How To Do Keyword Research Properly – Plus Video with Live Examples

I recently sent a survey to my subscribers, asking them what they struggle with online.

One thing came out again and again, so much so that I decided to create a special video tutorial that would help them to achieve what they wanted…

That thing that came up, both with those that are new to online marketing to those that are established was how to do keyword research in order to find the hot niches online.

In the video, I expose my exact method for researching keywords in order to find niches and micro-niches that have plenty of searches and only low to moderate competition. Knowing these skills is absolutely vital in order to be successful online.


The tool I use in the video can be found here – Google Keyword Tool

The best keyword research and competition analysis tool I know – Get a FREE Trial Here

A great free tool to use to qualify what you find on Google’s Keyword Tool – The Keyword Questions Tool

Method Overview

Here’s a quick overview of the method I use to research keywords that have good amounts of traffic (visitors) and low organic competition in the search engines:

  1. Once you’ve gone to the Google Keyword Tool, type in the main keyword or market that you’re interested in going into. This is very unlikely to be the keyword you end up using, but it gives you a starting point before you start to drill down into the niche to find micro-niches like the one I found in the video.
  2. Ensure that you set the parameters of the search using the Advanced Options area beneath the main search area. In particular, make sure you set the number of searches the results get per month to between 1500 and 8000 if you’re a beginner. More advanced marketers can use higher numbers but bear in mind the competition will be higher, so you will have to adjust your competition numbers too later on in the process. When it comes to how to do keyword research properly, this is one of the most vital parts of the process.
  3. After you’ve run the search, change the search match type to ‘Phrase’ not ‘Broad’ or ‘Exact’. This means that you are looking for results that have the word you typed in within the phrase. This allows you to see a more precise appraisal of what kind of traffic you can expect from the keyword as you will gain traffic from other keywords that are a phrase match to your original keyword.
  4. Look for ‘buying’ keywords rather than keywords that have words like ‘free’ in them or that are purely for one small bit of information. Bear in mind that those who are looking to solve problems are more likely to buy a product to resolve that issue. As a result, they may use words like ‘get rid of’, ‘cure’ or ‘improve’ or they make look for product reviews of something they’re thinking of buying (you could be an affiliate for the product in question and create an affiliate site for that product using the keyword you’ve found).
  5. Once you find a keyword that looks good, click it to run the Google search on that term. Change the search to a phrase match by adding the speech marks to either end of the search term.
  6. Check the competition and make sure it’s between 10,000 and 35,000 competing pages for a phrase match search (raise these numbers if you’re more advanced to up to 100,000 competing pages bear in mind that the more competition you find, the harder it will be to rank in the search engines).
  7. If you can’t find one using your first keyword choice, start to put the keywords you found through the keyword tool again and see if any more variations come up.

Remember, during the process, stay open to variations on words that mean similar things. For example, in the video, I find a niche based on a word that means a similar thing to my original search. This will often happen and is part of the process of drilling down into your niche to find the micro-niches.

If you’ve enjoyed the video and the rest of this post, please leave a comment below. If you have any questions, leave them below and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

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Comments (56)

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  1. Duddy says:

    Great video presentation thank you. I had been confusing “competition” on the keyword tool as a reflection of competition till now. but aren’t backlink numbers and quality more important than number of competing pages or monthly searches (i.e. site explorer analysis)?

    • James says:

      No worries, glad you liked the presentation.

      Yes, the competition you see in the Keyword Tool is purely for paid ads, nothing to do with the search engines.

      You’re right that backlinks and quality are important, but with this method, you don’t really need to worry about that as you can tell a lot purely from the results you see on the page. If the top result is something like an article from EzineArticles or a post on Yahoo! Answers then you can be pretty sure that you can rank well for that keyword as those are unlikely to have many backlinks at all.

      Also, I do suggest in the Resources area a tool that I use (Market Samurai) which is great for double-checking what you find. I’ve done this a lot, and 9 times out of 10 I’ll find that what I’ve found on Google’s Keyword Tool is backed up by Market Samurai.

      By the way, Yahoo! Site Explorer is about to go the way of the dinosaur and be closed for good, so better to use Majestic SEO or SEO Power Suite to gain insight into your competition.


