How to Find Keywords

The first thing any good marketer needs to learn is keyword research. Some may say keywords are dead, but they’re wrong. Keywords are just as vital as ever, just not in the way that they used to be.

Back in 2003 using keywords meant stuffing your content full of them. It meant putting every possible variant into a meta keyword tag. Today, such tactics will only hurt your rankings. Instead, keyword research has become synonymous with customer research.

You want to find out how your potential customers, readers, and viewers are searching for your industry. Understanding which keywords to use is a matter of understanding the intent of the searcher who uses them.

That’s why I’ve put together this short guide on how I research keywords for new articles and content.

Initial Planning

To start with, you’ll need to think of a few general keywords yourself. Nothing too specific, just some general terms related to your topic.

For example, I came up with ‘keyword research,’ ‘finding keywords,’ and ‘best keywords.’

Next, head over to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Plug in your keyword ideas and separate them by line or with commas. Make sure to click “Keywords Filter” and turn on, “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”

search for initial ideas

Click ‘Get Ideas’ and sort the keyword groups in the next menu by traffic. Add the ones that relate to your content topic. Of course, avoid high competition ideas.

get keyword ideas

Because I’m looking for terms related to research, I skipped terms like ‘best keywords’. There’s no such thing and it relates more to tools and software. The others I skipped don’t seem to relate what I’m writing about either.

Once you’ve added all your keyword groups click on “Review Forecasts.”

review forecasts

On the next screen, give yourself an imaginary infinite budget. You’ll see what will get the highest amount of traffic regardless of price. Delete the irrelevant stuff and anything that projects zero clicks.

delete irrelevant keywords

I removed the terms with PPC, service and software in them because those do not relate to the goal of the article.

Next, download what you have left to an excel spreadsheet for Google Drive. If you want, include click, impressions, and other forecasts. You can use this to focus on certain keywords in the next step.

download keyword list

Delete any extra columns until you have, at most, ‘Keyword’ and Estimated ‘Clicks.’

Remember, the point of this is to find the most common wording that resonates with the most people. We want to understand what people are thinking when they’re doing a search. The extra data won’t help us do that.

delete extra columns

What’s Trending?

Once you have your initial keywords, start plugging them into Google Trends. The idea is to see how the keyword is doing.

Make note of this in your spreadsheet. Create a column called ‘Trend’ and classify how the keyword trends look. You can use words like stable, down, and up. If you see anything with major spikes recently you might use hot and cold.

whats trending

From your results, choose what you think is OK to keep and what isn’t. We still have more research to do, so only delete the obvious stuff.

I chose to get rid of anything that I labeled cold (huge drops) and doesn’t have enough traffic to analyze. I kept the words that are on a downtrend.

delete untrending keywords

Social Search

With what’s left search for your terms on Topsy, Quora, Reddit, and Yahoo Answers. If you know of any industry specific social networks such as Inbound, Stack Exchange, or Hacker News, make sure to try them too.

You’re looking for how people are using these terms on those networks. Create columns in your spreadsheet that signal how people use them.

For example, with my results, I chose to delete a large amount of my keywords. People use many of them to find keyword software.

One of them related more to Facebooks new search tool than keywords themselves.

delete keywords base on user intent

With what’s leftover people use them to ask how to research keywords across social networks.

Search Engine Research

For the last step, head over to Start Page. This website will take your search queries and return results from Google.

Start page will encrypt your search and ignore your Google account. This means you won’t get any personalized search results.

Search for your remaining keywords and take note of the top three results on each. Do the results reflect how people are using them?

top search results

For example, I decided that my primary keyword for this article should be ‘how to find keywords.’ I came to this decision based on two facts.

  1. People use it across all social networks to find out how to research keywords.
  2. One of the top results is a tool that doesn’t meet the intent of the user.

final choice

I also took note of two websites that were showing up in the top three for every remaining keyword. Not that I’ll be outranking either one anytime soon.

The MOZ article (and other sites on the first page of these searches) may be worth targeting for backlinks.

For that, make sure to check out my guide on creating backlinks. Of course, once you’re finished with your article, make sure you do these twelve things after you publish.


Researching keywords doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t need to pay for any fancy tools to understand how people are searching.

Nor are keywords an end all be all. You don’t need to use them exactly at every chance. Just get close and make sure you know what people are thinking when they type in each term.

If you found this helpful, please share and comment. I appreciate hearing from you, no matter your preferred method.

Also, don’t forget to sign-up for the newsletter to get updates on new posts and my thinking behind each one.

  • Gates S.

    I started following your posts recently and you’ve been giving cool tips. Thanks once again.

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