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Beginners Guide to Keyword Research

Research and discovery are one of the most foundational aspects of building out a campaign. In the marketing industry, it is a skill set that can be part of many hats a marketer wears, it can be a part of the day to day job, or it can be something a small business owner has to figure out if they are trying to DIY. Keyword research is an element of content marketing, search engine optimization, and paid advertising to name a few.


Without further ado, let’s walk through how to approach keyword research as a beginner.

Step 1: Make a list of important, relevant topics based on what you know about your business.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What does your business do?
  • What services or products do you sell?
  • What kinds of customers do you have?
  • What areas do you serve?

Step 2: Fill in those topic buckets with keywords.  

I recommend doing a brain dump of 30-60 words, doing some card sorting, and then researching search volume, cost per click, and competition (you can use keywords everywhere). From there try and get top 10 keywords in your various categories [aim for 3-6 categories]

Step 3: Research related search terms using a variety of tools. Different tools may come back with a variation in answers. Take an average from 2-3 tools and compare results.

  • Google trends
  • Keywords everywhere chrome plug in
  • Google Adwords Keyword Planner
  • Moz Keyword Explorer
  • Semantic Keywords in Google search bars
  • Ubersuggest
  • Google Search Suggestions
  • Alternative Search Suggestions (Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Dogpile, Quora)

Step 4: Check for a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords in each bucket and analyze your keywords. ( and

  • Head keywords: 1 or 2 words with a high search volume
  • Body keywords: 2 to 3 word phrases with a good search volume, not high, not low.
  • Long tail keywords: Long tail keywords consist of four or more words strung together with a low search volume. These account for the bulk of web traffic.
  • Long tail plus+ keywords: same as long tail keywords but more conversational
  • Another term you’ll hear is semantic keywords, which are related to latent semantic indexing (LSI). LSI is a bit like search engines using word association to decide what you’re really looking for.  Want to see LSI in action? Look at the autocomplete results when you type a word or phrase into the Google search box. This list changes as you add words to provide context.

Step 5: See how competitors are ranking for these keywords (check out SEMrush) 

Step 6: Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner (or HubSpot’s Keywords App) to cut down your keyword list.

It is important to cut down your list, so you are able to clearly determine top pillar pages (high impact website pages) and sub topical pages to support those.

For example, let’s say you are trying to rank for “who is the best inbound marketing agency in charlotte”- your head key term would be “inbound marketing” and the pillar page you use would need to be about inbound marketing in a conversational tone.

Next, you would identify long tail keywords that are relevant to inbound marketing and can use contextual content to link back to the inbound marketing pillar page.

Pro tip: I recommend  a 1 (pillar page) to 12 (sub-topical pages) ratio as a good baseline.

Keep your full list to reference back to when you dry up on content. Hint: prioritize your wish list and the combinations of pillar pages and sub topical keywords.

Elements of Keyword Research

  • Visits
  • Rank
  • Difficulty
  • Historical Performance
  • Competition
  • Search Volume
  • Traffic Estimates
  • Market
  • Cost per Click

Key Elements to Consider For a Beginner

Pro tip: Use the Moz chrome plug-in and keywords everywhere

  • Position (current rank in Google)
  • Competition (the lower, the better)
  • Search volume (average monthly searches per month)

How to Use Keyword Research

Keyword research is used to help us find the phrases (aka keywords) that your potential customers are searching for online. This is an in-depth process that includes analyzing your website, your competitor’s website and also gathering information from Google and other paid marketing tools.

From this information, we are able to find keywords that have a high search volume and low competition. This means that there is a significant amount of users searching for these keywords, but few companies that are targeting them.  This gives us a perfect opportunity to maximize results with less effort.

  • Title tag: Title on Google under 60 characters  (50 ideally!)
  • Meta description: Mini Description in Google under 150-300 characters including spaces
  • H1: Likely a similar or identical version of title tag. Must utilize primary keyword
  • H2: A sub header utilizing secondary keyword
  • Body: 300 words or more ; ideal word count 1000-2500
  • URL: The address of the webpage
  • Alt Attributes: a short description of the image using a primary or secondary keyword
  • Anchor Text: Anchor Text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. In modern browsers, it is often blue and underlined, such as: Learn about anchor text on Moz.


  • Onsite SEO : White hat + black hat tactics

On-site SEO strategies generally refer to strategies that are implemented within the web programming language, and appear on the website itself.

Frequently publishing sticky content, offers, blog topics/subtopics, interior pages, properly using metadata, ensuring the site navigation is simple for humans and search engine crawlers.


Google rank checker, Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz, Google Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adwords,,, keywords everywhere chrome extension, and

And, be sure to download our Free SEO Guide for Beginners! It’s a great read filled with basic definitions and introductions to the world of SEO.