Keyword research should be the first step on your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) journey. Keyword research can help you plan your content strategy and provide a great overview of the niche topics your audience finds interesting.

What are keywords?

In the context of SEO, keywords are words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they are looking for.

Keywords are extremely important in SEO because they set the entire foundation for search engine optimization. The basic goal of SEO is to rank your pages for keywords that your target audience searches for. If you’re not ranking for keywords that actually get searched, then your SEO efforts will be meaningless.

How do I find keywords?

Keyword research is the process of finding the keywords that people input into search engines. These two activities can help you find keywords worth targeting:

  1. Make a list of seed keywords
  2. Use a tool to get more keyword ideas​

Activity 1: Make a list of seed keywords

Your first task is to come up with the seed keywords – phrases you’ll use as the stepping stone to finding more keyword ideas.

Start by asking yourself:

  • ​WHO is my audience?
  • HOW do I think they’re searching for my content?
  • What words are they using?
  • What questions are they trying to answer?
  • Is my content delivered and written in a way that will help them answer that question? ​

After thinking through the list of questions, you should have some keyword ideas that your audience will use to find your web pages.​

Basic Keywords vs Specific Phrases in SEO

In SEO, the difference between a basic keyword like “chicken” and a specific phrase like “backyard chickens” is their level of detail and purpose.

A basic keyword like “chicken” is broad and covers various topics like recipes, farming, and products. Search engines show a wide range of content for this general term. It’s too basic to optimize your content for.

On the other hand, “backyard chickens” is more specific and indicates an interest in raising chickens at home. It targets information about chicken coops, feeding, and tips for residential settings. Search engines understand this focus and can more easily narrow down their results to content catered towards this topic.

Furthermore, the basic keyword “chickens” has a wider range with higher competition and search volume. In contrast, “backyard chickens” is narrower, attracting users with a specific interest. Although search volume may be lower, it targets a niche audience that you will have an easier time getting to click through to your site.

KeywordType of KeywordCompetitionConclusion
chickenBasic, broad, generalHigherToo broad and competitive to optimize web content for.
Poor seed keyword to start with.
backyard chickensMore specific topic, narrower audienceLowerLess competitive with a niche audience.
Good seed keyword to start with.

Activity 2: Use a tool to get more keyword ideas

To determine which of your seed keywords are worth optimizing for based on monthly search volume, competition, and relevancy, use the following methods:

Keyword research definitions

  • Search Volume – How often a term is searched within a period, usually monthly​
  • Search Competition – A scale providing info on how hard it would be to rank for a selected keywords​
  • Relevancy – The higher the search volume, the higher the competition. In some cases, it is most advantageous to target highly specific, lower competition search terms.​

Google suggestions

Google offers many keyword suggestions directly in the search engine result pages. Features such as Google Autocomplete, People Also Ask or Related Searches can be a great source of keyword ideas.

Google autocomplete

With the autocomplete feature, you just need to type your seed keyword into the Google search and suggestions appear automatically.

Google search for backyard chickens
People also ask

These questions are related to your search terms and may be helpful as a next step.

Google: People also ask
Related searches

Suggestions are based on real search queries used by people all over the world.

Google: Related searches


In addition to Google, there are other platforms that can help you find new keyword ideas. Focus on the ones people in your audience use to ask questions, communicate and share ideas. Examples: Facebook groups, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

Keyword research tools

Take your list of seed keywords and add them into a keyword research tool to assist in identifying terms, phrases and additional keywords that relate to your programs or services and that you may not have thought of before.

Some suggested SEO tools:

To use Google Keyword Planner:
  1. In Google Keyword Planner, search the keyword idea and select the target area​ to give search volume data and trends based on a specified geographic location or range. We used “Georgia, United States” in our example.
  1. The average monthly searches is relatively high, but so is the competition.

“backyard chicken breeds” will be hard to optimize and rank for.

  1. Google Keyword Planner suggests: “best backyard chicken breeds”

With 100-1K monthly searches, and low competition, this may be worth optimizing for if you can write on this subject!

Here’s some great resources for learning to use Google Keyword Planner:


The idea is to use keyword research tools to discover more keywords, topics, and questions you may have not thought about in the context of your services, programs, etc.

How do I apply keyword research to my content?

Look at your competitors who rank first for search results

  • What is their content like?
  • How can you make a page that’s better and more user friendly, fulfilling the needs of your visitors even more?

Group your keywords

  • Think of keyword groups as web pages and use them on either new pages you’re writing or preexisting pages that you’re optimizing.
  • Choose a focus keyword per web page to use in the title tag, URL, heading and subheadings, body text, image alt tag, anchor text of internal links and content.

Using our keyword example above, we can write an effective page title – “What are the Best Backyard Chicken Breeds?”

We know that people often use search engines to find information on how to do things. If your page (or article) includes the answer to a problem, make sure your page title reflects this. Searchers often use terms such as “how”, “why”, and “what” when looking up information in search engines, so using these terms is a solid SEO strategy.


  • Note that entire websites don’t rank for keywords — pages do.
  • Many websites receive more traffic to pages other than the homepage – this is why it’s so important to diversify your website’s pages by optimizing each page for uniquely valuable keywords.

Need help?

Contact us at for assistance with your CAES or UGA Extension website.