How to effectively research keywords for SEO

How to effectively research keywords for SEO

Learn the benefits of keyword and SEO research, where to use keywords, and best practices to build a successful SEO strategy for your business.

How to effectively research keywords for SEO

Learn the benefits of keyword and SEO research, where to use keywords, and best practices to build a successful SEO strategy for your business.

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Elevating your site to the top of search engine rankings begins with strategic keyword research.

Having a website puts you on the digital map, but it won’t guarantee visitors. To set your site apart from competitors, you must accurately identify and cater to your audience’s specific search behaviors.

Your site might offer the best information in your industry, but if it’s not listed on Google search results pages (SERPs) for relevant queries, potential visitors might not find your content.

That’s where thoughtful keyword research comes in. Strategically using keywords for SEO means you can better understand and more effectively target consumer interests. Read on to discover how to find and use the right keywords for your business.

What’s keyword research?

Keyword research identifies specific words and phrases your target audience types into search engines like Google and Bing. This crucial search engine optimization (SEO) strategy enables you to pinpoint customer questions, pain points, and preferences so you can optimize your content to improve its online visibility and resonance.

Effective keyword research involves several steps, including:

  • Identifying your audience, including their interests and what questions they’re asking. This knowledge directs your keyword research and helps you tailor content to meet their search intent.
  • Generating keyword ideas using SEO tools, competitor analysis, and brainstorming to create a set of relevant terms aligned with your offerings and content.
  • Analyzing keyword metrics by studying each keyword’s search volumes, competition level, and keyword difficulty (how challenging a keyword is to rank for). This analysis helps you prioritize the keywords that offer the best opportunity for visibility with manageable competition.
  • Integrating keywords into your SEO plan through appropriate content, website metadata, and other on-site elements to improve search engine visibility and ranking pages.

Why is keyword research important?

Keyword research is crucial for businesses of all sizes and offers the following benefits to drive online growth.

Drives targeted website traffic

Keyword research helps you identify the specific words and phrases your targeted audience uses when searching for products, services, and industry-related information. By aligning your content with these keywords, you attract visitors actively looking for what you offer.

Identifies search trends

Keeping an eye on keyword trends helps you stay ahead in your industry by letting you tailor your content to align with current interests. For example, if a cybersecurity company notices an uptick in searches for "cybersecurity best practices," this awareness helps them swiftly pivot and produce relevant content. By strategically identifying and responding to this trend with keyword research, they can effectively align content with what readers are actively searching for, attracting a targeted audience looking for this information.

Enhances conversion rates

Driving targeted traffic to your website means attracting visitors who are already interested in what you have to offer. Their pre-existing interest in your niche and offerings means they're closer to making a decision, which enhances conversion chances and fosters a stronger engagement with your brand.

If that same cybersecurity company notices an uptick in searches for “the best password protectors,” for example, they can create detailed blog posts, product recommendations, and care guides focused on password protection. This targeted approach not only draws in readers looking for security solutions but also positions the company as a trustworthy expert, increasing the chance of customers purchasing, subscribing to content updates, and engaging with the brand in other meaningful ways.

Addresses search intent

Search intent, or user intent, is the purpose or reason behind someone's query. It helps you understand what people are actually looking for, whether it’s general information, specific answers, or a particular product or service. 

There are four types of search intent:

  1. Informational: Searchers are looking for information or answers, like "weather in New York today"
  2. Navigational: Searchers are trying to reach a specific website or page, like Facebook's login page or Amazon's customer service portal
  3. Transactional: Searchers want to complete a transaction or take action, like buying a product or signing up for a service
  4. Commercial investigation: Searchers are considering a transaction but want to compare products and services or find more information before making a decision

Understanding search intent helps you create content that aligns with what people are actively seeking, potentially increasing traffic and conversions.

What are long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are extended, more precise phrases users enter into search engines when looking for detailed information. These keywords differ from head terms, which are shorter, more general terms that target specific aspects of a topic, product, or niche.

For example, “laptops” is a short and broad phrase that could refer to any category of laptops, such as those designed for gaming or programming. But a long-tail keyword like “best lightweight laptops for college students under $1000” — a commercial investigation — narrows the search. This specificity means the long-tail keyword is more likely to attract potential customers actively searching for that exact laptop type.

