How To Do Keyword Research: A Simple & Effective Guide

By Dan DelMain


You want people to find what you write, right? Of course you do. No one wants their blog post or website to be sucked into the internet’s black hole. You can pay to promote your content, and you can push it out on social media, but wouldn’t it be great if people just stumbled on it by themselves?

That’s why you need to know how do keyword research. It’s a key part of SEO. You probably don’t just intuitively know what keywords to use in your content (unless you’re psychic, in which case I have some questions for you).

Once you know how to do keyword research, you’ll have an invaluable peek inside the skulls of internet users around the world. What are they searching for, and how often? What specific phrases do they use? Keyword research can tell you that thousands more people search for “whiten your teeth” than “whiten your smile,” so you know what to title your blog post. An optimized title can be the first step in getting you serious organic traffic. Keep reading and I’ll tell you how.

How To Do Keyword Research

There are several tools out there for keyword research: SEO Book, Word Tracker, and Keyword Tool, just to name a few. But for a free, quick, and efficient tool, we recommend the Google Keyword Planner (formerly known as Google Keyword Tool). Here’s how to use it.

1. Sign into Google (or your Gmail account). If you don’t have one, you can set up one up for free at

2. Go to

3. Select Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.

4. Type in the keyword you’d like to explore (e.g., whiten teeth), or type in a website whose keywords you want to see (e.g.,


5. Now you have four Targeting options.

  1. All locations: The default is traffic around the world. Change this to a particular city or state if you only want to see how often that location searches for something.

  2. All languages: If your target audience primarily speaks Spanish, for instance, you might want to research how often they search for your keyword. Note that the user must have set his or her Google interface language settings to Spanish. We recommend you leave the default.

  3. Google: Do you want to see the number of searches people make for your keyword in Google, or all search engines? We recommend leaving the default, Google, but you can also pick Google and search partners.

  4. Negative keywords: Use this if you want to exclude search volume for a certain word or phrase. For example, if you want to see how often people search for apple pie but not Apple the company, you might add in negative keywords like “iPhone,” “computer,” “Mac,” “Apple computers,” etc.

6. Whew. Hanging in there? Just a few more options to go to customize your keyword search:

  • Keyword filters: You can filter out searches that don’t meet a minimum search volume, or searches with high AdWords competition. But we recommend leaving these blank (the default).
  • Keyword options: Again, we recommend leaving these blank. But if you’re getting a bunch of results that have nothing to do with your target keyword, select Only show ideas closely related to my search terms. And if you work in the adult industry, you may want to select Show adult ideas.
  • Keywords to include: Once again, leave the default, unless you only want to see keywords with a specific word or phrase in them.

7. Click the blue Get ideas button at the bottom, which will take you to the dashboard:


8. You can ignore Competition, Ad impr. share, and Add to plan. Focus on Avg. monthly searches, Ad group, and Keywords.

  1. Ad group (by relevance) will show you bundles of themed keywords. This will give you an idea of your keyword options.

  2. Keywords groups related terms, giving you an idea of wording variations.

  3. Average monthly searches is how many times people everywhere (or in your target area, if you specified that before) search for a certain phrase. Anything over 1,000 is good to target. If the searches get too high, like in the millions, you probably can’t crack the first page of Google for it.

Now you’re ready to settle on some target keywords and keyword phrases!

How to Do Keyword Research: Choosing Target Keywords

So you’ve got a bunch of keywords and their variations, as well as keyword volume. You did the research, but how do you make sense of it? How do you turn Google Keyword Tool results into next steps?


  • Make sure the keyword phrases are relevant to your brand and target customer. If you’re an eco-friendly, holistic dentist, you don’t want to write about how to whiten teeth with harsh chemicals -- even if there is high search volume for that. (But you could write about how that’s a bad idea…)


  • Find the sweet spot of average monthly searches. The higher the searches, the greater website visibility potential and inbound traffic. If you have a newer website or have fewer than 20 posts, you may wish to look for traffic with under than 150 searches (more than this might be too competitive).


  • Note the competition, but don’t let it dictate what you do. Remember, the “Low,” “Medium,” and “High” competition refers to how competitive ads are for that phrase. Maybe everyone is buying ads for tooth whitening, but no one is blogging about it. Do some searches and see. In general, though, the lower the competition, the better your chance of ranking high up in the results.


  • Look at suggested bid for an idea of how desirable the visitor is. It will show how much the top advertiser is willing to bid to show their ad in results for a certain keyword. Typically, advertisers are willing to bid higher on keywords that produce a desirable outcome (like a sale or lead). So the higher the suggested bid, the more lucrative the visitor.


Here’s your formula for a good target keyword:

Relevant topic + high searches + low competition + high suggested bid


Now that you have a list of keywords to target, the next step is to create awesome content that is keyword optimized. Learn how in “How to write a SEO-focused blog post.”


Still have questions about how to do keyword research? Ask me in the comments. I promise to reply.

Dan DelMain has a history of helping businesses realize their potential through online marketing. Before developing DelMain Analytics, Dan DelMain managed the marketing department for an e-commerce company. He left that company to form DelMain Analytics in 2009, where he could share his digital marketing talents with multiple businesses. A graduate of University of San Francisco with a degree in International Business, Dan enjoys being active indoors and outdoors, traveling abroad and playing bagpipes.

Follow Dan on Google+Twitter, and LinkedIn.