Keyword Research Guide For 2021

A step By Step Blueprint to do Keyword Research for your Blog

Keyword research is a critical component of modern days of search engine optimization.

Whether you are developing a content strategy for your new blog or kick-starting an old blog — the strength of your keyword research will make or break your success as a blogger.

However, unless you are an SEO professional, the idea of performing keyword research may sound like a daunting task.

That’s why I have written this beginner’s guide. It teaches you a proven keyword research framework that you can use to find easy to rank keywords in any blogging niche.

How to do keyword research for your blog

Ready to skyrocket your organic traffic from Google? 

Let’s go.

01. What are Keywords Anyway?

The keywords (sometimes referred to as “SEO keywords”) are words and phrases people type into a search engine like Google to find certain information on the internet.

For example, when someone needs help in baking a cake so they might search on Google for “How to make a cake” or “cake baking tips.” Here the search term they are using is the keyword.

what are keywords
Examples of keyword

02. What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of finding, analyzing and prioritizing the best words and phrases (aka “keywords”) that peoples are using in the search engine to find information related to your blog niche.

In other words, it’s all about understanding the language of your target audience and using this knowledge to optimize your web contents.

03. Is Keyword Research Still Relevant in 2021?

It is an undeniable fact that search engines (especially Google) have evolved over the last decade.

And the importance of keywords for web page ranking has declined a bit.

With Google making a few big changes in their algorithms in the last decade, its no longer required to use keywords that exactly match a user’s search query.

Today, what matters is the user intent behind the search query and whether your content aligns with that search intent.

keyword research evolution over the years

But that doesn’t mean keyword research is not important – quite the contrary.

Let me explain…

Keyword research helps you find the answer to some of the most important question that comes in your mind before planning your content strategy:

  • What topics people care about in your niche?
  • How popular those topics are among your audience?
  • How competitive it is and what it takes to rank for those terms in top results?
  • How much traffic you are likely to get if you rank for that topic?
  • And even what exact kind of content you need to create to be able to rank for that topic?

Finding answers to these questions will help you pick your battle wisely.

In a nutshell: Even in 2021, proper keyword research is the most crucial factor for a successful content and SEO campaign that drives the right audience and helps you make money. Click To Tweet

04. How Often Should You Do Keyword Research?

Keywords are the primary building blocks of your blog content. And they require periodic evaluation and maintenance.

Most often, it is needed when you’re:

  • looking for a new blogging niche
  • revamping an old blog
  • looking for new content ideas
  • launching a new product
  • or optimizing your existing blog post

In my case, whenever I start a new niche site, I plan at least 50 contents in the advance which gets published in the next 6 month as per schedule.

This is the time when I do heavy keyword research (at least spend 7 days) to find all type of keywords (discuss in a moment) that is required for my niche site.

For example, last year I started a new “vacuum cleaner” niche site and here is a screenshot of my keyword research planning for that niche site.

niche site keyword research
Keyword research planning for a niche site (Note: I use Notion to plan everything related to my business & life)

One thing you need to keep in mind is that never ever do your keyword research & content planning for more than 6 months.

Because new keywords emerge as the need and preference of your audience evolve. As well as, the competition also change in long run (more than 6 months).

05. Which is the best Keyword Research Tool to use?

Keyword research involves making data-backed decisions. And to do this, you need to have the right tools in your arsenal.

I would love to tell you that you can perform keyword research with a free tool (like Keyword Sheeter, and Answer the Public), but unfortunately the metrics we need to make right decisions all cost money.

Fortunately, I have plenty of experience with both free and paid SEO tools and can make some good recommendations.

SIDENOTE: This recommendation is solely based on my experience of experimenting with different SEO (or keyword research) tool for my blogs & niche site over the years.

1 Ahrefs

Ahrefs keyword research tool image

Ahrefs is the very first SEO tool I started using in my early days of blogging. Previously, it was mostly known for its powerful backlink analysis data & features.

But with the time, their “Keywords Explorer” feature has got better and better. It lets you discover thousands of great keyword ideas, analyze their ranking difficulty and calculate traffic potential.

Apart from the basic data, it provides a few unique features like organic CTR, estimated backlinks required and a notably most accurate keyword difficulty score (as per my experience).

2 SEMrush

SEMrush keyword tracking tool image

SEMrush provides you a comprehensive suite of tools to carry out keyword research and improve your SEO rankings.

Very similar to Ahrefs, it has a keyword overview tool which shows you all the necessary data of a keyword like the search volume, keyword trend, keyword difficulty, CPC, SERP overview and much more.

Their newly added Keyword magic section is a great way to quickly discover millions of keyword suggestion from your seed keyword.

Not to forget, each suggested keyword comes up with a range of insightful metrics helping you evaluate its potential for achieving your goals.

3 KWFinder

KWFinder keyword research tool image

If you are looking for something which is completely dedicated to keyword research, KWFinder is your best bet.

Unlike the above two giant, Mangools (the company behind KWFinder) is new in the market yet they are one of the fastest-growing SEO tool company.

It is a good tool to quickly discover problem-solving long-tail keywords that will help you drive highly targeted traffic.

But what really makes them unique from other paid SEO tool is their ‘pricing’.

Their affordable pricing (almost ⅓ of their competitor’s pricing) makes them a top recommendation for low budget bloggers and SEO consultants.

