The Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Research Part 1: What are Keywords and How do we Find the Best Performing Phrases?


Think about the number of times in an average day that you pick up your phone or open your web browser and run a Google search.

Perhaps to research a work project, browse for a new pair of jeans, check the football results, or even trying to settle an argument over whether it’s possible to sneeze with your eyes open.

The default option for almost every question begins with a Google search.

Every single day, we unknowingly enter phrases that reflect a specified question we’re trying to answer. 

Search engines like Google and Bing thrive on this. They hone their results according to the particulars of content we’re looking for.

From a business perspective, we also want to know what keywords people are using when they search. That way, we can improve content for our audience and optimise it for multiple phrases.

This is why keyword research is so important.

What is keyword Research?

In order to rank highly in search results and ensure our content is displayed to searchers, we need to ensure we’re using similar keywords in our content to the ones people use in their search queries. 

Matching searcher language to be discovered

When we match searcher language, we increase the chance of our content being found.

Keyword research can take time to perfect. But, once you’ve tailored your on-page SEO around the right keywords, you’ll be able to sit back and watch. Your website will start to be discovered for those very phrases in Google.

The more keywords you get discovered for, the more traffic you are likely to obtain.

What are Keywords?

When a searcher enters a word or phrase into a search engine, this is called a ‘search query.’

This search query results in a list of thousands of websites with relevant content – known as search engine results pages (SERPs). This list is ranked in order of relevance to the query.

The words or phrases used in user queries are called ‘keywords’. 

Therefore, you want to include keywords on your pages to be relevant to phrases people use. The closer you are, the better chance that your content will appear in search results. 

Why are Keywords Important?

Keyword magnets between searches and content

Keywords are the magnet which lies between what people are searching for and the content you’re creating which fulfils that need

The art of SEO is the process of ranking well on search engines to drive organic traffic to your website. This means that a key part of SEO is all about keywords. 

Creating relevant content for keywords

To create content that ranks well organically and drives visitors to your site, you need to understand the language they’re using, as well as their intentions.

For example: If someone types in ‘drumming lessons’, then they likely want to see content which is related to ‘drumming’. You can infer that they want to see related content on ‘drumming lessons’. As well as advice on what to do to ‘start learning the drums straight away’. 

Content which fulfils these search needs, is engaging, entertains and is properly optimised for keywords is the holy grail of content.

Holy grail of content

But before you create amazing content, perfectly tailored for your audience, you need to do your own keyword research. 

Keyword research will enable you to understand which words and phrases work for your industry. It will also indicate to you what kind of content will engage best with your industry’s audience.

A Note On Getting Started With Keyword Research

Before beginning keyword research, it’s important to touch upon the relationship between your keywords and your content. 

Many years ago, to rank high was a simple process. You would update your website with lots of relevant keywords to increase your rank. 

However, this led to a surge in black-hat marketers. They would stuff their articles with as many keywords as possible in order to rank highly on Google.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case.

Keywords are still important, but search engines now more sophisticated. They understand that high instances of a keyword doesn’t necessarily equate to helpful or relevant content.

And so, to have the best shot at success, you need to focus on relevant content creation. Content which answers exactly what your audience has looked for, that’s also optimised with keywords. 

content for on and off-page optimisation

In addition, you need to optimise your content for both on-page and off-page ranking factors. 

Ideally, this will form part of an overall content marketing strategy. 

Use your keyword research as a basis to guide the keywords you are using. But also, to understand what content your searchers are likely to be interested in. Then make sure you’re including the right keywords within that targeted content so that they can discover it. 

In other words: Use keywords to support great content, don’t just create crap with lots of keywords.

Getting Started…With Niche Topics

Niche topics are search phrases that your target customer is interested in. But they have lower search competitiveness, which means a higher rank is easier to obtain.

Let’s take a look at an example of niche topics. 

golf club salesperson researching topics

Say you were in the business of selling golf clubs. Your prospective customer may also be looking for topics such as: 

  •  How to improve a slice shot
  •  PGA highlights
  •  Nutrition for golfers
  •  Tips to make bogey

If you can rank highly for these, you’ll improve your overall search result rankings for more obvious keywords such as ‘golf clubs uk’. 

The more smaller subjects you rank for, the better chance you have to fight for more competitive keywords later down the line. 

Identifying Niche Keyword Topics

Here are some ways to help you identify niche topics for your business:

1. Forums

Many of your potential customers hang out on interest group forums like Reddit and Quora, and social media groups. These places are free, personalised focus groups, available to you at any time.

These interest groups often contain niche topics, pain points or hidden opportunities that you can use in your keyword research. They are vital to uncover the wants and needs of your audience.

2. Wikipedia

Wikipedia is an often-overlooked goldmine for niche keyword research. 

It’s the only place when you can find overviews on a diverse range of topics. Topics that are curated by thousands of industry experts and then organised neatly into little categories. 

Wikipedia as gold mine

To find your niches, go to Wikipedia and look at your brand’s central topic (i.e. golf). Then take a look at the contents section. Here, you will find a list of niche topics related to your business. 

Click on any links to the main articles for a more in-depth look. These will have their own contents sections for you to explore.

For example, if you go to a golf page on Wikipedia and click on ‘professional golf’. This leads to the ‘professional golfer’ page. You might find a great opportunity to talk about a ‘golfing legend’ that no one has covered before. 

3. Using Longer-Tailed Keywords

Using long-tail keywords is another great way to find your niche topics.

Short-tail keywords are broader in their description and have higher search volumes, e.g. golf clubs.

Long-tail keywords are more specific, but have less search volume, e.g. golf clubs for short people.

long-tail keywords

But with lower search volume comes less competition. 

If you rank highly for these terms, you’ll increase your domain strength. Which makes it easier for you to rank for the more competitive search terms in the future. 

You will also target a more specific group of searchers. These people have a genuine interest in your brand’s niche. This could mean you reach new searchers. Or find potential customers who are more likely to convert in the future.

Choosing The Correct Keywords

To choose the right keywords to focus your content on is tricky. Especially as there are several factors that come into play. 

For example, imagine you’re an online grocery store that specialises in organic food.

You may write a blog post about the benefits of organic coffee. 

organic coffee keywords

However, you wouldn’t focus on the keyword ‘coffee’ as it’s too broad. 

Likewise, the long-tail keyword, ‘health benefits of organic coffee’ might be specific enough without loads of competition. Which means an article on this subject is likely to rank higher.

It's about focus

To choose the right keywords you need to focus on your area. You can then exploit lots of subtopics which are relevant to that area.

When you build up lots of pieces of content around a key area (e.g. organic coffee) over time, you acquire lots of smaller sets of traffic.

Read on to part 2 of my keyword research guide to find out how to distinguish the most valuable keywords from the lowest converters.

Discover the most relevant and effective keywords for your brand. 

About Murray Dare

Murray Dare is a Marketing Consultant, Strategist and Director at Dare Media. Murray helps UK businesses find better ways to connect with their audiences through targeted content marketing strategies.