7 Essential Steps To Profitable Keyword Research

Alpha Efficiency focuses on having a sound SEO and SEM strategy in place, and its integral part is a quality keyword research service. Keyword research is an activity that predates any kind of SEO optimization or good Google Ads campaign. Keywords have their own competition levels and finding the search engine pages that are within your reach is the highest and best value of your analyst’s time.

keyword research

Knowing in what content to invest and which keywords to compete on is going to save you thousands of dollars, as well as accelerate your path to SEO results. When keyword research is properly executed, it drives faster results on a micro level, while you’re preparing for the macro, and waiting for your backlinks to trickle back in. Hiring a search agency or an individual to conduct continuous keyword research for your company is a surefire way to stay on top of your organic and paid rankings, without missing out on revenue.

Why Keyword Research Service is Essential for Your Company

When planning out your content, having a sound and reasonable strategy ensures that you aren’t flushing content dollars down the drain. Additionally, observing this landscape will help you find the low-hanging fruit, so it can help you drive visitors and revenue while you are waiting to rank for big-picture keywords.

Keyword research is complicated to understand, but this article is here to demystify this essential SEO process. The ultimate result of keyword research is a sound SEO strategy that supports your entire campaign, giving it possibilities that would have been overlooked by the lack of analytics of your goals and results page landscape.

This is the first critical step that will drive your business towards success, and it deserves much-needed attention. Spending adequate time researching and planning will have positive implications for your business because now, all the produced content will impact your website’s traffic. Your agency or consultant needs to understand the goals and objectives of your business in order to pair them with the proper keywords that will drive results. This type of campaign requires the full attention of either an internal team or hired consultant/agency. Below are some questions you can ask yourself to start the brainstorming process.

Our internal keyword research process includes the following steps:

  1. Semantic Brainstorming for overlooked keywords that include synonyms or close variants
  2. Push the keywords through Keyword Planner and other software that helps us find overlooked gems
  3. Analyze PPC competition through SEMRush.com, and take a deep insight into their search strategies.
  4. Create a keyword research spreadsheet where we include all relevant keywords
  5. Populate the spreadsheet with Majestic and Ahrefs with Google’s website trust metrics.
  6. Develop a report that includes grading by the competition levels.
  7. Carefully execute your SEO or SEM Campaign (check our guide to Google Ads micro-campaigns)

This list will provide your marketing team with a solid foundation to work off of. Keyword research is the first and most critical step towards online success and requires a thorough process with enough oversight from experienced marketers. They can take your ideas and transform them into a well-developed action plan. As a business owner, I am positive that you grasp the basic keywords that your audience would use in order to find the solution to the problem you are offering. Often the agency isn’t familiar with the industry jargon and terminology, plus the context or psychology behind the keywords. Your team will need to devote time and energy to understanding your audience’s psychology and behavior patterns. That’s extremely important when running Google Ads and SEO campaigns.

Quick Tip: Try to cut this learning curve in an initial meeting by giving your agency as much insight as possible. Often the basic elements will help your agency save valuable time and resources and eliminate the guesswork.

How keyword research fits into SEO

The cornerstone of every successful SEO strategy is thorough keyword research. The very definition of search marketing includes creating a piece of content and attempting to rank among the top results in Google SERP.

There are eight main content types for SEO. These are:

  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Reports
  • Case studies
  • Infographics
  • Product pages
  • Images
  • Videos

Your goal as a content marketer is to get your piece of content to rank on the first page, ideally at the top spot, for every query that contains a keyword relevant to your business. Statistics showing that first page results yield 91% of traffic, with 32.5% going to the highest-ranking website, speak volumes on the importance of dedicating extra attention to keyword research.

Optimizing your content around search terms with high purchase intent directly affects sales numbers, thus increasing ROI. This is done through on-page SEO, with keyword research playing a significant role. The keywords you should aim for are those that:

  • People are searching for (high search volume keywords)
  • You can rank for ( low competition keywords)
  • Have a high potential to generate revenue (profitable keywords)

Targeting the right keywords from the get-go is crucial since the wrong keywords bring practically no value but take away time, money, and effort. That results in numerous opportunities lost in the form of revenue that your business is missing out on by leaving profitable keywords on the table.

How Google updates changed keyword research

Up until around a decade ago, to rank on Google, you had to create a piece of content that exactly matches the targeted keyword. Google wasn’t able to connect similar search terms, so if you wanted to promote your business through various keywords, you had to make an individual piece of content for every one of them. Of course, this practice had multiple side effects:

  • Since each of the keywords had to be related to a specific piece of content, websites had to publish a ridiculous amount of pages with little to no difference between them.
  • Furthermore, the targeted keyword had to be repeated over and over again throughout the entire post so Google would recognize the term you wish to rank for. This practice is known as keyword stuffing, and it resulted in awkward-looking posts that provided an awful reading experience.

Google finally put an end to this practice by releasing two updates that changed how their search engine functions. Let’s have a closer look at these game-changers.