Conclusion of Keyword research tool:

Personally, I have been continuously using Ahrefs and SEMrush for a long time. Still, if I have to make one recommendation then it would beSEMrush“.

Why?

Because the number of tools and feature SEMrush provides for a blogger or content marketers is incomparable with any other SEO tools.

From Keyword research to SEO content writing, backlink analysis, PPC research, social media content planning, rank tracking, link building and whatnot.

Overall, it has a complete suite of tools that you’ll ever need to up your blogging and content marketing game.

IMPORTANT NOTE

SEMrush offers a 7-day free trial of every tool available in their suite. So, better use the trial period first to check how good the tool work for you.

Click here to activate your free trial

CHAPTER #2

How to Find Keyword Ideas

Now that you know what is keyword research and why it is still important, we’ll now get into the nitty-gritty of keyword research for blog & SEO.

A successful, keyword research-backed content plan starts with thinking about how your potential audience might be searching for your blog or business.

You can then use any keyword research tool to expand on those ideas and find even more winning keywords.

Don’t worry, it is a very simple process. But two things need to be true to do it well:

  • You need to have good knowledge of your target audience and their needs.
  • You need to understand how a keyword research tool (like SEMrush) works and how to get the most out of them.

In this chapter, we will run through a few actionable ways to master both those areas.

Let’s dive right in.

01. Brainstorm ‘seed’ keywords

The keyword research process starts with a rough list of “seed” keywords that are relevant to your blog and business.

What are seed keywords?

Seed keywords are basically baseline (foundational) keywords that fits your bogging niche.

Every keyword research tool first asks for a seed keyword, which it then uses to generate a big list of related keyword ideas (discuss in a moment.)

For example, let’s assume you started a new “Coffee” niche blog (one of my favourite niche🤭)

Now, you would want to ask yourself: “what topic people would search for to find your contents related to coffee?”

Some topics that might come to your mind would be:

  • Coffee
  • Coffee Maker
  • French press
  • Coffee beans
  • Cold coffee

Note that seed keywords will be usually too broad to be targeted on their own. As the name suggests, you will use them as “seeds” to narrow down on more specific keywords in the next step.

👉 Still, Struggling to Find seed keywords?

Let’s take a look at a few places that can help you find “seed” keywords (or main topic) related to your niche.

1 Wikipedia Contents

Wikipedia is a goldmine of keyword ideas that are all curated into neatly organized categories.

Here’s how to use Wikipedia to find keywords:

First, head over to Wikipedia and type in a broad topic; for example, coffee:

wikipedia search

This will take you to the Wikipedia page on that topic.

Once you’re there, take a look at the “table of content” section on the page. It will help you discover sub-topics that would be tough to find any other way.

wikipedia keyword research

Not only the table of content section, many of the internal links added on the page will also give you more closely related keyword ideas.

Wikipedia keyword research guide

2 Find Keywords on Reddit

Reddit is a massive community of people who discuss almost every topic you can imagine.

Which means you can usually discover lots of good topics and ideas through this platform.

Here’s how:

Head over to Reddit and search for your niche topic. Then, open any popular subreddits related to your topic.

reddit keyword research

Now go through every thread and keep an eye out for words and phrases that tend to come up frequently.

subreddits keyword research

PRO TIP: You can use a free tool called Keyworddit to extract frequent words and phrases used in a subreddit.

keyworddit tool

3 Google and YouTube auto-suggest

Just type your main topic in Google, and you will notice that it will suggest related search phrase directly in the search form.

Google autosuggest keywords

As Google is suggesting search phrases that are used by tons of real users, they can be a nice inspiration for interesting keywords.

PRO TIP: Add any letter before (or after) your search phrase to see more and more suggestions.

How to find keywords with google

You can try various combinations like:

  • Coffee a, b, c…
  • Coffee ab, ac, ad…
  • a, b, c, …. coffee

You can try the same method with YouTube search engine too.

Keyword research with youtube search engine

PRO TIP:

To streamline your keyword research process, you should group your seed keyword ideas (main topics) together to form topic buckets. This simple exercise will also help you in creating topic clusters for your blog (more on this at the end of the post).

For example, as I am doing keyword research for my new coffee blog, my topic buckets might include the following:

  • Coffee Beans
    • Espresso Bean
    • coffee brand
    • Organic Coffee Beans
  • Coffee Brewing
    • Cold-brew coffee
    • Americano Coffee
    • French Press Coffee
    • AeroPress Coffee
    • cappuccino 
  • Coffee roasting
    • Light roast
    • Dark Roast
    • Medium roast
    • Pan Roasting
  • Coffee Gears
    • Espresso Machines
    • Coffee Grinders
    • Coffee Makers
    • Coffee Roaster
    • Coffee Mugs
    • Coffee blender
  • Coffee Subscription Box
  • Coffee recipe
  • etc…

This is a general idea of how you can create topic cluster (group topically related ideas) during the beginning of your keyword research process.

If you have good knowledge of your blogging niche, coming up with the initial broad topic ideas will be not so hard. Otherwise the above 3 sources (Reddit, Google auto-suggests and Wikipedia) will be very helpful.

02. Drop your seed keyword in SEMrush

Once you’ve gathered your ideas, it’s time to convert those ideas into SEO keywords.

SEO keywords are basically the actual search queries people type in Google related to your niche.

To do that, we need to take the help of a keyword research tool. In this tutorial, I’ll demonstrate the process using SEMrush (my favourite) but you can use any other popular tool like Ahrefs or KWFinder.

