Beginner’s Guide to Basic Keyword Research

Here at UpBuild, we deeply understand the value of keyword research and how much of an impact it can have on your website’s success. We typically see that most people are aware of the importance of keyword research, but many times people don’t know exactly where to start. Keyword research can be an extensive project, so that is why we are here to provide a simple step-by-step process that will help you build a narrowed-down list of keywords to give your content focus and optimize your website for search engines.

Disclaimer: Everyone does their keyword research a little bit differently. The following are examples of how I conduct basic keyword research here at UpBuild.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is a fundamental part of SEO and a major part of content marketing. Specifically, keyword research is a process that requires marketers to find the words and/or phrases that people enter into search engines to see which of them are in high demand based on their popularity. Performing this investigation not only helps marketers optimize what is currently on their websites for search engines, it also helps with the creation of new pages and blog posts. Of course, any list of popular keywords is not just a static list. This kind of information (and the trends that information represents) is changing all the time, so keyword research must be performed on a regular basis. You can learn more about the importance of updating keyword research here.

Where to Start Keyword Research

When marketing your business, it’s important to think about what keywords you want your business to be found for in Google and other search engines (Keep in mind that the term ‘keyword’ in SEO does not literally mean one particular word; this term can also mean key words and/or phrases). These keywords that you want your business to be found for in Google are going to be the main topics that you will use as the foundation of your keyword research. To identify these keywords, you might want to try brainstorming topics that your site already covers. Putting yourself in the shoes of your customers can also help you identify 5-10 keywords with which you want your business to be associated.

When you’re conducting your keyword research, you will want to have a place that you can dump all of the information that you find. I suggest creating a spreadsheet and making a new tab at the bottom for each of your main topics. In these tabs, you will put your lists of keywords that pertain to the particular topic you are researching (more on this below).

Begin Brainstorming Keywords

Once I have my spreadsheet set up with my main topics listed in separate tabs, then I begin brainstorming keyword ideas. The first site I visit for brainstorming is usually Google Keyword Planner. My favorite part about this platform is that it is completely free and accessible to anyone who creates a Google Ads account (you don’t have to actually run a Google ad to access the Keyword Planner, but not running any ads could result in limited data).


Once you are in Google Keyword Planner, you are prompted to ‘Find new keywords,’ or ‘Get search volume and forecasts.’ If you click, ‘Find new keywords,’ the tool will then prompt you to enter words or phrases that are related to your business. This is where you will enter your main topics. I recommend entering in the main topics one by one instead of all at once so that you can keep all of your information organized.

When you input your first category keyword, you will probably get back a long list of keyword ideas in your results (depending on the specificity of your main topics). Some words will relate to your main topic; some may not. I suggest adding filters at this point to narrow down your results. I often include filters like ‘Exclude adult ideas’ and a ‘Keyword text contains…’ filter with a particular word that I want to see in each result. This will really refine your list so you don’t have to go through thousands of terms later on.

Once you have a solid list of keywords that pertain to your main topic, click ‘Download Keyword Ideas,’ and copy/paste the words into your spreadsheet in the corresponding topic’s tab. You’ll also want to copy/paste the maximum search volume for each keyword on your list and include that in your spreadsheet. This information will help you narrow down your keyword lists later on.

Finally, you will repeat the above steps for each of your other main category words. Your end result should be a solid list of keyword ideas in each tab of your spreadsheet.

Other Platforms for Brainstorming

There are lots of other sites where you can perform keyword research in addition to Google Keyword Planner. Here at UpBuild, we also use Moz and SEMRush to supplement our keyword research, just to name a few. These other platforms usually offer additional information about the keywords like difficulty scores and click-through-rates. This information can really help narrow down your keyword lists later down the road. However, many of these other platforms require that you purchase a subscription in order to utilize their services to their full extent, so your ability to get supplemental keyword data from these platforms really depends on your budget.

Google Search Console can also be helpful if you have a website that has been up and running for quite a while. You can use Google Search Console to find out what queries have been clicked to get people to your site. This platform is free and accessible to those who have manager access to the Google account(s) for their particular website.

Finally, regular Google searches can be very helpful in brainstorming keyword ideas, too. I highly recommend Googling each of your main topics and then scrolling down to the bottom of the search engine result pages (SERPs) to see what related searches are provided. You can also find recommended search terms by typing one of your main topics in the google search bar and not hitting enter; a list of suggested terms will automatically pop up. If you find related search terms that you think might be worth adding to your overall list, run those terms through Google Keyword Planner or whichever platform you prefer to find out the search volumes for those terms. If the search terms have good search volumes, they might be terms that you want to add to your spreadsheet.

Narrowing Down Your Keyword Ideas

Now that you have several lists of keywords that have keyword ideas related to your main topics, it’s time to narrow down those lists. Take into account all of the information you have accumulated. I typically filter lists by search volume first to find out which words on my list are most popular, and then I’ll filter by other categories as necessary. The goal is to narrow down your list by grouping keywords into common themes that can all be targeted by a single page. 2-4 keyword phrases per page is a good target. This will give you a variety of keywords that you can choose from to optimize the pages you currently have on your website. As a bonus, it’ll likely also provide you with just enough keywords to use for new pieces of your site such as blog posts that you might want to add in the future.

Start Applying Keywords to Your Site

Congrats! You have just completed basic keyword research for your site. You have successfully found specific keywords that you can use now and later on in the future to optimize your website for search engines. There are many other strategies for more extensive keyword research, but you can still benefit by conducting basic keyword research. The concept of defining your specific keyword strategy and mapping out page-by-page targeting is a topic for another blog post and is equal parts science, art, and philosophy, but at this point you’re perfectly ready to begin applying your keywords to specific pages of your site. Keep an eye on your site’s analytics to see the improvements from all of your hard work!

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