SEO Keyword Research In 2024: A Complete, Step-By-Step Guide

SEO Keyword Research In 2024: A Complete, Step-By-Step Guide
Article by Bisera Stankovska
Last Updated: May 22, 2024

This is your definitive guide to SEO keyword research in 2023. 

Here you will find:

  • Actionable tips on how to come up with keyword ideas
  • The best free and paid tools to measure your keywords’ performance
  • Tactics to help you identify the right keywords for your SEO content
  • Guide to placing your carefully selected keywords
  • Keyword mistakes that can harm your SEO

To kick this guide off, here are the key trends that will inform the winning keyword strategies in 2023:

Long-tail Keywords Are Becoming More Popular Than Ever

As search engines get smarter and able to understand complex queries, people tend to use longer search phrases. 

Not only are they rising in popularity among searchers, but more and more SEO companies are targeting them too due to their light competitiveness. Namely, 92% of all long-tail keywords get 10 or fewer searches per month. 

Unlike short keywords that are very broad, with long-tail key phrases searchers can easily find the solution or answer they are looking for. 

What's more, in 2024, long-tail keywords and voice searches will change the way we do SEO.  

When conducting keyword research for voice searches, the following points will make the queries more conversational: 

  • Incorporate long-tail phrases
  • Use question words like what, where, and how
  • Include filter words like the, I, on the, for, and to

LSI Keywords Are Becoming Almost As Important As Focus Keywords

One of Google’s latest algorithm updates, BERT, focuses on analyzing individual words and their order. This update helps Google understand the content better and provide more relevant search results. 

This is where LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords come in handy. They are closely tied to the focus keyword and help search engines to determine the quality and relevance of the search terms as well as the content on websites.   

What Is SEO Keyword Research?

In search engine optimization (SEO), keyword research is the process of finding and using words and phrases relevant to your target audience. To find relevant keywords, you have to understand how people search for information related to a particular topic, product or service.

Once you know what users are looking for — and how — you can create content that will rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs). Through this process, businesses gain insights into how users actually interact with webpages, which can provide valuable information on how to better market their products or services online.

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How To Do SEO Keyword Research in 5 Steps

While demanding a lot of attention to detail, SEO keyword research can be done in five steps:

Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience is the first and most important step when researching SEO keywords. You need to understand who you are targeting, what their needs are and how they search for them online.

By understanding your target market, you can tailor your keyword research to meet their specific needs. This will help ensure your content is relevant and useful for potential customers searching for information related to your industry or product and service offering.

Step 2: Understand How Search Intent Works

Search intent is an important concept in keyword research as it helps marketers understand the intention behind a search query. When performing keyword research, you need to consider why someone might be searching for that particular term and how your content can satisfy their needs.

When analyzing search intent, there are three main types of searches:

  • Informational queries, which typically involve users looking for information about a particular topic or industry
  • Navigational queries, which relate to finding a specific website or page
  • Transactional queries, related to making purchases or completing transactions online

Step 3: Brainstorm Important Topics & Keywords

For effective keyword research, you have to make a list of important topics related to your industry or offering and brainstorm related keywords.

Start by thinking about all possible topics that are relevant in some way to what you do. Once you have compiled your list, start breaking down each topic into more specific subtopics.

For example, if you run a photography business, one of the main topics might be “photography equipment” and its subtopics may include “camera lenses” or “studio lighting.” These sub-topics can then be further broken down into even more specific keyword phrases such as “wide angle camera lens” or “LED studio lighting kit."

Once you have created a master list of targeted keywords from these various topics, think about refining your list with competitive research. Using tools like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush, you can find additional data around average monthly searches and competition level for each phrase being considered.

This additional step allows businesses to identify areas where they may already have an advantage in terms of ranking within search engine results pages (SERPs). Most importantly, you can uncover new opportunities that your competition is using and figure out where you’re lagging behind.

Step 4: Generate Long-Tail Keywords

Once you have completed the basic keyword research and identified a few core keywords, it is time to look at the bigger picture and do your research on long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific phrases that are less competitive in search rankings but can still drive targeted traffic to your website if used correctly. They can help you beat your competition in more than one scenario.