So, open SEMrush and go to the “Keyword Magic Tool” (appearing under keyword research section).

SEMrush keyword magic tool

Now, enter one of your seed keywords into the keyword magic tool. To continue with our example of a coffee blog, I entered “Coffee brewing”.

Guess what? SEMrush has revealed more than 42k keyword ideas related to our just one seed keyword “coffee brewing”.

SIDENOTE: Beside keyword suggestions, all keywords appears along with their SEO metrics that will help you analyze and pick the right keywords.

SEMrush keyword ideas

Looks like a very big list of ideas to manage! So let’s use the “search volume” filter to remove keywords not worth your attention.

What is search volume?

The search volume is the average number of searches performed on Google per month for a particular keyword.

So, lets select “search volume filter” and enter ‘500’ as minimum search volume.

search volume semrush

Guess what! we have successfully removed keyword ideas with very low search traffic potential and left with only 119 keywords.

Search volume semrush tool

Now, go through your list of keyword ideas and select all those keywords that make sense to cover on your blog.

For now, don’t bother about whether you’ll be able to rank for these keywords or not. We will talk about different factors for checking ranking possibilities in the next chapter.

Repeat this simple process again and again until you find enough keywords ideas related to your seed keywords.

PRO TIP: Remember we talked about “topic clustering” in the first step?

You can use SEMrush’s “keyword list” feature to group your topically related keyword ideas together.

Just click on the “+” icon appearing after your keyword and create a new keyword list. You can create various keyword list depending on your requirement.

SEMrush keyword lists.

Once you are done with finding keyword ideas, open SEMrush keyword manager. Here you’ll find all your keywords lists.

keyword manager semrush

Now open all your keyword list one by one and export your ideas into a spreadsheet file.

keyword list in semrush tool

03. Check your competitor’s domain to get new Keyword ideas

It is always a good practice to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing.

Competitive analysis can help you analyze their strength and weakness, so that you can utilize both accordingly for your blog & business.

However, it can be a super-tedious work for you to find your competitor’s ranking keyword manually. You would literally have to go to their each page one by one and guess the keyword.

Fortunately, it is a matter of few clicks with a good keyword research tool.

By checking which keywords your competitor’s website /blog is ranking for, you can discover some amazing keyword ideas for your own blog.

Let’s see how it works:

Open your SEMrush dashboard and navigate to Competitive Research > Organic Research

Now, enter one of your competitor’s blog URL and hit the enter button on your keyboard.

competitor keyword research

SIDENOTE: If you have researched a bit before starting your blog, you would be knowing at least a few of the blog working in the same niche. Otherwise, search for “best + your niche + blog” in Google to find out some good blog in your niche.

Continuing with our example, I have entered one of the popular coffee blog “https://www.roastycoffee.com/” in the SEMrush.

This will open up the organic research report.

Navigate to the “Top Organic Keywords” section to view your competitor’s top-ranking organic keywords.

Organic-keyword-semrush

Finally, here is the list of more than 88k keywords this website is ranking for.

Check competitor's ranking keyword

SIDENOTE: You can sort the keyword list by any keyword metrics like search volume, traffic percentage or keyword difficulty.

04. Check specific URL to get keyword ideas for a specific topic

This method comes very handily when you already have a blog post topic in your mind.

For example: Let’s say you want to write your next blog post about “Coffee Grind Size” on your hypothetical coffee blog.

Just enter your topic in Google and copy one of the top-ranking page’s URL.

Google serp for coffee grind

Now, open SEMrush tool > head over to organic research section > enter the blog Post URL in search box > press enter button.

Check keyword of a blog post

Finally, SEMrush will reveal all the SEO keywords that are bringing users to that page.

Organic research semrush tool

In the screenshot, you can see that one article about “coffee grind size” ranks for more than a thousand keywords.

CHAPTER #3

How to evaluate keyword ideas

If you’ve followed the above advice and used SEMrush wisely, within 30-40 minutes, you’ll have tons of keyword ideas. Now it’s time to evaluate those ideas and see if they are worth investing your time on.

After all, if a keyword is too competitive to rank for, you won’t b able to pass the 3rd page of Google.

So, you have to narrow things down and filter out the most valuable keywords before adding them to your content calendar.

But how?

That’s exactly what I am going to show you now.

01. Relevance (search intent)

While assessing your keyword list, the very first thing you need to do is identify the search intent for each keyword.

Search intent basically means the reason behind a searcher’s query.

There are 4 basic search intent categories:

  • Navigational – where users search for a specific website or brand.
  • Informational – where users search for getting an answer to their question.
  • Commercial – where users search for information that may eventually lead to a transaction.
  • Transactional – Where users search for buying something online.

Here are some examples of keywords and common content types for each category of search intent.

search intent along with keyword and content type

The best way to find search intent behind a keyword is to Google it and analyze the top 10 results in the SERP.

Because Google algorithms very accurately understand the actual intent of the user. So what they shows in the top 10 results are very close to what users are looking for.

This simple exercise will help you eliminate those keywords from your list whose intent don’t match with your website offering & goals.

After all, it is a waste of time and resources to focus on those keywords that won’t get you the kind of organic users you want for your site.

Here is a simple example to understand what I am trying to convey:

Looking at the top 3 results for “pour over coffee,” you can tell just from the title that all the page are informational blog posts.

serp search intent

If you have a coffee blog and you can write an informational blog post about “what is pour-over coffee and how to make it” then yes you can fulfil the search intent.

