How to Choose Keywords for SEO in 5 Easy-to-Follow Steps

March 29, 2024
By Magee Clegg

Choosing the right keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) is like deciding where to plant your flag in the vast territory of the internet. Get it right, and you’ll attract a horde of visitors to your website. Get it wrong, and you could end up shouting into the void. For a quick guide, remember these steps:

  1. Identify your core topics.
  2. Find relevant keyword ideas.
  3. Evaluate keyword difficulty and search volume.
  4. Understand the search intent behind the keywords.
  5. Select the keywords that align with your business goals and audience needs.

Imagine your website as a shop in a huge digital mall. The keywords are the signs that guide people to your shop. Without the right signs, your shop stays hidden. With powerful signs (keywords), you guide loads of people to your door. This is why keywords are the backbone of a successful SEO strategy. They help you get found by the right people—those who are looking for what you offer.

Detailed infographic showing steps to choose SEO keywords - includes identifying core topics, using tools like SEMrush for finding and evaluating keywords, understanding search intent through Google's "People also ask" and selecting keywords that match your business goals and the needs of your target audience. - how to choose keywords for search engine optimization infographic process-5-steps-informal

For small to medium-sized business owners looking to boost their online presence and drive sales, mastering the art of choosing the right SEO keywords is essential. It’s the first, crucial step toward making your website more visible and attractive to your ideal customers. Moving forward, we’ll dive deeper into how to generate relevant keyword ideas, assess their metrics, and ultimately, choose the primary keywords that will embark your website on a journey to the top of search engine results.

Generate Relevant Keyword Ideas

Choosing the right keywords for search engine optimization starts with generating a pool of relevant keyword ideas. This process is like gathering ingredients for a recipe; you want the best quality to ensure a delicious meal. Let’s break down the process into manageable steps: brainstorming, competitor analysis, and using tools like Google Trends, Semrush, and Ahrefs.


Start with what you know. Think about your business, products, and the services you offer. What words or phrases would you use to describe them? What might your customers type into a search engine when looking for what you offer? Write down everything that comes to mind. No idea is too broad or too niche at this stage.

Competitor Analysis

Next, peek at what your competitors are doing. Enter your competitors’ domains in tools like Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool. This will show you what keywords they’re ranking for that you’re not. It’s a gold mine of potential keyword ideas that are already working in your industry. If these keywords are relevant to your competitors, they’re likely relevant to you too.

Google Trends

Google Trends is your friend for spotting seasonal trends or rising topics in your industry. By entering a keyword, you can see its search volume over time and across different regions. This tool is invaluable for identifying keywords that are gaining popularity, so you can ride the wave early.

Semrush and Ahrefs

Both Semrush and Ahrefs are powerful tools for keyword research. Start with a seed keyword related to your business in Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool or Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. These tools will generate a list of related keywords, including long-tail keywords, which are longer and more specific phrases. Long-tail keywords often have less competition and can be easier to rank for.

  • Semrush categorizes keywords into groups, making it easier to find related topics and subtopics. This feature helps you understand the breadth of your niche and the various angles from which you can approach your content.

  • Ahrefs shows you the keyword difficulty score, helping you gauge how hard it would be to rank for a specific keyword. It also shows the search volume, giving you an idea of how many people are searching for that keyword.

Both tools offer insights into the questions people are asking around your seed keywords. Answering these questions in your content can attract more targeted traffic to your site.

Putting It All Together

By now, you should have a hefty list of potential keywords. But remember, this is just the beginning. The next steps will involve assessing these keywords’ metrics, understanding the search intent behind them, and finally choosing the ones that align best with your SEO goals.

Moving forward, we’ll dive into how to assess the metrics of these keywords, which is crucial for narrowing down your list to the most effective ones for your SEO strategy.

Assess Keyword Metrics

When you’re figuring out how to choose keywords for search engine optimization, it’s like picking the right tools for a job. Not every tool (or keyword) will be right for the task at hand. This is where assessing keyword metrics comes in. Let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces.

