It’s common knowledge that keywords help you find a place in search engine results. But improving search engine visibility isn’t their only purpose. Keywords can also help you brainstorm intriguing content ideas, understand what your audience needs, optimize your social posts and more.

With that said, not every keyword is going to make sense for your business, and not every query related to your niche is actually going to turn out to be a highly searched keyword. This makes it crucial to learn how to do keyword research so you can narrow down on the most relevant and profitable ones.

That’s exactly what this post is going to help you with.

You’ll learn how to identify how keywords on a website are used and conduct keyword research. You’ll also discover some excellent keyword research tips and tools.

What are keywords and why are they important?

But first, what are keywords anyway?

Simply put, keywords or key phrases are the terms that people use to conduct online searches and find the information they need.

For example, someone needs help baking a cake so they search on Google for “cake baking tips”. Here, the search phrase they are using is the keyword phrase.

Keywords also help to define what your content is all about. And using them strategically can help you turn up in the right search results, making sure you attract a relevant audience.

Keywords are most commonly used in SEO, where website owners optimize their content using a specific target keyword. Each webpage may have a different target keyword based on the topic and content of the page.

You would typically use keywords in your website copy, meta tags, product descriptions, blog posts, social posts, image alt text and more. This improves your chances of getting discovered in search results, as it helps search engine crawlers to understand the content of your webpages.

See for instance how the top search results for “London travel guide” all use the target keyword or its variation in the titles and meta descriptions.

search results for london travel guide

The uses and benefits of keyword research

While keyword research is a necessary part of every SEO strategy, it has many other uses besides SEO. Here are some of the major reasons why you should learn how to do keyword research.

1: It helps you understand your audience

Keyword research is essentially a process of discovering the search terms that your audience is using. So by identifying what terms they are searching for, you can understand who your audience is, what they need and what they are looking for in a product or service.

These insights will help you narrow down on your target audience and group them into different personas based on what drives them. You should also be able to understand how to meet their needs more effectively.

2: It can strengthen your content strategy

Keyword research also helps you identify what topics people are most interested in within your industry. This can help you come up with content ideas that will engage them and cater to their needs, thus strengthening your content strategy.

For example, the top search results for “social media marketing” can give you an idea of what topics are performing well in the industry. While we’ll dig more into how to use Google search results for research later, you can see that the suggested related questions also help you understand what kind of information most people seek. Combining these insights can help you brainstorm content ideas that would appeal to your audience.

SERP example

3: It helps you measure brand sentiment

If you conduct keyword research using branded keywords, you’ll discover some of the most common search terms people are using to find information about your brand.

In addition, you can use branded keywords to conduct social media searches and find out what people are saying about your brand. These search results can give you a general idea about people’s sentiment toward your brand.

Twitter search results for Sprout

4: It helps you monitor your competitors

Just as you conduct branded keyword research for your brand, you can also conduct branded keyword research on your competitors. This is an excellent way to understand what keywords they are ranking for, what people are saying about them and more. Keyword research can help you get granular about exactly where they stand and how you compare against them.

How to do keyword research

Now that you have an idea of how important keywords can be, let’s find out how to do keyword research not just for SEO but also for social media posts, blogs and more.

The basics

While there will be slight variations in how to do keyword research for various marketing strategies and channels, the key steps remain more or less the same. Let’s take a look at the basic steps to conduct keyword research:

1: Make a list of relevant topics

The process starts with a rough list of topics that are relevant to your business. What are the first things that come to mind when you think about your business or industry?

For instance, if you’re a digital marketer, your topics will include things like:

  • SEO
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Blogging
  • Inbound marketing

Keep in mind that these are not keywords but broad topics that will help you narrow down on more specific keywords later on.

2: Get keyword suggestions from Google

Now build a more robust keyword list by typing those topics into Google and listing down the suggestions.

Google suggestions for email marketing

3: Discover related searches

You can further find more keywords to add to this list under the “searches related to…” section at the bottom of the page. This section shows you popular keywords that are closely related to the search term you’re using.

searches related to email marketing

This is one of the keyword research tips that you can use to come up with engaging content ideas as it helps you discover what other relevant terms people are searching for.

4: Filter your keyword list

While you have some idea that these keywords are popular and relevant, you have no quantitative data proving that. So now you need to narrow down your list to find keywords that are actually going to deliver results.

This step involves using keyword research tools like the Google Keyword Planner. You will need an AdWords account to use this tool.

Enter the keywords from your list and the tool will provide you with search volumes and traffic estimates for each of them. You’ll be able to get an estimate of how many clicks and impressions you can get for each search term.

