Keyword Research Effective Processes

Do You Even Keyword Research?

Every keyword has its own power among the massive amount of search query data taking place all across the internet. Understanding how to measure the power of a keyword and how to branch out from using a head keyword into more variables like LSI and long tail to further increase the usefulness of your target keyword should all be part of your keyword research plan and in order to master your own keyword research process you should build a checklist that you can refer to for each time you go about researching your keyword landscape.
Below I’ve used basketball teams as a reference to understanding the importance of proper use of keywords and why SEO is important in the bigger picture of improving your website profile on the web.
My References breakdown for easy followingahrefs-keyword-search-best-nba-coach
Keywords are NBA Teams
SEO’s are Team Coach
Google Search Results are the NBA League
Page 1 is the Playoffs
Position 1 on Page 1 is the NBA Championship
Image source The Comeback
Imagine just for an example that keywords are NBA basketball teams and competing across the league for the Playoffs in our example Page 1 on Google. You can then imagine that from making Page 1 these teams on the first page of Google are then playing off to get to the Grand Final Main Event and from that point aiming for the the championship Page 1 Position 1 of the search results beating off every other keyword. Now imagine that you as an SEO or for business owners that the SEO hired by you is the NBA team’s coach so your hired SEO is the Pat Riley to the Miami Heat or Phil Jackson to the Chicago Bulls they help coach the NBA team (keywords) into the championship playoffs
That would be extremely difficult
 So we now understand the importance of selecting the right keywords and not selecting the Philadelphia 76ers as our keyword…..oh Ouch! sorry guys it’s kind of relevant why would you do that to your draft picks 🙁 I wish you a successful 2017 season and beyond.
Back to keywords and how smart selection can make your time spend on your marketing well worth the effort. Choosing keywords that underperform and having your whole strategy built around those keywords will be internal sabotage you will waste so much time and for little to no reward hey Ill admit Ive been there my keyword selection when I first started was solely based on what I thought was the best and it wasn’t i sucked so bad but what you do is work on your weaknesses and level up.

If you want to learn about keyword research start a blog, write creatively or start a Web Marketing business throw your self in the deep end and it’s sink or swim.

Understanding your audience your unique selling position is the first step and then understanding how your target audience searches for your products or services is the next step master this and the rest is a breeze.

Identify What Keywords You Are Targeting

  • Head
  • Body
  • Long Tail
  • LSI

If you do not understand what some of the above terms are click the keyword research tools link on the next sentence Ive covered it there.

For an idea on some of the tools you can use to uncover these keywords read on here for several keyword research tools

 Setting up your checklist

We need to create a blank template to build out actionable checklist for all future keyword research referencing.

First, sign in to Google Sheets and create a blank spreadsheet, you can also use excel spreadsheets I find Google Sheets easier.

You need to format the template  by adding a title name  for the sheet try something easy to remember like Keyword Research Checklist Template.

Now moving to the headers label each column so you know what goes where

it, then fill the headers in to match my example, like this:



To make sure that you don’t treat your header as data when sorting your results, you should freeze the top row and add a colour to clearly seperate it.

Now you’ve got your spreadsheet, make sure you keep the link handy so you can create a powerful recurring process document later on using this guide.

Whenever you research a fresh keyword, open up the link, create a copy of the template and name it the subject of your content, like this:

Now we’ve got our blank slate, it’s time to populate it with keywords that are going to skew the SERP game in our favour.


Keyword Brainstorm

This is the start of our process, you want to start with the mindset of how you think your audience and potential customers would search for you what terms, phrases and words would they use to find your business on a search engine? write down every possible keyword and phrase.

Now go onto google and start typing your keywords and record the automated suggestions that Google is suggesting to you these will be very helpful. TIP down the bottom of the search results will be other relative keywords take note of them as well.

At the end of this step of the process you should have a very long list of keywords and phrases and don’t worry that is exactly what we want but we haven’t even touched the surface yet.