Whereas a query like “Nespresso machine” shows product and category pages from e-commerce stores.

Transactional intents

So, if you don’t have an eCommerce store, then it doesn’t make any sense to target this keyword because you won’t be able to match the searchers intent.

02. Popularity of the keyword

The popularity of a keyword usually means search volume (number of time a keyword is searched in Google.)

It is usually calculated as a monthly average based on the data of the last 12 months.

All three recommended SEO tool (KWfinder, SEMrush & Ahrefs) lets you check the search volume of a keyword.

One thing you need to keep in mind that different SEO tool uses different sources and data processing method. As a result, there may be a difference in search volume among different SEO tools.

To find a keyword’s search volume with SEMrush, go to Keyword overview tab and enter your preferred keyword.

SEMrush seo keyword oveview tool

It will then show you the search volume of your keyword. In addition to monthly search volume for your selected country database, it will also show you keyword’s global search volume.

Global search volume is basically sum of the keyword’s average monthly search volume across different country.

SEMrush search volume of a keyword

The million-dollar question: What’s a “good” search volume?

Short answer: it depends.

The long answer: If your site is new, then you probably don’t want to focus on high search volume keywords because they are likely to be competitive.

Perhaps you want to focus on uncompetitive, low-volume keywords where you can easily rank on the first page of Google.

Example: Focusing on “Best coffee for weight loss” with a monthly search volume of only 700 is a lot better than focusing on “Best coffee” whose search volume is 30k per month. Because the former keyword is more specific and probably less competitive for a new blog.

03. Keyword Trends

Given that search volume showed by SEO tools are based on an annual average, it often makes sense to check the trend graph for keywords that you’re considering.

If your keyword is seasonal or a viral topic, then search volume might not be the best predictor of month-to-month traffic.

How to check the trend of a keyword?

Whenever you enter a keyword in SEMrush keyword overview tool, you’ll get a trend graph (of past 12 months) in the top right side.

If you see that a keyword’s graph doesn’t fluctuate much, then it’s a clear signal that you’ll get consistent traffic from that search query.

SEMrush keyword trend

However, if a keyword graph fluctuates too much, that means you are not going to get consistent search traffic throughout the year.

Black Friday related search queries are a good example of this. They all spike in November- December before dropping to zero in February.

keyword trends

04. Traffic Potential

Search volume and trend only gives you half of the story.

To get the full estimate of how much traffic you can get from the #1 page of Google ranking, you need to analyze the keyword (topic) traffic potential.

For example, let’s say you are planning to write a blog post around the topic “how much coffee per cup .”

According to SEMrush keyword overview tool, this keyword gets an estimated 6.6k monthly searches.

check search volume of keywords

However, keep in mind that if you rank for this keyword in Google’s top position, your blog post will probably also rank for all kind of synonyms and related keywords, like:

  • how many scoops of coffee per cup — 1.1k monthly searches
  • how many tablespoons of coffee per cup — 900 monthly searches
  • how much coffee per cup — 2k monthly searches
  • how many spoons of coffee per cup — 200 monthly searches
  • tbsp per cup — 700 monthly searches
  • how many scoops of coffee per cup of water — 320 monthly searches

Since all of the above search queries means roughly the same thing, estimating your organic traffic potential from just a single or main search query is a big mistake.

So, it is better to look at how much organic traffic the current top-ranking pages gets from Google SERPs.

How to do that?

Well, it is super easy to do in SEMrush Keyword overview tool. Just scroll down to the bottom and you’ll find SERP Analysis section which shows the estimated traffic of top ranking pages.

In our case, we can see that the top 5 ranking page for “how much coffee per cup” gets more than 10k monthly visits and ranks for thousands of keywords.

analyze Google SERP

Moral of the story?

Don’t ignore a keyword just because it has a low search volume. Look at the top-ranking page to get an estimate of the total traffic potential for a particular topic.

Plus, also check the list of all keywords top pages are ranking for. This will help you prioritize your keywords and discover new keyword opportunities that your competitors have overlooked. 

05. Keyword Difficulty Score

The keyword difficulty score is basically an estimate of how difficult it would be to rank in top organic position for that keyword.

It is generally given as a percentage (1-100%), the lower the percentage the less difficult it would be to rank for your target keyword.

Each SEO tools has its own way way of calculating keyword difficulty score, but in general most popular SEO tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs calculate the score based on the link profile of top results appearing for that keyword.

To check a keyword’s difficulty, you can either check it in SEMrush keyword overview tool:

keyword difficulty score

or keyword magic tool:

semrush tool keyword difficulty

According to SEMrush, they have grouped their difficulty score in 3 buckets to make it easy for you to understand how difficult it’s going to be to rank for a keyword.

  • Above 80% – High Difficulty : In order to rank for keyword with difficulty over 80%, you would need to invest heavily in SEO & link building. If you are researching for a new site, these keywords most likely be not worth your time & efforts.
  • From 60%-80% – Medium Difficulty : Ranking on the #1 page of Google for keywords in this range won’t be easy, but it’s more realistic to target these keywords if your website has some authority in your industry.
  • Below 60%Low Difficulty : Keywords in this difficulty range are easy to rank but hard to find. These keywords likely to have low search volume and highly specific search intent. New website owners should better focus on these keywords.