  2. Great article, as always, James.

    Quick question, could you offer a little more info on the “Phrase” vs “Broad” vs “Exact”.

    I love to get peoples viewpoint on this.



    • James says:

      When you say ‘a little more info’ what kind of thing are you looking to find out?

      In terms of what they mean, I’m guessing from your keywords that you already know the difference.

      Regarding which one I use for keyword research, I like to check how many searches the ‘Exact’ match gets, but the one that tends to give a more accurate measure of the traffic a number one ranked keyword can get is the ‘Phrase’ match. ‘Broad’ match is just that, far too broad.


  3. Pete says:

    what happened to google keyword tool?
    it gives me the 1/10 of the results I used to get

    the same applies for market samurai

    they are practically unusable, cause I can’t get results for long tail keywords anymore :(

    • James says:

      Not sure what you mean Pete…

      I’ve just run a search on Google’s Keyword Tool and got 800 keyword ideas back. That’s the same as it’s always been. I had to log in to get that many, but it seems to be working fine.

      Market Samurai has been rather glitchy recently so any difficulties you may be having may be as a result of that. I’m sure they’ll issue a bug fix soon.

      Even if Google’s Keyword tool stops working, you can use other keyword tools from places like Wordtracker and

  4. LeeroyGreen says:

    Hi James, i’ve been putting a lot of work into finding keyword research techniques lately. I’ve tested niche finding tools, but they don’t dig any further for those golden nugget keywords, which makes them pretty useless. I’ve seen keyword research techniques using Scrapebox, SEnukeX, watched video tutorials, and was never really satisfied with any of them. Out of frustration, I searched “how to do keyword research properly”, and found your post, lol. Really cool video, really helpful…and you didn’t charge for it.

    Just wondering though. Why you didn’t look into exact match? Wouldn’t you want to know the exact match after you’ve found a keyword phrase with 10,000 – 35,000 results?

    And does average CPC factor into your keyword research?

    Thanks in advance

    • James says:

      Hey Leeroy, thanks for getting in touch.

      Have you tried Market Samurai? It’s got a setting for finding the keywords according to what they call the ‘Golden Rules’, which takes into account all of what you’ve suggested.

      I was going to include things like the cost per click for keywords, but I wanted to show everyone a great way to do keyword research and give you a method that would keep things simple. If you follow what I’ve shown you in the video, you don’t really need to take into account the more complicated stuff as 9 times out of 10 you’ll find that all those things match up and point to a good keyword.

      I prefer to know the ‘phrase’ not the ‘exact’ match, mostly as it’s inconsequential. If it’s getting the numbers I want as a phrase match, it goes without saying that it’s getting a decent amount as an exact match. The phrase match shows me the breadth of the keyword. It takes into account all the ways in which that root keyword will be searched, so that, to me, is more interesting.

      Does that make sense?


  5. LeeroyGreen says:

    Hi James, sorry to bother you again. I was trying your method with products, Luggage, Backpacks (very competitive). However the phrase matches returned aren’t as diverse when searching for weight loss, health. It would seem to me that product keyword research requires a different method?

    • James says:

      Haha, hey Leeroy. No need to apologise at all.

      It depends what you’re searching for as the keyword. Obviously, you’d need to search for phrases like ‘backpack reviews’ or ‘best backpack for travelling’. Actually I’ve just done a search for ‘best backpack’ and it’s returned loads of results that I could go and create sites about to give the searchers what they’re looking for.

      When you say that the results aren’t as diverse, that doesn’t strike me as a bad thing. The more specific they are, the better.

      By the way, in the super competitive niches, you may want to try modifying the search criteria slightly. Keep the Global Search options the same (1500 – 8000), but maybe try looking for slightly more competition. That said, I found some keywords in your niche that had only around 60,000 – 70,000 competing pages, which while that’s double what I suggest for beginners, is still totally do-able when it comes to ranking for them.

      Hope that helps.


  6. Manie Amari says:

    Hi James, Great video post. Just so others on here know because it seems to me that a few are worried about competing pages. Competition is good! If there is a large amount of competeting pages then this is a good indication that there is a market of buyers.

    Also quick question, sorry to go off topic but I couldn’t help but notice you have this security code form in your blog. Does this help to block spam?


