How to Use Keyword Research for Successful SEO – a Start-To-Finish Guide

17 Min.
keyword seo
Last updated on

What is the most common mistake by self-employed online marketers? Usually my answer to this question might be: You don't do any keyword research, you create content that nobody is looking for and therefore you don't get any results. Welcome to the world of keyword research. A world where lack of preparation costs you budget, time and resources. In this article, you will learn how to do a complete research.

The good news is that a keyword search may take some time, but many websites are full of unused potential. The following start-up from Hamburg was able to triple its traffic with little effort. It was only through a keyword search that the company realised that it was already ranking for keywords with a high search volume. Only the appropriate content was missing:

Traffic by keyword research
Increase in traffic after previous keyword research

To start off: Basics of keyword research

Before I show you tools and possible techniques to perform a keyword search, I would like to introduce you to the basics of keyword research.

What are "keywords"?

Whenever we search engine optimizers talk about keywords, we mean the keywords and phrases that users - your potential customers - enter into the search engine of their choice.

Both Google and various online tools provide data on how often those search terms are searched for per month. This search volume helps us online marketers to distinguish significant from unimportant keywords.

This ultimately makes keyword research a must for online companies that want to build organic traffic. This way you can find out in advance whether it is worth the effort to invest in suitable texts and content. And time is money, as we all know.

Types of keywords

In search engine optimization, keywords are divided into different categories. Each category has its own character. Because behind every keyword there is a different search intention of the user and therefore different results. The following rough classification will help you to recognize what search volume or what kind of traffic is to be expected in the respective category:

KeywordCharacteristics / Properties
Short Tail KeywordsWord groups that are limited to 1-3 words, are short and relevant, have a large search volume and usually have a high competition. Pizza, for example.
Long Tail KeywordsGroups of words that already deal with a topic in a much more specific way. Significantly lower search volume. However, there is relatively less competition and higher conversion rates. Like, why does pizza make you fat?
Local Keywords (Geo Targeting Keywords)Keywords that refer to a place or a geographical position. E.g. Pizza delivery service in Berlin.
Semantic keywordsKeywords that resemble a keyword, are synonymous or are ordered in a different order.
brand keywordsKeywords that explicitly refer to a brand, product or company name. Example: Domino's Pizza.
Competitor KeywordsKeywords that refer to a brand, a product or a service of the competition. For RAIDBOXES example: WPEngine WordPress Premium Web hosting.
Commercial Keywords / Transactional KeywordsKeywords with a purchase reference. With these keyword groups it can already be guessed that the searcher is interested in a product and is considering buying it or is already comparing offers.

The subject is extensive. So extensive that every online marketer handles these categories slightly differently. For more information on search queries, see Google's Search Quality Guidelines starting at site 66.

Search intention – Which keywords are relevant for my business?

Search engines have made it their business to always give the user the best answer to a question. This is not so easy with a pool of thousands of possible answers. In order to be able to provide their users with the most relevant results, search engines must be able to deduce what the searcher is aiming for with his search query.

In the world of Online Marketing, this is known as the search intent.

Being a website owner, you should always ask yourself what kind of information the visitor is looking for when doing keyword research – and adapt your content accordingly to the visitor's goal.

I keep seeing outdated SEO methods, like creating satellite pages - with the hope of ranking in other districts. Or the creation of hundreds of subpages with each district of a large city. Not only are these methods spam and the risk of getting in the way of his own ranking. Moreover, it is certainly not in the interest of your customers if they are forwarded to the wrong address. Or if they receive false information about a product. And this is certainly not in the interest of the search engines.

How to Use Keyword Research for Successful SEO – a Start-To-Finish Guide

Take the keyword "Assemble PC" as an example. Only shopping results appear. The search intention behind this term is clear for Google:

Search intention Keyword
Google tries to recognize the search intention of the keyword

But just by changing our search query to "PC compiling tips", a completely different intention in our query is revealed. Google now provides us with informative content:

Search intention Information
The changed search intention for information

Since the search intention therefore determines the future content of our topics, it is recommended that you first take a look at the search results. Then you get a sense of what kind of content the user wants.