You can use keyword research tools to identify potential long-tail terms related to your main topic. Even if you don’t have access to these tools, the autocomplete features on popular search engines such as Google can help you generate ideas for further optimization opportunities. Don’t forget to look at the “People Also Ask” section, too.

As a rule of thumb, when choosing long-tail keywords to target, select ones that fit within the context of your content while also having relevance to what users might type into a search engine.

Step 5: Analyze Keyword Difficulty & Search Volume

Analyzing keyword difficulty is crucial if you’re to make the right decision on which keywords to target. Generally, if there is high competition for a certain keyword, then it will be more difficult to rank highly in SERPs using that term. This information can help inform your strategy going forward.

You should also analyze search volume when researching potential keywords. Search volume refers to how often people search for a particular phrase within any given period of time, typically per month or year. The higher the search volume for a given keyword, the more likely it will be able to drive organic traffic toward your website from relevant searches.

Once you have identified potentially relevant terms with decent levels of both search volume and keyword difficulty, you should assess each one individually. By doing this, you can determine which ones are worth pursuing further through content creation and optimization efforts.

Why Is Keyword Research Important for SEO?

Google uses machine learning to understand search queries and content with remarkable accuracy. 

To do so, its algorithm scans content, "reading" through the HTML code and other resources, marking keywords and related entities to determine its contextual and nuanced meaning. 

Google uses keywords to understand the search queries as well as the searcher's intent (ex. are they looking to learn, to be entertained, to shop, etc.?).

Good keyword research and strategy can help businesses target the terms that accurately describe their offering and help Google match their content with the right audiences.

If you are aiming to increase the value and relevance of your keywords, consider leveraging a keywords database, that will help your business become more visible to search engines by supplying all the necessary data for it and thereby attract relevant customers.

Receive proposals from top SEO agencies. It’s free.

7 Simple Ways To Generate Fresh Keyword Ideas For Your SEO Content

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about what they may search for when they need products or services related to your niche. 

Write down everything that comes to mind. 

Then, turn to these platforms to assess, refine and expand your keyword ideas:

Keyword research with Google Suggests

[Image credit: Google]

1. Explore Google Suggests

Most of the top SEO content writing experts use Google Suggest to find fresh keyword ideas. 

To use it, simply write down the base of your business-related keyword and Google will provide you with several suggestions that include the specific term. 

These are usually the phrases that a lot of people search for.  

Keyword research with Google Related Searches

[Image credit: Google]

2. Scroll Down To Google Related Searches

Enter your topic in Google search and scroll down.

You will find the “related searches” section at the very bottom of your first-page search results. 

Here you can find great long-tail phrases that will provide you with an idea of how to continue your SEO keyword research.

Keyword research with Reddit

[Image credit: Reddit]

3. Research And Engage With Online Communities

You can generate some amazing keyword ideas using forums!

Find the forums that attract your target market, or visit the established ones you frequent, such as Reddit. 

Reddit has more than 430 million monthly users, making it the most popular forum in the world.    

Your audience or at least some of your audience is spending time on this forum, asking questions and sharing opinions - giving you a gold mine of information.  

To take advantage of forums like Reddit, search for specific discussions or broad topics in your industry, and join the subreddits closely related to your search. 

Then, pay attention to the threads that have lots of comments. Read through these to identify the terms your market uses to describe your (type of) services or products.

For instance, let’s say you are an SEO agency that has its own SEO tool. Head over to Reddit and type “SEO tools” in the search bar. 

The platform will show a list of SEO-related communities and discussions on the topic. 

Jump into the relevant discussions and analyze the language they use to describe their experiences with SEO tools.

To incorporate this into your ongoing SEO strategy, join the relevant subreddits to track discussions and find some great niche-related keyword ideas.  

Keyword research with YouTube

[Image credit: YouTube]

4. Use YouTube Suggest

YouTube Suggest is another great strategy to use in your SEO content writing.  

Simply head over to the platform and enter a phrase. 

Then, just like Google, YouTube will hand you some related options that people search for the most. 

Keyword research with LinkedIn

[Image credit: LinkedIn]

5. Explore The Social Networks

People very often turn to social media when they have a problem or a question. 

There are plenty of Facebook and LinkedIn groups related to your industry where your audience shares concerns, insights and experiences.

Here you can find some brilliant keyword ideas and topics you can elaborate on in your content. 

