Keyword Research A Comprehensive Guide For 2021


Keyword research is the first step in the SEO process and an essential part of your SEO strategy. Before you create the content on your website, you should find out what keywords & keyphrases your target customers use. Their search terms are your keywords. Based on these keywords you should start writing useful and high-quality content.

In this article we will guide you step by step through the different steps of keyword research.


Keyword research is part of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This involves creating a comprehensive list of keywords with which a website should rank as high as possible: Which keywords do your target customers enter into Google when they search for your products, services, businesses or the type of your organization? And what do they expect to find? With this list you can create content on your website that attracts more and higher quality visitors. The keyword research is never finished: Regular repetition is essential to stay up to date!


A detailed keyword research is crucial because it makes it clear which keywords your target customers use. At DUSK Digital we have often come across companies that use only one set of words to describe their products, while your target group uses a completely different set of words. As a result, potential customers were unable to find these websites due to inappropriate word usage.

It obviously makes no sense to optimize a website for keywords that your target customers do not use!

Thorough keyword research ensures that you use the same terms as your target audience, and that makes all the effort of website optimization far more rewarding. In addition, by looking at the search intent, you can find out exactly what your audience is looking for. These queries should receive a response in the form of high quality content.


Before we start with the keyword research, we will briefly explain some essential concepts of it:
If you want to optimize a post or a page for one of your keyphrases in a simple way, you can enter this key phrase in the input field for the focus search term for a post or a page with the SEO plugin SmartCrawl. The plugin will give you feedback on how you can optimize your content for this phrase to improve your chances of ranking.

Long Tail Keyword

Long Tail Keywords are more specific and less frequently searched than so-called Head-Keywords. They concentrate on a niche. The longer and more specific the keywords/keyphrases are, the easier it is for them to rank well, as there is less competition. Even if there are fewer people searching for these terms, they may be more motivated to buy, subscribe, sign up, or whatever they are supposed to do.

Keyword Strategy

Your keyword strategy is about the decisions you make based on your keyword research. For example, what content will you create first? Will you focus on the head or the tail? How and where will you publish it? Will you create a text, article or product page, a video tutorial or infographics?

Search Intent

The key to this is the Search Intent: You have to find out what a searcher actually wants or needs. It’s not just about search terms, but about the goals underlying what a searcher wants to know, do or buy. Your content should provide a solution to the “problem” of the searcher. This is also called content strategy.


We believe that there are eight key steps in performing keyword research. Here we will guide you through this process step by step and give you practical tips to easily start your own keyword research.

1. Define your mission

Before you start something, think about your marketing strategy. Think about questions like: What is the main goal of your company or organization? What makes it special? Who exactly do you want to reach? And what promises do you make on your website? Take your time and literally write down your mission. If you can answer these questions in detail, you have taken the first and most important step in your keyword strategy.

The market you are in determines whether your strategy is brilliant enough to achieve good rankings. Some markets are highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have huge budgets for marketing in general and SEO in particular. The competition in these markets is fierce, so the rankings in these markets will be tough.

Maybe you sell cruises to Hawaii. They offer great facilities for children, so the cruises are especially suitable for young or single parents. Offering the best cruises to Hawaii for young parents could very well be what makes your service unique. So look for the thing that sets your product apart from the competition. That should be your mission, your niche – and that is what you need to offer your audience.

If you want to enter a competitive market, it’s best to start small. Once you “own” a small part of that niche and have become a bigger name in the Hawaiian cruise business, you could try to level out your cruises and sell them to a larger (more general) audience. Your mission will then also become more general.

2. Create a keyword list

The second step is to create a keyword list, preferably in a spreadsheet, such as Google Sheets or Excel. Try to get into the minds of your target customers with your mission in mind. What will these people be looking for? What kind of keywords could they use in their search for your amazing service or product? Which of their “problems” will your product or service solve? Write down as many answers as possible. If your mission is clear, you will have a pretty clear picture of your niche and your unique selling points (the things that make your company different from others). These are the terms you want to be found for.

3. Research your keywords

After you have created this first list, it is time to dive a little deeper into your keywords. Fortunately, there are some tools that make keyword research a little easier.

