Keyword Research in SEO (for CMOs)

This article is written to help CMOs better understand what keyword research is and how to efficiently communicate with the SEO team to produce the most effective keyword research report.

Keyword research is a crucial aspect of SEO, referring to the process of identifying relevant search terms that websites target. Keyword research is often underestimated, but it can play a crucial role in multiple aspects of a business, such as building a go-to-market strategy, optimizing websites for AI prompts, and even developing a value proposition. When done correctly, keyword research can positively impact a business’s product positioning.

On one side, people express their needs by searching for specific phrases on search engines and AI, and on the other side, businesses and organizations aim to present their content as answers to these searches. So, what’s so hard about identifying the keywords most relevant to your target audience? Quite a lot, actually.

Since my blog focuses on helping marketing executives understand the functions they manage, I’ll keep the basics brief. There are three types of keywords: long-tail, short-tail, and LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing).

How Do You Start Keyword Research?

Before diving into the details and steps, remember that fundamentals play a critical role in keyword research. To simplify this, I’ll start with an example. Suppose you are a CMO of a company in the cybersecurity sector. While I could identify over a million search terms related to you, this would contradict my principle that “done is better than perfect.”

Identify the Broadest Terms Related to Your Niche

The initial inputs for keywords should come from the CMO. Getting the context and company’s positioning accurate from the start will make the rest of the keyword research and content production much more efficient. In the cybersecurity example, the term “cybersecurity” has an extremely high search volume, yet it is too broad and may carry several intents, such as educational or informational. The CMO can start with this broad term when communicating with the SEO team. This initial input is not directly related to the actual keyword research but enables the SEO team to ask the right questions to identify parent keywords in the cybersecurity field.

  • What areas of cybersecurity do we provide solutions for?
    • DDoS
  • Who are our direct competitors?
    • Azure (Microsoft), AWS (Amazon), and Cloudflare

Now the SEO team has what they need to conduct initial keyword research for the CMO’s review. In my experience, it’s best to request two separate reports from the SEO team.

1. SEO SWOT Analysis Report

Request your SEO team to research your competitors to find each competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This can be a high-level report showing the SEO market share for the top 10 non-branded keywords per competitor.

  • Competitor Strengths: Identify these by submitting your competitor’s domain name, viewing their top organic keywords, applying advanced filters to exclude the competitor’s brand name, and looking under “Traffic%.” For example, Cloudflare receives around 9% of its traffic for keywords like “speed test,” “email,” and “dns.”

Apply these steps to the other two competitors and identify their top three strengths (keywords). If none overlap, you now have nine parent categories combined from the strengths of your competitors.

  • Your Weaknesses: Identifying your weaknesses solves prioritization problems. Content Gap Analysis is one of the quickest ways to find what you’re not doing but should be. Go to Content Gap -> Gap Analysis, enter your competitors’ domains, and look for relevant keywords your competitor ranks for that you don’t. Select the high-volume keywords from this list and add them to your “parent” keyword list.
  • Your Opportunities: In SEO, opportunities mostly refer to long-tail, low-volume but relevant keyword phrases. Identifying these keywords can help provide new topic ideas for content writers.
  • Your Threats: Some keywords your competitors may rank high for due to their extensive history of consistent, relevant content production and high-quality backlinks. These are listed as “threats” for two reasons: holding the top position for such competitive keywords allows your competitors to outrank you on other keywords by leveraging the high authority score from these ranked pages. Additionally, initially targeting these competitive keywords can cause you to neglect other, easier opportunities.

2. Conducting Keyword Research and Preparing the Report

Assuming your SEO team has identified at least 10 parent keywords, they can start the research for each parent keyword individually.

  • Enter the parent keyword.
  • Under keyword ideas, click “View All.”
  • Scan through the results and exclude obviously irrelevant words under advanced filters -> exclude.
  • Export all results after selecting the “keep grouping option.”
  • Create a tab on Excel or Google Sheets and copy-paste your export on the tab for the parent keyword.
  • Follow these steps for all parent keywords.

Once you have completed all the tabs, manually review and eliminate (or combine) the keywords that are too similar or mean the same thing. You can also sort these keywords by search intent and publish your content in more specific categories, such as information intent topics going under the knowledge base or glossary categories. In short, the more accurate and advanced your keyword research is, the better your website’s SEO standing and content structure will be.

Remember, this keyword research will guide your content writers to produce SEO-conscious content consistently, building your content posture that aligns not only with SEO but also with other areas such as the user journey, lead funnels, and more. This is why the term “keyword research” is too important to fit under SEO alone.

The cleaned-up keyword research report can now be processed into pyramid silos for SEO.

Categories: BlogSEO

Ugur Gulaydin

Visionary Chief Marketing Officer with a profound quantitative background excels in leading transformative marketing strategies across competitive B2B sectors like cybersecurity, managed IT services, home automation, and cloud security. Specializes in assembling and guiding elite teams to pioneer performance marketing techniques, focusing on measurable, scalable outcomes. Follow me on LinkedIn


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