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Keyword Research Explained…

I’m positive there’s no want to waste time persuading you that key-word research is one of the highest return SEO activities that is essential in your advertising success.

There’s also no scarcity of extremely good articles that come up with very distinctive commands as to executing a expert key-word studies, ranking high for thousands of targeted search phrases and massively enhancing your visitors from Google.


But here’s an thrilling observation: every of these publications will give you a relatively distinctive set of instructions.


Not that any of them is advising you incorrect, it’s simply there’s no well-known approach to executing keyword studies.


It will range based on:

  • Your website (authority, wide variety of pages, first-rate of content, and so on);
  • Your goals and targets (branding, exposure, visitors, leads, income);
  • Your price range, assets and time limits;
  • Your enterprise and competitive landscape.
  • This is why you would possibly find it hard to narrate to a random step-by way of-step guide which you stumble upon.


So I’m going to take a distinct course and give you a keyword studies framework that can be effortlessly adjusted to whatever your goals and sources are.

And I assure that the strategies and methods defined under will hugely enhance your visitors from Google.

  1. Start with seed keywords

Seed keywords are the foundation of your keyword research. They define your niche and help you identify your competitors.

If you already have a product or business that you want to promote online, coming up with seed keywords is as easy as describing that product with your own words or brainstorming how other people might search for it.

For example, let’s say you’re launching an online store with GoPro accessories. The Google searches (keywords) that you would first think of are:

  • GoPro accessories;
  • gadgets for GoPro;
  • GoPro add-ons.

That’s a no-brainer, right?

But what if you’re looking to start an affiliate marketing website, and you have no idea which niche to pick or which products to promote?

The challenge of “picking a niche” deserves a big and detailed guide of its own. But generally, there are two ways to approach this

    “Monetisation first” approach

Start from exploring available monetisation methods. Pick a product or an offer that you like. And then think of search queries that people might be using to find it in Google.

For example, Amazon has an extremely popular affiliate program. So all you need to do is browse their website until you discover a product (or a category of products) that you’re willing to promote.

2. “Niche down” approach

You can start with a super broad keyword and niche down until you see an interesting opportunity.

For example, I’m going to pick “music” as my super broad niche. Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool gives me almost 5 million keyword ideas for that seed keyword:

In order to “niche down,” I need to focus on longer and more specific keywords that have the word “music” in them. So I will use the “Words” filter to narrow down that huge list of keyword ideas to those with exactly 4 words.

And here’s what I was able to find:

  • music making software free”— Being an ex-DJ, I know there’s a ton of software for making music. So I could start a review site and cover all the latest releases and updates.
  • game of thrones music”— People want to download music they hear in movies, TV series, TV shows, etc. And given that new TV content is released regularly, this could be a fun niche.
  • gifts for music lovers”— I’m sure a lot of famous music bands and leading music labels have a ton of merchandise for their fans to buy. Not to mention musical instrument brands like Gibson, Fender, etc. They must have some affordable gift options too.
  • music games for kids”— Being a father of an 8-month-old kid, I would totally play some fun music games with him.

These niche ideas are obviously far from perfect, but hey, I spent no more than 5 minutes to find them. Invest a little bit more time and you’ll inevitably stumble upon something awesome.

3. Generate keyword ideas

So you have your seed keywords figured out. But that’s only the tip of the keyword research iceberg.

The next step is to generate a mammoth list of relevant keyword ideas, while also getting a good understanding of what people in your niche are searching for in Google.

There are at least four good ways to do it.

a. See what keywords you already rank for

If you own a website that’s been around for a while, you should already be ranking in Google for a few hundred keywords. Knowing what they are is a perfect way to kick-start your keyword research.

b. See what keywords your competitors are ranking for

The chances are, your competitors have already performed all the tedious keyword research work for you. So you can research the keywords that they rank for and cherry-pick the best ones.

If you don’t know who your competitors are, just put your seed keywords into Google and see who ranks on the front page.

c. Use keyword research tools

Good competitor research is often enough to fill your spreadsheet with a ton of relevant keyword ideas.

But if you’re one of the leaders in your niche, that strategy is not quite feasible for you. You have to be looking for some unique keywords that none of your competitors are targeting yet.

And the best way to do it is by using a decent keyword research tool. Luckily, there’s no shortage of them on the market:

Regardless of the tool you choose, there’s no preferred workflow for finding great keyword ideas. Just enter your seed keywords and play with the reports and filters until you stumble upon something cool.

Most tools will pull their keyword suggestions from the following sources:

  • scraping keyword ideas directly from Google Keyword Planner;
  • scraping Google auto-suggest;
  • scraping “similar searches” in Google.

