The Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research

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Content Marketing Series Part 4

For any online marketer, figuring out where to start an online marketing campaign is often the hardest part of the process. Coming up with ideas for your next blog post, white paper, email campaign, and video can also be a challenge.

The keywords that prospects use to search for information, answers to questions and solutions provide the backbone for your optimization initiatives. While we were conducting interviews to create our buyer personas, one of the questions we asked the interviewees about was the keywords they used in their search. We combine this research with some other keyword research best practices to identify the keywords that will help us optimize our site and content.

This guide will take you step-by-step through the process of researching and tracking the best performing keywords for your online marketing campaigns.

Getting Started

So, where do you start on a keyword research project? The first place to start is your website.

If you’re company provides business-to-business (B2B) services and or solutions then you need to focus on your service/solutions pages. We would start with the pages that are receiving the least amount of traffic and are most important for your company.

If you’re company is an ecommerce company and sells directly to consumers then we would recommend starting with your products that aren’t currently getting the traction you want – this may be caused by the pages targeting the wrong keywords.

Open your pages and look to see what keywords they are currently targeting. In most cases, the keyword that your page is targeting is probably in the page title (text that shows in the browser tab for that page).

Take that keyword and follow the steps below to get started.

Step 1: Gather Your Keywords

A) Create a Keyword Spreadsheet

Start by creating a spreadsheet to organize and prioritize your keywords. Add a tab for each page you are trying to improve. Add the following columns to the spreadsheet…


  • Group
  • Keyword
  • Avg. Monthly Searches
  • Competition
  • Notes

Keyword Tools

  1. Google Keyword Planner (within Adwords) – Since Google owns the majority of search traffic on the Internet this will be your most important tool. This is the tool we will be using in this blog post.
  2. Google Suggest – When you use Google to search you will notice that a small box comes up under the search field that lists other keywords. This is a great way to see which keywords Google suggests you target based on your current query.
  3. Wordstream – This tool pulls data from multiple sources including ISPs, browser tool bars, and search engines (like Google). Then they use a proprietary algorithm to sort and filter the results for you.
  4. Moz – Moz has an entire suite of SEO tools to help any online marketer including a keyword tool.

B) Gather The Keywords

Using your preferred keyword gathering tool (we will be using Google Keyword Planner in this post), start by inserting your current product/service page keyword (this is the keyword that is probably in your page title tag).

For this example, we will use the keyword “data entry”, which is the keyword the current service page is targeting. The company actually provides data entry outsourcing services.

C) Enter the keyword into the Keyword Planner…


Be sure you are targeting the right geographic area that you want. In this case we want to target keywords within the US only.

D) Review keyword results


By default, it will sort the tables by relevance. You can sort by “Avg. Monthly Searches” or “Competition” if you want. We recommend keeping the defaults for now.

E) Check your current keyword


Click the “Keyword Ideas” tab and you will see the data around the specific keyword you entered. This will give you some good data about this keyword.

In this case “data entry” is showing a very large amount of traffic “9,900” with low competition. At first glance you many think this is a good thing, hold on a second let’s take a look at the actual search results…


You will notice that Wikipedia listings and job listings are coming up. This is a clear indicator that this keyword is too broad.

Keywords that are too broad mean you will almost never get an opportunity to be on page 1 of Google search results. This actually makes a lot of sense. If you think about it someone typing this in is probably not looking for our services.

Let’s dive in deeper by taking a look at “data entry outsourcing” keywords.

F) Dive in deeper

To dive in deeper let’s start looking at terms that are more in line with the business service offering. Let’s try “data entry outsourcing”…


These results look much better. But first, let’s look to see if there is any traffic around “data entry outsourcing”…

keywords21 keywords9

Ah, there is some very targeted traffic to be had here.

Step 2: Create a “plan”

Let’s go ahead and create our first “plan” by clicking on the “Add to plan” arrow.


After clicking the arrow you will notice that the tools is starting to collect the keywords in a group to the right. This will gather all the necessary data around these keywords for us to analyze later.

A) Add keywords to the plan

Now that you have one keyword added to the plan we want to start expanding the keyword reach to see if there are other keywords we should be targeting.