An online shop with a PC configurator could miss valuable traffic opportunities if it relies solely on the marketing of its PC configurator. This would simply not rank to informative search queries.

Step by step to keyword research

There are all sorts of methods for performing a keyword search. Even if you would rather invest your time in content promotion or creation of new content, a prior keyword research is key. I would always suggest to conduct your keyword research conscientiously and carefully as it significantly influences the success of your content.

In this tutorial we will create a mindmap with relevant keywords, more about this in a moment. The whole thing will look something like this:

image mindmap keyword research
The goal of your research: a mind map with your relevant keywords.

In the brackets of the mind map you can see the search volume of related search terms. The advantage of this method is that our keywords are sorted by search volume and also by tool. This makes it easy for us later to structure the keywords.

Tip: Keywords from your mind map that do not make it into your content are excellent for separate blog posts or subpages later. There you can strengthen the reference to your most important keywords (main topic) by means of internal links.

After our keyword research we will bring the keywords from this mind map into the following structure:

image content structure by keyword research
Structure of your researched keywords

In this example, the job reference is the "Seed Keyword", which will form the main heading (H1) on ourssite . Related keywords with the highest search volume will form the subheadings (H2). Visitors to a website usually only scan for certain information. Subheadings are a perfect guide to help you get started with your content.

Search engines also benefit from this structure, as they can better "understand" the content of your website. These topics can then be expanded with further sub-themes (H3).

Keywords that do not have a high search volume may match the topics of our subheadings. These keywords give us ideas with which we can later fill our content.

The advantage of this method is that you do not have to be an expert in a topic. Based on the keyword research and the structure worked out with it, you are immediately aware of what content is relevant for your users. You just have to concentrate on working through the "keywords". Or you can pass on this structure to suitable authors.

Step 1: Brainstorming - collecting keyword ideas

In this guide I assume that you have already received some ideas or instructions for which keyword you want to optimize.

If not, open a separate document and make notes on potential topics you could write about. Rough cues will do. Such as hobbies or topics that interest you. Problems that you or your environment have been confronted with in the past months and that you have been able to solve. These can also be purchasing decisions.

If the future content is about services from your company, write down the rough services or products your company offers. But don't just think about the products you want to sell yourself. but also on questions that ultimately lead to your service. After all, you could be the solution to your users' problems.

Then enter these into Google's input mask. Google's Autocomplete / Google Suggest Feature will give you ideas already at the time of entering which keywords in combination with your service are also searched for by other people. Use these suggestions as inspiration for your keyword research and product range.

Google Autosuggest KW testimonial
Use the Autocomplete function of Google Search

At the end of the search results, by the way, further suggestions are made for that keyword. These could also contain useful incentives for your keyword research:

Related search terms in serps
Google shows you similar search queries

Step 2: With Freemind to the keyword mindmap

FreeMind is an open source software for the creation of mind maps. The program is available free of charge for MacOS as well as for Windows. To download:

  1. Open FreeMind and write down your keyword in the middle. From there you can create a new tab by pressing the "INSERT" key (MacOS: Tabulator). Subdivide them by search intention or platform to keep track of what you are looking for.
  2. Organize your keywords according to the tools or subtopics you use. Always sort your found keywords according to highest search volume.
  3. Completed topics can be deleted later with a marker, so that you don't lose the overview!
Structure Keyword sources Mindmap
The structure of the keyword sources in a mind map

Step 3: Take a first look at the competition and search results

After we have confirmed our search term in Google's input mask, we take a comprehensive look at the presented search results. Already from the Serps (Search Engine Result Pages) you can get much information about a keyword.

Search intention: What kind of content dominates the search results? Mainly products, eCommerce websites and shopping ads? Then it becomes difficult to achieve rankings with a pure content page.

Competition: How "strong" are the domains of the first 5 positions? Are the results domains with high authority (e.g. Wikipedia) or rather private websites, news portals and forums?

