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How to Do Keyword Research

Melanie is a tech YouTuber who loves social media and is an expert on internet culture. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.

If you're working on search engine optimization whether it's to help rank your company website in the search engines or you want your own articles to have high SERPs, it's important to learn how to do proper keyword research.

Before writing around a niche topic you should ensure these three things:

  • Your niche is something you can realistically compete in
  • Your niche can gain the kind of traffic you're looking for
  • Your keywords are things people actually search for
According to a study at Cornell University, 56.36% of users will click the first search result. From there, the percentages fall drastically.

According to a study at Cornell University, 56.36% of users will click the first search result. From there, the percentages fall drastically.

What Is a Niche?

When writing online, you will quickly realize that you should write in what is called a "niche." Niches are essentially honed-down specialized topics. By focusing a blog or website around a specialized niche, you can more easily dominate Google SERPs.

How do you find a niche? Write down a list of things that interest you. Feel free to be really broad since this is just brainstorming for some ideas.

Here are some things I came up with:

These, by far, aren't niche topics, but it's something to get us started in finding a niche. A niche is more specific than any of the interests I came up with, but we'll use my list to come up with a great niche!

Using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

You may have heard of the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and wondered how exactly it can be used to find keywords for a niche site or for a hub. It's actually fairly simple -- I'll show you how to use it here.

On my list of ideas, I wrote that I liked dogs, so we'll start with that. Go to and login (or create an account if you don't already have one, then login.) To get to the keyword tool, click "Reporting & Tools" and then click "Keyword Tool."

Under word or phrase, type "dogs" and click "search."

On the left deselect "broad" and, instead, select "[exact]". This is because you want to see the information for when people search for just "dogs" and not other things with the words dogs in it like "I like dogs" or "dogs bite." You will notice in the spreadsheet, I have keyword written with the brackets around it. I have like this in the spreadsheet to serve as a simple reminder to make sure I use [exact] in the Adwords Keyword Tool.

Note that the tool doesn't just give information about the keyword [dogs] but other similar keywords. This is extremely helpful in finding more honed-down niche keywords.

How to Find Long-tail Keywords

Wow! If I ranked #1 in Google for the keyword "dogs" I would make quite a bit of money each month from just that one keyword!

That would be amazing, but it's nearly impossible. I know this without even researching the keyword any further, but if you're new to keyword research, it's important to learn how to find out whether a keyword is doable.

As you can see, [dogs] will be too difficult to rank for. Go back to the AdWords Keyword Tool and look at other keywords. Even words like [dog clothes] may be too difficult to rank for, but go ahead and hone into [dog clothes] by replacing [dogs] in the keyword tool search area with [dog clothes.] The keyword tool will give you words related to [dog clothes] that perhaps you can rank for. It's trial and error. If you spend time with the keyword tool, you'll learn the types of keywords that'll work and the ones that won't.

Keywords to Avoid

The types of keyword that you'll generally want to avoid are one word keywords like "France", "Coffee," and "Red." These types of keywords are not long-tail and sites that rank are usually something like Wikipedia which is nearly impossible to rank against.

That said, keywords that are things that people seldom (or never) search for are kind of pointless. I usually avoid keywords with less than 100 searches per month.


Brendon Thomas from Cape Town, South Africa on January 06, 2020:

Great reference. I appreciate your thorough approach.

Amy from East Coast on November 25, 2017:

Thank you for sharing this awesome information. I am always lost when it comes to keyword research and it's so important. Great hub!

centermassmedia on May 18, 2014:

Melbel: thank you for the article. This is great information for keyword analysis. You find tons of information on short tail keywords but focusing on the long tail keywords has been very good for local results fond from mobile device traffic.

Thank you!

Emily from Florida on February 10, 2014:

Hi I have a new blog and this was SO helpful. Thank you so much!

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 21, 2013:

Thank you for putting this together. I love writing but because I've only been on HubPages for 6 months I've just been concentrating on creating good content. I have been pleasantly surprised that people actually search for topics I write about and find my content through Google etc. Now I figure maybe I should look into keywords, page ranks, and other analytics. Thank you for this excellent primer! Voted awesome and more!