    • James says:

      Hey Manie,

      Thanks buddy, glad you liked it.

      You’re absolutely right about competition. I actually think that there’s really no such thing as competition on the internet as there’s a huge abundance of information and expertise, plus, you can JV with potential ‘competitors’ and make them into partners instead.

      Yes, the security form is there to block spammers as spam bots can’t read these Turing-style codes.



  7. Hi James,

    I came across with your blog and i’m really happy since i never read such detailed and authentic write up regarding keyword research. I’ve been struggling with this area of optimization but now i’m confident enough that i could do it right this time. Thank you very much and i look forward for more post like this.


    • James says:

      Thanks Ken, glad you liked it. Incidentally, you might want to comment on some blogs that are more related to your keywords if you want to get the best kind of backlinks. An internet marketing blog isn’t really associated content. ;)

  8. I always use broad match – are you saying that the actual traffic estimates are more reliable with exact? if that’s the case then I am switching. I thought exact match was when people actually typed in “..” and I don’t know how many people really do that..

  9. Alan Fuller says:

    Dear James,

    How relieved I am to find this site with such useful hints and genuine information in as a complete novice, plain unadulterated English……I have learnt so much and hugely enjoyed the video, now that I have a better understanding of what I have wanted to do for quite a long time, your tutorial has been god send. Thank you

    Kind regards


    • James says:

      Wow, thanks Alan, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad to help.

      Let me know if you would like to learn anything else in particular as that will help me to build more videos to help my readers.


  10. Alan Fuller says:

    Hi James,

    Love your stuff………………..Here is another ;
    What is the significance of the LSI terms ?.

    Would love to understand this !!

    Best wishes


    • James says:

      Hey Alan,

      LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing and it covers words that are not what you’re targeting, but that you will be found for because of a combination of other words you’ve used. For example, I have an acne site that gets found for a specific product that I’d never heard of, but that one of my writers quoted in the blog post they wrote for me.

      As a result, I rank for that, even though I didn’t optimise for it, as it’s related to those words I did optimise for.

      Does that help?


  11. Atul Tanna says:

    Would be very grateful if you could do a video as to how you use MS for KW research

  12. paul says:

    Hi James, terrific video on an area that puzzles many of us, and in which – i can confess – mistakes are easy to make. Some of my domain-acqisitions i will keep secret to my grave for embarrassment!
    Ok, i hope this is not oh-so-simple…but when searches on the Google keyword tool can return 50,000 – 90,000 global monthly searches for an ‘Exact’ match, how can the Insights page linkine straight from the keyword-tool page report too few results for the same term to show a graph ? : “Not enough search volume to show graphs”
    I must be missing something, but i can’t see it.
    Please help!

    • James says:

      Hey bro,

      I’ve not only bought embarrassing domains, I even created ridiculous products that failed, so don’t feel bad!

      In some cases (to answer your question) there isn’t enough data from previous months for the insights page to show something concrete. Other than that, I’m not entirely sure. You’d be better asking someone like Matt Cutts (search him on YouTube) as he’s the SEO Master!


      • paul says:

        Oh dear, egg on my face time, but maybe not 100%. Ok, when in the keyword tool i put a dash between the words of a keyword-phrase, such as TOP-100-SONGS, and it shows a truly huge number for exact monthly global searches. If you then click the little ‘Insights’ logo right next to the keyword, it navigates to the Insights page AS IT IS, and shows zero results and no graph. I wish it was more complex and dramatic, but it turns out it’s just the dashes – take em out – but do not collapse the phrase into one composite word, and a big fat graph running between 80 and 100 appears. I never use Insights, so never come across this anomaly before – anomaly because as Google provides the direct link right from the keyword, it would be nice if they’d adjusted the format of the keyword by dropping the dashes on the way. Still, it’s sorted – at least i might have saved someone else from declaring such a dumn muddle to the world! Onwards and upwards, Paul.

  13. [...] on this point, you may want to refer to my free guide on How To Do Keyword Research Properly, as it will show you where to find potential markets and [...]

  14. [...] you want to access James’ resource area that he talks about, just click here >>> to read the full post and also the comments which are very informative. This entry was posted in [...]

