Keywords: The Definitive Guide

Written by Fraser McCulloch.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about keywords and how you can use this knowledge to improve your rankings and traffic from search engines.

1. What is a keyword?

2. Why keywords matter?

3. Keyword terminology

4. How to do keyword research

5. Check keywords you rank for

6. Improve your keyword rankings

But first, 

What is a keyword?

Keywords (also known as queries) are words typed into the Google search box that result in a list of web pages.

A keyword is any term used by people searching online; these words may be related to products, services, brands, etc., which companies want their websites to appear when someone searches using them.

Learn more about keywords.


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Why do keywords matter?

Keywords are vital since they are a bridge between searchers’ needs to the answers you provide on your web pages.

You want to drive organic traffic to your website from Google, and the keywords you select for targeting will dictate what type of traffic you receive*.

*although links and domain authority contributes to where you rank in Google.

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A background to keywords and search engines

Before Google was founded, there were several different search engines such as AltaVista, Excite, Hotbot etc.

  • In 1999, Google answered 3.5 million search queries a day.
  • In 2021, Google answered between 3.5 billion and 7.81 billion searches a day.

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Keyword terms you need to know.

Here are some common keyword terms used by SEO experts and marketers.

What is keyword search volume?

Keyword search volume indicates how often people type into Google a specific keyword.

For example, if I type “what is a keyword” into the Google search box, a keyword research tool such as Keyword Surfer shows me the monthly search volume and the search volume for closely-related keywords.

More about keyword search volume.

What is keyword difficulty?

A keyword difficulty score determines how easy or hard it is to rank web pages using keywords.

More about keyword difficulty.

What are informational keywords?

Keywords that provide informational content, such as questions, definitions, etc., are called informational keywords.

“how to vlog with iPhone.”

What are navigational keywords?

Navigational keywords refer to words used by people looking for websites or pages.

“Nike men’s shoes”

What are commercial keywords?

Commercial keywords include words like “product,” “service,” “brand”, or “company.”

A commercial keyword means that someone might buy something from you at some point in the future.

“football boots under 100 pounds”

What are transactional keywords?

Transactional keywords are called “transactional” because they indicate an intention to purchase some product or service.

e.g., buy a new iPhone 13, nearest laundrette.

What is a long-tail keyword?

Long-tail keywords are typically searched for less often than short-tail keywords, but they tend to convert well because people want something specific from their search.

Learn to identify long-tail keyword opportunities.

What is a short tail keyword?

Short-tail keywords tend to be easier for people to type into Google searches. People who don’t know a topic in-depth typically enter short-tail keywords into a search browser.

Learn more about short-tail keywords.

What is a top-of-funnel keyword?

Top-of-funnel terms are used by searchers when they first begin their research about your brand, a product or services.

For example, how to start a business, what is a website etc

More about top of the funnel keywords.

What is a bottom-of-funnel keyword?

Bottom of the funnel keywords refers to terms people use when they’re thinking about buying something.

Transactional or purchase decision keywords are usually harder to rank for than informational keyword phrases and tend to be more expensive to bid on with Google Ads.

Learn more about the different types of keywords.


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What is keyword research?

Finding out what people are searching online is called keyword research. You can accomplish this task by utilising keyword tools such as Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, and Keyword Surfer.

Ahrefs, a paid-for keyword tool, offers more in-depth keyword analysis, such as keyword difficulty and click potential.

How to do keyword research with Ahrefs

1. The first step is to enter a target keyword into the keyword explorer tool, select your country and search.

2. Select Matching Terms

3. Select Phrase Match

4. Filter out high difficulty keywords.

5. Use the Include filter to add keyword modifiers

6. Use the More Filters to filter by clicks > 1

7. Add keywords to a keyword list

8. Review keywords; remove duplicate or irrelevant keywords 

9. Export keywords to your content plan

10. Create content briefs for the writer

How to do keyword research with Ubersuggest

1. Go to Ubersuggest, enter a seed keyword, e.g., marketing, select your country, hit search. 

2. Select view all keyword ideas

3. Click the keyword filter button and include or exclude modifier words, e.g., how, best, top

3. Review list of relevant keywords

4. Use the checkbox to add relevant keywords to a list or export them to your content plan

5. Create content briefs for your writer

Learn how to find keywords with search traffic.

How to find low competition keyword

It’s easy to find more low difficulty keywords with Ahrefs than Ubersuggest, here’s how:

  1. Go to Ahrefs keyword explorer
  2. Enter a seed keyword, e.g., golf
  3. Select matching match
  4. Enter 0 in the min and 5 (or 10) in the max box in the KD filter box and apply.
  5. Select the click filter to 1 to only see low competition keywords that get traffic.

How to find high search volume keywords with low competition

Again, using Ahrefs, follow these steps to find high search volume keywords with low competition.

  1. Go to Ahrefs keyword explorer.
  2. Enter a seed keyword, e.g., marketing.
  3. Select matching match.
  4. In the Volume filter box, enter a value in the min box and apply.
  5. Select the click filter to 1 to only see high volume keywords that get traffic.

Learn how to find low competition keywords.


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How to check what keywords your website ranks for

To check the keywords your website ranks for with Google Search Console

  1. Go to Performance Reports
  2. Filter by date, e.g., last 28 days
  3. Look at the queries (keywords you rank for), clicks, impressions (search volume), and position on the queries tab.

How to find out keywords your competitors rank for

Use Ubersuggest to find out the keywords your competitors are ranking for.

  1. Enter the competition address into the search box and press search.

2. Scroll down to SEO Keywords.

3. Press view all SEO keywords this domain ranks for.

Use Ahrefs to find out the keywords your competitors are ranking for.

  1. Go to Ahrefs and enter the competitor URL into the site explorer tool.
  2. Select organic keywords, and you will see all the keywords they rank for.
  3. Or select top pages and then view the keywords they rank for each page.

More about finding your competitors keywords.


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How to improve your keyword rankings

There are hundreds of strategies and tactics at your disposal that can improve your keyword rankings.

  1. Filter queries in Google Search Console with a position greater than 9.
  2. Sort the impressions column by descending order.
  3. Choose a relevant keyword between positions 10 and 30 related to your products or services.
  4. Identify what a user is trying to accomplish something after searching this query (ps this is not easy)
  5. Google the keyword, look for clues about intent in the titles, description and content of those top-ranked pages.
  6. Rewrite your page to better address and serve the user’s intent.
  7. Link to this page from other web pages on your website using relevant anchor text.

Learn more about improving your keyword rankings.


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