Are the results or sites optimized? Good meta descriptions, well-designed landing pages or long texts can be indicators for a successful search engine optimization.

If you use a backlink tool: Do high-quality backlinks refer to these Url's?

WooCommerce gratis Hosting

Structured Data: Is further information on the search term displayed directly in the search results or even answered? This can also be an indicator for a successful search engine optimization. As a site operator, you have to do the same as the competition in this case:

  • Review stars (Google stars) in the search results
  • Search queries are answered directly in the search results
  • "FAQ" / "How To" boxes under the input mask
  • "Recipes" (Rich Cards) directly in the search results

So-called Rich Snippets are enabled by Structured Data and can be used to calculate the CTR (click through rate) of the search results. If no operator in the Structured Data niche uses structured data, you can at the same time see this as an opportunity to stand out more strongly in search results or even appear in prominent positions:

structured data
Example of rich snippets in the food scene
rich cards
Example for Rich Cards in Google

Step 4: Check the potential of the keyword

If a quick look at the search results shows that it could be a keyword with weak to medium competition, then the next step is to check how profitable the keyword is. For this we need a tool for keyword research.

Paid tools are always more reliable than free tools. These usually also have a larger and more up-to-date keyword database. Below are some examples of online tools.

The following parameters are important:

  • The search volume shows you how many users search for your search term per month.
  • Cost per Click (CPC) stands for how much money advertisers pay on average for a click on an ad for this keyword. High click prices are an indicator of strong competition or for niches where high profits are possible.
  • Search trend: Defines whether the keyword has gained or lost importance in the past months.


UberSuggest shows you all the data you need for your keyword research. The user interface with all its key figures may seem confusing at first glance. But for our purposes you only need some numbers and functions:

Keyword-Tool Ubersuggest by neilpatel
The keyword tool "Ubersuggest" by Neil Patel

Meanwhile, UberSuggest can even analyze domains for your most profitable keywords and find out for which keywords your competition is optimized. More about this kind of keyword research later.

In the tab "Keyword ideas" you can see more suggestions for related keywords. The results are sorted by the amount of the search volume:

Keyword ideas in Ubersuggest
Ubersuggest shows you more keyword ideas.

Since these keyword ideas have a high search volume, you should also include them in your content. It seems that these topics are relevant for a large number of users. Write down the suggestions that are important for your business in your mind map. They later form the subheadings or topics in your content.

SEMrush (Free version)

From a personal perspective SEMrush my favorite tool. This is mainly due to the huge keyword database and the numerous data on websites and their traffic. The cheapest package costs 99.50 Euro per month. But what is not advertised anywhere is that SEMrush also offers free membership. For most operators of small websites this is completely sufficient.

Keyword overview semrush
My personal recommendation: the SEO tool SEMrush.

The gratismembership includes:

  • Limited access to almost all SEO tools (OnPage optimization etc.)
  • Viewing data such as search volume, CPC etc.
  • 10 results each for keywords of a domain or related search terms

Tip: Searches can be repeated as often as you like. With the right filters you will always get different results even in the Free Version, you just have to choose the right search criteria.

The "Keyword Wizard" is also useful. It suggests further related and relevant keywords including search volume. Already from the screenshot you can see how big the difference in keyword ideas is compared to a free tool:

Keyword ideas from semrush
The keyword wizard of SEMrush

Note down all relevant keywords in your mind map. Set yourself the goal of always writing the most detailed article on a topic that leaves no (!) questions unanswered. The result should be THE resource in the network, which is considered as an expert contribution to this topic. Such an article deserves the first place in the search results. That should be your claim.

Use Google Auto-Suggest as a keyword tool

By the way, the most powerful of all keyword research tools is right in front of our eyes the whole time - Google Search! Actually: The Auto-Suggest feature of the input mask. Although this tool does not provide any data on the search volume, the suggestions can certainly keep up with keyword research tools. Because many of these solutions are actually based on the Auto-Suggest feature.

