How To Do Keyword Research for SEO — Ahrefs’ Guide

Tim Soulo

Tim is the guy responsible for marketing and product strategy at Ahrefs. But most importantly he’s the chief evangelist of the company. Learn more about Tim

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    I’m sure there’s no need to waste time persuading you that keyword research is one of the highest return SEO activities that is essential for your marketing success.

    There’s also no shortage of great articles that give you very detailed instructions as to executing a professional keyword research, ranking high for thousands of targeted search terms and vastly improving your traffic from Google.

    But here’s an interesting observation: each of these guides will give you a somewhat different set of instructions.

    Not that any of them is advising you wrong, it’s just there’s no universal approach to executing keyword research.

    It will vary based on:

    • Your website (authority, number of pages, quality of content, etc);
    • Your goals and objectives (branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales);
    • Your budget, resources and deadlines;
    • Your industry and competitive landscape.

    This is why you might find it hard to relate to a random step-by-step guide that you stumble upon.

    So I’m going to take a different route and give you a keyword research framework that can be easily adjusted to whatever your goals and resources are.

    And I guarantee that the tactics and methods described below will vastly improve your traffic from Google.

    At least we’ve grown search traffic to this very blog by 2.4x in one year by doing it:

    Seed keywords are the foundation of your keyword research. They define your niche and help you identify your competitors.

    If you already have a product or business that you want to promote online, coming up with seed keywords is as easy as describing that product with your own words or brainstorming how other people might search for it.

    For example, let’s say you’re launching an online store with GoPro accessories. The Google searches (keywords) that you would first think of are:

    • GoPro accessories;
    • gadgets for GoPro;
    • GoPro add-ons.

    That’s a no-brainer, right?

    But what if you’re looking to start an affiliate marketing website, and you have no idea which niche to pick or which products to promote?

    The challenge of “picking a niche” deserves a big and detailed guide of its own. But generally, there are two ways to approach this:

    1. “Monetisation first” approach

    Start from exploring available monetisation methods. Pick a product or an offer that you like. And then think of search queries that people might be using to find it in Google.

    For example, Amazon has an extremely popular affiliate program. So all you need to do is browse their website until you discover a product (or a category of products) that you’re willing to promote.

    Another option is to scout affiliate marketplace sites like ClickBank or CJ, that connect product owners with affiliates.

    And finally, just review the products and services that you’re using yourself and see if you can become an affiliate.

    2. “Niche down” approach

    You can start with a super broad keyword and niche down until you see an interesting opportunity.

    For example, I’m going to pick “music” as my super broad niche. Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool gives me almost 5 million keyword ideas for that seed keyword:

    In order to “niche down,” I need to focus on longer and more specific keywords that have the word “music” in them. So I will use the “Words” filter to narrow down that huge list of keyword ideas to those with exactly 4 words.

    And here’s what I was able to find:

    • music making software free” — Being an ex-DJ, I know there’s a ton of software for making music. So I could start a review site and cover all the latest releases and updates.
    • game of thrones music” — People want to download music they hear in movies, TV series, TV shows, etc. And given that new TV content is released regularly, this could be a fun niche.
    • gifts for music lovers” — I’m sure a lot of famous music bands and leading music labels have a ton of merchandise for their fans to buy. Not to mention musical instrument brands like Gibson, Fender, etc. They must have some affordable gift options too.
    • music games for kids” — Being a father of an 8-month-old kid, I would totally play some fun music games with him.

    These niche ideas are obviously far from perfect, but hey, I spent no more than 5 minutes to find them. Invest a little bit more time and you’ll inevitably stumble upon something awesome.

    So you have your seed keywords figured out. But that’s only the tip of the keyword research iceberg.

    The next step is to generate a mammoth list of relevant keyword ideas, while also getting a good understanding of what people in your niche are searching for in Google.

    There are at least four good ways to do it.

    1. See what keywords you already rank for

    If you own a website that’s been around for a while, you should already be ranking in Google for a few hundred keywords. Knowing what they are is a perfect way to kick-start your keyword research.

    A good source of this information is a report called “Search Analytics” in Google Search Console:

    These are some of the keywords that my personal blog ranks for in Google

    Search Console shows your average position for each of the keywords you rank for and how many impressions and clicks this brings you. However, they don’t show the monthly search volume and you’re limited to 1000 keywords only.

    If you need more data, you can try “Organic Keywords” report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool:

    The keywords that my personal blog rank for according to Ahrefs

    Both Google Search Console and Ahrefs’ Site Explorer have quite a few awesome features to play with, so I went ahead and recorded a quick video of how to use them:

    2. See what keywords your competitors are ranking for

    The chances are, your competitors have already performed all the tedious keyword research work for you. So you can research the keywords that they rank for and cherry-pick the best ones.

