Optiwing logo

How To Do Keyword Research
(With Examples)

by Tim Schneider

SEOs tend to over-complicate things when doing keyword research. In this article I'll show you the basics of how to do keyword research for basically any niche you can think of. With examples for a few different tools and niches to follow. So you can see how it works in practice.

How To Do Keyword Research with tools

What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is finding search terms that people commonly enter into search engines. Keyword research is useful for SEO by allowing us to:

  • Determine the popularity of specific search terms
  • Evaluate a keyword's difficulty ranking (How hard it is for a newer or more established website to rank for that keyword)
  • Discover new keywords to help inspire our content and writing.

With keyword research, we can answer important SEO questions such as:

  • What are people searching for?
  • How many people are searching for it?
  • What format do they want the information to be in? (Answering a question, ranking list, offering examples, etc.)

Once you understand what your target audience is looking for, you can tailor make content that is search intent-oriented while still providing value to everyone who discovers it. This is essential, especially considering Google's Helpful Content Update. This update is designed to rank content higher that genuinely helps users and provides value for their specific needs. So for understanding user intent and to get your content to rank higher, you must master keyword research. Which is a much simpler task than you might think.

The Basics of Keyword Research Using Keyword Research Tools

SEO Keyword Research: The Basics Using Keyword Research Tools.

Let's get to it, here's how to do keyword research:

First: You'll need a keyword research tool. I recommend using Ahrefs or SEMrush, but you can even use Google Search Console for free if you already have some impressions for your website. I'll give an example of that at the end.

I'll be using SEMrush for this example, but the same concepts apply for using Ahrefs. You’ll also need a keyword clustering tool. I'll be using Optiwing's keyword grouping tool which you can try for free.

Example One: Affiliate Marketing in The Snowboarding Industry

Keyword Research Tools Needed: Ahrefs/SEMrush & Optiwing

Keyword Magic Tool

The scenario: We’re an affiliate marketer in the snow sports industry. We want to write content about the best snowboards, the top snowboard boots/bindings, and snowboard reviews.

Step 1: Choose starting keywords (Seed keywords)

First we will need to select some starter keywords. These will be broad search terms that covers the industry or niche as a whole.

I simply chose snowboard to try to catch as many related keywords and accessories as possible. Note: It is often wise to include both the singular and plural form of your keyword. For this example, you could also include "snowboards" in your keyword research, but for simplicity we will be sticking to just "Snowboard".

Step 2: Use The Keyword Magic/Explorer Tool

Next, we'll be using SEMrush's keyword magic tool. Here’s how to do it:

  • Select your seed keywords and head on over to SEMrush or Ahrefs.
  • Navigate to the Keyword Magic Tool.
  • Enter your seed words into the tool and click on search for broad terms.
Keyword Magic Tool Snowboard

Once our keyword report is ready, click on "Broad Match" or ("Terms Match" in Ahrefs) to see all results with our seed keyword in them.

SEMrush will find all keywords/search terms that have our seed words in them. In this case, we have 298,975 keywords with the seed keyword "Snowboard" in them.

Step 3: Add Include Keywords to Narrow Results

We need to curate our list of matching terms for the best result and to git rid of some unnecessary keywords we don't care to target. You’ll notice that some of the matching terms aren’t relevant. For instance, we end up with the terms "ride snowboards" and "how to snowboard". While we could promote a product through informational content we are focusing on commercial and transactional keywords for now.

Keyword Magic Tool Weeding Out Keywords

We're going to want to refine our results to eliminate any unwanted results. The easiest way to do this is create list of includes. Includes are any words that should appear in the search terms along with our seed keywords. Since we’re an affiliate marketer, we are focused on commercial or transactional intent keywords.

Anything like "best", "top", "review", and "reviews" and one of my favorites "beginner". These are all great ways to narrow our results down. Remember to choose "Any Word" when you create this filter or it will require every word in the list to be in the search term.

Keyword Magic Tool Include

This narrowed our results down to 25,812 keywords, this is a lot better but we can narrow this down even more to refine our results a bit more.

