The 3-Step Process to Creating an Effective and Profitable Keyword Plan

keyword research google

Would you rather get 1,000,000 visitors from Google each month or 1,000? Your gut is probably telling you to go with 1,000,000, but the reality is you don’t have enough information to make an educated decision.

The keyword game isn’t just about traffic. It is also about quality. You have to look at conversion rates to make an educated decision.

This means you have to look at larger goals and breakthrough keyword volume.

In my ten years in the business, I’ve made creating high-converting keyword research plans a priority. So, let me share my 3-step plan with you:

Step #1: Keyword research for SEO

When you research for keywords on your own site, it’s a lot easier to do because you know the content inside out. It’s almost instinctual.

But if you are working on a new site, then it is best that you do a lot of keyword research. This means starting with a list of keywords. If you don’t have a list, then work through as much content as you can.

As you do that, think about this…

  • Think about any word or category you don’t understand – Drop these words into Google and see what kind of results come up.
  • Do these results match what you are trying to accomplish – Or do they compete with your goal? As you will see when we get into the conversion part of keyword research, keywords that don’t convert waste time and visitors.

When you find non-converting keywords, search through and remove any other keywords that are similar. As you do this, your list of categories will probably change as you start to understand your site’s content. By the way,  it’s always easier to start with too many than too few categories because you can always reduce them later.

Check the estimated search volumes and make sure they match what you expect.

For instance, do more people search for “SEO consultant” or “SEO services”? “Florist” or “flowers”?  “Washer” or “washing machines”?

While you may lean towards the more technically correct “SEO services”, you might find that more people are actually searching for “SEO consultants.” So, you’ll want to work more instances of “SEO consultant” into your copy.

You are now ready to use these 5 questions to maximize your keyword research. The following exercise is recommended by Jenny Halasz and is a very helpful way to uncover keywords for clients efficiently and effectively.

  1. How would you describe your site? – After you’ve spent some time evaluating your site and creating your own keyword bucket based upon what you read, you ask yourself to describe the site. You’ll notice that you’ll will probably tell yourself a lot of what you read on your own site. But just because you may understand your content and technical jargon, it doesn’t mean others will. This will help you figure out what to focus on and what needs to change.
  2. Why would someone choose you over a competitor? – What makes your product unique? These are keyword conversion type of questions. Answering them properly will ultimately dictate if you come up in searches versus your competitor.
  3. What products are like yours but not competitors’? – An e-reader maker might say that smart phones are similar products since people can read on their phones, but not competitors, since people will use smart phones for entirely different things.
  4. Do you have a flagship product? – Is it your most profitable product? What are the reasons for promoting one product over another? The answer to these questions will help you focus. This will help you first focus all your energy on ranking that product instead of the others.
  5. What are your most important keywords? – This question will help you back away from a mistaken belief that you have to rank for thousands of keywords. There are only ten really important keywords. Then there are the others.

Once you have a base of keywords, you have to use them to discover untapped opportunities. See, keyword research isn’t important just for building your current business. It it will also help you identify possible opportunities or neglected markets.

This doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You only need to pay attention to the data that might help you build your current business and find new markets.

Using tools like Google Insights, Keyword Tool and Trends will create a bulk of words within which, just with a casual scan, you can identify possible new opportunities.

Step #2: Keyword research for semantic understanding

As you develop your core keywords for SEO, next you want to shift into the area of semantic search keywords. There are a lot of advantages for having a keyword database like this:

  • Higher CTR – When you are using highly-targeted keywords, your CTR will improve. If all your conversion funnel elements are in place and optimized for semantic searches, your CTR will skyrocket.
  • Reduce bid amount – Naturally, if you are creating keywords that are more in-tune with what searchers want, you will reduce the cost of your pay-per-click campaigns: fewer, but higher-quality, clicks will result in less money spent.
  • Raise quality score – This situation then leads to semantically higher relevance for your keywords, for which the search engines will happily reward you since you are contributing value to the web.