Similarly to Facebook and Linkedin, you can also find great keywords for your SEO content strategy on Twitter by looking at popular hashtags and threads. 

Generating keywords by talking to customers

Talking to your customers can give you some great keyword ideas.

6. Talk To Your Customers

Whether face-to-face, email conversations or surveys, use your customers’ input to generate relevant keyword ideas. 

This will not only help you get to know your clients better, but it may give you some great keyword and content ideas by understanding their needs and the language they use. 

Keyword research with Wikipedia

[Image credit: Wikipedia]

7. Check Out Wikipedia's Contents

Wikipedia is an excellent source of niche research that you should definitely incorporate into your SEO content strategy. 

Once you pop up a broad term in Wikipedia, you will get a master guide on the topic.

Pay attention to the table of contents.

It is a list of subtopics that the page covers and a goldmine of great content and keyword ideas.

A Few Non-Keyword-Research Tips To Help You Get Started

Here are a few non-keyword-research tips that will make the process of searching for topic ideas easier:

  • Know your niche well: Make sure you know your niche well to be able to come up with highly specific long-tail keywords. The better you know your industry and the subtopics it covers, the easier you will find the keyword opportunities that deliver high ROI.
  • Understand your audience: Know what your target market wants and searches for to be able to attract the ideal customers. Create buyer and negative buyer personas to focus your efforts on attracting the right audience for your content. 
  • Monitor your competition: Discover which key terms your competitors are targeting and what phrases they rank for. This can help you focus your SEO efforts on creating content that outperforms your competitors in search.
  • Consult with IT experts: For a deeper understanding of technical SEO and analytics, consider consulting with IT services firms that specialize in these areas. Their expertise can provide you with a competitive edge in your SEO efforts.
Improve your SEO efforts! Connect with the best agencies for free.

Best SEO Keyword Research Tools To Use In 2024 [FREE & Paid Options]

SEO keyword research tools not only make the process of finding important topic phrases for your content easier, but they also help you run a competitor keyword research

Here you can find the best tools that are worth using in your SEO content strategy in 2023: 

Keyword research with SEMrush

[Image credit: SEMrush]

1. SEMrush (Paid Plans)

SEMrush is one of the best on-page SEO tools to use because of its ability to run competitor keyword research. 

It provides you with the exact keywords that your competition ranks for.  

This allows you to discover a list of hundreds of unique keywords that are proven to rank within seconds.

What’s more, it also shows you the exact keywords your paid competitors are making efforts for. 

And, it lists other key metrics like keyword volume, difficulty, CPC and more, which are essential in your SEO content strategy. 

SEMrush offers four pricing plans:

  • Pro ($99.95/month) - for startups and freelancers with a limited budget
  • Guru  $199.95/ month) - for growing marketing agencies
  • Business ($399.95/month) - for businesses with an extensive web presence 
  • Enterprise (price upon request) - a custom solution to meet the needs of businesses

This SEO keyword research tool also offers a free seven-day trial. 

SEO Keyword research with Ahrefs

[Image credit: Ahrefs]

2. Ahrefs (Paid Plans)

With Ahrefs, you can also get lots of useful data on the key phrases you search for. 

In addition, this SEO keyword research tool also provides you with variations of the keywords you type in. 

Just like SEMrush, it also allows you to do competitor keyword research and spy on your competition in terms of keywords, backlinks and strategies.

Ahrefs offers four pricing plans:

  • Lite ($99/month)
  • Standard ($179/month)
  • Advanced ($399/month)
  • Agency ($999/month)

You can also get a trial for $7. 

SEO keyword research with Soovle

[Image credit: Soovle]

3. Soovle (Free Tool)

Soovle is another free SEO keyword research tool to use in your SEO content strategy because of its ability to suggest key phrases from multiple sources in one place. 

It provides variations from Wikipedia, Yahoo, Amazon, Google and other platforms. 

What’s great about this tool is that you can also save your favorite ideas and download them to a CSV file.

Keyword research with Google Analytics

[Image credit: Google Analytics]

4. Google Analytics + Google Search Console (Free Tools)

By combining your Google Analytics with Google Search Console accounts you can get a powerful SEO keyword research tool.

They will provide you with an in depth-data on popular key phrases like clicks, CTR, average position and more, from where you can generate keywords for your SEO content writing. 

