Chapter 2

Keyword Research

"Keyword research is the blueprint for your online marketing efforts, driving every decision you make." - Neil Patel (SEO Expert & NYT Bestseller)

Let's Get Started!

Types of keywords

A common way to categorize keywords is by profitability, seen below in decreasing order.

Brand keywords

These are terms that immediately come to mind when someone thinks of your brand. “McDonalds”, “Mickey Ds”, and “Golden Arches” are examples of brand keywords related to McDonalds

Product/service keywords

These keywords relate to the products and/or services that you provide. They may refer to the product specifically or what the product accomplishes. As you can imagine, someone searching for hamburgers is less ready to purchase your product than someone searching McDonalds. These keywords often have a high CPC, but you want to go ahead and start building your rank for these. Identify long-tail keywords related to your products if you are having trouble ranking well.

Competitor keywords

What keywords relate to your competitors? Even though these will be difficult or undesirable keywords for organic SEO, take note of them. They can be useful in PPC campaigns if you have a specifically strong competitor.

Substitute product/service keywords

These keywords are close relatives of your products or services. If you sell snow cones, a milkshake would be a substitute product. These are difficult to rank well for organically, and since they are not immediately relevant to your product/service, they also have a high CPC. Nevertheless, make note of them as they may be useful to you over time.

Complementary product/service keywords

Are there product or services that go well with yours? If you sell toothpaste, a toothbrush would be an example of a complementary product. They may not immediately be what your target audience is searching for, but you may get some conversions in the process.

Audience keywords

This is the broadest keyword category of all. Think of your target audience and ask yourself what they might be searching for when they’re not searching for your product or service. These keywords are the least valuable and relevant of the bunch, but they are still worth considering and recording. During the process, you will may find keyword suggestions that you would not have discovered otherwise.

The right keywords = leads and sales.”

Kent LewisPresident and Founder of Anvil Media

Traffic quality matters.


The keywords that you use determines what kind of traffic your website will get, and more traffic does not always mean more conversions.

This is where the research part comes in…

Keyword Research Tools

Who are you trying to bring to your site? What would they type into a search bar if they needed your product or service? These kinds of questions are where you want to begin. Brainstorm. Get inside the head of your audience. Begin compiling your ideas into a keyword spreadsheet like this or create your own. Once that’s done, you can really begin the research process.

Google Autocomplete

A great place to start

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

The most robust free keyword tool available

Microsoft Bing Ad Intelligence

Do not forget about Bing. 24% of searches in the US begin on Bing


All of the major search engine’s autocomplete tools on one interface

Moz Keyword Explorer

The free version is limited, but still powerful


Ubereffective and complimentary to Google’s Keyword Planner

1) Google Autocomplete

You know how Google suggests searches to you while you’re typing in their search box? This is their autocomplete feature, and it has been helping searchers and SEO-specialists for years. Cumulatively, it is estimated that Google’s autocomplete saves searchers over 200 years of typing per day. Per. Day. This is best used as a brainstorming tool. Make sure to record what you find!

google autocomplete example keyword research

2) Google AdWords Keyword Planner

It’s time you met Google’s Keyword Planner. It is a staple in any keyword research plan, not only because of useful it is, but also because it is free to use. All you need to get started is a free Google Account. If you are a first time user, check out the next paragraph. For all other users, you can access Google’s Keyword Planner here.

ATTENTION FIRST TIME USERS: visit this website and follow the directions to avoid having to pay money to use Google AdWords. Google tries extremely hard to force first-time users to create and spend money on a ad.

google logo made from m&ms

Getting Started with Keyword Planner

The main menu of the Keyword Planner gives you two options to get started: find new keywords, and get search volume and forecasts.

For now, select “Find new keywords”.

keyword research google keyword planner


This page is where you can discover new keywords, filter them, and add them into organized lists. You can also learn a lot about keywords on this page. Compare them based on search volume, competition, and how much advertisers are paying to target them. If you click on a column, you can sort it (low to high, least relevant to most relevant, etc.).

To use:

  1. Set location, language, and search network
  2. Set date range (first time users, use default 12 month range)
  3. Type a keyword or collection of related keywords into search box
  4. Review, sort, filter, and organize search results (explained next)
adwords keyword planner dashboard
filters google adwords keyword research


You can use these to narrow down you search criteria. We encourage you to play around with the filters, and see how they shape the keyword ideas that are returned to you.