So, let’s look at some of the ways to find semantic keywords. They are not as easy to determine as SEO keywords. I’ll show you the tools I use when analyzing a site and looking to build a semantic keyword database.

  • Optimizing semantic keywords around trends  One of my favorite strategies when it comes to staying in the public eye, and at the top of search rankings, is to develop keywords around trending topics. Fortunately, there are some great tools to use like Google Trends, Ice Rocket, Trendrr TV and TweetVolume.
  • Studying social bookmarking tags – Analyzing how tags are used in social bookmarking platforms is another good way to generate semantic keywords. I would use sites like Diigo, Pinterest, Licorize and Delicious.

To take things a step further, you can also use the advanced search. The quickest way to find semantic keywords is to search on Google and look at the advanced search results:

keyword research

Now click “related searches,

keyword research

All of your terms will appear:

keyword research

From the results above, you can determine that people are typically looking for brands when shopping. Knowing that is gold.

Google Instant will also give you further suggestions for semantic ideas that don’t show up in the “related search” results:

keyword research

Now, let me show you what semantic search is all about. Search for “laptop repair”,

keyword research

and you’ll see all of the similar keyword phrases. But when you look at Google Instant, you’ll get this:

keyword research

Now you have options related to location.

Obviously, you don’t scoop all of these terms up and dump them in your database. Keyword research involves careful sorting through and understanding of each phrase. Some will be obvious ones to use while others not so much. And then, you should use Google Insights to narrow down your keyword list by category:

keyword research

Semantic keyword research is as much about finding actual keywords you can use in your SEO campaigns as it is about building a complete profile of your target customer. And the better you can understand your target customer, the better your campaign results will be!

Step #3: Creating keywords for conversion

At this point, you should have dozens of files that you exported from dozens of keyword tools. Flipping back and forth between those files isn’t efficient, so you need to create a master table in a database that you can eventually export into Excel.

This is a trick I learned from Tom Schmitz, and you don’t need to know how to work a database to do it. You do need Microsoft Access. Here’s what you do:

  1. Put all of your keywords into one master file.
  2. Sort all your keywords into number of words and then number of searches.
  3. Identify all relevant keywords under three words.
  4. Identify all keywords that are embedded in larger phrases.
  5. Set traffic limits that are relevant to the site that you are trying to optimize. I’d recommend that a site that gets a ton of traffic have a higher traffic limit than a site with less traffic.
  6. Keep anything that is leftover, but only if it is relevant.

At the end, copy all the keywords you marked into one table. These are your keyword candidates.

The above steps are pretty typical for SEO keyword research that is done on a practical, efficient and effective level.

You are now ready to look at the conversion side of your keyword research. The basic rule is this: you need to assign keywords to a target page. If there is no target page, then you have a useless keyword.

Go through your keywords and assign target pages. This post by Rand will tell you how to target more than one phrase to a page.

Once you have assigned keywords, now you can think about tracking these keywords. Here’s what you need to look at:

  • Organic visitors – How many visitors do search engines bring from natural search for each particular keyword?
  • Exact match search – What is the volume of exact matches when people are searching and landing on your target page? The higher this number, the closer you are to targeting your consumer correctly.
  • Phrase match – You are looking at the volume of phrase matches for this one too. And the conclusion is the same: the higher the volume, the closer you are to targeting your consumer correctly.
  • Keyword diversity – How many different keywords are bringing in traffic? If you have a narrow variety of keywords, then you need to figure out how to expand that number. Are the keywords with low search volume relevant? Do you need to re-evaluate their effectiveness?


This three-step process of researching and identifying keywords will help you build a comprehensive and effective keyword plan that will help increase your traffic and, more importantly, boost your revenue.

I know the process above can be time-consuming, but if you don’t start off with a proper keyword plan, you’ll just end up flushing your money down the toilet.

Do you have any other advice for creating effective and profitable keywords?

P.S. If you need help picking the right keywords for your site click here.


