How to choose keywords for SEO success: 8 steps

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There are lots of steps involved in SEO project management. Keyword planning is one of the most crucial parts of the process. You can propel your website content to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) with the right keywords. 

To do that, it takes a lot of planning, strategy, and careful thought about which keywords to use and how to create content around them. 

That’s why we’ve created this guide. If you’re ready to get started with keywording, read below to learn the eight steps you’ll need to take to develop a solid keyword strategy.

What makes a good keyword for SEO?

If there’s one assumption about keywords you should avoid, it’s the logic that a good keyword is one that many people are searching for. The truth is that there is more to a good keyword than just the number of searches.

We’ll outline some elements you should be looking for in a keyword below.

  • Shows good traffic potential: Good keywords come with high traffic potential. This means that lots of people are searching for it and reading content that includes it.

  • Has high conversion potential: Use keywords that have a high business or conversion potential. In other words, people are searching for content with this keyword not only to read and learn, but potentially also because they want to buy.

  • Aligns content with intent: Don’t just cram keywords anywhere. Relevant keywords will fit naturally into content that aligns with search intent. This way, searchers — your target audience — will get the info they actually want when using specific keywords or search terms.

  • Keeps competition reasonable: Good keywords aren’t necessarily those with a monthly search volume in the tens of thousands or millions. Instead, make sure the competition is reasonable so that you actually stand a chance of ranking. Too much organic search traffic for a given keyword, and unless you’re a globally-recognized, top-of-the-top brand, your content is unlikely to make the first page of SERPs.

1) Generate topics that are relevant to your business

Putting keywords first is like putting the cart before the horse. Much like having a cart but no horse, if you have a few target keywords but no content, your content probably isn’t going anywhere.

That’s why SEO keyword research should start with a list of topics instead of keywords. Competitive search marketing strategies blend informative content with thought leadership, promotional, and other types of content to create an authentic, genuinely useful experience for customers.

2) Use a keyword research tool

Now that you have some topic ideas in mind, you can use these in conjunction with search engine optimization (SEO) tools to generate new keyword ideas. Do this step early in the process because later phases of the keyword research process will have you identifying the best keywords from the lists you’ll create in this step.

Here are a few SEO tools you can use:

3) Identify keywords that will generate site traffic

The tools above should have given you a starting point. The next step is to choose keywords with some search volume behind them. As you do keyword research, you’ll also need to strike a balance between different types of keywords and key phrases.

Head terms vs. long-tail keywords

There are actually three different types of keywords: Head keywords, body keywords, and long tail keywords.

  • Head keywords are only one or two words, usually incredibly competitive since they have a broad focus.

  • Body keywords are two to three words — less competitive, but still hard to rank for.

  • Long tail keywords are four words or more, and since these can be highly focused, it’s much easier to rank for them.

Search volume 

Keyword search volume refers to the average number of monthly searches for that keyword. Keep these things in mind:

  • Keyword volume is a useful metric — but not typically all that accurate. These numbers are often more of a ballpark.

  • Low volume could mean lots of people searching only once — or a handful of people searching for the same keyword multiple times.

  • Super high volume isn’t always a good thing. Keywords with search volumes in the millions are hugely competitive.

4) Determine the business potential of the keyword

To determine business potential, ask yourself this: If you rank highly for a particular keyword, is it related to something you sell? If a keyword is directly related to your product or service, then yes — it has high business potential. Unrelated keywords would have low business potential.

For example, if you’re a marketing agency, “content marketing for architecture and construction professionals” would have high business potential since these are directly related to your service. On the flip side, “how to use Google Analytics” or “how to leverage Google Ads” is likely to have lower business value because even though you’ll likely use both, it’s not something you’re directly promoting and selling.

5) Understand user intent

If you understand user intent — and how to analyze and group keywords by user intent — then you’ll better grasp how to design a balance of content that addresses each stage of the sales funnel. 

Let’s start with a basic sales funnel, which looks something like this:

  • Top of the funnel: Awareness

  • Interest

  • Desire

  • Action

  • Bottom of the funnel: Loyalty

Types of user intent

The four types of intent include informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial intent. You should group keywords around these four types — then design content to fit each group so that you have content that correlates with each of the first four stages of the sales funnel.