This is the function that suggests additions to your search query:

  1. Open an incognito tab in a browser of your choice
  2. Go to
  3. If you don't want to sell a local service/product, make sure to block access to your site - to avoid local keyword suggestions.
  4. Enter your keyword and the letter "a" in the input mask
  5. Write down relevant suggestions for your keyword in your mind map
  6. Continue with the rest of the alphabet
Local Google Search
Blocking access to your location
Google autosuggest example
So to use Google's autosuggest as a keyword tool.

This process does take some time. But it has the advantage that you will only be shown relevant search terms which are often searched for by other people in the search engine. Which data is more reliable than the data provided by Google itself.

Usually there are a number of longtail or question keywords with weak competition, which can be implemented in the form of an FAQ (e.g. by Structured Data). This is a unique opportunity to display your answers directly in the search results.

Write down relevant keywords in your mind map for later use - once for the whole alphabet

Tip: By the way, this process can be transferred to other Google products (e.g. YouTube) to get more content ideas for other content types.

YouTube search autosuggest
Autocomplete function from YouTube

Tip 2: You can speed up this process by using paid tools like Hypersuggest to use. The tool works in the same way, but saves you valuable time. However, the free version only contains 20 results per query.

The paid tool "Hypersuggest" takes work off your shoulders.

Google Trends

At least when it comes to keywords with a high search volume (brands, products, films, celebrities) Google Trends a wonderful tool to investigate the popularity of a search query:

Google Trends Example
For keywords with high search volume Google Trends helps.

You can see from the statistics in the example that the interest is constant. In addition, under "Similar search queries" you will receive further keyword ideas for the search term. With a bit of luck, there are even proposals among them that have only become interesting in recent months. If your competitors haven't worked with it yet: Perfect!

The disadvantage of this method is that it often only works with popular search terms. And this with those that have a high search volume. For niches with low search volume, it is hardly possible to find relevant information.

BONUS: Identify keyword ideas based on the competition

This method of keyword research is unfortunately only used actively by a few companies. In my opinion it is the most effective way to get ideas for new traffic sources.

You absolutely need an online tool that is able to show you the rankings of your competitors. The larger the keyword database, the better the selection of suggestions.

I use SEMrush in the "Organic Research" tab. Of course you can also use the free traffic analyzer from UberSuggest.

Taking advantage of the laziness of the competition

The truth is: Hardly any site operator really knows which keywords he is ranking for. The most important tool, the search console by Google, is not actively used by most people. Of course, most operators know about the most important keywords and have clear ideas about which "big" keywords they want to rank. All the "smaller" search queries are quickly forgotten - or they are not even known.

Climate positive WordPress hosting

These are mostly keywords that are mentioned briefly by the competition or rank passively, but which do not find much meaning on the website. The beauty of these keywords is that the carelessness of your competition can be your biggest chance to build traffic.

Find out the rankings of the competition ("How to")

First enter the URLs of your competitors into a keyword tool of your choice. We are interested in positions 4 to 20, in the case shown from SEMrush. Of course, keyword ideas can also be found on the back placements. But it helps immensely to limit the number of possible positions at first:

SEMrush Alternative
Analyze keywords of the competition in SEMrush

At the same time, limit the search volume to avoid suggestions for keywords for which it is not worth creating content. That line is up to you. I personally start with a search volume of 200.

Tip: Play with the search filters. If you do not get any matching results, reduce the strictness of the search criteria. This way more results can be found.

Now search the results for topics that also apply to your keyword or service. Rate the ranking URL according to its content:

  • Is this a specially created URL for this search term? If yes: How good is the content on this topic? Are you in a position to create a better contact point for this topic?
  • Was the ranking URL optimized for a different keyword? If yes: Is the keyword on this URL treated extensively or at all?

Always keep the search intention in mind. If you find an interesting keyword that has received too little attention from the competition, then take a look at the search results. Perhaps there are other competitors who have done better. However, you can also use them for your competitive keyword research, which gives you access to more keyword ideas.