Click the “Add group ideas” tab and then click the first group “Entry Outsourcing”.


Take a look at the keywords presented. If they look like they are relevant then click the arrow in the right column to add them to your plan. Add as many as you think will work. We will prioritize them later.

Once you’ve added those keywords to your plan, click the back arrow and we’ll take a look at the next ad group “Entry Services”. We found a few keywords there and have entered them into our plan.

You can also check out any of the other ad groups and add relevant keywords to your plan from there.

B) Download the keywords from your plan

Next click the download icon in the bottom right side of the plan column.


You will be presented with a download screen. Be sure to select “Include average monthly…” and in this case we want an Excel file. You can download a Google Sheets file as well.


Then go ahead an save the file to your hard drive.

C) Open the file in Excel


When the file is opened it will look like the above image. We want to make some changes to the file before we copy the files into the Excel file we created earlier.

I) Remove some of the columns from the Excel file


First select and remove the C, D, E, H, I, J, K columns. These columns contain data that are specific to Adwords and you probably don’t need them. However, you may want to keep the H column which contain average click costs which may help you determine the importance of the keyword.

D) Select, copy and paste rows into spreadsheet

Copy from the spreadsheet…


…and paste into the new spreadsheet.


Step 3: Organize, Prioritize, Select & Optimize

Now that we have our keywords we need to figure out which keywords we want to focus on. This is usually the hardest part of keyword selection – selecting the main keyword you want to target. Should you go after the keyword with the most traffic, or the one with the lowest competition, or a combination of both?

We recommend looking at both Avg. Monthly Searches and Competition.

So let’s sort the rows according to Avg. Monthly Searches and Competition. Sort on Avg. Monthly Searches and then on Competition.


I have highlighted the levels and orders. Be sure to check “My data has headers” to be sure you’re sorting the correct columns.


A) Which should be your primary keyword?

Well, let’s figure it out.

First, let’s do a Google search for “data entry services”…

screencapture www google com webhp 1461266460547

…and then, “outsource data entry”…

screencapture www google com webhp 1461266605775

I’m seeing that several of the company’s competitor’s are showing up in the search results of both. We are also not seeing any Wikipedia listings in the “data entry services” results which means we can probably target that keyword.

B) Select your primary and secondary keywords


The primary keyword (the green row above) will be the keyword that you want to use in your page title tag, meta description tag and within the page content and images.

The secondary keyword (the orange row) you can use within the meta description tag and the page content. You may also want to consider creating a landing page on your site that targets the secondary keywords.

C) Optimize your page with keywords

Update the page title, meta description and content to include your new keyword(s). Don’t forget to include the keyword in image ALT tags as well.

D) Create blog posts and landing pages that target keywords

Consider creating industry blog posts and landing pages using the new keywords. This will help drive additional traffic to your site so your site will generate more leads.

Step 4: Track & Report

Now that you have your keywords and they are in your pages and optimized, what do you do with them?

We use a tool like Moz to pull our keyword ranking data from each month (you can even track them weekly if needed).


For all of our monthly content marketing and SEO clients we use a similar formatted Excel spreadsheet to track the monthly progress of our keywords. Red cells indicate that the keyword is not the top 5 pages of Google search results. Yellow cells mean pages 2-4. Green cells mean page 1.

Each month we review the progress of keywords and then plan tactics for the following month to help increase rankings. For example, since “data entry services” is in the red, then we need to write a blog post about “data entry services” or create a landing page, or a video. Then the following month we check to see how our new content has performed.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

Once your keyword research project is done, it’s not really done. Each month you should be reviewing your keywords to be sure they are still relevant and to target new keywords and remove keywords that are not relevant.


Before starting down the path of any online marketing campaign it is best to start with a solid foundation – keyword research. Keyword research will help you focus all of your online marketing efforts, and will help keep you creating good quality content.

Check Out the Articles in This Series That Have Been Published

Article 1: Build A Better B2B Marketing Strategy

Article 2: Creating Your Comprehensive B2B Marketing Strategy

Article 3: Create Business to Business Buyer Personas

Article 4: The Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research

Article 5: The Stages of the Buyers Journey

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