The first one is Google itself. Search for the keywords you have already thought of and check the search queries suggested by Google as you type them. These are the questions that you have actually asked Google! You can also check the “related searches” on the Google results page. These tools offer you all possible variations of your keywords, synonyms and related keywords.

4. Remember the Long Tail Keywords

When people start keyword research, they tend to focus on very popular “head” terms. Unfortunately, these keywords are mostly used by large companies. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, receive less search traffic, but there is also less competition. Therefore it is easier for you to position yourself with these keywords. Moreover, long-tail keywords even have a higher conversion value, because they focus more on a specific product or topic: a niche!

A long-tail keyword is often longer and more focused than a generic term. If your generic term is [Content Marketing], a long tail keyword could be [Content Marketing Agency Phoenix]. With the tools mentioned in step 3, you can also find more variations of your long-tail keywords.

Do not forget to add the long tail keywords to your table as well. Put the headings in the first column and add (several) columns for more long tail keywords. This will help you later to create a proper site structure. The longer your search term is, the further down in your site structure is the target page of the term.

5. Analyze the competition

Whether you should search for long-tail keywords depends largely on your competition. If the competition in your niche is high, you will find it difficult to position yourself under the conditions of the competition. If you have little competition, you can even place yourself in the Head Keywords / Head Keywords. So you need to benchmark for SEO.

Google the keywords that came out of your keyword research. Start with the “head” terms. Look at the Search Result Pages (SERP). These are the websites you will compete with once you have optimized your content for such a keyword. Take a closer look: Do you see professional websites? Company websites? Are you “equal” to these companies? Does your website fit to these websites? Is your company of similar size and does it have the same influence in your niche?

It is more difficult to rank well when you compete with websites with strong brand names. If brands are known from TV or radio advertising, your chances of a good ranking will be even lower. But it can’t hurt to take a look at their content. Is the content well written and well optimized? If your competition has really bad content, you might have a chance to outperform them!

Also have a look at the ads in Google / Google Ads. Are there any? If you have a Google Ads account, you can check the pay per click method. Search terms that have a high pay per click value are usually also more difficult to place in organic results.

6. Take a closer look at the Search Intent

Modern SEO strategies should be mostly about answering people’s questions or finding the best solution to their “problem”. Whenever someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are looking for something. Each type of question requires a specific answer.

Try to find out what your audience’s intention is when they enter a certain key phrase in Google: Do they have an information intent (try to find information on a specific topic), a navigation intent (want to access a specific web page), a commercial intent (want to research something before buying it) or a transaction intent (want to buy something right now)?

You can learn more about the Search Intent of certain queries by looking at the type of pages that already have a rank for that query. Do you see mainly product pages? Do you see many informative blog posts? Do you watch videos? Or do you see a mixture? All of these are clues to what Google assumes to be the search intent of a particular query.

7. Determine the keyword strategy

Based on the data collected now, you can define a keyword strategy. If you have followed the steps above, you should have a table with a considerable number of keywords and information about the competition and your audience’s search intent for these keywords.

Think about this question now: How does my website compare to the websites in the SERPs? If you are of the same size and have the same marketing budget, then focus on these keywords. If not: try more long-tail keywords first. If you concentrate on a whole range of long-tail keywords, this could very well attract a lot of traffic. Once you have managed to create a ranking for these long-tail keywords, it will be a bit easier to find more keywords.

Once you have decided where you want to start, think about the type of content you want to include: What was the search intent for my keywords? What is my audience looking for? But also, what content can I create that is not yet available and how can I stand out in terms of quality or solutions? This helps you decide what kind of content you want to create.

8. Start building landing pages

This step is theoretically outside the scope of the actual keyword research. Nevertheless, the creation of appealing landing pages is of course essential if you want to get traffic to your website. So you have to create landing pages for your keywords – step by step. Your keyword strategy will help you with prioritization.

For your most important key phrases, you create content cornerstones/cornerstone content: you create the best possible content for this keyword – authoritative and comprehensive. All your supporting, longer-lasting articles will be linked to this cornerstone. This should be part of your internal linking strategy.


This may all sound pretty simple, but we know it’s a lot of work and easier said than done. In practice, you might encounter some common problems or questions. Here are some tips to make it work!

