A Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research

A Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research

Marketing expert Kerry Sheahan shares her step-by-step guide to conducting keyword research using free and accessible tools

By Kerry Sheahan

Many businesses have had to cut costs in the last couple of months, and quite often this means restricting marketing budgets. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation - perhaps you’ve had to put your marketing agency on hold - there are still things you can do yourself to make sure the hard work from the past few years doesn't go to waste. 

SEO in particular is an area that’s important, and now is a good time to ensure that your website is in a good place when things start picking up again. In this guide, we’ll show you how to identify the keywords that can bring the most relevant traffic to your site, using only free and accessible tools. 

1. Value

First of all, you must consider where your most valuable products, pages or services are. There’s no point driving additional traffic to a product that’s low in stock, or a service that’s undermanned.

Secondly, look in Google Analytics at the pages driving the most traffic to your site. You can do this by going to Behaviour>Overview then see your pages listed by 'Page Views'. 

You can also find the best pages for conversions (Conversions>Goals>Overview). We’ll consider this later on when we’re presented with a variety of keyword options. 

2. Use Google Search Console

Log into Google Search Console and navigate your way to the Performance tab on the left-hand column. Set the data to the last three or six months. (If you don’t already have Google Search Console, set it up for free, here).

Filter out branded terms (on the basis that this exercise is about selecting keywords with the most value – you’re likely to get this traffic anyway, so we’re only going to go after unbranded opportunities). 

Add a new parameter by clicking the +New tab at the top, select the Query tab, then select “Query not containing” and type your company name. 

Remember to set your country to the right location – in this instance, the UK. Do this by clicking on “+New” again and selecting the “Country” option.

Export your data. Click on the download area near the bottom right-hand corner of your screen and hit Download CSV.

Open up your new Excel sheet. Order your impressions by largest first, by highlighting the column, hovering over the Sort & Filter icon in the menu and clicking “sort largest to smallest.” 

Now it’s time to filter your queries by position. Select the Position field, then click on the Sort & Filter icon. Click Filter. This should add a filter layer to your top headings.

Start by clicking on the downwards arrow within the Position tab, before hovering over Number Filters. Next, click Between, before entering your chosen values. The idea of this exercise is to select terms where just a little bit of effort could help you jump up a few places and see a really substantial jump in traffic, which is why we are going to pick terms that you are already on the latter half of page 1 for, or the first half of page 2.

You should be left with a revised set of data, ordered by highest impressions first, so you can see which keywords have a larger search volume.

Now head back over to Search Console and check which pages are ranking for the corresponding terms – those are the pages you want to focus on. Click on queries, then click on Pages and you will see the URL. 

3. Consider user intent

User intent is a really important part of keyword research – after all there’s no point chasing a term with a high volume if that person has no intention of buying your product or hiring your services. 

For example, the query “onsite optimisation” could be someone looking for onsite optimisation for their website, but it could just as easily be a student looking to learn more about the industry, or even a business owner learning about it to implement themselves. 

However, if you see the query “SEO Company Chelmsford”, this is much more specific, and more relevant – this individual is looking for an SEO company, based in a specific area. If you see a term like this in your results, it's worth spending more time on this term than "onsite optimisation" as it has more intent behind it and more value to you. 

4. Check keywords against Google Trends

Using Google Trends is a great way to make sure you’re picking keywords that not only work for you now, but in the future too. It shows you the popularity of a term over time, so you can make an educated assumption on the traffic this is likely to drive you.

Head to Google Trends, set your geographic location and preferred date range and enter your keyword. You can also compare keywords if you’re aiming to pick a priority phrase. 

5. Use keyword volume tools

There's an endless number of keyword research tools around, but Google provides its own free and accessible one, as part of Google Ads. Set up a free Google Ads account here, or if you’ve already got one, log in and click on “get search volume and forecasts.”

Enter the keywords you’d like to check into the box provided.

You will then be provided with some stats. Remember, this tool is geared towards its Ads offering, so much of the data you can ignore, but taking a look at the Impressions column can give you a good indication of how highly searched the term is. 

These steps should lead you to a well-balance handful of phrases that are most relevant to your business, most likely to convert, and have a high search volume. These are the terms you can begin optimising your website with, whether that means editing existing content or writing new blog posts about these terms.

About the Author: 

Kerry Sheahan is Head of Content & PR for FSE Digital, a marketing agency specialising in search across a range of channels including SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media, PR, email, as well as web design and development.