This is what each of the four types of intent entail:

  • Informational intent: Searchers are looking for answers to questions or general information — and this is where they may become aware of your brand.

  • Navigational intent: Interest piqued, searchers are now looking for a specific site or page.

  • Commercial intent: Having learned enough about you or your competitors’ products, searchers enter the desired phase to search for brands and options.

  • Transactional intent: Searchers use these keywords to find the best place to make the purchase or complete the action.

6) Analyze the competition and ensure feasibility

There are two good reasons to analyze your competitors. The first is that careful analysis will likely reveal some keywords you can use. And second, it will reveal which keywords not to use.

In general, the key is to leverage keywords that balance traffic potential and business potential with relatively low competition so that you can feasibly rank given your business size and online authority.

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Establishing authority and earning backlinks

Speaking of authority, it’s not all about creating authoritative content using the right keywords. If you want your content to be more competitive — and have a higher chance of ranking for more competitive keywords — then you need to build authority. Authority is essentially a measure of your online clout, and one great way to earn it is to earn high authority backlinks.

And what are backlinks? They’re links on other pages that lead back to your site. Not only will you get some traffic from them in the form of clicks, but search engines also use them as part of the algorithm that calculates site authority.

Earning backlinks isn’t easy — you have to make your brand newsworthy enough that other sites want to link to it, and you’ll need to build relationships within your industry to get your site listed on news sites, blogs, resource roundups, and more. Still, it’s worth the effort because backlinks can seriously boost your authority — and help you rank for those popular, highly competitive keywords.

7) Factor in SERP features

Once upon a time, a Google search was just a Google search. Nowadays, however, you’ve probably noticed that many of your searches come with unique features — like video carousels, mini news feeds, featured snippets, and “people also ask” questions. These are called “SERP features,” and with the right keywords, you can target them.

Featured snippets

Featured snippets often appear at the top of a search result — especially when people search questions or long tail keywords. You’ll see a box at the top of the page featuring helpful information and a link to the page from which the info originates.

Featured snippets are one of the easier SERP features to target. Many keyword research tools will tell you which search queries will bring up featured snippets.

People also ask

This is the box that pops up in your search results featuring clickable questions related to your original search. As of now, not much is known about how to influence the “people also ask” box. However, keywords likely play a role. If you notice, when you click questions, there are often bold terms within the answer. These can give you ideas for long-tail keywords that may help you score a spot in the “people also ask” box.


Sitelinks pop up at the top of SERPs along with the top search result. When you search for a company or website, and the top result displays a link to the brand’s main page and a block of links below the result that lead to different sections of the page, those are sitelinks.

There are lots of ways to influence sitelinks and increase your chances that they’ll appear when users search for your brand. Keywords containing your brand’s name are part of it, but a well-organized site structure, plenty of internal links, keyworded headings, and other factors also play a part.

8) Coordinate and plan content workflows with your team

If you’ve been through each of the above steps, then you’ve done a whole lot of research — and now it’s time to coordinate and execute content workflows and content creation plans for your chosen keywords and keyword phrases. Remember that you can’t just plug keywords into content and hope for the best. In order to rank in search while engaging with customers, successful SEO focuses on making quality content for readers first.

And if you want to pull this task off successfully? You’re going to need a great set of project management and content marketing tools to help you manage the entire project, from research phases to content creation.

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Teamwork can help you. This project management software lets you create and assign tasks so that you and your team can stay on top of your SEO projects. With collaboration tools, you can keep track of your keyword research and share it with the rest of your team so that you can work together to create content that ranks. It’s a platform made for agencies, too, which means you can do it all — while saving time and tracking billable minutes.

Want to learn more? Check out Teamwork for agencies here.

Execute your SEO strategy successfully with Teamwork

Ready to kick off your SEO strategy with project management software that will keep you and your team on track? Take your content to the next level with Teamwork! Between smart task management, insightful dashboards that give you a bird’s eye view of your projects, and other key tools, Teamwork will make it easy to streamline your digital marketing campaigns. We also have a guide that will give you deep insights into overall SEO project management. Take a look at that resource here.

Sign up here to give it a try.

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