SEO Keyword Research

keyword research dictionary

SEO Keyword Research

Guide to SEO Keyword Research

Many of the SEO pundits out there are contending that ‘keywords are dead’ but that’s not quite right. The search engines are getting smarter and more semantic about how they handle content and what’s it about, but the keyword is alive and well. Perhaps it’s better to think about keywords as simply the subject of what your article will be about.

Why SEO Keyword Research is so Important

We help a lot of businesses perform better across all aspects of digital marketing but when it comes to WordPress, a whole lot of our work is centered around SEO. I guess part of this has to do with WordPress being such a historically great platform for SEO. Many website owners expect immediate returns and when they don’t get it, they turn to us.

However, one of the most common mistakes beyond the technical, is a lack of vision for the content, particularly as it relates to SEO. The first thing you need to have a successful blog is great content and the second is an audience. It may seem like a chicken and the egg type problem, but unless you think about the audience first, they will never find your great content.

We use keyword research to put the chicken first (or is it the egg). We try to make sure that our content roadmap includes a balance of articles that are useful to our target demographic, articles that reinforce why we’re a great agency to work with, and a healthy does of content that we know our target demographic is looking for.

Please note, that this is different than what they need, different perhaps than the services you offer, but it is something that they will be seeking more information on. That’s where keyword research comes in.

Why Conduct Keyword Research

Making keyword research part of your blogging process allows you to step back and think about the user first. This will help your blog performance in many ways. One is the creative. If you know what you’re writing about and to whom, you are half the way to great content. Putting the user first and understanding their language and their pain points, helps you better understand your potential clients.

Let’s consider an accountant’s blog for a second. An accountant could blog about an obscure new tax nuance that might be hugely advantageous for many in her target demographic to utilize. For example, you can write off the expenses of moving a pet if you are relocating for a new job. That could make a great article, but no one knows about it so no one is searching for it. Think about the kind of information people are searching for.

The simple fact of the matter is that most blogs we see, skip this step, which may, in fact, be the most important.

Paid SEO Keyword Research Tools?

There are a lot of expensive services for conducting Keyword Research and we use a lot of them internally, but most don’t make sense except for agency use. I will list of few of them here though as they often run free trials or have some free tools and many have very good free blog content.

  • SEM Rush This toolset is expensive but I really like it and they are constantly adding new features.
  • MOZ Decent tool set but they maintain an awesome blog. Well worth the read with many technical walkthrough guides.
  • SpyFu SpyFu maintains a free tool that does basic keyword analysis of your site or even better, use it on your competitors.

How do you do SEO Keyword Research?

So let’s assume that buying an expensive tool and then learning to leverage it isn’t in your wheelhouse. Luckily there is a lot of ground to be covered by a combination of free tools and intuition.

Search Terms Already Driving Traffic to your Site

One of the most overlooked but most fruitful places to look for keywords is to search for keywords that are already driving traffic to your site. It used to be that you could easily see this in Google Analytics but with increased privacy concerns this aspect of Google Analytics is pretty much useless now.

However, there’s an even better resource for determining great ranking keywords if you have Google Search Console set up. If you don’t, it’s well worth the effort. You should be able to do it yourself. All you have to do is prove to Google you have control over your site and they provide about 6 ways to do it.

Once you’re in, go to the Search Traffic -> Search Analytics report. The report will default to clicks, but select impressions and average position and you’ll get something that looks like this.

Search Analytics Report

The key is to look for search terms that are already driving traffic to your site, but that you do not have optimized content for and that have a large number of impressions. You want to look for keywords below 6 that you can increase to the 4-6 range or keywords in the 4-6 range that you can get into the top 3 spots.

In the data above from my website, the first four search terms are brand terms and have very good positioning. It looks like we could work to improve number 5 which has some volume and some room for improvement.

How to Find New Keywords

Existing keywords are great for sites that are already getting traffic and for fine tuning your existing content, but the most ground can be gained by finding new keywords to focus on.

The most recommended free tool for this is Google’s own Keyword Planner. It’s highly focused on Adwords and the volume metric should largely be ignored, but it’s a great tool nonetheless. It allows you to expand to additional keywords if you have a small list to start from. You can also put in a competitor’s site and see what keywords the tool suggests for them. The estimated cpc can give you a good idea of the competitive landscape for a keyword as well.

Another useful tool is Google Trends. This tool is super useful to see if a keyword is gaining or waning in popularity. You can also see interesting seasonal trends as you can see from the chart below.

Seasonal Google Trends Data

Zero Moment of Truth Keywords

The Zero Moment of Truth refers to some well trod but still valid marketing ideas from brick and mortar grocery. The basic idea is that there are three times when a customer’s mind can be influenced about a product:

  1. When the customer first sees the product on the shelf.
  2. When the customer first tries the product.
  3. When the customer interacts with others about the product.


The Zero Moment of Truth happens before all of that. It happens before the customer even knows there is a product or possible solution to their problem or area of interest. Someone goes to Google and types: How do you get red wine stains out of a white shirt?

That’s our Zero Moment of Truth. The searcher hasn’t yet identified their solution, they are just researching the problem and it’s an excellent place to concentrate your SEO efforts.

So how can you identify those keyword phrases? I like to use Quora or other relevant forums where regular folks can ask their questions. Below, you can see how I started to type my question and got ideas for several more.

Quora Query for Red Wine


Keyword research is a key and often overlooked step by bloggers and writers throughout the internet. And while, the strict concept of keywords is slowly losing importance, this part of the critical writing process is not. Utilizing these processes, gives you a chance to step back and really think about your audience while also helping you get found. Good Luck!

Jason Matson

Prior to founding Matson Consulting Group, Jason ran the operations of one of the mid-Atlantic's most successful ecommerce companies. Now he brings that expertise to SMBs throughout the world. Jason has an MBA in Entrepreneurship from Drexel University’s Lebow School of Business and degrees in Physics and Philosophy.