Prioritize your keyword list

How many keywords should you have? Well, we can’t tell you how many keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you need a lot of them – as many as you can imagine. But more than 1000 keywords are probably too many! Even if you are a relatively small company, you will probably have a few hundred keywords.

But there is no need to immediately create pages or posts for all these things. You can add content bit by bit. Think about which keywords you want to rank “immediately” – maybe the long tail keywords? Set your priorities and plan the creation of your content.

A focus keyphrase and its synonyms need only one page / one post
In the past, each of the keywords for which you wanted to be found was given its own landing page. Today, however, search engines are so intelligent that they usually use the search intent to give the searchers the best answer to your questions. The page that best answers these questions is placed at the top of the page. Search engines also understand subtle differences between keywords, so you don’t have to create landing pages for all the subtle variations, such as synonyms, of a keyword.

This does not mean that you should not use synonyms! In fact, synonyms can really improve the readability of your texts, so use them in your text! The Yoast Premium SEO plugin can help you do this: It allows you to optimize your content for synonyms and related keywords. Related keywords are words and concepts that deepen and broaden the understanding of your focus keywords. They even help Google better understand the topic you are talking about. By using synonyms and related keywords in your text, you can draw a complete picture of your focus keyphrase in your article.

Check the results for your keywords: in the singular and plural.
Should you aim for the singular or the plural of your keywords? Well, that depends on the query. As Google learns more about the search intent of your query, it can better guess what you are looking for. For example, if you search for a book, you will get a different result than if you search for books. Apparently Google thinks that in the first case you are looking for a definition or certain stories, in the second case Google thinks you want to buy a book. So make sure that you know what you are offering on your site and that it matches the search query and results that Google gives for that search query.

Optimizing your content has become a much more natural process. However, there are reasons why you might still want to optimize for a specific word form of a keyword. In this case, you can put your focus keyword in quotation marks: “the best books ever”. Your SEO will now only consider this exact focus key phrase when reviewing your content.

Use a keyphrase only once

Careful, you should not use your exact focus keyword more than once. If you do, your rankings might suffer from keyword cannibalization. Google finds it difficult to distinguish between very similar content. Therefore it may place very similar posts or pages lower.

Have you found out that you have used the same or very similar keywords or key phrases in different posts and pages? Then it probably makes sense to review your content and maybe merge/delete/redirect some of them.

Try, evaluate and try again

After a thorough analysis of your ranking chances for a specific term, the next step is to write a unique article and optimize it accordingly. And click Publish, share it in social media and in your newsletter. Make sure that you get quality backlinks.

And wait a little. Take a look at your ranking. Is your article appearing? Did it appear on the first page of Google’s SERPs? Or is it hidden on page 2 or 3? Make sure you rate your articles in the SERPs. Google the terms for which you have optimized your articles. Check if your efforts pay off!

If you are not immediately able to rank on the first page, try to write another article that focuses on an (even) longer keyword. Make it a bit more specific, more niche. And see how that works. Rate it again. Continue this process until you reach the first page of SERPs!


In a perfect world, you would do your keyword research, create a nice spreadsheet and create landing pages for each one. Your site structure would be flawless, and you would blog and write every day, and your website would rank higher and higher in Google. But we live in the real world.

Of course, your keyword research will not always be that extensive. And some posts or articles are not written as part of a great strategy, but simply because the topic was in the news or something inspired you to write it. That’s how these things work. But that need not be a problem.

If you write something that doesn’t exactly fit your strategy, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to fuel it. You could still use it to rank something in relation to the terms in your keyword strategy list.

Use the tools and Google Trends mentioned in step 3 to quickly check for which keyword you want to create a ranking. At the very least, take some time to think about how you can fit your article or blog into your strategy. After all, if you write valuable content, you can add it to the ranking!


Keyword research should be the beginning of any sustainable SEO strategy. The result will be a long list of keywords and keyphrases you want to be found.

But the most difficult part still lies ahead: writing all this content. You should write articles and blog entries for every single keyword you want to be found for. This is quite a challenge but it pays off. If that’s all too much for you why not contact us and we will do it for you!

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