    If you don’t know who your competitors are, just put your seed keywords into Google and see who ranks on the front page.

    Let’s do that with a seed keyword that I discovered earlier, “gifts for music lovers.” I see an interesting website ranking on the front page,

    Let’s now plug that website in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and browse the keywords that it ranks for:

    Sometimes even a single competitor can supply you with enough keyword ideas to keep your SEO team busy for months. But if you’re hungry for more, you can go to “Competing domains” report to find more sites like your competitor.

    And we’ve just closed the “competitive research loop”:

    1. Put your seed keyword into Google and see who ranks on top;
    2. Plug their site into Ahrefs to see their best keywords;
    3. Find more relevant websites via the “Competing domains” report;
    4. Go back to either step 1 or 2.

    The trick to almost unlimited keyword ideas is to repeat this process over and over.

    And don’t neglect tapping into related industries. You might discover a lot of great keywords that don’t necessarily relate to whatever you’re offering but can still bring very targeted visitors to your website.

    PRO TIP #1
    A single page can rank for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of closely related keywords. Therefore, it’s better to focus on the top-performing pages of your competitors, rather than scouting their individual keywords.
    Hint: Give the “Top Pages” report a spin in Ahrefs Site Explorer (covered in the video below).
    PRO TIP #2
    The chances are, there are quite a few keywords that all of your competitors are targeting, but you aren’t. This is without a doubt your biggest missed opportunity.
    Hint: Give the “Content Gap” tool a spin to quickly discover what these keywords are (covered in the video below).

    The process of easily researching websites of your competitors deserves a detailed guide of its own (like this one). But I tried to feature some of the coolest tricks in the following video:

    3. Use keyword research tools

    Good competitor research is often enough to fill your spreadsheet with a ton of relevant keyword ideas.

    But if you’re one of the leaders in your niche, that strategy is not quite feasible for you. You have to be looking for some unique keywords that none of your competitors are targeting yet.

    And the best way to do it is by using a decent keyword research tool. Luckily, there’s no shortage of them on the market:

    Regardless of the tool you choose, there’s no preferred workflow for finding great keyword ideas. Just enter your seed keywords and play with the reports and filters until you stumble upon something cool.

    Most tools will pull their keyword suggestions from the following sources:

    • scraping keyword ideas directly from Google Keyword Planner;
    • scraping Google auto-suggest;
    • scraping “similar searches” in Google.

    These methods are great, but they can rarely give you more than a couple hundred suggestions. For example, UberSuggest shows only 316 keyword ideas for “content marketing.”

    There are also advanced keyword research tools (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush) that operate a keyword database of their own and therefore will give you vastly more keyword ideas.

    For example, Ahrefs Keywords Explorer shows 5,570 keyword ideas for “content marketing.”

    You can easily go bananas trying to sift through a keyword list of that size, so we have some great filtering options in place:

    1. Keyword difficulty;
    2. Search volume;
    3. Clicks;
    4. Clicks per search;
    5. Cost per click;
    6. Return rate;
    7. Number of words in a keyword;
    8. Include/Exclude terms.

    If you want to learn more about generating keyword ideas via Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, check out my full review of this tool.

    Google Keyword Planner is the absolute worst tool that you can use for generating keyword ideas. That’s because it is suited for advertisers, not SEOs. Test GKP against any other keyword research tool and you’ll see how limited their keyword suggestions are.

    4. Study your niche well

    The aforementioned keyword research strategies are extremely effective and provide an almost unlimited amount of keyword ideas. But at the same time, they kind of keep you “in the box.”

    Sometimes, just by studying your niche well (and adding a pinch of common sense), you can discover some great keywords that no one in your niche is targeting yet.

    Here’s how to kickstart “out of the box” thinking:

    • Get in the shoes of your potential customers: who they are and what bothers them;
    • Talk with your existing customers, get to know them better, study the language they use;
    • Be an active participant in all your niche communities and social networks.

    For example, if you’re selling waterproof headphones, here are some of the “out of the box” keywords you might try targeting:

    • how to survive a hard swim practice;
    • how to make swim practice go by faster;
    • what do you think about when swimming;
    • best swimming style for long distance;
    • reduce water resistance swimming.

    People searching for these things are not necessarily looking to buy waterproof headphones, but they should be fairly easy to sell to.

    We recently wrote a pretty detailed article about this keyword research strategy: 4 Ways to Find Untapped Keyword Ideas With Great Traffic Potential.

    And I really enjoyed the advice offered by Dan Petrovic here: Advanced New Tail Keyword Research.

