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How to Do Keyword Research - By Foodie SEO

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This week we’re talking about Keyword Research and why it’s important. Then we’ll give you tips on how to form your own keyword strategy.

Doing keyword research can be delicious!

To make things a little more practical, we’re going to be using an example scenario. In this scenario, we have Katie, a foodie with a chocolate blog.

Katie wants to write a new article about chocolate, but hasn’t decided on the type of chocolate. She decides to use keyword research to find out what chocolate terms people are searching for online. This way, she can find out exactly what kind of chocolate will be interesting to read for users.


First of all, what is Keyword Research?


If you recall our previous entry about how search engines work, this is the typical online search process:

  1. User enters a query
  2. Search engine takes that query and compares it to the data it’s obtained from crawling sites
  3. Search engine returns a list of sites, ranked according to their authority and relevancy for that query. 

Search Process


Keyword Research is basically finding out what keywords or phrases people are using in those queries, in order to rank your site for those searches. In this case, Katie needs to find out what chocolate terms are the most popular, so that she can create content that targets that specific audience.


There are three main aspects to keyword research:

1) Relevancy:

  • What keywords are relevant to your site and what it offers? What searches will bring in your target audience?
  • How can you make your site more relevant to these keywords?
  • If you have a page that is already highly ranked for a certain keyword, it will be easier for another page on the same site to rank for a similar keyword. For a refresher on how pages rank, take a look at our Foodie SEO entry about inbound links.


2) Relative Competition:

  • How many sites are trying to rank for these keywords?
  • This will define how diffcult it will be for your own site to rank for these keywords. The more sites that try to rank for a certain keyword, the higher the competition for that keyword.


3) Search Volume

  • What is the relative search volume of these keywords? In other words, how often are these keywords used in searches?
  • Compare the search volume of relevant terms to each other. If there is not enough search volume, ranking for these keywords might not be worthwhile, because ranking for these keywords will not bring in target users. 


Why is Keyword Research Important?


Keyword research is important for the follo

1. Finding out what content people want.

  • Nowadays, when people want information, where do they go? The internet! Google alone processes over one billion searches per day, according to the New York Times. That is a lot of searches for information! Keyword research helps you discover what people are searching for when it comes to your expertise, and how they are searching for it.
  • Keyword research should thus drive your content creation so you can better tailor your site to what people actually want at that exact time. You can use keyword research to help generate keywords that will drive your content creation. 

2. Bringing your site to the attention of your target audience. 

  • Unless you optimize your site for the right keywords, no one will find it, at least not through search engines! Katie might write an amazing article about chocolate covered pears, but if no one is looking for those terms, no one will ever see her article.
  • Keyword research is thus also important for figuring out a realistic ranking strategy. It will allow you to find words that have a good balance of search volume and relative competition. A good keyword strategy will bring you more traffic, as your site will rank higher in search results for those phrases and terms. For your page to rank highly, you must target what people are searching for, and to find those targets you must do keyword research.


How to do keyword research?


Now the hard part. How exactly do you do keyword research?


Step 1: Create a keyword opportunity list


This is essentially a list of every keyword or term that you think your target audience could use to reach your site in search results. Pick a keyword that is relevant to your site. In this case, Katie chooses the word “chocolate.”


Use a keyword research tool such as the ones discussed below to find variations on your terms. Katie plugs in the word “chocolate” at Wordtracker’s Free Basic Keyword Demand. She generates this list of 100 chocolate terms.


Some other ways to generate ideas for terms are:

  • Using product/service names that you provide
  • Using your brand
  • Asking your readers or clients what terms they used to find your site
  • Looking at a competitor’s site for terms that appear often on their pages.
  • Geographic variations in your information



Step 2: Determine the value of your keywords


The next step is to weed out keywords to find the ones that are the most relevant and profitable. This is dependent on your own knowledge of your site. Some questions to consider are:

  • Is the keyword relevant to your site? 
  • Will people that find your site through this term be your target audience?
  • How profitable is this keyword in comparison to how much work you would have to put in to rank for it?

    • For example, Katie has a page about chocolate oranges. On that page, she has an Adsense unit (if you need a refresher about what Google Adsense Text Ads are, read this Foodie SEO entry). She checks Google AdWords to see how much it would cost to advertise for the keyword phrase "chocolate oranges" and finds that it costs 50 cents per click, or 50 cent CPCs.

      • Chances are, Katie is receivng 50 cent CPCs on her Google Adsense unit on her chocolate orange page.
      • Now if she gets 10,000 pageviews on that page, she has earned $500.
      • She spent 8 hours creating the page, and she values her time at $50 an hour.
      • So in essence the page cost $400 to create, but she earned $500 through Adsense, so "chocolate orange" is a profitable keyword.
  • How much search volume does this keyword have? Remember, it’s relative search volume that counts.
  • Note: It may be effective for you to target long tail keywords if you are a smaller site.

    • The most popular searched keywords make up less than 30% of overall searches. 70% are in “long tail” searches. These are unique keywords that aren’t searched for as often. 
    • It’s mportant to target content to this long tail. It’s a way to cover all your bases instead of targeting one single popular query. This will allow you to take advantage of the bulk of search results


Chocolate Terms

If a keyword is highly relevant to your site and your target audience, and has enough search volume, keep it.

