Finding keyword research a chore, wishing you had some sneaky strategies to make it easier?
Or perhaps you’ve never done it before and aren’t sure how to get started.
Here are 14 proven keyword research tips that helped me build a six-figure blog – so they can do the same for you.
I’ve developed these keyword research tips over almost four solid years of SEO experience.
That includes consulting for tech and SaaS clients, delivering private coaching for CEOs and founders, and of course building my own profitable blogs.
14 Proven Keyword Research Tips (That Earned Me Six Figures)
#1. Clarify your purpose
Before diving into a keyword research session, it’s important to think about what your business goals are.
If you have a new blog, or you’re still in the planning stages for one, then doing keyword research can help you narrow down the best niche.
In that situation, you’d want to test out a wide range of keywords.
Look for factors such as traffic volume, and the presence of strong commercial and informational terms, with low enough competition for a new site to have a chance to rank.
But keyword research isn’t just a “one and done” situation.
Instead, keyword research should be an ongoing process that happens regularly throughout the lifetime of your blog.
Personally, I look at new keywords a few times every week, looking for opportunities to boost my traffic and explore new directions.
You don’t need to spend hours and hours on a regular basis, but it’s good to fire up the keyword research tools every so often and find a fresh selection for your next round of content.
#2. Prioritize your audience
When doing SEO for your blog, it’s easy to get overly wrapped up in keywords.
You risk forgetting about the actual humans reading your blog posts, i.e. your loyal audience.
But that’s a big mistake. You should never forsake your audience for the sake of mere keywords.
In fact, writing with an audience-first approach is one thing that will make human written content stand out from the sea of AI-generated garbage.
When evaluating any keyword, always ask yourself “how can this help my audience solve one of their key problems?”
From time to time, survey your audience and ask them what their problems are. Use their feedback as a basis for some of your blog posts.
Not everything should be 100% about keyword research, even though it’s a vital part of SEO.
#3. Understand search intent
Understanding search intent is absolutely critical if you want your keyword research to have the desired effect.
In a nutshell, we can categorize search intent into four main types:
- Informational – the user wants to solve a problem or understand a topic in more depth
- Commercial – the user wants to compare products or services with a view to purchase
- Transactional – the user wants to purchase a product or service as quickly or as cheaply as possible
- Navigational – the user wants to locate a certain page on the Internet and get there quickly
But sometimes you’ll run into a situation where the search intent of a keyword isn’t completely clear.
Here’s what I always do in that situation. I Google the keyword (or check it in my SEO tool) and I study the top 10 articles ranking for it.
I open each article and I take note of what the primary search intent seems to be.
Whichever kind of search intent shows up most often will be the one I’ll use for my own article.
#4. Aim for the long tails
Long tail keywords are a goldmine for building a profitable blog, especially in the early stages of your blog’s life.
Although long-tail keywords tend to be lower volume (compared to ‘head’ keywords) they have several important benefits:
- Hyper specific
- Easy to figure out search intent
- Super relevant to your audience’s key problems
- Lower competition (many large websites won’t bother with long tail keywords)
In short, if you’re a new blogger, the best way forward is to target long tail keywords until your blog starts to gain traction. You’ll be surprised at the quality results they can produce.
#5. Analyze the top 10 results
Knowing your competition is a vital aspect of good SEO. And that’s even more true when it comes to keyword research.
I look at my competition all the time. Whenever I’m considering writing a post targeting a certain keyword, one of the first things I do is Google it and look at who ranks in the top 10.
I’ll spend a fair bit of time skimming through their content. I’m looking for key themes repeated throughout the top 10, as well as those all-important gaps where my own content can add value and fresh insights.
In short, never write blindly when targeting a new keyword. Understanding your competition will make all the difference.
#6. Get confident with filters
My next keyword research tip is to get confident with using filters.
SEO tools for keyword research, such as Semrush or Ahrefs, churn out a massive amount of data.
It can be overwhelming. You type a keyword into one of these tools and you get a massive list of variations.
It’s not always easy to weed out the diamonds in the rough.
Fortunately, both of these professional level tools provide lots of filters to help you narrow down your search.
Let’s learn how to use filters to find good long-tail keyword opportunities. We’ll use a high volume seed keyword as our starting point.
NOTE: These are the exact same strategies I use with my private SEO coaching clients (and in all my SEO consulting projects).
Finding long-tail keywords with Ahrefs
Finding long-tail keywords with Semrush
#7. Look for the SERP ‘underdogs’
Not sure about your chances of ranking for a certain keyword?
Well, there’s one little thing that really gives the game away here.
I call it “the SERP underdog strategy” .
Let’s say your website is relatively new and has a low domain rating (or domain authority if you’re using tools from Semrush or Moz).
Here’s how to evaluate your chances of ranking for that keyword.
Look at the domain ratings of the top 10 sites currently ranking on the front page of Google.
If there’s at least one site in there with a similar domain rating to yours, then you have a good chance of ranking for that keyword as well.
On the other hand, if the front page is dominated by heavyweights such as Forbes, CNN, or industry specialist publications, then you’re probably better off targeting a different keyword altogether.
#8. Reverse-engineer forums & social platforms
Forums and social sites such as Reddit and Quora make excellent hunting grounds for relevant and low competition keywords.
To start exploring them, simply narrow a relevant discussion for your niche.
On Reddit, this would be a subreddit, on Quora it’s a Space, and in forums it could be a specific thread or area of the forum.