Keyword Magic Tool Results

Step 4: Add Exclude Keywords to Narrow Results Even Further

We want to narrow our list down even further and we can do this by adding some exclude keywords. An exclude word is any word that we don’t want to appear in our search terms. In this case, we don’t want our list to include terms like "best places to snowboard" or "snowboard shop near me".

So, we create an exclude list. My list has the following words in it: "place", "places", "near me", and "shop". Add your list to the Exclude filter and click Apply.

Keyword Magic Tool Exclude

Our list has now shrunk to 24,818 keywords. We could group these now, but this would use quite a lot of resources and include a lot of very low volume keywords so we're going to narrow it down until we have a list of around 500-10,000 keywords depending on the size of our niche.

Keyword Magic Tool Results

Let’s see if we can narrow our list down a bit more.

Step 5: Define Volume to Remove Low Volume Keywords

Click on the Volume filter, and add a minimum. In this case I decided anything under 20 volume wasn't worth targeting. This will narrow our keyword list down quite a bit.

Keyword Magic Tool Volume

This narrowed our list down to 4,711 keywords, a much more reasonable number, we could narrow this down more by adding more include/excludes or tweaking our volume further but I'm going to stick with this list.

Keyword Magic Tool Export

Now we’re going to use a keyword grouping tool to help us understand how we can best use this keyword list. Hit the Export button. Remember to export all the rows as CSV, or UTF-16 (Microsoft Excel CSV). You’ll end up with a file that looks something like this.

Keyword Magic Tool Exported

But we’re not done there, this file isn’t particularly helpful to us. We’re going to use a keyword clustering tool to make it more useful to us.

Step 6: Group Your Keywords

Once you’ve got your exported list, head over to our Optiwing Dashboard.

  • Sign In or Create an Account and Sign In.
  • Create a new job by clicking the +New button.
  • Give your job a title, and choose your exported list of keywords as is.

It should look something like this:

Optiwing New Job

Finally, choose your geography and device. For this example, I’m leaving it as the United States and Desktop.

Click on Launch Job.

What does Optiwing actually do?

Optiwing takes your keyword list and runs every single keyword through Google. It will group any keywords that share at least 3 ranking results the first page of organic Google results.

Basically if a set of keywords have 3 or more ranking pages that are the same, we know that we only need one article to target that set of keywords because the same pages rank for different variations of those keywords. Once our job is complete, we can take a look at the results.

Optiwing Results

We will see a list of keywords, and the number of variations in each grouping. Each button is a topic that requires it's own article.

Each button has the primary keyword as the title. We can click on the button to see the keywords in that group.

Optiwing Topical Group

We can also see the aggregate volume, the Keyword Difficulty (How hard it is to rank for a particular keyword on a scale of 0-100), as well as of all of the keywords in each group.

So how can we use this to improve our SEO and content strategy?

When writing an article, we try to keep the primary keyword in the title, meta description, and first paragraph. We’ll use keyword variations as H2's and organically sprinkle them throughout our content in a way that doesn't detract from the content but is consistent with normal speech or conversation.

Example Two: SEO Agency In The Real Estate Niche

Keyword Research Tools Needed: Ahrefs/SEMrush & Optiwing

The scenario: We’re an SEO agency targeting real estate professionals.

Step 1: Choose seed keywords

I chose the following seed keyword: Real Estate

Step 2: Use A Keyword Research Tool To Generate A List Of Related Keywords

I used SEMrush to generate a list of related keywords, this gave me a list of over 2 million keywords.

Keyword Magic Tool Real Estate

Step 3: Add Include Keywords

I filted the list down by adding the keywords: SEO, digital marketing, CRM, blog, blogs, podcast, podcasts, internet, CRM, paid ad, paid ads, PPC.

Step 4: Add Exclude Keywords

I added the exclude keywords "Digital Real Estate" because I noticed a lot of keywords about this which I didn't want in my final results.

Step 5: Add Volume Filter

I decided to again filter out anything under 20 volume.