    While executing the aforementioned strategies, you’ll find yourself sifting through thousands of keyword ideas and trying to decide which of them deserve to be shortlisted.

    And to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, there’s a bunch of cool keyword metrics to consider.

    1. Search volume

    This metric shows you the overall search demand of a given keyword, i.e., how many times people around the world (or in a specific country) put this keyword into Google.

    Most of the keyword research tools pull their Search volume numbers from Google AdWords, which was long regarded as a trusted source of this data.

    But not anymore. For the past few years, Google has been consistently taking data away from SEOs:

    But this time, we were able to get away with a cool workaround – clickstream data.

    Thanks to clickstream, we can uncover what Google is hiding from us

    By modeling numbers from GKP against clickstream data, we’re able to come up with much more accurate search volumes and un-group keywords that have similar meaning.

    Another thing to always keep in mind is the dynamic nature of Search volume.

    For example, a keyword like “christmas gifts” will naturally spike around Christmas time while having almost zero search volume during the rest of the year.

    To check the search volume trend of a keyword you can use a free tool called Google Trends:

    And if you’re using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool, we have a similar graph built into it:

    So the search volume is basically an annual average. And if you’re in doubt about the “seasonality” of a keyword, make sure to check the trends.

    But there’s one problem with search volume. It doesn’t always accurately predict the search traffic.

    2. Clicks

    Let’s take a keyword, “donald trump age,” that has a search volume of 246,000 searches per month (according to Google Keyword Planner).

    That huge search demand implies that you should get a massive amount of traffic if you rank at the top of Google for that keyword. But let’s see what the search results look like:

    A fair share of Google’s real estate is taken by an instant answer to that search query: 70 years.

    So does it even make sense to click anything at this point?


    These “uncommon” search results are known as “SERP features” and there are quite a few different types of them:

    • knowledge cards;
    • featured snippets;
    • top stories;
    • local packs;
    • shopping results;
    • image packs, etc.

    Some of them will vastly improve search traffic to your website, but others will steal it away from you.

    On the above screenshot from Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, you can see that 86% of searches for “donald trump age” don’t result in any clicks on the search results. All because searchers are presented with an instant answer via a Knowledge card.

    The Clicks metric is totally invaluable in weeding out the search queries with huge search demand but miserable traffic. And we’re proud to be the only tool on the market to have this metric.

    We’re also able to show you how many of the clicks get “stolen” by search ads:

    On the above screenshot, you can see that a fair share of clicks for “wireless headphones” go to search ads, while clicks for “best wireless headphones” are almost entirely organic.

    If you want to learn more about the advanced keyword metrics that we have in Ahrefs, check out this article: Keywords Explorer 2.0 by Ahrefs: Setting new standards for keyword research.

    3. Traffic potential

    Search volume and Clicks are great metrics to understand the popularity and traffic of a single keyword. But that keyword may have a ton of synonyms and related searches, all of which can be targeted with a single page on your website.

    Let me explain what I mean with an example. The keyword “I’m sorry flowers” doesn’t look very promising in terms of search demand or traffic:

    The #1 ranking result usually gets no more than 30% of all clicks. This means you can hope for around 60 visits per month if you rank #1 for the keyword “I’m sorry flowers.”

    And that is a bit of a discouraging projection, right?

    But let’s look at how much search traffic the #1 ranking page for “I’m sorry flowers” keyword actually gets:

    On the above screenshot, you can see that it is attracting almost 300 visitors from Google per month. That’s because it ranks for 48 different keywords, and not just “I’m sorry flowers” keyword alone.

    We’ve been advocating the importance of long-tail traffic for quite a while (here, here, & here), but it doesn’t hurt to stress it again.

    People search for the same things in all sorts of peculiar ways. So a single page on your website has a potential to rank for hundreds (if not thousands) of related keywords.

    Here are the keywords that the “I’m sorry flowers” page ranks for, according to Ahrefs:

    So it’s time to stop evaluating keywords just by their Search volume (or Clicks) alone. You need to look at the top-ranking results and see how much search traffic they get in total.

    4. Keyword Difficulty

    Unquestionably, the best possible way to gauge the ranking difficulty of a keyword is to manually analyze the search results and use your SEO experience (and gut feeling).

    I have covered that whole process, start to finish, in a separate article: How To Gauge Keyword Difficulty And Find The Easiest Keywords To Rank For.

    But that is something that you can’t do at scale for thousands of keywords at once. That’s why the keyword difficulty metric is so handy.

    Each keyword research tool has their own methods of calculating ranking difficulty score. The one we have at Ahrefs is based on the backlink profiles of the top10 ranking pages for a given keyword. The more quality backlinks they have, the harder it would be for you to outrank them.

