The ultimate guide to conducting keyword research in 2024

Keywords are a significant and crucial part of any digital marketing strategy. Whether for search engine optimisation (SEO) or paid advertising, you’ll need high-quality keywords that drive the right traffic to your site. But how do you find the right keywords? Our ultimate guide to conducting keyword research in 2024 gives you everything you need for successful keyword research.

What are keywords?

Keywords are the heartbeat of any SEO and PPC campaign. They are the search words or phrases you want to appear for on the search engine results pages. Your choice of keywords is vital as it will play a big part in ensuring you drive plenty of relevant traffic to your site.

When using a search engine to find relevant content, users will enter keywords or phrases as part of their search query. Therefore, incorporating the right keywords into your SEO or SEM (search engine marketing) strategy helps your content appear for specific search queries.

Every keyword has a search volume, difficulty, and search intent. PPC keywords also have a cost-per-click (CPC). Each of these needs to be carefully considered when choosing the right keywords.

  • Search volume is the average monthly searches a keyword receives.
  • Keyword difficulty is a score of 0-100 on how difficult it is to rank highly for a particular keyword. The higher the score, the more difficult a keyword is to rank for.
  • Search intent refers to a user’s main goal for their search, e.g. informational, transactional.
  • CPC is how much you pay when someone clicks on your ad.

Short-tail and long-tail keywords

There are different categories of keywords: short-tail and long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords typically contain one or two words. They are widely used at the top of the marketing funnel and are usually generic, e.g., “web design.”

Long-tail keywords consist of more than two words. They are used more at the bottom of the funnel and have a much higher conversion rate than short-tail keywords due to the more focused search intent. An example would be, “Why do I need a web design agency?”

Long-tail keywords have a much lower search volume than short-tail keywords. However, as mentioned, they are more likely to convert. They also have much lower competition than short-tail keywords, making them ideal to target.

SEO and PPC keyword differences

While keywords are used in SEO and PPC, there are slight differences between the two. Keywords in SEO are those you want to target to appear in the organic search results.

Many factors influence organic rankings, but ultimately it will depend on relevance to the searcher’s query. An effective SEO campaign designed around the right keywords can help ensure your website appears higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Keywords in PPC are those that you target through paid search campaigns. Like keywords in SEO, this affects what results show depending on the user’s search query.

While paid results show above organic search results (as shown below), they have a lower click-through rate (CTR). However, to ensure your organic listings or sponsored ads show up to users, you must select the right keywords carefully. This is where keyword research comes in.


Why are keywords important?

Recently, there has been much debate about whether keywords in SEO are still important. From algorithm changes to a shift in opinions, some SEO professionals believe that keywords are no longer as important as they once were.

Whether this is true or not, they are certainly not something to be overlooked. Whatever changes are made to track keywords or how big of an impact AI makes, finding quality keywords is still a top priority for successful SEO strategies.

But why are keywords so important? Well, there are many different reasons why keywords are still as important in 2024 as they were. The first is that they give us an idea of what users are searching for.

Creating a quality content strategy that provides value to users is difficult if you don’t know what users want. Successful keyword research can help guide your content marketing strategy by providing insights into users’ needs and wants.

You can also find a lot of implicit information about your users from the keywords they use. For example, a keyword for safest cars 2024 provides explicit information such as safety concerns, wants a variety to pick from, and looking for new model cars. However, some explicit information you can gain includes:

  • Possible first-time driver.
  • Looking for what makes cars safer.
  • Looking for research options with an intent to buy.
  • Maybe in the market for additional car parts/services.
  • Looking for a metric to judge car safety.

Benefits of choosing the right keywords

There are many benefits of choosing the right keywords, including:

  • Better understand the user’s search intent.
  • Helps you tailor your content marketing and SEO efforts.
  • Drive more conversions and sales.
  • Identify any changes or trends in your market.
  • Better performing SEO.
  • Increased traffic and brand awareness.
  • Stronger user engagement.

Understanding user’s search intent

The user’s search intent is crucial in finding quality keywords that will help attract valuable traffic to your site. Every search query and keyword entered into a search engine has a reason behind it. This is referred to as the user’s search intent.

A keyword can have four categories or types of search intent: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial. Understanding each of these search intents is crucial before conducting keyword research.

Informational search intent

Informational search intent refers to a keyword where a user seeks more information or wants to learn about a particular topic. These non-branded search terms are usually found at the top of the marketing funnel.

Developing targeted, high-quality content is crucial to ensure you meet the intent of a user’s informational search query. In most cases, informational search queries will display blog posts, so a blogging strategy should be part of your SEO content marketing efforts.

Informational keywords typically provide three major benefits: they increase your site’s visibility, help build trust by educating users, and help you reach a new audience. However, these keywords will have a lower conversion value than other search terms.

Navigational search intent

Another type of search intent is navigational. This intent refers to a specific page or website a user wants to visit. Unlike other search intents, users will have a clear idea of what they are looking for.

Many navigational search intent keywords will typically be branded, such as viewing a company’s returns policy or searching for a specific business’s website. These keywords ensure users can easily find your site when needed.

Transactional search intent

Transactional search intent refers to the keywords a user enters into a search engine when they want to do something, such as purchasing a product. However, this can include non-transactional actions, such as newsletter signups or software downloads.

Unlike navigational search intent keywords, these are more likely found at the bottom of the marketing funnel. As a result, they are much more likely to drive conversions or sales. Users will already know what they want to buy and want to find a site to act.

Commercial search intent

These keywords are typically found towards the end of the marketing funnel and play a significant role in determining whether a user chooses your brand/product/service.

Users searching with commercial intent are researching to determine which alternatives best resolve their needs or pain points. Therefore, these keywords typically go between informational and transactional in the buyer’s journey.

