5 Tactics for Smarter Keyword Research

Keywords are at the heart of SEO. The marketer who uses creative ways to identify high-volume and low competition keywords will beat out the marketer who plugs keyword into Google Keyword Planner and chooses the ones with the greatest search volume every time. Here, we’ll discuss the right way to think about choosing keywords, and 5 actionable tactics for finding them.

Concepts, not keywords

Cyrus Shepard wrote a post not too long ago on the Moz blog on the necessity of shifting our thinking  away from optimizing for a single keyword and towards optimizing for themed concepts.

The idea is, when we all start out in SEO, we choose a keyword that we want to rank for, based on the data that Google gives us, and then we create a page optimized for that keyword. We shove the KW in the title, the meta description, a few times in the body, and maybe in an image alt tag.

The problem with this is that these keywords are normally too broad, have too much competition, they don’t convert particularly well, and you;d have to create bucket-loads of content in order to rank for enough keywords to ever get substantial traffic. Oh, an your 1-keyword optimized content is probably garbage, like this.

Cyrus then points out the about 70% of the traffic that we earn comes from KW’s that we never intended to rank for:

What are these keywords? They may be synonyms, thematically related, or closely related ideas that search engines thought best matched your content.

With this in mind, optimizing for a only a single keyword means ignoring the majority of your potential traffic.

OK, so now we have a basic understanding of how we should be thinking about keywords. Now, let’s dive into the 5 tactics for finding smarter keywords.

Disclaimer: I am stealing almost everything in this post fromBacklinko.

1. Incoming Search Terms

A bunch of bloggers use a WordPress plugin called “SEO SearchTerms Tagging”. What it does is it automatically lists the keywords that people searched for to find that particular page, like this:

Incoming Seach Terms

So how do we exploit this? Well, if I were a food blogger and I was looking for unique keywords to optimize for around the topic of gluten free pancakes, I would head over to Google and search something like: “incoming search terms” + “gluten free pancakes”.

Then I’d find this: http://www.adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com/2011/02/fluffy-buckwheat-pancakes-chia-egg-replacer-corn-free-baking-powder/

Then I’d find this:

Incoming Seach Terms 2

Then I’d C/P those bad boys and throw ’em in Google Keyword Planner, and get this:

Beautiful KW's

Then I’d go optimize some content for those bad boys…like NOW!

2. Don’t Press Enter

This is one of my favorites because it’s a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, here’s how to execute “Don’t Press Enter”:

a. Go to Google’s home page, and begin typing keywords relevant to your theme into the search bar:

Dont Press Enter

That’s it.

3. Related Searches

This one is also simple and sponsored by Google. When you perform a search in Google, G gives you a list of related search phrases at the bottom of the page:

Related Searches

Done and done.


The idea here is that we are going to try and leverage forum topics to find unqiue search phrases that people who are interested in a givin topic might search.

a. Search your “topic” + “forum” in Google
b. Click on any result that looks interesting
c. I clicked through to this: http://modernistcuisine.com/cooks/forum/a-f/chocolate-pudding-fudge-cake-recipe/
d. Then I followed this link:


e. Then I got this:


5. Google Webmaster Tools

This tactic isn’t so much for discovering new keywords, but instead for optimizing your existing content in order to drive more traffic.

a. Head over to GWT and check out your search queries
b. Find queries that you are almost on page 1 for:

GWT Queries

Go find those pages and optimize ’em for these keywords!