    To date, there has only been a single study that compares the accuracy of keyword difficulty scores from different tools, and Ahrefs came out the winner in this test:

    High competition is not always a reason to give up on a keyword. It all comes down to the balance between the business value of that keyword and its ranking difficulty.

    Some keywords may be super easy to rank for, but the visitors that they bring to your website will never become customers. So it doesn’t make sense to waste your effort there.

    On the other hand, some insanely competitive keywords can be the best thing that could happen to your business if you rank for them. So they’re well worth the investment (and wait).

    5. Cost Per Click

    This metric is mostly important for advertisers rather than SEOs. However, many SEO professionals treat CPC as an indication of keywords’ commercial intent (which actually makes a lot of sense).

    One important thing to know about Cost Per Click is that it is much more volatile than Search volume. While search demand for a keyword fluctuates on a monthly basis, its CPC can change pretty much any minute.

    Therefore, the CPC values that you see in third-party keyword research tools are nothing but a snapshot of a certain timeframe. If you want to get the actual data, you have to use AdWords.

    So you have generated a ton of promising keyword ideas and used the aforementioned metrics to identify the very best ones.

    Now it’s time to bring some structure to your list.

    1. Group by “parent topic”

    The days of targeting one keyword with one page are long gone. Now SEO professionals are facing a brand new struggle:

    Should I target a bunch of relevant topics with one page or create a separate page for each set of keywords?

    We know that one page can rank for hundreds (if not thousands) of relevant keywords. But how much is too much? And how do you know which keywords fit your topic and which don’t?

    The way we approach it here at Ahrefs is by looking at the keywords that the top-ranking pages for our target keyword already rank for.

    For example, the main keyword of this very article is (obviously) “keyword research.” And I want to know what other relevant keywords I can also rank for along with it.

    So I take the #1 ranking page for “keyword research,” put it into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and sift through the keywords that it ranks for:

    And in an instant, I see two decent keywords:

    • keyword analysis — 1,400
    • keyword search — 6,200

    This means that I don’t need to create separate pages to target each of these keywords (though maybe they actually deserve it), but try to rank for them with this single post.

    How do I optimize my page to make sure that I rank for these additional keywords?

    I don’t.

    That #1 ranking page doesn’t have even a single mention of these keywords, and it still ranks for them. So if they didn’t bother, why should I?

    My above advice is quite arguable. I’m sure many SEOs will suggest to actually include all these relevant keywords (and their synonyms) on your page to drive relevancy in the eyes of Google.

    Some of them advocate using specialised topic modeling tools (like LSI Graph) for generating semantically related keywords.

    We haven’t purposefully tested this method and I have no data for or against it. That is why I recommend you try it yourself and see if you’ll get any measurable results with it.

    So that’s the very first step in bringing some stucture to your random list of keywords. You need to find which keywords are semantically and contextually related and group them under a “parent topic” to target with a single page.

    Here at Ahrefs, we define “parent topic” as the highest volume keyword that a page ranks for.

    2. Group by intent

    So you have grouped semantically related keywords by “parent topic” and mapped them to different pages of your website. The next step is to group these “pages” by the so-called “searchers’ intent.”

    Behind every search query that people put into Google, there’s a certain (and oftentimes very specific) expectation. Your goal is to decipher that expectation upfront, so you could build a page that would perfectly match it.

    This could be quite challenging at times. Let’s take a keyword, “roses,” for example. What’s the searchers’ intent behind it? Most likely it’s one of these two:

    1. See some pictures of roses.
    2. Learn more about this flower.

    The best way of deciphering intent behind the search query is to google it and see what comes up first. Google is getting better and better in identifying the intent behind each search query, so the search results usually talk for themselves.

    The SERP above serves both these intents with an image strip, followed by a Wikipedia link.

    But then you get Guns’N’Roses Twitter profile and a song by The Chainsmokers. What are they doing in the search results for the keyword “roses”?

    Well, it looks like Google has identified that it’s what people looking for the keyword “roses” want to see.

    Once you figure the intent behind your keywords, you might want to map it to the stage of the sales cycle that it represents:

    1. Unaware;
    2. Problem aware;
    3. Solution aware;
    4. Product aware;
    5. Fully aware.

    The bullet points above are just one of the many ways different marketers map out the so-called “Buyers’ Journey.” Here’s an alternative look at it:

    Whether you want to map your keywords to any of the existing models or come up with your very own one is entirely up to you. For example, Everett Sizemore from suggests mapping keywords/topics to user personas. Check out his free template here.

    My recommendation would be to stick with whatever makes the most sense for you.

