How to Build a Keyword List

Perhaps the most important task in any search engine marketing campaign – whether it is for organic search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC or SEM) advertising, is building a list of relevant and searched keywords.

Unfortunately, most people do not know what keywords are actually being used to find what they are offering. Developing a list of keywords takes time and patience. In order to create and develop a comprehensive set of keywords, plan on spending at least 8 hours of work, if not more. It could actually take days to develop your first list, and from there on, it is an ongoing process.

Here are the basic steps to conducting keyword research for either organic search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

    1. Identify your target audience
    2. Brainstorm
    3. Review your log files
    4. Research and analyze the top-ranked sites
    5. Research and analyze your direct competition
    6. Employ Google Adwords keyword tool
    7. Employ other keyword sources
    8. Sort and filter keyword list

FAQ: What tools can I use to gather relevant SEO and PPC keywords?

Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience

The first step is to identify your target audience. Who are they? Are they performing the search at home, in the office, or both? It may be helpful to assign titles and personas for the target audience to help determine and organize what words they use and how they search.

Step 2: Brainstorm

With your target audience defined, proceed with a brainstorming session. Write down as many keywords you think your target audience would employ to find your products and services and enter them into a spreadsheet master list file. Do not edit this list, even if some of the keywords are too broad.

Step 3: Review Your Log Files

Next, review your log files for other keywords. Log files are the files your Web server keeps about each and every visitor to your website. Each time a person (or search engine spider) comes to your site, a file is created about that visitor that contains helpful information. Using a log file analyzer or Web analytics, learn which search engines people came from, what keywords they used to find your site, what time of day and day of the week they visited, what browser they used, and more.

Step 4: Research and Analyze the Top-Ranked Sites

Next, take the keyword list and enter these keywords into Google, and MSN adCenter. Now visit these top-ranked sites and review the Meta tags (Title, Description, and Keywords tags) of these sites. If these top-ranked sites have good keywords that apply to your business, then add them to your list.

Step 5: Research and Analyze Your Direct Competition

Now visit your competitor sites. Once again, review the Meta tags, including Title, Description, and Keyword tags of these sites. If these top-ranked sites have good keywords that apply to your business, then add them to your list.

At this point in the development of a keyword list, most people feel they have a good list – that is until they have used one of the keyword tools. The next step is to use some commercially available tools to identify other keywords and to help validate your current list.

Step 6: Employ Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Google offers a keyword tool as part of its Adwords program. The Google Adwords keyword tool is also available at no charge. Here at Bruce Clay, Inc., we are also Google AdWords qualified. The Google Adwords keyword tool allows you to build extensive, relevant keyword lists through its interface. The tool will provide keyword ideas and traffic estimations for existing and new keywords and allow the addition of keywords directly to your ad groups.

It also allows you to find keywords based on your site’s content. Instead of filling out your own set of keywords, use the “website content” option. Simply enter the URL of your website, and AdWords will extract relevant keywords based on your site.

It will identify negative keywords, too. The keyword tool will depict keywords that don’t apply to your business. You can elect to add the suggested keyword terms to your campaign or ad groups as negative keywords. This will keep your ad from showing on searches for keywords unrelated to your business, which will help keep only interested customers seeing your ads.

As you have done before, add the new keywords to the master keyword list.

Tip: Don’t worry about duplicate keywords or keyword phrases; they will be consolidated later.

To help you get started, we’ve created a walk-through on how to use Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool.

Step 7: Employ Other Keyword Sources

We recommend clients obtain data from other sources that might apply to their industry, association, or special interest group. To make sure we have exhausted our keyword list, some of these are subscription-based; visit the Keyword Discovery tool,,,, or WordTracker.

Step 8: Sort and Filter Keyword List

The final step in building a keyword list for organic search engine optimization or pay-per-click program is to sort and filter the list. You really need to review each keyword by itself and then decide if this is a targeted keyword. At a minimum, you should apply three filters to the keywords:

1. Relevancy
2. Popularity
3. Conversion

The keywords should be relevant to the site, be reasonably popular, and have a high likelihood of or a history of converting well. Once you determine what keywords you want to bid on, the next step is to decide how you want the search engines to match them up to user queries. Do you want your ad served up only if the query is an exact match, or is it OK to have other relevant words in the query string?

If you decide to use broad matching, you might also want to apply a filter to keep out queries for certain words that do not apply to your product or service. Proceed to the next section for more information on keyword matching.

