SEO 101: 5 Simple Steps to Selecting Your Keywords

Let’s say you already have a website or are trying to optimize your blog, but haven’t invested much time in search engine optimization (SEO), or the efforts that you have made aren’t paying off. What’s next? Where do you even start?

SEO can be overwhelming if you look at it as an insurmountable project, but if you just take it a step at a time and start small, working your way up over time, the work can be easily achievable – even for a small team.

It’s natural for a company to think that they have the best insight as to what their relevant, target keywords are, but in reality, the way people search for a keyword may not match up with how you would expect your product or service to be found. This is why it’s important to do a sanity check, see what the data says and conduct thorough keyword research from the start, so you don’t waste cycles focusing on and optimizing for keywords that people aren’t actually using to find your business online.

Here are five simple steps to selecting your keywords.

1. Own Your Brand Terms

The first thing you want to be sure you rank for is your brand name. As a first step, search for your brand name and see where you rank.

If you don’t rank for your brand name, this is the first thing to go after. In most cases, this is a very easy step; you’re probably already there. If you have competitors ranking on Page 1 for your brand, you want to force them out and own this space (the search engine algorithms are now allowing a brand to own the full first page of results).

In addition to your brand name, make sure you own all terms associated with your brand name, like your brand-specific product names, as well as your management team’s names.

2. Get Keyword Suggestions

Add your URL, relevant keywords and competitors’ URLs to a keyword suggestion tool and get a list of recommended keywords. When adding keywords relevant to your brand to the suggestion tool, make sure to include a range of head terms, mid-terms and long-tail keywords.

  • Head terms = >1,000 monthly searches
  • Mid-terms = 100-1,000 monthly searches
  • Long-tail keywords = <100 monthly searches

Get Keyword Suggestions

3. Beat Your Competitors

Identify your competitors’ target keywords by adding their homepage URL to your keyword suggestion tool. Validate your own keyword list against your competitors. Are there any major keywords that you missed?

4. Narrow Down Your Keyword List

Compare your resulting keyword list by relevancy, competition, search volume and current status. The goal is to ultimately pick 10 keywords per SEO campaign – your brand name and four additional keywords.

Start by narrowing your keyword list to only the relevant ones. Check to see which keywords you’re already ranking for. It will be easier to start where you’re already in the running.

Look at global monthly searches and competition; ideally, you’re looking for low competition and up to 1,000 monthly searches. Think about conversion. Try to imagine people searching on these terms, seeing your site and whether they would actually convert.

5. Build a Plan to Rank for These Target Keywords

Take these top target keywords and build an SEO campaign around them. Monitor the keywords over time by tracking the trends of ranks and by measuring what kind of traffic you’re getting from them.

Traffic From Referring Keywords

Keyword Trends Target


SEO may be a lot of work early on, but it can have enduring, long-term benefits. When done right, simple SEO can have a major impact on your website traffic and in creating brand awareness in a scalable way.

Related reading

Long tail keywords: Why they matter so much in content strategy
Optimizing for position zero: The future of voice search
Going international: How to make your WordPress site globally friendly
2019 Google core algorithm updates: Lessons and tips to future-proof your SEO