17 min read
Updated: July 01, 2022

Keyword Research: How Does It Work, and Do You Even Need It?

What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the bedrock of digital marketing. It encompasses learning what words and phrases your audience uses when seeking a product or service online and providing them with answers to their queries. It is pivotal for implementing search engine optimization (SEO) in the roll-out of content marketing and paid search ad campaigns.

Proper keyword research processes entail determining keyword popularity, difficulty, and user search intent. Without keyword research, eCommerce websites may miss out on reaching segments of their target audience or fall prey to competing with retail giants, who are difficult to beat because they often retain a larger marketing budget.

In this overview, we explain the process of keyword research, why you need it, and its best practices.

How Does Keyword Research Work?

A keyword is a single word or phrase searched on a search engine. For example, “buy a sofa.” These two words are considered a keyword. Keyword research is the process of understanding the language your target customers use in search engines like Google, Bing, and YouTube.

It reveals what topics your target audience cares about and how popular they are. This is why keyword research is the first step of an SEO strategy because it unveils the exact words and phrases that your prospective customers are using.

Once you know which relevant keywords receive the highest volume of searches per month, you can produce content about topics related to them and ultimately rank higher in organic searches.

How Do You Do Keyword Research?

Keywords are chosen based on their relevance, authority, and search volume. Here’s how to get to that point:

  • Make a list of relevant topics or themes based on your business
  • Fill those topics with possible keyword ideas
  • Use keyword research tools like Google, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Ubersuggest to optimize the process and see if your initial attempts are worthwhile

How Do I Decide On a Theme?

Keyword clusters.

Themes help generate keyword ideas and vice-versa. Business specialties provide a robust starting point to begin generating ideas. For example, if you have a bespoke furniture store, you may want to create keywords around specific themes related to furniture care.

Within this them, the keywords “how to varnish wood” and “how to care for wood furniture” are applicable.  As you can see, both these keywords are related to caring for furniture. There are, of course, a few keyword research tools you can use to help too.

Good-Old Google

The smartest way to use Google search to find keywords suggestion is to type in topics you’re considering including in your content plan and seeing what comes up on organic search results pages (SERPs).  This will clearly indicate what Google deems relevant to the topic and help determine what to include on your eCommerce website.

Reddit, Twitter, and Social Media

Conducting keyword research on social media and popular sites like Reddit will give you a clear understanding of constructing and communicating your message effectively. What your target audience shares on social media points to what keywords are most effective.

Leveraging trending topics is also useful as it provides relevant points of engagement for brands daily. Although this may only last for a limited period of time, it assists in discerning which topics will work best for novel and evergreen content. Remember, keyword queries differ from platform to platform, and differentiating these differences is key to long-term SEO strategies.

What Are Some Useful Keyword Research Tools?

Suppose we use the example of the furniture store. In that case, it’s pretty easy to come up with seed keywords like “buy chair” or “buy a sofa,” however, these aren’t always worth ranking for, as they are incredibly common and highly competitive.  It is also trickier to figure out long-tail keywords without professional tools, which is where keyword research tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and a host of others can elevate your efforts.

Keyword research tools: Ahrefs, SEO Surfer, Ubersuggest.

The preliminary work done to identify themes and topics is still a necessary step in keyword research. All keyword research tools ask for a seed keyword used to generate a large list of keyword suggestions. Below is a list of industry-standard keyword research tools:


This software suite contains tools to analyze keyword usage, including those of your competitors. It offers the best backlink checking platform and lets you track their development over time, as well as the ability to conduct keyword research for Google, YouTube, and Amazon.

Importantly, you can also see what type of content generates the most shares. The software carefully tracks your keywords in every geographic location and language, including how well they perform on smartphones.


SEMrush is an all-in-one digital marketing program that helps run SEO campaigns, whether it’s pay-per-click, content marketing, or social media posts. Not only does it help identify valuable keywords for campaigns, but it also identifies trends occurring within your business niche.

Its built-in audit capabilities help you understand the performance of your content and website pages better, so you can tweak it according to your overall SEO strategy for improved lead generation. This software is ideal if you have limited experience with digital marketing and need assistance.


This unique software allows you to reverse engineer your competitors’ SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing strategy. From content ideas to keyword popularity, backlink data, and domains, Ubersuggest covers it all.

Best of all? It’s a free research and SEO tool that is excellent for generating keyword suggestions. Ubbersuggest offers related keywords, those with prepositions, comparisons, as well as search volume trends, and potential pays-per-click. The main benefit is it provides a multitude of keywords you can use that you may not come up with on your own.


Surferseo is a cloud-based tool specifically designed for on-page SEO content like social media posts and articles. It simultaneously analyzes main competitor websites from Google’s top 50 organic search engine results.  With its built-in keyword research and SERP tool, you can discover the average word count and keyword density.

