A quick guide on how to create keywords for a research paper

Title, Abstract & keywords

Planning to Write

Promoting your Research

Marisha Fonseca

A quick guide on how to create keywords for a research paper

While writing your paper, you might find yourself spending a considerable amount of time on crafting an attractive title and creating a comprehensive yet concise abstract. At this stage, it is also important to focus on choosing appropriate keywords.  

What are keywords and why are they important? 

Keywords are words or short phrases that capture the key aspects of your manuscript. They serve two main purposes: 

Categorizing your paper during the submission/publication process 

Indexing your paper after publication 

With regard to the first, journal staff generally screen a submitted manuscript, including its keywords, to make sure that it is relevant to the journal’s aims and scope and is likely to interest the journal’s readers. Thus, appropriate keywords can reduce your chances of desk rejection and make it easier for journal staff to assign your paper to suitable section editors or peer reviewers. 

Second, after your paper is published, keywords are useful for indexing and retrieval; that is, they are a tool used by database search engines to find relevant papers in response to user queries and suggest them to users (i.e., readers). Thus, choosing suitable keywords can make your own paper easier to find in databases and library systems, thereby increasing the number of people reading and subsequently citing your paper.  

keyword research for article writing

What makes keywords effective? 

As explained in the previous section, keywords need to be effective. Good keywords are representative of what your research is about and are well-known or widely used in your field but not too general or non-specific. Let’s look at some examples:  

Manuscript title: Incidence of major depressive disorder after coronary artery bypass grafting in young-old women 

Poor keywords: cardiology, women, MDD [an abbreviation] 

Good keywords: depression, coronary disease 

Manuscript title: Optimizing rainwater harvesting in urban environments: A case study from Malaysia 

Poor keywords: rain, Malaysia, city 

Good keywords: urban design, water conservation 

How do I choose keywords? 

We’ve listed some strategies below that you can apply while selecting keywords for your manuscript: 

Identify the main features of your study. Look at how you describe your research question, hypothesis, variables of interest, or key findings. In certain fields, your study population or study setting may also be used as keywords.  

keyword research for article writing

Think about whom you want to read your paper. What are these readers likely to input in search engines? For example, medical professionals are more likely to use the term “breastfeeding” rather than “nursing” when they want to retrieve research on human lactation.  

Familiarize yourself with your target journal’s requirements. Journals can require anywhere between 3 and 8 keywords. Also, many journals in medicine and healthcare require authors to use only MeSH terms as keywords. Some journals also require that keywords do not repeat terms used in the manuscript title.  

Avoid extremely long keywords unless these are well-known phrases in your field. Generally, each keyword should be 4 words or fewer.  

Avoid broad terms like “study” or “patient.” Make these more precise by stating what type of study or population your paper describes, such as “randomized clinical trial.” 

Spell out abbreviations, unless these are very commonly used in your field and by your target journal’s readers. For instance, “GERD” may be acceptable if the manuscript is meant for a specialized subset of gastroenterology professionals, but “gastroesophageal reflux disease” may work better to attract a broader medical readership.  

Pro tip: Test out your chosen keywords in the search engines or databases that are popular in your field. See if the results throw up papers on topics similar to yours. If your search results comprise papers that are highly irrelevant or from a wide variety of unrelated fields, your keywords need to be refined further.  


Making your research paper stand out among hundreds and thousands of others is not easy. Selecting the right keywords requires a lot of effort. However, this effort is worth it because keywords directly influence how visible your paper is to your target readership and whether your research will add to human knowledge or help resolve real-world challenges.   

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Published on: Dec 23, 2022

  • Keywords In Research Paper
  • Academic Writing
  • manuscript writing
  • research promotion

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Find Keyword Ideas in Seconds

Boost SEO results with powerful keyword research

Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide (2023)

Today I’m going to show you exactly how to do keyword research in 2023.

In this comprehensive guide I’ll cover:

  • How to find keywords
  • How to choose the right keywords
  • How to use popular keyword research tools
  • Advanced keyword research tips

So if you want higher Google rankings and more traffic , you’ll love this guide.

Let’s get started.


Keyword Research Basics


How to Find Keyword Ideas


Keyword Research Tools


Keyword Difficulty


How to Choose a Keyword


Advanced Tips and Strategies

Chapter 1: Keyword Research Basics

Keyword Research Basics

Keyword research entails research, analysis, and application of search terms people enter into search engines to gain data insights to help optimize organic traffic or use for marketing purposes.

In this chapter, I’ll cover the fundamentals of keyword research.

First, you’ll practically learn what keyword research is (and why it’s important for SEO ).

I’ll also show you how keyword research helped grow my site’s search engine traffic to 360k+ unique visitors per month.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of discovering words and phrases (aka “keywords”) that people use in search engines, like Google, Bing and YouTube.

Why is Keyword Research Important for SEO?

Keyword research impacts every other SEO task that you perform, including finding content topics, on-page SEO , email outreach , and content promotion.

Keyword research process

That’s why keyword research is usually the first step of any SEO campaign .

Put another way:

Keywords are like a compass for your SEO campaigns: they tell you where to go and whether or not you’re making progress.

As a bonus, researching keywords help you better understand your target audience. That’s because keyword research gives you insight into what customers are searching for… and the exact words and phrases that they use.

In other words: keyword research is market research for the 21st century.

How Keyword Research Helped My Site’s Traffic Grow

Today, my site generates 449,058 visitors every month:

Backlinko – Users – September 2021

And 362,732 of those visitors (80.78%) come from Google:

Backlinko – Organic traffic – September 2021

Obviously, there are a lot of factors that went into my site’s success with SEO, including content, on-site optimization, link building and technical SEO .