  1. Amir @ Blue Mile Media :

    Keyword research is the definitely one of the most important things when it comes to SEO. I’ve gone after words with a lot of searches and got it to rank top 3 only to realize it’s not a converting keyword. After you do this for a while, you just learn what is good and what isn’t…but there’s always things that surprise you 😀

    How do you target and optimize pages when you have similar keywords?

    Example. widget 1, cool widget 1, features of widget 1…I don’t think you would make 3 separate pages. I personally optimize the page with the word that I feel is most profitable and use the other keywords to vary the anchor text.


  2. Harsh Agrawal :

    Really detailed guide…Neil do you recommend or suggest any software/tools to manage Keywords?

  3. I’m starting a new site and I choose to create a lot of contents rather then doing keyword research. Yes I try to look what people search and look for the related search. So I mixing the article for people and search engine at the same time, hope the article works for both of them.
    Thanks Neil.

    • Harsh Agrawal :

      Latief instead of working on too many content..Work on less quality content and targeting profitable Keywords which not only drive traffic but also helps in conversion.. This is one Key to successfully converting blog…

      • Investing Financial Freedom :

        You’re right, Harsh. It’s a waste of time and money working on content creation without profitable keywords to target. It maybe the best written content but what’s the use of it if the reader is only the writer itself. Then, I found out that continues aimless blogging is certainly unproductive.

      • Jessica Lee :

        I have to disagree with this comment. I think you should definitely try to strike a balance between great content and great keywords. You have to make sure that great content is being served to the right people. And keyword research and optimization helps. But without QUALITY content, you’re not serving the best interests of the end user. To me (and to Google), low-quality content shouldn’t be rewarded over quality content. Thoughts?

      • I rather feel that we should not misguide users to our poor quality content just for the sake of driving traffic. We should return the favor to our visitors by awesome content that will help them.

        And thumbs up, Jessica.

      • Quality Content is equally important.. You would not want drive quality customers to your site only to look at less quality content.

    • Web Design Resource :

      Before writing any of the content, if you research keywords and then after write content based on those keywords will help to target your niche audience. Keyword research is very important for writing very relative content.

  4. shapes for kids :

    Really good step-by-step guide. So far i only have been using the Google keyword tool for my keywords searches. But i have been noticing that a lot of my chosen keywords have been quite accidental and without a lot of science behind because i am still so new on SEO. Thank you for your tips!

    • Harsh Agrawal :

      Adword is a nice tool but you should also start looking into other tools like “Keyword blaze” “SEMRUSH” as it will help you find more Keywords…which you competitor is targeting and earlier one “Keyword blaze” will help you you to find more profitable long-tail Keyword..Try it one and you will know the difference between them and free Adword tool…

      • Karan Labra :

        Well, I’ve been using SEMrush for quite some time and yeah it is the only keyword research tool I’ve been using lately. In the earlier stages I used to use MicroNicheFinder to scrape out profitable niches but now I go with the stats provided by SEMrush and my gut feeling. Been working so far. 🙂

      • Thank you Harsh for you response. I appreciate you sharing these helpful tips with shapes of kids and the rest of the readers.

    • Thanks, let me know how these tips help.

  5. Another great, useful post to help us get more – and better – traffic. Thanks, Neil!

  6. Great post!

    Another good tip: you can actually snipe your competitors keywords by using’s keyword density tool which analyzes what keywords the site is targeting on-page. Also many sites actually have the ‘keywords’ meta tags filled out.

    Seeing what keywords your competitors are targeting gives you an idea of some of the keywords that are perhaps less obvious – but may convert well. Also, seeing the terms that they are *not* targeting might open the door for you to dominate certain words or phrases for cheap.

  7. Investing Financial Freedom :

    With Google showing more relevancy for keyword searches, I find it effective to come up with a post that targets one primary keyword and four secondary relevant keywords. I chose the primary to be high search volume but low competition keyword. While I chose the four secondary keywords for relevancy without thinking of the search volume and competition. What matters most is the primary keyword.

