Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide

This is the ultimate guide to keyword research in 2020.

In this comprehensive guide I’ll cover:

  • How to find keywords
  • How to choose the right keywords
  • How to use keyword research tools
  • Advanced keyword research tips
  • Lots more

So if you want higher Google rankings and more traffic, you’ll love this guide.

Let’s get started.


Chapter 1:Keyword Research Basics

Keyword Research Basics

In this chapter I’ll cover the fundamentals of keyword research.

First, you’ll learn exactly what keyword research is (and why it’s important for SEO).

I’ll also show you how keyword research helped grow my site’s search engine traffic to 150k+ unique visitors per month.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of discovering words and phrases that people use in search engines with the ultimate goal of optimizing content around those terms.

Why is Keyword Research Important for SEO?

Keyword research impacts every other SEO task that you perform, including finding content topics, on-page SEO, and outreach and promotion.

Why is keyword research important for SEO

That’s why keyword research is usually the first step of any SEO campaign.

Put another way:

Keywords are like a compass for your SEO campaigns: they tell you where to go and whether or not you’re making progress.

As a bonus, researching keywords help you figure out the thoughts, fears, and desires of your target market. That’s because keywords research gives you tremendous insight into what potential customers searching for… and the exact words and phrases that they use.

In fact, keyword research is just market research for the 21st century.

How Keyword Research Helped My Site’s Traffic Grow

Today, my site generates 302,749 visitors every month:

Backlinko – Current Monthly Traffic

And 200,706 of those visitors (66.29%) come from Google:

Backlinko – Current Organic Traffic

Obviously, there are a lot of factors that went into my site’s success with SEO, including content, on-site optimization, link building and technical SEO.

But the #1 factor that contributed to my site’s traffic growth was keyword research.

For example:

A few months ago I used the strategies from this guide to uncover an awesome, low-competition keyword: mobile SEO.

And I created a piece of SEO-optimized content around that term: The Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO.

Mobile SEO Guide

Because that keyword wasn’t super competitive, my site quickly hit the #1 spot in Google:

Mobile SEO Guide – SERP rank

And thanks to that #1 ranking, that single page brings in hundreds of visitors from Google every month:

Mobile SEO Guide – Organic Traffic

With that, it’s time for chapter 2.

Chapter 2:How to Find Keyword Ideas

How to Find Keyword Ideas

Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of keyword research.

Specifically, it’s time to generate a list of keywords.

And in this chapter I’m going to show you proven strategies that you can use to come up with keyword ideas.

Let’s dive right in.

Brainstorm a List of Topics

Here’s where you come up with topics that your target customer is interested in.

For example, let’s say that you run a digital marketing agency.

Well, you’d want to ask yourself: ”What topics do people search for that are related to my business?”

Some topics that come to mind would be things like:

  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Website traffic
  • Content marketing
  • Blogging
  • PPC

Note: These topics aren’t keywords. They’re broad topics that you’ll ultimately use to drill down to specific keywords.

Which is exactly what you’re going to learn how to do right now…

Use Google and YouTube Suggest

Now that you have a list of topics, type each one of them into Google.

Google Content Marketing

And see what terms that Google Suggests to you.

Google Content Marketing – Suggestions

These are great keywords to add to your list.


Because if Google suggests a keyword, you KNOW that lots of people are searching for it.

But you don’t need to stop with Google Suggest.

You can also find keyword suggestions with YouTube Suggest:

"Content Marketing" – YouTube suggest

Searches Related To

Another cool way to find keywords is to check out the “Searches Related to” section at the bottom of Google’s search results.

For example, let’s say one of your topics was “content marketing”.

Well, you’d want to search for that keyword in Google.

"Content Marketing" – Google results

And scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll find a list of 8 keywords that are closely related to your search term.

"Content Marketing" – Related searches

Just like with Google Suggest, these are keyword ideas that come straight from Google. So you don’t need to guess whether or not they’re popular. Google is literally telling you: “Tons of people search for these keywords.”

Pro Tip: Click on one of the “Searches Related To” keywords.

Types of content marketing – Select

Then, scroll to the bottom of THOSE results. This will give you a new list of related keywords. Rinse and repeat.


Find Keywords on Reddit

Chances are your target audience hangs out on Reddit.

Which means, with a little stalking, you can find fistfuls of Niche Topics with ease.

Here’s how:

Let’s say that you run a site that sells organic dog food.

You’d head over to Reddit. Then search for a broad topic that your target audience is interested in… and something that’s related to what you sell.

Reddit search – "dogs"

Then, choose a subreddit where your audience probably hangs out:

Reddit – Community – Dogs

Finally, keep an eye out for threads that have lots of comments, like this:

Reddit – Dogs – Comments

In this case you’d add “dog food allergies” to your keyword ideas list.

Pro Tip: Scrape common words and phrases from a subreddit with a free keyword tool called “Keyworddit”. This tool scans Reddit for words and phrases that people use… and sorts those phrases by monthly search volume.

Keyworddit – Results

Very cool.

Wikipedia Table of Contents

Wikipedia is an often-overlooked goldmine of niche research.

Where else can you find articles curated by thousands of industry experts… all organized into neat little categories?

Here’s how to use Wikipedia to find keyword ideas.

First, head over to Wikipedia and type in a broad keyword:

Wikipedia – "Coffee" search

That will take you to the Wikipedia entry for that broad topic.

Wikipedia – "Coffee" page

Then, look for the “contents” section of the page. This section lists out the subtopics covered on that page.

Wikipedia – Contents

And some of the subtopics listed here are awesome keywords that would be tough to find any other way:

Wikipedia – Contents keywords

You can also click on some of the internal links on the page to check out the Table of Contents of other, closely related entries.

For example, on the coffee entry we have a link to “Coffee Preparation”:

Wikipedia – Cross link

When you click on that link, you’ll notice that the table of contents for the Coffee Preparation page has even more keywords that you can add to your list:

Wikipedia – "Coffee preparation"

Pretty cool.

Find Popular Topics Using Forums

Forums are like having live focus groups at your fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The easiest way to find forums where your target audience hangs out is to use these search strings in Google:

“keyword forum”
“keyword” + “forum”
“keyword” + “forums”
“keyword” + “board”

Once you find a forum, note how the forum is divided up into sections: Each of these sections are potential keywords that you can add to your list.

Home Barista Forums

To dig deeper, check out some of the threads on the forum to find other specific topics that your target audience struggles with:

Home Barista – Brewing

Pretty cool, right?

Chapter 3:Keyword Research Tools

Keyword Research Tools

This chapter is all about tools.

Can you find keywords without a tool?


But a tool makes the entire process A LOT easier.

With that, here are the keyword research tools that I personally use and recommend.

Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere might be my favorite keyword research tool.


Because it shows you keyword ideas from different places around the web (including YouTube, Bing and Google Analytics).

Keywords Everywhere – Google

All you need to do is install the Chrome extension. And the next time you visit one of the sites that Keywords Everywhere integrates with, you’ll see a list of keyword ideas… and data on each keyword.

Keywords Everywhere – Results


Ubersuggest was the first Google suggest scraper that I used. And last year the tool got a massive upgrade and overhaul.


Ubersuggest still generates keyword ideas from Google’s search suggestions. But it also gives you data on each keyword (like search volume, CPC, keyword difficulty and more).

Ubersuggest – Results

The Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner is THE most reliable source of keyword information online.

Google Keyword Planner

That’s because, unlike most other tools, the data you get from the Keyword Planner come straight from Google.

(So you know they’re accurate)

The big downside of the GKP is that it’s designed to help people with their Google ad campaigns… not with SEO.

That said, you can still use the GKP to get lists of keyword ideas…

Google Keyword Results

…and find search queries that get lots of searches.

Google Keyword Volume


If you want to invest in a paid keyword tool, I HIGHLY recommend SEMrush.

That’s because SEMrush is a HUGE time saver.

Here’s why…

Instead of popping random keywords into a tool, SEMrush shows you the exact keywords that a site already ranks for.

So if you have a site that you’re competing against in Google, just pop it into SEMrush.

SEMrush – Search

And steal all of their keywords.

SEMrush – Keywords "backlinko"



Most people see Ahrefs as a link building tool.

But not as many people know that Ahrefs also has a REALLY good keyword tool.

What’s nice about Ahrefs “Keyword Explorer” is that you get a ton of helpful data on each keyword.

Ahrefs – "Keyword Research" – Overview

Which can help you decide whether or not it’s a keyword that’s worth going after.

My one gripe with Keyword Explorer is that it’s not great at coming up with new keyword ideas. It usually generates keywords that are just simple variations of the keyword I typed in.

Ahrefs – Search suggestions

That said:

When it comes to analyzing a single term, you can’t do much better than the features found in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.

Chapter 4:Keyword Difficulty

Keyword Difficulty

How do you know if a keyword is too competitive to rank for?

It’s a good question to ask.

Because if you choose a keyword that’s super competitive, you might have trouble getting past Google’s third page.

But if you can find a keyword without a ton of competition, you have a good chance of cracking the top 3.

With that, here’s how to figure out a keyword’s SEO difficulty.

Long Tails Are (Usually) Less Competitive

If your site is brand new.

Or if you want to focus 100% on keywords that aren’t competitive.

Then you DEFINITELY want to target long tail keywords.

I’ll explain…

Most people in SEO (myself included) divide keywords into three main categories: head, body and the (long) tail.