In this case Katie looks at her list of keywords and decides that because she often writes about sweets, potential keywords are “truffles”, “cocoa”, “fudge”, and “candy”.


You can then plug these words into the same keyword research tool to generate even more related words. Then repeat this step for those lists.


However Katie decides to stop at this level, for the sake of keeping this example simple.





Step 3: Determine the relative competition and search volume for these keywords. 

How many other sites are trying to rank for that keyword?

You can check this in the following ways:


1) Search for the keyword.

The more results you see, the more competition there is for that keyword. Additionally, if you see paid search ads for your keyword, it’s most likely a high value keyword. So Katie searches the terms she’s chosen, and finds the following:

  • Truffles: About 16,300,000 results. No ads
  • Cocoa: About 123,000,000 results. No ads
  • Fudge: About 7,770,000 results. Paid ads at the bottom.
  • Candy: About 84,000,000 results. Paid ads at the bottom.

Cocoa has the highest number of results, which means it will be harder to rank for “cocoa” than it would be for “truffles”. Fudge and candy both have paid ads, meaning that those are likely profitable keywords and will also have a lot of competition. 


You can also look at what other sites are ranking on the first page. If they are well known brands with high Pagerank, it will be much more difficult for your site to get on the first page of search results.


You can also compare how many sites actually have your keywords of interest in that title. Simply search intitle: "keyword" in Google. Replace "keyword" with the keyword you are testing. In this case, Katie finds the following:

  • Truffles: About 121,000 results
  • Cocoa: About 780,000 results
  • Fudge: About 462,000 results
  • Candy: About 4,370,000 results

In thise case, "truffles" actually has the lowest competition because fewer pages have the term in their titles, as compared to the other keywords.


2) Use a tool to check competition, such as Google Adwords’ Keyword Estimator.


With this tool, you can enter in a keyword and find out the competition and search volume. You can filter results by language, location, and devices, and also choose to only show ideas closely related to your search terms. The tool will also provide suggested terms related to your keyword, with search volume and competition.


It is up to you to decide how much competition you are willing to tolerate. If a keyword has too many other sites trying to rank for it, you will need to invest more time and resources into your own site to rank for that word. It is easier to rank for keywords with less competition, but they may not be as profitable or relevant. You want to try to rank for keywords with a decent amount of search volume, and not too much competition. 


Search Volume Graph

Katie plugs in her 4 terms and find the following:

  • Truffle: 1,000,000 global monthly searches, 450,000 local (US) searches, low competition
  • Cocoa: 9,140,000 global monthly searches, 2,240,000 local (US) searches, low competition
  • Fudge: 1,830,000 global monthly searches, 1,000,000 local (US) searches, low competition
  • Candy: 16,600,000 global monthly searches, 7,480,000 local monthly searches, medium competition


Katie decides that the terms candy and fudge have too much competition. She has a lot of US readers, so she decides to target the term "Cocoa" which strikes a balance between high search volume and low competition. As a result, she will write an article about cocoa.


Step 4: Now you have a list of keywords that you want to rank for. How do you go about doing this?


You can achieve this by:

  1.  Gaining authority for your site through inbound links.

    If you need to learn more about linkbuilding, read the Foodie SEO linkbuilding entry. Make sure the anchor text of your inbound links matches the keywords you are trying to rank for. Once her article is written, Katie will build a linkbuilding strategy around the article, with the anchor text “cocoa”.


  2. Optimize for the keyword on your site

    Include the keyword in your site’s title, content, navigation, etc. We will discuss on page optimization later in another entry.


Step 5: Measure Success


We will discuss this in a later entry, as measuring your Keyword Research results are just one part of a larger process of measuring your SEO results. But here’s a brief overview: to measure success, you'll have to keep track of two main things.


1) Traffic

How much traffic you're getting from search engines, and the specific search engine terms and phrases that resulted in that traffic. If the traffic is coming from keyword searches that you have been targeting, then your keyword strategy has been successful. 


If you are receiving traffic from keywords that you have not targeted, you will need to examine these and rework your keyword strategy to include or account for these words. 


2) Conversion Rates

Are visitors coming from these searches actually turning into customers? This depends on your goal; whether you're trying to sell a product or get new sign-ups for your newsletter. Are the keywords you targeted leading to customer conversions?


For Katie, this means figuring out how much traffic her truffles article is receiving, and how she is getting that traffic. 




  • Keyword research is important for finding out what your audience is searching, so you can tailor your content to match their interests.
  • To conduct keyword research you need to:

    • Create a keyword opportunity list
    • Determine the value of your keywords
    • Determine the relative competition and search volume for these keywords. 
    • Rank for these keywords
    • Measure Success



For more in-depth information, you can check out the following:

SEOMoz’s beginners guide to keyword research

SEOMoz’s guide to Keyword Research

WordTracker’s Guide to Keyword Research

We also used some tips from a Hubspot article.


Next time we’ll discuss on-page optimization. 


Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or email me at Rebekah at!



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How To Do Keyword Research - By Foodie SEO