The Hummingbird update rolled out in 2013 and was designed to understand the context of search terms better. Google was making an effort toward natural language search, so they had to rewrite much of Google’s core search engine so it would show more precise and meaningful results.

The Rank Brain update came two years later. It introduced a refined machine learning AI that is constantly improving itself and is capable of returning results based on user interactions, and can understand the intent behind a search query.

These two updates allowed content to rank for both the exact keyword match and other contextually similar keywords. It was a huge step forward back in the day. 

Here is how these updates affect your keyword research:

  • Instead of ranking for only one, your content can now rank for multiple keywords.
  • Better ROI for SEO brought by the improved targeting system: With user intent unlocked, you can now optimize your content to align with your business goals.
  • No need for keyword stuffing. The AI now recognizes synonyms (LSI keywords), allowing you to build deeper relationships with your audience by speaking directly to them using natural language.

This completely changed the way we approach keyword research. With that in mind, let’s get more intimate with each of the essential steps we have outlined. That will help you reveal our way of providing the highest level of service. Since keyword research services can be challenging to understand, and their outcome can be uncertain, we have underlined 7 key steps in executing a well-articulated SEO and SEM strategy. Due to keyword campaigns having long-term implications, you should spend an adequate amount of time making decisions that will affect the future of your business on the web.

1. Semantic Brainstorming

Every good keyword research starts with fully understanding the needs of the business first. Our usual MO includes carefully listening to the client’s perception of the keyword landscape, then closely expanding on what they know by observing customers and their behavior. More often than not, many SEOs and PPC experts don’t dive deeper to find often overlooked phrases.

Before attempting to find an agency, you should have a general idea of what keywords you want to rank or advertise for. That should be completed in 20-30 minutes. The focus should be on 4-5; more times than not, the list you brainstorm will overlook numerous keywords.

These keywords often reveal how consumers are referring to the product, and even our clients tend to overlook these variations. Also, in this phase, Alpha Efficiency focuses on researching the common language and relevant keywords that do not belong to the same keyword family yet spark the interest and curiosity of your prospective consumers. Other agencies and PPC specialists don’t dive as deep into these keywords, therefore missing the opportunity to drive cheap click and ranking opportunities that result in better ROI.

When we consider a new vertical, we often include questions such as:

  • What products and services does the client offer?
  • How do prospects observe the problem that they are trying to resolve?
  • How would we describe our client’s business to someone who never had this need?
  • What are the most frequently asked questions in your vertical?

Usually, brainstorming won’t provide a final keyword list but will give us a pretty solid foundation to work with.

2. How To Execute Keyword Research with Keyword Planner and related planning tools?

Once you have brainstormed a thorough enough keyword list to lay the foundation for your campaign, it is time to expand on your ideas. A great way to expand on your brainstormed list of keywords is to utilize the Google Keyword Planner.

The keyword planner offers the ability to research key terms that are relevant to your service, product, website, or landing page. You can zoom into details like how many times a keyword has been searched on a monthly basis, its’ organic impression share, competition, and more. That is essential for planning out a campaign.

You can sort keywords by:

  • Average monthly searches
  • Competition
  • Top of page bid
  • Relevance

There is also a filtering option that allows you to customize your search further. The keyword planner has another feature that we value, the visualization tool. It allows us to view search trends by volume and location and helps us gather information on the keywords we plan to use for the campaign. That, as a result, drives us to make educated decisions within our SEO campaign. The more we know about the behavior of searches related to our product, the better we can gauge which keywords will drive maximum results.

The issue in using Google’s Keyword Planner is that it shows the data from the last month available within their data. Our searches will never drive positive SEO results due to Google Search Partners and how they affect the results from the Google Keyword Planner. We recommend using more precise SEO tools to gather research. One excellent option is SEMRush.com.

3. How To Analyze Keywords for PPC and SEO Competitors with SEMRush.com or SpyFu.com?

SemRush is perhaps one of the most groundbreaking marketing tools of the last decade. It tracks so many things. Some of which include: the organic position of a domain or landing page on Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages), copies of AdWords ads and their positions, CPC ads, competitor analysis, and much more.

The competitor analysis is a unique feature within SEMRush; it will help you create effective spreadsheets (mentioned below). Once you have analyzed and perfected your SEO strategy, it is helpful to look at what your competitors are doing. Once you have found what keywords your competitors are getting value from, it is time to incorporate them into your keyword strategy.

Your keyword strategy should be the underlying foundation of your content marketing campaign. How your customers will find you is through keyword searches. Therefore having a competitive advantage via tools like this is vital to driving the most search traffic. SEMrush gives you an immense amount of SEO intelligence that helps you optimize your process. The result of your analysis should consist of two important topics:

  • How do people express their desires and interests on the web?
  • How many people search for a particular keyword?

This will give you a pretty thorough view of your marketplace. You create an entry point where you can quickly assess who your competitors are, as they are most likely bidding on the same keywords. Your most successful competitors usually have taken the time to understand your shared customer needs and do most of your market research. Pick apart their strategy in pieces with Keyword Planner, SEMRush, and Market Samurai.