Keyword category division

Here’s a breakdown of each keyword type:

Head Terms

These are usually single-word keywords with lots of search volume…and competition. Examples of head terms are keywords like “insurance” or “vitamins”. Because searcher intent is all over the place (someone searching for “insurance” might be looking for a car insurance quote, a list of life insurance companies or a definition of the word), Head Terms usually don’t convert very well.

Body Keywords

Body keywords are 2-3 word phrases that get decent search volume (at least 2,000 searches per month), but are more specific than Head Keywords. Keywords like “life insurance” or “order vitamins online” are examples of Body Keywords. These almost always have less competition than Head Terms.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are long, 4+ word phrases that are usually very specific. Phrases like “affordable life insurance for senior citizens” and “order vitamin D capsules online” are examples of long tail keywords. These terms don’t get a lot of search volume individually (usually around 10-200 searches per month). But when you add them together, long tails make up the majority of searches online. And because they don’t get searches for that much, long tail terms usually aren’t very competitive.

There’s no “best” keyword category to focus on. All 3 have their pros and cons.

But when it comes to competition, long tails are usually the least competitive of the bunch.

Authority of Sites on Google’s First Page

Here’s a quick way to evaluate a keyword’s competition level.

First, search for your keyword in Google.

"CRM" search

Then, look at the sites ranking on the first page.

"CRM" first page results

(Not individual pages)

If the first page is made up of uber authority sites (like Wikipedia), then you might want to cross that keyword off from your list:

Uber – Authority sites

But if you see a handful of smaller blogs on page 1, that’s a sign that you have a shot to hit the first page too.

Smaller blogs

Keyword Difficulty Inside of Keyword Tools

The vast majority of keyword research tools have some sort of keyword competition feature, including SEMRush:

SEMrush competition


Ahrefs – Keyword Difficulty


KWFinder – Competition

And Moz Pro:

Moz competition

I’ve tested all of them. And I find that they all size up keyword difficulty based on a combination of page authority and domain authority. So they all tend to come up with the same competition numbers.

Bottom Line? If your favorite keyword tool includes a keyword difficulty feature, go with that. You probably don’t need to invest in another tool just to see how competitive a keyword is.


Believe it or not, but there’s an entire tool dedicated to keyword difficulty: CanIRank.

"Can I Rank?"

What I like about this tool is that it doesn’t just spit out a keyword difficulty number. Instead, it evaluates a keyword’s competition level relative to your website.

For example, I recently popped the keyword “SEO” into CanIRank.

And the tool looked at Google’s first page competition compared to my site’s authority. And it gave me a “Ranking Probability” of 90%:

"Cank I Rank? – 90%"

Super helpful.

Chapter 5:How to Choose a Keyword

How to Choose a Keyword

Now that you have a list of keywords, how do you know which one to pick?

Unfortunately, there’s no tool out there that will tell you: “This is the best keyword on your list”.

Instead, you need to size up each keyword based on a handful of different factors. Then, pick the keyword that’s the best fit for your business.

As you might expect, that’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to do in this chapter.

Search Volume

This is pretty straightforward.

The more people search for a keyword, the more traffic you can get from it.

The question is:

What’s a “good” search volume?

Short answer: it depends.

The long answer:

Search volumes between industries are VERY different.

For example, a long tail keyword in the fitness niche (like: “best ab exercises”) gets 10K-100K searches per month:

"best ab exercises"

But a long tail keyword in a B2B space like digital marketing (like: “best seo software”) only gets 100-1K monthly searches.

"best seo software"

That’s why you want to figure out what a “high” and “low” search volume number is in your niche.

Then, choose keywords based on what’s normal for your industry.

Organic Click-Through-Rate

It’s no secret that the number of Google searchers that click on an organic search result is way down.

Google – Organic CTR

And it’s no wonder why.

Featured Snippets make it so you don’t need to click on anything to get an answer:

"SEO" – Google Featured Snippets

Plus, Google now packs the search results with more ads than ever before:

"SEO tools" – Google Ads

The bottom line?

Search volume only gives you part of the story. To get a full estimate of how many clicks you’ll get from a first page Google ranking, you also need to estimate organic CTR.

Here are two simple ways to do it…

First, you can look at the SERPs (Search Engine Result Page) for your keyword.

If you see a lot of stuff on the first page (like a Featured Snippet and multiple Google Adwords ads), then you know that you’re not going to get a ton of clicks… even if you rank #1.

"SEO tools" SERPs

Second, you can use a tool.

Ahrefs and Moz pro both estimate organic CTR.

Organic CTR – Compare

With all that said:

I wouldn’t avoid a keyword just because it has a low CTR. If lots of people search for that term, it might still be worth going after.


I covered this in Chapter 4.

But to recap:

If your site is new (or doesn’t have a ton of links yet), target low-competition terms at first.

Then, as your site grows in authority, you can start to target more competitive stuff.

For example:

When I first launched Backlinko, I targeted almost 100% long tail keywords (like: “how to get backlinks”).

And because I didn’t have a ton of sites to compete with, I was able to crack the first page within a few weeks. Which helped me achieve some early SEO success.

Early SEO success

Today, my site has backlinks from over 19k different domains:

Ahrefs – Backlinko – Referring Domains

So I can target more competitive keywords (like: “voice search”).

"voice search" rank


CPC (cost per click) is a single metric that answers one important question:

Do people searching for this keyword actually spend money?

So yeah, search volume is nice and all.

But if the person searching for that keyword is broke, then there’s no point in targeting that term.

Plus, you can sometimes get a great ROI from a keyword that doesn’t get that many searches… if the CPC is high enough.

For example, one of my target keywords is “link building services”.

Link Building Services

According to the Google Keyword Planner, this keyword gets around 10-100 searches per month.

"link building service" – Searches

So if I ONLY looked at search volume, I’d say: “This is a horrible keyword”.

That’s why it’s super important to ALSO look at CPC.

The CPC on that keyword is $7.15.

"link building service" price

Which means that people are spending $7.15 every time someone searching for that keyword clicks on an ad.

So even though the search volume for that term isn’t that high, the CPC more than makes up for it.

Based on CPC (and the fact that the keyword wasn’t super competitive) I decided to create content optimized around that term.

And that blog post now ranks in the top 3 for my target keyword.

"link building services"

Business Fit

Here’s where you look at how likely it is that someone searching for a keyword will become a customer.

Yup, CPC helps you figure this out. But it doesn’t tell the entire story.

For example, a few weeks ago I came across the keyword: “backlink checker”.

On the surface, this is a great keyword.

It gets a decent amount of searches:

"backlink checker"

And has a $4.01 CPC:

"backlink checker" price

It’s also not that competitive.

So this keyword is a winner, right?

Well… not really.

You see, Backlinko is an SEO training company. Which means I don’t sell a backlink analysis tool. So even if I DID rank #1 for that keyword, it wouldn’t do me much good.

Contrast that with a keyword like “YouTube SEO”.

This keyword’s CPC is only $2.22.

"youtube seo" – Price

But considering that I sell a YouTube training course, this term is a 10/10 in terms of business fit.

Which is why I wrote a piece of content around that keyword:

How to Rank on YouTube

Keyword Trends

Finally, you want to see if your keyword is growing fast… or dying slow.

And the best way to do that? Google Trends.

For example, last year I was considering the keyword: “voice search SEO”.

But I decided to pop that keyword into Google Trends before pulling the trigger.

As you can see, interest in that keyword is growing fast.

Google Trends – Voice Search

Which is why I optimized this page around that term.

Voice Search SEO study

Even though that piece of content only brings in about 1k monthly search engine visitors per month today…

Voice Search traffic

…the trend tells me that traffic to this post should increase over time.

Chapter 6:Advanced Tips and Strategies

Advanced Tips & Strategies

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of keyword research, it’s time to cover some cool advanced stuff.

Specifically, I’m going to reveal a bunch of tactical keyword research tips that you can implement right away.

So without further ado, let’s dive right into the tips.

Barnacle SEO

Let’s say that you found the PERFECT keyword.

And you rank in the top 3 for that term.

You’re pretty much done, right?

Actually… not really.

As it turns out, you can get even MORE traction from that keyword with Barnacle SEO.

Barnacle SEO is the practice of using other sites’ authority to rank on the first page.

For example, one of my best keywords (in terms of conversions) is: YouTube SEO.

Like I mentioned earlier, I wrote a post about YouTube SEO. And that post ranks #1 in Google for that keyword.

"YouTube SEO" rank

Sure, a #1 ranking is great. But it’s still only one spot in the SERPs.

That’s why I created a YouTube video optimized for that keyword…

YouTube video

…a video that also ranks on Google’s first page.

"Youtube SEO" – Video ranking

Bottom line? If you find an amazing keyword, you want to take up as much first page real estate as you can. First, create content on that topic on your own site. Then, publish keyword-optimized content on authority sites, like YouTube, LinkedIn, Medium and more.

GSC Keyword Research

The Google Search Console is a goldmine of keyword ideas.

Here’s how it works:

First, login to your GSC account and head over to the “Performance Report”.

GSC Performance report

This report shows you the terms that bring in the most clicks from Google search.

GSC – Performance Report

Then, sort the list by “Impressions”.

GSC – Performance Report – Impressions

This shows you keywords that get lots of impressions… but not necessarily clicks.