  15. Luis says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your video, I found it extremely instructive. I did keyword research today (first time!) and I realized that I was doing it completely wrong! Thanks for your video, now things are 1200% clearer (I guess! :D).
    Not to mention that your newsletter goes directly to my gmail account right now!
    After watching your video, I got the feeling that at the end of the day, I can establish a micro niche about basically whatever I want if I find the right and specific keywords.

    Wish you the best


    • James says:

      Hey Luis,

      Thanks for your comment.

      One thing to be wary of is that you shouldn’t establish a niche, but instead go and find a niche that’s already making money and then use this research method to find keywords that will bring you buyers for less effort than the bigger keywords. That way, you know the niche is profitable before you start (a mistake that lots of beginners make is to find a niche that isn’t profitable and then base their whole business on that).

      Good luck with your endeavours,


  16. Hi James, really enjoyed your video and came to you via Nicola Cairncross and this is the rest of the comment …very well explained and I have just come up with 12 keywords based on your method. Thanks you very much

  17. Shane says:

    I really enjoyed this video, and it helped me come up with some targeted keywords, but I am confused. Is this is optimize organic keywords or should we be using these for AdWords campaigns? Thx

    • James says:

      Hey Shane,

      Good question, I didn’t make that clear…

      This is the way I go about finding keywords for which to optimize my pages and posts.



  18. You says:

    I’ve honestly come to like this blog site. At first, I decided it wasn’t the best, however it has definitely grown on me. Brilliant job luring me in hah.

  19. Subscriber says:

    I had watched the video twice and I like it as well as I am fallow your instraction too. I already subsicribe to you YouTube video chanel. Do you have any video about Deep link and Internel link? Pleas provide me with this information if you have any

    • James says:

      I’m glad you liked it. Thank you for subscribing to my YouTube channel. I don’t have a video about deep linking and internal linking, but I’m happy to make one for you and my other subscribers. Bear with me for a few days and I’ll get on it.


  20. [...] hopefully, during the content creation process, you made sure that you researched your keywords in order for your posts to be search engine friendly (more likely to be found when someone searches [...]

  21. [...] words people are searching (known as ‘keywords’) then have a look at this post entitled How to do Keyword Research Properly. That’ll show you how to find the keywords that you need to target. It wasn’t [...]

  22. Steve says:

    Hi James, First of all a great video, easy to understand and follow.

    I have been through all of your criteria to a point just to see how it panned out and ended up finding a Domain name that looked good but it had already been took.

    I decided to place hyphens in between the words on the domain and it came up as available.

    Can I ask, what is your take on domains with hyphens. I have heard that they are not good, but I really don`t know for sure,

    Look forward to your reply,

    Cheers for now,


    • James says:

      Hey Steve,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Good question…

      It depends on what you’re using the domain for, in the sense that if you’re building a brand, then the domain needs to be your brand name and not contain hyphens.

      If, on the other hand, you’re creating a niche site as an affiliate, then hyphens are fine. Many people say that they’re not as good for SEO. That, in my experience, is nonsense. I’ve literally just Googled a keyword I targeted some time back using a hyphenated domain and it’s still high on page 1.

      The only time a hyphenated domain isn’t great is if you’re having to say the name or want it to be memorable. Think of the big name sites online…,,… They’re simple, with only a couple of words maximum.

      Hope that helps.


  23. N1NJA says:

    Nice video very well presented Awesome Job! Thanks… Right i have a quick few questions.. How many links would i need to rank for a keyword via your method ?? And how long does it take to rank ?? Do you have a guide ?? Sorry for the newbie question ?? Thanks

    • James says:

      It depends on how many backlinks your competitors have. But it also depends on the quality of those backlinks…

      If a large reputable website links to you, it’s worth a lot more than 100′s of links from spammy websites. It’s best to build links consistently but not too quickly.

      If you build your site well, and optimise the site correctly, you can rank in less than a week if there isn’t much competition and your site is reputable. However, it can take months to rank for some keywords due to the competition you’re facing. It really does depend on each keyword.

  24. Steve W says:

    Great video, the best out there.

    I’m in the home improvement contractor lead industry and it’s very flooded. How do you suggest finding the right keywords for local contractors?

