I'm Caitlin

I'm Caitlin Christensen, the founder of Creative SEO Coach, with over 8 years of experience in SEO and digital marketing. I specialise in SEO for Showit websites offering SEO Services and courses. 

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How to do Keyword Research Yourself (Using SEMRush)


By Caitlin Christensen

When it comes to SEO there is nothing more important than keyword research.

Learning how to do keyword research yourself is a valuable skill and one that you must master to gain unpaid traffic to your website using SEO.

In this guide are the exact steps to uncover the best keywords for your business using SEMRush.

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What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research isn’t just a buzzword in the world of SEO and digital marketing; it’s a pivotal strategy that serves as the foundation for driving organic traffic and understanding customer behavior. At its core, keyword research involves delving into the specific terms and phrases people use in search engines when seeking information. By harnessing this data, businesses can align their online content with user intent, unlocking a host of benefits.

Why you need to do Keyword Research

  1. Enhances Search Engine Visibility: By targeting the right keywords, your content is more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), increasing visibility to potential visitors.
  2. Aligns with User Search Intent: Understanding the intent behind search queries helps in creating content that meets the needs and interests of your audience, improving user engagement and satisfaction.
  3. Drives Targeted Traffic: Keyword research helps attract visitors who are actively searching for information, products, or services related to your niche, leading to higher quality traffic.
  4. Informs Content Strategy: It guides your content creation, helping you to focus on topics that your audience is searching for, thus making your content more relevant and useful.
  5. Increases Conversion Rates: By attracting more targeted visitors, you’re more likely to see increased engagement and higher conversion rates, whether that’s sales, sign-ups, or other desired actions.
  6. Competitive Advantage: Understanding and utilizing keywords that your competitors might be overlooking can give you an edge in your market.
  7. Better ROI on Marketing Efforts: Focused keyword targeting ensures that your SEO and content marketing efforts are more efficient, leading to a better return on investment.
  8. Helps in Long-Tail Keyword Targeting: Researching long-tail keywords (more specific, less common queries) can capture niche audiences and potentially convert better due to less competition.
  9. Supports PPC Campaigns: For pay-per-click advertising, keyword research helps in creating more effective ad campaigns that resonate with the search queries of your audience.
  10. Builds Brand Authority and Trust: Ranking for relevant keywords helps establish your site as an authority in your field, enhancing trust with your audience.
  11. Adapts to Changing Trends: Regular keyword research allows you to stay updated with evolving search trends and adapt your content strategy accordingly.
  12. Enhances Local SEO: For local businesses, keyword research can help in targeting geographically-specific keywords, increasing local visibility and foot traffic.
  13. Improves User Experience: By aligning your content with user queries, you improve the overall user experience, making it easier for visitors to find the information they need on your site.
  14. Aids in Content Diversification: Keyword research can uncover new topic areas and niches, encouraging diversification in your content which can attract a broader audience.
  15. Supports Content Optimization: Beyond just finding keywords, research helps in optimizing existing content to improve its performance in search results.

TL;DR: Keyword research is crucial for your website and blog strategy because it significantly boosts your online visibility by aligning your content with what your audience is actively searching for. It leads to higher quality traffic, better engagement, and increased conversion rates. By understanding the right keywords, you can create more relevant and effective content, stay ahead of the competition, and ensure your marketing efforts have a stronger impact. In simple terms, keyword research is the key to connecting with your target audience and improving the overall performance of your website and blog.


Step 1. Keyword Overview: Get a Quick Analysis

To kick things off I like to start with a quick overview of how the business is running. Depending on how much traffic you are getting is a factor when deciding which keywords to go after.

To begin, simply launch the report tool, enter your chosen keyword into the search field, and initiate the analysis. This process provides a holistic view of how your keyword performs in various aspects of digital marketing, enabling you to make informed decisions about whether or not to incorporate it into your SEO and content strategies.

The Keyword Overview is particularly valuable because it condenses complex data into an easily digestible format, allowing for quick yet thorough analysis. Whether you’re looking to enhance your website’s SEO, refine your blog content, or optimize your paid advertising campaigns, this quick analysis is an indispensable starting point.

