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step by step example on how to do keyword research

Chapter 5

#SEOAudit  #Process

If you read through the previous chapters, you would have all the knowledge you need to do a word class keyword research, exactly how we do it in our agency.

Now, I’m going to take a real website and walk you through the process on how I do keyword research for my clients.

From A to Z, instead of storming you with dozens of tools, I’m going to show you only the tools I use on a daily basis.

I will be skipping over the details and go through fast if you somehow confused.

refer back to the previous chapters to read more about each topic.

having done our research part, we now have two prime ingredients, a list of opportunities and a persona-driven keyword research.

Now we know a lot, we know what our customer wants, need, likes, and what they are doing online. Let put that insight into use.

I will be working on a live site that sells water filters in Australia, this is one of my dearest clients, and he gladly accepted to use this website in my example.

My client sells water filters and him just a SMEs who were just starting out. Our primary goal is to rank him on the first page of google so that he can get some of that traffic pie.

As any SEO project, the first thing you would start with is the keyword research.

The website in question is (

Step 1: Researching the services/products

Personally, I got no clue at this stage what my client selling, I asked them to explain to me first what they were selling and why it’s different, all these types of questions are usually asked in the first round of meeting. Here is my list of questions that I always start with

  • What products are we selling? what are they, how they look like, who might need it, what problem is solved.
  • what is the value of those products to the consumers? Is it B2C is it B2B?
  • how they measure conversions? Other than selling directly? What are the goals set by google analytics?
  • what do you know about your target audience? Age? Any little tiny info the client might know.
  • what are the business goals in 1 year? Ten years?

Most of the client know how to answer all these questions, but some are clueless. In that case, we need a proper marketing research to cover in depth all aspects of consumers behaviors, likes, and needs.

Once I gather all that info, I will write down bullet point, you can think of it as an open investigation. We want to know everything about what we are selling, even more than the business owners know.

If there is a website, I would jump in and start hunting for keywords, believe it or not, the best source of keywords is in the content built by your competitors.

After that, I will find top 5 competitors and research their websites for keywords as well. In my case, I found three major competitors that dominating the search results when it comes to alkaline water filters.

By doing so, we now have more understanding of what we offer, and what keywords we might use. But we not there yet.

Step 2: Building Personas (Understanding the consumer mentality)

Knowing the products/services and the business perspective, or what the competitor was doing is only part of the pie. Now we need to reverse it

How about the consumers? What can we squeeze from them?

Here is a list of question I always start with

1- who is my target audience?

2- If I can imagine one person who loves to buy that product, who he/she might be? (Visualize them in details)

3- what channel do they use most to find that type of the goods/services?

4- how they make the first contact? What can cause a good impression to capture them?

5- what they write on google to find me?

6- how they buy? Do they buy online? What shipping method they prefer?

To build up personas, we need to dig in into how they search, especially indirect keywords.

Before we do that, let find out the intent.

There is two intent here

  • those who want to buy alkaline filter online, they already know the benefits of alkaline water and want a good provider that they trust to deliver fast and at an affordable price.
  • the second intent, those who never heard of alkaline water filters, and just looking for water filters to purify water.

Let’s divide them into two group

Group A (people who want to buy alkaline water filters NOW, they want it cheap, easy to deliver and affordable).

Keyword they might use?

Alkaline water filters, alkaline water provider, alkaline diet, alkaline water bottle near me, alkaline filter cartridge, alkaline filters for shower, alkaline filters for refrigerators, alkaline filter for sink, alkaline water system for all house.

as you can see, this group know or used alkaline water before, that group are more likely to buy and skip the intro part, they already convinced they just need convenient solutions.

what could affect their decision is the following:

1- easy to read landing page, a clear CTA and to the point

2- price

3- Quality of the service, reviews greatly help, testimonials, etc

4- additional benefits, a free stuff, or any incentives.

that group has less attention span, they just want to get this task done and go on with there life.

Group B (people who only looking for water filters, they don’t know what alkaline water filters do or what benefits it has, all they care about is drinkable water that cheap and good).

Keyword they might use?

water filters, water filter system, affordable water filters, best water filter to buy, water filter online, healthy water to drink, water filter pitcher, what is alkaline water, is alkaline water safe, spring water bottle, pure water bottles.

this group care about drinking healthy water but got no clue what alkaline is, they mostly seeking options or more information, they are in the research mode where they exploring the online market.

this group is a good candidate to convert to longtime clients for alkaline, we just need to convince them that an alkaline is a good option that has everything they need.

what could effect there opinion?

1- easy to understand information, example is (videos, infographics, testimonials)

2- features and benefits, comparisons, reviews.

