7 SEO keyword research steps for successful organic search
Keyword research is the lifeblood of search engine optimization (SEO). The question is, how deep should this keyword research be? By taking your time and doing thorough keyword research, your SEO strategy will be evidence-based and have the best chance of success. Here is our detailed seven-step process for SEO keyword research.
1. Understand the business: First, you need to understand the company and the industry it operates in from an insider’s perspective. Who are the biggest competitors? What products are essential for success? What trophy keywords does management aspire to rank for?
2. Analyze the site: Take the time to thoroughly analyze the site as well as the competing sites. Check the wording used and how it compares to the wording of competitors.
3. Create a seed list: This list of keyword seeds is a starting point for your keyword research. Basically, a keyword seed is a single word that can be found within a larger keyword phrase. For example, for a perfume company, “floral” could be a keyword seed for the phrase “floral fragrance for women”. The starting list of keyword ideas will be your concrete for the foundation on which you base your SEO strategy.
Start the seed list by typing in all of the term combinations you want to rank for. Include phrases in your notes on competitive analysis and in-depth crawling of your site. For e-commerce sites, it’s a great idea to write down all of the navigation links and some descriptors. These words will be your seeds, as shown below. Put all your seeds in a spreadsheet organized by categories in different columns.
4. Combine the seeds for potential keyword phrases: Once your seeds are organized and you’ve exhausted the initial brainstorming and analysis session, use a tool like Mergewords to combine the columns all over the place (this makes sense). Different variations of merged columns will return phrases that most likely have a keyword value. Decide which columns to merge by writing or typing them.
Combine at least two columns together, but combining three columns will be useful for putting together long tail keywords. Copy all the row combinations from your spreadsheet into each of the three boxes in Mergewords, then click “Merge” to return a nice list of merged phrases. In the example below, Column A and Column B combine to create 35 phrases that may or may not have a keyword value.
Combining these columns, as shown below, can quickly produce hundreds or even thousands of keyword possibilities.
Copy the merged phrases to a new column in the Seeds spreadsheet. Once all of the possible column combinations have been merged as shown below, you are ready to move on to the next step.
5. Enter the merged seeds into Google Keyword Planner: Use Google Ads to turn your merged keyword seeds into digital keyword data.
- Click on the “Tools and Settings” wrench symbol.
- Under “Planning”, select “Keyword Planner”.
- Once there, choose “Discover New Keywords” to access the tool where you can transfer your merged seeds into keyword data.
- Now open both your spreadsheet seedlist and Google’s keyword planner, ideally on two screens.
- You’ll copy 10 of your merged seeds (the new column you added to your seed list after you merged your seed columns) into Google Keyword Planner at a time. This is the maximum number of keyword ideas you can enter. Click “Get Results” and Google Keyword Planner will show you the data in a graphical trend line for the past year. Below you can preview the data and keywords that appeared based on your seeds.
- You can broaden your keyword query by adding one of the suggestions at the top of the chart. Use the filters provided to you in the right panel to include or exclude certain keyword ideas based on the 10 you have inserted into the tool. These selected filters will ensure that what Google Keyword Planner appears is more closely aligned with your targeted SEO keywords. The results will automatically refresh based on the inclusions or exclusions you selected.
- In order to use this data, you will need to find the blue arrow in the upper right corner of the screen and click to download the keyword ideas as a .csv file.
Once you have uploaded the data, you will see that Google Keyword Planner is “preparing the report”. Then it says “download report” at the bottom of your screen. The download will go to your downloads folder.
- Rinse and repeat for the rest of your seed list. Select 10 seeds at a time (Excel gives you a nice count at the bottom of your screen). Once you highlight the merged column in the seed list, you can easily see how many cells you have selected and copy 10 each time. Personally, I bold these 10 merged seeds after copying them to Google Keyword Planner, with the handy ctrl B shortcut after copying, getting results, and downloading the .csv file.
This process can get tedious with thousands of seeds, and the worst thing is losing your spot. Do not panic ; keep on going. I promise the results will be worth it. Put on some soothing music or listen to a relaxing podcast and tune in. Once you’re in the game, you should be able to grab over 2,000 per hour.
Yes, you may notice that it takes some time to complete this critical step, but the resulting data is of immeasurable value to your SEO strategy. Once you have completed this vital fifth step of the SEO keyword research process, you will be much closer to having all possible keywords at your disposal with rich data behind them to support your organic search strategy. .
6. Merge all .csv files into one worksheet: You’re almost there! Now you potentially have hundreds of .csv files in your download folder. Use this PC trick to merge all your files into one.
Go to File Explorer and copy all of these downloads. They all start with “Keyword Statistics”.
Create a new folder on your C drive called “merge” and paste all the .csv files into it.
Rather than manually copying and merging each worksheet into one – you would be doing this for hours with a high risk of errors – use this old-fashioned command line merge hack, a trick that will save you money. time.
- Go to the Windows Start menu, type “Run” and press Enter to launch the command prompt.
- c: Windows System32 cmd.exe will appear. Click on OK. A black box will appear on your screen.
- Enter the following after C: Windows System32>CD merge Hit enter. This changes the directory – CD to “change directory” – to the new “merge” directory you just created.
- Then C: merge>copy * .csv merge.csv. Hit enter. This tells the system to copy all of the .csv files from the “merge” folder into a single new file called merge.csv.
You can find the new merged file in the merge folder. Click to open this .csv file. This, finally, is your keyword research spreadsheet.
7. Clean up keyword research excel worksheet: Now that you have your keyword research, isn’t that nice?
Well, let’s clean it up quickly. Save the .csv file as an Excel workbook. I highly recommend keeping it in Excel format for less headache and hassle.
- Start cleaning the data by going to cell B4 and freeze the panes.
- Then add a filter to row 3. Select the entire row and click “Sort and filter”, then “Filter”.
- Sort the worksheet by “Avg. Monthly Searches” in Column C, choosing “Largest to Smallest”.
- Remove keyword separators – these are the header lines of all merged .csv files. Filter column A by selecting “Text filters”, then “Contains” and typing “keyword”. Delete these lines. Clear the filter from column A.
- Repeat this process by typing in the name of the “month” where you uploaded the keyword data. Delete these rows as well, then remove the filter from column A.
- Since you have merged so many .csv files, probably many duplicate keywords appeared in more than one file. Deduplicate column A by going to “Data” then “Remove duplicates”. Deselect everything outside of column A. This step will remove all duplicate keywords.
- Define an additional filter in column C to remove “empty” and “0” monthly searches by accessing the filter on Avg. monthly searches and unchecking those boxes.
- Finally, for an even more comprehensive keyword data bundle, add another column to the left of column A where your keywords are located. You can manually go line by line and mark the relevance of each keyword by tagging them with yes, no, or maybe. Filter out the no’s in this column and you’ll end up with some relevant keywords.
After completing these seven steps, you now have tons of SEO keyword data at your fingertips. This keyword research will be helpful in optimizing all the essential pieces of the SEO puzzle, including title tags, meta descriptions, H1 headers, each page content, and blog optimization. It becomes the basis of everything you do for your SEO strategy.
But keyword research can also be used by many more teams to strengthen their strategies. After all, keyword research is a glimpse into the things real people care enough about to search for. You’ll want to share the data with your paid search counterparts who handle Google ads, the social media team, your copywriters, and just about everyone in marketing. You’ve spent a lot of time compiling this golden treasure hunt for clients – share the wealth.