How to filter keywords and cull the crap

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Want to know how to filter keywords quickly and easily so that you’re not left with hundreds of useless words? Save yourself hours and headaches by learning a few simple tricks from someone who’s been doing keyword research for a long time.

When you don’t know what you’re looking for, a great starting point is getting rid of what you don’t want.

Whether you’re looking for a life partner, a new home, a school for your child or a wedding dress, you probably have a list of “deal breakers”.

“Deal breaker” criteria helps you filter out whatever isn’t suitable, which should then narrow down the possibilities and make it easier for you to choose one.

I do the same with keyword research.

If you’ve used a keyword research tool, then you’ll know that searching for one keyword query can give you up to 700 results!

How do you narrow down such a long list to something that’s relevant and usable in your client’s copy or content?

Like Marie Kondo tackling an underwear drawer, in this blog I share tips on how to filter your keyword list so you’re left with a nice, usable set of keywords that’ll spark joy for your client.

How to filter keywords and cull the crap

Become familiar with your keyword research tool of choice

There are many different keyword research tools and they all look a bit different. But most will have a filter function.

I use Keysearch, which gives me the following filter options:

how to filter keywords

Keyword: I add words in this field that are a MUST. This means any queries that don’t contain this word/s will be filtered out. 

Negative words: I add words in this field that I am not interested in. Check out the above screenshot which shows you some of the typical negative words I’ve added. Words like job, jobs, salary, salaries, course, course- these are keywords usually searched by people looking for a job or career, or wanting a course for a topic (unless my client needs keywords for a course sales page!).

By the way, if you love the above tips then check out my SEO for copywriters and content writers course where I share more excellent tips and advice from working on hundreds of keyword research projects for copywriters like you!

Know your client, know their “negative words”

When you’re at the client brief stage, ask your clients which words they don’t like and which words they do. This will help you filter the list of keywords so that you end up with words that your client is also happy with.

I recently worked on a project where the client didn’t like the word “project home” because this was something that their construction company didn’t work on. This was a negative word that I used in the filter.

Use Excel or Google Sheets for more filtering

I’m a nerd who loves Excel and spreadsheets, so I always download keywords into Excel and play around with them.

Using the filter function in Excel, I select “text filter” and to the right you’ll see a list of options. I use “contains” if I’m searching for keywords that contain a specific word, or “does not contain” if it doesn’t include a specific word. 

I use the filter function when I’m mapping keywords to a page. For example, when I’m mapping keywords to a service page, I’ll usually filter to show queries that contain the word “service”.

how to filter keywords

Sort the keywords alphabetically

In Keysearch and in Excel, I like to sort the keywords alphabetically. This makes it much easier for me to scroll through the list quickly and get rid of any keywords I don’t want.

In Keysearch, once the list is sorted alphabetically (click your cursor on the heading “keywords 700” and this will sort them), I can scroll down the page to the words I want. If I’m looking for queries that start with the word “copywriter”, I can scroll down the list and find them in a few seconds instead of scrolling through up to 700 keywords. Who got time for dat?

Let’s recap….

Culling 700-odd keywords into a much smaller list can be a long and tedious task, and is the biggest task copywriters and content writers struggle with when doing keyword research.

Using a paid keyword research tool and its filter function will save your sanity and make keyword research quicker and easier.

Pair this with Excel’s or Google Sheets’ filter function and you might even start to enjoy keyword research! (And if you’re not, then it’s time to outsource to me).

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Nat Alleblas- SEO Sleuth: helping copywriters, marketers and web developers with their SEO needs. When she's not slaying SEO, Nat can be found with her head buried in a book or is smashing out a spin class. But not at the same time. Loves eggplant lasagna.