Step 3: A quick dance with keyword planner

Lets put all the keyword we find so far in a word document, remember all the keyword we find is based on our research, we don’t know for sure how many people using that keyword.

Before we jump in into keyword planner, what is keyword planner?

It’s something developed by Google to help those running ads on the search; it simply gives you a list of suggestion of keywords related to the topic or category, it also tells you how many people competing for that keyword, and what the cost per click is.

The beauty of it, it’s coming from Google itself, it’s not 100% accurate though, but it’s close enough.

As long as it been built by Google itself to help those run and succeed, I trust that it good enough.


  • data is real and pulled from Google itself.
  • easy to use
  • smart (it can detect relevant keywords groups)

However, there is one disadvantage, if you not an agency or simply not spending enough on ads, you can’t get exact data. That means Google will only give you a range between 10-100 or 100-1000 or 1000-10000. 

Keyword planner showing a range

With a range like that, it’s useless

If you can’t get exact data, I suggest that you invest in paid tools like (keyword, the basic pro version is $68/month. Expensive for my taste but this tool worth it, it can extract accurate data from google, yahoo, bing, Amazon, etc

If you lucky and have the full access to keyword planner, you probably don’t need any other tool.

In this example, I will show you how to pull data from both keyword planner and keyword

Before we do that, you might ask if we already did the keyword research in the previous steps why are we doing this?

The keyword planner is smart, but it’s only smart based on the data we feed it to it. If we plug in our keywords and its based on real market data, it will generate for us an accurate list of keywords that relate directly and indirectly to those keywords.

in this example, I will be using an agency account keyword planner, it will give me an exact number of searches instead of just an approximate.

let heads over to keyword planner and get this done.

Keyword planner:

1- in the keyword planner page start, select (search for a new keyword using a phrase, website or category, this option will allow us to key in a list of keywords.

Keyword planner search for new keyword using a phrase, website or category

2- remember that we want to know what our first target audience looking for, those who know alkaline and interested to buy now.

enter the keyword we generated before about group A, and key in those keywords into the (your product or service) field.

Select the category “water filters”, this will tell Google to filter out the only keywords we want from that category.

in the keywords to include, add in this keyword “alkaline”, this will only show to us keyword that has alkaline in it. 

keyword planner find new keywords setup

this is more of an exact approach to generating keywords since we know what we want, we only interested in that type of keywords, any indirect keyword will not fit that group.  once you finish adding all information, hit the get idea button.

keyword planner showing search volume for set of keywords

as you can see from the results, there are around 6,790 searches in Australia for those type of keywords.

in the keyword ideas tab, you can see what type of keyword users actually use, the Avg, monthly searches tell us exactly how many time this keyword been recorded on a monthly average. the competitions it tell us if users actually bidding on that keyword or not, a high mean many people bitting on those keywords in Adwords and it tends to be expensive.

if you see in the screenshot below, the alkaline diet is a generic keyword that could mean many things, but take a look at the monthly searches, it’s around 5,400

the alkaline water filter, a mid-range keyword that tells us what the user actually looking for, but we not sure what the intentions are, its have 1,300 searches.

some keywords have low avg monthly searches, example are the “alkaline filter cartridge” but those who search are more likely to convert as we know for sure the intent is to buy a cartridge or replace a cartridge.

keyword planner showing keyword ideas with avg. monthly searches and competitions

However, if we wanted to make it little bit generic and let Google decide, we can remove the “alkaline” from the included keyword option, and remove this option “show only relevant keywords”, and fine-tune the keywords to include only water filters, just to get an idea of what people looking for in such terms.

the result will be more generic but we can squeeze many ideas from it. 

keyword planner showing search terms from the keyword ideas

another good thing is the ad group ideas, as it divides keyword based on categories, and we can use those categories in our keyword research. in our example, we find some interesting group ideas like the Reverse Osmosis, and Osmosis systems as it relate to alkaline and many searches around those keywords.

keyword planner showing ad group ideas for our indirect research

Now time to add in these keywords one by one to the list, select either keywords or group ideas, don’t be afraid to add as we will filter those out later on.

Now we generated a CSV file, let’s open it up and see the beauty.

keyword planner exporting the data out into excel sheet

not much of a beauty in it yet, that’s why we need to filter them out.

Step 4: Qualifying & Disqualifying Keywords

Filtering out keyword is just like removing harmful weeds from good one, its long process of checking keywords one by one, and selecting a primary set and a secondary set.

What is that primary one?

Primary is any keyword that we feel the most relevant and important in a long list of keywords; it’s the list that no matter what, we do need to win those keywords.

Secondary keywords are something nice to have but only after we nail the primary one. Less important but important.