Can You Rely on SEO Tools Difficulty Score for Estimating Competition Level?

Short Answer: NO!!.

Long Answer: Keyword difficulty score is pretty good for basic filtration of keywords in your list. But no matter which SEO tool you use, they will never give you accurate idea of competition level.

So, how to get accurate idea of competition level in SERP?

Well, that’s what i am going to cover now….

06. Look at Page Authority of top ranking page

“Google doesn’t rank sites…it ranks pages.”

Although a website’s domain authority & brand presence plays a vital role, still the #1 factor in a page ability to rank higher is the authority of that page.

If you look at the SERP Analysis section in SEMrush keyword overview tool, the first metric after each URL is about page authority score ranging from 0-100.

SEMrush page authority score

The higher the page authority score, the more difficult it would be to outrank them from their position.

SIDENOTE: Every SEO tool has its own way of calculating page authority, but usually it is calculated based on backlinks pointing to the page, backlinks quality, traffic, etc.

I personally find MOZ’s (a reputed SEO tool) page authority score more accurate and realistic.

They have built a free chrome extension called “MOZ Bar” which lets you quickly check page authority score of a page directly in the SERPs.

Just install the extension and look at “PA” number in the MozBar SERP Overlay.

Moz Page authority score

It is completely fine to have a few high PA results on the #1 page. The important thing is to keep an eye out for pages with low PA score.

Those pages can be easily outranked with your new 10x content (10 times better-optimized content).

For example: The 3rd results for the search term “how to clean grinder” have very low PA score. So, there is a high chance we can outrank them with better content.

07. Check Out Referring Domains & Link Profile

It’s no more a secret that backlinks plays a vital role in page ranking.

Time to time SEO researches has shown that the number of referring domain is correlated to higher rankings more than any other factor.

If you look at the SERP Analysis section in SEMrush keyword overview tool, the 2nd & 3rd column is about referring domain and backlinks.

referring domain and backlinks

If you find that too many referring domains point to top results, then it will be very hard for you to outrank them.

Why?

Because you will also need to build those many links for your page which is going to take too much time and efforts (sometimes impossible for new bloggers).

But before you make your judgement, here is one more truth:

“Not all backlinks are equal”

For example: If page ‘A’ has 10 backlinks and page ‘B’ has 25 backlinks this doesn’t mean Page B is always going to rank higher because it has more links.

Links from low quality web directories, blog networks, comments and low authority sites does not pass much value to the linking page.

This is why it makes sense to open backlink profile of top 10 results and have a look at which websites is linking to them.

But how do you check referring domain and backlinks of a page?

SEMrush allows you to check backlink profile of a page in different ways.

If you have opened a keyword in “Keyword overview tool” then just scroll down to SERP section and click on referring domain number appearing after each top page’s URL.

Referring domain semrush tool

This will display all of the external websites linking to that page.

Now sort the linking website with Authority score (to show high authority sites first) and have a look at the top linking sites.

check Referring domain

If you want to see the exact backlinks from these sites, just switch to backlink tab.

Now again have a quick look at the page authority score of linking domain, website URL and anchor text.

check backlinks in semrush

If you find a lot of link from news sites like Businessinsider.com or links from authoritative blogs in your niche –– beating them in SERP is going be very difficult.

The point here is not to obsess over their backlinks profile. Just check them in advance to make an informed decision.

If you think that you will be also able to get those high-quality links for your blog post then congrats you can target that keyword otherwise better focus on some other less- competitive keyword.

08. Authority of Top ranking websites

Google loves ranking pages from high authority sites like Wikipedia, WikiHow, Forbes, Business Insider or even industry specific authoritative sites.

I do agree that some of their page actually have high quality content and good page authority.

Bust most pages on authoritative sites gets a huge advantage in SERPs just because they are coming from an authoritative domain.

So, while evaluating your keyword competition, you should also take a look at the websites you are competing against (not just pages).

For example, if I search for “How to make coffee” in Google, you’ll notice big authority sites like WikiHow, Food Network, Allrecipes, GoodHouseKeeping, CNN and other giant recipes sites have occupied the top position.

Analyzing serp

This simply means that although “How to make coffee” is a term I would like to rank for, but this is not going to happen in reality.

So, always look for keywords where you can see at least 1-2 position is occupied by small niche sites.

After all, your first target will be to outrank those small players and then compete with the big ones.

Pro TIP: Use MozBar extension to check the domain authority of top-ranking websites directly in the SERPs.

Domain authority in SERP

If you see a domain with an authority score of less than 35 ranking in top 10 positions, you’ll have a good chance to outrank them.

CHAPTER #4

How to use Keywords in your content strategy

Now that you have found some good keywords for your blog, it’s time to put them into practice.

As I promised in the beginning, it is going to be a complete Keyword research guide, so now I’ll share some useful principles and tips on how to make the best use of your newly researched keywords.

01. Choose a Focus Keyword

Select the one focus keywords that represent your content topic the closest.

Now following the best on-page optimization practice include your focus keyword in:

  • The title (both H1 and SEO title tag)
  • Meta description
  • Blog Post’s URL
  • Image Alt-text (If makes sense)
  • Beginning of the post (under first 150 words)
  • At least one subheading (H2, H3 & H4)
  • A couple of time in the content (where fits naturally)

That’s it…

Never ever stuff the exact match keyword into your blog post to meet certain keyword density.

