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Marketing 360® Blog

How to Do Keyword Research: A Step by Step Guide

As a business owner, you know the importance of prospects finding you when they do Google searches related to your product, service or offer.  You probably at least have a working idea of what SEO and target keywords are.

In this step by step tutorial, we’ll go through a keyword research project so you can see how it’s done.  We will compare data using three keyword research tools: Google Keyword Planner, Spyfu, and SEM Rush (free version).

Chances are you will use Google’s keyword research tool, but you might use one of many other free or paid keyword research tools for your research.  Our goal here will be to demonstrate the general principles of keyword research so you can use the different tools correctly.

This post will use the example of a company that sells high protein, gluten-free snack bars.  We will break down the various topics and themes they want to target for their keywords and show you how to pull data on keyword phrases, their search volume, and competitiveness.

Several important notes.  As you enter keyword phrases into the different research tools, you’ll find that the info on search volume, PPC bids, and competitiveness is different.  This is because all this data is based on estimations.  There is no one source of exact data on keyword search.

This leads to a mindset you need to take on.  Keyword research involves a certain amount of intuition.  It’s best to start with interests and concerns of the people you’re targeting.  What phrases are they likely to search on?  What makes sense?  Use your answers as a starting point for your research.

The tools will then provide phrase variations and estimates on how often they are used.  As you find phrases with higher search volumes, you can make assumptions about what your best targets are.  You’ll want to test those assumptions with your paid advertising campaigns.  Then, as you find high-performing keywords and themes, integrate them into your SEO.


Step One:  Analyze Your Product

Before you start with the keyword tools, you need to base your initial phrases on the product.  In the case of our protein snack bars, keyword themes we can start with include:

  • Protein snack bars
  • Gluten-free snacks
  • Paleo snacks
  • Whole30 diet
  • health conscious snack
  • diabetes snack
  • meal replacement bar
  • meat bar

There is no point in targeting keyword phrases that don’t have a connection to the features and benefits of your product.  Consider those and how people with an active need might search on them.

In this post, we’ll break down the research for protein snack bars.  It can then be repeated for each of our themes.


Step Two:  Keyword Analysis

At this point, I can take the main seed terms (protein snacks, protein bars) and put it into the keyword research tool.  I get data for the United States over the last 12 months.  The tool gives a list of ideas.

My initial search has some irrelevant terms to the snack/bar product, so I refine my search so only phrases that include “snack” or “bar” appear.  Here are the results:

google keyword planner

Next, I run the same keyword seeds through Spyfu and see these results:

spyfu keywords

I can now cross-compare and add relevant keyword phrases to my overall list (in this example, I added healthy protein bars and low sugar protein bars, which did not appear on the Google list).

Next, I’ll compare to one more tool, SEM Rush:

sem rush keywords

With this report, I see paleo protein bars, which has a strong connection to my product.  Note that I’m using a free version of SEM Rush, so it does not provide a complete list.

Through these three platforms, I have a lot of keyword phrases related to my theme.  The main data points I’m looking at are search volume and cost-per-click estimates.  Higher volume keywords (and related long-tail phrases) that most closely relate to my product will be my focus keywords for this theme.

I’ll repeat this same process for each main keyword idea, developing lists for each.


Step 3:  Analyze the Competition

It’s also useful to see who else is selling my type of product, where they rank in search, and what keywords they are paying for.  This can reveal other high performing keywords and give me a head start by seeing what they have found to be profitable.

Let’s take the keyword phrase gluten free snacks for this example.  I start by putting that keyword phrase into Spyfu where it shows these advertisers:

keyword competition

From these, I see that Go Chomps is most closely related to my products.  I put their domain into the keyword planner to see what they’re optimized for:

competition url keywords

From this, I can take meat snacks as another keyword theme to add to my list.  I use the same process for other competitors’ websites.

In addition, I do a search for “meat protein bars” on Google, because this search closely relates to my product.  I find another, very closely related competitor, Brick Bars.  I put their domain into Spyfu and discover their paid search targets:

competition ppc

From this, I can see that adding “organic” into my keyword ideas might be worth it.


Step 4:  Putting Keywords Into Action

As I go through the above process of analyzing different keyword ideas and competitor websites, I’ll compile a long list.  So what do I do with all this data?

Take it back to the human element.  Bookend all this data by considering the people who are doing the searches.  I ask:

  • What is their intent with this search?
  • Does their intent match with my conversion goals?
  • Do I have content on my site that matches this intent?
  • Where in the sales process does this search suggest they are?
  • Is there value in optimizing for this keyword phrase?
  • How well can I compete for results (both PPC and SEO) for this keyword phrase?
  • Will my work on this keyword phrase be profitable?
  • Will the end result of interacting with my brand be useful for the searcher?

My goal is to use these keywords as a guide.  I want to make a connection between the consumer’s need and how my product fulfills it.

That’s what everyone involved, including my business, my customers, and the search engines, want to see happen.  The better I am at helping customers complete their task, the better the search engine will rank me for my best keyword targets.