After applying these filters I was left with a little over 1,000 keywords which is ideal.

Keyword Magic Tool Real Estate Narrowed Results

Step 6: Group Your Keywords

I exported my report from SEMrush as a CSV and imported it into a new Optiwing job. I downloaded the following results from Optiwing:

Optiwing Grouping Results Downloaded

Example Three: Content Writing Blog with Google Search Console and Google Keyword Planner

Keyword Research Tools Needed: Google Search Console, Google Ads Keyword Planner & Optiwing

The scenario: We’re trying to get more traffic to our blog by making more content related to the search queries that are already performing well for our website.

Step 1: Find Keywords Using Google Search Console

First, we're going to head over to Google Search Console and look under the performance tab to see which search queries our website is generating the most clicks from. Here are the results from our example website:

Google Search Console

Step 2: Enter Top Keywords Into Google Ads Keyword Planner

Then we'll go to Google Ads Keyword Planner and enter the top 10 queries from our website into the keyword planner keyword discovery tool.

Google Ads Keyword Planner

Step 3: Download Keywords

Select all keywords and click "Download keyword ideas" to download the entire list of related keywords.

Google Ads Keyword Planner How to Download Keywords

Download the results as a .csv file

Google Ads Keyword Planner How to Download Keywords as CSV

Step 5: Prepare Your File

In order to group our keywords we need to make sure our file is properly formatted, remove the extra lines added at the top of the .csv file by Google Keyword Planner, make sure the first row is labels and the following rows are keywords/stats.

Google Ads Keyword Planner CSV File, Remove First Two Rows

Our file will look something like this when done, we can manually remove rows to get rid of keywords we don't want to include in our grouping, or sort by volume and remove low volume keywords if we want.

Google Ads Keyword Planner CSV File

Step 6: Group Your Keywords

Now we can open up Optiwing and start a new job with our edited csv file.

Optiwing New Keyword Grouping Job

Step 7: Write Articles Based On Grouping Results

Now we have groupings of keywords we can target with a single article each, and we can use these topical clusters to inspire our future content and double down on what's already working and generating clicks for us.

Optiwing Keyword Grouping Results

Pro tips for Keyword Research

So what do we do with our list of awesome keyword ideas? Here are some tips:

1. Choose Logical Ideas

Browse through your keyword list and highlight or save options that are:

  • High Volume: These articles will bring more organic traffic than low-volume ones.
  • Easy keyword difficult: Don’t waste your time trying to challenge industry titans. A low keyword difficulty, paired with high volume searches, is often easier pickings.
  • Relevance: Your chosen keyword must be relevant to your industry or niche. Relevance improves the user intent.
  • Marketing funnel: Finally, understand how the article aligns with your business goals. Is it at the bottom of the marketing funnel or the top of the funnel?

Ideally, you’d want to create articles for every keyword group. However, this can be expensive and time-consuming. So, I believe in prioritizing keywords. If a keyword is high in volume, low in difficulty, relevant to your niche, and aligns with your business goals, it’s should be your initial target.

2. Optimizing your content

I personally like Backlinko's Guide to On-Page SEO

3. Linking

Internal and external linking is crucial to capitalize on your keyword research efforts. Create internal links on secondary keywords (also known as keyword variations). This is a powerful way of boosting your overall SEO performance.

As for external links, if you’ll be guest posting or link building, use the keyword variations as your external link anchors.

How To Do SEO Keyword Research In 5 Minutes

Thats that simple step-by-step guide to doing keyword research.

To recap, here are the steps again:

  • Start with broad search term (Seed keywords).
  • Narrow this list down with include and exclude words.
  • Remove low-volume keywords.
  • Use a keyword clustering tool, such as Optiwing.
  • Check that the results satisfy the user’s search intent, manually verify results if needed.

Following these steps consistently will help you become a topical authority in your niche. Remember, SEO is a marathon not a sprint, and providing useful and valuable content is foremost important.

You may also like...

Start grouping keywords and building topical authority

Claim your 100 free credits now