These methods are great, but they can rarely give you more than a couple hundred suggestions. For example, UberSuggest shows only 316 keyword ideas for “content marketing.”

There are also advanced keyword research tools (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush) that operate a keyword database of their own and therefore will give you vastly more keyword ideas.

4. Study your niche well

The aforementioned keyword research strategies are extremely effective and provide an almost unlimited amount of keyword ideas. But at the same time, they kind of keep you “in the box.”

Sometimes, just by studying your niche well (and adding a pinch of common sense), you can discover some great keywords that no one in your niche is targeting yet.

Here’s how to kickstart “out of the box” thinking:

  • Get in the shoes of your potential customers: who they are and what bothers them;
  • Talk with your existing customers, get to know them better, study the language they use;
  • Be an active participant in all your niche communities and social networks.

For example, if you’re selling waterproof headphones, here are some of the “out of the box” keywords you might try targeting:

  • how to survive a hard swim practice;
  • how to make swim practice go by faster;
  • what do you think about when swimming;
  • best swimming style for long distance;
  • reduce water resistance swimming.

People searching for these things are not necessarily looking to buy waterproof headphones, but they should be fairly easy to sell to.

5. Understand keyword metrics

While executing the aforementioned strategies, you’ll find yourself sifting through thousands of keyword ideas and trying to decide which of them deserve to be shortlisted.

And to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, there’s a bunch of cool keyword metrics to consider.

a. Search volume

This metric shows you the overall search demand of a given keyword, i.e., how many times people around the world (or in a specific country) put this keyword into Google.

Most of the keyword research tools pull their Search volume numbers from Google AdWords, which was long regarded as a trusted source of this data.

But not anymore. For the past few years, Google has been consistently taking data away from SEOs:

b. Clicks

Let’s take a keyword, “donald trump age,” that has a search volume of 246,000 searches per month (according to Google Keyword Planner).

That huge search demand implies that you should get a massive amount of traffic if you rank at the top of Google for that keyword. But let’s see what the search results look like:

A fair share of Google’s real estate is taken by an instant answer to that search query: 70 years.

So does it even make sense to click anything at this point?


These “uncommon” search results are known as “SERP features” and there are quite a few different types of them:

  • knowledge cards;
  • featured snippets;
  • top stories;
  • local packs;
  • shopping results;
  • image packs, etc.

Some of them will vastly improve search traffic to your website, but others will steal it away from you.

c. Traffic potential

Search volume and Clicks are great metrics to understand the popularity and traffic of a single keyword. But that keyword may have a ton of synonyms and related searches, all of which can be targeted with a single page on your website.

Let me explain what I mean with an example. The keyword “I’m sorry flowers” doesn’t look very promising in terms of search demand or traffic:

The #1 ranking result usually gets no more than 30% of all clicks. This means you can hope for around 60 visits per month if you rank #1 for the keyword “I’m sorry flowers.”

And that is a bit of a discouraging projection, right?

d. Keyword Difficulty

Unquestionably, the best possible way to gauge the ranking difficulty of a keyword is to manually analyze the search results and use your SEO experience (and gut feeling).

But that is something that you can’t do at scale for thousands of keywords at once. That’s why the keyword difficulty metric is so handy.

Each keyword research tool has their own methods of calculating ranking difficulty score. The one we have at Ahrefs is based on the backlink profiles of the top10 ranking pages for a given keyword. The more quality backlinks they have, the harder it would be for you to outrank them.

e. Cost Per Click

This metric is mostly important for advertisers rather than SEOs. However, many SEO professionals treat CPC as an indication of keywords’ commercial intent (which actually makes a lot of sense).

One important thing to know about Cost Per Click is that it is much more volatile than Search volume. While search demand for a keyword fluctuates on a monthly basis, its CPC can change pretty much any minute.

Therefore, the CPC values that you see in third-party keyword research tools are nothing but a snapshot of a certain timeframe. If you want to get the actual data, you have to use AdWords.

6. Prioritise

Prioritisation is not really the “final step” in your keyword research process, but rather something you do naturally as you move through the aforementioned steps.

While you’re generating keyword ideas, analyzing their metrics, and grouping them, you should be noting the following things:

  1. What is the estimated traffic potential of this keyword (group)?
  2. How tough is the competition? What would it take to rank for it?
  3. How many resources should be invested in building a competitive page and promoting it well?
  4. What’s the ROIof that traffic? Does it only bring brand awareness or actually convert into leads and sales?

You can go as far as adding dedicated columns in your keyword research spreadsheet to give scores to each keyword idea. Then, based on these scores, it should be fairly easy to pick the “low hanging fruit” with the best ROI.

Always remember, it’s not the “easiest to rank for” keywords that you should be looking for. It’s the ones with the best ROI



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