Its SERP analyzer is one of the best on the market as it considers; text length, heading number, page speed, referring domains and URLs, and more. This helps to highlight competitive strengths and opportunities, so you can rank higher than your competition.

Google Keyword Planner

Regarded as one of the best keyword research tools, Google Keyword Planner helps discover new keywords, provides monthly search numbers for keywords,  determines cost-per-click, and assists with creating new search ad campaigns.

Because Google creates it, it offers seamless integration with Google Ads, meaning it’s easy to research, run and track paid ad campaigns. Importantly, it provides targeted insight into hyper-local search volumes, allowing users to perform keyword research in specific cities.

Why Do Some Keywords Perform Better Than Others?

The level of competition, i.e., how many other web pages use the same keyword and user intent, affects the performance of keywords. Sometimes search engines prioritize less popular keywords than those that are more difficult to rank on. Long-tail keywords, body and head keywords, and where they are positioned on a webpage also influence ranking, which is why keyword research is vital.

Keyword types.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that users are likely to use when closer to a purchase point. For example, “buy mid-century dining room chairs.” They have less competition and are more relevant to prospective customers. According to Ashrefs, more than 29% of keywords with over 10,000 searches per month contain three or more words.

Body Keywords

Like long-tail keywords, body keywords also combine two to three words, except they are slightly less specific and denote broader industry trends, so they still bring in a decent amount of organic traffic, as they are relatively competitive. For example, “mid-century furniture.”

Head Keywords

These are one-word keywords that have the highest search volume and competition. Often, they are too general and the most difficult to convert because you can’t predict the intention of the person searching for them.  For example, “furniture.” This keyword alone doesn’t really indicate what about “furniture” is being queried. Head keywords usually describe an industry in general.

How do I know which keywords are difficult?

The short answer is that you can figure this out using keyword research tools. They will help you calculate domain authority and estimate how challenging it would be for a new website to outrank current competitors in SERPs. It’s virtually impossible to do this single-handedly without sophisticated software.

What Keywords Are Right For Me?

The keywords you use must always be relevant to your business. Beyond that, metrics such as search volume, click-through rates, cost-per-click, and trends will influence which keywords land up working best for your digital marketing strategy.

Search Volume

This metric illustrates how many users are searching for a particular query. Average organic search volume (calculated over a 12-month period) and monthly search volume are important to consider.

The latter is important to identify seasonal trends. For instance, outdoor furniture queries will likely be less in the winter months. Ideally, you want to use keywords with a high search volume and low competition.

Click-Through Rate

According to Google, click-through rates (CTRs) can be used to gauge how well your keywords and paid ads are performing. CTRs is the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times it appears (impressions). For example, if you get two clicks and 100 impressions, your CTR would be 5%.

The point of keywords is to rank high in SERPs and drive revenue. If a keyword is popular, and you’re ranking on search results pages, but leads aren’t clicking on your website, then your chosen keyword may not be the best choice.


When it comes to paid advertising, cost-per-click is the amount of money an advertiser pays the search engine every time a user clicks on their paid ad. Every keyword and its related variations have an average cost-per-click that advertisers pay if their ad gets a click.

Now, highly competitive keywords will have an expensive cost-per-click. WordStream discovered that the most expensive cost-per-click was for the keyword “businesses services,” costing approximately $58.4. Small businesses that don’t have the capital to compete with these prices often choose less expensive keyword suggestions.


Behavioral analytics plays a massive role in determining keyword value. Unpredictable world events can drastically change content strategies and keyword use. The pandemic, for example, changed consumer behavior and online searches. Global eCommerce increased to $2.67 trillion.

This doesn’t render keywords useless, but it does take a discerning eye and agile marketing team to adapt content accordingly. Keeping up with trends can be a challenge, but Google Trends can help. This website by the search engine giant analyzes “the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across regions and languages.”

While it doesn’t provide granular data, it’s helpful to determine general trends of the time and the volume of organic searches they amass. From top trending personalities to food recipes and most searched questions, it provides insight into the general population’s most urgent searches.

Using Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free service that helps “monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot” a website’s presence in Google SERPs. It doesn’t require any sign-up and helps you understand how to optimize your website in terms of appearance and digital marketing strategy.

An entire section of this tool is dedicated to search traffic and sheds light on how users are reaching your website via organic search results. Its reports provide valuable information that demonstrates if your keywords are performing. Between data from this, Google Analytics, and all the tool we’ve touched upon, there’s almost no excuse to execute poor keyword research.


Getting keyword research right is pivotal to digital marketing and eCommerce success. No eCommerce business can succeed without it. At Comrade Digital Marketing, our marketing services guarantee qualified traffic to your website. As a digital marketing agency, we can help your business grow, starting with keyword research. Contact us here for a free website consultation.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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About the Author
Stan Bogdashin
Stan co-founded Comrade Digital Marketing and serves as its marketing strategist and IT expert recruiter.
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