Search Volume

Think of search volume like the crowd at a concert. The bigger the crowd, the more popular the concert. In SEO, a high search volume means a lot of people are typing this keyword into search engines every month. But here’s the catch: just because a keyword is popular doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Sometimes, targeting less crowded concerts (or keywords with lower search volumes) might be a better strategy because they’re more specific and have less competition.

Tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ahrefs can show you how many people are searching for a keyword each month. It’s a good start to see if a keyword is worth your time.

Keyword Difficulty

Now, let’s talk about keyword difficulty. Imagine trying to climb a mountain. Some mountains are easier to climb than others. Keyword difficulty works the same way. It’s a score, usually from 0 to 100, that tells you how hard it would be to rank on the first page of Google for a specific keyword. The higher the score, the tougher the competition.

Why does this matter? Well, if you’re new to the SEO game, you might want to start with less competitive keywords (or smaller mountains) that are easier to rank for. As your website grows stronger, you can start targeting those bigger, more competitive keywords.

Again, tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ahrefs come in handy. They can give you an idea of how hard it will be to rank for your chosen keywords.

Putting It All Together

When you’re choosing keywords for SEO, you want to find the sweet spot between search volume and keyword difficulty. You’re looking for keywords that have enough search volume to be worth your effort but aren’t so competitive that you have no chance of ranking for them.

  • High search volume + Low keyword difficulty = A great opportunity (if relevant to your content)
  • Low search volume + High keyword difficulty = Probably not worth your effort

The goal is to drive traffic that converts, not just to attract any traffic. So, relevance to your content and audience needs is key.

In summary, assessing keyword metrics is like being a detective. You’re gathering clues (metrics) from tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ahrefs to help you make informed decisions. This step is crucial for narrowing down your list to the keywords most likely to succeed in your SEO strategy.

Now that we’ve covered how to assess keyword metrics, we’ll move on to understanding search intent. This is where you get into the minds of your audience to figure out what they’re really looking for when they type those keywords into search engines.

Determine Search Intent

Understanding search intent is like being a mind reader. It’s all about figuring out what people really want when they search for something online. This step is crucial because if you get it right, your content will be like a magnet, attracting clicks and attention. If you get it wrong, well, you’re basically invisible.

User Intent

There are usually four main types of search intent:

  1. Informational: People looking to learn something. Example: “What is SEO?”
  2. Navigational: Users searching for a specific website or page. Example: “Cleartail Marketing blog”
  3. Transactional: Searches where the user intends to make a purchase. Example: “buy SEO tools”
  4. Commercial Investigation: Users who are considering a purchase and want to compare options. Example: “best SEO services”

Understanding these types can help you craft content that meets users’ needs.

SERP Analysis

To nail down the search intent, do a SERP analysis. This means you look at the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for your keywords. Notice what types of content are ranking at the top. Are they blog posts, product pages, tutorials, or reviews? This will give you a clue about what Google thinks users want when they search for those keywords.

For example, if you search for “how to choose keywords for search engine optimization” and see a lot of guides and tutorials, it means the intent is mostly informational.

SERP analysis example - how to choose keywords for search engine optimization

Content Type

Once you’ve identified the search intent, think about the content type that best serves this intent. If the intent is informational, a detailed blog post or a guide might be what you need. For transactional intent, perhaps a product page with clear buying options is best.

Google Search Console

Don’t forget to use Google Search Console. It’s a goldmine for understanding how people find your website. You can see which queries bring users to your site and how those queries match up with your understanding of their search intent. If there’s a mismatch, it might be time to tweak your content or create new pieces that better align with user intent.

Aligning your content with user intent isn’t just about getting traffic; it’s about getting the right traffic. Traffic that converts because it finds exactly what it’s looking for on your site.

We’ll dive into how to choose your primary keywords based on relevance, authority, and volume, ensuring your content not only matches user intent but stands out in the crowded online space. Stay tuned for the next step in our journey to SEO success.

Examine the SERP

After understanding the search intent, it’s time to take a closer look at the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). This is where you’ll see what’s already working and how you can carve out your own space. Let’s break this down into manageable parts: SERP Features, Competitor Ranking, and leveraging tools like Google, SEMrush, and Ahrefs.