    3. Group by business value

    This grouping is actually closely related to grouping by intent. But this time, you need to figure out which intent drives the best ROI for your business.

    If you’re mainly looking for traffic and brand awareness, you might focus on keywords that will bring tons of visitors but won’t necessarily convert into leads or sales.

    That’s what HubsSpot does with content on their blog. Take a look at their top-performing articles via Ahrefs:

    There are tons of people looking for “how to make a gif,” and HubSpot is generating almost 100k visitors from that single article alone.

    But how hard would it be to convert someone looking to create a gif into buying a rather complex marketing software like the one that HubSpot sells?

    Very hard.

    If you have unlimited marketing budgets, you can fire all cannons at once. But most businesses can’t afford this luxury, so they have to think well about which keywords will drive their business and which ones will only drive their vanity metrics.

    Most of the time, marketers will focus on keywords with commercial intent, as these are the ones that drive sales and grow your business. If you don’t know how to identify these keywords, here’s a pretty cool guide.

    Don’t ignore good keywords just because they don’t have commercial value. For example, other than bringing tons of traffic to the HubSpot blog, that article on “how to make a gif” also attracts a ton of backlinks:
    Prioritisation is not really the “final step” in your keyword research process, but rather something you do naturally as you move through the aforementioned steps.

    While you’re generating keyword ideas, analyzing their metrics, and grouping them, you should be noting the following things:

    1. What is the estimated traffic potential of this keyword (group)?
    2. How tough is the competition? What would it take to rank for it?
    3. How many resources should be invested in building a competitive page and promoting it well?
    4. What’s the ROI of that traffic? Does it only bring brand awareness or actually convert into leads and sales?

    You can go as far as adding dedicated columns in your keyword research spreadsheet to give scores to each keyword idea. Then, based on these scores, it should be fairly easy to pick the “low hanging fruit” with the best ROI.

    Always remember, it’s not the “easiest to rank for” keywords that you should be looking for. It’s the ones with the best ROI.

    Please share your keyword research tips

    I tried my best to distill everything I know about keyword research into a single, fairly brief (only 4300 words) guide. And my primary goal with it was to lay out a process that could be universally applicable to any website or industry.

    There’s obviously more to keyword research than that. So I would love to pass the mic to you guys & girls and have you share some of your favorite tips and tricks that you didn’t see me mention in this guide.

    Let’s learn from each other!

    Tim Soulo

    Tim is the guy responsible for marketing and product strategy at Ahrefs. But most importantly he’s the chief evangelist of the company. Learn more about Tim

    Article stats

    • Referring domains 390
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    Data from Content Explorer tool.

    Shows how many different websites are linking to this piece of content. As a general rule, the more websites link to you, the higher you rank in Google.

    Shows estimated monthly search traffic to this article according to Ahrefs data. The actual search traffic (as reported in Google Analytics) is usually 3-5 times bigger.

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    • This blog was very helping and perceptive. definitely, I’m going to try it.
      Thankx for all your awesome posts.

    • Good Write up for newbies Tim. (Y)

    • Great article. “Recommendation:don’t use google Keyword research tool.” I’ve been doing it all wrong! Well I’ve only been doing it half right. I still use intuition when using GKT but adding other tools is über important. Thanks for sharing I look forward to publish JMB my article “I’m doing it all wrong” and refence the fact that SEO requires a ton of research and learning. So glad I am a part of the Ahref community.

      • thanks for the comment, Gary!

        yep, research and SEO go hand in hand… You either rely on luck and hope that things will work out by themselves.. or do a thorough research and get the result that you were looking for 🙂

        • So I’m going to take a different route and give you a keyword research framework that can be easily adjusted to whatever your goals and resources are.

      • I totally agree with you.

        • At least we’ve grown search traffic to this very blog by 2.4x in one year by doing it:

    • Chad Westby

      Your comment regarding “How do I optimize my page to make sure that I rank for these additional keywords?”…“I don’t”…is very interesting. You go on to mention organizing the random list of keywords semantically and contextually under a “parent topic” to target with a single page. This seems like an essential step because I find it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with how to prioritize a large list of keywords.