Linda Crist from Central Virginia on December 05, 2012:

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Wow Melbel, this is the most concise and practical explanation I've read anywhere about keywords and finally, I think I get it. You even gave us the spreadsheet and that's awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you. In my book, you are A+++++

Adventure Colorad from Denver,CO on December 05, 2012:

Great tips Melbel, I'm still trying to hone my keyword skills. Hopefully I'll catch on one of these days!

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on December 05, 2012:

Thank you. Finally a 'how to' maunual that is so detailed and simply written that I think I can follow it and finally make my keyword research effective. It is what I've neeeded for months now, invaluable material. Pinning and voting.

Ruminta Sari from Sleman on December 04, 2012:

this is awesome, thank you for the detailed information you share here.

Hezekiah from Japan on December 04, 2012:

Great, thanks for the tips. I almost forget about using Adwords until now. Nice one.

Laura Ross on December 04, 2012:

I'm just starting to look at key words and how they can help bring more traffic to my hubs. Great suggestions in this hub I will refer to often! Voted Up, Useful, and Interesting!

safiq ali patel from United States Of America on December 04, 2012:

Awesome hub. This hub is genuinely what I call highly original useful content. Brilliant hub.

Chad Young from Corona, CA on December 03, 2012:

I've been using a tool called Market Samurai and it does many of the calculations for you. Have you ever used this software and what do you think about it? Great hub by the way...voted up and interesting.

Shasta Matova from USA on December 03, 2012:

This is really helpful. I hadn't thought about using a spreadsheet to keyword research, but I can see how it would come in very handy. So much of this is new to me, especially the page rank stuff. thanks! Voted up.

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on December 03, 2012:


This is an excellent and very informative hub. I really must do all of the things you suggest if I really want to be more financially successful on hubpages. Voted up and sharing with followers.

Tammy from North Carolina on December 03, 2012:

This is such valuable information. I was searching for keywords without using the CPC feature. I now have a new level of understanding. Thanks so much for writing this.

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on December 03, 2012:

I know that I have actually read this before... but I can also tell that I have been learning stuff because I have been playing around more with Google Adwords and Analytics... I actually understood this a little more. Still not sure how to effectively use the keywords to get your article to rank higher.. but at least it is a start!

susiebrown48 from Clearwater, FL on August 03, 2012:

Very useful, I couldn't get SEO for Firefox to work, but I can surely use everything else!

Kris Heeter from Indiana on August 02, 2012:

Great information. The whole Google SERP thing is new to me so this was very useful!

Joshua Patrick from Texas on August 02, 2012:

Good job, and a lot of great info here - voted up and across!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 02, 2012:

Melbel, this is very good information. Since I hardly know much of SEO I will need to really understand how the whole thing works. I'm bookmarking this to go through it again while I download the essential tools needed to put this into practice.

This a ton of useful and interesting information. Bookmarked, voted all ends up and yes shared it all over and pinned for the benefit of others.

Glad you shared this. Thanks.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on July 26, 2012:

Amazing hub! Sad I missed it before:( Glad I have it now though - better late than never, eh?

philliden on July 19, 2012:

A brief yet very informative hub on the most important aspect of making a web content, keywords! Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this. This has been very helpful.

Mommiegee from Alabama on July 18, 2012:

Great Hub! Thanks for sharing.

Shawn Yeager from Wisconsin on July 18, 2012:

Great information. Keyword research is crucial to making money on here. I will have to try using the software you recommend vs. Excel.

klevifusha on July 18, 2012:

This is definitely one of the best and most useful Hubs I've come across on this site. However, like one of the other commenters stated, it takes not only reading, but studying. I'll make sure to come back and visit it regularly. Thank you for posting such useful information.

AlanRimmer from Southwest UK on July 18, 2012:

At last I have been able to make logical sense out of the whole keyword research thing. I've read so much about how it should be done that my technique has been a bit of a mash up. Thanks for sharing your ideas this will certainly help.