    Should I look for keywords like “kitchen contractors in maryland”? Also, the phrase “master electricians in md” has one result in phrase match. Is that good or bad?

    My site is very unique from all the others lead sites. We bundle projects together and save homeowners lots of money. How should I look for keywords in that niche market?

    • James says:

      Hey Steve,

      Thanks for the kind comments on the video. It’s certainly been a popular one, that’s for sure, so glad it’s helped you too.

      Local is slightly different, in that the parameters are lower and obviously, you need to discount the worldwide data and just look at the local searches. In terms of numbers, I suggest looking for 800 searches per month minimum.

      Yes, you need to look for keywords like the ones you mentioned. The only way to find out which keywords work best is to follow the process I go through. If there’s only one result then it may be that no one is looking for that. It may also be an untapped niche, although this is less likely. Make sure you check to see if there are any ads running for the broad and phrase match versions of the keyword phrases you find. If there are, it’s a sign that people are making money so target that one (assuming there isn’t a ton of competition).

      One tool you could use is Spyfu. It will help you to see what words your competitors are advertising for. Then target those with either ads or your SEO efforts.


      • Hi James, great video.

        I need you help please. I made a video for a customer, a Therapy Centre in Taunton,Somerset, they want to promote their acupuncture services. The customer said the targeted keyword for the video should be “acupuncture in Somerset” but I noticed there are no local or global searches with this phrase. Do you think I should use this or try a different approach, having in mind they target the local market?
        The same would apply for my business “video production in Somerset” , there are no searches at all.

        Many thanks advanced and we’ll be waiting for other great videos.

        Sebastian Tiplea

      • James says:

        Hey Sebastian,

        Thanks for your comment.

        If there are no searches for it then you might want to suggest to the client that they should target something else, perhaps like ‘Alternative Therapist Taunton’. It really depends on what the client wants to achieve. The good thing is that the client is likely to rank quickly for ‘acupuncture in Somerset’ as there will be fewer competing sites/pages/videos. The downside is there’s also not a great deal of traffic.

        For your business, why not think about other words that people might be searching for? For example, are they searching for things like ‘video creation Somerset’ or ‘production company Somerset’? Are they searching for something like ‘company that makes videos in Somerset’?

        Also, have a look at my recent video on researching your competitors to see what they’re targeting. Then do what they’re doing but better than they are!

        Let me know how you get on.


    • Thanks for your reply James. I am still not sure if I understand the idea. For example, the phrases you suggested (I know they are just examples) but still, there are no searches at all with those exact phrases, are they good? What if I make a new video just with the purpose of “taking” these phrases that should be relevant but no searches yet, so I will be rule, in case in the future there will be searches with those phrases?
      Perhaps you could make a video dedicated to keywords research for local businesses?

      Thanks again.

  25. Steve W says:

    Can you explain what you meant at the end of the video
    when you said leave your name and keywords then you’ll give us keyword love?

    • James says:

      I use a plugin called KeywordLuv. When you comment, if you put ‘Steve@Your Keywords Here’ in the Name field then my site automatically makes your keywords into a link back to your site.


  26. Very glad you talked about this!

  27. Jack says:

    Great video James, well explained in short amount of time. There are those that feel that the number of competing pages with exact quote, in quotes ” ” isn’t a reliable way of judging a KW phrase because we are trying for the top spots on page 1, so it doesn’t matter if there are 30,000 pages in the sub niche.If we aren’t on page 1 and in the top spots then all the rest of the pages may as well not be there. No? Aren’t we actually trying to rank in the top ten? If my site is buried on page 5, I’m not going to get any traffic.

    I found a KW phrase that gets about 1600 searches a month with 20,000 competing pages in quotes ” ” in the health, relationship niche but there were no adsense sites at the top or right of page 1. Isn’t that a red flag? Shouldn’t I see some paid competition for a possible good niche?

    Thanks in advance, Jack

  28. Abraham Yang says:

    Hi James, thanks for the great video on keyword research, yours is the best among those that I have watched. Hope to learn from you more.

  29. […] Here is a link to the original article from James Gladwell : How to do Keyword Research Properly […]

  30. Hi James. Excellent video, how about an update with examples for local businesses.
    Thanks. Sebastian

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