Keyword Research can Make or Break your SEO Campaign

Keyword research and selection is at the core of any SEO campaign. Two of the three main components of SEO, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO, is all based around what we call keywords. Choosing the wrong keywords can potentially waste an incredible amount of time, effort, and resources. On the other hand, choosing the “correct” keywords can be highly lucrative. Here we will discuss the basics of keyword research and selection.

What are Keywords?

In SEO, keywords refer to the queries, phrases, and words we put in the search engine to find what we are looking for. For example, if you were looking for the “best SEO company in Hong Kong”, “SEO experts in Singapore”, or “top SEO agencies in Japan”, you would type that into a search engine like Google. If these were our target keywords, our SEO efforts will revolve around getting our pages ranked on the first page (and as close to #1) of Google for those terms.

How to choose the “Right” Keywords

The first step to choosing keywords is to understand your niche, target audience, and goal. After identifying your target audience and the goals mentioned above, align them with Keyword Intent, Search Volume, and Difficulty. It is also extremely important to find a good balance between intent, search volume, and difficulty.

Keyword Intent (Types of Search Queries)

When we search for things on the internet, we use queries or “keywords” that can be categorized into a few different categories.

  1. Informational Keywords
    The searcher’s intent is to get information from a website.
    These are keywords we use to find information on things, which usually include some form of the 5W1H – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Informational Keywords are generally categorized as Low Converting keywords due to the nature of the users just looking for information.
    If your goal is to sell something, informational keywords are not very valuable to you unless you have a high converting sales funnel in place. However, if your goal is to attract as many users as possible in order to monetize your website through ads, then choosing these type of keywords may be a good strategy.
  2. Navigational Keywords
    The searcher’s intent is to reach a specific site on the world wide web.
    These are keywords that are used to “navigate” to a specific part of the internet/website. Since the user knows exactly what they are searching for, these can be considered medium to high converting keywords (assuming that the user is searching for specific brands, products, services, companies, etc.). An example would be searches like, “facebook”, “wikipedia”, etc.
  3. Transactional Keywords
    The searcher’s intent is to perform some kind of activity through the websites found through their search. Due to the nature of the search, these keywords are generally considered high conversion keywords.
    Even within Transactional Keywords, the following types are most valuable:
    Commercial keywords like “Buyer” and “Product/Service” related keywords.
    Examples of Buyer Keywords: Buy, hire, discount, free shipping, etc.
    Examples of Product/Service Keywords: Branded searches, Specific products, Product/service categories, Best, Review, etc.

Lastly, here are a few types of keywords to stay away from if your end-goal is to get conversions: Free, Torrent, Download, etc.

Once again, the key here is to understand which part of the sales funnel you are targeting and align that with the different types of keywords.

Search Volume

The higher the search volume the better the keyword is, as long as the intent of the keyword is in line with your goals. If the keyword is a laser-focused “buying” or “converting” keyword, then even low search volume can be highly lucrative.
The broader the keyword, the more searches it usually has.
The more specific the keyword, the less searches it usually has.
Only take search volume into account by combining it with search intent.

Keyword Difficulty

The competition you are up against for the chosen keywords will determine how much time, effort, resources, and money it will take to rank that specific keyword. Is it worth spending thousands of dollars a month for 12 months for a keyword with a lot of search volume but low conversions? We always ask ourselves, is the juice worth the squeeze?

What it means to balance Intent, Search Volume, and Difficulty.