GSC – Clicks .vs. Impressions

Finally, create a piece of content optimized around that same keyword.

Why is this a powerful strategy?

These are keywords that you KNOW people are searching for. You also know that Google sees your site as a good fit in the search results.

You just need to publish content that’s super focused on that specific keyword (or optimize a piece of existing content around that keyword) and you’re set.

Optimize Content around Synonyms and Related Keywords

Yes, you want to optimize your page around your main keyword.

But don’t stop there.

You can get even more search engine traffic to your page by optimizing it around synonyms and closely related terms.

I’ll show you how this works with a real life example.

Earlier this year I published this post on my blog.

Backlinko – Definitive Guide

As you can probably guess, my target keyword for that page is: “build backlinks”.

But I also made sure to sprinkle in variations of that keyword, like: “get backlinks”.

Forbes – Get backlinks

In the end, I was able to rank in the top 5 for my main keyword…

"build backlinks" – Top 5

…and lots of keyword variations.

"get backlinks" – Top 5

Ahrefs Content Gap

Content Gap has quickly become one of my favorite features in Ahrefs.

Here’s how it works:

Just like with SEMRush, you can use Ahrefs to see the exact keywords another site ranks for.

And with Ahrefs Content Gap, you can take this type of competitor analysis to the next level.

Here’s how:

Head over to Ahrefs content gap. And put in 2-3 competing sites.

Ahrefs – Content gap

This will show you keywords that at least 2 of your competitors rank for… but you don’t.

Competitors keywords

And because multiple competitors rank for these terms, you know that you also have a good chance of cracking the top 10.

Analyze Keywords Based on Searcher Intent

In other words, ask yourself:

What does someone searching for this keyword want to see?

Are they looking to buy? For information? Or are they looking for a specific page (like a login page)?

For example:

I recently created a post that ranks #3 for the keyword “BuzzStream”.

BuzzStream – Results

Even though that keyword gets around 2k searches/month, that post only brings in 194 monthly visitors.

BuzzStream – Visitors

What gives?

Well, as it turns out, “BuzzStream” is a navigational keyword.

Which means that most people that search for that keyword are looking for the website… not information about BuzzStream.

So yeah, that keyword looked great at first glance. But because it’s a navigational keyword, VERY few people click on anything but the first result. Which is why that post gets so little traffic.

That’s why I recommend looking at the Searcher Intent of a keyword.

Types of user intent

If the Searcher Intent is “Navigational”, then you may want to avoid that term… even if it has great CPC and monthly search volume numbers.

(As you just saw, this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way)

But if Searcher Intent is “Informational”, then a piece of content optimized around that term could do GREAT.

Find “Shoulder Keywords”

Most people ONLY optimize their site around keywords that are very closely related to what they sell.

And it’s a BIG mistake for two main reasons:

1. Keywords that people use to find your products are usually super competitive.
2. There are thousands of keywords that your potential customer searches for when they’re not searching for that you sell.

And if you can get in front of your customer with an awesome piece of content, they’re SUPER likely to buy from you down the road.

For example, like I mentioned earlier, I run an SEO training company.

But I don’t optimize every page on my site around commercial terms.

(Like “SEO training” and “SEO courses”).

Instead, I rank for keywords that my customers search for when they’re not looking for SEO training.

(Keywords like: “link building”, “on-page SEO” and “SEO Tools”).

Shoulder keyword collage

I call these keywords “Shoulder Keywords”.

These keywords aren’t directly related to what you sell. But they’re keywords that your customers search for. Which makes them worth going after.

How about another example?

Let’s say you run an Ecommerce site that sells basketball hoops.

Obviously, you’d want to optimize some of your pages around terms like “buy basketball hoops online”.

But don’t stop there.

After all, someone interested in buying a basketball hoop may also search for:

  • How to shoot a better free throw
  • Slam dunk highlights
  • How to get recruited by college scouts
  • Nutrition for basketball players
  • How to improve a vertical jump

So you’d want to create content around these “Shoulder Keywords” too.

Check Out This Tutorial

I think you’ll agree that we covered A LOT in today’s guide.

You’ll be happy to hear that I recently created a video that takes the content from this guide… and condenses it into a step-by-step tutorial.

Check out the short video:

In this video you’ll see the 5-step keyword research process that I personally use.

Now It's Your Turn


I really hope you enjoyed my new keyword research guide.

And now I’d like to hear from you.

Which tip from today’s guide are you going to try first?

Are you going to try Barnacle SEO?

Or maybe you want to optimize around trending keywords.

Either way, let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

  1. WOWZA! Someone was reading my mind. I was just trying to search your site for keyword research and all of a sudden get an email with exactly what I needed.

    As usual, thanks Brian!

    1. Crazy when stuff like that happens, right? You’re not alone, Ashley: keyword research is something a lot of readers
      have asked me to write about lately. Enjoy the guide and let me know if you have any questions.

      1. I was thinking of the same thing while conducting a new keyword research and really missed something like this. Well, at least, I can double check what I’ve found and see if it corresponds with a new guide 🙂

        Thanks Brian, I’m always looking forward to your giveaways!

  2. Hi Brian! I didn’t realize at first that so much content would beautifully pop-up behind the links to your chapters! I actually thought this was a landing page to pitch a book. To make sure not to lose people, Id put in parenthesis up there above the links (Each link on this list will immediately bring you to the Free Content). Or something like that! Thank you so much for your astonishing content!

  3. Brian,
    This is awesome, I’ll need some time to work through. One thing I noticed, is the link to Chapter 1 correct? it goes to your link building guide.

  4. I was thinking earlier to create a crowdsourced content about keyword research but when I saw this guide, i think I would never have a chance to outrank this resource. 😀

  5. HI Brian,
    Thanks for this great information and it is very easy to read,understand and follow.

    The page design is cool, what tool do you use to produce these pages?

    thanks for your great content

  6. Brian,
    As always, another great post and easy to follow the content. This guide is a goldmine. How long did it take for you to write this guide?

    1. Thanks Emrah! Took about 20 hours to write + 40 hours of work from my designer and web developer. This guide was no joke to create. But I’m hoping that it provides a ton of value to people so that it’s worth it 🙂

  7. Hi Brian,
    I love these guides. Besides the graphics which I assume are custom built, is there something special you use to create the general layout of these? The change in colors, etc. just make these really clear to read – would love to replicate that kind of flow.

    Thanks as always!

    1. Jake, glad to hear that you’re enjoying these guides. I actually hired a custom designer to design + code each page. Not cheap, but I was really happy with the final product.

  8. This is really a fantastic resource. Where did you get the idea of the layout, I’m sure I’ve seen something similar somewhere? 😛

    But really, there is a lot of great information the noobs and veterans would like here. Awesome post!

    1. Thanks Nick! The idea came from a lot of different sources, like QuickSprout’s Advanced Guides and the great content that Greg Ciotti at Help Scout publishes.

  9. Brian this is great advice and content. Usually I un-subscribe from some of those ‘other’ email lists – but after visiting your site I can’t wait for the next update! Thanks for your help and advice.

    1. Mike, that’s an awesome compliment. I respect my readers A LOT and bring value as much as I can to my newsletter subscribers.

  10. Absolutely love this guide, it will be something that I can use as a constant reference in the future if I ever need to double check on something, and that convenience is much appreciated 🙂

    1. I’m happy to hear that, Daniel. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of work went into it so I’m glad to hear that you got so much value from it.

  11. And the reason you gave this away for free is…jk. Kick ass guide Brian. Much more valuable than some of the paid guides. Would be sweet if you could package this up into a printable PDF.

  12. The word is often overused – but not in this case – this is ‘awesome’ Brian!

    Ha! I’m actually laughing out loud right now at just how good this content is.

    Folks – this is why Brian is the best in the business when it comes to SEO.

    Great stuff man!



  13. Brian, I say this without any bias – every bit of content you provide is Gold. Have been hooked on Backlinko ever since I stumbled here not so long ago 🙂

    Great Work!

  14. I thought you had “gone dark” as I wasn’t getting email or blog updates, but judging by the amount and quality of the information you have just provided I have to say, I’ll happily wait 2-3 months for the next backlinko update. This stuff is worth gold!

    1. Thanks Ivan. If I ever “go dark” for a while it means I’m cooking up something big or in the lab experimenting 🙂

  15. Hey Brian,
    As we all know, digital marketing is changing everyday, I appreciate those who keep me sharp and always learning. This is a keyword guide will be one I read a few times and test/follow to improve my own keyword inventory building skills.


  16. Hey Brian.
    Lovely stuff again… Was reading your “Keyword Competition Analyses” and 2 questions popped in my mind:

    1) When you build affiliate sites (I’m sure you have done it or still doing them), what’s the amount of links that indicate: “Wow, that’s a lot of work – I’m going to pass this one”? Now obviously it’s also important to know how much $$$ can you get from it, but for overall? I’m not talking about spammy sites, but PAGES that have REAL links (resources, BLB, legit guest posts, contextual links, editorial links etc etc acquired over a longer period of time)

    Let’s say there’s a tough keyword that can bring you in $20k+ every month (when you are sitting on #1). In top 3, there are pages that have DA/PA 50+ and more than 500 legit/organic links. Would you go for it? How about 1000 links?