But the #1 factor that contributed to my site’s traffic growth was keyword research.

For example:

A while back I used the process in this guide to uncover a low-competition keyword: mobile SEO.

And I created a piece of SEO-optimized content around that term: The Definitive Guide to Mobile SEO .

Backlinko – Mobile SEO guide

Because that keyword wasn’t super competitive, my site quickly ranked in the top 3:

Google SERP – Mobile SEO

And thanks to that top 3 ranking, that single page brings in hundreds of visitors from Google every month:

Mobile SEO guide – Monthly users

With that, it’s time for chapter 2.

Chapter 2: How to Find Keyword Ideas

How to Find Keyword Ideas

Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of keyword research.

Specifically, it’s time to generate a list of keywords.

In this chapter I’m going to show you proven strategies that you can use to come up with LOTS of keyword ideas.

Let’s dive right in.

Brainstorm a List of Topics

Here’s where you come up with topics that your target customer is interested in.

For example, let’s say that you run a digital marketing agency.

Well, you’d want to ask yourself: ”What topics do people search for that are related to my business?”

Some topics that come to mind would be things like:

  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Website traffic
  • Content marketing

Note: These topics aren’t keywords (yet).

Which is exactly what you’re going to learn how to do right now…

Wikipedia Table of Contents

Wikipedia is an overlooked keyword research goldmine.

Where else can you find articles curated by thousands of industry experts… all organized into neat little categories?

Here’s how to use Wikipedia to find keyword ideas.

First, head over to Wikipedia and type in a broad keyword:

Wikipedia – "Coffee" search

That will take you to the Wikipedia entry for that broad topic.

Wikipedia – "Coffee" page

Then, look for the “contents” section of the page. This section lists out the subtopics covered on that page.

Wikipedia – Contents

And some of the subtopics listed here are awesome keywords that would be tough to find any other way:

Wikipedia – Contents keywords

You can also click on some of the internal links on the page to check out the Table of Contents of other, closely related entries.

For example, on the coffee entry we have a link to “Coffee Preparation”:

Wikipedia – Cross link

When you click on that link, you’ll notice that the table of contents for the Coffee Preparation page has even more keywords that you can add to your list:

Wikipedia – "Coffee preparation"

Pretty cool.

Searches Related To

Another cool way to find keywords is to check out the “Searches Related to” section at the bottom of Google’s search results.

For example, let’s say one of your topics was “content marketing”.

Well, you’d want to search for that keyword in Google.

Google SERP – Content marketing

And scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll find a list of 8 keywords that are closely related to your search term.

Google SERP – Related searches

Just like with Google Suggest, these are keyword ideas that come straight from Google . So you don’t need to guess whether or not they’re popular. Google is literally telling you: “Tons of people search for these keywords.”

Pro Tip: Click on one of the “Searches Related To” keywords.

Related searches – Highlight

Then, scroll to the bottom of THOSE results. This will give you a new list of related keywords. Rinse and repeat.

keyword research for article writing

Find Keywords on Reddit

Chances are your target audience hangs out on Reddit.

Which means you can usually find lots of keyword ideas on this platform.

Here’s how:

Let’s say that you run a site that sells organic dog food.

You’d head over to Reddit. Then search for a broad topic that your target audience is interested in… and something that’s related to what you sell.

Reddit search – "dogs"

Then, choose a subreddit where your audience probably hangs out:

Reddit – Community – Dogs

Finally, keep an eye out for threads that have lots of comments, like this:

Reddit – "dog food allergies"

In this case you’d add “dog food allergies” to your keyword ideas list.

Keyworddit – Results

Use Google and YouTube Suggest

Now that you have a list of topics, type each one of them into Google.

Google search – "content marketing"

And see what terms that Google Suggests to you.

Google search – "content marketing" – Suggestions

These are great keywords to add to your list.

Because if Google suggests a keyword, you KNOW that lots of people are searching for it.

But you don’t need to stop with Google Suggest.

You can also find keyword suggestions with YouTube Suggest:

YouTube suggest

Find Popular Topics Using Forums

Forums are like having live focus groups at your fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The easiest way to find forums where your target audience hangs out is to use these search strings in Google:

“keyword forum” “keyword” + “forum” “keyword” + “forums” “keyword” + “board”

Once you find a forum, note how the forum is divided up into sections: Each of these sections are potential keywords that you can add to your list.

Home Barista Forums

To dig deeper, check out some of the threads on the forum to find other specific topics that your target audience struggles with:

Home Barista – Brewing

Pretty cool, right?

Chapter 3: Keyword Research Tools

Keyword Research Tools

This chapter is all about tools.

Can you find keywords without a tool?

But a tool makes the entire process A LOT easier.

With that, here are the keyword research tools that I personally use and recommend.

The Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner is THE most reliable source of keyword information online.

Google Keyword Planner

That’s because, unlike most other tools, the data you get from the Keyword Planner come straight from Google.

(So you know they’re accurate)

The big downside of the GKP is that it’s designed to help people with their Google ad campaigns… not with SEO.

That said, you can still use the GKP to get lists of keyword ideas…

Google Keyword Results

…and find search queries that get lots of searches.

Google Keyword Volume


This new tool is like Google Trends… but better.

Exploding Topics – Homepage

Exploding Topics scrapes the web for terms that are surging in popularity. And it bubbles those terms up for you.

Exploding Topics – Keyword overview

You can even sort the list of topics by category.

Exploding Topics – Categories

Keyword Surfer

Keyword Surfer might be my favorite keyword research tool.

Because it shows you keyword ideas from inside Google’s search results.

Keyword Surfer – Coffee SERP

All you need to do is install the Chrome extension. And the next time you search for something in Google, you’ll see a list of keyword ideas… and data on each keyword.