SteveSpencer from USA on July 17, 2012:

Great information. I'm still very new here and this is one of the better articles I've found on this topic because you go into such detail. I am not able to see the CPC but another commenter indicated that will change when I log into adwords so I'll try that next. Definitely voting up on this one.

One note. I noticed you said you email documents to yourself to protect them in the event of a system crash. I've done that for years as well but recently have begun using Dropbox and it does the same thing and makes it much easier to access those documents when working remotely.

roxygurl464 from New Jersey on July 17, 2012:

Such a big help! I'm an hp newbie so I feel a little overwhelmed with all the information I've been taking in the past few weeks. However, I really love how you broke this method down step by step for us! Two thumbs way up!

Kimberly Lake from California on July 17, 2012:

Very informative Thanks for Sharing!

Trinity M on July 17, 2012:

What a brilliant hub melbel! I must admit this is the best article on the subject I have ever read. Thank you so much for writing it and for the great information and clear details. Voted up, useful and shared.

Distant Mind on July 17, 2012:

Voted up & sharing. Great and useful hub!

george looney on July 17, 2012:

Very informative and helpful for new users of hubpages... thanks for the info

J Forlanda from US of A on July 16, 2012:

There are also tools out there to help automate a lot of the work in determining the value of key words. One of them is Market Samurai and the other is Micro Niche Finder. They aren't free though.

moonlake from America on July 16, 2012:

Don't know much about all of this but I will keep it in my Hub Tools folder and when I get a chance try to figure it all out. Lots of good information thanks for sharing. Voted up.

iefox5 on July 16, 2012:

Google Adwords Keyword Tool is used by most online marketers. It is also a useful research tool for Google Adwords Campaigns.

Jasmine on July 16, 2012:

I've read so much about keyword research, but a reminder and a few extra tips are more than welcome! I find the spreadsheets a bit confusing at the moment, but I'm sure everything will fall into place with another detailed reading. I do like coming back to this hub :)

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on July 16, 2012:

Melanie, I'll have to read this again but what I picked up after one read appears to be very useful. I will definitely try the Google Keyword Tool and put the results into a spreadsheet. I have been pretty much winging it so far and I think this will really help me with keywords and Hub Titles. Thank you for sharing this. Voting up.

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on July 16, 2012:

What great information... I stink at SEO... ok...maybe it is more that I just don't like to spend the time doing keyword research. I find it dull. But, since I am having a bit of a stall on writing... maybe I should be doing some keyword stuff on my older articles to get them higher on google ranks! Nice hub! Thanks for sharing all the tips!

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on July 16, 2012:

This is a great, useful article! Thank-you so much I vote up and will share on my social media circles as well to help other writers.

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on July 16, 2012:

Great, very helpful hub! I do not always do keyword research for my hubs, but I have definitely found that when I take a little extra time, it really pays off. Rated up! Best, Steph

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on July 16, 2012:

Melbel, this is fantastic! I do a fair bit of keyword research but I always just "fool around" with the numbers, jotting stuff down. You have a chart! That is so amazing and I love it. I am definitely bookmarking and sharing this one because it is extremely useful. Thanks so much for taking the time to make up the formulas like this.

I had not heard that 56% figure but that helps. I wonder if the same study gave any stats for being in the 19 spots on Google. I have read that the first two pages are still pretty good but I don't know the actual numbers.

kelleyward on July 16, 2012:

Oh Wow Melbel this is a great resource. I'm re-reading it later today and bookmarking for future use. Voted up and across and Shared! Kelley

ThunderKeys on April 22, 2012:

Thank you very much for this. SEO for firefox is great for me, as are your related suggestions! voted up and useful.

Gnaneeswaran from Chennai, Tamilnadu, India on March 12, 2012:

For pay per click program like adsense should the competition for a keyword must be high?

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on February 06, 2012:

I like what Sinea Pies said: keyword college. My head is spinning with this valuable info. So, would you recommend Market Samurai for keyword stuff? Also, realistically speaking, do you think you can ever make a living doing this? I *really* want to. :)

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on February 06, 2012:

I normally don't do keyword research at all though I have tons of popular hubs. I normally prefer to write on evergreen topics or 'how to hubs'. I only write on topics I know a lot about and keep away from trying my luck with high paying keywords. But I guess learning to do some effective keyword research on the niche I write can help me get some extra income for sure. Thanks for this wonderful tutorial.