      • yeah, but under “I don’t” I give an entirely different perspective of making your page relevant to all these keywords. I don’t think I’ve seen a good case study, that would prove that this is a viable strategy, but it does make some sense.

        and as for me personally — I hate it when I need to incorporate certain keywords in my article.. it ruins my flow of thought and I’m also worried that some people might see these purposeful plugs and feel that I wasn’t writing for them, but for google.. which will be upsetting for them 🙂

        so I do a good job of researching the topic to understand what kind of keywords I can rank for, and then I go ahead and cover them on my page in the way I feel right… it’s like adding salt and pepper to a steak.. you’re not doing it in some highly scientific way, but mostly follow your gut, right? 🙂

        • Chad Westby

          I too hate the idea of incorporating certain keywords that disrupt flow. Your comment highlights the nuances of this entire process 🙂 Gut? Where’s the data to prove it? 🙂 People seem to be so hungry for a set strategy but as I’m learning it doesn’t quite exist! Appreciate the time you put into your posts. They’re excellent!

          • well, if someone will show me a case study where incorporating specific keywords, generated by a specific algorithm helps you rank for more long tail searches — I would gladly feature it and become an advocate of this strategy. (Especially if that case study would be carried out on a large enough scale to trust it.) (and should I add, it would be real hard to isolate this factor from the rest of them.. updating a page in itself is a good way to pump your traffic)

            So here at Ahrefs Blog I’m only sharing the things that we actually do, rather than things that I THINK could work. 🙂

    • One thing I always wonder, Tim, that how many of those keywords should one use in the final article, let’s say if I narrowed down to 50 top-notch keywords (including long-tailed)?
      Please answer. Because no one seems to answer that in definite terms.

      Thanks in advance.

      • like I said in my article, I’m not looking at a group of keywords as some kind of technical measure to writing my article. I try to be reasonable and just make sure that my article is a good result for all these queries, no matter how they are worded.

        But like I said, some SEOs will advice you to use topic modeling algorithms to make sure your content will be relevant to these keywords. I think it can work too, but we haven’t tested that.

        • Thank you. You answered to this so niggling a query of mine!

          I get it, Tim. What you’re essentially saying is once we have collected a bouquet of relevant and attainable keywords, we write around those words and phrases. That doesn’t mean necessarily including those phrases verbatim.

    • Great article, Tim! And thanks for the Customer Journey Marketer shout out 🙂

      • yeah, that image stood out for me in Google Image Search results 🙂

    • One thing I think people often don’t realize is how vast the long tails can be. For example I have a keyword I rank #1 for that the tools show only gets 170 hits/ month yet my page attracts 12,000 hits/ month from Google via 800 different long tails! 🙂

      • wow! I might make a screenshot of your comment and use it later as yet another argument to prove my point 😉

        • Sure 😉

          • Grant Draper

            Asher. Completely agree. I had a similar instance. 270+ LSIs producing around 25k uniques per month. For the last 4 years. And still does.

            They weren’t particularly easy KW to rank for either.

            It served search intent. And there’s nothing else too it. I didn’t build any links to it. The site had a reasonable link profile. But nothing in comparison to the likes of Forbes etc it outranked.

            And I saw your comment below. 2396 words? Mine is 2383.

            I think content format had a lot to do with it. Really easy to digest.

            I sold the site a few years back.


      • I’m assuming that page is huge?

      • Kuba

        So true! We’ve got a page that gets +120k clicks from Google on a monthly basis (and still increasing) and the seed keyword volume is 16k.

      • Sure 😉

      • Wow! I have to agree the long tails are often overlooked by many just because it shows little traffic. But you have hit the golden pot of all long tails.…. good job!

        • But what if you’re looking to start an affiliate marketing website, and you have no idea which niche to pick or which products to promote?

      • Johanna A. Freitas

        Fine. Thanks for that clarification.

      • Good to hear from folk such as you on the success of going after and ranking well for long tails. Too often we go after the main traffic keyword and overlook the long tails.

      • Pamela Wims

        Awesome! It’s really wonderful. Pls tel me how you work for key word. thank you. god bless you

    • I am already used your these techniques to find my competitor keywords. But some keywords not listed in your database. Any solutions for that situation.

    • Another great article, Tim! I agree with your recommendation about Google Keyword Planner.

      • Denny_Lilly1

        So true, I don’t use the google.COM tool anymore.

    • Daniel Davidson

      Behind every search query that people put into Google there’s a certain (and oftentimes very specific) expectation. Your goal is to decipher that expectation upfront, so that you could build a page that would perfectly match it.”

      I explain this a dozen different ways, but your language is perfect.

      Thanks for your candidness about what you guys do and don’t do with your own content marketing and keyword strategies. I honestly find it encouraging and liberating that you’re not down in the formulaic keyword insertion weeds. To quote you, “…if they didn’t bother, why should I?” 🙂

      Thanks @timsoulo:disqus, you guys keep up the good work!

      • thanks for the comment, Daniel! The primary reason why “I didn’t bother” is because I didn’t see a good method of doing it and a proof that it works. That doesn’t mean that this method doesn’t exist, so it always makes sense to dive deeper and experiment.