    2) You must have seen that some of the pages that are ranking really well for competitive keywords have only 30-60links, but are being “carried” up by the domain authority and couple of internal links (,, How do you determine the “strength” of such pages? I’ve seen pages that have 300+ legit links being outranked by such big authority sites quite often…

    1. Thanks Mikk.

      Great questions.

      1. I don’t have a set amount of links in mind (partly due to what you pointed out in your second question). But if I had to answer, I’d say a page with over 500 legit contextual links would make me wonder if they were beatable. But as you know you don’t need to rank #1 to do well. You could retire if you were able to rank #2 for “life insurance”.

      2. I’ve seen that happen more and more lately too. That’s where the Moz SERP Overlay helps so you can see DA and PA on the same screen. If I see a site with a DA of 70+, I automatically adjust their PA a bit higher to make up for it. Also sometimes it’s not DA but brand signals that help those sites rank so well.

      1. Thanks for your reply, Brian
        I think I’m going to rank for “life insurance” and retire SEO altogether once I’ve hit #2 😀 I’ll let you know.

        But in all seriousness, I see that branded authority sites are getting stronger and stronger and can get away with only few links and receive ton of organic traffic even with semi-decent content – which is sad actually. However, as long as I can get more quality links and produce better content – I should be able to beat them 🙂

  17. This is amazing content its going to take a few hours to read it all properly. What do you think of Market Samurai for keyword research? I use it quite often as well as Long Tail Pro.

    1. Craig, Let me know what you think when you get a chance to go through it. I used to use Market Samurai but stopped when they pulled in Bing data instead of info from Google. Does it still work well?

      1. Works well for me but it can be a little slow at times. I usually drop my keywords into the Google Keyword Planner tool to check traffic after I have used Market Samurai.

  18. Would you consider offering your guides as single pages or pdfs? I prefer reading longer form content like this when offline/on the road. If on a single page, I can easily Pocket them to read offline. Thanks for considering!

    1. Daniel, I’ll definitely look into offering it as a PDF so that it’s easier for you to read when you’re on the road.

  19. Hello Brian!
    I have been using your guides and techniques for so long and i can’t stress enough how effective they are. Your keyword research guide is perfect for beginners and quite inspiring for professionals. I highly recommended it for everyone.
    Thanks a lot for sharing all that!

    1. Hey Roland! That’s the best compliment I could ever get: that my techniques and strategies are helping you grow your business. Let me know if you have any case studies to share with me 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sharath. That’s 110% right: keyword research is also in a state of flux right now. That’s why I thought it was time to revisit the topic with an up-to-date guide.

  20. Hello Brian

    I respect great content and in recent past, this is the best i have seen. I read this for 15 minutes and preferred saving the llink for reading in the best time, to gain max out of it. Tweet i am doing right away and again appreciate the effort and words of praise for this content are no different from what others have mentioned. Keep the good work so that starters like me get lot of inspiration and someone to lookup.

    Harish Bali

  21. Hi Brian!

    I got your email a bit late in the day and just sat down to read this. Incredible guide! Honestly, does your graphics guy work for you or is he freelance? If freelance, his contact would be appreciated =).

    Anyway, there are some real gems in here that I was unaware of such as

    Probably the very best section in the entire guide is about commercial intent. This really needs to hit home with people. I was personally able to squeeze almost $8 a visitor on one of my sites. Which makes me wonder, how were you monetizing the site you were getting 60k visitors a month on?

    I guess one of the only points I would have to disagree on is that when you see Ebay it is an easy search term. I have been in a cat and mouse game with an Ebay URL for months now -.-.

    I will definitely be linking back to this in my next post! Thanks again.

    1. Thanks Neil!

      I actually had a freelancer make the guide for me.

      $8 a visitor is insane. Unfortunately, the niche the 60k/month site was in wasn’t targeted or in buyer mode (think video games). I tried a bunch of different strategies, like Adsense, CPA, affiliate offers. Just couldn’t get it to work.

      Interesting. I haven’t gone toe to toe with Ebay that often so I appreciate your insights there. I just heard from my ecommerce buddies that they were easy to beat considering their insane DA.

  22. Great content. I have just skimmed the chapters and will certainly be back to spend more time to read in detail and learn more about the ever changing world of search engines. Really appreciate your work and insights.

      1. Hi Brian,
        Just finished going through your guide in detail. It is very thorough and complete. I have picked up some new things that I believe will help me in my affiliate efforts. One thing is for sure is that SEO and everything associated with online marketing is a moving target but your guide allows us to focus in on the important components and if we do them well we are in effect giving ourselves the best chance of surviving any future changes the search engine might throw at us.. Keep up the great work, I really appreciate your efforts.

        1. Thanks for your feedback, Dave. You’re right on the money: SEO moves fast. But if you focus on the most important things (like keywords, link building and on-page SEO), you’ll do well despite all the changes Google throws at us.

  23. Looking forward to getting stuck into this. I’ve been sharpening up my keyword research skills lately, looking beyond the typical keyword planner. I love how you start this blog post with some common questions that people are actually asking. Clever tactic for capturing plenty of long tail search traffic! I salute you Brian Dean 🙂

    1. Good call on that, Anthony. I used to rush through keyword research so I could get to the fun stuff: content and link building. But I learned from a few mistakes that keyword research is well worth the time and energy 🙂

  24. Brian i could only say that this is a Bible of keyword Research, Just want to add one thing for Keywords Competition we can also eye ball Google serp like writing keywords in quotes(“Keyword”) or allintitle:Keyword
    Thanks its a Rocking stuff.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the guide, Sachin. Good tip. I personally prefer to focus on the top 10 vs. total number of competing pages. But I know a lot of people that use your approach and do well with it

        1. Good call, Sachin. I didn’t realize that. Now I’d recommend using search strings like:
          “keyword” + “forum”
          “keyword” + “powered by vbulletin”

  25. Hello Brian Sir,
    You shared outstanding post relate to keyword research including possible techniques. Thanks for sharing awesome post.
    Please keep touch with us with your awesome blogs & tips.


  26. Hi Brian,
    I am using the Webmaster Tools method. I found a keyword which is on 11th position AND having good search volume. I also got the post to add the keyword on. However, WHERE should I add this keyword? I’ve read your on-page SEO guide. The post is already optimized for a keyword, now how do I optimize the post for this keyword too?


  27. A little inspiration in finding keywords for commercial intent is all I needed. I was looking after search volume and ignoring suggested bid and competition. Thank you Brian

    1. Happy to help you out with that, Andrei. As I said in that chapter, commercial intent was something I used to gloss over. Then I learned that in many ways it’s more important than search volume.

  28. Brian:

    Thank you so much. The guide is superb. I went through it for the first time last night and I will re read it over the weekend. It is easy to follow and easy to read. It blows my mind that people like you spend produce content of this blinding quality, for free.

  29. Great research… And the way you have putted all things in proper manner is what makings it’s fully interactive and damn easy to consume.

    Thanks a lot…and keep rocking. 🙂

  30. Hello Brain,
    I read the complete guide, and the best thing about your guide is that, it is really informative and simple.
    Bookmarked 😀

  31. Great tips man! Worth reading. To be honest at first sight I thought you’ll use the same old tips people used to write on their blogs, but here I learnt some new things in keyword research, Something out of the box! Thankyou Brian

    1. You never have to worry about me publishing the same old stuff, Salman. I built Backlinko from zero to 50k visitors/month by publishing unique stuff 🙂

    1. Geoff, that’s awesome to hear. I always try to make everything I publish super-actionable. I think you’ll agree that there’s already more than enough SEO theory stuff out there 🙂

  32. Hi Brian,

    This is definitely an awesome piece of content for someone who needs thorough keyword research. However You know that it is the best reading on the subject, don’t you?

    But I just wanted to say, you are not only a genie for link building but also sharing the knowledge and information in organized manner which is very easy to read and follow.

    1. Hey Akila, I did actually set out to make this the best, most thorough resource for keyword research online. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

  33. Hi Brian,
    This is the best guide on the topic of keyword research written by a geniune expert. Most of the keyword research contents out there are fluff or even not complete. People often misunderstood or confuse by it.

    You didn’t leave anything out for us. I have some understanding on keyword research and agree with your validations in the guide.

    I have a question here about the searches coming to my website but google analytics not sharing what type of keywords people typing. Usually is the most search keywords? Do you experience that? What’s your take on it?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jeffrey. A lot of work went into this guide so it’s nice to hear that you’re getting value from it.

      Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to get the exact keywords people use. But you can use a tool like SEMRush to find the keywords that you’re ranking for and use that to figure things out.

  34. Hey Brian – had a good look.
    Great resource I must say. In general easy to read, easy to understand, easy to implement. What else can you ask for, really? But what I liked the most is that it ‘s very current, with current features and topics like the idea of personas.

    Thanks for this. A master-resource.


    1. Hey Patri, thanks for your feedback. A lot of work went into streamlining everything so that it’s easy to follow (and most importantly) use. Glad to hear that it worked out 🙂

    1. No problem, Morten. That’s actually one of the reasons I put this together: the Google Keyword Planner just wasn’t working for people anymore.

  35. Wow, what a guide. Easily the most comprehensive one I have found to date. My favorite part was the competition section as I normally get tripped up on that. I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for some of those weaker sites.

    I have for the most part been ignoring PR lately but am thinking after reading your guide that I should be still using it in my analysis. Obviously it’s not a be all end all, but does give some indication especially if all PR0’s are found.

