Choose the Right Keywords for SEO, Part 1: Keyword Volume

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

For SEO, two criteria matter: volume and competitiveness. The goal is find keywords with high volume and low competition. And although this will not always happen, the method below will help you determine the keywords your site should be targeting. Below I explain how to find keywords with volume. In my next post, keyword competition, I will discuss how to figure out the competitiveness of each phrase.

Step 1: Adwords

My first step is to create a list of “seed” keywords that I can get search volume for later. To start off, I usually check my client’s Adwords account by running a query report, sorting, and copying the best words (i.e. volume, conversions, etc.) into an Excel spreadsheet, my “Seed List”. If your client does not have an Adwords account, you can skip this step.

Step 2: Reverse Rank Check & Keyword Density

Once I’m done with Adwords, I use a reverse rank checker and a keyword density checker. For density, I use a Firefox add-on called SEOpen. Using the reverse rank and keyword density checker, I enter my client’s domain and their competitors’ domains to see what keywords they rank and are targeted for. I will also pull any words the competitors bid on in Adwords (a list also provided by the reverse rank checker). I add all new keywords to the Seed List.

Step 3: Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool

Then I run each keyword through Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool, adding new suggested keywords with volume to the Seed. Keyword Suggestion has a handy exporting option that makes adding as simple as copying and pasting.

Step 4: Aaron Wall’s Keyword Tool

Using the current Seed List, I run each keyword through Aaron Wall’s Keyword Tool. You can use Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery, but I use this tool because it’s free. For each keyword, I export the results and then compile them into one spreadsheet. This single spreadsheet now becomes your Master Keyword List, since you now have keywords with actionable search volume to sort by.

Step 5: Google Sets

I then run the highest volume words through Google Sets, a Google Labs tool that will predict other words from the ones you enter. This is a good place to find keywords that are related, but that normal keyword suggestion tools miss or won’t give you. The ones I find through Google Sets then go through the Google Suggestion Tool, and the Aaron Wall tool if it has volume. As usual export, copy, & paste.

Step 6: Sorting Your Final List

I do some final tweaks to my list, like using the “Remove Duplicates” shortcut in Excel, removing low volume keywords, and heavy pruning of irrelevant keywords that might have snuck in. Sort and organize as you like. This is just what I do.

After all that work, you now have a nice keyword list to work with. Read on in Part 2 about how to determine which to target first based on competition.