        But the secondary reason why “I didn’t bother” is because I simply don’t enjoy the burden of having to adjust my writing to a set of keyword phrases 🙂

        And btw, we do rank fairly well for one of these two keywords that I’ve mentioned — “keyword analysis” (see attach )

        • Daniel Davidson

          That’s awesome Tim. And I agree about experimenting, there are a thousand ways to do anything online, and hundreds are those are sure-fire guarantees, but it is comforting to know that the masters are trusting the value of their content over the oh so depressing keyword cramming formulas 😉

          Thanks again @timsoulo:disqus

      • Great article, commenter Daniel and Tim! And thanks for the Customer Journey Marketer shout out 🙂

      • Minimal. So alluring.

    • @timsoulo:disqus FYI, screenshot is missing for “On the above screenshot you can see that a fair share of clicks for “wireless headphones” go to search ads, while clicks for “best wireless headphones” are almost entirely organic.”

      • not missing for me, can you plz try to refresh the page?

    • Steve Myers

      Great read. Really organizes the way I’ve been training my team to approach keyword research. I especially like the tip about difficulty vs. Volume as we try to target lower difficulty with higher traffic but relevance is still needed and you make that point better than I’ve been explaining it.

      • hey Steve… organizing my random thoughts about keyword research was the hardest part about writing this guide. there’s so much to say and it’s so hard to fit it into some kind of easy-to-digest structure.. but hopefully it worked out well. I’m really glad you think that my guide is well organized 🙂

    • tim amazing article, love to read, many concepts cleared now.

    • Some SEOs even say that “Search Volume” doesn’t even matter (anymore).

      If your competitor is targeting a keyword or your keyword tool is suggesting it — even if it only has 10 Local Monthly Searches (LMS) or even 0 LMS — that’s because there’s someone actually searching for it (or else these kind of tools wouldn’t mention it).

      If you end up writing an article around it, you’ll target a ton of other keywords (depending on the length of your article too) resulting in much higher traffic than what your keyword originally told you to expect. (There’s actually a great case study about this but it’s on a Ahref’s competitor blog. :D)

      Great guide Tim!
      I would suggest Ahrefs’ readers to create a spreadsheet with all these columns: Keyword, Parent Topic, Estimated Traffic (if you rank #1), Keyword Difficulty and Business Value so they can sort their keyword list more easily.


    • Thanks for sharing, you have provided a complete guide about keyword research. Does adding a city/town with the keyword effects the ranking (globally) of the site?

    • Jim Miller

      Great work Tim. Is there any way within Ahrefs to label fresh new keywords becoming a trend?

    • Nisar Khan

      you Made my day tim as a lazy person i mostly watch videos to learn SEO but your article

      made my day

    • Ryan Roberts

      Hi Tim,

      Amazing article.

      I have one question (sorry if this is terribly obvious) but can you explain a little more on how pages can rank for a keyword which they don’t include within the page itself?

      Also, how are people using LSI keywords at that volume (800 for one page — how!?) to generate traffic.

      I’d love to find out a bit more as this is something I struggle with!



    • Thanks for sharing its really awesome guide lemme know which tool is best to check keyword competition .

      • baines_harry

        I’m a big fan of Long Tail Pro for that very reason. It has a built-in keyword competitiveness feature so you can easily see which keywords are worth trying to rank for. There are tonnes of hidden gems with virtually zero competition. Here’s a link to the page where you can find out more: PowerProSoftware.COM

        Many marketers dismiss long tail keywords because they think there’s not enough search volume. But as Tim and others have mentioned… some of the most popular keyword tools MASSIVELY under-estimate the traffic. In reality, long tail keywords make up a massive chunk of search volume.

        This is good for the small minority of marketers who know how profitable long tail keywords can be 🙂

    • Jeffrey Bowdoin

      Google has been getting better and better at deciphering user intent, and mapping similar keywords together that match the user intent. So that’s why one page may rank for hundreds of long tail keywords without the actual keywords on the page.

      It stands to reason that SEO is becoming more and more about publishing content that people love, and that matches user intent, rather than optimizing for a ton of variations of keywords on that page.

      Crafting a page for the users is actually crafting it for Google too, since google has been transitioning to relying much more on user behavior that act as signals to user intent and user satisfaction levels.

      So it doesn’t make sense to try to stuff 50 variations of a keyword on a page that we get from ahrefs.

      …However, that doesn’t mean we can’t optimize our internal linking to that page with all those different variations!