Since they're more detailed, long-tail keywords typically attract lower search volumes but lead to higher conversion rates. They catch visitors farther along the sales funnel looking for something specific, and who are more likely to convert or make a purchase. 

The specificity of long-tail keywords results in less competition, allowing smaller businesses to stand out and achieve higher rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). Despite their low search volume, these phrases often yield a higher return on investment (ROI) than their more generic, high-volume counterparts.

How to research keyword ideas: 6 steps

Learning how to find good keywords for SEO requires an organized and thoughtful approach. Follow these steps to start ranking better on search engines.

1. Identify seed keywords

Pinpoint general topics, terms, and concepts that align with your brand and its offerings. Brainstorming seed keywords lays the groundwork for more in-depth research, guiding you to discover targeted terms.

During brainstorming, talk to stakeholders from various departments, like marketing, sales, or customer support. Taking a collaborative approach provides diverse insights into your offerings, customer needs, and potential content directions. Using tools like mind maps and shared documents streamlines this process and ensures ideas are accessible and organized for future reference.

2. Use keyword research tools

Keyword research tools uncover key data like keyword search volumes, competition levels, trends, and related term suggestions. Using these tools identifies keywords with high SEO potential that also resonate with your brand’s identity and can meet your audience’s search habits and interests. 

Here are a few popular keyword tools:

  • Google Keyword Planner provides information on keyword search volume, competition, and suggested bid prices for Google Ads campaigns.
  • Google Search Console offers insights into how your site appears in Google's SERPs, including query reports to find keyword opportunities.
  • Semrush offers data on SEO keyword difficulty, competitor analysis, and related suggestions.
  • Ahrefs lets you analyze keyword rankings, search volumes, traffic estimates, and industry trends.

By entering seed keywords into these tools, you can explore long-tail keyword variations, gather suggestions, and assess the potential of different phrase combinations to enhance your SEO strategy. Aim for a balanced portfolio that includes seed and long-tail keywords. This approach targets user searches on both ends of the sales funnel spectrum — customers discovering your brand for the first time and visitors poised to make a purchase.

3. Analyze competitor keywords

Dive into your competitors' strategies by examining the keywords they rank for in SERPs. Analyzing everything from phrase usage and meta tags to hyperlinks and page titles can unveil their SEO tactics. This insight reveals gaps in your strategy and opportunities to enhance your SEO efforts, keeping you competitive and increasing your market presence.

To start, enter your competitors’ domain URLs into your chosen keyword research tool. Depending on the tool, this action reveals their organic rankings, highlights their top-performing terms, and lets you directly compare your site’s performance with theirs.

4. Research within your niche

Immerse yourself in your industry’s ecosystem by exploring forums, social media conversations, and direct customer feedback. This exploration helps you identify topics that captivate your audience and the specific search terms they use. Focusing on recurrent questions and challenges provides valuable direction for crafting content that directly addresses your audience’s needs and interests.

5. Choose relevant keywords

Once you have a list of potential keywords, narrow them down based on search volume, intent, competition, relevance, and market trends. You'll have a list of final keywords that align with your business and search intent.

6. Map out content

Create a content map that states:

  • Content type
  • Target audience
  • When you’ll publish it
  • What primary and secondary keywords you’ll include in it
  • Current competitors ranking for the target keyword
  • When you’ll check in about how the content is ranking

Regularly assess how keyword popularity and content ranking change, adjusting your content map accordingly.

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Where to use keywords 

After refining your SEO approach and keyword research processes, it’s time to strategically incorporate these phrases. Here are a few areas where keywords have the highest impact.

Page titles

Page titles, or title tags, are clickable headlines in SERPs that concisely describe a page's content. Adding relevant keywords to page titles helps search engines understand and rank your content effectively. 

Ensure each web page has a unique and descriptive title that includes keywords relevant to its content. Place the most important keywords at the beginning of the page title to maximize visibility and impact.

Meta descriptions

These brief summaries appear beneath page titles in search results and offer potential visitors a glimpse of the page’s content. While meta descriptions don’t directly influence rankings, they affect click-through rates by showing your content’s relevance to the search query and clarifying the page’s focus to users and search engines.