You could also use the entire homepage, but you might overwhelm your SEO tool. Remember, these websites will rank for hundreds of thousands of keywords.
Let’s say your building a blog about taking care of dogs.
You might choose this subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/poodles/
Grab that URL and put it into Site Explorer (if using Ahrefs), or Organic Research (if using Semrush).
The tool will give you all the keywords that this particular subreddit URL is ranking for.
Then it’s just a matter of applying relevant filters to dig out useful keywords for your blog posts.
#9. Dig into your competitors’ keywords
There’s another great way to use the exact same method I outlined above – but for your competitors.
You can easily apply this to your competitors’ individual blog posts (or their entire website).
Just grab the URL in question and plug it into Site Explorer (if using Ahrefs), or Organic Research (if using Semrush).
You’ll get a report of all the keywords that URL is currently ranking for.
Then you can apply various filters to narrow down great ones and use them for your own purposes.
#10. Don’t write off zero volume keywords
While out on your keyword research adventures, you’ll probably discover a lot of keywords that seem to have zero volume.
SEO tools like Ahrefs and Semrush (and Ubersuggest too), only have access to a limited number of keywords across the whole Internet (although it’s a massive amount).
And, as I’ve already mentioned, no keyword tool is 100% accurate.
So the best rule of thumb is to always put your audience first.
If you find what appears to be a zero volume keyword, but it’s highly relevant to your audience, then I recommend considering it for a future blog post anyway.
#11. Don’t get obsessed with vanity metrics
Not so long ago, this website got rejected.
(Yes, the exact same one where you’re reading this detailed and comprehensive SEO advice).
A top marketing blogger refused to link to this very website. Because, he claimed, “its DR was too low”.
I think the DR was around 30 at the time.
But the important thing to remember is – DR/DA does NOT equal a high quality website. In fact, it doesn’t even equal a lot of traffic.
Case in point: I’ve had traffic of over 30K monthly with a site of just DR 16.
Basically, DR/DA metrics are based around the number of external links pointing to a website.
And it’s incredibly easy to game those metrics.
In fact, some people do it for a living.
Black hat SEOs use sketchy tactics like private blog networks and link farms to artificially inflate DR/DA metrics by building lots of junk links to a site.
Because they know that many people believe a high DR/DA mean is a high quality, healthy website.
But in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
For me, key signs of a high quality website are as follows:
- High quality content that solves real human problems (not trash created just to rank)
- A clear face behind the website with a mission statement that makes sense (i.e. a brand)
- Plenty of EEAT signals to display trust and authority
- Relevancy to the site you’re linking to (lack of relevancy is one reason why link farms are a waste of money)
- A decent amount of traffic from geographic regions that make sense for your business goals
In my experience, these factors will do far more for your business goals than simply seeking links from websites with high DR/DA.
#12. Watch out for cannibalization
Sounds kind of aggressive, doesn’t it? Like something out of Silence of the Lambs.
But I’m actually talking about keyword cannibalization.
This happens when two different pages on your website start ranking for the same keyword.
Keyword cannibalization confuses Google and can result in less traffic to both of the offending pages.
If that happens, the best way forward is to either redirect the weaker one to the stronger one, or find a way to amalgamate the content on one page.
But to avoid keyword cannibalization happening in the first place, it’s important to study the search results carefully when evaluating a possible keyword.
You want to make sure that similar keywords have completely different pages ranking for them.
If that’s the case, then it’s fine for you to go ahead and create a different article for each.
On the other hand, if the same pages are ranking for two different keywords, that’s a sign you should incorporate both keywords into a single page.
Otherwise, you risk falling victim to keyword cannibalization.
#13. Don’t forget Google Search Console
It’s great doing keyword research with sophisticated tools such as Semrush and Ahrefs.
But, as I’ve mentioned before, these tools are never totally accurate. In fact, they often underestimate the true volume of searches that keywords are getting each month.
One of the best ways to research keywords for your existing sites is with Google Search Console.
After all, who knows search results better than Google itself?
To use Google Search Console, you have to connect your site and give it a couple of weeks to pull in adequate search data to make it useful.
Analyzing your blog post URLs in Google Search Console is a fantastic way to uncover new keywords that they’re already ranking for.
You can use this intel to vastly improve your existing posts and give them a massive boost in the rankings.
#14. Look for keyword patterns
My last keyword research tip is to keep an eye out for keyword patterns.
What do I mean by patterns?
I mean keywords that could feasibly lend themselves to blog posts with similar structures but subtle differences. The best way to illustrate this is with an example.
Let’s say you’re writing a blog about car maintenance.
You want to write a post targeting the keyword “how to maintain a toyota yaris”
Think about it. Toyota has lots of different car brands. Why not use this as the jumping off point for a keyword pattern?
- how to maintain a toyota yaris
- how to maintain a toyota corolla
- how to maintain a toyota aygo
- how to maintain a toyota landcruiser
- how to maintain a toyota prius
And so on.
That’s what I mean by a keyword pattern.
It massively cuts down the outlining and writing work you have to do for each post.
You can create just one outline for the first post, then adapt it by adding the correct information for each new variation. In this case, each type of Toyota!
Keyword research can be a challenging and overwhelming process.
But, over time, I’ve come to really enjoy it.
I hope you found these keyword research tips valuable (whether or not you’re as nerdy as I am!)