Build your own ideas on your keywords you want associated with your brand as talked about above

Build a list of keywords you think that your potential customers would use to search for your business

Now set yourself up a Google Sheet or excel spreadsheet for your template.

If you want to see the search volume and CPC I use a chrome extension its called Keywords Everywhere and is simple to add although you will need to request an email so you can add the API and use it with the search volume and CPC real time. You can use this to help determine keywords of interest at this stage or even eliminate words it is your choice.


This post is about keyword research, what is your keyword for your topic? write that down in your sheet as the first keyword this will be the keyword we will build our list around.

Be more specific

Is your topic about example the NBA Playoffs or is it more about example NBA the journey to the playoffs?

you need to write down your core topic that you will be building around the example NBA the journey to the playoffs is very specific it tells the reader right away what the content will be about where the example NBA playoffs is specific but still very broad in terms of what to do with the NBA playoffs, is it an overview, the predictions, a road to the playoffs or more there is a lot of  room to move with that broad term.

Determine your topic and add that to your template.

Include synonyms in your list

To mix up some of the results you should consider using synonyms to acquire words you may not have had in your mind that relate to your topic. Keyword research can make most people spend hours analysing and over thinking its actually quite simple once you get this sheet created and organised

Search for your words and then the phrases, now go over to and search for your keyword and then the phrases. Basically you are searching for different ways to say your keyword “Playoffs” may return championship, finals, semi finals, face off, grand final, main event and so on. You will find some very good returns and you will also have to eliminate some of the returned searches as they will not be much use and can often produce a laugh at how and why they showed up in the first place.

Add the results you like for each keyword and phrase, and then add another and repeat this until you have completed your keyword set and added all the alternatives to your template. We now have an extensive list of keywords and phrases but we are not done yet.

Search on Wikipedia for even more alternatives

Go to wikipedia and search for your term and find an article with relevance to our search term. Many people overlook Wikipedia as a powerful place to find well constructed content with in depth explanations of terms that people don’t know about, can not pronounce and just plain don’t understand what it is. Perfect for our keyword research strategy, One search on Wikipedia for NBA Playoffs returns a long list of correlated data on the history of NBA playoffs and the only place I imagine to have a database as extensive would the actual NBA offical website and even then I think Wikipedia may have them beat on that.

We now have even more ideas for our template add them to the sheet.

Now we have compiled a decent list of potential winners from our manual keyword research we now head over to a browser based search engine to get some more data for our keyword research measurements.

Keyword research just got a boost

UberSuggest helps you seriously boost your keyword research by generating a large list of keywords it does pump out a lot of crap not helpful at all keywords but if you use it in the way that I advise here you will get some golden nuggets within the return data.

To limit the room for error just input the most basic keyword this example is NBA playoffs and let it do its thing you will get keywords and users phrases in your data return and from there you can sift through and add the keywords and phrases that you want to add to your template

Ill also run it again with another two keywords to get an overall view of my keyword landscape. This covers me for my main keywords on al possible angles.

If you alter from using the basic keyword terms and add something extra you will get a data return that is 90% unusable so keep it simple.

Uber Suggest is a valuable tool for keyword research and can return some crazy results but at the same time you do not want to skim on running your main keywords through this process once you see the variety the search query returns for your list. Any tool that can scrape the web can work faster than you can so use it in your processes and save time let it scrape the web for your keywords.

If you want even more ammunition then rephrase the placement of your keywords and rerun the scrape again this will help you have a very extensive list if it is not already running into the thousand’s of keywords.

Our next step is to search the web for real people speaking about your topic and related terms and research how they implement their keywords and on page elements.

Real Time Keyword Research and Your Process

To speak to communities and people passionate about what it is you are building your keywords around you need to research interested people in their niche communities, Facebook, Twitter the usual suspects of course but have you ever considered using such If I was targeting marketing I would be researching on Inbound and GrowthHackers for my target audience would be very active here. My example is NBA Playoffs so I would look more at Facebook groups, Bleacher Report, NBA official website and several passionate forum sites where true die hard fans hangout and engage with the topic.