Your SEO plugin (Yoast, Rank Math or All-in-one SEO) might suggest you every time to use your focus keyword certain times in your post.

But don’t blindly follow their instructions, use your exact match keyword only where it makes sense & looks natural.

If your focus keyword is “how to make cold brew coffee”, it would look unnatural to use it 5-7 times in a 1000 words blog post.

So, using them only at prominent places (like title, subheading, description, alt text) and 1-2 times in content is absolutely fine.

02. Create Topic Clusters

Throughout this guide, I have emphasized on grouping topically related keywords during your keyword research process.

Why?

Because it will later help you easily convert keywords into topics and further organize them into a semantic structure.

In SEO, this practice is known as “Topic clustering“, “keyword clustering” or “hub-&-spoke model.”

Here is a simple graphical presentation of the typical topic cluster model:

Keyword Research Guide For 2021

A topic cluster consists of three components:

  • Pillar Post: It is the main post broadly covering the topic – targeting broader keywords.
  • Cluster Posts: Supporting blog posts explaining the subtopics in detail – targeting more specific keywords with very specific user intent.
  • Internal linking between all of the pages: This is the most important amongst all three. Because this is what binds the pillar post and the cluster posts to each other.

This topic cluster model strengthen the semantic relationship between your blog posts. As a result, it will help Google better understand & evaluate the topical relevancy of your posts.

No more theory; here is a simple practical example:

Let’s say you want to create a topic cluster around “Coffee Beans” on your new coffee blog.

Here’s how you will map the content for your cluster:

PILLAR POST

  • Focus Keyword: coffee beans, Post Title: The Ultimate Guide To Coffee Beans

CLUSTER POSTS

  • Focus Keyword: Best Arabica coffee beans, Post Title: 10 Best arabica coffee beans for 2021
  • Focus Keyword: Best Robusta beans, Post Title: Top 7 Best Robusta Coffee Beans fr 2021
  • Focus Keyword: Best espresso beans, Post Title: How to Pick the Best Coffee Beans for Espresso
  • Focus Keyword: Coffee beans for pour-over, Post Title: 8 Best Coffee Beans For Pour-Over Coffee
  • Focus Keyword: How to store coffee beans, Post Title: How to Store Coffee Beans & Keep Them Fresher Longer
  • Focus Keyword: Eating coffee beans, Post Title: It’s Healthy and Safe to Eat Coffee Beans?
  • More post related to coffee beans…

Finally don’t forget to internally link your cluster post with pillar page and pillar page with cluster pages.

Following this model is a terrific way to get the most out of your keyword research and content creation efforts.

Topic cluster enhances the user experience of your blog and lands in the good books of search engines. Click To Tweet

03. Use of LSI Keywords

You might have heard many SEO experts suggesting to use LSI keywords in your blog post!

So, first thing first – What is LSI keyword?

The term LSI keyword is used to describes words and phrases that are semantically related to your target (or focus) keyword.

For example: If you are writing a blog post about “Cold Brew Coffee”, then LSI keywords would be Ice, Recipes, Machine, Grind, Beans, Brand, Glass, Drink, Coffee, etc.

Many believe that if you sprinkle synonyms or semantically related words throughout your content, it will help Google understand the context of your page and rank it higher.

But what if I tell you there is no such things like ‘LSI keyword‘ when it comes to content optimization.

And it’s not just me, Google’s John Mueller has said the same thing:

LSI keyword in google ranking

Conclusion?

Don’t put too much emphasis on weaving certain related words into your blog post artificially.

Instead, write naturally and use your knowledge to cover the topic in the best possible way.

This brings us to the next tip…

04. Write long-form content

It’s no more a secret that long-form contents (More than 2000 words) perform better in Google.

Average content legth of top 10 result in Google

But before you make your assumption that writing a 3000 or 5000 words article will help you rank higher, here is my advice:

“Focus on content depth instead of content length”

Not every blog post topic requires thousands of words. Making something lengthy just for the sake of length is not going to give you any benefit.

For example: Someone searching for “how to take a screenshot in mac” will never want to read a 2500 words blog post.

This is why most of the top-ranking blog post for this keyword is less than 500 words long, giving quick solutions to take screenshots in Mac computer.

short form content

Now take another keyword “How to roast coffee beans” as an example:

Here you will find all the top-ranking posts are detailed guides (more than 3000 words) showing different ways & process to roast coffee beans.

Content lengeth in Google

I hope you got my point!

Put yourself in the mind of the reader and figure out what and how quickly they want to learn from reading your content.

If your topic needs depth knowledge, create a detailed guide that covers every aspect of the topic.

Analyze the top 10 ranking pages to get an idea of what your intended reader want. Click To Tweet

Quick question: How to use keywords in long-form content?

See, you don’t need to aggressively include every single related keyword in your content.

With long-form content, you usually cover a topic in-depth, and naturally, you’ll get the opportunity to add related keywords in your content.

Take this post you are currently reading right now as example:

This is 5000+ words long-form content about Keyword research for SEO.

As this post cover every detail about Keyword research, so I have naturally used many related keywords in the post. Like:

  • What is keyword
  • What is Keyword research
  • How to do keyword research
  • How to find profitable keywords
  • Keyword research tips
  • How to use keywords in your content
  • etc.

One more thing – it is not a hard and fast rule that you’ll rank for only those keywords which you add in your content.

You can rank for thousands of related keywords even without mentioning them in your content.