When defining competition, answer some of the following questions:

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What are their keyword lists, and why do they target them?
  • How good are they (technologically savvy, CMS they use, their sales funnels)?
  • How do they sell (value proposition, understanding their customers)?

You can learn about your competitors’ wins and failures by looking at their keyword list, positioning, and ad copy. When viewing their campaigns, you can gain insights and ideas on the keywords that you may have overlooked in the past, adding numerous prefixes and or suffixes to existing keyword groups.

You will get bonus points (aka ROI) if you compare their keyword list against yours and see where you can be successful in competing against them.

4. How to create a keyword research spreadsheet where you can include all keywords relevant for your business?

The best place to compile all your keywords is in Google Spreadsheets. This way, you and your agency can collaborate on the same document in real-time. When we evaluate the keywords, we tend to stick to the most important metrics related to Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. The two tools most used at Alpha Efficiency are Google Ads Keyword Planner and SEMRush. These lay the foundation for our work. There are many other great tools that you can use, but we found ourselves using these the most. Also, be sure to check out keyword researching tools articles, and see what other services provide for more in-depth analysis.

Effective visualization of your data is a quintessential component of all successful campaigns. An excellent way to achieve this is to create an organized list of keywords. Once we have gathered enough intelligent SEO research on variables in keywords, our next step is to organize them by traffic potential, relevance, and semantics.

It is best to group words semantically according to meaning and naming convention. Then you can categorize them further for their potential to perform by using the insight you gathered through your various SEO tools (some of which we have mentioned above). The way you organize your keyword list can make or break a campaign. Experience plays a significant role in successfully organizing your list. Observing the data without experience in semantics and competitor SEO analytics can lead to ineffective strategies.

5. How to populate the spreadsheet with the data from free SEO Tools?

The goal is to determine what keywords are bringing your competition the most results and, from there, to direct your content towards the same keywords. Staying on top of search trends and competitor analytics will help you populate your keyword spreadsheet. Every keyword should represent a campaign within your marketing strategy. Start practicing researching keyword trends daily, either by doing this yourself or by hiring someone with the skill level and experience for the task. That will decrease the profit loss potential from making rookie mistakes.

Search Engine Optimisation competition metrics that are a part of our SEO spreadsheet are:

  • Citation flow
  • Trust flow
  • Index count (how many pages are indexed by Google or Bing)
  • Referring domains (the true count of backlinks)
  • Domains RDD
  • Page RDP
  • Page backlinks
  • Domain backlinks BLD
  • Edu/Gov backlinks BLEG
  • Keyword title
  • Keywords in description
  • Keywords in the head section
  • Domain age (we primarily use it to evaluate the age of the backlinks, not so much the strength of the domain itself)
  • Page rank (though outdated and not used anymore, it sometimes provides valuable cues)

We assess the competitiveness of the page with SEMRush.Without tools like it, analyzing the SEO competition will be too expensive. Without thorough SEO competition analysis, SEO keyword research is entirely futile.

6. How to produce a competition level SEO report?

Upon completing every good keyword research report, there needs to be a good actionable document that will allow you, the business owner, to take a realistic look at your business position and understand the steps to take towards your business goals with a high degree of clarity.

An actionable report doesn’t consist only of the previously mentioned keyword research spreadsheet but also contains insights that can help your creative team develop a more articulate content strategy regarding the short term and the long term future.


See where you stand in comparison to your main competition. It is important to monitor what others are doing well and doing poorly. By utilizing tools like SEMRush and your keyword list, you can gauge your own progress in relation to the success of other companies like yours. Maintain this report on a bimonthly or weekly basis to ensure you are on top of relevant trends in your sector. Be sure to utilize graphs, charts, and other data visualization tools, such as Inzata – Data Analysis Tools, to illustrate keyword trends better. All this will help you stay with the curve on your journey to marketing success.

7. How to create an editorial calendar used for SEO Execution (or spreadsheet for your Ad Copies)?

Establishing a timeline for your campaign strategy is the last important component of a successful SEO campaign. Determining how long you want to run keywords and which keywords to run at particular times also takes experience. Ranking them by traffic drive potential can help you decide which keywords to run when and for how long. That, of course, should be a flexible plan. If a keyword is performing exceptionally well, or on the contrary, you need to be adaptive. Change your calendar to reflect ongoing analytics of your keywords. Good scheduling practices will drive better results, especially with some time on your belt.

The difference that exceptional keyword research makes

Experience and practice will play a major role in your keyword research effort. And something that will pay big dividends in the long run. Observing the data without prior experience can make costly mistakes in deciding what content to create and what keywords to bid on. Allowing an experienced agency can cut down the costs of time and accuracy of the work required. That’s where we come into play.

Next Steps

Need a detailed SEO or SEM strategy for your business? Do not hesitate to schedule a call with Alpha Efficiency experts. We will listen to your needs & create a proposal most suited for your business goals.

Brian Djordjevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

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