Keyword Research: How to find out what your customers are looking for

A successful analysis of keyword research allows for better understanding of your target market and how they are searching for your products or services.

Thorough research can help you answer important questions which will support your SEO strategy.

- How do they want information to be formatted?

- What is the search volume like?

- What exactly are the words and phrases that people are looking for?

This post will provide you with the knowledge and tools to uncover these answers. You are going to learn how to write high-quality content with a direct focus on the keywords that your potential customers and clients are searching for.

Don’t cut corners

Something that is often overlooked and quite frankly skipped altogether, is sitting down, and identifying who your customers are, and what are your goals. This part takes a bit of time because often the answers aren’t as clear as you might first assume.

To successfully run an SEO campaign, you must realise that what you want to rank for and what your audience is searching for are often two very different things. Writing page content for your audience whilst combining keyword research is the recipe for success in this area of search engine optimisation.

Asking the right questions

Let’s run you through an example of asking the right questions about your target audience.

Paul owns a pizza parlour in Cardiff and has just been told about SEO and all its benefits. He wants help to appear higher up and more frequently in search engine results. To do this, he must ask a few questions before he sets off on his campaign:

- What types of restaurants and pizza parlours are people searching for?

- Who is searching for these places?

- What seasons are most popular for these types of searches?

- How are people searching for pizza?

- What words are they typing in to search engines?

- What questions do they ask of search engines?

- Are mobile or desktop searches more popular?

- Why are people searching for pizza?

- Where are customers located?

Once he has successfully answered all these questions, there is one more to answer – How can I now write the highest quality and most relevant content to answer the queries of these potential customers?

A lot of businesses overlook this step, but it is a crucial part of the planning stage of any successful SEO campaign.

What terms are people searching for?

You probably already have a way of explaining what you do, but as we have touched on previously, this might not be the way that your audience searches.

Starting off with a couple of keywords or phrases that you want to rank for is a great position to be in, but don’t be afraid to change these as you progress through this step. These will be phrases that include your services or products.

Enter your initial of ‘seed’ keywords into a keyword research tool. Here is a list of our top 3 free websites to use.




After you have entered your initial keywords in to one of the research tools above, they will provide you with a list of other keywords, phrases, questions and even content suggestions that you might not have thought of.

There are plenty of other tools out there that perform the same job so don’t think that these are the only free websites available to you. The favourite of ours is the one on Neil Patel’s website because within just a few seconds it provides you with detailed content ideas that are already ranking well in search engines. It is certainly a great place to start off.

An example of keyword research

If Paul, of ‘Paul’s Pizza Parlour’ was beginning his keyword research, he would start off by typing “pizza parlour” or “pizza takeaway” into a research tool. To his surprise, he discovers highly relevant search terms with a high search volume that he never thought of, such as:

- Pizza delivery service

- Best pizzas nearby

- Local pizzeria

What is really great about using a keyword research tool is that once they provide you with a list, they will rank them in order of search volume so you can clearly understand what words and phrases will allow your business to appear more frequently.

As great as this sounds and you are probably ready to go and write your content with the most searched for terms, it is sometimes more advantageous to target the lower search volume phrases and keywords because they are less competitive.

After reading that you are probably wondering what the best foot forward will be. At this point we recommend that you think back to your end goal and what you want to achieve from this. Prioritise keywords and the select the ones that will give your website the biggest strategic advantage moving forward.

Understanding search volume

As rule of thumb, the higher the search volume, the more effort is needed to achieve high rankings for certain keywords and phrases. You will also here this called ‘keyword difficulty’ and is a reflection on the amount of competition.

If your business is selling watches then you might be better off targeting some of the less popular words and phrases in your list. Larger brands often take up the top ten search results for high volume keywords. To outrank some of these big players could take years and may never be achieved.

The effort that is entailed in ranking for low volume keywords is far more achievable in a shorter space of time and will give you a higher chance of maintaining your business model. If you go too low however, you risk missing out on very few searches and even less traffic.

So, what’s the solution? Target highly specific long-tail keyword phrases. In simple terms, this is a combination of keywords. For example, if your website is a van leasing business, you could target some high searched for vehicles, like the Ford Transit Custom with some of your high volume keywords, such as “cheap Ford Transit Custom van leasing deals”.

More on long tail keywords

Wouldn’t it be a dream to rank on page one, in position one for the keyword “sunglasses”?

It would be wonderful to deal with keywords that have 100,000 searches every month but they only make up a small percentage of all searches performed on the web. It is worth noting that keywords and phrases with extremely high search volumes may indicate ambiguous intent, which could put your website at risk of attracting visitors that don’t necessarily match your goals.