Organize Your Keyword Research

One of Keyword Planner’s best features is the ability to save and manage your keyword lists. You will develop your own organizational systems as you go along, but to start, we recommend categorizing them by product/service category, target market, messaging, etc.  

Work on instilling good organizational practices right away – you will thank yourself later when you have to sort through thousands of keywords. 

  1. Select a keyword by clicking the check box to the left
  2. Select “Adding to Ad Group 1”, opening a dropdown menu
  3. Select “Create Ad Group”, we suggest naming them in terms of product/service category, target audience, etc.
  4. Select “Broad Match”, opening a dropdown menu
  5. Select “Exact Match” for now, this will give you a conservative, reliable estimate of how much search traffic you can expect for that keyword

Evaluating Keywords

There are a number of ways to the value and commercial viability of keywords. Every SEO specialist brings their own school-of-thought to the table, and you will likely find articles that disagree with this assessment.

The thing is, every situation is different. Use this guide as a general rule-of-thumb for evaluating your keyword research. The important thing to remember is to track your performance over time. SEO is a marathon, and the ones who win the race are the ones who analyze performance and tweak their strategy accordingly.

Monthly search volume

High search volume is a decent indicator that a keyword is valuable. However, it also means that you will have trouble ranking highly for it organically. This is especially true for new websites. Instead of trying to rank well for “pants”, focus on building up your rank for long-tail keywords like “pants that are good for camping” or “slim acid-wash jeans”. They may have a lower search volume, but there is evidence that specific keywords are more valuable than general ones. Besides, high volume does not automatically make a keyword valuable. Competition can help us analyze that further.

Is your product or service seasonal? Search volume for Christmas will understandably be lower in July than in December. Pay attention to your date range so you can control for seasonal discrepancies.

cup of water


How many other advertisers are bidding on a keyword? If competition is high, it is generally assumed that the keyword has high commercial viability. Companies have fought for these keywords for a long time and have already done the research on which ones are the most profitable.

“Stand on the shoulders of giants”, as they say. 

chess king

Top of the page bid (low range & high range)

Here is another powerful tool for analyzing keyword value. This shows you how much advertisers are paying to appear at the top of search results. Generally speaking, the higher the bid, the more valuable the search traffic. Try filtering the data so that it only shows keywords above a certain bid amount.

ppc ad bid google
google adwords keyword planner ideas

Additional Tools:

The menu on the left side of Keyword Planner has Plan Overview, Ad Groups, Keywords, & Locations. Once you have one or ad groups created, you can use these pages to review, compare, analyze historical data on, and forecast them

Keyword Planner Tips & Tricks

Group Keyword Searches Categorically.

To keep your research focused, try to group the keywords in shared categories. For example, if you sell clothes, search for Keyword Ideas using keywords like “pants” and “trousers” together. Do a search for “shirts” and “blouses” separately.

Set Search Parameters.

Here is where you narrow down your Keyword Ideas so that they reflect your target demographics. You can select location and language above the Keyword Ideas search bar. Top-right, you can select the date range for the search results.

Organize Your Columns.

While I normally use the columns as they are, Google lets you add/, remove, and rearrange your columns. You can find the tool to do this on right hand side of the page by the filter button.

Download Keyword List.

You can easily download your keywords by pressing the “Download Keyword Ideas” button at the top of the page. This button appears once you begin selecting keywords.

3) Bing Ad Intelligence

Do not forget about Bing! Even if you do not use it, a good chunk of your customers might. As of July 2018, Bing accounted for 24.2% of all search queries in the US. Microsoft created free plugin that integrates with Excel that allows you to easily research and organize keywords. To get started with Bing, check out the links below. 

search engine market share 2018 pie graph keyword research

4) Soovle

Soovle is a free tool that combines the autocomplete results for a number of different search engines all into one interface. It is a great tool for planning and generating suggestions to help you flesh out your keyword list.

soovle keyword research links search engines

5) Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a free(ish) tool that allows you to analyze up to 10 queries per month. The results provide a number of helpful metrics such as “Difficulty”, “Opportunity”, and “Potential” to help you evaluate the viability of keywords. To access more queries and a number of other features, it will cost you $179 per month. They also have a 30-day free trial available here.

moz keyword research overview search engine optimizaiton

6) Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a keyword planning and research tool created by Neil Patel, an SEO  industry heavyweight. We highly recommend that you leverage this tool during your discovery process. It is a free, and it allows you to analyze an unlimited number of keywords. Use it alongside Google’s Keyword Planner, as they often provide different results.

keyword research neil patel seo
Chapter 3: On-Site Optimization