The Beginner's Guide To Keyword Research

By Chad DelMain

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What are keywords?

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Everyday, millions of people use Google to find what they're looking for. How do they do it? How do they know what to search?

Whether they’re aware of it or not, Google’s users enter what are known as keywords into the search box.

Here are some examples of possible searches:

  • duii attorney portland
  • dui lawyer near me
  • do I need an attorney for a dui?
  • what does a dui case lawyer cost?

Sometimes people use keywords for a specific type of business or service. Other times, they may phrase their search as a question they need a quick answer to.

When was the last time you visited a business because you found it on Google? Chances are you typed a keyword to find that business without even knowing it.

Keywords are simply words or phrases people regularly search for that describe your business or service.

If you’re able to figure out the keywords people search when researching your business and your industry, you can tailor your website's content to those keywords. This helps more potential customers see your business name and website when they're already actively searching for your goods or services:

But how do you learn which keywords people search when looking for your business? Keyword research.

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What is keyword research?

Keyword research is a crucial part of any effective digital marketing strategy. It’s how you learn what your potential customers are typing into search engines when they look for products or services like yours.

Keyword research is the first step towards improving your online visibility and growing the amount of traffic flowing your website.

But which keywords should your business be targeting?

Selecting Initial Keywords

Initial keywords are those we use to inform our deeper research into long-tail keywords and phrases. Long-tail keywords are used to target more niche markets and demographics, making them more specific and less competitive. They tend to offer both short-term and long-term benefits.

When researching and selecting initial keywords, you will identify possible words and phrases to use on your site to help it rank in search engines (like Google), as well as gain valuable insights into how your potential customers use Google and other search engines.

During initial keyword research, you’ll identify the demand and barrier to entry for a variety of broad keywords and phrases.

Pay close attention to monthly search volume and keyword difficulty.

These metrics can be found using these tools and tactics:

  • Spy on competitors using the Google Keyword Planner (free) or SEMrush (paid)

  • Gather a list of your products and/or services

  • Look at the current website structure as well as competitor’s sites

  • Use suggested search in search engines


There are a lot of great keyword research tools that exist around the web, including both paid and free options.

These are the tools we use on a daily basis when researching PPC keywords and optimizing website content:

  • Google Keyword Planner - The best free tool with an incredible number of features. We’ll take a deeper dive into this tool in the next section.

  • Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool - Get a better idea of a keyword’s competitiveness on a 1-100 scale. Also, compare and confirm search volume against the results provided by Google Keyword Planner. Moz requires a paid monthly subscription, but you can get a free 30 day trial.

  • Ubersuggest - Expand on a base keyword and find long tail variations and alternatives.

  • Keyword - Expand upon short tail keyword phrases to find related long tail phrases.

  • SEMrush - Spy on your competitors’ AdWords Ad copy, keywords, and organic keyword research. You’ll pay $70-$550/month, depending on the plan you need, but it can be well worth the money.

  • Keywordshitter - Compile negative keyword lists for your AdWords campaigns.

Navigating Google’s Keyword Planner

Google offers a variety of free tools many through their Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools). 

We’re going to focus on the Google Keyword Planner exclusively for this tutorial, which is found separate from those tools within Google AdWords.

Here’s how:

Go to Google Keyword Planner and sign in.

If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create an AdWords account-- don’t worry, it’s free.

You’ll have to create an initial AdWords campaign and set up billing information, but as long as you keep your initial campaign paused you won’t spend anything.

Choose the first option: Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category.

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Then enter your first set of keywords. Usually we start with a list provided by our clients including the keywords and phrases they would like to rank for and go from there.

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Choose the location you’d like to target – usually a specific city, state, region, or entire country.

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Start adding keywords to an AdGroup. Creating multiple AdGroups makes sorting keywords easier when you download your data. Once you’ve finished compiling your keyword AdGroups you can download your report by clicking on the Download Plan button to the left of the trash can icon.

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Tip: To discover additional relevant keywords, copy all the keywords that you’ve added to a particular AdGroup using the copy to clipboard option and paste them back into the search field.

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Now you’ll have more keywords for Google to give you additional ideas for. This works especially well when looking for opportunities to combine a keyword with a city (or other location).

If you keep seeing the same keyword in lots of queries, and it doesn’t relate to the business, add it as a negative keyword.

You can add it by clicking the down caret when the mouse is hovered over each keyword or you can add them manually by clicking on the negative keyword field under targeting.

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A difficulty filter under Keyword filters can help you find only LOW or MEDIUM competition keywords.

Beware, however, as you’ll miss out on the HIGH competition keywords that are getting more impressions.

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Investigate your competitors by copying a URL from their site and adding it to the landing page section found under the keyword input field.

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When You Need More Help to Get the Job Done

Sometimes tools don’t give you all answers. Here are a few additional tactics you can use to find new themed keyword ideas.

Live searches in Google

Act like your potential customers and start searching in the area you want to target.

Look at your competitors’ meta titles on the first and second results pages to see which keywords they’re ranking for. Then check out the suggested search area at the bottom of the search engine results page for more Google-approved keyword ideas.

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Read on-page content

If your website pages are live, read on-page content for new keyword ideas.

This is especially helpful if you’re working with a new industry you aren’t very familiar with. It’s a way to find industry specific keywords, synonyms of more common terms, and lesser known variations.

Don’t rule out misspellings

People don’t always use perfect spelling when they search in Google. In fact, trying to rank for keyword misspellings with high search volume is an opportunity your competitors may not be taking advantage of.

Look for common misspellings, other minor spelling variations, and European vs American spellings.

For example:

  • ‘attorney’ vs ‘atorney’

  • ‘white water rafting’ vs ‘whitewater rafting’

  • ‘jewelry’ vs ‘jewlry’ vs ‘jewellry’

  • ’color’ vs ‘colour’


Now that you’ve learned the importance of keyword research and have become a pro at navigating the Google keyword planner, you may ask yourself-- what’s next? 

Your keyword research can now help guide you on numerous digital marketing efforts. It can help you develop new content, rework old content, and even help you improve your entire website’s structure.

Once you have the keywords you’d like your website to rank for, it’s time to start optimizing your website. Check out this blog post on How to Optimize Any Website for SEO to learn more.

Questions About Keyword Research?

If you have any questions about keyword research or online marketing in general, leave them as a comment below or send us an email. We’re here to help!

Or if you’d like to learn even more about growing your business and getting more leads, sales, and conversions from your website, sign up for our free 9-step SEO training course. In it, we’ll teach you everything you need to know, from what to blog about to how to get the most out of social media. Plus much much more! Sign up today for free.

Chad DelMain


Chad DelMain has been with DelMain Analytics for over 2 years. Specializing in Organic SEO, Local SEO and PPC, Chad develops strategy, executes implementation and works closely with clients across all industries. Prior to working at DelMain Analytics, Chad was a junior digital marketer at Chi Evolution, an ecommerce company selling natural health products. A graduate of OSU, Chad can be found playing soccer and basketball, cheering on the trailblazers and hanging out with friends.

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