If we use Paul’s Pizza Parlour that we talked about earlier on in this section as an example. If Paul decided to target “pizza” on its own, then it is likely that he is being too vague, and any number of alternative results will appear.

In fact, if you were to perform the exercise yourself right now, what comes up? We just did it ourselves and a mixture of paid ads, images and even a quote from Wikipedia appeared. Paul would be much better off chasing long tail keywords such as “best pizza parlour in Cardiff”.

You can probably imagine how much higher the conversion rate would be if he appeared for that phrase instead of just “pizza”. More specific searchers will show active intent and will be more inclined to visit and make a purchase or order from your website.

Keyword volume strategy

At this point you have successfully learnt how to discover search terms for your website and have an understanding in to what the corresponding search volume means. It is now time to get even more strategic by looking at competitor websites to determine how searches might be different in alternative locations.

Using your list of generated keywords, both short and long tail, it is a great idea to prioritise them all in to two different lists.

- Keywords that competitors are not ranking for.

- Keywords that competitors are already ranking for.

The first option is to be targeted when you want to take advantage of opportunities that have been missed by your competitors. The second option is a completely different approach and is often considered an aggressive strategy.

Our preferred option is number two because these keywords are clearly working and have enabled them to sustain their business model.

Seasonal content

To take advantage of seasonal consumer behaviour you should write a content strategy that mirrors the activity online. An example of this is if you were selling homemade gift baskets and you wanted to ramp sales up around Christmas time then you should plan to publish content relating to “Christmas hampers” between October and December.

Regional content

You can strategically focus your attention on certain locations using nothing more than some cleverly placed keywords. A great example would be Paul’s Pizza Parlour in Cardiff. He would be wise in choosing regional content that would include his place name and location. Using this same strategy, he could target other, nearby locations to further increase his marketing presence.

Intent targeting content

That’s a real mouthful but it is important just the same. In the previous section we discussed search engine results and how different searchers have different intents. Google and Bing use different results formats depending on the query, this allows for a better user experience.

Google has actually published this information in their ‘Quality Rater Guidelines’ and noted the different types of search queries.

- ‘Website’ – Searching for a specific website

- ‘Do’ – Seeking to accomplish a goal

- ‘Know’ – Finding information

- ‘Visit’ – Visiting a local business or point of interest

These can be rather vague, especially when you consider that there are thousands of possible search types and an infinitive amount of search queries. There are however, five main categories of intent:

- Navigation: The searcher wants to visit a certain place on the internet. Example – “The homepage of Volkswagen UK”

- Local: The searcher wants to find something in a physical location. Example – “A coffee shop in Liverpool”

- Information: The searcher requires information. Example – “The height of the Eiffel Tower”

- Commercial: The searcher wants to compare products and find the best. Example – “Which Nikon camera is best for wedding photography?”

- Transaction: The searcher wants to act. Example – “Buy a ticket to watch England play”

Look at search results

If you really want to understand what happens when someone searches for a product of service that you offer, then perform the search yourself. Take note of the layout and how the search engine provides you with the information requested. Both Google and Bing will place the most desired content at the top of search results.

Take the search “sunglasses” – Go on, perform the search. Has the shopping carousel appeared? That is because search engines have determined that most people who search for “sunglasses” are doing so because they want to buy a pair.

Can you also see the list of nearby business listings that sell sunglasses? Well that is because search engines want to help you out even further by showcasing the companies nearby to you that sell sunglasses. Many people out there like to try before they buy so this is a great way for them to find shops near to them that offer this service.

As you can probably see, search engines have a wide range of ways that they present answers to queries, so it is important for you to know how these are presented from the start by performing your own searches. You can then create the content that is right for your business, products, and services.

Some helpful tools

We provided you earlier with a short list of keyword research tools for you to use while participating in this section of the course. Here are a few more that you might find helpful.

- Moz Keyword Explorer – Enter your keyword into the search box and within a few seconds you will see relevant information, including the monthly search volume and search engine features that are used at the top of the SERP (shopping, local business listings etc).

- Google Keyword Planner – Often the tool that newbies turn to at the beginning of their SEO plans. It isn’t a firm favourite of ours because it restricts search volume data by merging keywords together. This means that the information provided can be misleading and could send you down the wrong road.

- Google Trends – This online tool is very useful when looking at creating content that is specific to key times of the year. You can use this tool to determine when consumers are searching for Christmas, Halloween or even Bonfire Night products.

It is worth making a note of these websites and even having a play around with them to understand the functionality. You will soon be able to determine which tools you like best.

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