How To Choose Keywords For SEO

by Toby

January 4, 2023

How To Choose Keywords for SEO

Embarking on SEO requires an investment in time and resources to have a measurable impact that returns a profit to you. And choosing the best keywords is an essential starting point. Because not choosing correctly is the difference between making money or wasting your time. And the process does not have to be arduous, but the benefits of planning in advance help set you in the right direction with momentum.

So, let's get started on this tutorial and training. 

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Step 1

Start With Broad-Level Keyword Research

This step is one of the first for choosing effective SEO keywords. This step helps you cast a wide net to generate many keyword ideas. You will pare down the search terms to the essential keywords later. 

Brainstorm for Broad-Level Keywords

This can be a quick process. What do you think are crucial keywords that people are searching for? Start an Excel spreadsheet and write down your answers. Then, ask others in your company - customer service people, frontline workers, sales reps - add to your list of keywords and questions (don’t ignore the questions that often arise from your customers).

Step 2

Competitive Research

For this step, you can use SEO tools or use the austerity approach and utilize free Google searches. I will outline the austerity/free process here. 

Below is a simple search I did incognito in Google to uncover the top-ranking sites for “car accident attorneys Temecula.”

Competitor Research Using Google

Competitor Research Using Google

Competitor Research Using Google

Competitor Research Using Google

(And if you are in personal injury, we have a related post on personal injury SEO.)

Step 3

Check Google SERP Features for Keyword Ideas

Studying Google’s search results pages (SERPs) reveals a lot of what people are looking for. And because Google is willing to show results like this, it’s important enough for you to consider it. After all, Google would not show these results if people were not searching for them. 

Google has more than a dozen SERP features you can rank your site in. Below are a few of the more common SERP features in Google that can help you generate more keyword ideas:

People Also Ask

These appear near the top of the SERPs. These questions are an excellent source for keywords you should consider choosing for writing content. Below are additional questions people ask in the restaurant marketing niche (related post here on restaurant SEO).

People Also Ask Feature Showing in Google SERP

People Also Ask Feature for Google Ads for Restaurants

People Also Ask Feature Showing in Google SERP

People Also Ask Feature Showing in Google SERP

Related Searches

Scroll to the bottom of any Google SERP, and you will likely see Related Searches. This is another excellent source for keyword ideas - Google is telling you exactly what else people are searching for. Below are the related search phrases around "tattoo removal services" (related post here on medical spa SEO)

Use Related Searches to Choose Keywords

Med Spa Related Searches for Keyword Selections

Use Related Searches to Choose Keywords

Use Related Searches to Choose Keywords

Rich Snippets

These appear in position zero and at the top of some Google searches. Often these appear as answers to questions people ask Google. Pay attention to the answers for additional keyword and content ideas to help choose keywords. 

featured snippet example within Google search results

Featured Snippet Example in Google - Position Zero

Add the keywords you think are relevant to your spreadsheet. Don’t worry about organizing and sorting your keywords yet, we’ll get to that shortly. And relevant keywords, I mean, is it on-topic and about or closely related to your industry?

featured snippet example within Google search results

Featured Snippet Example in Google - Position Zero

Step 4

Use Free Tools

There are free and paid tools. The tools below are all free.

Google Trends (GT) - a free tool that helps uncover keyword trends and additional search terms. Its big data, and low-volume keywords may not have enough data with this tool to provide insights. But if your business is seasonal, GT will uncover annual highs and lows in search traffic that you can see going back ten or more years. (a related post here on using Google Trends to improve your marketing)

Pay attention to its “related queries” and “top” queries for your keyword ideas.

Google Trends - Rising Queries - How To Buy A Second Home

Google Trends - Rising Queries - How To Buy A Second Home

Google Trends - Rising Queries - How To Buy A Second Home

Google Trends - Rising Queries - How To Buy A Second Home

Google Search Console (GSC) - if you have set up your GSC account for your website, you can mine it for all the terms your site is showing for keywords. GSC is a goldmine of information about organic keywords. Many of the keywords your site ranks for were unintended, and you can write content around these topics to improve your SEO. Below is an example from a cooking site that shows impressions and clicks. 