    Thanks again,

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Adam. Let me know how the Easy Target hunting works out for you. I honestly have mixed feelings about PR. I like that it’s straight from Google. But the issue is that it’s not updated regularly. That being said, it’s definitely worth checking out as you size up the competition.

  36. Awesome book on Keyword Research Brian – definitely the best and most helpful that I’ve read! I have a question regarding in-depth content. Would you recommend applying the same strategy to static webpages that you wanted to rank with – longer more in-depth content for search engines (while still keeping it user friendly)?

    1. I appreciate that, Brent 🙂

      Yes, I’d apply the in-depth content approach to static pages as well (even homepages). If you look at it from Google’s point of view, they want to
      send people to content that answers the searcher’s question. When in doubt, they’ll send someone to a longer article every single time.

    1. I appreciate that, Fernando. I tried to make this the best keyword research resource online so it’s great to hear that it worked out 🙂

  37. Hi Brian, just wanted to say “thank you” for all the time and effort that went in to pulling together this incredible report. You are clearly building hordes of true fans (like me!) because you deliver exceptional content in a helpful, easy-to-read/use way. A sincere thank you for clearing up a lot of my “great, now what do I do?” questions after Google did Panda, Penguin & Hummingbird…

    1. You’re welcome, Marie. That’s ultimately my goal: to make the often confusing world of SEO simpler and easier to follow. Glad to hear that I’m on the right track 🙂

  38. “So instead of creating one article optimized around “display resolution”, another around “browser displays” etc., create ONE awesome article optimized around the keyword in that group. That way you’ll rank for that keyword and for all of the synonyms that Google connects to it.”

    Brian, do you mean keyword group in keyword planner here?

    1. Yes and no, Avadhut. Sometimes Google will show very closely related keywords in their Ad Group suggestions. Other times, not so much. In other words, Ad Groups in the GKP can help, but you also have to look at the keywords to see how closely related they are.

  39. First off, THANK YOU for taking the time and effort to create this. It is an in-depth, all-in-one resource of what I have learned the hard way, all through Googles’ knocks and bumps.
    Keep up the EPIC work, Mr Dean.

    1. You’re quite welcome, Ollie. Hopefully people will learn from this guide so they don’t make the same mistakes we did 🙂

  40. Thank you Brian for such a detailed guide. Did learnt a lot on keyword research. I was just experimenting with a keyword “Holidays” which has Avg. Monthly Searches of 49,500 (Competition: Low). Then I tried “Happy Holidays” which resulted in AMS of 2,740,000 (Competition:Low). What a huge difference in monthly searches for Happy Holidays. While trying Google Keyword Tool, Ubbersuggest and Scrapebox, I searched for the term “Holidays”. All 3 resulted in many phrases containing holidays but none of them showed “Happy Holidays” in result. If I were to use keyword “Holidays”, I would have missed “Happy Holidays” even if I would have searched in the above three. So could you suggest me any tip on how may I get the result “Happy Holidays” while searching for the keyword “Holidays”. Hope you got my point.

  41. Hi Brian,
    I have to admit that this guide is AMAZING. I was a bit perplexe at the beginning with all the links, I was like: “He’s going to send me to an other website”. And oh yeah, I found a real guide, very clear, very easy to understand and Im very happy I found you.
    Keep going like this

  42. Very hard to wait . I will follow you. See when you start . I am already using long tail platinum for keyword research and following Spencer Hews. Lets see what you recommended to me.

  43. Hi Brian,
    I am a little angry that you took my 5 hours for this guide 🙂 (Joke Apart)

    As always, you’re rockstar of link building and now you have proved the tag for keyword research and optimization. I don’t need to repeat that I am a big fan of your writing.

    Your guide always encourage me to implement your strategies on my daily seo routine. I am going to use these tricks for my new fresh website and I’ll share my result with you.

    Earlier, I got a small success with a few fresh seo techniques given on your blog post – I want to say thank you for your precious guide.

    Come back to this guide. I loved it will implement them in my strategy. The one think I didn’t feel user friendly that your links in the content are not highlighted well. I got tangled sometime and the last thing you must leave a link back to this page from the last chapter. So a user easily come back here again to leave his feedback 🙂

    A small mouth advice 😉

  44. I must admit that I have often over-looked the obvious re. keyword research, namely the “Searches related to…”. I also agree with idea that the ‘keyword plus another letter’ is a very useful area to mine and I enjoyed the ‘rinse and repeat’ comment!
    Personally I’ve never found the Ubersuggest website of much use except on a very basic level. Many thanks for some great ideas on keyword research…

    1. Thanks for your insights, Richard. In my experience, Ubersuggest is more for brainstorming than straight keyword generation. Although in some niches it can uncover some real gems 🙂

  45. OMG this page only is gold! I need more time to finish everything. I’ve been following you, keep coming back here to read more. Thank you for sharing and keep sharing gems! 🙂

    1. Sounds like a plan, Elena. Let me know what you think of the guide after you get a chance to go through it 🙂

  46. Wow Brian

    Your guide is really the most comprehensive one on the topic, and I’ve read quite a few lately since I’m a big fan of SEO and niche blogging.

    How many hours did you spend creating it and what graphic design tools did you use?

    Maybe next definitive guide would be on “how to create the best definitive guides” (just an idea) — what do you think? 🙂


    1. Thank you Cordut! The guide took over 50-hours of work from me, the designer and my developer. It was no joke!

      A definitive guide to definitive guides? I really like that idea 🙂

  47. Hey Brian, I just want to thank you for doing an awesome job on this blog. I’m not very good at SEO, but I’ve already picked up tons of tips that are paying off. I’ve been using your “PR funnel / profile link” method with great success; pity it’s hard to find sites that allow do follow links though!

  48. I like your way of explanation on each topic very much. This will help me to boost my own knowledge on keyword research in different and simple way. Thanks for Brian the indeapth knowledge sharing.

    1. I wouldn’t use any keywords that don’t make sense, Henk. I’d just use a close variation that sounds good to readers.

  49. Hey Brian Dean, I fount your site very awesome and i have gone threw 2-3 article on your site. I loved the way you explain the things specially “keyword research”. This time I am in hurry and i have read only 2-3 article but in the mean time I will definitely read you site.

  50. Whoa Brian! This is a wonderful post, so informative and detailed. This is the first time I’m visiting your blog and I am totally bowled out the first time itself. The way you explained keyword research is so good that even a beginner can understand easily. I’m going to tweet this right now so that my readers can benefit from this article.

    I’ll come back again to read your next articles and your previous posts too! 🙂

  51. Hey Brian,
    Great job “quenching my thirst” again, the keyword guide is truly epic! I was surprised to see 0 affiliate links in there. Fair play to that. Would have probably made some nice cheddar though. Great resource.


    1. Happy to do that, Yannis 🙂

      You’re right: I could have made some bank with affiliate links (I might add them later on). But I wanted to show
      people that I’m including tools that I recommend…not just those that have fat affiliate commissions.

  52. Excellent! Thanks. Writers can write but a lot if us are the wrong kind of brain for penetrating the web marketing world. You have helped translate a big part of it.
    Hooray for you!

  53. Hi Brian, It was very helpful article. I am still struggling to find good keywords for my blog. But will work now as per your suggestions. Thanks

  54. Good timing for me, too, Brian! Thanks very much for this resource, which I really need right now for my new website, and thanks to Joel Friedlander for pointing me in your direction.

  55. Hey Brian,
    Awesome guide on keyword research. It includes A to Z all things in this guide. It’s great do you have any PDF for this, can you share.

  56. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for posting these great tips on Keyword Research. While reading tip 7 you have mentioned that articles with long content are suggested, but doesn’t it tick off users and create a higher bounce rate? Shouldn’t such a article be divided into parts, let’s say 3 parts for a 2000 words article?

    1. Good question, Rohit. I find that people AND search engines prefer to read longer content. That way they get the answer to their question
      in one place vs. spread out in three different articles.

  57. Amazing article with the best tips which are very detailed and well explained. This is something any SEO and niche website builder should be be read well before jumping in to search engine optimization.

  58. This is one of the most complete articles (literally articles in this case) of link building ive seen for ages. Nice content, looks so much nicer when some effort is made to present it well.

  59. Hey Brian Re-Read Your KW Research Guide, Very Thorough.

    2 Questions I wanted to ask an expert because what’s technically “right” and what I observe seem to be different things.

    1) I know the answer to this question, but what’s your opinion on EMD sites? The apparent common knowledge is google prefers brands, and EMD’s may only get a slight relevance boost. However, I cannot ignore the fact that EVERY time I encounter a site ranking for a super competitive term; when upon inspecting its link profile, I cannot determine why, its and EMD. Im talking about freak cases where I see PA 18 DA 11 (always EMD) outranking authority sites for terms like “cure back pain”, “best hotels in florida” (outranking tripadvisor or expedia). While sometimes the authority sites aren’t as optimized, if I go to SERP page 2 I will find tons of optimized powerhouse niches with PA 40, DA 40, so I really don’t get it.

    2) Will googles increasing algorithm synonym detection intelligence start to kill long tail untapped seo similar searches? ie: “cure back pain” vs “best way to cure back pain”. Where “cure back pain” sites will dominate both search queries results.

    Thanks, sorry for destroying the comment box

    1. Glad you liked it Jack.

      1. I honestly think the net effect of an EMD is less than 1%. Sometimes EMDs rank well because they’re older sites that have
      had time to acquire links.