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Leverage Search Intent for the Right Results (Don’t skip this point)

Understanding and leveraging search intent is critical when it comes to success in SEO. When users enter keywords or phrases into search engines like Google, they have a specific intent or purpose behind their search.

Such as if you Google ‘Lawn Mower Hire’ (Commercial Intent, indicated by the yellow ‘C’ in the image below) and you are only met with articles on how to best cut your grass, you are going to be annoyed and leave Google.

Google understands this and puts a huge emphasis on only putting forward content that matches the ‘search intent’.

Keyword research search intent

What is Search Intent?

Search intent refers to the underlying reason for a user’s search query. By identifying and targeting the right type of search intent with your content, you can increase the relevance and value of your website to your audience. There are four main types of search intent to consider:

  1. Navigational Intent: When users are trying to get directly to a particular website or page, like searching for “Facebook home”.
  2. Informational Intent: When users are looking to understand or gather information about a topic, such as asking, “How does solar power work”.
  3. Commercial Intent: When users are in the process of comparing products or services to make an informed buying decision, like typing in “top smartphone 2024”.
  4. Transactional Intent: When users have decided to take action, often involving a purchase or subscription, exemplified by searching “order pizza online near me”.

The two very important ones I want you to focus on are Informational and commercial intent.

Informational intent keywords are best for blog posts while commercial intent keywords are best used on your webpages selling in your services.

Search Intent

Step 2: Brainstorm Keywords You Want to Rank For

Begin by brainstorming a list of seed keywords that you believe are relevant to your business and that you’d like to rank for. This step involves thinking about the terms and phrases your potential customers might use when searching for your products or services. Consider a mix of broad and specific keywords, including long-tail keywords (more specific, less common phrases that are often easier to rank for and have higher conversion rates). This list should reflect the various aspects of your business, the needs and questions of your audience, and any unique selling points you have.

“You have to be careful when asking the client for important keywords. Great example — car dealers love to say ‘pre-owned vehicles’ cause it sounds nicer, but it has got less than a tenth the search volume of “used cars” (how people actually search).” —  

Greg Gifford.

Step 3: Use SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool

Now, it’s time to play with SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool, your magic wand for keyword research. Using the seed keyword you brainstormed earlier, this tool helps you delve deeper into your niche. It’s like having a crystal ball that reveals a plethora of related long-tail keywords, which are more specific and often less competitive. These keywords are neatly organized into subgroups based on topics, making your research more focused and efficient. Think of it as uncovering hidden gems that are perfectly aligned with what your audience is searching for.

For more detailed guidance on using the Keyword Magic Tool, visit SEMrush’s guide: How to Use Semrush for Keyword Research.

Magic keyword Semrush

What To Look For In A Keyword

When choosing which keywords to focus on, it’s crucial to understand that not every keyword in your list will achieve high rankings immediately. This is where the concept of ‘Keyword Difficulty’ comes in. Represented as a percentage (1–100%), this metric indicates how challenging it will be to surpass your competitors in organic search results for a particular keyword. A higher percentage means greater difficulty. This valuable metric, denoted as KD% in SEMrush reports, guides you in prioritizing your efforts effectively by estimating the effort needed to rank organically for specific keywords.

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Important Definitions

  • Search Volume: Indicates the average number of monthly searches for a keyword. High volume can mean more traffic if you rank well.
  • Keyword Difficulty (KD): A measure of how hard it is to rank in the top 10 organic search results. A higher KD means more competition.
  • Long-Tail Keywords: These have lower search volume but can be easier to rank for and often have better conversion rates.
  • Business Value Estimation: Determine how likely it is that ranking for a keyword will lead to profitable action for your business. This involves understanding the potential for conversions, backlinks, brand awareness, and authority establishment.
Keyword Difficulty

Understanding Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the terms and phrases your business rivals are targeting to boost their search engine rankings and attract more online traffic. Identifying these keywords is crucial for several reasons:

  • Compete on the Same SERPs: By targeting competitor keywords, you position your content to appear on the same search engine results pages (SERPs) as your competitors, potentially capturing some of their traffic.
  • Reveal Opportunities: Competitor keyword research can expose gaps in your competitors’ strategies, such as valuable keywords they aren’t targeting yet. This can open up new avenues for you to explore and potentially dominate.
  • Competitor Keyword Analysis: Armed with knowledge about your competitors’ targeted keywords, you can conduct a thorough analysis to decide which of these keywords might be beneficial for you to focus on next. This can help refine your SEO strategy and give you an edge in the digital space.