Keyword Surfer – Coffee keyword ideas


Ubersuggest was the first Google suggest scraper that I used. And the tool recently got a massive upgrade and overhaul.


Ubersuggest still generates keyword ideas from Google’s search suggestions. But it also gives you data on each keyword (like search volume, CPC, keyword difficulty and more).

Ubersuggest – Results

If you want to invest in a paid keyword tool, I HIGHLY recommend SEMrush .

That’s because SEMrush is a HUGE time saver.

Here’s why…

Instead of popping random keywords into a tool, SEMrush shows you the exact keywords that a site already ranks for.

So if you have a site that you’re competing against in Google, just pop it into SEMrush.

SEMrush – Search

And steal all of their keywords.

SEMrush – Keywords "backlinko"

Most people consider Ahrefs a link building tool .

But not as many people know that Ahrefs also has a REALLY good keyword tool.

What’s nice about Ahrefs “Keyword Explorer” is that you get a ton of helpful data on each keyword.

Ahrefs – "Keyword Research" – Overview

Which can help you decide whether or not it’s a keyword that’s worth going after.

My one gripe with Keyword Explorer is that it’s not great at coming up with new keyword ideas. It usually generates keywords that are just simple variations of the keyword I typed in.

Ahrefs – Search suggestions

When it comes to drilling down to a single term, you can’t do much better than the features found in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.

Chapter 4: Keyword Difficulty

Keyword Difficulty

How do you know if a keyword is too competitive to rank for?

It’s a good question to ask.

Because if you choose a keyword that’s super competitive, you might have trouble getting past Google’s third page.

But if you can find a keyword without a ton of competition, you have a good chance of cracking the top 3.

With that, here’s how to figure out a keyword’s SEO difficulty.

Long Tails Are (Usually) Less Competitive

If your site is brand new.

Or if you want to focus 100% on keywords that aren’t competitive.

Then you DEFINITELY want to target long tail keywords .

I’ll explain…

Most people in SEO (myself included) divide keywords into three main categories: head, body and the long tail.

Keyword category division

Here’s a breakdown of each keyword type:

These are usually single-word keywords with lots of search volume…and competition. Examples of head terms are keywords like “insurance” or “vitamins”. Because searcher intent is all over the place (someone searching for “insurance” might be looking for a car insurance quote, a list of life insurance companies or a definition of the word), Head Terms usually don’t convert very well.

Body Keywords

Body keywords are 2-3 word phrases that get decent search volume (at least 2,000 searches per month), but are more specific than Head Keywords. Keywords like “life insurance” or “order vitamins online” are examples of Body Keywords. These almost always have less competition than Head Terms.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are long, 4+ word phrases that are usually very specific. Phrases like “affordable life insurance for senior citizens” and “order vitamin D capsules online” are examples of long tail keywords. These terms don’t get a lot of search volume individually (usually around 10-200 searches per month). But when you add them together, long tails make up the majority of searches online. And because they don’t get searches for that much, long tail terms usually aren’t very competitive.

There’s no “best” keyword category to focus on. All 3 have their pros and cons.

But when it comes to competition, long tails are usually the least competitive of the bunch.

Authority of Sites on Google’s First Page

Here’s a quick way to evaluate a keyword’s competition level.

First, search for your keyword in Google.

Google search – "CRM"

Then, look at the sites ranking on the first page.

Google SERP – "CRM"

(Not individual pages)

If the first page is made up of uber authority sites (like Wikipedia), then you might want to cross that keyword off from your list:

Uber authority sites in SERP

But if you see a handful of smaller blogs on page 1, that’s a sign that you have a shot to hit the first page too.

Keyword Difficulty Inside of Keyword Tools

The vast majority of keyword research tools have some sort of keyword competition feature, including SEMrush :

SEMrush – Keyword Difficulty

And Moz Pro :

Moz competition

We recently tested a bunch of them . And we found that they all size up keyword difficulty based on a combination of page authority and domain authority. YET they all tend to come up with completely different keyword difficulty scores.

Bottom Line? If your favorite keyword tool includes a keyword difficulty feature, go with that. It may not be perfect. But they do tend to give you a general idea of how competitive a keyword is to rank for.

Believe it or not, but there’s an entire tool dedicated to keyword difficulty: CanIRank .

"Can I Rank?"

What I like about this tool is that it doesn’t just spit out a keyword difficulty number. Instead, it evaluates a keyword’s competition level relative to your website.

For example, I popped the keyword “SEO” into CanIRank.

And the tool looked at Google’s first page competition compared to my site’s authority . And it gave me a “Ranking Probability” of 90%:

"Cank I Rank? – 90%"

Super helpful.

Chapter 5: How to Choose a Keyword

How to Choose a Keyword

Now that you have a list of keywords, how do you know which one to pick?

Unfortunately, there’s no tool out there that will tell you: “ This is the best keyword on your list”.

Instead, you need to size up each keyword based on a handful of different factors. Then, pick the keyword that’s the best fit for your business.

Additionally, conducting keyword analysis to ensure reaching the target audience takes time and effort. Lucky for you, Backlinko simplified the process to ease your work.

As you might expect, that’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to do in this chapter.

Search Volume

This is pretty straightforward.

The more people search for a keyword, the more traffic you can get from it.

The question is:

What’s a “good” search volume?

Short answer: it depends.

The long answer:

Search volumes vary A LOT between different industries.

For example, a long tail keyword in the fitness niche (like: “best ab exercises”) gets 10K-100K searches per month:

"best ab exercises"

But a long tail keyword in a B2B space like digital marketing (like: “best seo software”) only gets 100-1K monthly searches.

"best seo software"

That’s why you want to figure out what a “high” and “low” search volume number is in your niche.