My other alternative is Quora for getting questions answered you cant go wrong but be warned that self promotion is frowned upon in this community you can answer questions and have your own questions answered excellent for seeing what and how competitors are engaging with people of similar audience. You can find very helpful questions your market have on Quora.

Using Quora for research provides you with the exact questions and words used that your audience are using to search for answers. Its super important to go that extra step in providing value to your audience by answering questions providing value being 1Up on your competitor. Add your found search terms, questions and any keywords that stick out to your template.

Now I head over to BoardReader and look for the forums that appeal to my target audience and search for my basic keyword and a keyword phrase

This should return some questions that people ask, titles used for the questions further helping us identify the problem they are searching an answer for, and answers to those problems. Add these to your template we are almost done.

You may be surprised at some of the keywords and phrases on your template sheet that you would not of even considered when you first started this research process I know I am every time, thank you keyword shitter for the enjoyment.

Ever Reliable Google keyword planner

This process step was broadcast by Brian Dean of Backlinko he calls it the GKP hack and you will see why in just a moment.

Here’s how GKP works:

First Find Competing Pages

You want to find competing pages that have a lot of visibility and are offering lots of content.Put your high-level keyword in Google and see what comes up in the SERP’s now open another browser tab.

Sign in and go to Google Keyword Planner for this next step.

Click on the ‘Find new keywords and get search volume data’ option, and paste a competing page into the ‘Your landing page’ field.

Review all relevant terms that your competitor is ranking for use what you feel is most beneficial, sneaky I know but it works.

It’s as simple as that. Go ahead and any new keywords to your sheet, repeat as much as you like/need/can be bothered with, and let’s move on to the next step.

*You must have a active Adwords account to get accurate data.

Use Open  Site Explorer by Ahrefs for Competitor Researchahrefs-open-site-explorer-overview

Now you are going to want to reverse engineer your competitors keywords and you can do this by using the Ahrefs Site Explorer.

This feature of a paid Ahrefs account offers a powerful way to get competitor information in an easy to digest UI that makes it stupid simple.

I recommend using the same competitors that you used in the Google Keyword Planner step, search their URL to get their list of keywords and now add these to your template sheet and our list grows again.

!!! CAUTION !!!

Naughty words follow, Those not inclined to profanity skip forward.

Brought to you by marketing originals Keyword Shitter

Yes you read correctly there is a keyword research tool named Keyword Shitter. Branding and toilet logo aside it is surprisingly capable see it here Keyword Shitter.

You will notice that it is easy to use and quite powerful in the search data and volume returned per search, the data returned includes long tail variations, search volume and CPC. There will be some crud in the list but at this stage we have more than enough keywords that we can be picky with our list now.

Enter main keyword “NBA Playoffs” paste your list of keywords we have in the Positive filter box to the right.

Not wanting to deny the creative genius at Keyword Shitter you then quite simply press the magic button on this website that button is labelled “shit keywords”

and boom you start to see an instant run of keywords loading in an extensive list that goes and goes. The variety of long tail keywords returned is worth the sheer no they didn’t factor of the branding. Add the winners to your template sheet and we move to the final research step.

You have your own choices as far as best keyword research tools I switch between several for this example we’ll work with Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and then we start our run at the playoffs and eliminate keywords that don’t make the cut.


Generate relevant keywords

using Ahrefs keywords explorer for our final process in determining our keyword research winners. Our process so far has involved us doing the thinking but now we get to automate it with this neat tool. Access Keywords Explorer (paid Ahrefs account only) this finds related keywords and phrases for you and you might think why didn’t we just start with this? You could but its best to build your list yourself first then do it this way for optimal results.

It’s as simple as typing a few of your existing keywords into the search bar. Keywords Explorer > Enter keywords > Select country > Search

You can now retain the results that you like and filter out ones you don’t want to include.


