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How to choose keywords for SEO: A marketers’ guide for keyword prioritization

Wes Flippo
Wes Flippo
6 min read
22 February 2023

Picking search engine optimization keywords is a tough task for any marketer, but it doesn’t have to be an over-complicated process. Our how-to guide shows our process for picking the best SEO keywords, choosing content topics, and prioritizing what keyword target you should go after.

Step 1: Build your SEO keyword list

There are a bunch of useful SEO tools to help you come up with more keyword ideas, such as:

  • Ahrefs
  • SEMrush
  • Keywords Everywhere
  • Answer the Public

Don’t forget about paid search data. If your client has paid search or uses a paid search company, you can easily determine which non-branded keywords are driving sales and which are not. 

Step 2: Look for SEO keywords in a paid search term analysis

If you have an e-commerce website, the first place we want to look is within the search term analysis. It’s important to understand which specific keywords drive good traffic and which don’t.

When doing a paid search term analysis, you want to get a long streak of historical data. You might want to talk to the paid search analysts to ensure that you’re not looking at something that you shouldn’t be, specifically if things have changed drastically over time and the CPA on a specific keyword has changed a lot. Other things to consider are if the cost acquisition, CPO, or cost per lead has changed significantly in the account due to external factors, like a macro domain.

Many things can affect your numbers. Generally, you are safe if you look at the past month or two, and there are enough day-to-day statistics with statistical significance.

Let’s say you want to look at all of the keywords in the entire account. You want to try and relate it to your keywords and find opportunities based on conversion rates.

First, you want to evaluate the search terms and then look by cost and cost per conversion. You should do a few things here: add a filter and filter out a known brand, so a campaign brand that does not contain a brand will garner cleaner data. And then, take a look at the profitable search terms. Only some keywords you researched might have been on the top paid search list.

Once you find these SEO keywords, you can say, “okay, this is something I want to prioritize in SEO.” Choosing SEO keywords utilizing paid search data is the only way to see how keywords are tied to revenue or leads.

Step 3: Understand keyword intent

Keyword intent is crucial in choosing SEO keyword targets and when you are trying to prioritize keywords. It’s important when it comes to keyword research, and it’s helpful in better meeting the users’ needs and matching your content to their intentions. 

People miss a lot when they prioritize keywords because they only focus on the organic keyword volume, difficulty of the SERPs, and intent. If we don’t have any data on whether or not all of these keywords will convert (no paid search data), we know that the clients have potential products or services that can match the keyword we want.

Let’s do an example with the term “king bedding sets.” Okay, maybe we have decided to go after “king size bedding” or “king bedding sets,” and we return to our client and say, “this is our number one priority for SEO.” Well, we’ve spent all of this time putting a plan together (an engaging page where we’ve mapped everything out and determined all the elements on it, the title tag, and all of the other data), but if you don’t think about the value of the product we are selling, the client may have other thoughts. The client may say, “You know, we don’t make much money on king bedding sets because they cost us so much to produce, and we do much better with our twin bedding sets.”

In this situation, you’ll look like you didn’t think things through before starting the project and have to redo your work. This is why asking first is important, so you don’t waste your time and energy redoing your work. Don’t blindly dive into using keywords without asking!

Step 4: Use the client as a resource to choose SEO keywords

Some of the first questions I love to ask in the discovery meetings or after the audits are done is, “What is your team working on? What makes you the most money? What are people searching for on your site or Facebook?”

You want to get client-buy in on your keyword recommendations, and sometimes to get there, you just need to take a moment to define your objectives and ask the right questions.

Step 5: Look at search volume & difficulty in choosing SEO keywords

In SEO, search volume is the number of monthly searches conducted every month for your keyword. Let’s look at keyword volume and the difficulty of the SERPs themselves. For example, if you Google “queen bedding sets,” big conglomerates like Macy’s, Walmart, and Target are likely to come up.

The difficulty of the SERP directly impacts our process of choosing the right keyword for SEO.  Let’s say that you are a small, expensive linen company. The approach that I’m going to take is to focus on luxury terms instead. But what if they already dominate the luxury space? We must look for non-luxury terms that are not as difficult as queen bedding sets. We picked duvet terms, bed linen (generic), and others. The key is to sell it to the client and prove small success before stepping into the larger terms. Identify the SERPs in which you can be competitive and choose accordingly. 

Ready to learn more? Reach out to DEPT® to connect with our team of experienced SEO professionals and find out how we can enhance your search strategy.

Learn more about our SEO services



Wes Flippo