Updated February 1st, 2024 — version 336

The UnFair Advantage Book
Winning the Search Engine Wars

 Chapter Six
Keyword Research and The Buying Process

Keywords are the cornerstone of search engine optimization and Internet marketing. Keyword Research is arguably the most important activity you'll engage in as you begin your search engine optimization and marketing (SEO/SEM) efforts. Simply put, Keywords are key to web marketing success and a profitable online business.

Your objective should be to find your most valuable keywords, the ones that actually make you money. So, the first rule of keyword research is...

never assume you know which keywords people are using to search for your products or service.

Assuming you already know is a fool's approach. Instead, you must ferret out the money keywords by following the buying process. By doing so you will learn that...

the only type of keyword that consistently converts to sales is the last one used before making a purchase.

The take-away point is that...

High traffic keywords do NOT typically generate high conversions or high profit!

Amateurs often attempt to rank high for broad, generic search terms that are relevant to their product or service. But, in reality, you won't make many (if any) sales even if you rank number one for a generic search term like cell phones.

Search engine marketing experts know that cell phone BUYERS only use generic terms when they are researching a potential purchase. But, when they are ready to buy, they will search for something very specific like Buy iPhone 13 Pro Max 512GB Sierra Blue best price no contract or Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus 256GB Sky Blue free shipping right before they actually make a purchase.

In other words, the keyword-based customer buying process always involves what we call a long tail keyword search. This is invariably a phrase with descriptive terms and perhaps a geographic location that accompanies a generic keyword like lawyer. For instance, personal injury lawyer in Tampa specializing in defective products would be the type of long-tailed keyword (actually a phrase) that a person would use just prior to making a action decision.

Let's look at a real example of how the keyword-based customer decision-making process actually works. A few years ago one of our tech-guys was in the market for a Bluetooth headset. He started by searching for bluetooth headset reviews to learn which units came with the best recommendations. In doing his research he learned about bluetooth multi-point and bluetooth 2.1.

That led to learning about and narrowing down his search to three possibilities: the Plantronics Voyager Pro, Motorola Command 1 and the Bose AE 2 bluetooth headsets. He decided on the Plantronics unit and his final search, the money search, was: Plantronics Voyager Pro Plus.


The graphic above shows that his product search began with a very generic search phrase (keyword), in this case, bluetooth headsets. As we would expect, there's lots and lots of traffic for that term but not a lot (if any) sales. And, although amateurs might be tempted to target that generic keyword, experts know it's the very specific money keyword (phrase) that will actually produce sales.

By the way...

in the case of purchasing pay-per-click (aka, AdWords) traffic, this is critically important to know. The worst possible amateur mistake is paying for expensive high volume generic keyword traffic that does not convert to sales.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of the process. There are often a variety of factors that increase or decrease the due diligence that consumers apply to the buying process. Generally speaking,

the lower the price point, the less research a consumer will typically do. On a high-ticket item, however, you should expect the research prior to the buying process to be more extensive.

For instance, a survey by Polk and Auto Trader found the average new car buyer spent 18-19 hours in research mode and searched for special offers, rebates and incentives 42% of the time.

As previously mentioned, the money "keywords" are actually a phrase. And, in SEO jargon, any keyword phrase of three or more keywords is called a Long Tail Keyword. Such keywords are very specific to whatever you are buying or selling. The good news is that long tail keywords are usually less competitive, making them easier to rank well for, and they're more likely to convert to sales.

The Keyword Discovery Process

The first step in your keyword discovery process is low tech. All you need to do is ask people how they would search for your product or service. If what you offer solves a problem, then ask them what they would search for to solve that problem. Ask your employees, your vendors, and your customers. Then start asking friends and associates. Heck, you can even ask the cab driver; you get the point. ASK!

While you're in the asking phase, be sure to look for slang, jargon, and dialect. Remember that different people oftentimes search for the same things using different words. For instance, some people use PLC to search for industrial computers. The search term murdered out is jargon for a flat black car with flat black wheels. People who live on the upper peninsula of Michigan are called Yoopers. If you're selling fire extinguishers to car enthusiasts, it's good to know that American drivers might store them in the trunk while British drivers might store them in the boot. And, did you know that re-pop is slang for reproduction? That's why it's critical to ask!