For example: This is a post about “Coffee Grind Size” on HomeGrounds blog.

If you look through the post, it is a well written ultimate guide covering every aspect of the topic along with lots of image & illustrations.

long form content

Dropping the post’s URL in SEMrush organic research tool reveals that it ranks for more than 480 keywords in the top 10 positions.

check keyword ranking
keywords ranking in top 10 positions from one post of Homegrounds

Here are some of the top traffic referrer keywords – Pour over coffee grind size, Cold brew grind size, drip coffee grind size, french press grind, Espresso grind size, etc.

Now have a look at how many time these keywords appeared in the post…

Exact match keywords

Not even once…

The author of this blog could have written 5 different blog posts to target these 5 keywords (Pour over coffee grind size, Cold brew grind size, drip coffee grind size, french press grind, Espresso grind size)

But he chose to write an ultimate guide that covers the whole topic of “coffee grind size” and as a result, he ranks for all these keywords naturally.

Moral of the story: Don’t blindly stuff all keywords in your post. Cover your topic in depth and you will eventually rank for related terms.

CHAPTER #5

Bonus Tips and Strategies

Until now we’ve discussed how to do keyword research and use in your content. But, we’re not done yet! It’s time to share some bonus tips & strategies to elevate your keyword research game.

01. Long Tail Keywords are (usually) Less Competitive

If you have a brand new blog or you’re working in a competitive niche.

Long Tail Keywords deserves your focus!!

Let me explain…

Let’s say you have a blog about Coffee. Its obvious that one of the keywords you want to rank for is “cold brew coffee.”

The issue with these popular keywords (or in SEO term “fat head keywords”) is that they are naturally very high competitive and dominated by top publications.

But when you do a little bit of keyword research, you’ll find people interested in cold brew coffee also search for terms like:

  • how to make cold brew coffee at home
  • how to make cold brew coffee in a french press
  • difference between cold brew and iced coffee
  • best coffee beans for cold brew
  • cold brew coffee concentrate recipe

All of the above 5 keywords are example of Long Tail Keywords.

Long Tail keywords are highly specific, consisting of 4 or more words with relatively low search volume and competition levels.

Long tail keyword

For a second, you might think long tail keywords have very less traffic potential compared to head keyword, but always remember less is better than nothing.

In other word, there is no point in wasting your time & efforts on popular keywords that is impossible to rank in SERP.

Quick Question: How to find long tail keywords?

While using SEMrush keyword magic tool for your keyword research, use ‘Advanced Filters’ to search for keywords that have 5 or more words.

SEMrush tool word count filter

Now SEMrush will only show you keywords that are at least 5 words long (i.e. long-tail keywords)

SEMrush long tail keywords

SEMrush Topic research tool is another good medium to find long-tail keyword ideas.

Just enter your main keyword, and the tool will return a collection of related topics and information in card format.

SEMrush topic research

When you click on any card, you’ll get recent headlines and questions related to the topic of your card.

Topic research tool semrush seo

These questions can give you many long tail keyword ideas and help you find questions you need to answer for your target audience.

02. Find lucrative affiliate keywords

If you are monetizing your blog through affiliate commission, creating pages around affiliate keywords is super important.

But how do you find them?

Well, it’s pretty easy with SEMrush keyword magic tool.

All you need to do is enter a seed term related to your industry (like – Coffee) in keyword magic tool.

SEMrush keyword magic tool

This will obliviously generate all the keyword ideas related to your seed term.

So, now you have to add affiliate keyword modifiers in the “include” filter of SEMrush keyword magic tool.

Example of affiliate keyword modifier:

  • Best
  • Review
  • Coupon
  • Alternative
  • vs
  • Top
SEMrush include keyword filter

Adding this filter will show you only those keywords which includes these modifiers..

how to find keywords for affiliate marketing

Isn’t it cool…

03. Find new keywords in Google Search Console

If you’ve been running your blog for a while, GSC (Google search console) can be a good place to find new keyword ideas.

Here’s how it works:

Open your search console account and head over to “Performance” section.

This will show you all the search terms that brings the most traffic to your blog.

Google search console keyword

Next, sort the keyword results by impressions. Look for keywords that get lots of impressions… but not necessarily clicks.

Example: For my blog, one of the keywords with lots of impressions is “schema markup.”

keyword research in GSC

Upon selecting the keyword and checking it’s source page, I found it’s ranking because of our technical SEO checklist guide.

GSC pages

Since, Google is already seeing my site as a good fit for this search term — publishing a piece of content that’s super focused on that specific keyword will be a good idea.

04. Find pages (topics) that are sending traffic to your competitors

Everyone do keyword research differently, which is why often your competitors end up ranking for keywords that you never thought of..

By reverse-engineering their most traffic-driving pages, you can piggyback off their hard work to find keyword ideas that can easily rank in Google (since you both are on same level).

Here is how it works:

First of all find few blogs in your niche (whose blog authority is same as yours.)

Now enter their blog’s URL into SEMrush organic research tool.

Organic research with semrush tool

Finally head over to page tab to check all of their pages that send them most organic traffic.

top ranking page of a domain

Now look at those topics which you haven’t covered yet on your blog. You can also click on keyword number appearing after each page to check exact keywords that specific page is ranking for.

PRO TIP: Look at Backlinks column to find pages that ranks well without many backlinks.