  8. Congratulation Neil, read your article on CCN today.

  9. Karan Labra :

    Just hit the search button buddy, there are already tons of posts here that can get you started.

    If you are so lazy that you can’t find some traffic generation tips using GOOGLE , then I guess IM is not for you.

  10. Nice and informative post. Maybe you can discuss how to embed keywords into the page on another article.

  11. Garavi Gujarat :

    Thanks for the this detailed post for keyword planing. can you recommend any software or any keyword tool for keyword plan?

  12. Really Detailed and rich article
    Google adwords also help with competive keywords

  13. There’s some useful approaches in this article Neil but like many posts of this nature it neglects to mention the strength of the competition. Ultimately you can identify keywords as relevant and good converters but if your competition is stronger then you have to take a different – possibly staged – approach to SEO.

    • Good point Jason, thanks for brining that up. Competitors are always something you should be aware of.

  14. Very insightful tips on keyword research, thanks a ton Neil.

  15. Very good Post..and at the right time for me..
    Everybody must learn one lesson from this post is. .
    the game is about quality and not quantity..
    Most people look for more and more visitors and waste their time on non converting visitors. Focus on your keywords, drive quality customers, and earn more with less efforts.
    80-20 Rule – (Vilfredo Pareto) well explained by Tim Ferris on CJ Live.. Here’s the link..

  16. My site has one main keyword: Infographics!
    Check it out and share!

  17. Key word research does matter alot.
    some days ago i wrote a post similar to this one..
    keyword rocks

  18. some tricks are new to me, will use them to crosscheck the strength of my present keywords…

  19. Joe Sanchez :

    Wow, this was excellent information and links to other tips.


  20. Tanya Smith Lorenz :

    Phew – a lot to digest in that post Neil – thanks for doing your best to keep it (just about) understandable for those of us still getting to grips with SEO foundations! Definitely a post to bookmark and work through gradually. Much appreciated

  21. it will be difficult to rank in search engine if we do not consider keyword research in every content we create. thanks for the insight

  22. Hi Neil, with Google changing the ranking algorithms do you think more weight is on keywords or description and page titles?

  23. Get good grades :

    It’s amazing that there are still people who only arrive at keyword research at all as an afterthought once they have a site operating, they went about the process in a very mixed up order instead of doing that vital step at the start. Top quality post.

    • Thanks, many people don’t know what they need. That is why I love to blog and try to help my readers learn something new and helpful. As well as hopefully learn something new from them as well.

  24. Reagan McClellan :

    Hey thanks for all the information man, I never thought of choosing certain keywords to increase my CTR!

  25. Andrew Youderian :

    Great, actionable plan! A few things I’ve learned from keyword research and my own sites:

    1) Targeting a top money term right away is usually not the best way to use your marketing and SEO resources. It will be the hardest to rank for (more competition) and the conversion rates will be lower than more specific searches. Plus, I’ve found even a #1 ranking in Google will only receive 25% to 30% of a search’s overall traffic, especially now that Google has been more aggressive with ads above the SERPs.

    Going after the long-tail variations is a much-better strategy. You’ll be able to rank for them more quickly, and they should convert at a much higher rate. I’ve found 80% to 90% of my traffic comes from long-tail keywords, even on sites that rank very well (#1 or #2 listing) for the primary keywords. The real money is in the long-tail, and offers the best ROI, too.

    Plus, if you structure your site correctly, deep-linking to long-tail optimized pages will boost your overall domain authority and result in you naturally ranking higher for the money terms.

  26. Having a keyword plan is so important. Without it you might have trouble getting more traffic in the long run. Plus, having a keyword plan will help you stay focused, get more traffic down the road and become more successful at getting targeted traffic.

  27. wordpress installation service :

    I think keyword research is the heart of the internet marketing industry , am sure that these steps will definitely helpful for all the business owners to pick their right keywords..

  28. DaddyDotNET :

    Hi Neil, Thanks for sharing amazing staff.