      2. Yes…depending on how similar the searches for. In your back pain example they’ll show similar results (if they don’t already). But keep in mind that there actually IS a difference between “cure back pain” and “best way to cure back pain”. And the SERPs will reflect that with different results.

  60. hi, thanks for your “keyword research guide”
    i have a question
    if one keyword that i want to rank in page one,
    i search it in google, top 10 have small PA, but big DA
    like, (PA=1, DA=94)
    is it easy to rank in page one??

  61. Your content is just plain awesome.

    However, there is one thing that I can’t get to add up. I read your pdf guide on blogging and some of the keywords you picked out have search volumes of less than 100.

    Your thoughts seem to be generally to create less content (but high quality) and promote it a lot and you’ve been able to get 40k visitors a month within 4 months.

    So how is that possible when going after low search volume keywords? Do you pick out a lot of them and optimize your body copy according to those keywords to increase search volume?

    I can’t get this to add up. Please explain.

    1. Thanks Peter. I appreciate that. GREAT question. Well, search volume numbers are HIGHLY niche dependent. In that PDF guide
      I was using an example of extreme buyer keywords. For keywords like that you could literally build a business around a 3k monthly visitors.
      In my case, I go after informational keywords that are slightly less competitive and but get more search volume. It just depends
      on the business.

  62. Hello Brian,
    Your blog is helping me a lot to get traffic for my blog. After my breakfast I daily read articles on your website for 20-30 min. By doing this I am learning premium tips to drive more traffic.


  63. Hey Brian, Thanks for your guide. There’s a few gems in there which I hadn’t thought of. About keyword research tools, what’s your take on Market Samurai? Is it worth the investment?

    1. Hey Mabz. I’m not a big fan of Market Samurai to be honest. It’s a bit clunky and slow for a simple tool. I prefer SECockpit or Long Tail Pro.

  64. I have a tech news blog and I’m sure that this guide will be the best to find the ideal keywords to rank in the first page in the latest tech news.
    Thnks 😀

  65. Very detailed guideline, Brian… Hope this help me in my next project!

    BTW, Keep sending the backlink building related secret sauces on your list, I love them! 🙂

  66. Drea Brain,

    From where you are getting such a wonderful and very effective ideas? Really your every post is ultimate and offers great knowledge to me.
    Keep it up. All the best.

  67. Brian, I got trapped on an AdWords buy page and couldn’t for the life of me find the Keyword tools. You saved my butt. Boning up on keywords in order to help students through the process, which wouldn’t work if I couldn’t find the tool! Thanks, guy.

  68. I had never heard of Soovle before reading your guide here. It’s a quick and fun tool to use and I instantly found some keyword ideas to lookinto further.
    Love all of the info you provided here, thanks Brian.

  69. Hi, Brian
    I just read your keyword research PDF guide. I just got some new ideas for you after reading the guide. You added a step about and my query is if I go into ezinearticlesDotCom and try to find my keywords then it will be good? what you think about ezinearticles?

  70. Hi Brian, just want to say that this is a fantastic guide to Keyword research and has come just in time, thanks.
    A question no one else has asked, but if you had to choose one Keyword tool which one would it be? Also in which priority would you put them in, 1 been the best?

  71. Brian,
    I am just beginning my journey into the world of online business and would like to say thank you for the amazing content, not only in this guide but throughout your website. Unlike so much of the keyword research advice online, this guide is comprehensive, but also easy to follow.
    One question – with an authority site, how many keywords do you initially intend to target? Also, do you have a certain allocation between buy now, product & informational keywords?

  72. Brian, I just finished reading your guide and I have to say that it is a great piece of content.

    We can see that you used the Skyscraper Technique as it is way better than anything out there. It is really complete. Someone could only read this article about keyword research and he would be completely fine.

    Thanks for the great stuff again,
    Keep posting awesome articles!

    1. Thanks Julien. It wasn’t easy using The Skyscraper Technique for keyword research because there was already A LOT of great stuff already out there.

  73. Hi Brian! Thank you for this great guide. I have read it several times already just to make sure I don’t miss something important 🙂

    Has it ever happened to you that Google Keyword Planner wouldn’t let you search for keywords unless you have an active ad campaign going? It’s been giving me such error message every time I try to use it lately. Thanks!

  74. Common sense is more important when it comes to Keyword Research. When we are performing research, we have to think like the user who performs the google search. We can get a few ideas from Google Auto suggestions. One of my niche sites have only a few links from low DA sites only, but the site ranks on the top.

    The reason is that the users spend more time on my site and there is good engagement. All we have to do is write excellent content and rank our site in 3 or 4 pages. We have to include a lot of LSI keywords that have low competition. As the time spent on our site increase, the rank will also increase.

  75. Hey, Brian,
    I just wanted to thank you for this amazing guide!
    I’m honestly stunned at the thoroughness and the amount of time you’ve put into this. It’s very generous of you – a great holiday present!
    Thank you and happy holidays!

  76. Wow, Really Actionable Advice As Always. I’ve been out of the SEO field for a while and recently got back into optimization. I use your advice and blogs as key tool to get me to understand what must be done to rank in 2016 + (it’s amazing how much seo has changed). Keep up the good work. You never use regurgitated info, everything is always fresh and highly effective. I always look forward to your new content. When I implement what you teach I see noticeable results.

  77. Brian, is the Keyword_Research_Guide_Backlinko.pdf download update as well, or will the different webpages be at a later date? Just like to print off content to scribble notes on, loving the content!

    1. Hey Chris, good question. I’m getting an update to the PDF version done right now. So I’d hold off on grabbing the PDF until Friday.

  78. This is one of the best keyword resources I have got access to. I was just wondering how to I would rank my site for different keywords but this guide is an eye opener.

  79. I get it, time on page is a ranking factor for SEO. I really needed this “keyword guide” and can’t wait to dive in. The only issue I have is, how can I download it? Is that an option? The first sentence was an attempt to be funny.

  80. Your email said we could download your guide, but I can’t download it.
    Perhaps people with greater computer skills than I can do it, but I am sure that I’m not the only one frustrated by your ambiguous email.

    When I clicked on the link, it did not indicate any way to download what you offered.

    That’s just silly.

  81. Thanks Brian for this awesome guide, whatever you write, you cover all the ends of it. That’s why I like about you. A complete guide for keyword research, I have ever seen.

  82. Wow, I’m speechless Brian, you are the only publisher I look forward to his contents, thank you mate, great guide made by great marketer.

  83. The supercalafragalisticexpialidocious thing about you, Brian, is that you always combine creativity + flexibility + constant experimentation in all you do. Thank you — this is exactly what I was looking for when I tweeted you recently asking if your thoughts on keyword research had changed in the past couple of years!

  84. Great guide as always, Brian! Your blog has always been my go to place for comprehensive SEO guide.

    Do you have plan to come out with a physical SEO book? I will definitely buy one if there is!


  85. Great post as usual, I particularly liked the fact that in a post about keyword research, you use 4 excellent long tail questions in your intro 🙂 A master work!!!

  86. Great content as always!

    I understand the importance of having LSI keywords sprinkled in the content to make it more comprehensive and in-depth.

    I like the idea of using “searches related to” when searching for a keyword and including them when creating content. In the article, there are some tools that touch on this but not on a complete level.

    Is there a way where we get a more complete list that ‘Google’ deemed relevant? Like an extended “searches related to”?

    1. Thanks Tom. Unfortunately, not. Google is (understandably) tight-lipped about what terms they consider relevant and should be used as LSI keywords.

  87. Wow, finally a guide that actually walks us through keyword research thoroughly (and I am more than sure which is going to give me interesting whole new keywords list to work on) instead of same rinse and repeat old fashioned steps with bullet points guides I stumbled on before.

  88. This is a real guide. Chapter 4: How to Determine a Keyword’s Commercial Intent? was eye catching for me. Working for eCommerce sites sometimes become real challenging because it’s not always about traffic, it’s $$$ that matters. I loved going through all chapters but chapter 4 is definitely something i will be trying. Thanks Brian!

  89. Hey Brian!

    Again, a brilliant work from you! I love to visit Backlinko because you always surprise us with fresh and awesome content.

    I’m learning a lot with you and I recently tested Guestographic strategy and it is working very well.

    I made a Power Page and I get at least 10-12 backlinks to my site! This is incredible and will help me in my jorney to 1kk visitors/month leaving from completely 0.

    Thank you very much! I’m your fan! 🙂
    Rafael Querido, from Brazil.

  90. Have struggled with a keyword research for a new customer for days now. Using all knowhow, still struggling.. Then came Brian Dean to my -almost- rescue. Thanks Brian – could we get a clone of you in Denmark? 🙂
    All the best,

  91. No matter how many sites have written on that topic, no matter who has written the content, no matter on which domain the content is written, when you write content on any topic it will beat all the other copies present on the internet. Thanks for writing such an awesome piece of content on Keyword Research. It is a backbone of any marketing campaign.

  92. Hey Brian,

    I’ve been focusing more on ‘commercial intent’ when carrying out keyword research of late, including many other suggestions you make to improve CTR’s & on page SEO; leading to some awesome improvements in rankings for a client of ours!

    I also noticed that you’ve altered the column within this guide. Any reason behind this? 🙂

  93. Just read through chapter 1, i find it useful and have a better understanding on how to choose good keywords to optimise a website.