Find low competitive keywords topic

If you find a page that is ranking for too many keywords with just few backlinks, that’s a sign of low competition topic.

05. Rank Quickly with KGR technique

Are you a new blogger looking for very low hanging ideas to get traffic in early days?

Use the KGR technique!

KGR stands for Keyword Golden Ratio. It is a data-driven method to find keywords that haven’t been aggressively covered on the internet.

To use this technique, you need to first understand how keyword golden ratio is calculated?

The number of the Google search result that has exact match keyword in the title divided by the monthly search volume, where the search volume is less than 250.

If the KGR is less that 0.25, then your post should rank in the top 50 as soon as your page is indexed.

Even if the KGR is between 0.25 and 1, you can still rank in the top 100 position pretty fast.

No more theory!

Here is a practical example:

First, enter your seed term in SEMrush Keyword magic tool to get all the keyword ideas related to your seed term.

keyword research for blogging

Since KGR technique requires keyword with search volume under 250, you have to filter out keywords with search volume higher than 250.

So, just enter 250 as the MAX search volume and hit apply.

Search volume filter in semrush tool

Now you’ll have plenty of keyword ideas that have a search volume less than 250.

SEMrush keyword nerdblogging

Now let’s select one of the keyword for testing (in our example – Best almond milk for coffee)

Next you have to search on Google using the search operator ‘allintitle‘. (For example – allintitle:best almond milk for coffee )

SIDENOTE: ”Allintitle” is a search operator that shows only those results which have exact phrase in the title of the post

Allintitle search operator

As you can see that there are only 24 results on Google for this keyword. We can now plug this into the KGR formula.

KGR = (allintitle results) divided by (search volume)

KGR = 24 / 210 = 0.11

Great! The ratio is less than 0.25, so we have a KGR compliant term…

Now all you need to do is write a good blog post around this keyword and use it in your meta title. You’ll rank for this search term within a few days even with your new blog.

SIDENOTE: The basic concept behind KGR technique is that the keyword difficulty will be easy if very few sites are targeting the exact search phrase. This is why KGR Technique is very good for new bloggers but finding too many KGR compliant keywords is very difficult. But if you find at least 10 different KGR keywords (Topic), it will help you get some traction in your early days.

WRAP THIS UP

Final Thought on keyword research

Congratulations – You made it to the end!

There’s no doubting that Keyword research is one of the most essential part of search engine optimization.

It helps blog owners and writers on so many levels, from understanding the content your blog needs to organizing and structuring your content.

However it is not a one time process, it is an ongoing process for any blogger or website owner. Yo do it initially when you start a new blog and depending on your content creation and marketing campaign, you need to go back and revise your keywords list.

If you have read this keyword research guide then you must have realized that the whole process of finding & evaluating keyword ideas is not as complex or challenging as people often think of.

But yes to make the process simple & practical, you will need to use a good keyword research tool which will show you all the important metrics to identify good keywords.

Though you can use a free tool like Google Keyword Planner or Ubbersuggest, but for long term projects, you need to use a more reliable tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs.

I’ve been personally using SEMrush as it not only help me with Keyword research, but it also helps me with competitor research, keyword tracking, website audit and many more other SEO related tasks.

Update: SEMrush currently offers a free trial which means you can get the whole experience of using this tool for free of cost. Click here to use this opportunity to get maximum benefit of this tool.

Now It’s Your Turn:

I really hope that you found our guide on how to do keyword research in 2021 useful. I have tried my best to distill everything i know about Keyword research into a single blog post.

Now it’s your turn to share some of your favorite keyword research tips & strategy.

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

10 thoughts on “Keyword Research Guide For 2021”

  1. Hey Shivam,
    keyword research is the backbone of content .As of now, most keyword research tools are paid now.
    But after keyword research quality matters in your content . As google said content is king but in my point of view engagement in your content is queen.

    Reply
  2. Of course, you want to make people notice your website, but you want to be sure you are getting the right kind of traffic. If you have an online store, you want to make it appeal to customers who are looking for the products you have for sale. If you are offering certain services, you want to make sure the traffic that comes to your site is looking for those services. Choosing good keywords that help people find your website is what it’s all about. A keyword search tool simplifies this process and makes it a lot easier to meet the needs of your targeted market.

    Reply
  3. Shivam,

    The real success in online marketing lies in the keywords that we choose. With no proper keyword research, our entire efforts would make nothing. Your article explains in detail about using the premium SEO tool, SEMRush to do in-depth keyword research to fetch the most potential keywords that actually make the content rank better. Good read!

    Reply
  4. hey shivam, you explained very well
    yes semrush is the leading tool in keyword research and competitor analysis. the tool suggesting by more pro bloggers. great article. you nailed it very well.

    Reply
  5. Hello Shivam,
    Informative article indeed.
    SEMRush is a really an impressive tool to analyze your website and find keywords as well. Few things I would like to add here:
    1) The biggest thing you need to keyword research is your own intelligence. Your thinking capability plays a lot when you are doing keyword research.
    2) Never be dependent on a single tool. Create different lists with different tools and then merge the best from all.
    3) You can also try Google Keyword Planner, Keywordtool, Keywordseverywhere and answerthepublic for better ideas.
    4) Google’s related searches also helps a lot.

    PS: You have mentioned shoutmeloud two times 😛

    Rest, you did amazing job with this article. Good luck.

    With Regards
    Naveen
    MightyThemes

    Reply

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