Craft these descriptions to be engaging and informative, enticing users to visit your site for more information.


Internal and external links help search engines understand the relationships between web pages. The anchor text — the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink — acts as a signal, providing context about the linked page’s contents.

When adding hyperlinks to your context, use descriptive anchor text incorporating relevant keywords reflecting the linked page's focus. For example, an SEO-focused blog article might carry anchor text saying, “Learn more about on-page SEO techniques.” 

Headings and subheadings

Heading and subheading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) organize web page content and establish a clear content hierarchy. In this article, for example, "Where to use keywords" is an H2 tag, serving as a main section title, while "Page titles," "Meta descriptions," and "Headings and subheadings" are H3s, indicating subsections.

Search engines rely on these headings to understand the content’s structure, prioritizing information presented under main headings and subheadings. This organization helps them index sites and improves the user experience by breaking the content into digestible sections. Incorporating relevant keywords into these tags further clarifies the content's focus for search engines, enhancing the page's visibility for those topics.

Images and alt text

Images elevate your site's visual appeal and add crucial context and reference to content. And implementing alternative text (alt text) is crucial to make these images accessible to all users, including those who rely on screen readers.

Consider a technology news company’s review of a new smartphone. An image within the article may have a file titled “smartphone-model-review-4.jpg” with alt text like “Camera samples from the brand's latest product.” This alt text ensures that users who can’t view the image still receive information about what it depicts and informs search engines about the image’s content.

Search engines can’t interpret images directly, so they depend on alt text to understand multimedia elements. By describing images with relevant keywords in the alt text, you provide search engines with context, improving your site's SEO.

How to optimize keyword use

After adding keywords to your site content, ensure you follow these best practices for consistent, high-impact SEO performance over time.

Target SERP features strategically

Focus on the unique elements within SERPs, like featured snippets, knowledge panels (information boxes provided by Google's Knowledge Graph), local packs (listings for local services), and multimedia carousels. Since these features often appear at the top of the search results, they capture users' immediate attention. 

By optimizing your content to appear in these high-visibility spots, you significantly increase the chance of users clicking through to your website.

Optimize URL structures

Include keywords in your web page's URL structures to help search engines understand its content. Keep URLs concise, descriptive, and readable for Google and readers, and avoid using numbers or symbols. 

For example, a URL like “" provides more context than "" Making URLs more informative and SEO-friendly helps search engines crawl and improves your pages’ visibility in search results.

Avoid over-optimization

Avoid over-optimizing your content with excessive keywords (called keyword stuffing), which could lead to search engine penalties that affect your site’s credibility and visibility.

For example, repeating “cybersecurity” in every sentence, like “We offer cybersecurity checklists and cybersecurity guides. Find a cybersecurity resource for every need,” can make content appear manipulative and low-quality.

Search engines penalize this behavior because they aim to provide users with valuable, informative content, and over-optimized content undermines this goal by prioritizing keywords over the user experience. Keyword stuffing diminishes your site’s credibility for visitors and search engines and negatively impacts your website’s ability to attract organic traffic.

Boost your SEO efforts with Webflow

A well-crafted SEO strategy that uses carefully selected keywords improves your site’s search engine visibility, with optimized content complementing a great site design. 

But a website isn’t limited to keywords and design — success hinges on its usability, speed, and responsiveness, and Webflow Enterprise provides you with the tools required to build a solid, user-friendly site foundation.

Webflow's extensive integrations, analytics, and SEO tools also help you build and refine keyword campaigns, preparing your site for success. By balancing aesthetic appeal with SEO best practices, Webflow helps you create a website that attracts, retains, and converts your target audience.

Build with Webflow

Webflow Enterprise gives your teams the power to build, ship, and manage sites collaboratively at scale.

Contact sales
Build with Webflow

Webflow Enterprise gives your teams the power to build, ship, and manage sites collaboratively at scale.

Contact sales
Contact sales
Last Updated
May 8, 2024
Build with Webflow

Webflow Enterprise gives your teams the power to build, ship, and manage sites collaboratively at scale.

Contact sales
Contact sales