Be super organised: tips to slash keyword research time in half

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Whether you’re new to keyword research or you’ve done it before, knowing how to start keyword research so that you don’t end up in a keyword rabbit hole will save you a lot of time and stress.

Want to know how I’ve managed to cut down my keyword research time in half by pre-planning my research and being clever in how I use keyword research tools?

Here’s a quick summary:

Get your client to complete a brief that includes questions about SEO

Have a sitemap or content plan to guide you

Create a list of potential keywords to research

Create new potential keywords using keyword modifiers

Learn how to filter keywords in the keyword research tool you use (I share a few clever ways to filter!)

how to start keyword research


Super organised tips to slash keyword research time in half

Get your client to complete a brief that includes questions about SEO

Before you start working with a client, I’m guessing you get them to complete a brief which you use to plan out what you’re going to write for your client?

I have a Keyword Research Client Planner which is my version of a client brief that includes SEO-related questions. I send this brief to my copywriting or content writing client to give them an idea of what I need to know about their client’s business and website.

Here are some of the questions I ask:

-What are their products and services?

-What words would your client use to describe their business?

-Are they location-specific? Eg. Targeting a specific town or city

-Who are your client’s main competitors?

-Are there any keywords your client wants to rank for?


The answers to these questions should help you find keyword ideas to add to your list of potential keywords to research- more about that list soon!

Want to download my Keyword Research Client Planner brief? Sign up to my email list to download your copy:

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Knowing what content you’re writing: a sitemap or content plan

It’s important to know what pages your client wants on their website or what pages they already have before you do your keyword research otherwise it’s like shopping for a brand new car but not knowing anything about the car specs, safety and warranty information!

If your client has an existing website, ask for their sitemap or you can download all their pages using a tool such as Screaming Frog. If the website is a small one with only a handful of pages, you can quickly type up a list of pages.

It’s good to see the structure of the pages too- if a website has an overall landing page for a group of services and then has separate pages for each service, then you will need to find keywords for the landing page which are different to the keywords for each specific service page.

If your client doesn’t have a website then you will need to come up with a rough content plan so that you have an idea of what you will be writing about. It doesn’t need to be set in concrete, and the keyword research you do may show up ideas for pages and blog posts you and your client hadn’t considered before.

But without a sitemap or a content plan, you’re at risk of wasting a lot of time!

Create a list of potential keywords to research

Have you ever gone to buy bread and milk but walked out of the supermarket with 20 other things (and you forgot the milk?!)?

Creating a seed list of potential keywords to research is a lot like writing a shopping list before you head out shopping. You’re less likely to forget what you need to research if you stick to a list, and it can stop you from researching other, less relevant keywords.

How do you know what to put on your seed list?

By now, you should have your client brief and your client’s sitemap or content plan. From this information, you should be able to create a seed list of at least 10 keywords that you want to research. You can add more, but 10 is a good number to start with.

This list is a draft to help you stay on track when you’re doing research! It’s not a “final list” so try not to over-complicate the process or use it as a way to procrastinate.



Creating new keywords using keyword modifiers

Once you have your 10 main keywords, you can use modifiers to create even more keywords to add to your list. Modifiers are words you can add to a keyword to create a new keyword.

So for example, a main keyword for a copywriter is “copywriter”. But if the copywriter only works with clients in London, “London” is the keyword modifier and I can now add this to “copywriter” to create new keywords: “copywriter in London”, “copywriter London”, “London copywriter”.

(And in case you’re wondering, those 3 keyword variations may have different search volumes so it’s worth double-checking rather than assuming they are all the same).

If you’d like some ideas for keyword modifiers, I have a whole table full of them at the bottom of my Keyword Research Brainstorming Planner that you can download when you
sign up to my weekly SEO email list.


How to use your keyword research tool to save you time

You’ve done some initial planning, now it’s time to get started with the keyword research.

When you use a keyword research tool like Keysearch, for every keyword query you search, the tool will show you up to 700 keyword query variations. That’s a lot of data to sort through just to pick out the most relevant keywords for your client!

Having done keyword research for nearly 6 years, I’ve got some tips and tricks up my sleeve that will help you save time when filtering!

Filter to only show keywords you want to see

Add words that you’re interested in so that the keyword research tool only shows keywords that contain this word. If there are two words that you want each of your queries to show, then add a “+” in between each word.

If I am searching for “copywriter London” and I only want to see keyword queries that include both of these words, I will type “copywriter+London”. If I had just typed “copywriter,London” then the tool would show all keyword queries with either of those words. I may end up seeing queries such as “hairdresser London”, “where to live in London”. Yes I’m interested in London keyword queries but only ones that relate to copywriters.

Filter out negative keywords

When filtering, there should be a field where you can add “negative” keywords. These are words that you want the tool to filter out. Here are the most common negative keywords I filter out for most clients:




Course (unless your client sells a course)


Free (sometimes “free” is ok, but usually it’s someone who wants a freebie and isn’t interested in your client’s product or service)

What you can also do is scroll through the list of 700 keywords that have been provided and see any common negative keywords you’re not interested in, then add those to the negative keyword field.

Other filtering tips

You can filter in multiple ways to reduce your final list by even more. So you can add in the keywords you want to see, and the negative keywords, and also specify that you want to only see keywords that have a minimum of 5 words in them (which is helpful when looking for long tail keywords).

If you are looking for blog post topic ideas, I like to filter showing keywords “how+to” because these types of keywords often make great blog posts.

Sorting keywords alphabetically

When you sort the keywords alphabetically (usually by clicking on the heading ”keyword” or clicking the arrow next to the heading) you can easily scroll through and look for keywords you’re interested in.

Keysearch shows keyword queries that start with a number first, so if I’m not interested in these types of keywords, I scroll down until I get to results starting with an “A”.

I also scroll down to the letter I’m interested in if I know which keywords I’m looking for. So if I know that most of my keywords will start with the letter “H” (for example if I am searching for “how to” queries), I will scroll down to the keyword queries starting with “H”.

Only showing lower competition keywords

Once you’ve finished researching keywords, if you only want to see keywords that have a lower competitiveness score, you can filter to only show keywords up to a specific score. This will save you time going through your list to pick out the low competition keywords you want.

One final word

Putting some time and effort into planning out your keyword research will cut down a lot of time when you’re using the keyword research tool.

As a copywriter, you already work with client briefs and planning out what you’re going to write for your client. Following a similar process for keyword research will give you better results than trying to “wing it” without much thought or preparation.

The great thing about keyword research tools is that they offer you the flexibility to filter out what you don’t want to see and to include only those keyword queries that you’re interested in using.

Imagine not doing this and having to sort through 700 keyword results for every main keyword you research? I love data but even I wouldn’t want to work with that!

Or better still- the best way to save time on keyword research is by not doing it at all and outsourcing it to me! I offer keyword research services for time-poor copywriters who would rather spend their time writing content than hunting down keywords. Contact me for more information or you can download my rate card.

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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.

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