7 Starter SEO steps: Step 1 – Keyword Research

The SEO Journey - Step 1: SEO Research

7 Starter SEO steps for beginners and new websites

Step 1: Keyword Research

Written by: Tarquin Lessing . 19 October 2020

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of determining the best possible search queries which your website audience is most likely to use when performing an online search. This is done to  best align your website and content to these searches in order to supply your target audience the best chance of being directed to your website in these results.

If you have read the introduction to this series, you will now have an idea that there are many factors that determine good SEO and which have a positive influence on the visibility of your website. If not, what are you waiting for? Get up to speed here.


There is not one clear, all-encompassing, winning strategy for good SEO and is very dependent on each website’s nuanced functions and goals. These are the points that make you unique compared to the competitors in your industry.  

Once again keep the following in mind. Good SEO is more like a marathon than a sprint race.

It is for the above reasons that you must beware of SEO guarantees that sound ‘too good to be true’ and offer results that guarantee you a blanket first place position in an instant. A first-place position is marginally relative, and if not targeted correctly, will not be very useful to your goals and possibly turn to a point of vanity that does not do much for your promotion efforts.


Good VS Bad SEO

SEO with lofty promises and guarantees of quick first place results for any term you want, but which do not also include the necessity of hard and persistent work, should be approached with caution.

These techniques could work fantastically in the beginning and short term, however, will possibly lead to many negative drawbacks and even affect the health of your website in the long term. The result could be effects such as SEO penalties or even having your domain blacklisted on the search engines.

We have to remember that the important measure is being the best position that makes you found by your specific market audience. This is down to more than just one keyword or a limited keyword set, but lies in what is called the long tail of SEO.

Long-tail SEO is a technique for generating high value organic traffic for websites. Long-tail are search terms of three or more words that target lower search volume keywords and phrases but with a higher conversion rate.  

This is basically the spread of your keyword/s over a blanket of search phrases, focused towards the nuances of your audience and your website. It is a more natural manner of search targeting, rather than the strict focus on single keywords. 


The first steps of keyword research

Now, let us take matters forward with the first step in the SEO journey. Keyword research.

The first step would be to take a moment and task yourself to define the exact purpose of your website, business or goal (the more care and time you take in this step, the more you will benefit in the process).  What you want to do is break your goals down into small phrases to start getting a broad picture. 

For instance, if you were a company selling crafted wood furniture, your list may include phrase terms such as: sell handcrafted hardwood furniture, service the public directly, quality goods using no toxic glues, only the best pine wood for long-lasting life. Use this as an example and create your own list for your website.


Next, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Think from their perspective about their challenges and needs. Try to emulate their language online as well as think about the other product and related services they may be interested in.

For our furniture maker above this list may add items such as I need furniture to last generations, I need to take care of my current wood furniture, I need a rug to match with my wooden furniture. Again, use this example and craft your own list that fits your website and its goals.


Now, you should have a list of usable keywords and key phrases which you can place in a spreadsheet document for later use and reference. This document will become integral during your SEO journey, and will be added to throughout this series.


Using a keyword research tool

The next step would be to use a keyword research tool in order to expand further on the keywords and phrases you crafted as well as to determine which would be the best for you to focus on to target your primary and secondary goals. 

Focusing on a too broad range of primary keyword goals could muddy the waters of your website content by being too broad and in fact, be counter productive. Choose what is most important for your goals and focus on them, expanding one step at a time.

The keyword tool will give you a better indication of your keyword / phrases’ popularity (how many queries get made on that term), the value of the term as well as related keywords which are very useful for your long-tail goals.


There are a number of great keyword tools to use, such as the Keyword Generator example below and the fantastic Google Keyword Planner Tool (Registration of  free Adwords account is required), to name just two. 

I urge you to explore the options and various ‘flavours’ of keyword tools out there on the web. If you find one that really stands out, please let me know in the comments below.


Keyword generator

This is a great keyword generator for beginner users.

  • Visit the Keyword Generator page.
  • Enter your keyword or key phrase into the search box
  • Select your country
  • Click on the ‘Find keywords’ button.
keyword research tool

The list will load up giving you information related to your selected keyword. It will display the keyword/phrase, the difficulty to rank for the keyword in the Top 10 organic results (your online competition) as well as the estimated monthly search volume for that keyword or key phrase.

Do this for your selected keywords and phrases you created previously and make a note of the best results in your spreadsheet under a secondary column.

keyword research results

keyword research results


Refining your list

Now it is time to build your complete list and make order of the various factors you took into account above.

Review your spreadsheet and make note of the primary keyword and terms (these will be your main focus keywords relating to your most important services or goals) as well as the secondary keywords and synonyms which you will use to create variation and depth in your content.

Your list should contain: your desired keywords for your goals, keywords from your audience’s perspective, expanded primary and secondary keywords from the keyword tool as well as synonyms you have for all terms.

It will be a long list for sure, the value of which will start to become evident in the following chapters of this series


In the next step will be looking at website structure as the preparation for your on-page SEO considerations including crafting your content, and structuring your layout. Here you will use start to use the keyword spreadsheet you created in this step.

Bookmark my blog and keep up with my Facebook page to make sure you don’t miss the next entry. See you soon!

If you would like to chat more about SEO and how I can help your website, please contact me at info@seou.co.za

About the Author:

Tarquin Lessing has been a SEO professional for more than 20 years and operates under the banner of ‘The Search Engine ou’. He started his online journey with the world of BBS and text-based browsing in 1993, with his formal industry SEO experience beginning in 1997. While working on optimization and submission for websites when the likes of Yahoo, Infoseek and Hotbot were the search crazes of the day, he started his love and passion for internet search.

The search landscape was soon dominated by Google’s search experience, which he embraced and became Google Search & Adwords certified. His experience in SEO over this long period has strengthened his base knowledge and has the experience to catapult new sites to success, fix older sites with SEO challenges as well as delve into deeper online marketing, search statistical analyses and pay-per-click strategies. 

Tarquin can be contacted at info@seou.co.za for any consultation, PPC & online marketing or advanced SEO work.