    I have a question.

    At the moment i am building content for a long teil keywords, because i am more concentrated to hire 100+ top search results on LTK instead head keywords, but i choosed to do it through Blog, what do you think about it? should i use the Blog for a long tail keyword ranking content, or should i use under like any static inner-pages..

    What’s make a sense?


  29. Online Mastering :

    damn, so much thought put into keywords. but i’m stuck in a group where i really only have one useful keyword…mastering. you can tack “online”, “audio”, or “music” in front of it, but thats about it….so my options are pretty limited to say the least

  30. Embedding keyword in post is really simple but the important thing is whole post content should be similar to that keyword and point that keyword in some way ..

  31. emobile_developer :

    Hi Neil…I would like to say that you really revealed a secrete file of effective and profitable keyword plan. Actually, the keyword planning is the main part of SEO process and it should be effective as much as possible. Mostly i use Google keyword research tool whenever it comes to keyword research but i can see there are several things that should be considered. This information helped me a lot for grow up my keyword research ability. I appreciate. Thanks.

  32. Keyword planning is one of the most important things you have to do before creating a website or even before buying domain. I do find Google Keyword Tools very useful, but of course you have to choose good niche and to check competition.

  33. I have just set up around 20 keywords, and looks like im not doing that great.

    By mistake i inserted the keyword “Buy” to the Google adwords. That was fast 100$ gone, and absolutely no relevant viewers.

    Lesson learnt i guess! maybe i should have read this article before creating my keywords..

  34. Fever in Toddlers :

    Does your competition keep you awake at night? Make it a source of knowledge, not a source of stress.

  35. Tapha at MyAppTemplates :

    The interesting thing about keywords is that sometimes you find that the most random ones, are the most profitable for whatever reason. It takes a while to pin down why.

  36. Hi Neil. I would like to thank you for all your efforts to help us and providing valuable tips for free.

  37. atividades educativas :

    This article was just what i needed to start planning my new website and what keywords to target with it! So far i have been only thinking about numbers and not so much about quality. Good to open my eyes with your tips!

  38. Simple SEO Rank Checker Reviews :

    I strongly believe is we all who have blog on the internet must monitor our search engine ranks often for improvin our blog.

  39. very useful information on SEO keyword research. My site is only a few months old and i am completely new to SEO I got my keywords from what I thought what the customer would type into Google, obviously doing the above has given me a quite a bit more to play with

  40. hey neil,
    i liked this post. well elaborated contents. great idea about SEO keyword research. it is guideline for all of us.



  41. great ,thank you so much

  42. Hello,
    Google showing more relevancy for keyword searches, I find it effective to come up with a post that targets one primary keyword and four secondary relevant keywords.

  43. Hi Neil,
    good article. is working on a tutoring market and after keyword research I found that all relevant keywords have “high competition”. What would you recommend to do in this case?

  44. Aru Martino :

    So far, I rarely use a keyword analyzer …

    Thanks Neil.

  45. Gamis Muslimah :

    Very interesting post. really informative. of all the blogs I have read on the same topic, this one is actually enlightening.

  46. Rino Wijaya :

    I’m starting a new site and I choose to create a lot of contents rather then doing keyword research.

  47. Thanks for this great information. But since the Google Keyword Tool has been changed to Planner, i think that is more usefull for us to find the related keyword.

    especially newbie like me 🙂

    • Shyfa, great point. It’s all about finding keywords that relate to your niche. Related keywords are often helpful because they provide you with alternatives that you may have never thought of.

  48. I read a lot about keywords planner and read more and make more and more confused, now from the many articles, only this time I feel enlightened. Thank you very much Neil 🙂

  49. When deciding to create a new site that is most important is to find keywords in accordance with the needs of humans and search engines. So it can meet the needs of both.
    Thank you Neil.

  50. article thank you very much, very helpful once I as a beginner in internet marketing

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  66. :

    Really Detailed and rich article
    Google adwords also help with competive keywords

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