Then, choose keywords based on what’s “normal” for your industry.

Organic Click-Through-Rate

It’s no secret that the number of Google searchers that click on an organic search result is way down .

Google Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR) Desktop vs. Mobile

And it’s no wonder why.

Featured Snippets make it so you don’t need to click on anything to get an answer:

Google Featured Snippet

Plus, Google now packs the search results with more ads than ever before:

Google Ads take SERP real estate

The bottom line?

Search volume only gives you part of the story. To get a full estimate of how many clicks you’ll get from a first page Google ranking, you also need to estimate organic CTR.

Here are two simple ways to do it…

First, you can look at the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for your keyword.

If you see a lot of stuff on the first page (like a Featured Snippet and multiple Google Ads), then you know that you’re not going to get a ton of clicks… even if you rank #1.

"best chatbot software" SERP

Second , you can use a tool.

Ahrefs and Moz pro both estimate organic CTR.

Organic CTR – Compare

With all that said:

I wouldn’t avoid a keyword just because it has a low CTR. If lots of people search for that term, it might still be worth going after.

If your site is new (or doesn’t have a ton of links yet), target low-competition terms at first.

Then, as your site grows in authority, you can start to target more competitive stuff.

When I first launched Backlinko, I targeted almost 100% long tail keywords (like: “how to get backlinks”).

And because I didn’t have a ton of sites to compete with, I was able to get some organic traffic rolling in within a few weeks. Which helped me achieve some early SEO success.

Early SEO success

Today, my site has backlinks from over 37k different domains:

Ahrefs – Backlinko – Referring domains – October 2021

So I can target more competitive keywords (like: “YouTube SEO”).

Google SERP – YouTube SEO

CPC (cost per click) is a single metric that answers one important question:

Do people searching for this keyword actually spend money?

So yeah, search volume is nice and all.

But if that keyword has zero commercial intent, then there’s no point in targeting that term.

Plus, you can sometimes get a great ROI from a keyword that doesn’t get that many searches… if the CPC is high enough.

For example, one of my target keywords is “link building services”.

Backlinko – Link building services

According to Ahrefs, this keyword gets 1.3K searches per month.

Ahrefs – Link building services – Volume

So if I ONLY looked at search volume, I’d say: “This is a horrible keyword”.

That’s why it’s super important to ALSO look at CPC.

The CPC on that keyword is $25.00.

Ahrefs – Link building services – CPC

This means that people are spending $25 every time someone searching for that keyword clicks on an ad.

So even though the search volume for that term isn’t that high, the CPC more than makes up for it.

Based on CPC (and the fact that the keyword wasn’t super competitive) I decided to create content optimized around that term.

And that blog post now ranks in the top 3 for my target keyword.

Google SERP – Link building services

Business Fit

Here’s where you look at how likely it is that someone searching for a keyword will become a customer.

Yup, CPC helps you figure this out. But it doesn’t tell the entire story.

For example, a few weeks ago I came across the keyword: “backlink checker”.

On the surface, this is a great keyword.

It gets a decent amount of searches:

"backlink checker"

And has a $4.01 CPC:

"backlink checker" price

It’s also not that competitive.

So this keyword is a winner, right?

Well… not really.

You see, Backlinko is an SEO training company. Which means I don’t sell a backlink analysis tool. So even if I DID rank #1 for “backlink checker”, it wouldn’t do me much good.

Contrast that with a keyword like “YouTube SEO”.

This keyword’s CPC is only $2.22.

"youtube seo" – Price

But considering that I sell a YouTube training course, this term is a 10/10 in terms of business fit.

This is why I wrote a piece of content around that keyword:

Backlinko – How to rank YouTube videos

Keyword Trends

Finally, you want to see if your keyword is growing fast… or dying slow.

And the best way to do that? Google Trends .

For example, last year I was considering the keyword: “voice search SEO”.

But I decided to pop that keyword into Google Trends before pulling the trigger.

As you can see, interest in that keyword is growing quickly.

Google Trends – Voice Search

Which is why I optimized this page around that term.

Backlinko – Voice search SEO study

Even though that piece of content only brings in about 1k monthly search engine visitors per month today…

Voice Search traffic

…the trend tells me that traffic to this post should increase over time.

Another key trend to consider is the use of AI for keyword research. Think of integrating ChatGPT for diverse SEO tasks including keyword research. Learn all about how this innovative trend can impact your SEO journey in our guide.

Chapter 6: Advanced Tips and Strategies

Advanced Tips & Strategies

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of keyword research, it’s time to cover some cool advanced stuff.

Specifically, I’m going to reveal a bunch of tactical keyword research tips that you can implement right away.

So without further ado, let’s dive right into the tips.

Barnacle SEO

Let’s say that you found the PERFECT keyword.

And you rank in the top 3 for that term.

You’re pretty much done, right?

Actually… not really.

As it turns out, you can get even MORE traction from that keyword with Barnacle SEO.

Barnacle SEO is the practice of using other sites’ authority to rank on the first page.

For example, one of my best keywords (in terms of conversions) is: YouTube SEO.

Like I mentioned earlier, I wrote a post about YouTube SEO . And that post ranks in the top 3 for that keyword.

Sure, a top 3 ranking is great. But it’s still only one spot in the SERPs.

That’s why I created a YouTube video optimized for that keyword…

YouTube video

…a video that also ranks on Google’s first page.

Google SERP – YouTube SEO – Video results

Bottom line? If you find an amazing keyword, you want to take up as much first page real estate as you can. First, create content on that topic on your own site. Then, publish keyword-optimized content on authority sites, like YouTube, LinkedIn, Medium and more.

GSC Keyword Research

The Google Search Console is a goldmine of keyword ideas.

