Keyword Research: How to Do It, Top Tips and SEO Tools

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Keyword Research: How to Do It, Top Tips and SEO Tools

by Olivia Hanlon

Keyword research, a word that is very much on so many marketers’ lips. 

The huge rise in organic marketing over the last few years means it’s now critical that marketing teams consider how long-term their strategies actually are. 

Utilising SEO (search engine optimisation) practices is one of the most effective ways to build authority, increase website traffic, and create a long-lasting impression online. 

Long gone are the days of simply setting up a few paid social ads, and letting them run without another thought. 

Creating a digital marketing strategy that incorporates organic marketing (such as SEO), can make such a difference to the success of any campaign and plan on both a long and short-term basis.

The backbone to any SEO and content marketing strategy is keyword research. Keywords aren’t big scary monsters that hide under your bed, they simply allow you to be found online (when they’re used correctly). In fact, the use of keywords is a whole debate too. However, what we do know (and the age-old strategies tell us) is that it’s essential to build your SEO strategy with keywords in mind. 

Let’s dive into what keyword research is, how you can do it, and the top affordable tools to use. Grab yourself a cuppa and biscuit (chocolate digestive anyone?), it’s going to be a good one.

What is keyword research?

The goal of keyword research is to find out what your target audience is searching for online and what it takes to rank for those keywords. 

Without knowing the keywords you’re targeting, you’ll find it difficult to optimise your website, develop relevant content that your audience wants and create an authoritative website.

Simply put, keyword research allows you to put evidence behind your work and see that people are actually searching it (and want to be reading/hearing about the stuff you’re talking about).

Quick step-by-step of how to do keyword research

Without the correct knowledge, keyword research can become a minefield of if, buts, and maybes. 

How do you choose the best keywords to target? What is the best way to go about doing effective keyword research that isn’t going to waste your time? 

Here is a quick step-by-step for you to read through and action. After this, we’ll cover the best FREE and paid SEO tools that will aid your keyword research (and further your SEO strategy in general). 

Make a list of relevant topics

Create an in-depth list of topics (including important sub-topics) that relate to the business or website. Topics might not be obvious from the outset but the more you focus on the inner workings of the business, the better. It might be a good idea to set up a call/meeting with someone who knows the industry/business well to dive deep into the topics that are relevant. 

Start inputting these topics into an excel or google sheet ready for the next step.

Create a list of seed keywords

Out of these topics, create a list of seed keywords, these are the top priority for the business. You’ll also want to consider any keywords the website currently ranks for. Seed keywords are the foundations of your overall strategy so they will be general but related to the business directly. 

At this point, you won’t know if there is much search volume behind these seed keywords. However, this doesn’t matter because they’ll be more generic anyway. If you’ve created a spreadsheet of your topics, you may want to highlight any seed keywords coming off these topics that you’ll now go on to research.

Use a good keyword research tool

A good keyword research tool is the ultimate partner to any organic marketing strategy, especially SEO. Finding your new keyword tool friend can be a difficult task though, depending on your barriers to entry. Many tools are expensive, and if they’re cheaper will have their drawbacks. If you’re struggling to find the perfect tool, we’ll cover our favourites later in this blog. 

Consider search intent

Search intent is a term used to describe the purpose of an online search. Why is this user searching certain keywords and how can you accurately provide them with the knowledge and information they need for that certain search intent. 

There are four main times of search intent that you may (or may not) be familiar with:

Informational intent

The user is looking for information. Often people with an informational intent have a specific question or want to know more about a certain topic. For example, if a user searches “victoria sponge cake”, search engines understand that perhaps that user is looking for a recipe and will therefore rank informational recipes highly for that user.

Transactional intent

The user is looking to buy something, or compare the best prices of a product/service. People are searching with transactional intent when their purpose is to buy something right now so it’s always good to direct people to transactional pages (such as product pages).

Navigational intent

The user is looking for a specific website. For example, searching “Facebook” or “Twitter” into the search engine has a navigational intent. There isn’t much point in aiming to rank for a keyword like this as it will most likely mean that you don’t drive traffic to your site because you’re not the website that the user is looking for. 

Commercial investigation

The user is still deciding on their purchase but is looking to buy in the future, the user is doing research on the internet to decide what they want to purchase. For example, “best top 10” lists are common for commercial investigation but so are “something vs something” blogs/articles too. If a user searches “best laptop for university” they are evidently looking for a list/information that compares different laptops as they are undecided. 

When writing any content, and using certain keywords, you will need to consider the search intent each time. It is always useful to utilise a spreadsheet and ensure 

Identify any content gaps 

Content gaps are potentially one of the most underrated ways to better your SEO strategy. When doing keyword research, look for keywords that have a higher volume but aren’t competitive or even are missing good content completely. You can identify content gaps by looking at competitors to see what they’re failing to do well so that you can do it better. Or to see the keywords that competitors are completely not utilising at all.

Identify any long-tail keywords 

Once you have a good understanding of the seed keywords you want to use, you can start to devise a strategy that incorporates long-tail keywords (essentially variations of short-tail keywords but typically a lower search volume/competition which means you have more of a chance of ranking highly). 

It’s essential to start off targeting long-tail keywords when you’re just starting an SEO strategy because it will mean you can drive meaningful traffic to the website without worrying about getting to number 1 of a highly competitive keyword in a few days/weeks/months.

Look at your competitors

Throughout the entire process of keyword research, you will have been looking at competitor work. However, it’s essential to always keep an eye on competitors at key points in your strategy. Many competitors could already have a successful strategy or potentially could start while you’re succeeding.

FREE SEO tools

Any businesses or marketers on a budget will want to know about SEO tools that are affordable (or even better, free) that will aid their strategy without draining their bank account. SEO tools are known for being expensive so here are a few of our favourite free (and affordable tools) that you’ve got to try out when conducting keyword research.

Answer the public 

A tool that shows you the questions that people are asking so that you can “answer the public” with your content. The free version is a great tool for those stuck for ideas and any marketer who needs some content marketing inspiration. Get inside the minds of your customers and answer their burning questions. 

Try it out now

Keywords everywhere 

A chrome extension that once installed gives you the SEO difficulty, on-page, and off-page difficulty as well as trend data, related keywords, and long-tail keywords of any search query. The free version doesn’t give you metrics unless you use choose to use credits (which you can do on the free plan, you get a few as standard) so this isn’t ideal but it’s great to get an idea of good keywords to be using in your content. Plus it really will change the way you use search engines as a marketer.

Download the extension here.

Uber suggest 

Neil Patel’s free keyword research tool can help you generate suggestions and content that has search volume. It has limitations because it’s free but it’s definitely a great starting point. 

Give Ubersuggest a try

Google keyword planner

Typically used for Google ads, Google keyword planner is a great free tool to get an estimation for monthly searches of certain keywords. It’s not the most accurate tool but using this is kind of a hack for people who don’t have a budget to spend on paid tools.

Try out Google keyword planner


An indie-built SEO tool (mainly for SaaS companies), Katlinks is a great affordable alternative to the big paid SEO tools. A monthly subscription starts at just over £10 which is a steal. You can look at keyword rankings, discover new keywords and do keyword research without the barriers of the free tools out there. 

Start with a free trial*


Are you interested in learning more about SEO and implementing an SEO strategy into your marketing plan? 

We have an SEO action plan in our Members Society that helps you on your way. 

Join our Members Society and get access to the action plan.


Any links marked with (*) in this blog are affiliate links.