A Beginner’s Guide to SEO Keyword Research – GreenlightSEO

Levon Khachatryan 25.02.2024 13 min read
A Beginner’s Guide to SEO Keyword Research – GreenlightSEO

Keyword research is one of the most important foundations of SEO. If we simplify that, keywords are the queries that people search on Google. 

Over time, big data of keywords have been created. Without them, you can’t expect any organic traffic coming from search engines.

Each of these keywords has its metrics. Keyword difficulty, monthly search volume, potential traffic, etc. We’ll talk about this as well.

Results for searching "keyword research" on Ahrefs

The thing is, you should understand how these metrics work, how to choose the right keywords, and how to capture relevant traffic. In other words, keyword research is the base of your SEO strategy.

This guide will explain to you what keyword research is, the best practices, its importance, and how a beginner can start doing keyword research for SEO strategy.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of finding valuable queries that your ICP is ideally searching for. The key is that you should do proper research to find the keywords that actually bring organic traffic.

Apart from that, keyword research impacts every other aspect of SEO (e.g., on-page, finding content topics). 

Why is Keyword Research Considered as the Foundation of SEO?

A lot of traffic from search engines comes to your website thanks to the articles you publish. That’s why content marketing is important for lead generation. 

You write an article based on a keyword that you find the best. So, if the keyword has no search volume at all, then your newly created web page won’t receive any traffic. Moreover, many website owners do not do any keyword research before publishing an article. They just publish what it feels like.

And that’s a reason that +90% of web pages do not get any traffic at all. (Thank you, Ahrefs, for this study).

A visual that shows how many of web pages don't get any tarffic at all.


Keyword research makes sure that the topic you cover has the potential to bring organic traffic to your website. If you do everything with the best SEO practices, then you’ll see how huge traffic lands on your website consistently.

How to Find Keyword Ideas?

This is the foundation of keyword research. In this part of the research process, you should put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Understand what they are searching for in search engines. Brainstorm the phrases questions they might be searching for, and then go and check them in your SEO tool.

(I, personally, use Ahrefs for that)

In this part of the article, we’ll show you a step-by-step process. But you need 2 an understanding of your niche/industry.

1. Find the Seed Keywords

Seed keywords are the point where you start your keyword research. Every keyword research tool asks for a seed keyword. Then it generates a big list of keywords that you may use.

If you already have a blog or a website or a online biz then you already must have a clue about where to start. But if you don’t, we’ll go ahead with examples so that everything is clear to you.

Let’s say you have a website where you talk about pets. So, in this case, your seed keywords might be:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Parrots
  • Dog food
  • Cat food

And there are a lot more options for this case. However, it shouldn’t be surprising for you if one or more of these seed keywords are not worth creating something around it. That’s normal because those are only seed keywords. You use them to get started with your keyword research process.

2. Understand What Keywords Your Competitors Are Ranking For

If you are an online business, then most probably (100%) you have competitors. And most of the time, online business owners are well aware of them.

So, in the keyword research process, checking your competitor’s “already ranking” keywords is important. Moreover, it’s an essential part of it. 

Also Read: Should You Target Zero Search Volume Keywords – Yes or No?

To see what your competitors are ranking for, you can easily use again your SEO tool. But don’t forget to check these keywords on actual SERPs. This might give you even more insights into what to do.

3. Using Keyword Goldminers

As we said, apart from the keywords you find on these SEO tools, there are other cool ways to find new keywords related to your niche. Here we go.

Every search engine results page has a section that is neglected all the time. And we are here to reveal this part for you.

Let’s say you want to find a new keyword related to “keyword research,

You go to Google and search for it.

SERPs of the "keyword research" query

Here is the SERPs for that one query.

But when you go all the way down, you see that very section you can use in a very beneficial way.

It’s called Related Searches:

Searches related to section for keyword research query

And here is how it looks for our previous search. This section gives you 8 ready keywords that is 100% searched by people. Otherwise, it will never appear in this section.

Check Suggestions of Search Engines

Whenever you type somethig in the search box, search engines always give you suggestions to look at. These suggestions are actively searched by other people.

In this case, we see 10 new keywords that you should definitely add to your list. These keywords are really worth it, and here is the proof.

Let’s take one of these suggestions. For example, “content marketing tips.”

Here's what Ahrefs shows when you search "content marketing"

Here is what we got for that keyword. As we double-checked, we found out that this keyword has the metrics and the potential for increasing your organic traffic.

Use Reddit

Reddit is another place to look for golden keywords. We think that every business potentially has its customers there, discussing stuff.