Since we’ve got you, Bruce Clay offers industry-leading PPC and SEM services. Get in touch today!

FAQ: What tools can I use to gather relevant SEO and PPC keywords?

Employing the right tools for gathering relevant keywords is pivotal to crafting compelling Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns.

The Essence of Keyword Research Tools

Keyword research tools guide marketers through the labyrinth of online searches. A prime example is Google Keyword Planner, a stalwart for SEO and PPC campaigns. Harnessing its insights grants access to search volumes, competition levels, and suggestions, facilitating the selection of keywords that strike the perfect balance between relevance and competition.

The Power of Diversification with SEMrush

SEMrush, another indispensable tool, stands as a paragon of diversification. Not only does it provide a panoramic view of organic and paid search keywords, but it also furnishes competitors’ keywords—a wellspring of inspiration. Its prowess lies in unraveling long-tail keywords, instrumental in capturing niche audiences while minimizing fierce competition.

UberSuggest — Where Intuition Meets Data

UberSuggest merges intuition with data-driven insights. Its user-friendly interface belies its potency in generating keyword ideas from a single seed keyword. Beyond keyword suggestions, it unveils a treasure trove of content ideas, backlink data, and traffic estimations, making it a multifaceted companion in your marketing voyage.

Answering the Call with AnswerThePublic

In the quest to decipher user intent, AnswerThePublic shines. Visualizing search queries as a constellation of curiosity offers a glimpse into users’ questions, unraveling a tapestry of intent. This tool is the North Star for content creation, aligning your offerings with what your audience actively seeks.

SpyFu — Espionage for Strategic Advantage

Competitive intelligence reigns supreme in the digital arena, and SpyFu excels in this realm. Uncovering competitors’ most profitable keywords and ad copy history gives you invaluable insights for informed decisions. It’s not just about search; it’s about strategy.

The digital landscape unfurls many keyword research tools, each with unique facets. Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, UberSuggest, AnswerThePublic, and SpyFu form an ensemble that empowers your SEO and PPC endeavors. As you embark on your journey to keyword mastery, remember that the right tools are the wind beneath your marketing wings.

Step-by-Step Procedure: Gathering Relevant SEO and PPC Keywords

  1. Define Campaign Goals: Clearly outline your SEO and PPC campaign objectives to align your keyword research with your desired outcomes.
  2. Brainstorm Seed Keywords: Begin with a list of core terms relevant to your business or industry.
  3. Utilize Google Keyword Planner: Enter seed keywords to access search volume, competition, and suggestions.
  4. Explore SEMrush: Identify organic and paid keywords and analyze competitor keyword strategies.
  5. Tap into UberSuggest: Input seed keywords to receive many keyword suggestions, content ideas, and traffic estimations.
  6. Discover AnswerThePublic: Visualize user questions related to your keywords to decipher search intent and generate content ideas.
  7. Leverage SpyFu: Gain insights into competitors’ profitable keywords and historical ad performance.
  8. Prioritize Long-Tail Keywords: Identify and prioritize longer, specific keyword phrases that cater to niche audiences.
  9. Analyze Keyword Difficulty: Use tools like Moz’s Keyword Difficulty to assess the competition level for selected keywords.
  10. Consider Searcher Intent: Group keywords based on intent—informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional.
  11. Build a Keyword List: Create a comprehensive list of selected keywords, categorizing them based on relevance and intent.
  12. Utilize Negative Keywords: For PPC campaigns, compile a list of negative keywords to refine your audience targeting.
  13. Implement Keywords Organically: Seamlessly integrate keywords into website content, meta tags, and headings for SEO.
  14. Craft PPC Ad Copy: Develop compelling ad copy that aligns with keywords and resonates with your target audience.
  15. Monitor and Refine: Continuously track keyword performance using analytics tools and make necessary adjustments.
  16. Optimize Landing Pages: Ensure landing pages correspond to chosen keywords to enhance user experience and conversions.
  17. A/B Testing for PPC: Conduct A/B tests on PPC ads and landing pages to optimize click-through and conversion rates.
  18. Stay Abreast of Trends: Regularly update your keyword strategy to adapt to shifting search trends and market dynamics.
  19. Localize Keywords: Include geo-specific keywords to capture local search traffic if applicable.
  20. Iterate and Improve: Keyword research is an iterative process; consistently refine your strategy for optimal results.

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