Keyword research: How to get started with SEO


Good Google rankings for important keywords can flush many potential customers onto a company’s website – and for free! Therefore, it is no wonder that search engine optimization has long been increasingly important for SMEs and self-employed. The main role in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) logically comes to the keywords for which you want to be found as an entrepreneur far ahead.

And this is where the problem begins: Which keywords are the most suitable – or more concretely asked: For which keywords is there still a chance of page 1 or possibly rank 1 on Google in 2021?

Problem: The competition in the search engine is huge!

Imagine you are a coach in Hamburg and of course you want to be found with your offer in the search engine. On page 1 of Google is space for ten so-called organic entries (not financed by advertising), sometimes even less. These entries are the most important results for the entered keyword from the search engine’s point of view. However, there are probably several thousand coaches in Hamburg who have a website – and for the keyword “Coach Hamburg” there is of course only space for a maximum of ten results on the first search results page.

Do what?

For understandable reasons, you would naturally call “Coach Hamburg” an appropriate keyword, because it describes your activity and even the region in which you practice it. However, the likelihood that you will rank at the top with your website is vanishingly small. The keyword is too general and also too competitive – and for the same reason not even suitable for a paid application in Google Ads.


The research of the most top keywords, for which you have a real chance (at least regionally) to get top rankings. The trick here is that you do not optimize for a “big”, general keyword, but targeted – with a separate subpage per keyword – for several top search terms.

By the way: The homepage is also a subpage, and the most important one at that. It should be optimized for the main keyword, which is the generic term for all other secondary keywords and topics within the domain.


A target-oriented keyword research consists of two areas: the search for exact descriptions of your service and the analysis of the target group needs.

A truly purposeful keyword research consists of two areas:

  • The research of pointed, very accurate descriptions of your performance(s).
  • The analysis of search terms around the problems and needs of your target group

In the area of services, there is basically only one keyword for each offer: A few years ago, people still optimized for different formulations of the same thing. This is no longer necessary and often even harmful. Because Google is now semantically so far that there are only slight differences for keywords such as “moving company Hamburg”, “moving Hamburg” or “moving Hamburg” for the search results on page 1.

What counts is the relevance of the respective domain for the topic, in this case moving in Hamburg. How the search query is formulated exactly is less important – as long as Google understands that users are looking for a service provider for removals in Hamburg.

When it comes to needs and problems, on the other hand, there are usually a lot of potential “gateways” for customers:

  • For example, an alternative practitioner could create targeted content for issues such as headaches, menopausal symptoms, allergies.
  • Topics for a moving company would include no-stopping zones, furniture storage, etc.
  • The coach from our example could, for example, take up topics such as stress management (methods), typical energy thieves or similar.

Beforehand, however, it should always be carefully checked for which topics there could potentially be a possible page 1 placement for non-portals: So that the most promising topics and keywords really have priority.

Note the search intention!

At this point, it is important to clarify how Google interprets which search query. Because from this follows the selection of search results, and these can be completely different in nature. If the search engine assumes as the user’s intention that he wants to buy something or hire a service provider, then the results will look completely different than if the user is purely looking for information.

Here is an overview of the different possible search intentions:

  • Informational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial
  • Navigational
  • Brand

There are even finer divisions and sometimes the “Commercial” is equated with the “Transactional” – but these are rather quibbles.

First and foremost, it is important that Google differentiates between the user who (according to the interpretation of the search engine) first of all only wants to inform himself about a topic – and the user who wants to do something: buy something, register, try something out, download software.

Therefore, very different results are usually delivered for informational and transactional search queries.

Regional keywords – extremely important for stationary offers

Do not forget! Regional keywords also belong to the important keyword types: Because here the user enters the location of his interest within the search query. And it makes a big difference in the search results whether you search – from somewhere in Germany – for example for “moving Hamburg” or from Hamburg for “moving” (without Hamburg in the search term)!

If we return to the coach example at this point, then possible services could be, for example, “Wingwave Coaching” or “Family Constellation” – and the appropriate keywords could be exactly these terms (plus Hamburg as a regional limitation). A possible problem could be “stress” – and the need would be accordingly “stress reduction” or “stress management”, perhaps also “stress management”. If one now googles these informational terms without an addition like “coach” or “Hamburg”, the search engine assumes a desire for information about the respective topic. You will then mainly find supra-regional info pages, blog posts and the like – even if you are obviously searching from the Hamburg location for Google.

But attention … good news:

If a website has a really high relevance for the topic due to its content, then it will very well appear on page 1 nationwide, such as an Austrian stress coach page in the search in Google Germany. With such good rankings, factors such as good, thematically appropriate backlinks always play a role. But conversely, a website with little or no text content will probably not achieve good positions for relevant keywords despite good backlinks.

Tip: Optimization is always indirectly worthwhile for informational keywords as well – good content on “your” topic and its secondary aspects increases the overall relevance of your domain to Google for the topic. Although page 1 rankings for such informational keywords are usually not to be expected, exceptions prove the rule. Like with one of my clients – a speaker – whose domain also made it to page 1 nationwide for the terms “improve charisma” and “self-motivation”.

Tools: The possibilities and limitations

Now there are a lot of tools that promise help with keyword research – or possibly an “automatic” optimization of your website.

The good news is that a lot of these tools are actually very helpful – and many of them are even free.

The bad news is that any tool only goes as far as the user’s input dictates.

This means for you: For example, if you type “coach Hamburg” into the Google Keyword Planner, you’ll get a lot of keyword ideas (including some that aren’t suitable for you). However, something with the topic of stress is not there.