Ok, here is another example for you. Let’s say your website talks about headphones.

Here’s how to find your keywords on Reddit.

Go to Reddit and search for headphones.

Communities where one can find keywords

You’ll find a lot of communities related to your topic. In this case, r/headphones are the biggest one, with over 1M members.

Then, when you go into these groups, pay attention to the posts that have the biggest amount of comments.

A great post where one can find great keywords

This one discussion has a lot of keywords in it. And that’s the coolest part of it.

Pro Tip: Use the keyword research tool Keyworddit. It’s a free tool that scans Reddit for phrases and keywords and shows its monthly volume.

The Best Keyword Research Tools

Now is the time to research what type of keyword research tools we have. As we showed before, you can easily find new keywords without paying for a tool.


With a tool, all this stuff becomes even easier for you. That’s why, in this part, we’ll talk about the best options you have.

  1. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is an SEO software you can also use for keyword research. 

The best part of Ahrefs is that you can find a handful of data on a keyword you want to rank for.

Also, whenever you are looking for a keyword, Ahrefs gives you 4 other “keyword idea” options:

  • Terms Match
  • Questions
  • Also Rank For
  • Also Talk About

This gives you a broader idea and makes it easier for you to do the keyword research. Moreover, you can watch this video of Ahrefs, where they use these sections to outrank their competitors.

2. Semrush

There are industry giants in SEO software. And one of them is Semrush


We highly recommend you choose Semrush. 


Semrush is a time saver. It shows you the exact keywords that a site already ranks for. 

That being said, competitor research with this tool is now even easier. You only have to check your competitors on Semrush, and it’ll show you every keyword they are ranking for.

3. Google Keyword Planner

Ok. One certain thing is that no one can give more accurate data than Google.

(a big plus is that it’s free)

Google Keyword Planner - a great keyword research tool

Why is Google’s keyword research tool more accurate than others? Because all its data comes from Google straight away.

However, this tool is created for Google Ads campaigns, not SEO. But you can still use it for idea generation.

This tool should be considered the best among all other keyword research tools because it provides a list of keywords that others charge for but offer them for free.

4. Backlinko’s Free Keyword Tool

Backlinko's free keyword tool is a great tool for those who can't afford subscription

For a lot of SEOs, investing in keyword research tools can be challenging. Not everyone has a spare $100. That’s why we want to outline a great keyword tool by Backlinko

Well, Brian has created a tool that leverages the extensive database of Semrush

With this tool, you can easily find low-competition keywords and nice blog ideas and overall get some insights based on monthly search volume.

Elements of Keywords Inside the SEO Tools

So now we have found some top-tier keyword research tools that you can use for keyword research. However, there is one thing that we haven’t covered yet.

To fully understand the keyword, you should look at the metrics. And these metrics are very specific. Although, almost every keyword research tool uses the same naming (maybe slightly different ones.

In this section, we’ll show you these metrics and explain what stands for what.

And, since you are going to use third-party tools for that, do not panic when you see different numbers on different tools.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty is a metric that basically says how hard it’ll be to rank. This one metric is evaluated based on some data that you can check yourself.

Before even talking about data, there is one thing that you should know.

Most experienced SEOs do not solely rely on the tool’s given metrics. They do an evaluation based on what they see on SERPs.

The same thing do keyword research tools. Just automated.

So here is the data that helps to evaluate KD:

  • Authority (not domain rating!!!)
  • Backlink number
  • Search intent
  • DR/DA
  • Snippet

Here are some more details for you. 

It’s an absolute truth that Google ranks the websites that are well-established and trusted all over the world. For instance, Wikipedia is such a kind of website.

If you are hesitant about whether you should target that keyword or not, go to Google and search for it.

Let’s take an example of “machine learning”.SERPs of the query "machine learning"

Wikipedia is on the top spot – meaning that you would (possibly) never outrank Wikipedia from its spot.

Or let’s take another thing that helps us evaluate KD.

Domain rating. Google says that DR has nothing to do with improving rankings. In other words, it’s not a ranking factor.

However, some people still claim that domain authority is a ranking factor or at least has an impact on your rankings.

But, if you see that for a keyword, there is a website with DR90+ and 10K+ backlinks ranking, then you’d rather avoid this one as well.

Or prepare to pay a huge amount of money for that…

(No, don’t do that for now).

Search Volume

Search volume is another metric that helps you understand how many times a keyword is being searched in search engines in a month.

For example, my homeland, “Armenia,” as a keyword, has a 163K monthly search volume. 

Ahrefst metrics for the keyword "Armenia"

Basically, with this data, you understand whether there is demand for that keyword or not.