SERP Features

Google loves to keep us on our toes by constantly updating the SERP features. These include image packs, paragraph snippets, list snippets, and more. Why should you care? Well, these features can significantly affect how visible your content is. For instance, if there’s an image pack for your target keyword, including relevant, high-quality images in your post could increase your chances of being featured.

Competitor Ranking

Next up, check who’s currently holding the top spots for your chosen keywords. This isn’t to discourage you but to provide insight. What kind of content are they publishing? How detailed are their posts? This is where tools like Google, SEMrush, and Ahrefs come into play. They can show you not just who’s ranking, but why. Look at their backlinks, content length, and keyword usage. This information is gold when planning how to outdo them.

Google, SEMrush, Ahrefs

  • Google: Simply typing your keyword into Google is a straightforward way to start. Look at the top results, but don’t stop there. Check out the “People also ask” section for additional keyword ideas and user concerns.

  • SEMrush: This tool takes things up a notch by letting you conduct a detailed SERP analysis. You can see keyword volumes, trends, and even the types of content that are performing best (blogs, videos, infographics, etc.).

  • Ahrefs: Similar to SEMrush, Ahrefs gives you a deep dive into your competitors’ performance. One of its standout features is the “Content Gap” tool, which shows you what keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t.

By examining the SERP closely, you can identify what Google and your audience consider relevant and valuable. It’s not just about finding a gap; it’s about understanding how to fill that gap better than anyone else. Whether it’s by creating more comprehensive content, targeting overlooked keywords, or optimizing for SERP features, your goal is to stand out.

SEO is not just about getting to the top; it’s about staying there. Regularly revisiting SERP analysis and adjusting your strategy accordingly is key to long-term success.

As we move on to selecting your primary keywords, keep in mind everything you’ve learned from examining the SERP. This knowledge will be invaluable as you make decisions about relevance, authority, and volume, ensuring your content is perfectly poised to capture your audience’s attention.

Choose Primary Keywords

Choosing the right primary keywords is like picking the perfect outfit for an interview. You want to make sure it’s just right—appropriate, impressive, and spot-on. Here’s how to nail it down in five easy-to-follow steps, focusing on relevance, authority, volume, and content quality.


First up, relevance. Think of your keyword as your audience’s question and your content as the answer. You want to ensure that the two are a perfect match. If your site is about “organic gardening,” a keyword like “best synthetic fertilizers” might not be the best choice. It’s like showing up to a vegan dinner party with a meatloaf. Not quite right, right?


Next, let’s talk about authority. Google loves content from authoritative sources. To boost your site’s authority, you need to create in-depth, well-researched content that stands out. Think of it as building your reputation in a new neighborhood. You want to be the go-to person for your specific knowledge or service. If your content is about “how to choose keywords for search engine optimization,” make sure it’s the most helpful, detailed guide out there.


Volume is all about finding the sweet spot. It’s like fishing; you want to cast your net where the fish are. Use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to check the monthly search volume of your keywords. A keyword with no search volume is like a billboard in the desert. It’s big and impressive, but if no one sees it, does it matter?

Content Quality

Content quality cannot be overstated. It’s the core of your SEO strategy. Google’s ultimate goal is to provide users with the most valuable and relevant content. If you focus on creating high-quality content that addresses your audience’s needs, you’re more likely to rank higher. Think of your content as a product; you want it to be so good that people can’t help but talk about it.

Cleartail Marketing

To tie it all together, let’s take a page from Cleartail Marketing’s book. They emphasize the importance of selecting keywords that not only have a good search volume but are also relevant to your content and within your site’s authoritative reach. This holistic approach ensures that you’re not just throwing words into the void but strategically placing them where they’ll make the biggest impact.

In conclusion, when you’re figuring out how to choose keywords for search engine optimization, think of it as preparing a gourmet meal. Every ingredient must be chosen with care to create a delightful experience. Relevance, authority, volume, and content quality are your key ingredients. Mix them correctly, and you’ll have a recipe for SEO success that even Cleartail Marketing would approve of.