    As you’ve mentioned that Google Panda could penalise you for publishing dozen of articles relating to long tail keywords, then how can you still target long tail keywords effectively if you don’t publish articles often?

  94. Brian. This has been a great resource over the years. I’m involved with helping businesses in the UK understand SEO and Content and have been referring everyone to this awesome info. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. In my view, the best resource out there.

  95. Dear Brian,
    thank you for your amazing guide. You are really the wikipedia for modern and creative SEO for me!!! I learned so much and I am impressed where you take the ideas for every new article.

  96. Hey Brian – Thanks for putting this up.

    It looks like the chapter on Google keyword planner isn’t updated as it still reflects the old GKP display. You might want to look into it.

    1. You’re welcome, Jason. You may need to clear your cache. The images there match what mine looks like (just updated the screenshots 2 weeks ago).

  97. Brian,

    Really great stuff! I know I said this before, but keep it coming! I especially enjoyed the section on long tail keywords. What’s the best method to go after many low search and low comp keywords without jamming the page with the keywords?

    1. Hi John, I wouldn’t focus 100% on low search/low comp keywords. Otherwise you have to keyword stuff or create lots of pages optimized around different long tails.

  98. Hi Brian,

    that was a really comprehensive and easy to digest guide, especially that I am only just beginning my seo journey. Thanks a lot for your effort!

    I am running an ecommerce shop and I have a question – I can see many uses of keyword research when you want to create new content (e.g. for blog) but I am not sure just yet of how to use the keyword research when I create descriptions for an ecommerce store (i.e. main page, category page, product page)?

    In case of an ecommerce store I guess the reasearch is rather limited to what you have on offer – e.g. if I run a shoe shop, then for example:
    – main page keyword: best sport shoes
    – category page keyword: running shoes
    – product page keyword: nike air max 2017 men blue

    I would be very happy to know how do you think keyword reasearch could be used for ecommerce purpose?

    1. Tommy, you’re welcome. These same techniques apply to ecommerce. But the examples you listed there are spot on. So it looks like you’re already on the right track.

  99. Just finished chapter 3 on longtail keywords. Very detailed and useful the way you instructed each step on different keyword tools! Some i’ve not even heard of as well which is also great to learn!


  100. Thanks, Brian! You make this seem so easy. Every time I start it seems like I’m doing all this research wrong it takes forever. Do you have any tips on efficiency and how to speed things up?

  101. Quick question. Are there any good alternative to Google’s Keyword Planner tool, now that Google has started restricted users from obtaining full search volume data?

  102. I like the way you have structured this guide with a parent page that links to each chapter I would never have though to do this I would of lumped it all on one page i have learnt something new today 🙂

    I have never heard of SEO cockpit i am definitely going to give it a try!

  103. Very interesting read on chapter 4. Thank you for highlighting the types of keywords as I’m currently learning how to select good keywords to target. Does this also mean the longer the keywords the easier it is to rank still?


  104. Read the guide for the third time. Every time there are some “Aha” moments. It really help me to think hard on certain aspects of keyword research.

    I do have a question, for keyword competition, which tool give a better representation, Ahrefs or Moz?

  105. Hi Brian,
    I love these guides. Besides the graphics which I assume are custom built, is there something special you use to create the general layout of these? The change in colors, etc. just make these really clear to read – would love to replicate that kind of flow.

  106. Another interesting read on chapter 5. I now have a better understanding on how to target ‘easy’ keywords and create better quality contents to beat other competitors!

  107. Wow thank you so much, I’m surprised you’re just offering all this info for free. I appreciate it! Read up people! Keyword research is easier than it seems!

  108. First thank you for your Keyword Research guide. I find it clear and complete.
    Now I understand the basics I would like to know if I can trust the “Impressions” and “Average position” figures and distrust the “Clics” figures when I “Examine plan” on GKP?
    That would be great to get an expert answer from you.

    Basically my strategy is: pay the less possible to appear the maximum on the 1st Google page for a given keyword.
    So I want to maximize “Impressions” and minimize “Cost”.

    For example I have chosen a keyword that give the same “Impressions” (2.7 – 3.3 a day) for 3 different values of “Bid”: €1.00, €0.50 and €0.07 (Note: the Suggested bet in GKP is €0.27)
    The only difference I notice is that higher “Bid” results in better “Average position” (1.08 – 1.32 for €1.00) and more “Clicks”
    While a “Bid” of €0.07 gives an “Average position” of 2.24 – 2.74 and 0 “Clicks”

    My assumption is that Google computes “Clicks” according to “Impressions” and “Average position” but that computation is very pessimistic.
    I believe that appearing between 2nd and 3rd on Google 1st page give more clicks than what they say (at least because I have chosen a precise keyword).
    If that assumption is true, then I would pay for the €0.07 in order to pay the less and appear the more!
    How much do you agree with my assumption?

  109. Haven’t seen a email in my inbox for a while. I thought you stop making blogs. But after reading this information, I realized you were just trying to provide some good value with a lot of information. So thank you I learned a lot. I was using Google Keyword Planner so heavily, and now I’m going to look at Reddit and Wiki for more keywords. You have definitely changed my approach when thinking about this sort of thing. So thank you again!

  110. Just finished chapter 6, very detailed chapter on various keyword search tools!

    Just wondering, which tool do you think is the best to use for keyword research?

  111. Hi Brian
    All your content that hits my inbox is great! I’m wondering if you wrote an article on best practises for a person using a drop shipper to use when setting up their website …like how to download the pictures so that they don’t look identical on Google and how to work against having duplicate content so that your ignored by google. Also a lot of my titles are the same as the dropshippers titles. when I did my website nobody told me that I should change the names so now the links are all attached to the original title should I be just deleting the whole product and re-downloading the whole thing to change the title is that the easiest way for changing the link or does it matter that the titles are the same.

  112. What a great read of chapter 7! Highly agree that the contents on a website needs to be more modern than before.

    One question, what’s the average length should an article be? As you’ve mentioned publishing long contents gives you an advantage to rank higher on Google because, you’ll be able to add more long/short tail keywords throughout. But wouldn’t this make users less likely to read your content when it’s too long?



  113. Hey Brian,

    Fantastic content as always. Your guide and the rest of your content has shifted the way I think about keyword research. It’s about the people, not about the machines. Thank you for being foundational to my SEO education.

    One thing I noticed on your keyword guide is you say you don’t need an active AdWords account to use Google Keyword Planner. While no, you don’t need an active account to see the tool, using the tool on an active campaign gives you entirely different search volumes.

    On an inactive account, it shows you ranges and groups keywords semantically. On an active campaign, you get specific search volumes for each keyword. Especially in the sub 1,000 range, this is very important.

    It lets you skip the clean up phase when reviewing your plan. Though I still review my plan to get super accurate results on my curated keyword list. Just thought I’d point it out.

    Now a few questions for you:

    1. Why do you recommend SECockpit so highly when other SEOs don’t? It is not a common tool I see people using, but it is apparently your favorite. Is it an industry secret or what’s going on here?

    2. What about Majestic SEO? Most SEOs are constantly recommending Majestic and I simply haven’t gotten a chance to play with it. Is there a reason you leave it out of your regularly cited tools? (Note, from my point of view, your favorite tools are AHREFs, SEMRush, Moz, SECockpit, and a few of the good free keyword explorers like, AnswerThePublic, Ubersuggest, and Soovle.)

  114. Hi Brain,

    I was reading your guide on exploring commercial intent where you wrote:

    “Here are words that tend to be part of Buy Now Keywords:


    What will be some of the commercial intent keywords for services such as plumbing or lawn caring?

    I can certainly add:
    “services” +”keyword”,
    “certified” + “keyword”
    “Professional” + “keyword”
    “experinced” + “keyword”

    Do they look sensible?

  115. Awesome resource!

    The Keyword Planner is an excellent tool for starting off generating ideas for search terms people are using for your business. The problem I’ve had in the past is that often the planner produces a list than includes a number of irrelevant/low search volume terms. The filtering options definitely help with this!

  116. Hi Brian
    I’m constantly surprised by how much bad seo and content that are out there considering the quality of your guides. A couple of hours of reading would help a lot of people!
    And thanks for yet a great resource

  117. Hi Brian,
    Awesome post. Thank You

    I use to research keyword with Google Keyword Planner and I get related keyword ideas from Google Search, not using other keyword research tool.

    I have heard lots of about SEMrush but it’s premium. Do you recommend any keyword research tool that is similar to SEMrush.
    Thank You again!

  118. Brian, thats an exhaustive list, i haven’t read all the posts yet, so apologies if i have missed this part. But do you recommend ahrefs tool?

    It seems pretty expensive but i have seen so many swear by it.

  119. Just wanted to say thanks heaps, Brian. I’ve been following your blog and implementing everything that I can and it has made a huge difference to my business competing against some of the big boys with way more money to throw around than me. Love your work!

  120. Brian, just a quick note to say “thanks so much” for putting such detailed information out there on the web. I’m just starting to dip my toes into the murky waters of SEO, and am furiously doing a whole lot of self-learning, where I make use of YouTube tutorials, blog posts, podcasts, etc, to bring myself up to speed. By far, your material is the best out there, with some pretty cool tricks included to eke out hidden info from Google. I’m especially wowed by your tip of bidding ridiculously high on Adwords in order to get more precise traffic numbers.