Here’s how it works:

First, login to your GSC account and head over to the “Performance Report”.

Google Search Console – Performance Report

This report shows you the terms that bring in the most clicks from Google search.

GSC – Performance Report

Then, sort the list by “Impressions”.

GSC – Performance Report – Impressions

This shows you keywords that get lots of impressions… but not necessarily clicks.

GSC – Clicks .vs. Impressions

Finally, create a piece of content optimized around that same keyword.

Why is this a powerful strategy?

These are keywords that you KNOW people are searching for. You also know that Google sees your site as a good fit in the search results.

You just need to publish content that’s super focused on that specific keyword (or optimize a piece of existing content around that keyword) and you’re set.

Optimize Content around Synonyms and Related Keywords

Yes, you want to optimize your page around your main keyword.

But don’t stop there.

You can get even more search engine traffic to your page by optimizing it around synonyms and closely related terms.

I’ll show you how this works with a real life example.

Some time ago I published this post on my blog.

Backlinko – Hub – SEO Visibility

As you can probably guess, my target keyword for that page is: “search engine visibility”.

But I also made sure to sprinkle in variations of that keyword, like: “SEO visibility”.

SEO visibility – Keyword in post

In the end, I was able to rank #1 for my main keyword…

Google SERP – Search engine visibility

…and lots of keyword variations.

Google SERP – SEO visibility

Ahrefs Content Gap

Content Gap has quickly become one of my favorite features in Ahrefs.

Just like with SEMRush, you can use Ahrefs to see the exact keywords another site ranks for.

And with Ahrefs Content Gap, you can take this type of competitor keyword analysis to the next level.

Head over to Ahrefs content gap. And put in 2-3 competing sites.

Ahrefs – Content gap

This will show you keywords that at least 2 of your competitors rank for… but you don’t.

Competitors keywords

And because multiple competitors rank for these terms, you know that you also have a good chance of cracking the top 10.

Analyze Keywords Based on Searcher Intent

In other words, ask yourself:

What does someone searching for this keyword want to see?

Are they looking to buy? For information? Or are they looking for a specific page (like a login page)?

A while back I created a post that ranks #2 for the keyword “BuzzStream”.

Google SERP – "buzzstream"

Even though that keyword gets around 2k searches/month, that post only brings in 194 monthly visitors.

BuzzStream – Visitors

What gives?

Well, as it turns out, “BuzzStream” is a navigational keyword.

Which means that most people that search for that keyword are looking for the website… not information about BuzzStream.

So yeah, that keyword looked great at first glance. But because it’s a navigational keyword, VERY few people click on anything but the first result. Which is why that post gets so little traffic.

That’s why I recommend looking at the Search Intent of a keyword.

Types of user intent

If Search Intent is “Navigational”, then you may want to avoid that term… even if it has great CPC and monthly search volume numbers.

(As you just saw, this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way)

But if Searcher Intent is “Informational”, then a piece of content optimized around that term could do GREAT.

Find “Shoulder Keywords”

Most people ONLY optimize their site around keywords that are very closely related to what they sell.

And it’s a BIG mistake for two main reasons:

1. Product keywords are usually super competitive. 2. There are thousands of keywords that your potential customer searches for when they’re not searching for what you sell.

And if you can get in front of your customer with an awesome piece of content, they’re SUPER likely to buy from you down the road.

For example, like I mentioned earlier, I run an SEO training company.

But I don’t optimize every page on my site around commercial terms.

(Like “SEO training” and “SEO courses”).

Instead, I rank for keywords that my customers search for when they’re not looking for SEO training.

(Keywords like: “link building”, “on-page SEO” and “SEO Tools”).

Backlinko – Post collage

I call these keywords “Shoulder Keywords”.

These keywords aren’t directly related to what you sell. But they’re keywords that your customers search for. Which makes them worth going after.

How about another example?

Let’s say you run an eCommerce site that sells basketball hoops.

Obviously, you’d want to optimize some of your pages around terms like “buy basketball hoops online”.

After all, someone interested in buying a basketball hoop may also search for:

  • How to shoot a better free throw
  • Slam dunk highlights
  • How to get recruited by college scouts
  • Nutrition for basketball players
  • How to improve a vertical jump

So you’d want to create content around these “Shoulder Keywords” too.

Now It's Your Turn


I really hope you enjoyed my new keyword research guide.

And now I’d like to hear from you.

Which tip from today’s guide are you going to try first?

Are you going to try Shoulder Keywords?

Or maybe you want to optimize around trending keywords.

Either way, let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

WOWZA! Someone was reading my mind. I was just trying to search your site for keyword research and all of a sudden get an email with exactly what I needed.

As usual, thanks Brian!

You’re not alone, Ashley: keyword research is something a lot of my readers ask me about. I hope you enjoy the guide.

Hi Brian, I love these guides. Besides the graphics which I assume are custom built, is there something special you use to create the general layout of these? The change in colors, etc. just make these really clear to read – would love to replicate that kind of flow.

Thanks as always!

Thanks Jake. That’s right: this guide is custom designed and coded. So we built the layout from scratch so that our guides would be super easy to read and skim through.

Thanks a million Brian. I love your guides, they are informative and hilarious too. Great work.

Brian this is great advice and content. Usually I un-subscribe from some of those ‘other’ email lists – but after visiting your site I can’t wait for the next update! Thanks for your help and advice.

Thanks Mike. Happy to have you as a subscriber.

Great and informative content. Brian, thanks for your excellent keyword research guide.

You’re welcome, Idris.

Absolutely love this guide, it will be something that I can use as a constant reference in the future if I ever need to double check on something, and that convenience is much appreciated 🙂

No worries, Daniel. Happy to help.