Even tools like Rankingcoach, which sometimes even use your current website for keyword research, have the same problem: they all have to rely on your direct input into the tool or additionally on the content that can already be found on your website. But if you’ve only mentioned stress briefly on your website – perhaps with a dozen other topics like nutrition, self-management, yoga – then neither Google nor a keyword research tool can see that your website wants to become relevant to the topic of stress in the future. So you’ll never get offered all the possibilities that would make sense for you, even with this kind of tools.

Find top and promising keywords

So how do you find specific, top keywords that are demonstrably searched for and for which optimization is worthwhile? Because unfortunately, search engine optimization is always associated with a certain effort. Either by doing it yourself or by investing in suitable service providers.

Tip: Not only forward search, but also and especially backward search! If you don’t know “your” keyword yet, start with the basics. In our example, you are a coach and can help your clients to have less stress. With this in mind, analyze your competitors and find interesting keywords that they rank for. Here’s how: On Google or even better in a free, neutral tool, you first search for “stress Hamburg” or “stress reduction Hamburg” in general. Maybe even without “Hamburg” – because if the website of a coaching practice for the topic of stress or stress reduction makes it to page 1 throughout Germany, then this is an instructive competitor. You could probably orientate yourself well on such a website in terms of strategy and keywords.

Appropriate tools:

  • Google Keyword Planner, with Google Adwords account in principle free to use: The tool provides keyword ideas, along with the respective search volume. Unfortunately, without investing in Google Adwords advertising, however, there are only very approximate volume estimates.
  • Google Adwords Preview Tool (can be used without registration or costs): Here you can view the first ten search results for a freely selected keyword without being “tracked” by Google – from an equally freely selected location.
  • Ranking-Spy free of charge, without registration: When entering a domain and one or more keywords, the respective ranking (Germany-wide) is displayed for it. You can also view the Google search results list under the respective keyword neutrally.
  • Ubersuggest free of charge, without registration: Here you get keyword suggestions for the entered keyword and information about search volume as well as an (approximate!) estimate for the difficulty of optimization. Recently, you can (as with Xovi) also evaluate domains for their ranking keywords. Very good!
  • Xovi not free of charge – but free test is possible: The tool is very versatile, it is not only used for ranking analysis of your own or other domains. I use it especially to observe the development of rankings in the course of an optimization. This can be done here by setting up monitoring keywords.
  • Hypersuggest free of charge, without registration: Among other things, Hypersuggest provides many long-tail keyword variants for the entered term, but also suggestions for W-questions (who, what, how…) for the entered keyword.
  • Screaming Frog free of charge, but with download: Evaluation of the entered domain; among other things, complete overview of all existing URLs, external links and more. The tool Screaming Frog is unfortunately not an online tool, but must be installed on the computer. But it is helpful in finding all (crawlable) subpages of a domain and therefore useful, because not all subpages are always linked in the navigation. Especially blog articles are usually not linked from the navigation.

The well-positioned websites found in this way can be evaluated in great detail with the Xovi tool, for example. This provides reliable information about the exact wording of the target search terms and, above all, their search volume. Ubersuggest by Neil Patel also provides information on search volume, Hypersuggest only in the paid version. Always keep in mind: Consult comparable competitors – in our example case only coaching practices, no portals or training institutes!

For example, from one of the page 1 results for “Stress Hamburg” I was able to pull these keywords from the domain through a Xovi evaluation: “Stress Coach”, “Anti Stress Coach”, “Stress Management Coaching”. These terms would probably be pointed enough as performance terms to rank ahead regionally with good content for them. In creating good content, you would then pick up on the topics that well-ranking stress coach websites cover. For example, what the stress triggers are, what causes chronic stress, what burn-out and also bore-out does to us, etc.

Tips for competitor research: Analyzing the direct, truly comparable competitors is enormously informative – not only in terms of keywords for which they rank. But also and especially the selection of (secondary) topics on these websites and the structuring of the topics there is helpful in planning your own content and your own target-oriented navigation. Look at as many competitor websites as possible, you will get very interesting input!

What do you have to do to be found regionally?

Don’t let it stress you out! This part is actually quite simple – because you are where you are with your business. If you don’t just offer your services nationwide (online shop, telephone coaching), then at least you also offer them regionally, namely at the official location of your business. That and where you are, for example with your coaching practice in Hamburg, you should let the world and thus Google know: Then the search engine also “understands” the – more or less – great relevance for your service, combined with your location. So, for example, as a coach Hamburg or stress coach Hamburg.

This is where your physical business address (not P.O. Box) belongs:

  1. Website: In the contact and imprint area, possibly also in the footer and ideally via structured data according to
  2. Google My Business entry: More precise in Google Maps. It’s best to not only link to your website in the Maps listing, but also the other way around from the website to the Maps listing.
  3. Other directories: In local directories such as,,
    But also in business directories or association directories, which exist for many areas. Here, pay attention to uniform designations of the company entry. Both uniform within the various directories and consistent with the entry in Google Maps.

In this video, you’ll find a few practical examples of regional and non-regional queries and the different ways Google handles them:



Keyword research – Here again the most important summarized

  • Be strategic: What is your focus – and will it remain so in the long run?
    From this follows the decision about a somewhat broader overall topic and many subtopics – or just one pointed topic.
  • Be realistic: It’s better to have ten top keywords for which you can create ten informative subpages than to “hit” the whole domain with a keyword that’s too general – which most likely won’t do any good.
  • Learn from competitors: Look at competitor sites – lots of them! Not only at your location, but nationwide or even specifically in other (major) cities: How are they structured, which of your topics do they also cover, how extensively, how prominently?


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