We can see above the top pages for our search term.

Laser Target your keyword research list

Now we have a short list of keywords and its important to cut this down to the most profitable and rewarding words (depending on your goal) I want content exposure for my goal on this example obviously if you were doing Adsense for example you would want more profitable keywords.

Now we know our end goal we have some cleaning to do, remove all duplicates,  If you are working inside Sheets, this is easily done with the Remove Duplicates addon. Install that, then follow these instructions:

Steps 1–4 won’t need changing, just ‘Next’ through it ’til you get to the last window.

Make sure ‘Delete rows’ is selected and click Finish.

If you are not in Sheets and using Excel you can use the search field query and manually look for duplicates. Just switch to Google Sheets you will thank me later.

We approach the finish line

You can enter your list into Google Keyword Planner Tool and get some more informative data, we want to get the search volume amounts for our keyword list and note the keywords that have undesirable search volumes.

You should copy your keywords from sheets into Google Keyword Planner Tool and then download the results into a spreadsheet when finished.

Now you’ve got this spreadsheet, you want to take the good bits and paste them back over to your original sheet.

Delete everything apart from the Keyword, Volume and Competition columns, then paste it back. Search volumes with zero can be left out these keywords aren’t popular enough for our liking.

Remove the keywords that do not relate

Formatting your content and the readability for the user should appear natural and not as though you are keyword stuffing and want to avoid phrasing like “website design cheap” or “build website now cheap” these are not good for

an example of keyword stuffing can often be found in Youtube where its not uncommon to see Youtube video descriptions that have for example

#websitedesign #websitedesign #websitesdesign

They would repeat this hashtag again and again and even more hashtags of their target keyword  or they will blatantly use repeat keyword sentences line after line in the lowest section of the description area to hammer the keyword in.

So now the bad example has been covered DO NOT DO THIS! pretty simple when its in capitals right? Grab the suggested keyword phrases and

If you grabbed everything you could see in UberSuggest, or dig a big export, then now’s also the time to get rid of the crazy ones like ‘NBA Finals MVP 2009’ and ‘NBA Finals Sprite’.

When there’s a year in a keyword (like ‘NBA Finals MVP 2009’), instead of removing it, you could simply substitute in the current year. Just be sure to update the correct year.

Indeed, if you’re in the final quarter of the year, you might want to consider including the following year as a keyword instead of the current.

Look at how the interest in ‘NBA playoffs’ dropped off and then picked back up and then dropped off and so on, using sport as an example has a downside it’s seasonal so there will be peak months and down months where the interest isn’t there.

Since my keyword research process includes some paid tools it wouldn’t be 100% accurate to call it ‘free keyword research’, so I get rid of that, too. Since keywords are mostly about the way people express what they want, use your logic and you’ll be fine for this bit.

Who makes the starting lineup and who gets benched?

Every word on your list has potential thats why we created a list of keyword opportunities but how do you select 5 or 10 words from a list numbering in the 100’s? You need to discard a wider view to focus on the keywords that will by data provide you with the best return. But keep the words you don’t choose you will have use for them at a later stage. Select the top 5 or 10 by search volume to solidify their place on your final list.

If you are an organisational OCD type you could place the next most useful keywords into a sub header on your list to be used next for content and so on and so on this will also help provide some loose content planning structure for future implementation. It’s important to know that even Andre Iguodala came off the bench to provide much needed firepower for the Golden State Warriors, and yes Im one of those guys 🙂


The Most opportunity keyword selection process

To identify from your list what will be the best keyword selection measure by:

  1. Relevance. You need to accurately describe what you’re writing about because if you mislead or inaccurately describe your content you will incur a high b ounce rate and a high bounce rate will kill your ranking, even if you do manage to get on the front page.
  2. High (enough) volume. For niche and specific topics, like client onboarding, you’ll be lucky to find a relevant keyword with more than 30 searches per month. If there are two similar keywords with drastically different volumes, however, the higher volume keyword is the obvious choice (provided it passes the rest of the criteria).
  3. Low difficulty. Putting it simply, a keyword with low difficulty has pages and domains with low authority on the first page. If you target the same keyword with better content and get a few backlinks, you can take that slot and steal their traffic.