Remember these key points to ensure your SEO efforts are fruitful and your content reaches the audience it deserves.

Frequently Asked Questions about Choosing SEO Keywords

Navigating SEO can often feel like trying to find your way through a maze. With so many factors to consider, how do you choose the right keywords for your SEO strategy? Let’s dive into some common questions to help simplify this process.

How do I choose a SEO keyword?

Choosing an SEO keyword isn’t just about picking terms that are popular. It’s about understanding what your audience is searching for and how your content can meet their needs. Here are three key factors to consider:

  • Relevance: Your keywords must be relevant to your content and the services or products you offer. If the keyword doesn’t align with your content’s intent, it’s unlikely to perform well.

  • Authority: Google favors content that comes from authoritative sources. Enhance your authority by creating in-depth, informative content and getting reputable sites to link back to your content.

  • Volume: Look for keywords that have a decent search volume. This means that people are actually looking for information on these topics. But remember, high volume doesn’t always mean it’s the right keyword for you, especially if the competition is too high.

How do I choose primary keywords for SEO?

To choose your primary keywords, start with a broad list of keyword ideas related to your topics of interest. Then, apply the following criteria:

  1. Evaluate Metrics: Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to look at search volume and keyword difficulty. These metrics will help you gauge how competitive a keyword is and how often it’s searched.

  2. Determine Search Intent: Analyze the search intent behind the keywords. Are people looking to buy, to learn, or just browsing? The intent should match the purpose of your content.

  3. Examine the SERP: Look at the search engine results page for your chosen keywords. What type of content is ranking? How authoritative are those sites? Can you compete?

  4. Relevance and Authority Check: Ensure the keywords are highly relevant to your content and that you have or can build the authority to rank for them.

How do I select words for SEO?

Selecting words for SEO involves a mix of intuition and analysis. Here’s a simplified approach:

  1. Brainstorm Relevant Keyword Ideas: Think about the topics your audience cares about. What questions are they asking? What problems do they need solutions for?

  2. Evaluate Metrics: Use keyword research tools to look at the search volume and competition levels. Don’t shy away from long-tail keywords, which are longer and more specific phrases. They often have lower competition and can attract more qualified traffic.

  3. Identify Intent: Understanding the searcher’s intent is crucial. Align your content with what searchers are hoping to find. This alignment increases the chances of your content being seen as relevant by search engines.

By focusing on relevance, authority, and volume, and by carefully evaluating keyword ideas, metrics, and search intent, you can effectively select words that enhance your SEO strategy. The goal isn’t just to attract traffic, but to attract the right traffic that will engage with your content and take desired actions.


Choosing the right keywords for search engine optimization is more than just picking words with high search volumes or low competition. It’s about understanding your audience, knowing what they are searching for, and how they are searching for it. At the core of a successful SEO campaign is a well-thought-out keyword strategy that aligns with your business goals and audience needs.

Keyword strategy is the backbone of SEO success. It involves not just the initial selection of keywords, but also the continuous analysis and refinement of these keywords based on performance data and market trends. The digital landscape is always evolving, and so are the search behaviors of your audience. Staying agile and responsive to these changes is key.

SEO success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of consistent effort, strategic planning, and the ability to adapt to new insights and data. By focusing on keywords that are relevant to your audience, have a good search volume, and for which you can realistically rank, you set the foundation for your content to be discovered by the right people. This, in turn, increases the chances of your content meeting the business objectives, whether it’s raising awareness, generating leads, or driving sales.

At Cleartail Marketing, we understand the intricacies of choosing the right keywords for your SEO strategy. We’re here to guide you through every step of the process – from initial keyword research to monitoring and adjusting your strategy based on performance. Our goal is to help you maximize your online visibility and achieve your business objectives.

A successful SEO strategy is not just about getting traffic to your site; it’s about getting the right traffic. By carefully selecting your keywords and continuously refining your strategy, you can attract visitors who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. This is the key to not just SEO success, but to the overall success of your online marketing efforts.

Let us help you navigate the complex world of SEO and unlock the full potential of your online presence. Explore our SEO services and take the first step towards achieving your digital marketing goals.

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