyword.

A good example of the type of keywords you should optimize for is  ‘best bagless vacuum cleaner under $100’ and here are the top 3 Google results for that keyword:


Although this keyword has less than 100 monthly searches, it’s way easier to rank for (there’s only one authority site in the top 10 results, the rest are regular, low authority, niche sites).

The key to getting more traffic from Google as fast as possible is creating lots of quality content targeting these low competition keywords, rather than trying to rank for one high competition, high search volume keyword.

You’ll get more traffic from a #2 position for the keyword in the second example than a #20 position for the keyword in the first example!

The effort required to rank will depend mostly on your website’s existing authority, so factor that in when deciding whether a keyword is worth the effort or not.

Creating Content that Ranks

You’ve found some good low competition keywords and now you’re ready to create content around those keywords and get it ranking. Great!

There are several content creation options to choose from:

  • Write it yourself
  • Outsource it to a writer
  • Spin and use an article from another website
  • Copy an article from another website (plagarism)

I’ll cover the first 3 options. Copying and plagiarizing articles is definitely not something I would recommend as it probably won’t rank and could get you into some copyright issues.

Writing content yourself is the cheapest way to get content created, but you’ll pay the full price with the time and effort spent on it. It’s only cheap where money is concerned but if you have a limited budget and lots of free time to write, spend that time writing.

Outsourcing articles to writers isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to filter the bad writers, provide detailed instructions, engage in some back and forth with the writer to get it to the level of perfection you want, and then do some edits. It can become strenuous, unless you’re ordering cheap $5 articles with no special requirements or concern for quality.

However, if you have the cash, hire a content manager and skip the unsavory stuff. Outsourcing is best for those with bigger budgets and less time.

Now let’s discuss the often controversial topic of spun articles. Should you use spun articles or not?

The short and simple answer is this…

It depends on the spin quality. A badly spun article is a no-no for your blogs or money sites. But a carefully spun article that reads well will fit perfectly on a site that matters to you without constituting much (if any) penalty risk.

The bottom line is, only use well-spun content.

Choosing a Keyword Tool

Keyword tools make discovering profitable low competition keywords a lot easier, but they are not all created equal. Here are the ones we recommend:

MOZ Keyword Explorer: This is an easy-to-use keyword tool that boasts of a 90%+ accuracy on keyword search volumes. To use it, you simply have to enter a seed keyword and it will generate related keywords along with their search volume, difficulty rating, potential, and other metrics. It’s expensive for a keyword tool, but there’s a 30-day trial for new users.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool: It’s impossible to not have come across this keyword tool if you know a thing or two about SEO. It’s a free keyword tool from Google for PPC advertisers, but it’s also useful for organic keyword research. Google recently stopped displaying exact search volumes and now gives ranges instead, e.g. 1,000 to 10,000 unless you’re actively running ads, so this tool is not nearly as useful as it used to be.

Google Trends: Google Trends is a fantastic tool for discovering trending keywords and topics. If you own a viral blog or news website, you’ll find it indispensable.

Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence: This is the Bing version of Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s similar to Keyword Planner, and, of course, is designed for Bing PPC advertisers. However, you’ll still find it useful if you are interested in ranking in Bing and don’t mind doing organic competition research manually.

Keyword Supremacy: This is my favorite keyword research tool. It pulls keyword data from the top search engine and ecommerce sites (including keywords that don’t show up in other tools) and displays their search volume, CPC, and competition level. Keyword Supremacy is simply the easiest way to discover tons of long-tail keywords your competitors don’t know of.

It’s All Up to You

A lot of people struggle to increase their search visibility, and there are always one of two culprits or both behind failure. It’s either picking the wrong keywords or not optimizing content properly.  Backlinks won’t help if you don’t build a site or publish an article that’s worthy of a first page ranking. Hopefully, you’ll be able to do that with the information in this guide.

If you have any comments, please share.

4 thoughts on “Keyword Research: Tactics for Beginner and Advanced SEOs

  1. Very good article. After reading your article few questions re-triggered in my mind so thought to put it here..
    .1 In google search console we find many suggested long tail keywords but most of the keyword tool does not show any search volume of those keywords . Is the data real or it is hidden ?

    2. I see keyword difficulty data among keyword tools hugely differ. So which tool you think near to correct information ?
    for any keyword if most of the sites are authority sites in earch result but if i check allintitle or allinurl , don’t find much competition..should I go for those keywords or hold back ?

    1. Justin Anderson says:

      Great questions!

      1. Those are actually valid keywords and they do have search volume, but it’s very low so keyword tools don’t have any data on them. A good way to take advantage of those keywords is to sprinkle them within your content where it makes sense. You’ll see a boost in traffic as a result because the search volume adds up when you rank for multiple low search volume terms.

      2. All in title and all in url are outdated ways of measuring competition. They used to work when Google wasn’t giving so much preference to big brands. I suggest you avoid those keywords until your site develops enough authority to compete with big brands.

  2. Nikhil Nk says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the awesome article.

    Now I understand the real concept of SEO.

    I will surely follow this steps from now…

    Many Many thanks.

    1. Justin Anderson says:

      Thanks for reading. I’m glad you found it useful.

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