And the reason you gave this away for free is…jk. Kick ass guide Brian. Much more valuable than some of the paid guides. Would be sweet if you could package this up into a printable PDF.

Thank you, Matt. I’ll look into getting the new guide put into a PDF.

Looking good – love the design and everything! You’ve done it again, Brian Dean!

Brian, thanks for that. I agree: I’m really happy with how the design turned out.

The word is often overused – but not in this case – this is ‘awesome’ Brian!

Ha! I’m actually laughing out loud right now at just how good this content is.

Folks – this is why Brian is the best in the business when it comes to SEO.

Great stuff man!

Thanks Loz!

Brian, I say this without any bias – every bit of content you provide is Gold. Have been hooked on Backlinko ever since I stumbled here not so long ago 🙂

Great Work!

Hey Zak, thank you. I appreciate that 👍👍👍

Argh the sharing toolbar is destroying the article on my iPad. Can’t read anything on the left.

Thanks for the heads up, Steve. Fixed.

Would you consider offering your guides as single pages or pdfs? I prefer reading longer form content like this when offline/on the road. If on a single page, I can easily Pocket them to read offline. Thanks for considering!

Hey Daniel, we usually add PDF versions to each guide eventually. But it can take some time.

If you are reading on your laptop then simply press the ctrl+s button you have to see the save option to save this. And if you using your phone then open the Chrome browser and you have to see three-dot at the top-right corner, click on that and you see the download button and click on that and download the amazing article.

Awesome write up Brian. Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this and share it with us.

You’re welcome, Mark. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Brian, you killed it (again) with this article. I have to admit, I opt out of almost all newsletters but from the ones I keep, yours is the only one with a CTR of 100% for me. Keep up the awesome work and thank you so much!

Thanks Volker 👍 👍 👍

Great guide. Sharing with my colleagues in the department now.

Thanks James.

Hi Brian, I think is going be very difficult to make a better content than you period… You are Rock 🙂 Thanks Claude

Thanks Claude. I appreciate that.

This is the best email in my inbox this morning! Great surprise. Wow you’ve been busy crafting another SEO goodie. Shoulder keywords make for easy blog post ideas. I like this guide. Great job Brian.

Hi Jennifer, happy to hear that. For sure: Shoulder keywords are kind of an underrated approach. Of course we all want to rank for keywords that are about our products (“Buy X”). But the fact is, most of the traffic out there is for informational keywords (like “how to X”). And if your content impresses the pants off of people, you can turn that traffic into leads and sales.

I am pretty certain I will be feasting on this article for days if not weeks to come! I can’t thank you and your team enough for the incredible knowledge and insight.

Hey Eric, you’re welcome. This is basically everything I’ve learned about keyword research over the last few years.

Another awesome content. Thank you, Mr. Brian, to share with us. Cheers!

Definitely something I was looking into. Thanks for another great, lengthy, informative and useful post Brian!

You’re welcome, Darshana.

Awesome stuff as usual Brian!

Thanks Davis. Like all of our guides, a ton of work went into this one.

Somehow you always seem to hit me with the right content at the right time 🙂 Thanks for being an inspiration over the years. /Rued

You’re welcome, Rued. I’ve got more cool stuff on the way.

In-depth guide about keywords research. Specially about the keywords to be chosen for new and old websites

Expanding on your keywords using Google Search Console has led us to driving double the amount of clicks so great info there.

Plus effective frequency in ranking in youtube, linkedin articles and other platforms is key because they drive referral traffic back to your page also and this massively helps ranking.

Great guide Brian!!

Thanks James. Nice. Yeah, that Google Search Console strategy is awesome because it’s Google telling you: “we think your site would be a good fit for that keyword”. No 3rd party tool can do that.

I would like to add a tool for finding keyword difficulty – Kwfinder. I have been using this tool since the start of my career and I can say that it provides the most trustable data.

Best Regards, Himanshu Tyagi Founder, CodeItBro

Thanks Himanshu. I actually have the Mangools suite on my tools that I need to check out. I used KWFinder back in the day but haven’t used it in a year or so.

Get your email in the middle of night on GMT+7

Thanks for your sharing Its helpfull

And my i ask I get nothing in email while im trying to join waiting list SEO Course via seothatworks.com

Im also already cek spam/junk And still get nothing

Thanks again for your sharing.

Sorry for bad english and grammar Im indonesian

You’re welcome, Helmi. Re: the waiting list email. If you email support@backlinko someone will look into that for you.

Your email just hit my inbox Brian, I took a look at the size of your post and thought “how do you do it?” haha. I’ve just skim read it because a full read will mean settling in later this evening when there’s more time. One thing that stood out though was how well you have laid this all out, I’m not a huge fan of ultimate guides because they’re bulky but I can already tell that the way you have broken this down into easy to read chunks coupled with nice graphics and illustrated examples means so much (and I’ve not even got to how well you do your research yet LOL). Cheers Graham

Hey Grahman, thanks man! That’s actually how I write these guides. I don’t set out to make them this long post full of random information. I outline each one into discrete chunks. That way, everything it easy to read and skim. Plus, I don’t go off into tangents about this and that. The outline means that I have to stick to the script 🙂

Absolutely great for beginner and expert. I really like your way of keyword research. Thanks for sharing.

You’re welcome, Jose.

Hello sir, excellent article and it did showed me some new tips because I was struggling to find Keyword for a particular topic.

Nice. Glad to hear that.

Amazing, have you actually ever published something that did not look so wonderful. Really you always make all my stuff look drab and boring. Although I have to do it myself, being small but hope to have good looking content like some day, when I am rich and famous like you. Thanks for all the help you give us

Hey Timothy, Thank you. If I had to do this myself I can’t imagine how bad this would look! Guides like this are a true team effort. Thankfully I’m not in charge of the design, LOL. But seriously, it takes a designer and talented developer to make our guides look as great as they do. I just write up a Google Doc and the team takes care of the rest.

cool, now we know the rest of the story

Wonderful guide put up so nicely!