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on February 06, 2012:

Melbel, this hub is like going to "keyword college". So much rich material here...I'm going to have to work my way through it. Voted up, useful, stumbled, shared and BOOKMARKED for me to do my "college homework"

Tammy from North Carolina on February 06, 2012:

Melbel, you are a hubbers best friend. You write the most wonderful, helpful hubs. Thanks for sharing this. I have learned so much from you.

ayliss08 from Guangzhou, Guangdong, China on February 05, 2012:

hey, you really share something useful and helpful! Thanks!

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on February 04, 2012:

This is so useful and you have also manage to make something difficult to be understandable! You are a genius! Thanks Melbel, it will save so much time for me! Voted up, useful and shared!


SilkThimble from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 17, 2011:

Thanks for all the incredibly practical information. I particularly like the tips for estimating potential revenue - excellent for prioritizing development effort.

crockpotcooking on December 16, 2011:

"If you're new to SEO try something more realistic like ranking against sites with a PR of 0, 1, or 2. Even a PageRank of 3 can be difficult to rank against,"

I am new to internet marketing and keyword research. Nevertheless, I have seen many video clips, webinar replays and tutorials about this.

But that sentence above, IMHO, is one of the most important things to know. I have not seen this practical advice anywhere else.

And this spreadsheet tip, awesome.

I use MNF commercial software for that job, but was also looking for a way to record and analyze my quick visits to adwords keyword.

Thank you. from upstate, NY on September 10, 2011:


Terrific Commentary and tutorial! I see I have a lot of work ahead of me and will have to reread this and other article's over many times. Thank a lot for the great info!-WBA

Joe Giovinco on August 28, 2011:

Thanks for the enlightenment! Keyword research should be the backbone of every site BEFORE it's even built. By making a blueprint of your strategy in advance, will save you huge sums of time in the future. Great Hub!

phanisoft18 from Hyderabad, India on August 26, 2011:

Extremely useful article melbel :)

Rich Cederberg from Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 21, 2011:

I voted up and useful. What a beautifully detailed post! Great ideas to expand keyword research.

Shelly on August 18, 2011:

This is such a useful hub! I've bookmarked it for a handy-dandy reminder when my SEO sense starts to fly out the window. Despite being a half-intelligent human being, it never occurred to me to hasten my keyword research with an Excel spreadsheet. But you've inspired me to start!

John B Badd from Saint Louis, MO on August 15, 2011:

Great hub, I love the page rank links.

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on August 11, 2011:

This is one of the best and most thorough seo articles I've read. I'm bookmarking it and printing it and can't wait to get even more focused with seo tools. This hub certainly gets my vote up.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on August 09, 2011:

Thankyou for your very informative hub.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on August 06, 2011:

Very helpful. Your marketing skills are apparent in your writing. Very well done. Bookmarked!

Liudmila on August 06, 2011:

A very helpful hub.Thanks!

Recipe Gal on August 05, 2011:

I am brand new to all this, so this is great information. I'll have to go get signed up for adwords and start figuring it out!

thehemu from New Delhi, India on August 05, 2011:

Very useful info, i was really struggling for finding a niche category but might get this time lucky. thanks for sharing great hub.

alainamaybin on August 04, 2011:

Very useful info! Thanks for sharing.

Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on August 04, 2011:

It was much easier when Google gave you CPC as an add on column. Wonder why they stopped doing that. handy hub though.

Actually if you sign up to Adwords and login, it is available, just found out.

Jasmine on August 04, 2011:

Great article, melbel, but it needs studying, not just reading :) I'll make it my new bookmark and return many times to use every information effectively. This one deserves a share...

shannon on August 04, 2011:

very helpful information. thank you for sharing.

RTalloni on August 03, 2011:

Thanks so much! So appreciate your work to put this together.

Voted up and book marked.

Brett C from Asia on August 03, 2011:

Voted up and useful. It takes time, but it is so worth doing the preparation and using long-tail keywords!

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