Remember, competitor keyword research isn’t about copying your competitors’ strategies verbatim, but rather about understanding the landscape of your industry and finding opportunities to enhance your own SEO and content approach.

“I wouldn’t use many time-saving hacks — unless it’s aggregating data to then manually go through. When you automate keyword research, you lose to the people who spent the time to do it more in-depth.” —  

Ryan Jones.

How To Find Your Competitor’s Keywords

Performing a competitor keyword analysis is a strategic approach to enhance your SEO efforts and can be broken down into several steps:

Step 1: Identify Your Competitors

  • Online vs. Local Competitors: Understand that your online competitors may differ from your local business competitors. These are the websites that rank for the same or similar keywords as your site.
  • Finding Search Competitors: Utilize an Organic Research tool. Enter your domain and click “Search” to identify who your search competitors are.

Step 2: Discover Competitor Keywords

  • Uncover Keyword Gaps: Look for keywords your competitors rank for, but you don’t. These gaps represent opportunities to create content, improve your rankings, and increase traffic.

Step 3: Organize Your Keyword Analysis

  • High Competition Keywords: Identify these and set them aside. They might be challenging to rank for initially but could be useful later.
  • Shared Keywords: Cross-check keywords you share with competitors and eliminate irrelevant ones.
  • Highlight Potential Keywords: Mark those you believe could significantly benefit your business.
  • Review SERPs: Analyze the search engine results pages for each highlighted keyword, noting organic and paid opportunities, and how your competitors are ranking.

How to Use Competitor Keywords Effectively

  • Manual Analysis: There’s no shortcut here. Assess each keyword’s relevance, the organic traffic it brings, and the current SERPs to decide their importance.
  • Evaluate Each Keyword: Narrow down your list to the most relevant or accessible ones.
  • Review Competitors’ Paid Campaigns: Look at their organic traffic and cross-reference with their paid campaigns. This can reveal their ad spend, targeted keywords, and ad copy.
  • Advertising Research Tool: Use this tool for a deeper insight into competitors’ advertising strategies.

Tips for Effective Keyword Strategy

  • Consider Long-Tail Keywords: They are easier to rank for and can accumulate significant traffic when targeted in volume.
  • Balance Between KD and Business Value: Aim for keywords that are achievable to rank for and have high potential business value.
  • Continual Adaptation: SEO is dynamic. Continuously refine your keyword strategy to adapt to changing search trends and competitor movements.

By following these steps, you can effectively analyze and leverage competitor keywords to improve your website’s SEO, attract more traffic, and ultimately achieve better online visibility and engagement.

What is Keyword Mapping?

Keyword mapping is a strategic SEO process where you assign specific target keywords to different pages on your website and document these decisions in a structured format, often called a keyword map. This approach is designed to ensure that each page optimally satisfies the search intent behind the keywords it targets, thus improving its chances of ranking highly in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Keyword Map Example

Why Is Keyword Mapping Important?

  1. Optimizes Site Structure and Content: It helps in organizing your website’s content structure, ensuring each page targets the most relevant keywords.
  2. Enhances Relevance for Search Engines: By aligning specific keywords with the right pages, you signal to search engines like Google what each page is about, enhancing its relevance to search queries.
  3. Prevents Keyword Cannibalization: Avoids situations where multiple pages might compete against each other for the same keywords, which can dilute your SEO efforts and harm your ranking potential.
  4. Fills Content Gaps: Helps in identifying areas on your site that may need more content or new pages to cover all relevant aspects of your keywords.
  5. Boosts SERP Visibility: Ultimately leads to better visibility in search results for targeted keywords, driving more qualified traffic to your site.
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How to Perform Keyword Mapping

To create a keyword map, follow these steps:

  1. Open a new Google Sheet or Excel document.
  2. List down all the web pages on your site.
  3. For each page, analyze and determine the most suitable primary keyword.
  4. Also, identify a few secondary keywords for each page.
  5. [Additional steps can be added as needed for further detailing and organization.]