Thanks for new updated keyword research guide for 2020, and especially thanks for Wikipedia strategy

You’re welcome, Rahul.

Great content as always 😉 Content gap tool in Ahrefs is lately one of my favourite place to find new keywords. I usually find there keyword that I would never think of.

Looking forward to your next guide.

Hey Karol, you’re welcome. Have you tried their “link intersect” feature. It’s similar to that but for backlinks.

if you write like this articles one day Google will kidnap you.

Amazing article Brian thanks for taking keyword research to the next level.

you will be #1 for “keyword research” in Google

I hope so. Moz is currently #1 so it won’t be easy to hit the #1 spot.

Great stuff, Brian, as usual! Very smart nuggets that are both actionable & consumable!

Hi Melissa, thank you! I tried to make this guide super actionable (outside of some of the background info in Chapter 1). Glad to hear that I hit the mark.

I start to read your guide and keep reading word by words, this is an awesome piece of content and very helpful for me. Thank You- “Brain”

You’re welcome, Arif.

Thanks, Brian for such a brief but clear keyword research guide. I have a question regarding keyword research. For some keywords, I find a lot of business directories, review sites ranking, but the intent is clear commercial. Can I rank using those keywords?

You’re welcome, Manoj. If there are some results that aren’t directories and review sites, you might. But if it’s literally 9/10 or 10/10, then I’d go with the flow and try to create a page that’s aligned with what’s already ranking.

Ever since I stumbled on your site while searching for “On-site SEO” I’m glued at the level of content you share for free.

Maybe I should ask, what’s your research strategy? Because I do wonder how on earth you dig up these valuable details.

Great one Brian!

Thanks Montfort. My research strategy is more or less “Document. Don’t create”. I talk more about that here .

Excellent. I’m already digesting it.

Awesome again!

This information is exactly what I am looking for to make my SEO more effective. There is so much information for me to digest. Thanks again.

You’re welcome, Henry. With guides like these, chunking is super important. So I try to make it so it’s not a giant wall of info. But more like an SNES strategy guide.

This is a really solid guide. I already knew a few of these tricks… but sometimes you forget about all the SEO tricks you’ve previously learned, and it’s great to get a refresher or reminder 🙂 For example, the GSC opportunities tactic of looking at impressions and then finding opportunities. I think I’ll use that one shortly! Thanks for the reminder on this one!

You’re welcome, Doug. Nice! Yeah, the GSC has a lot of untapped features. If you haven’t seen it already, I’d check out my giant guide to the Google Search Console here https://backlinko.com/google-search-console .

Great content as usual. While reading this post I came across some new tool like Canirank that I will surely start to use for my next keyword research. Really love this guide Mr. Brian.

Thanks for this article.

Hi Rupam, no problem.

Hi Brian, Thanks again. I’m going to visit Wikipedia right now 😉 I personally find it hard to start with the lower keywords competition. But in the longterm it is the way to go for a new website. (Mental note to myself)

Hi Guido, you’re welcome. For sure. I even think there’s a place for low-competition keywords for older + established websites. I’m finding with Backlinko that it still takes a while to rank for anything competitive (although I do usually rank eventually!). But low competition terms can rank within weeks.

Brian this is massive, very detailed and useful to both newbies and experts. Kudos

You’re welcome, Arnold. I tried to tackle some of the beginner-level stuff in Chapter 1. That way, I could focus on more advanced strategies later on in the guide.

Hi Brian. Great content always.

Brian could you please help me on one issue.

What is the reason of website down in google search now a days?

I mean my website was on 1st page in 6-7 months before, but today it is going back and appears on around page 8-9. I am making quality backlinks and doing proper one-page seo. But still nothing happened.

Could you please tell me what should I do ?

Thanks Hermant. That’s a tough thing to diagnose. It could be an update, penalty, a technical SEO issue. It’s hard to say without really digging into your Google Analytics and GSC. That said, one thing I’d look at is if your entire site dropped or just a few pages. Sometimes focusing on pages that did and didn’t get hit can help you figure things out.

My First main competitive keyword was on first page 6-7 months before. which was related to my website home page.

My second Low competitive keyword is coming on 1st rank on first page, which is also related to my Home page.

But I am surprise that my second keyword is on 1st rank but still my website didn’t get even a single click in one month. I checked impression in GSC of that keyword, which is more than 200. And my website not get even single click.

This is horrible thing is happened with me. My all other competitor websites title and description is 90% same.

I am really worried about this type of critical issue in my website ranking. I am sharing my website on social site, building quality backlink, proper on-page SEO, writing content on website, etc. But still not getting any good response.

I also checked Manual Action or penalty by google in GSC. Fortunately my website not penalize.

Could you please give me some steps which I should check according to your experience ?

And could you please make any blog or video related to Google Analytics – Complete Guide 🙂

A super helpful guide, Brian. I’m using CanIRank for a few weeks and found it amazing in keyword research (suggestions and ideas).

Nice! Yeah, it’s a cool little tool. I like that it has a standard keyword difficulty score. But also takes your own site’s authority into account.

Thanks so much for this!

Search results question:

If I see a competitive search term that does NOT have any videos ranking on the first page…is that an opportunity to make a video and get it to rank there? As in, there just AREN’T any videos for the term to rank

Seeing no video results means that Google is just not going to show videos for that particular search term?