So once you’ve chosen a few keywords from your list which are high enough volume and relevant, it’s time to see how difficult they would be to rank for.

If the first page is crammed full of super-high authority sites or pages with 1000s of backlinks, you’re out of luck unless you’re Wikipedia.

In my review of Ahrefs vs. Moz, the Keyword Difficulty tool was one of the only places Moz surpassed Ahrefs on quality of features, but that review is in dire need of an update because now the Ahrefs keywords explorer does difficulty.

To quickly get KD on a list of keywords you can paste them as a list into keywords explorer and choose ‘Exact Match’ from the sidebar:

Keywords Explorer > Enter keywords > Select country > Search > Results: ‘Exact match’

Some of these are ridiculous, and it’d be very tough to rank for them. Instead of taking the more broad, high volume keywords, I look further down the list to check some lower volume, more specific terms — perhaps ones with a better intent.

The best way to judge the searcher’s intent of a keyword is to just Google it.

I was thinking of writing an article about customer support for enterprises, and thought I’d found an absolutely ???? keyword with ‘enterprise customer service’

Googling it revealed it to be useless trash because the intent was people searching for the customer service contact at Enterprise car rental. Of course the difficulty is so low on that! I felt particularly silly. And the moral of the story is: Google a keyword before you target it!

Googling a keyword also gives you an extra layer of insight into the keyword difficulty metric. You can see why the keyword is hard or easy to rank for. Take, for example, the KD 6 keyword ‘fun board games’:

Neither of the top two results even optimize for the keyword they rank for. That’s a sure signal to you that it’s going to be a #1 ranking if you follow it up with the right SEO strategy. (That, and the fact that Popular Mechanics isn’t exactly known as a stronghold of board game content.)

Once you find a relevant, in-demand keyword which has vulnerable pages in the top spots, you’ve found a winner. Highlight it in a lovely shade of green on your sheet to celebrate ????

Quite a long post but to really get the most from your keyword research you need a process of identifying, understanding and executing the plan.

The full 19 step keyword research process

Here’s a quick recap of the full process:

  1. Create a spreadsheet template to use as your checklist template
  2. Format your template sheet enter headlines and colour coding
  3. Identify your core keyword and then Google them taking note of auto suggest feature.
  4. Try using syonyms
  5. Search Wikipedia articles for new opportunities
  6. Generate variations using UberSuggest
  7. Search in Quora for new questions and answers taking note of specific words & phrases used.
  8. Search BoardReader for even further opportunities
  9. Competitor lookup with Google Keyword Planner
  10. Competitor lookup with Ahrefs Site Explorer
  11. Generate long tail keywords with Keyword Shitter
  12. Use Ahrefs Keywords Explorer for generating a massive keyword list or your go to keyword tool.
  13. Remove all duplicate keywords, with extension or manually
  14. Copy the remaining keywords into Google Keyword Planner
  15. Remove unrelated keywords
  16. Filter by search volume returned
  17. Again remove irrelevant keywords
  18. Remove high competition keywords
  19. Remove low volume keywords (if there are better options)

 Keyword Research Checklist Complete!

Get the Step by Step Checklist PDF here! No Email Opt-In! Just download or make a copy.

Parts of this process have been matched with Benjamin Brandall’s processes at Ahref’s.

So, there you have it my keyword research process developed from Brian Dean’s methods, a variety of exciting tools and my own experimentation.

Do you think this keyword research and application process will help you?

Can you make any further recommendations? what is your own internal keyword research process, I would love to see variations.

Hoping Ive been helpful and thanks for reading.