    • Just to let you know, I read like 10 articles on keyword planning and yours is the best. Thank you Very Much

    • you did a great job of patting yourself on the back ahrefs again and again and again turnoff

    • Monetisation first” approach. This is what I always tell clients. If we are going to work on a set of keywords lets make sure they will drive conversions on the site. I have seen people who want to rank #1 for a keyword which ads no significant business value. They still want it cause they want to outrank their competitor. It’s sad. Great article again. I’m on a Ahrefs blog reading binge.

    • thanks for sharing this with us. It is very good article. it is very helpful.

    • As per ur psot i red each and every line but dont know how to analyze the keyword competion in the google maually.If u know anything regarding t the keyword reserach so please share like longtail pro does.

      Thank you

    • Amazing blog @timsoulo:disqus , I have wasted a lot of time to learn the keyword research only. And you just tell the awesome way in a single blog post. Every other guide confused me a lot but thank you for this easy to understand way for keywords research.

    • copywriter1

      What you want to do is use synonyms and partial matches to give the page meaning, but not repeat the same keywords over and over. Hopefully, soon, software like Yoast SEO plugins will help with this realization.

    • Thank you so much for sharing awesome Keyword Research tips.

    • The ideal keyword research should include a combination of short and long tail keywords. Ignoring long tail keywords might result in site losing chunk of users who are searching for long keyword for your products and services.

    • Thanks Tim for sharing your thoughts. I have to agree with all your inclusions.

    • Great post! Loved the bit about long-tail keywords too — there are so many different possibilities when you mix and match variations of the original phrase. 🙂

    • Great article Tim, many thanks!

    • Renee Starms

      This was an awesome article! I learned a tremendous amount and now I can choose my keywords the rght way. Thanks so much!!!

    • Hey Tim,
      Thank you so much for this great article. One thing i noticed in Ahref is that it shows about 500% less traffic for a keyword. Prove is that i ranked for a keyword that has 100/mo searches in Ahref and i am getting almost 1000/mo traffic.
      Sounds Amazing but what the scene behind this?

    • Great Guide and tips for Keyword Research. But out of all I liked the spying competitor’s keywords the most as it is the best way to outperform them in the competition and stay at the top.

    • Viktor Holas

      Great work! Just one question. When you launch product which is a new on the market, what is the procedure of keyword research? There is no specific keywords how to start and Im little bit confused. The only way what I have in my mind is use the another marketing channels (facebook, etc.) to get product awareness but this is really expensive. Thank you for your ideas.

    • theutsavchopra

      I would be really great if one can use long tail keyword with low competition. Doing this attracts me a huge traffic. I prefer mostly to use long tail keyword in my post then medium.
      This post is the perfect guide to start with keyword research.

      Thanks for share Tim, it helps a lot.

    • Sometime we struggle to get the correct keyword.Thanks for this kind information 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing awesome Keyword Research tips.

    • I’ll be trying some of these out 100%, Some real slick ways of finding keywords

    • This article gives useful and reliable information about SEO. In keyword research, using only one tool is not enough. Being resourceful is a great trait to have since this will help you target or choose carefully the keyword/s that is suitable for your niche. Not only that, it can give you an idea of who among your competitors are using the same keywords as yours and the worth of your keywords.

      • Good comment Hitesh. We often overlook what our competitors are doing.…to our own peril. 🙂

    • please best site name for back link cheek

    • Thank you for sharing this wonderful information step by step. This information helpful for me. I like this post. Good explanation in detail that helpful for other people.

    • Awesome post !! This post really helped me a lot.I really learned alot.Now i know how to choose right keywords.

    • Wao, Thanks for this long Content, can you please tell how to get more backlink to my posts

    • This is a very informative article. I simplified this subject a while back to help those who don’t really understand how keyword research works

    • Sanaullah Qaisrani

      Www . Awamipost . Com …nice article

    • Hi Tim,
      We are told so many times to focus on long tail keyword that we forget to target competitive, but profitable keywords.

      Thanks for reminding it with your closing words…

      Always remember, it’s not the “easiest to rank for” keywords that you should be looking for. It’s the ones with the best ROI.”

    • Opting for long tail keyword is key…it is a sure way of avoiding “unicorn” keywords with high competition.

    • Jeff Pierce

      This seems to be too good to be true. Are you saying that if I find an article from a website that has a 66 DR, but has only 2 referring domains to the article and it ranks #2 in the Serp, that I can possibly out rank it with a better article on my DR 33 website? Should I be looking for websites with a DR of ~33 that have articles on the first page of Google with only a few referring domains instead?

    • Seo service

      I always prefer
      Google Adwords tool for keyword research. I never used Market Samurai or any
      other. Google Adwords provide a faid idea about competition and hits Local and

    • Oh its really a best tool more than google keyword tool. But its paid.