    You’ve got a new fan. Keep on doing what your doing.

  121. Brian, your article has certainly changed the way I approach keyword research after dabbling with keyword elite,market samurai and the google keyword tool over the years.
    Thank you for this keyword research guide as it clearly maps out what I need to do and how.I am seriously considering offering the process as a service.
    Do you think it will work on its own as a service or does it have to be part of a complete seo package i.e. (onpage and offpage)?


    Wales,United Kingdom.

  122. I said I would be back to comment after reading and implementing this guide. I am a fast learner, but I decided to take this slow. So, I read this thing for a couple of days.

    Not only was I able to find great keywords using the recommended tools, I also wrote a couple of articles in the last few weeks. Hoping to start link building soon.

    Finally, this is just going to be my go to website for SEO reference.

    Thank you Brian

  123. Wow! What a great guide.

    This is definitively what i was looking for. I really digged the Long tail keywords chapter and all the options it had. I didn’t knew about a few of those options you mentioned.

    I will make sure to apply what i’ve learned here and not just learn and forget.

    One question that pops into my mind is this:
    How do you think we should start adapting for the growing trend of voice search for our keywords? Im guessing spoken KW are not gonna be the same that written ones.

    Thanks for all the time and effort you put into this Brian.

  124. Awesome guide, thanks so much for sharing it free there’s obviously been tons of work go in to it.

    Also good to see Scrapebox mentioned, there’s tons of things it can do regarding keywords like scraping keywords from competitions sites, getting the number of search results for keywords, getting the meta data from Google results, getting the anchors from links and so on.

    Scrapebox is a bargain for the one time fee.

    Secockpit looks the goods too, although it’s a little pricey but i might give it a test run.

    You know you could of sold this guide right? 🙂

  125. Hey Brian!

    Another great article! Im focusing on ranking Long tail terms, this guide definitely will help me a lot!

    Thanks for sharing!

  126. Thanks Brian. I had been using few of the ways you mentioned for keyword research. But, for me big take away was finding keywords using Wikipedia. Thank you for sharing all of them together under one umbrella. Makes it so easy!

  127. Thank you Brian for this clear guide.

    I especially appreciate your shared thoughts about long tail kw.
    In fact, targeting this kind of Kw is not very helpful to reach the whole public. I prefer rank in 6th position for high competitive Kw inspite of long tail keywords in 1st position.

    This brings me more nearly 3 times more visitors.


  128. Ahrefs is by far my favourite way to kick start any new project specially when it comes to local leadgen/ecom projects since the competitors aren’t really that savvy. I’m bound to get 3-4 easy scoops for every project.

  129. I’m getting stuck on keyword research a bit because I serve an umbrella market (wedding professionals) that have many verticals within it (wedding photographers, wedding planners, wedding venues) so I’m not sure how to optimize for those individual verticals when my content applies to all wedding professionals. I don’t want to duplicate content for each vertical but I’m not sure sure what would be advisable for this situation. Any ideas?

  130. Hi Brian,
    It is really very informative article. Especially how to use Google and Youtube suggest was awesome. Is there any post regarding finding the target audience?

  131. Hey Brian,
    I’ve recently started my blog in health and lifestyle niche and was looking for some long tail keywords so that I should focus on those only in the started and I was totally confused how should I search those long tail keywords which I am going to focus on.
    This is really really helpful guild for keyword research.
    I really liked the idea of shoulder keywords, that was totally new to me.
    There is no ending of creating the content. There is some or the other keyword which should be focused on.
    Really appreciable.
    I will definitely try CanIRank tool. Seems to be really cool tool.

    Thanks for sharing this guide.

  132. Hi Brian, I have found that there is a huge variation in the Search Volume numbers between the 2 reliable tools, Ubersuggest and Moz.

    Moz Pro shows 11-50 and Ubersuggest shows 201,000. Both the results are for one common location.

    Can anyone suggest me why is it so and which one I should consider as reliable?

  133. First of all, what a wonderful well-structured article. I have never spent this much time reading an article.

    Regarding keyword research, I believe there are actually two types:
    1. Seasonal/trend-based terms: Advantage of these terms are they are relatively easy to rank. It is a combination of thinking from the user perspective and understanding the trends. If one can find an equal blend it’ll be really easy to rank.
    2. The evergreen terms: I think this will be much harder since we have to prove our authority to Google (especially if the domain is new). In order to do that we have to create a strong foundation (ie., build backlinks or write a lot of articles on that topic) which is a very time consuming and costly process. I’d say aim for the Type 1 keywords first and after you build a number of posts and a decent authority, then focus on the harder Type 2 keywords.
    Thanks Dean for giving me some perspective on this topic.

  134. Hi Brian, I want to know just one thing, I have noticed that low search volume keywords generally have higher CPC while keywords with millions of search volume have very low CPC, so why this happened?

    1. That’s because low search volume keywords are more specific (the person is closer to buying). For example “weight loss” vs. “weight loss meal plans”.

  135. Thanks for the video! I have a question for you though. If I could only do one of the methods you mentioned for finding keywords, which one would you suggest starting with. When I am able to bring some help onboard I could then try doing all of them, but until then I just need a method to start with. Thanks!

  136. Hi Brian,

    Excellent article! Another strategy I didn’t see in your keyword research module is Google’s PAA results. It’s a great way to generate additional ideas from questions people are asking relative to your main keyword topic.

    Keep up the awesome work Brian, I’m a fan!!

  137. Great info. Thank you for taking the time to make this.

    I’m curious about your choice to define Head, Body, and Long Tail terms by the number of words in the phrase.

    That’s not really what those terms mean.

    You probably know that “long tail” or “head” refer the popularity of the phrase or how often people search for it, not how many words it contains.

    Any phrase, even if it’s only 1 or 2 words long, can be a long tail term if it’s not popular. And a long phrase like “paris france vacation package” can be a head term since it’s probably a popular query.

    I feel like that’s an important definition to get correct. A person could have an unsuccessful camaign and waste a lot of time if the 4-word phrase they targetted is actually highly competitve.

  138. Another great post Brian. We sometimes find that keyword research tools are not always totally accurate in terms of the search volume numbers that they quote. We often target long-tail keywords that may initially appear to have no/limited search volume but in fact are actually highly searched for terms. While keyword research tools can prove extremely useful, it is not always wise to take the numbers at face value.

  139. Hi Brian,

    This is the most comprehensive, well researched and backed by experience guide that I have read.
    My heartfelt thank you to you for the efforts that must have gone in compiling this.

    I am very new to this world of Blogging and Content Marketing but your well written piece has really helped me get a good start on researching the Keywords.

    I will be going after building my set of Keywords to build content around.

    I look forward to reading more of your valuable articles.

  140. Hi Brian, I have joined your waiting list courses few months back, But when I can expect the course launch?

  141. Hi Brian,
    This is a great write up. I was looking forward to learning more about keyword research to sharpen my skills and I have found this post.
    The questions that you have asked at the beginning of the blog post are the exact questions running in my mind. Especially the one about the keyword ideas has given a lot of ideas about keyword research. And the idea of using YouTube search, Reddit search, Wikipedia terms, and forums has made it more easy for me to do keyword research. The SEO tools that you have suggested along with the screenshots have made it easy to understand the difficult terms.

  142. Hello Brian! I’m a long-time reader of yours and even though I’m in a completely different niche I model a lot of your work.

    I add tons of images and make longer content because of you and Neil Patel.


    I want to know your opinion of “KGR” keywords, if you’ve heard of them. In short, it’s finding KWs with a local search volume of 250 or less and then checking the exact search term with the allintitle search to see if dividing the two numbers together will give you a score below .250, which is what you would want in this system.

    It’s Doug Cunnington’s system, but I know many others do similar things. Do you see this as something to put time and energy into? or should I be going for bigger KWs if I’m focused on selling affiliate products?

  143. Hey Brian

    Everything is covered related to keyword research.

    Currently, I am using Ubersuggest.

    Sometimes it shows irrelevant keywords so I will try to use google keyword planner as well.


  144. Hi Brian! i am a little confused with your words: “If someone interested in buying a basketball hoop may also search for:How to shoot a better free throw or Slam dunk highlights..etc” so your point is to target this keyword right? but how could I rank for them with my transactional page that sell basketball hoops, if the user intent with these keywords is informational and my post will be transactional? Google would not recognize my post as appropriate for the customer intent behind these keywords, so it will not appear. on the first SERPs. Did you get my point?

    1. Hi Nader, the idea is to rank informational content to match the search intent. Then, get those people on an email list to sell them stuff later on.

  145. Hi Brian great content thank you for putting this out there for newbies like me!
    Just one question regarding the CPC, which confuses me a bit.
    CPC means cost per click right?
    So the higher the CPC the more expensive it will cost you if a client clicks on the link.

    In your example, the CPC for the cosen keyword was $7,15.
    You went on saying that this keyword will be more profitable because people will spend more money on it.

    Now I am confused by that line of thought, how would you know that this particular click, which is more expensive, will bring in more revenue? Just based on the higher costs? Would that be an indicator?

    What is the value of a high CPC vs low CPC, when evaluating a specific key word?

    I wouls appreciate an answer :).

    thanks again

    1. Hi Mike, that’s right: higher CPC is an indicator of the value of that click. It’s not guaranteed to bring in more revenue (that depends on CRO). But it’s a solid indicator.

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