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How to use keyword research to attract the most qualified visitors.

Improve your organic search engine rankings and attract the most qualified visitors by using keywords in your content.

What are Keywords in SEO?

Keywords are the words and phrases that describe the content on your web pages. They are also the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find relevant content.

When these two worlds collide and there is a match between the keywords on your web page and the keywords people type into a search engine, your page has a greater chance of being found.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of finding the words and phrases that people type into search engines for a topic relevant to your website, judging which keywords you are most likely to rank for, and then using them to construct your content.

How to do Keyword Research

Keyword research starts with brainstorming a list of search phrases around a particular topic that you think searchers will type into a search engine. This is called your keyword seed list and you'll use it to find even more related keywords.

Creating a Seed List

Let's say you're a wedding photographer and you've decided to create a page on your website that offers advice to soon-to-be-wed couples about honeymoon destinations. Makes sense, right? People planning their honeymoon are likely to be also looking for a wedding photographer so you're providing some supplemental content that will help attract the right kind of visitor and be super useful to them. While they are on your site, they browse your portfolio and make an enquiry about your services.

Your keyword seed list might look something like this:

  • Honeymoons
  • Honeymoon Destinations 
  • Honeymoon Holidays
  • Honeymoon Ideas
  • Perfect Honeymoon
  • And so on.

The keyword phrases on your seed list should be short. Honeymoon Destinations is a perfect seed keyword. Affordable Honeymoon Destinations in Italy is what's known as a long-tail keyword and is not suitable for your seed list. More on long-tail keywords later.

Finding Related Keywords

Now that you've nailed your seed list, it's time to find related keywords and phrases and expand your list. A spreadsheet will be useful for managing these next few steps.

There are a number of handy tools for finding related keywords. The most obvious one is Google itself. Type one of your seed keywords into the Google.com search box and see what suggestions appear in the autocomplete box as you're typing. Create a 'keywords' column in your spreadsheet and copy these in.

At the bottom of the Google search results page, there are more related search suggestions. Copy these into the keywords column in your spreadsheet, removing any duplicates.

Then go through the same process for each of your seed keywords.

Now that you have a nice long list of keyword phrases, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff and zone in on the keywords you are most likely to rank for. This is done by finding the search volume and keyword competition/difficulty for each of the keywords in your spreadsheet.

Search Volume

Search volume is the number of searches for a particular keyword per month. Higher is better but often more competitive.

Keyword Competition

Keyword competition (also known as difficulty) is a rating that shows how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword due to the number of websites competing for that keyword.

For example Honeymoon Destinations would be an extremely competitive keyword so instead of trying to compete with some 64 million web page results, a better strategy would be to try to rank for a long-tail keyword phrase like Affordable Honeymoon Destinations in Italy.

Long-tail keywords are more specific so are likely to be used when a searcher is deeper into the sales funnel and close to the point making a purchasing decision. Long-tail keywords are also less competitive so easier to rank for and while they bring you less traffic, the traffic they bring is more qualified and more likely to convert.

Keyword Research Tools

So how do you find the search volume and competition ratings for your keyword phrases? Here are some popular SEO tools that do that and much more.

Choosing the Right Keywords

It's spreadsheet time again and we're going to need three more columns. In case you hadn’t guessed it, one column called 'Volume' and another called 'Difficulty'. The last column is for 'Relevance' which is where you will judge each keyword phrase for how relevant they are to the web page you're optimizing.

Using one of the keyword research tools mentioned above, copy the values for volume and difficulty of each of your keywords into your spreadsheet and then rank the relevance of each keyword phrase from 1 - 5 in the Relevance column.

The best keywords to use on your website have the following combination of qualities:

  • High Volume
  • Low Competition / Difficulty
  • High Relevance

Adding Keywords to Your Page

Keywords should be used in the following page elements:

Page Title, URL and Meta Description

These three key elements not only appear on your website, they are also the 3 main components of a search result entry. 

The page title appears in the browser tab of your page but also acts as the first line of the search result in search engines.

A human-readable URL that includes keywords separated by hyphens will be useful for both visitors and search engines. 

Think of the meta description for your page as the search result sales copy. If the searcher is scanning search results and your meta description is compelling, there’s a higher likelihood they will click. Increasing your CTR (click through rate) is a surefire way to increase your ranking.

Headings & Subheadings

Headings and subheadings help visitors scan your page. Including keywords here also helps search engines see the relevance of your content.


Inbound, outbound and internal links can all benefit from being optimized for search engines. Make sure to use variations of your keyword phrases for link anchor text. 

Page Content

Page content is a significant ranking factor so use keywords and variations of keywords in paragraphs, lists, blockquotes. Be careful to use sparingly though since overuse of keywords or 'keyword stuffing' can trigger a penalty.


Use keywords that describe an image in the filename, alt text and title.

As with all things SEO, you want to find a sensible balance of usefulness for human visitors and search engine crawlers alike.

Monitoring Your Progress

Since 2011 Google has been steadily expanding its policy of withholding keyword data for organic search. This means that website owners and professionals have limited access to the keywords used to find their sites. Today 'keywords unavailable' is a common sight in analytics software. So what can you do to monitor the results of your efforts?

Sync Your Google Keywords with Statcounter

By connecting your Google Search Console and Statcounter accounts, you can sync your Google keyword data with Statcounter and unlock the search terms and phrases visitors are using to find your website, right within the Statcounter interface. Here's how to sync your google keyword data

Get Keywords in Your Inbox

Once you have synced your Google keyword data with Statcounter, you can configure your email reports to include a keywords report. Here’s how to configure your email reports.

Track Your Google Page Rank

It's important to understand that a search engine ranking for a given keyword will not appear the same for everyone and also can change frequently. Some of the factors that influence where a result will appear in the search results page include:

  • Location (IP address)
  • Social media data
  • Search & browsing history
  • Device type
  • Other Google products you use (gmail, docs etc)

For that reason, checking your ranking by doing Google searches for your keywords is insufficient, not to mention incredibly time consuming. The keyword research tools we mentioned earlier in this article also offer the ability to track your page rank and automate a lot of the work for you, making it a breeze to track your progress.

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About the Author

Jonathan Morton
Jonathan works with Statcounter as a product designer and strategist. An advocate for the user, he is passionate about solving problems for Statcounter members through research, observation and testing.


  • Posted on Aug 18 2021 at 17:49 by Oyster
    Hello, Is it possible to see the keywords used with each visit if I synch my account with Google like it was years ago? Thank you! George
    • Posted on Sep 20 2021 at 08:53 by jonathanmorton
      Hi. Unfortunately Google continues to encrypt search keywords so the keywords for each individual organic search from Google are not available. However keywords are available in Google Search Console on an aggregate level and syncing your account will make those available in Statcounter. Also, if you use Google Ads, you can see the keywords used for paid searches and have them displayed in Statcounter. https://statcounter.com/support/view-google-ads-keywords-in-statcounter/

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