This process helps in systematically aligning your web pages with relevant keywords, ensuring a cohesive and effective SEO strategy.

Tips for Effective Keyword Mapping

  • Understand Search Intent: Always align your keywords with the search intent they represent.
  • Balance Between Broad and Specific Keywords: Include a mix of broad terms and long-tail keywords in your clusters.
  • Regular Reviews and Updates: Keyword trends and search behaviors change over time; regularly review and update your keyword map.
  • Align with Business Goals: Ensure your keyword choices align with your overall business and marketing objectives.

By implementing a thorough keyword mapping strategy, you ensure that your website’s content is strategically aligned with user searches, enhancing your SEO performance and overall online presence.

How to implement your Keyword Map

Once you’ve chosen the keywords for your keyword map, implementing them effectively across your website is crucial. Here are key places where you should incorporate these keywords to enhance your SEO:

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1. Webpage Titles

  • Title Tag: This is the title of your webpage as it appears in search engine results. Ensure your primary keyword is included in a natural and appealing way.

2. Meta Descriptions

  • Description Tag: Though not a direct ranking factor, meta descriptions influence click-through rates. Include your primary keyword here to match search queries.

3. Headers and Subheaders

  • H1 Tag: This is the main headline of your page. It should contain your primary keyword.
  • H2, H3, H4 Tags: Use these for subheadings and include secondary or related keywords to structure your content effectively.

4. Body Content

  • Introductory Paragraph: Include your primary keyword early, ideally in the first 100 words.
  • Throughout the Content: Use both primary and secondary keywords naturally within the text. Avoid keyword stuffing; readability is key.

5. URL Structure

  • URLs: Include your primary keyword in the webpage URL, ensuring it’s concise and descriptive.

6. Image Alt Text

  • Alt Attributes: Use keywords in the alt text of images to describe the image. This helps in image search optimization.
  • Internal Linking: Use keywords as anchor text when linking to other relevant pages within your site.

8. Schema Markup (if applicable)

  • Structured Data: When using schema markup, incorporate keywords into your product descriptions, articles, or event details to enhance SERP features like rich snippets.

9. Blog Posts and Articles

  • Content Creation: For new blog posts or articles, use your keyword clusters as the basis for topics, ensuring that each piece targets a specific set of related keywords.

10. Social Media Posts

  • Promotional Content: When promoting your content on social media, use relevant keywords in your posts to align with your website’s SEO strategy.

11. PPC Campaigns

  • Ad Copy: If you’re running pay-per-click campaigns, integrate your chosen keywords into the ad copy and landing pages.

12. Product Descriptions (for eCommerce)

  • Online Store: Include keywords in product titles and descriptions to improve visibility in both search engines and internal site searches.

13. FAQ Sections

  • Questions and Answers: Use keywords in your FAQ sections, as they often align with the informational search intent.

Best Practices for Keyword Implementation

  • Natural Usage: Always use keywords in a way that sounds natural and enhances the user experience.
  • Avoid Over-Optimization: Be mindful not to overuse keywords, as this can lead to penalties from search engines.
  • Context and Relevance: Ensure that keywords are contextually relevant to the content on the page.
  • Monitor Performance: Regularly track how your pages are performing in search results and make adjustments as needed.

Effectively implementing keywords from your map across these areas will contribute significantly to your website’s SEO performance, helping to increase both the visibility and relevance of your content in search engine results.

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Showit SEO Coach

Author: Caitlin Christensen

Caitlin Christensen is an expert in digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). Owner of Creative SEO Coach. She specializes in optimizing websites built on popular web building platforms Showit and WordPress. With over 8 years of experience in the industry, Caitlin has helped countless small businesses and organizations improve their organic visibility on search engines.