How To Create a Comprehensive Keyword List for Search Campaigns

Google search page on a Macbook

Keyword strategy is an incredibly important part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). It feeds into subsequent steps such as content strategy, page optimization, web development, and campaign budgeting. Remarkably, only 0.16% of the most popularly used keywords are responsible for over 60% of all searches. Such an astonishing statistic should inspire you to plan and create a keyword list for SEO and SEM.

Ultimately, a genuinely impactful keyword strategy is the result of not just good research and technical skills, but also a basic grasp of human psychology. Consider this — you want to rank or advertise your webpage for a particular search intent, usually indicated by the keywords used. However, a street-smart marketer might divine that searches like “easy cooking recipes” or “daily meals delivered” are simply user-reasoned solutions for the same problem — a lack of cooking skills. Incidentally, this is a problem that a brand selling cooking robots could easily exploit. The difference? Competitors in that space likely aren’t bidding for those terms. Compiling an astute keyword list can get you web traffic other players aren’t even competing for. After all, web traffic drives search ranking as much as search ranking drives web traffic. 

In this blog, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step process to help you create a comprehensive keyword list for your SEO and SEM campaigns.

Step 1: Profile Your Target Audience

As any marketing or SEO consultant worth their salt will tell you, outreach begins with understanding. Create rich target personas, including demographics, psychographics, and behaviors. Segment them, and create sub-personas for those segments. Not all of your sub-personas will search the same way. Therefore, you will need differentiated keyword lists for each segment. While this may sound like a lot of work, it’s likely to pay off in the long run. Doing this will allow you to use a targeted approach to easily create differentiated search campaigns for each segment and ensure your marketing budget counts. It’s also a good way to analyze segment performance and utility for your brand moving forward. 

Step 2: Ideate

Once you have a firm understanding of what your audience is all about, start brainstorming to create a keyword list. Try and put yourself in their shoes to understand how they’re likely to phrase their searches. SEO trends 2021 indicates that user experience is the key to success. Dig deep into your customers’ psyches and don’t bother culling keywords at this stage (that comes later). Simply note down all of the keywords and their synonymous variations you can think of on a master spreadsheet. Don’t hesitate to include long-tail keywords either. Almost 96% of all Google searches are four words or more.

Step 3: Research Your Competitors

Analyze your competitors’ websites to get a sense of what they’re trying to rank for. Review their metadata, including titles and descriptions. Keep an eye out for phrases repeated often throughout their web copy to get an idea of what their keyword list looks like.

Step 4: Plug It All Into Google

Start running Google searches on the keywords you’ve collected thus far and view your results. You’ll likely find several relevant pages and competitors that rank for those queries. Visit those websites and analyze their pages for more keywords. Record them all on your spreadsheet. Keep an eye out for the search ads you get as you plug these into Google, and make a note of the brands you see there. Conduct competitor research on them and add the keywords you find to your list. 

When you run a Google search, ads and organic results will populate on the page. If you continue to scroll down the page, you will find related keywords and searches (just above the page numbers). Add these Google suggestions to your record as well.

Step 5: Use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool

Google’s Keyword Planner tool is available to everyone with a Google ads account. You can create one for free. It’s an incredibly useful tool, not just as a resource for running ads, but also to plan your keyword list for on-site SEO when your website is still in the building stage. You can use the Keyword Planner to discover search volume for particular keywords or simply use the search parameters to ideate relevant keywords from scratch.

Step 6: Sort and Group Your Keywords

This is where you consolidate your keywords to build a targeting strategy that gets you the best possible ROI. To do this, you’ll need to review each keyword on your list by itself and rate it ‘high’, ‘medium’, or ‘low’ on three different parameters:

  • Intent: The degree to which the search query reflects buying or action intent. It’s usually given away by the presence of words like “buy” and “now” in the query (for e.g. “buy a cooking robot now”). The higher the intent, the better the keyword.
  • Volume: Indicated by the average search volume for that keyword. You’ll find this on the results page when you plug a query into the Keyword Planner tool. The higher the volume (i.e. web traffic), the more attractive the keyword is for you.
  • Competition: Also indicated on the results page in the Keyword Planner. The lower the competition, the better off you are using that keyword. Low competition keywords on your list are good for SEO, since they’re generally easier to rank for. They also require a much lower per-click bid amount when you run ads on them, giving you value for money invested in your search campaign.

Once you’ve rated each keyword on all three parameters, group them into three tiers:

  • Tier 1: High intent, high volume, and low competition keywords
  • Tier 2: High intent, low volume, and low competition keywords
  • Tier 3: High intent, low volume, and high competition keywords

You’ll notice none of the tiers compromise on intent, and neither should you. Mobile searches for ‘intentful’ queries grew a whopping 250% year on year from 2017-2019. Focus the bulk of your SEO and paid efforts on Tier 1 keywords in your list, which are more likely to get you the best results. Depending on how large your budget is, you should consider spreading your spending across the other tiers as well. 

The thing about keyword strategy is that it’s so fundamental to everything you do as an online business. Every ‘how to improve your SEO’ guidebook out there will give you a million tips and tricks to make small improvements to your ranking. However, the beauty of having a strong keyword list for your SEO and paid efforts is that everything else flows downstream from it. People encounter between 4,000 to 10,000 ads every day. It’s incredibly easy for your own search ads to get lost in a sea of others, giving you very little return on your money. Unless you employ a focussed keyword strategy that is backed by data. 

If you’re looking for more insights or answers to prep your keyword list, or need advice on how to find an SEO company that best meets your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to help you.