Keyword research–a term that makes some content writers lose sleep. It’s an arduous, tedious, and delicate task that requires you to exhaust all available options before choosing the right one.

How exactly should you start? There are quite a few methods of keyword research that should be used in tandem before writing–but let’s go over a few rules first.

Don’t Automatically Target The Highest Volume Keywords

A lot of keyword research tools will give you the search volume for any given keyword. In crowded industries, some of the higher volume searches will be nearly impossible to rank for organically when you’re writing for a small business or a startup. While it may make sense to you to go after that highly-coveted one-word holy grail, it’s not always the smartest strategy. Dominate some medium-to-low volume keywords first and slowly build momentum that way.

Keywords Aren’t Always One Word

In fact, they’re usually not. Increasingly more common now are keyphrases, or even key questions. Google’s algorithm works more conversationally than ever, which means you need to figure out what phrases users are searching for and answer the questions they have rather than just throwing certain words into a blog and hoping it ranks.

Useful Content Is More Important Than The Keyword You’re Targeting

Once you identify a keyword, you’re set to start writing, but you should fight the urge to shoehorn your chosen keyword into every other sentence. Google is incredibly smart, and is able to pick up what our blog is about without needing to see your keyword indiscriminately spattered over the entire page. Work it in where it makes sense and where you need to, but don’t go too crazy with it.

Methods of Keyword Research

Now that we’ve got the ground rules covered, it’s time to learn about the different ways you can zero in on the keywords and phrases that you should be targeting.

Google AutoComplete

Google AutoFill

Start at the source. The Google AutoComplete feature is a quick and easy way to begin. Simply type in words, questions, and phrases related to your industry and see what Google comes up with for suggested searches. The highly advanced algorithm knows what people are searching for, and is a good gauge for a broad range of topics that can give you a starting point. The more words you type, the more granular it gets–be careful though, as a lot of these search topics are the ones that tend to have higher search volume and can be highly competitive. This should be used mostly as a baseline.

Competitor Websites

Everyone has competitors. Use them to your advantage. See which businesses rank near the top for the keywords you think you’d want to target, and take note of how they went about their content. If they’re an established business with a long history, it might be difficult to supplant them in the rankings, but it’s a great way to understand how others in your industry are attacking the same problem you’re facing. Are their blogs question and answer based? Do they have lists? What are the titles of their blogs? Look for every detail possible.

Answer The Public is a fantastic free keyword research tool that works best with 1-2 word keywords–such as “web design”. It gives you iterations of your keyword with questions or prompts (how web design affects user experience), prepositions (website design with SEO), and comparisons (website design vs website development). You can click on each suggestion to be taken to a Google search for it, and at the bottom of the page is an alphabetical list containing all possible variations of your keyword.

Many of the suggestions provided aren’t great, but take some time to sift through them and you might come up with a few gems.

Paid Keyword Research Tools


Many keyword research tools have a free version, but they’re stripped down and not of much use. If you’re serious about ranking your website, you’ll want to shell out the money to use an upgraded paid version of a tool like Ubersuggest, ahrefs, Moz, or SEMRush. Many of these will show keywords competitors rank for, monthly search volume, ranking difficulty, similar keywords to yours, and even content ideas for your keyword.

Before you sit down and start writing, do your keyword research the right way–or contact us to have our SEO team do it for you!