How To Learn What Keywords Are Being Searched In Google (And Competitors)

Learn what keywords are being searched in google

If you’re doing SEO, the first step is to learn what keywords people search in Google so you can target them in your content and SEO strategy.

This is called keyword research and it can easily make the difference between ranking on page 1 or page 7. Keyword research should preferably be done before designing a website. Because if it’s not involved in the design, how are you  suppose to align your content with the phrases people are searching? Otherwise you might need to go back and make adjustments.

I will cover some basic strategies for selecting good keywords. Because if you choose one that is too competitive or one that’s not being searched at all, this can you leave in the dust with more page 7 rankings. It’s the most common mistake I see. Let’s not do that.

  1. Start With Google Autocomplete
  2. Hone In Using Google Keyword Planner
  3. See Competitor Keywords With HubShout Web Grader
  4. How Many Searches Should My Focus Keyword Have?
  5. Create A Keyword List



1. Start With Google Autocomplete

Google Autocomplete is the easiest way to learn what keywords are being searched in Google. Just go to, start typing in a phrase then you’ll see suggestions based on previous history. Be sure to try out the “fill in the blank” method shown in second photo.

Google autocomplete trick

Google autocomplete seo

Phrases on top have more searches, however you’ll want to target the other keywords so you can maximize search engine traffic. Long-tail keywords (phrases that usually have 3+ individual words) are more specific and bring a more targeted visitor to your site. That means a better conversion rate. These are also easier to rank for (less competition in Google) and are just more profitable all around.

So whether you’re looking for a keyword to use in your upcoming blog post or you’re creating an entire keyword list, always start with Google Autocomplete. The one thing it doesn’t tell you is the actual number of searches each of them have.

Keep reading…



2. Hone In Using Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner tells you how many people are searching for a particular keyword. It provides suggestions and has filters on the left to help you narrow down the best phrases.

Google keyword planner

  • Must sign up for Google AdWords to get started :(
  • Start with a broad phrase
  • Make sure the “keyword ideas” tab is selected
  • Ignore the competition tab, that is for AdWords and not SEO



3. See Competitor Keywords With HubShout Web Grader

HubShout Web Grader compares your website’s keywords with your competitor’s. It also provides valuable info like estimated traffic value and number of links to your website.

Hubshout web grader report



4. How Many Searches Should My Focus Keyword Have?

In Google Keyword Planner, you’ll see the actual number of monthly searches each keyword has. But how little is too little, and how many is too many?

The number of searches your keywords should have is different for each website. You need to check your domain authority in the Semify Web Grader report. This is your website’s predictive ability to rank in search engines on a scale from 0-100.

Domain authority reports

Now use this handy chart I borrowed from Orbit Media’s keyword research guide to learn how many monthly searches your keywords should have.

Domain authority chart

If you want to rank for a keyword that has more monthly searches than the chart recommends, you can always make additional SEO efforts to do that – mainly getting more links and social shares for the page that targets the phrase. Just don’t go too high.

And don’t be discouraged if a keyword only has 30 or even 10 monthly searches. If you have 20 pages that target 1 primary keyword each, multiply that by 10 searches/month which potentially adds up to an extra 200 visitors/month. Not too shabby. Plus, people are likely using variations of that keyword so that number could actually be more.

If you want to improve your domain authority so you can target keywords with more monthly searches, you will need to get more links from high quality websites (in the HubShout report, notice how the monthly traffic value almost directly correlates with the # of links to each website).

You get links by creating new, helpful, keyword-targeted content on your website and blog which people naturally want to link to. My strategy is to take all the articles I’ve written about WordPress SEO and turn it into a series which I’m currently working on. Once you’ve created some good content, start promoting it and the links will come.


5. Create A Keyword List


I hope you found this helpful. Stay tuned for an update on my WordPress SEO Series and be sure to subscribe to my newsletter if you want more helpful articles.


Tom signature


  1. I think using Google auto-complete is a great tip that many people might not think of. Also the screenshots are really great to go along with the descriptions and show how to use each tool.

    • Thanks for your feedback Andrea. I know the photos are small too, maybe a “click to enlarge” option would make them easier to see.

  2. When I am researching I pretty much use all of the above mentioned tools. I think research is the most important part of retention and without great research you will have large turnover. Great post Tom!

  3. Very well written! I didn’t know about some of this keyword research stuff. Your step-by-step examples really helped me understand.

    • That’s great Aleks, glad it helped you out. Tried to turn a seemingly overcomplicated topic into an easy guide with some very useful tools in there :)

  4. I am bookmarking this! All these keyword research strategies and tools all in one place. And who doesn’t get tripped up by this question: “How Many Searches Should My Focus Keyword Have?” Your very detailed explanation, complete with step by step instructions, is tremendously helpful. Thank you for putting this together.

    • You are so welcome Kari! I’m glad you found it helpful and let me know if there’s anything you need help with. I’m putting together more articles on keyword research and SEO I’ll be listing in the WordPress SEO Series.

  5. Great article! It’s definitely extremely important to do keyword research “before designing a website.”

    I also agree that “If you want to improve your domain authority so you can target keywords with more monthly searches, you will need to get more links from high quality websites.”

    • Yep, seems like a common power struggle exists between web designers vs. SEOs as far as how the site is built. Rand Fishkin from Moz says SEOs should lead the way of course :)

  6. Tom,

    Awesome use of the Webgrader! I like the keyword difficulty chart you included from Orbit Media, definitely interesting and a good rule of thumb to focus around. Do you take suggested bids (from Keyword Planner) into account when looking at the best possible competition level for keywords? For example – a lawyer’s keywords could have under 100 searches per month, but a suggested bid of $30 . To me that’s a sign of high competition; if people are willing to pay $30 for a keyword it must make them some money to justify the ROI.

    Do you think DA is the starting point or the final check to make sure you’re able to see a return from the keyword choice? I try to find new ways to find the most optimal keywords, so I’m always interested to see how others are using the same data available to everyone.

    Great job on the post – shoot me a email if you have time to discuss some different strategies on keyword research

    • All really good feedback Eric.

      I think domain authority is an excellent starting point for learning what the general competition for the website’s keywords should be, and other parts of the big picture: whether you’ll actually be able to rank for the keywords (like you mentioned), how much work is involved, how long it will take (eg. for link building), etc etc.

      I do take suggested bids and CPC into account when selecting keywords. If the CPC is super high that should indicate higher competition in organic results. I also take into account the keyword’s estimated conversion rate and overall value (eg. how “long-tail” it is, what these visitors are likely to spend). Thanks for pointing that out, sounds like I really need to write that article on keyword competition. Would love to discuss strategies and will be emailing you.

  7. This is a fantastic tutorial, with a ton of detail. I find keyword research to be very challenging, both to complete, and to explain to customers. I know that if I find it hard, my customers are REALLY having a hard time with.

    The Hubshout tool looks interesting. I like the competitive keyword comparisons – seems simple to understand. I will give it a go.

    • Go for it Brend – HubShout rocks.

      To add to your comment – if you’re willing to spend 5 minutes doing a little keyword research for a potential client and provide them with a few solid, long-tail keyword suggestions (before sending them a proposal or getting paid), that has helped me set myself apart from other SEO companies by establishing both credibility, and an initial willingness to help.

  8. Thanks for the helpful tip about relating your target keywords volume and the domain authority of the website you’d like to rank. Sometimes people can get overzealous and not realize where their website is currently at, when all they see is keywords they want.


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