Google keyword planner keyword forecasts

Under “Keyword Ideas” you can also view the number of average monthly searches for each keyword along with its competition level. This is particularly important for organic SEO efforts since it lets you know how large to total potential audience for a keyword might be.

Google keyword planner keyword ideas

Putting this data all together, you should ideally target keywords with high average monthly searches, impressions and clicks along with medium to low competition. This is where the typical keyword research process for SEO would end.

When conducting keyword research for PPC campaigns, you will need to consider the sections such as cost and CPC. You might notice that keywords with a high amount of clicks and impressions also cost a lot more. The goal is to choose keywords within your advertising budget that can still get you plenty of clicks. Sometimes, this means targeting a more specific term or niche audience that could draw more motivated converting customers compared to a term that may have high volume but be more broad or general.

4 useful keyword research tools

Aside from the Keyword Planner tool from Google, there are a ton of other keyword research tools available in the market. Some of these tools are much easier to use, while others can provide more comprehensive data.

Some of these keyword research tools can also help you find keywords for other aspects of your marketing campaign like social media marketing and content marketing. Here are some excellent options:

1: – All-round keyword research is one of the best alternatives to the Google Keyword Planner. It comes with robust search features that neatly sort out your searches according to channel. This makes it the perfect all-round keyword research tool–whether it’s for SEO, PPC, eCommerce optimization or social media.

The tool lets you conduct keyword research for major search platforms like Google and Bing. You can get access to useful keyword data like search volume, search trends, competition level and CPC for each keyword. Use this to conduct keyword research for your SEO and PPC campaigns.

keywordtool email marketing results

You can also find popular Instagram and Twitter keywords and optimize your social posts for more visibility. The YouTube keyword search feature is another useful feature if you want to create video titles that will get a lot of visibility in YouTube searches.

Besides these, also comes with Amazon and eBay search features for eCommerce marketers and a Play Store search feature for app store optimization.

The Pro version of the tool even shows you the most asked questions related to your chosen keyword. This feature is extremely useful if you want to learn how to do keyword research for a blog, as it helps you come up with topic ideas and long-tail keyword ideas.

2: Moz Keyword Explore – For SEO keyword research + competitor research

This is one of the most comprehensive free keyword research tools. In addition to keyword performance insights, it also gives you keyword suggestions and helps you discover ranking keywords.

You’ll be able to see the monthly search volume, difficulty level, organic CTR and priority level for each individual keyword search. This comprehensive data is perfect to narrow down on the best target keywords for your campaigns.

The ranking keywords discovery feature also comes in handy for competitor research. Maybe you want to learn how to find keywords on a website so you can identify which keywords your competitors are using and ranking for. Just enter their URL in the explorer. And the tool will provide you with a comprehensive list of keywords that their site is ranking for.

From here, you can also see where they’re ranking for each keyword, how difficult it is to rank and how many monthly searches it gets.

moz link explorer competitor overlap

3: BuzzSumo – Keyword research for blogs + social media

BuzzSumo is a leading content research tool and you can also use it for blog and social media keyword research. It may not necessarily provide you with keyword ideas, but it can provide you with some useful insights to fuel your content strategy.

Conduct a BuzzSumo search using one of the keywords from your list. This will help you discover the top-performing content topics related to that keyword. You can get an idea of how popular the topic is based on the number of links, engagements and social media shares. This should help you identify which keywords and topics to target for your blog and social media posts.

The evergreen score is another useful factor to look at if you’re learning how to do keyword research for a blog. It helps you understand how profitable the topic will be in the long run. So you’ll have a much easier time deciding whether it’s worth investing your time and effort in.

buzzsumo social media marketing results

4: Sprout Social – For social media + brand listening

Sprout’s own social media listening tool can also serve as an effective keyword research tool. It lets you build listening queries so you can easily discover relevant conversations around your brand and products. Not only does this help you in your brand listening efforts, it also helps you understand trending topics that you can participate in through relevant social posts.

The Trends Report further narrows down the trending topics and hashtags relevant to your brand, competitors and industry. These will serve as excellent keywords for your social posts as they can improve your post visibility.

Sprout keyword report

There you have it – some essential keyword research tips to help you get started.

As you can see, keyword research isn’t just for SEO or PPC. It can fuel various aspects of your marketing efforts such as content marketing, social media and more. Make the most of these basic keyword research tips and keyword research tools to build more effective marketing campaigns.

Do you have a favorite keyword research tip or a go-to tool to find keywords? Let us know in the comments.