What’s more, Google Search Console can also help you do competitor keyword research and see which phrases your competitors rank for.

Plus, they are totally free.

Keyword research with Jaaxy

[Image credit: Jaaxy]

5. Jaaxy (Free And Paid Plans)

Jaaxy generates lots of different unique ideas while providing helpful data such as traffic, competition, search volume and more. 

One of its best features is QSR (Quoted Search Result) or the number of websites that rank on Google for the exact keyword you search for. 

This SEO tool also does a great job of showing unique long-tail keywords that can boost your business. 

Jaaxy offers two pricing plans. The Pro plan costs $49 per month and it includes all the features you might need to research key terms. 

The Enterprise plan costs $99 per month and it is the best fit for marketers who put together large lists of keywords for different websites.

What’s more, you can also create an account and use this tool for free for 30 search queries. 

SEO keyword research with Ubersuggest
[Image credit: Ubbersuggest]

6. Ubersuggest (Free Tool)

Ubersuggest is another free SEO tool that can help you generate new keyword ideas.

It provides you with long-term keyword suggestions and it also shows data on search volume, SEO, PPC competition and CPC.

What’s more, this tool also shows related keywords, questions, prepositions, comparisons and much more. 

SEO keyword research with WordStream

[Image credit: WordStream]

7. WordStream (Free And Paid Plans)

Wordstream is an on-page SEO tool that allows you to target specific industries.

By placing a keyword and choosing a niche, you can get unique suggestions topics for your SEO content writing.

You can only make 30 searches for free.

However, WordStream also offers a pricing plan. 

To get unlimited searches, subscribe to Wordstream Advisor which will cost you $229/month.

SEO keyword research with Keywords Everywhere

[Image credit: Keywords Everywhere]

8. Keywords Everywhere (Paid Plans)

To use Keywords Everywhere you should install its extension. Then, when you search for a certain phrase, this SEO keyword research tool will provide you with “related keywords” and “people searched for” phrases for free.

However, to get additional info on volume, CPC and competition you need to choose some of its pricing plans. 

Keywords Everywhere charges $1 for 10,000 credits, giving you the option to buy credits for $10, $50, $100, $200, $500 or $1000.   

In other words, to get info on the key metrics (volume, CPC and competition) for a single keyword, it would cost you $1.

Google AdWords - Google Keyword Planner
[Image source: Google AdWords]

9. Google Keyword Planner (Free Tool)

Google Keyword Planner is one of the most reliable sources, especially for businesses that cannot afford to get a premium tool.

That’s because the data you will get is accurate since it comes directly from the most popular search engine on the market. 

However, this SEO keyword research tool has one drawback. It is designed to help brands with paid ads and not organic search. 

But, after all, if marketers are investing in these keywords that means they are worth considering, right?

Keyword research with Moz Keyword Explorer

[Image credit: Moz Keyword Explorer]

10. Moz Keyword Explorer (Paid Plans)

With Moz Keyword Research Planner you enter a keyword and you get info on important metrics like difficulty, organic CTR and volume.

What’s more, this SEO keyword research tool provides you with keyword suggestions and SERP analysis for the provided phrase.

It also allows you to track your rankings, crawl and audit your website pages and find link opportunities.

Moz offers four pricing plans:

  • Standard ($99/month)
  • Medium ($179/month)
  • Large ($249/month)
  • Premium ($599/month)

You can visit their website, compare the plans and see what suits you the best.

Moz also offers a 30-day free trial. 

How To Choose the Right Keywords for SEO?

Once you generated a list of some great topic ideas and keywords, the next thing to do is to choose the right phrases for your SEO content writing. 

Wondering how you might short your list down and pick keywords that rank?

Here are some SEO best practices that you should consider:

  • Keyword volume: Always choose the keywords that people actually search for. There is no correct answer to what the best search volume is since there’s a lot to be considered like the type of industry you are in. But there should be SOME traffic. 
  • User intent: The content you create should mainly be based on your searchers’ intent. You need to know why users are searching for particular terms to be able to target the right keywords. Do they want to make a purchase? Or, they only search for some info? Google wants to provide its users with relevant search results when they enter a specific term. So, make sure you understand what your audience searches for before you publish your next blog post.
  • Long-tail keywords: People tend to enter longer phrases when they search for a solution or answer. This makes for a double win as, unlike the broad terms which are shorter, long-tail keywords are usually not nearly as competitive. 
  • Keyword CPC: Go for keywords that have higher CPC if you are after the audience with purchase intent. 
  • Keyword difficulty: Pick the keywords that are not very competitive, especially if you are new on the market. With them, it can be much easier to rank on search and to outperform your competitors. 