Let’s explore this by using an example.
Scenario: A dentist with a practice in Boston wants to get more customers through their website (organic search).
At the time of writing this article the keyword “Dentist” has an average of roughly 369,000 monthly searches, whereas “Dentist Boston” has around 2,900. If we start looking at long-tail keywords like, “emergency dental care boston” we are looking at around 20 searches per month.
If the only goal of the business was to get traffic, going after “Dentist” might make sense; however, this keyword has fierce competition – Ranking for this term will be take a lot of time and effort (as well as money).
For a local business in Boston, it would be unwise to target “Dentist” specifically. Boston has a population of approximately 673,100 people vs. the total population of 325.7 million people in the United States. This means that your target audience is only around 0.2% or around 738 searches out of the 369,000 searches for “Dentist”. This is far lower than the more refined keyword of “Dentist Boston” that has 2,900 searches. The competition for the local term is also easier, making this a far better choice over “Dentist”. The conversion rate for a keyword like “dentist Boston” will also be much higher than just “Dentist”.
Lets now talk about the low search volume term “emergency dental care boston”. This only gets around 20 searches per month; however, if the searcher is having an emergency, it is very likely that the searcher will convert into a customer. These 20 people most likely need a dentist “now”. The competition for this keyword is also lower, making it a good option as long as this is a service they actually offer.
It is important to understand what the goal is and then find a keyword that is in line with that goal. In this case, people are unlikely to travel across town or state for a Dentist. Therefore, having a geographical modifier like “Boston” in your keyword is recommended. You can get more specific as well, like “dentist back bay boston”. This gets 110 searches and is very specific around which location the user is seeking dental services.
After the main keywords have been chosen, you can now go on to more specific services and products (ex: dental implants, teeth whitening, etc.).
Dentist is most likely attracting users who want information on dentists, whereas, dentist boston is attracting users who are looking for dental services in boston either for treatment or preventive services.

How to get keyword ideas

Now that we know what type of keywords we should target, where do we get actual keyword ideas?


Your client will know the most about their business. The easiest way to get started is to ask your client what sort of keywords they have in mind. Ask them about the products and services they would like to sell more of, as well as which ones are most profitable. After the client provides you with a list of “seed” keywords, qualify them by analyzing the intent, search volume, and difficulty. You should also expand the list by combining them with other words like “buyer” or “geographical modifier” words.

After you get some “seed” keywords, search their search volume in Google Keyword Planner or other keyword research tools. This will give you search volume as well as other keyword ideas.
If you are location specific, add geo modifiers as well.


Another easy way to get started is by looking at your competitors. Find out what keywords they are ranking for and which ones produce the most traffic. Once again, analyze the intent, search volume, and difficulty of the keywords when doing this.

Create a Buyer Persona

Another good option is to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Imagine your ideal customer and start making a persona around this. Here are some things to take into consideration when creating your persona:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Approximate Income
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Struggles
  • Goals

By creating the ideal persona, it will make it easier to get in their shoes and fine tune what types of keywords they may use to search your products and services.

Check Keyword CPC

A keyword with a high CPC is likely to have a good conversion rate. The reason behind this is simple. Who would bid a lot of money, per-click, if that word does not convert well?

SEO Tools

We have written a more comprehensive list of SEO tools in a separate article but here are a few that make keyword research easier.
Google Keyword Planner – This one is a no-brainer. You can get access to this tool from google for free. This tool is useful for getting approximate monthly search volumes for keywords as well as their CPC (cost per click).
Google Search Console – This can give us insights on what your website is already ranking for, how many impressions keywords get, how many clicks keywords get, and what the CTR (click through rate) is for specific keywords. This tool can help you identify lucrative keywords that may be worth going after.
Google (Search Engine) – Google will show a field [Searches Related to “Keyword”] at the bottom of the page. These can give you a new set of ideas to look into.
Ahrefs – This is one of the most popular SEO tools on the market. Details can be found on a different article, but in terms of keywords, this has a built-in keyword research tool as well as the ability to identify your competitors’ keywords.
KW Finder – This tools will create a list of related keywords including their average monthly searches, keyword difficulty, etc.
Forums – Looking through niche relevant online forums can be a great way to get keyword ideas. Sites like Quora, Reddit, Yahoo Answers, etc. can be a goldmine of keyword ideas.

This is a watered down version of some things to think about when choosing keywords. If you need help with keyword research, contact one of our offices specializing in SEO: Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore.

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