2020 Guide to SEO Keyword Research


Help! Google keeps updating.

Are keywords still a thing? How do I SEO in 2020?

Google Bert? Like Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street?


Don’t worry. The latest Google update has actually made it easier to write useful, flowing content that ranks. Bert is all about making things easier for the searcher. Forget about optimum word counts, or minimum keyword density. Instead, focus on answering specific user questions.


The Bert update is a far cry from how SEO was 20 years ago. We’re going to take you through how to go about your keyword research (and what to do once you’ve found them), but first, let’s take a quick look back at how things have developed.


(More of a visual learner? Grab a free copy of our illustrated SEO handbook.)

How has keyword research changed?

  • Early 2000s
    It was all about volume. People got away with ‘keyword stuffing’.
  • Google Panda (2011)
    Google started penalising low quality content and duplicate text – efficacy of keyword stuffing started to slip.
  • Google Penguin (2012)
    Awkward, unnatural use of keywords begin to be penalised. Google moves definitively towards favouring user-centric content.
  • Google Hummingbird (2013)
    Focus shifts more strongly to search intent and semantic research 
  • Google Bert (2020)
    Google gets better at understanding what people are looking for and matching search results to user intent.


Keyword Research in 2020

Stage 1: How to find the right keywords

Finding the right keywords is about stepping into the shoes of your potential clients and finding out what they’re really searching for. Even though might have a good idea of the general topics your audience are interested in, you might be surprised at related keywords or questions that they’re asking too.

Here are some places you can look to find out which words people are using:

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Paid research tools
  • Google Suggestions
  • Google Search Console
  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Wikipedia

Stage 2: How to analyse keywords

When you’re analysing keywords, the three things you need to take into account are relevance, difficulty, and popularity. (If you’re using a paid SEO tool, all this information is given to you easily.)

Is your keyword:

  • Relevant – does it actually relate to your content?
  • Difficulty – how hard will it be to knock the current contenders out of the top spots in the SERPS?
  • Popular – does it have a high search volume?

Stage 3: How to use your keywords

Okay, so you’ve got the words. Now what?

Your keywords represent topics which you can organise into clusters, with a central piece of pillar content surrounded by a cluster of supporting blog posts.

Your pillar content pieces should cover the topic generally and target broader keywords. Your cluster content should explore subtopics in more depth and target more specific keywords.


For example, your pillar content might be something like ‘What is Copywriting’. Your cluster content might include topics like ‘Copywriting for Web’, ‘How to Write An About Page’, ‘How To Write A Strong CTA’, ‘What’s The Difference Between Copy and Content Writing’ and so on.


Looking for some guidance on how to use your keywords to optimise your on-page SEO?

With the BERT Google update, it’s becoming less important to use specific word matches and more important to match your users intent. That being said, there are a few places it’s still advisable to use your keyword. We’ve put together a sweet SEO freebie that shows what you need to do where (and explains why).

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