You’re welcome, Amanda. It’s definitely “Seeing no video results means that Google is just not going to show videos for that particular search term?”. In my experience, if there’s no video, Google doesn’t see video as a good fit for that keyword. Of course, that can change over time. But I try to focus on keywords that already have videos in the search results.

Great help – thanks!

Brain, I am blown away with the expert detail you put into your articles and the amount of quality content you give away for free. I have learned so much from your work, please keep it up!

Hey Rick, thanks man! I appreciate that. I’ll definitely keep it up. We have some cool stuff on the way.

Thank you for such a lovely post brian dean. I must follow your tips

You’re welcome, Ankush.

Do you have an SEO agency? If not, can you recommend a couple?

Hi Michael, I don’t have an agency. Backlinko is an online training company that sells online courses.

Definitely useful information which I will use developing my new website.

Hi Sergy, great. Let me know if you have any questions.

Great read Brian, surely helps when you’re working for an SEO agency doing keyword research for pitches day in and day out.

HA! AS someone that used to run an agency, I can 100% relate to that.

I am almost following you since you were explained a Skyscraper Technique & learned from you that no one is perfect to initiate, experience makes us perfect.

I keep my close view on your strategy from video, text content to graphics & keep on following them for my clients as & when needed.

Thank you for supporting & sharing your experiences to improve my experience. Just by following you I am motivated & left the JOB to started my own business & initiated everything last month.

Although, this is just a beginning a day will come with the help of mentors like you & Neil.

Keep it up & help us to share your knowledge

You’re welcome, Ahmed. Congrats on the new business!

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Thank you. payment completed., you will receive an email from us to confirm your registration, please click the link in the email to activate your account., there was error during payment, orcid profile found in public registry, download history, creating and formatting keywords for paper submission and communication.

  • Charlesworth Author Services
  • 15 March, 2022

Let’s say this straightaway: keywords are the most neglected part of a manuscript . They are often hastily put together right at the end and often only to meet the submission criteria . However, this is unfortunate, because selecting keywords after some careful deliberation can bring you multiple benefits as a researcher trying to get noticed in your academic community , not least by making your paper more discoverable .

This article explains the importance of keywords and gives you some tips on how to choose the right keywords, what to avoid as keywords, and, once you have chosen the appropriate keywords, how to format them.

Importance of keywords

Well-chosen keywords bring your paper to the attention of those who are actively looking for information on the topic of your paper. For all you know, those people will not only read your paper but may even cite it . By treating keywords as a mere formality or even a chore, you are doing injustice to your paper. (Read more here about how keywords – and other elements of a paper – can help improve its discoverability: Maximise discoverability of your research through Titles, Abstracts and Keywords )

Developing keywords

A. think of synonyms for words used in the title.

Keywords used in the title are automatically indexed, so using terms found in the title as keywords is a wasted opportunity . Instead, think of synonyms which make good keywords.

For example…

If you have used a botanical name as part of the title of the paper (e.g. Zea mays or Oryza sativa ), then the corresponding common name will be a good keyword (e.g. maize or rice). If ‘renewable energy’ is part of your title, you might consider ‘sustainable energy’ as a keyword. A few more examples are ‘adrenaline’ and ‘epinephrine’, and ‘weight training’ and ‘strength training’.

b. Think of terms that expand or narrow down the scope of your paper

For instance…

If your paper is about vertebrates, consider whether ‘mammals’ or even ‘primates’ are appropriate as keywords. If ‘design of blades’ is a phrase you have used in the title, ‘wind turbines’ might work as a keyword.

c. Use ‘keyphrases’ rather than ‘keywords’

Understand that keywords do not have to be single words. In fact, single words – because they are too broad – rarely make good keywords . It is best to use two- or three-word phrases as keywords.

‘Monsoon’ is too broad: How about ‘southwest monsoon’ or ‘northeast monsoon’?  ‘Fitness’ is somewhat vague: phrases such as ‘Levels of fitness’, ‘Cardiovascular fitness’ or ‘Measuring fitness levels’ would be more effective and targeted.

d. Avoid using abbreviations as keywords

In general, abbreviations do not make good keywords, because a given abbreviation or acronym may be used for different terms depending on the domain.

For example, SDI can mean ‘strategic defence initiative’ but also stand for ‘selective dissemination of information’.

Testing your keywords

Instead of settling for the first terms that come to your mind, it is a good idea to test them out. Paste each keyword or multiple keywords into the search box of several search engines and scan the results. If most of the search results are relevant, the keywords are fine; if not, you need to revise them.

Formatting the keywords to match the journal’s style

Before you submit your manuscript, examine the style specifications of your target journal to determine how exactly the keywords are to be presented, because styles can differ across journals.

  • Journals do not even agree on whether it should be ‘keywords’ or ‘key words’ (one word or two).
  • The formatting can differ – Keywords or KEYWORDS (all capitals), bold or normal, italics or normal.
  • So too the punctuation that follows (usually a colon or space).
  • Notice the capitalisation : do all keywords start with a capital letter or is only the first keyword capitalized?
  • Lastly, check the journal’s style guide to see how the keywords are separated : with commas , semicolons , bullets or only spaces.
  • Some journals even show keywords as a list , each keyword occupying a separate line. However, you need not do that in your manuscript — you could use spaces and leave the final formatting to the journal.

Tip : For specifications about the keywords, check the Information for Authors page of your journal’s website, or simply look up published articles in the journal.

Keywords are the ‘key’ to wider and easier access to your paper; choose them with care.

Maximise your publication success with Charlesworth Author Services.

Charlesworth Author Services, a trusted brand supporting the world’s leading academic publishers, institutions and authors since 1928. 

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    Here are some simple steps to choose the right keywords for your research paper. 1 Understand the research question or topic Know the central theme of your research paper and write down keywords that are most relevant and will capture the essence of your work.

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