Google Search Console To Choose Best Keywords

Google Search Console To Choose Best Keywords

Google Search Console To Choose Best Keywords

Google Search Console To Choose Best Keywords

Google Ads Keyword Planner (KP): set up a Google Ads account if you don’t have one already and leverage its Keyword Planner (KP), which is free. KP will give you all sorts of ideas on new keywords for SEO. But its most crucial benefit is that it gives you quantifiable search numbers.

You can see monthly search volumes on a keyword-by-keyword basis, which helps you uncover which keywords have enough volume to make it worthwhile. In addition, it shows you cost-per-click (CPC) estimates per keyword, indicating the competitiveness level and economic value. The higher the CPC, the more competition and economic value a keyword can deliver.

However, it’s not as comprehensive as our research before this point. It is biased a bit, and it’s not a comprehensive organic SEO tool but does offer great value as a research tool. 

Buying A Second Home Keywords - Google Ads Keyword Planner

Buying A Second Home Keywords - Google Ads Keyword Planner

Buying A Second Home Keywords - Google Ads Keyword Planner

Buying A Second Home Keywords - Google Ads Keyword Planner

Step 5

Organize Keywords into Buckets (SEO Funnel)

I wrote a post on SEO funnels that goes into more detail on this, but organize your keywords based on how close or far away the intent indicates the searcher is to converting. Marketers refer to this as a funnel. Typically, the higher up you are in the funnel, the less competitive the search phrases are. And as you move down the funnel, the keywords become more competitive as intent indicates the searcher is closer to buying now. (this is a helpful post on using SEO silos and internal linking which is very much aligned with this topic)

Or another way to think about a funnel is in terms of the customer journey:
Is the customer just beginning the search process for information? If so, they are further away from converting. Or are they well-versed in the subject and ready to buy what you offer now? 

The most commonly known marketing funnel framework for this is AIDA. AIDA stands for, Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action. 

But in our case for SEO, we’re going to rename our keyword categories so they align with the SEO process more efficiently. 

So, in our situation, we’ll name the funnel levels as the following:

SEO Funnel

SEO Funnel

SEO Funnel

SEO Funnel

Informational search phrases are the furthest away from converting. Searches here are typically higher volume and less competitive because the people are just starting their search for information.

Here's an example using a med spa search term, "best ways to remove a tattoo." The intent of this search is that they are gathering information about how to get their tattoos removed. What are the best options for them? 

Navigational search phrases are people looking for a specific website or page. For example, "Groupon Tattoo Removal."

Commercial intent words indicate the searcher wants to learn more about brands or services. For example, "Tattoo removal service" or "Best tattoo removal laser.

And finally, Transactional intent search words are bottom-of-the-funnel and closest to converting. For example, "tattoo removal near me," or "tattoo removal near me cost."

Organizing your keywords in this manner helps you stay organized and balanced. You don’t want all your keywords at just one funnel level.

Now, Choose the right keywords

So now that you have compiled your list of keywords and organized them into an SEO funnel, you can prioritize which search terms are most important for your unique situation. Balance your selection with volume, competitiveness, and the resources you have available to produce content around those phrases. 

Ideally, you will choose keywords at each level of the funnel, so you have content that nurtures your prospects from the start of their organic search to the end. And if you're doing any kind of lead nurturing with marketing automation, you now have content around those keywords you can drip out to prospects with email depending on where they are in the customer journey. 

So to wrap this up, if you aren’t following a process for choosing your keywords, I encourage you to try it and let me know how it goes.

And if you’d rather have us implement SEO for you, I'd be happy to chat about your SEO project in detail.

All you need to do is reach out to me and schedule a 15-minute call. 

Your Next Steps

  1. 1
    Schedule a no-pressure 15 min introductory call with us to find out if we're a good fit
  2. 2
    We will prepare and send you a proposal outlining our proposed scope of work and costs based on your business needs 
  3. 3
    We'll schedule a kickoff meeting and begin work on your digital strategy

About the author 

Toby

Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several companies throughout his career. He's an expert in SEO, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Marketing Automation, and more. He has a BA in Chemistry/Biochemistry from UC San Diego and an MBA from SDSU.

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