Also, note for yourself that:

  • Monthly Search Volume shows you the count of searches, not the searchers – meaning that one person may search one thing 1000s of times. 
  • It does not mean you’ll get all the traffic – remember that the organic traffic is shared among all the websites that rank on the first page (maybe some of the second page).
  • It is yearly divided by months – if one keyword in one month gets 1000 searches and the rest (11 months) of the months only 100, it equals 175/mo.

  Traffic Potential

Traffic potential showcases the estimated traffic you will get for ranking on that keyword. This is very simple.

If one keyword has a traffic potential of 100, then you will get approximately 100 organic traffic. But one thing may be confusing for you.

The “Car Repair” keyword has a traffic potential of 46K.

Car Repair keyword's metrics

But the top-ranking page gets over 1M traffic. Why?

The top ranking website of the "car repair" query gets over 1M traffic

Here is the reason. This one page may be ranking for other keywords as well. This time it gets organic traffic for other keywords it’s ranking for.

That’s it.

Types of Keywords

Since keywords are part of the sales funnel, you should understand what type of keywords there are before even doing something with those keywords.

1. Informational

Informational keywords are the keywords that people use to learn something.

Here are some examples:

  • Stephan King
  • Which is the best book by Stephan King?
  • Stephan King Birthday

Informational keywords are higher in the sales funnel – they are just starting their customer journey with you.

2. Navigational

People use navigational keywords to find specific web pages, websites, or business locations.

Usually, they use a brand or business name for that.

Here are some examples:

  • Ahrefs blog
  • Netflix
  • Where is the nearest 7/11

These people searching navigational keywords are a bit lower in the funnel. They are aware of your business and want to check its website or learn the location.

3. Commercial

People use commercial keywords for researching specific brands, products, or services. At this point, they want to check reviews, read comparisons, or look for discounts.

You should use listicles, comparisons, reviews, [your products] vs. competitor, or how-to articles for this type of keyword.

Here are some commercial keywords: 

  • Free SEO tool
  • Semrush free trial
  • X Premium

Commercial keywords clearly indicate that the searcher wants to take an option and organic traffic coming from this keyword are qualified leads.

4. Transactional

Transactional keywords = intent to buy something. 

You can target these keywords with your highly optimized product pages. If you have a landing page where users can take immediate action, then also these pages.

Here are some transactional keyword examples:

  • Buy headphones online
  • Burger places near me that deliver
  • Car for sale

Tips and Strategies for Keyword Research

Since you have covered pretty much everything, now we should start sharing with you some advanced tips to take your keyword research to another level.

First of all, start by targeting long-tail keywords.

What’s a long-tail keyword?

These are the types of keywords that usually include 4+ words in it, are not that much competitive but have higher search volume.

Here is an example of a long-tail keyword:

A long tail keyword - how to repair rust on a car

This is a long-tail keyword that you can rank for easily.

Now, create a spreadsheet and start adding there the keywords you reckon are worth having in that sheet.

Pro Tip: I use the keyword clustering extension for spreadsheets to create clusters.

After you have those keywords on your sheet, here’s what you should do:

  • Identify whether you are able to rank for them.
  • Remove those you can’t rank.
  • Create clusters with the pillar keywords there.
  • Start producing content with these keywords.
  • Make sure you add content regularly.
  • Enjoy – you’ll gain topical authority in the eyes of your readers and Google.

Now It’s Time to Do Keyword Research

We hope, that you enjoyed our comprehensive guide on keyword research.

The tools we showed you are going to be helpful and will level up your keyword research procedure.

Remember one thing, if you are just starting on a website then the best thing to do is targeting long-tail keywords.

Then, through time, you’ll start targeting other keywords as well. The main thing is that you understand the search intent and creat content that fits searchers intent.

GreenlightSEO is a non-BS agency that offers comprehensive SEO services to 5/6-figure businesses. One of our values is treating a client’s project as it is ours.

Our focus is:

  • Improved ROI
  • Increasing qualified leads number
  • Increasing brand authority with SEO

If you want to increase your revenue, get more clients and make people start talking about your brand, then contact us at hello@greenlightseo.com


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Levon Khachatryan
About Author

Levon Khachatryan

Levon, a senior SEO specialist and the visionary founder behind GreenlightSEO, brings a wealth of expertise to the this blog. With a proven track record of successful SEO projects, Levon has consistently delivered top-tier results, propelling client websites to coveted positions on the first page of Google. His commitment to excellence and innovative approach to search engine optimization make Levon a driving force in the ever-evolving SEO world.

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