What Is Keyword Research? (Quick Guide 2024)

What Is Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the most fundamental and crucial components of any successful SEO strategy. At its core, keyword research involves researching, analyzing, and choosing relevant keywords and keyword phrases that are related to your business, website, products, or brand. 

The terms you choose to target will inform and direct all other elements of SEO, making keyword selection one of the first and most important steps to optimizing your online presence.

Definition of Keyword Research

Keyword research allows you to uncover the specific words and phrases that users enter into search engines when looking for information related to your business. These are terms that you want to strategically incorporate into your website copy and content to make it more findable in search results. 

Some examples of things keyword research can reveal include:

  • What words and phrases are most relevant to your offerings?
  • What search terms are leading to your competitors’ sites?
  • Which keywords drive qualified traffic that converts?
  • How difficult is it to rank for your target keywords?

Put simply, keyword research provides the intelligence to reach people who are actively looking for your products, services or information. It empowers you to create targeted content optimized for the terms you are most likely to rank for.

Importance of Keyword Research

Conducting keyword research provides a vital foundation for your website and guides your overall online marketing strategy in several key ways:

Helps Target the Right Audience

Choosing keywords aligned with each stage of the buyer’s journey will attract engaged website visitors who are more likely to convert to customers. Keyword research allows you to strategically create content tailored towards those actively searching with high intent to purchase.

Informs Content Strategy

The terms you target dictate what you write on your site. Optimizing pages and blog posts for specific keywords will result in higher rankings and more organic traffic.

Identifies SEO Opportunities

Looking at search volume and competition levels for target terms can reveal areas where it will be easier to rank. Keyword research uncovers untapped, low-competition keywords that provide “quick wins”.

Types of Keywords

Not all keywords are created equal. Based on the number of words they contain, target keywords typically fall into one of two main categories:

What Is Keyword Research

Head Keywords

Head terms are individual words or short two to three-word phrases with direct relevance to your brand, product or service. They have a high search volume but can also come with lots of competition, like:

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords contain more words – usually four to six – creating a more specific searcher intent. While the search volume tends to be lower, they also have much lower competition. Examples include:

  • Types of online marketing strategies
  • Cost effective web design services
  • Eyes on solution SEO company for small business

A balanced, effective keyword strategy includes a mix of short head terms and longer, more targeted long tail phrases.

Keyword Research Process

Keyword research involves more than simply plugging your product name into a search bar. An effective system includes these key steps:

Brainstorm Relevant Keywords

Start by listing out the words and phrases that come to mind about your brand, offerings, customers, and competitors. No need to self-edit at this point.

Use Keyword Research Tools

Input your brainstormed list into keyword research tools like Keyword Planner, SEMrush or Ahrefs to extract detailed search data on each term. Analyze the metrics around search volume, Competition and more.

Analyze Search Volume and Competition

Look at search volume data to identify terms with sufficient search interest. Then cross-reference with competition scores to determine ease of ranking – finding “sweet spot” keywords.

Refine and Expand Your List

Take what you’ve learned to refine and modify your preliminary list with better-optimized terms. Use related keywords and search query data to find additional opportunities.

Tips for Effective Keyword Research

Keep these tips in mind as you conduct keyword discovery and expansion:

  • Include Head and Long-Tail Keywords – Having a healthy mix of term types will fuel overall website visibility.
  • Check Searcher Intent – Assess whether each phrase indicates transactional, informational, or navigational intent to determine landing page fit.
  • Update Keyword Lists Regularly – Search trends change over time. Revisit your lists quarterly to add and remove terms.

Benefits of Keyword Research

Why exactly should you dedicate time specifically to researching keywords? What will a well-crafted keyword strategy do for your site? Potential benefits include:

Increased Website Traffic

Targeting search terms that prospective customers are using will drive qualified visitors to your site from search engines.

Better Page Rankings

Optimizing your pages for the terms people search will improve your ranking positions and click-through rate.

More Conversions

Getting found for buyer keywords leads to increased site engagement and more conversion opportunities.

Common Keyword Research Mistakes

While a strong keyword strategy is fundamental to SEO success, it’s also easy to make common missteps like:

Focusing Only on High Volume Terms

Bidding only for competitive commercial keywords while ignoring long tail phrases will be a less efficient use of time and budget.

Not Expanding the Initial Keyword List

Failing to dive deeper into related searches means leaving lots of relevant optimization opportunities on the table.


Keyword selection provides the blueprint for your website content and guides your ongoing search optimization efforts. A solid understanding of your target customer search behavior is step one to attracting, engaging and converting searchers into buyers. Approach keyword research not as a one-time task but an ongoing analysis as search trends and your business evolve. Use the in-depth data it provides around searcher demand and competitor rankings to build a conversion-focused content plan tailored specifically around your ideal audience.

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