You should also mine your web server logs and/or Google Analytics for unique keywords you haven't yet discovered. Check your business email system, web site search engine data, and your support ticket system if you have one. Monitor relevant blogs, forums and competitors' webpages (it can't hurt to see what the other guy found). Use a thesaurus to find common synonyms. Alternate languages and spelling errors are frequently a good source. And remember to add location keywords such as your city and state whenever applicable.

The idea is to identify all of the keywords that people are associating with your product or service and the problem that it solves.

4 Free Keyword Discovery Tools

#1 Keyword Tool — Google Related Searches

One of the best (and fastest) sources for keyword research is Google's Related searches located at the bottom of each search results page.

For example, if you search the term smoothies and then scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll see a list of Related searches — something like this:

Graphic showing Google Related Searches for the Query Smoothies

Here you'll see that Google helps refine the search for smoothies by showing what Related searches people are currently associating with the keyword smoothies:

Related searches — Google

  • smoothies recipe
  • smoothies recipes for weight loss
  • easy smoothie recipe
  • types of smoothies
  • healthy smoothies recipes
  • smoothies near me
  • smoothies for weight loss
  • breakfast smoothies

After you've finished mining Google for Related searches, head over to Bing where you can do the same search and find something like this:

Related searches for smoothies – Bing

  • simple fruit smoothie recipes
  • how to make a fruit smoothie
  • healthiest smoothies recipes
  • easy smoothie recipes with yogurt
  • healthy fruit smoothie recipes
  • banana smoothie recipe
  • easy smoothie recipes for beginners
  • how do you make a smoothie

These Related searches are a goldmine of information. They reveal the most popular keyword phrases (i.e., long tail keywords) that people are using as they relate to your topic. Therefore, if you were creating an information page on smoothies to attract traffic to your recipe site, Related searches would be the place to begin your research.

#2 Keyword Tool — Google's Autocomplete Feature

Whenever you've started a search on Google you've probably noticed it provides a drop down list of suggestions to choose from. Below you see the suggestions Google offers when we enter our keyword smoothies.

Graphic showing Google Autocomplete Queries for the search term Smoothies

This autocomplete feature is powered by the volume and breadth of searches done by Google users and influenced by the content of webpages in Google's index.

Google uses predictive analysis based on what other searchers looking for smoothies have used to add specificity to their search. This enables Google to understand intent — and therefore have a pretty good idea of what to suggest.

Autocomplete is another goldmine of information about the related keywords you should be focusing on when selling your products, offering your services, or assembling your content to post on your site in your efforts to drive traffic.

Comparing this list to our previous list assembled from Related searches, you'll not only get new ideas for content you may also start noticing patterns that emerge.

For instance, when looking at Related searches and comparing those suggestions to those offered by autocomplete, we see that smoothie recipes and weight loss appear in both. One might surmise that, based on this information, a blog post about weight loss smoothie recipes might help drive traffic to your recipe site.

As to patterns, it appears that users searching for smoothies are interested in location info — probably so they can go get a smoothie. That being the case, you might consider posting a directory of the 10 Best Smoothie Locations in selected regions around the country. Something like this might not only drive traffic, it could also garner you some great links to your site along the way.

Be aware the autocomplete suggestions are fluid. They can be greatly affected by location as well as the popular whims at whatever time you're doing your keyword research. For instance, here's a look at Google's autosuggestions for smoothies when logged into different locations...

Graphic showing Google Autocomplete Queries in multiple locations for the search term Smoothies

Who knew that in Estonia searches for smoothies for hair loss would equate to smoothies for diabetics in New York as both were ranked the 7th most popular smoothie related search on that particular day in their respective locations.

And in London, smoothies for glowing skin just barely edged out smoothies with spinach in New York landing in the 7th and 8th positions respectively and being unique to those specific locations.

Suggestions for searches in Hawaii are heavily location-based — obviously looking for places to get a smoothie. The U.S. suggestions, overall, are similar to each other — looking for recipes and focused on weight issues. And while the U.S. looks for smoothies for weight loss, Italy is looking for smoothies slimming recipes which is basically the same search but using different keywords. The point is...

never think you know what keywords your target audience is searching for without doing your research.

And, bear in mind that autocomplete is based on what people are searching for at the moment and in their specific locations. Therefore, in order to grasp the depth and breath of your keyword possibilities, it's critical that you spread your research over time and check from a variety of locations (which can be done by using a VPN which is how we acquired the examples above).

And, know that the keywords you choose shouldn't be set in stone. It's a good idea to revisit this feature from time to time to see if the suggestions change.