How to conduct keyword research

When it comes to conducting keyword research, there are lots of methods you can use. Choosing a wide variety of methods is important to ensure you find as many high-potential keywords as possible.


One of the first methods you can use when conducting keyword research is to write down a list. This list will only be short (around 10-15) and will mostly consist of branded keywords, such as your business name, products, or service offering.

While the keywords you identify here won’t be valuable, they provide an excellent starting place for finding higher-quality keywords later.

Google search suggestions

After you have assembled a short list, it’s time to turn to Google for conducting keyword research. First, enter some keywords into the Google search bar and look at search suggestions that crop up. This will provide a more focused idea of what people are searching for and how to drive your research.

The search results for your keyword will also display some helpful ideas for short-tail and long-tail. Both the related searches and people also ask are two more places to get some free keywords from Google:

The keyword suggestions you obtain from Google Search can be particularly beneficial as they identify what people are already searching for. The idea of keyword research is to identify the keywords that help you address a user’s search intent, which is why these suggestions are valuable.

Conduct your own research

You may also find that conducting your own research can provide you with some interesting keywords you may not have thought of. Speaking to your customers or using online social platforms are other methods of finding keywords.

When using these methods, focusing on your customers and their needs is important. This allows you to identify any areas where customers may be hesitant to purchase and provides an opportunity to shape your content strategy.

Google Search Console

If you have Google Search Console set up, you can find the keywords attracting people to your site. From the search console dashboard, click on ‘Search results’ under ‘Performance’.  You’ll then be provided with a report on the top-performing queries for your site. The number of clicks and impressions are also provided.

Google Trends

Google Trends is another method from Google you can use for conducting keyword research. This method lets you identify popular keywords that users are searching for. All you need to do is enter a search term and click explore. You’ll then be provided with some insights as to whether a keyword is trending or not. It may also provide you with some ideas for alternative keywords.

Google Keyword Planner

Those conducting keyword research for PPC campaigns can use the Keyword Planner tool in AdWords. You can find this tool by clicking on ‘Tools’ on the left-hand side column, ‘Planning’, and then ‘Keyword Planner’.

You then have the option to ‘Discover new keywords’ or ‘Get search volume and forecasts’.

Consider discovering new keywords by entering a keyword or URL and then using the search volume option to discover how well the keyword may perform your paid ads.

Use a keyword tool

If you want to start delving into the nitty gritty of keyword research, you will need to use a keyword tool. There are many different keyword tools, some free and some paid.

Some examples of tools you can use include:

  • Semrush (free with ten searches per day & paid)
  • Ahrefs (free with limited insights)
  • Moz (free with three searches per day)
  • Ubersuggest (free with limited insights)

Different tools provide different insights and features, so you may need to try different ones to see which better suits your needs. You may also need to register with your chosen keyword tool to obtain more insights. Here’s an example of the insights you can gain from Semrush:

However, the main insights you’ll want to gauge from a keyword research tool are the search volume, ranking difficulty, and CPC. Keyword suggestions are also something you should look out for. These will provide user-focused keyword suggestions that people are using.

Make sure that when you are researching keywords, you pick a selection of short-tail and long-tail keywords. You’ll also need to ensure you are creating content for each stage of the buyer’s journey, using your chosen keywords to capitalise on a user’s search intent.

How do you identify good keywords?

One of the biggest problems many people face when conducting keyword research is identifying good keywords. However, what might be a good keyword for SEO may not be as effective for PPC campaigns.

Identifying good SEO keywords

When choosing keywords for SEO, some points to consider are whether the topic is relevant to your website, what your target audience is searching for, and whether this keyword allows me to rank for it and drive long-term traffic.

Finding a keyword with a high monthly search volume but a low ranking difficulty is ideal. This allows you to tap into that search query, which helps drive more traffic to your site and increase conversions.

Identifying good PPC keywords

When it comes to choosing good keywords for PPC campaigns, there are some differences. You will want to focus on identifying the keywords that will help increase your online visibility and help your website grow.

Depending on the type of ads you want to run, you’ll also need a combination of branded and non-branded keywords. Branded keywords include your business name and work much more effectively for users nearing a purchase.

Non-branded keywords are those without your business name that help you attract new customers to your business. However, these keywords must also be tailored to your content and the users you wish to target.

Implementing your chosen keywords

Once you completed your research and identified your keywords, it’s time to implement them. For PPC campaigns, this will be inside your relevant campaign and ad groups. However, SEO will need to be more careful when implementing keywords successfully.

Make sure you include your keyword and variations in:

  • The page’s URL
  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Page title (H1 tag)
  • Subheadings (H2, H3, H4 tags)
  • Content body
  • Image alt tags

Always remember to avoid keyword stuffing. This is a black hat SEO tactic that involves spamming a page with a given keyword in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. Doing so can result in penalties against your site, affecting its ranking potential.

Using a relevant SEO tool is the best way to avoid keyword stuffing in your content. Tools such as Yoast for WordPress or Semrush provide features that allow you to optimise content for a given keyword.

Here’s an example of the optimisation tips that Yoast SEO provides for a blog post in WordPress:

Semrush also has a feature that allows you to target multiple similar keywords within a single piece of content. For example, “web design Coventry” and “Coventry web design” are two keywords that can be grouped and targeted within a single piece of content.

This is known as keyword clustering. As long as two keywords are similar and share the same search intent, you can target them in the same content. This also helps avoid keyword cannibalisation (multiple pages competing for the same keyword).

The Keyword Strategy Builder tool is the best way to manage keyword clusters. Find out more about using Semrush for keyword clustering.

Identifying and using the right keywords can be a lengthy and difficult task. However, the time spent identifying the right keywords can be highly advantageous in driving high-quality traffic to your site that is more likely to convert.