Open up that CSV file we generated from the keyword planner.

Remove all the column but keep those columns only

  • the keyword group
  • search volume
  • competition
  • CPS

What are those anyway?

The keyword group.

 it’s a group of keyword suggested by Google, amazingly sometimes Google know exactly what we need, and it even groups it for us.

The search volume.

 this is the most important field here, we want to know how many people searching for our keywords


 a number from 0 to 1, (0 is no contest, one is very competitive) why that mean? And why we need this field?

Remember that we were pulling the data from keyword planner, a tool designed to help media planners to plan for a paid campaign.

If a keyword has competitions numeric value of 1, that means it’s very competitive and important.

In our case, if it has a lot of competition it signals to us a good thing, its relative and our competitors fighting over it.


this is the bidding cost if the number high its mean competition high and the keyword is relative. If Google increases the price on one keyword that means google know its have value to the business owner, this is a good thing as well.

If you planning for a media buy, you probably avoid these too competitive keywords with high CPS, but when you do it for the organic results, it’s the exact opposite, we want to win those keywords organically.

Back to work, let filter them out more.

Now is the hard work, we need to create a tap for each group, instead of having everything on one tap, I prefer to divide it into multiple taps, you can either start from the keyword group ideas or divide based on your categories.

after that, manually checking each keyword just to be 100% sure this keyword worth ranking for it. that means you need to take each keyword and write it in google in incognito mode, validate each keyword and look for competitors who optimizing for that keywords.

any keyword that you want to rank for at all cost, mark it green.

those who secondary market it yellow.

Now we have all the primary and secondary keywords, but let’s take it even further.

create a new tab, and add all those primary keywords in it, you will end up with 10 to 15 keywords that you would want rank for, at least in the top 10.

selecting the primary keywords and secondary keywords

I’m going to use another tool this time to check the competitions of the primary keywords; I want to know who ranks first for those keywords and how to beat them.

The best tool for that task is Moz pro, you can do this with other tools like Ahref, but I prefer MOZ for its accuracy and ease of use.

Select the keyword you want to analyze with Moz, select the country (Aus) and start analyzing.

Ahref showing SERP Analysis for specific keywords

Moz gives a lot of insights and information, but what we interested at is the organic result on page 1, the beauty of that it provides us with the landing pages that ranking first for that keyword, you can even see the page authority, domain authority, and the number of links to the root domain.

by doing so, we can now know who are the competitors ranking top for that keyword, how strong they are and how we can beat them.

Export the result as a CSV format for later use.

Repeat that for all the primary keywords.

We will use this list as a guideline, for example, let say we want to rank on top 3, that means we need to beat those three websites that are already ranking for top 3.

Step 5: Mapping out the keyword to the relevant pages

Since we have a full list of every possible keyword that relates to our website, directly and indirectly, it’s time to map it out to the website landing pages.

There is two way to do so, either we map it on a landing page level or based on product type level.

In my case, I will map is based on the page level. Here is how we break down for big projects.

We can either break it horizontal or vertical. I prefer to go from left to right, first map out the main pages, then sub-pages.

In our case we only have few pages, the home page is the most important one, so we start with this one first. I usually map it out in a diagram like this.

assigning the filtered keywords to the URLs

Now we need to map each keyword for the pages; this depends mostly on your contents.

To put it in simple word, you need to add that keyword to that page to be able to rank for it. let’s say that for the main page, we want to rank for this keyword “buy alkaline water” that means this page associated with that keyword only.

the last thing you want is to rank two pages for the same keyword, this will results in cannibalism effect, a page rank eat another page rank, the best is to avoid that.

if you mapped “buy alkaline water” to the main page, you need to make sure you not ranking for that same keyword on another page as well.

That wraps it up for us; this is how I do it for my clients, this is purely based on your style and experience, you can do it like I do or find your way on how to structure and present the information. personally, I believe that keyword research is just a form of research, the more you dig in the better your ranking result would be as this is the prime ingredient of everything SEO stand for.

Developing the content based on certain keywords that people use and search around will get you on the first page in no time.

Always remember that the keyword research is not something done once and forget about it, search trends change over time and the behavior of the searcher as well can change as the intent is always changing.

That’s why I make sure to re-run the keyword research every six months to catch new keyword and keep the current one updated; this is for all our one-year contracts.

In the next chapter, I will show you how to track your keywords ranking with my fav tool (SEO Monitor), we will also go in depth with the rank tracker and compare both tools with advantages and disadvantages of each platform.

By Saif Abbas

By Saif Abbas

digital marketing consultant, startup advisor and lecturer

a marketing professional with experience in SEO, UX Design, paid search and online advertising, specialized in developing strategies and sale funnels.


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