Basically, this process can be repeated endlessly:

  • This way you can use the competition of your competitors for your analysis.
  • If you are marketing a local service, it makes sense to take a look at other cities. So you can see how companies build up their traffic there.

Write down important keywords in your mind map or keep them in mind to create your own landing pages on this topic.

BONUS: Get keyword ideas from the Search Console

In the last section of this tutorial I would like to ask you to answer the following two questions honestly: "Do you know which keywords your website ranks for? And what keywords generate your traffic?"

If your answer is "No", call the Search Console immediately at on. If not done yet, verify your website and wait a few days.

search console
The performance of your website, as seen in the Google Search Console

Most website operators only focus on those keywords that have a high search volume. Or on keywords that they already optimize in the course of their search engine optimization. Thereby several websites build up rankings for further keywords. It is not uncommon for top URLs with hundreds of keywords to rank to one site - without the content having been optimized for these keywords. And all this quite passively. With a bit of luck you will find keywords here that also have a high search volume, but for which only the "optimal" content is missing.

Especially for those sites who are not yet able to rank to a main term, these keywords are a good start. To get first visitors and to lay the foundation for further rankings.

Under the menu item Performance you will get insights into the performance of your website in Google search. Hide clicks / CTR and show only the positions. At the end you site can determine how many results you want to display persite . Set this value to 500 and sort the positions by ascending rankings. As in the case of SEMrush you can focus on keywords for which your website is ranked above position 10. Then you loosen the search criteria.

Positionings Search Console
Positioning from the Search Console

Considered as an example: This website ranks on the topic "Vitiligo" (skin disease) for many keywords, although not even the appropriate content for these topics exists. Possibly you will find keywords with a high search volume here.

How much search volume is available for the term?

Unfortunately, Google does not display any data on search volume in the Search Console. Since Google no longer provides usable data in the Keyword Planner, you unfortunately can't avoid buying an SEO tool to read the search volume. Alternatively, you can enter the terms one by one in tools like Ubersuggest.

However, it is possible to export keywords from the Search Console to a table and then insert them into a low-cost SEO tool. The search volume of the entire list can be displayed there. For example by SERanking (Costs: about €5 / month).

  1. In the Search Console, under "Services", click on the "Export Data" icon
  2. Save the Excel file
  3. Insert the exported keywords in an SEO tool of your choice and query the respective search volume.
SERanking Keyword Research
Query the search volume of keywords with SERanking

Find worthwhile keywords

As in the previous step, you will now search for the following keywords:

  1. Which have a good search volume (>100)
  2. For which the first good rankings already exist
  3. that match the content of your website and that you think would make a great
    Complementing your portal would be
  4. Which are in line with your services or products or which could offer an entry into new interesting niches

Increase the ranking of your websites

Look closely at the content of each URL and be critical:

  • Is the topic being dealt with in detail?
  • Do I solve the problem of my visitors (keyword search intention)?
  • Do links from thematically matching sites ones go into this subpage?
  • Do you have to deal with the topic (keyword) more intensively? For example, regarding the length of text or the quality of questions that are answered in the article.
  • Should you link the topic (keyword) on your own website more?
  • Do other domains link to this subpage?

Step by step you can optimize the most important subpages and increase their visibility in Google & Co.

Tools that support you in keyword research

To conduct a successful keyword search, you need tools that give you keywords with their monthly search volume. And you need a way to structure the found keywords.

Free tools:

Paid tools:

Which tools do you prefer to use for your keyword research, and why?

Do you have questions about keyword research or the article? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to be informed about new blog posts on SEO and Online Marketing? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook , or subscribe to our newsletter.

Picture: Hasan Albari

What started as a passion has become Dominik's profession. Today, as a search engine optimizer, he advises companies from all over Germany in the implementation of OnPage & OffPage measures. Or implement them yourself. As a "young blogger" Dominik shares his knowledge about search engine optimization in his SEO blog.

Related articles

Comments on this article

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked with * .