SEO Keyword Research in 5 Easy Steps

What’s the point in creating brilliant content if no one can find it? There’s no point! The main purpose of creating content is to help drive traffic to your website through organic search. If your content isn’t optimised, or optimised for the wrong keywords, how are potential customers ever going to find you? SEO keyword research is a fundamental component of an SEO campaign that can sometimes be overlooked.

Do you want to learn how to complete successful SEO keyword research in 5 easy steps?

If so, read on…

1). Put yourself in your buyer personas shoes

Understanding your ideal buyer persona and the type of queries that they’re likely to enter into a search engine is the first step in any SEO keyword research.

Buyer personas are fictional characters that encompass the needs and goals of your real and potential customers. Before undergoing any SEO keyword research, it’s imperative that you draw out these characters. Do these people fit into a certain demographic? Can you define their goals? What sort of language do they use – are they more likely to use more conversational long-tail search queries or single words? Do they prefer to use voice search as opposed to conventional text search?

You can answer these questions from a theoretical perspective or perhaps go one step further and ask current customers what their needs and goals were when they contacted you.

From researching and piecing together your buyer personas, you’ll be able to define your seed keywords. Your seed keywords are the foundation of your keyword research. They are your definers and what we call “top level” keywords. To come up with your seed keywords, describe your offering and use your buyer persona research to think of how these characters would describe your product or service.

Got it?

2). Find out how you’re currently performing organically

Running an SEO audit is a crucial activity when performing SEO keyword research. Often, we find that clients are surprised when they learn which keywords they’re actually ranking for. Once you know what you’re ranking for (or what you’re not), you can fill in the gaps.

An SEO audit also shows which keywords are bringing in organic traffic – you may find that you’re ranking well for what you thought was a good keyword but it brings in little to no traffic. This is a tell-tale sign that your chosen keyword may not truly reflect your product or service and it may be worth exploring other alternatives.

To go a step further, you can even take a peek at how your competitors are performing organically – we promise it’s not cheating 🙂 you never know, you may stumble across winning keywords you’d otherwise never consider.

At Toast Inbound, our favourite search engine optimisation audit tool is SEMrush, however, there are alternative tools available.

3). Use a variety of SEO keyword research tools to generate keyword ideas

There’s no shortage of keyword research tools available, here are a few of our favourites:


LSIgraph uses a mathematical technique known as Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) to pull together closely related keywords. In a nutshell, it’s based on user search patterns and behaviour and works on the basis that one keyword search is usually linked to another keyword search.

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner sits within Adwords and is a useful tool to use alongside other SEO keyword research tools. Use Google Keyword Planner to find new and related keywords, but use with caution. The Google Keyword Planner database of phrases has its limitations since it’s best suited for advertising, not SEO. Use the search volume results here as a guide only since they’re based on paid for keywords and not organic search.


AnswerThePublic is a search query data visualisation tool that fetches and maps keyword predictions that you see when you perform a Google search. Although great for general keyword research, AnswerThePublic works especially well once you delve into finding more long-tail keywords and start researching for content ideas.


The holy grail of everything SEO! SEMrush is a one-stop shop with an extensive list of features for a holistic and complete overview of keyword research. Unlike other SEO keyword tools, SEMrush comes with reliable statistics that can be used to aid decisions.

Enter your seed keywords into these tools and you’ll soon be able to generate a list with an abundance of variants of these keywords. When researching keywords, there are a couple of stats that are important to consider. We look at these statistics using SEMrush, although other tools offer similar findings.

Search volume Keyword Difficulty

Search volume is the number of searches that are performed using a certain keyword over a fixed period of time (usually a month) and is indicative of the overall search demand of a given keyword. Note – not all tools provide search volume information.

Targeting keywords with little search volume should be a tactic approached with caution. In some cases, such as if your product or service is very niche, targeting low-volume search terms is unavoidable.

Keyword difficulty is probably the best way to gauge how tough it is to rank for a particular keyword. Each SEO keyword research tool has its own way of calculating this figure.

Keywords with high KD figures can be daunting. It’s important to weigh up how difficult it would be to rank for the keyword against the impact ranking for that term would have on your business. Conversely, going after easy keywords could bring in visitors who’re never going to be customers.

4). Group your keywords

Phew! You’ve finally got yourself a list of keywords – what now?

As with many aspects of inbound marketing – organisation is key! You’ll need to group your keywords based on relevance and intent.

1). Group by parent topic

With SEO developing at such a fast pace, what was considered “good practice” a year ago is now ancient history in SEO-land. Historically, relevant keywords were all targeted on their own separate pages.

To explain this further, let’s look at an example. Say, for example, you’re optimising a website who’s business is selling bridal gowns. You’ve decided that you want to go after both “bridal gowns” and “wedding dresses”. In the past, you would’ve created 2 separate pages to target both of these keywords. Now, since both Google and the user know that these terms are related, you should try to rank for them on a single page.

Identify the keywords on your list that are both semantically and contextually related and group them under a “parent topic” and go after those keywords on one page.

2). Group by intent

Once you’ve got your keywords subcategorised into parent topics, now you need to figure out the intent behind the search.

The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate and purchase a new product and can be split into 3 categories:

  1. Awareness stage
  2. Consideration stage
  3. Decision stage

All searches with intent can be subcategorised into one of these 3 stages. Let’s go back to our bridal gown example.

An example of a query from a user in the Awareness stage could be:

wedding dress inspiration”  

An example of a search from a user in the Consideration stage might look like:

lace wedding dresses”

An example of a what a user in the Decision stage may search for may be:

“wedding dress prices”

The intent behind each of these searches reflects a different stage in the buyer’s journey. Mapping out the intent behind keywords helps to group them to each stage in the buyer’s journey and create pages accordingly. You can see here it wouldn’t be right to direct someone who’s looking for wedding dress inspiration to a page that gives wedding dress prices.

5). Prioritise

Once you’ve thoroughly researched potential keywords and grouped them by parent topic and intent, now comes the task of prioritising your keywords. There are a few ways to do this. We suggest asking yourself:

How long will it take me to rank for this keyword?

Which keywords are priorities for the business?

Do I have existing content that I can re-optimise for a keyword? Am I on the cusp of ranking on the first page for a keyword?

FACT: Google estimates that 75% of traffic goes to results on the first page.

Finding those pages that are teetering on the brink can make a huge impact to your organic search traffic.

Prioritising your keywords helps to create foundations for a solid plan of creating and optimising pages.

Help with SEO keyword research

At Toast Inbound, we follow this process when undergoing any keyword research with clients. If you’d like assistance in your own SEO keyword research, feel free to contact us! In Step 2 we talked about performing an SEO audit – in the meantime, why not request your free SEO audit?


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Author – Lizzie Griffiths

Lizzie is a digital marketing executive at Toast Inbound. She works with clients to help them achieve their SEO goals and improve their presence in Google’s search results.

Get in touch with Lizzie



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