Remember also that both Bing and DuckDuckGo use autocomplete too. So when you've finished mining Google's autocomplete feature, go mine their's too.

#3 Keyword Tool — People Also Ask

When searching almost any keyword, if you scroll down the search results page you'll find the People Also Ask (PAA) feature located just above the organic search results.

People Also Ask Queries for the search term Smoothies

These are questions related to your search term that Google knows people are also asking. Once again, a goldmine of information.

Tapping the drop down arrows provides answers to the questions.

People Also Ask Queries Expanded for the search term Smoothies

The answers are pulled from websites that are referenced in each drop down and every time you tap a drop down arrow, Google keeps adding more PAA questions.

When doing your keyword research using PAA, the more you tap the drop down arrows the more insights you'll gain into the myriad questions people are asking in regards to your topic.

Of course, when you're mining Google's PAA, you can repeat the process at Bing. And, while you may not find PAA for smoothies you will find it for other searches. For example doing a search for how to wire a light switch produces these PAAs on Bing...

People Also Ask Queries for the search term how to wire a light switch

...and PAA on Bing works just like PAA on Google.

PAA can literally provide you with an endless diamond mine of valuable insights when doing your keyword research.

#4 Keyword Tool – Answer the Public

Another great tool for keyword research is Answer The Public. It'a a bit different in that it shows all of the most popular questions people are asking based on the keyword you submit but it doesn't return search query results.

Screenshot of the main page of Answer the Public Keyword Tool

This tool is pretty amazing. It gives you a plethora of ideas for content based on related questions that people are actually asking. Each one of the lines seen in the wheel image below is another question, and each area of interest is broken down to the finest details.

Smoothies results page

To see the entire set of results, go here.

Besides viewing the results in data format, you can also download the results into a CSV file for further processing.

One of the many features you'll want to check out is Related which gave us:

  • smoothies recipes
  • smoothies near me
  • smoothies for weight loss
  • smoothies for kids
  • smoothies with spinach
  • smoothies for weight gain
  • smoothies for diabetics
  • smoothies for pregnancy

#5 Keyword Tool – Google Trends

Google provides a website that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages. It's called Google Trends and it provides a variety of graphs you can use to compare the search volume of different queries over time.

It also enables you to compare the relative search volume of searches between two or more terms.

Staying with our smoothie example, we decided to compare the search trend of smoothies to the search trends for tequila, vodka, and beer. As you might expect, smoothies aren't nearly as popular. And also what you might expect, searches for tequila, vodka, and beer all spike during the holidays while smoothie searches do not.

Smoothies results page

Mildly surprising to us is the fact that tequila searches are more popular than vodka searches in the U.S. — except at the end of the graph. Notice that the green line (vodka) suddenly rises above the yellow line (tequila) between the dates of Feb 27-March 5, 2022. That's when vodka searches suddenly surpassed tequila searches by a significant amount.

Why? ...the spike in vodka searches coincided with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Motivated by the fact the U.S was halting vodka imports from Russia, searchers were probably checking to see if their favorite vodka brand was Russian.

We didn't expect to see that. And that's what makes Google Trends so interesting — discovering the unexpected.

Pro Tip: Since Google owns Google Trends, and because Google is in the business of collecting your data, every service they provide to you is designed to serve them too. Google Trends is no different. They want to know what you want to know, they want to know who you are, and they want permission to sell that personal data. When you log into your Google account, you are giving them permission to do all that.

We mention this because you might have trouble using Google Trends if you are using the Chrome browser without being logged in to your Google account.

There have been numerous reports, and we've experienced it ourselves, that if you do "too many searchers" (and one might be "too many") you will likely get the following error message:

Too many searches error

Obviously you can log in and make Google happy while you search Trends. But if you don't want to log in, try using Firefox, Brave, or Safari – all of those browsers work fine with Google Trends. But Chrome? ...not so much — unless you are logged into your Google account.

Besides that one quirk, Google Trends is great. Give it a try and you'll be amazed at all of the comparison options available to you. Any search term, any region, any country, and much, much more — too much to explain here. So go see for yourself.


These five keyword research tools, combined, make up a very powerful suite of resources that are free to use and can help make the difference between success and failure once you know how to use them.

Remember that vague, general, and generic search terms are not your focus. It's the long tail search terms (keywords) that generate high quality traffic which converts to action and to sales. Always keep that in mind when doing your keyword research.