Where To Place Your Keywords

Among the other SEO keyword research tips, you should consider, are the places where you should include your key phrases.

So, according to SEO best practices, here are the key places where you should incorporate your keywords to strengthen and improve your SEO content strategy:

  • Headline: Titles describe the subject of the page or the topic you are going to elaborate on. So, by including your keyword in them you are letting your audience and the search engines know what the page is about. 
  • Subheadings:Subheadings describe your paragraphs and make your content easily scannable. This allows both your readers and search engines about your content relevance. Thereby, you should always incorporate your focus keywords and its related key phrases in your subheadings. 
  • Content body: The body of your content should also include keywords, again, the purpose is to confirm its reliability. Thus, always mention your focus keyword in the first 100 words of your articles for the sake of SEO. 
  • Title tag: Title tags are the headlines that users will see once they appear on the search engines and one of the key on-page SEO factors. So, they should also contain the focus keyword and it should be as close to the beginning as possible.
  • URL: Page URLs are another clue of what the page is about. They should be descriptive, include the focus keyword and be as short as possible. 
  • Meta description: Meta descriptions help Google determine how relevant your content is as well. They are like a short summary of what the reader will find in your article. This is why they need to include the focus keyword to support the topic. 
  • Alt text:Alt texts should incorporate keywords to increase the relevancy of the images and to show search engines that they are related to the written content and to the topic of the page. 
  • Image file names: Image file names can include a focus keyword, related or LSI keywords to increase the relevance of the page.  
  • Link anchor text: Make sure you follow these SEO best practices and include your keyword in all of the above-mentioned places. This will help you improve the chances to appear on the search engines when searchers type the specific keywords you are targeting.
We've listed the best practices for image optimization.

Keyword Mistakes That Can Hurt Your SEO

You’ve picked your key phrases and now you are about to create your SEO content writing based on your SEO keyword research.

However, before you start developing your new blog post, make sure you go through the following keyword usage mistakes to keep up with the SEO best practices and ensure the quality of your content:

  • Keyword stuffing: Never overuse your keywords in your content. That way you are creating unappealing and low-quality content. Always aim for a 1.5% keyword density, as the marketers suggest.   
  • Keyword cannibalization: Try to avoid optimizing multiple pages for the same keyword. Otherwise, search engines won’t be able to tell which page to rank. 
  • Writing for Google and not your audience: Always write with the aim of helping your audience find what they need. Google values user-experience and one of its key factors is the time people spend on site. If your pages are optimized for search engines and not for people, your readers will bounce after a few seconds on your page. This will tell Google that your pages are not useful for the users and, as a result, demote you in the rankings. 

On average, Google receives 40,000 queries per second. (Internet Live Stats)

For web users to be able to find what you offer, you need to discover what terms they use exactly and include them in your SEO content writing.

Keyword optimization is one of the key factors for improving your search engine rankings.

However, if done wrong, it can have a reverse effect.

So, make sure you avoid these mistakes and always write naturally with your focus on your audience. 

Ready To Start Your Keyword Research?

Congratulations! You’ve just learned how to do SEO keyword research and use popular key phrases in your content like a pro.

Alternatively, you can opt-in and hire affordable SEO services for small businesses to help you get that leverage or reach out to one of the best advertising agencies on the market.

Now you can use your knowledge to generate some amazing ideas for your website, blog and other pieces of your SEO content strategy.

Follow our SEO keyword research tips and don’t forget to focus on your audience when searching for popular terms and developing your content. 

Google values user experience, and you can only satisfy your leads by providing them with high-quality content. 

Good luck!

SEO Keyword Research FAQs

1. What is the difference between SEO agencies and PPC agencies?

SEO agencies focus on optimizing organic search visibility, while PPC agencies manage paid advertising campaigns for immediate traffic and results.
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