How to Analyze Keywords for SEO: Tips for Distiling Long Keyword Lists

This is a simple guide showing you how to evaluate a long list of keywords to discover the most profitable phrases that can help you reach your current SEO goals.

What you’re going to learn:

  • What SEO keyword analysis is
  • Why your target keywords should match your SEO goals
  • How keyword analysis works, in general,
  • Five metrics that can help you to evaluate your keyword lists

Note, this post is part of my SaaS keyword research series and relates to the final stage of the process - Deciding which keywords on that long list of phrases you’ve collected you should be focusing on now. 

So, here’s a common scenario:

You’ve been researching topics, analyzing associated phrases, and building one keyword list after another. And I’m sure the process was enormously exciting. You’re discovering new ways to connect your SaaS with its target audience, after all, right? 

But there is always a moment in the process when the thought hits you - You realize that you now have hundreds, if not more, of keywords that you could target and that there’s simply no chance that you could work on them all. 

At least not within a reasonable timeframe… 

So what should you do? How do you pick phrases to start with and build an achievable SEO roadmap? 

Well, let’s break it all down Barney-style. 

So, what exactly is keyword analysis?

Let me explain the concept using a quote I once heard. I can’t remember who said it, but whoever it was, they described that next step of the process - keywords analysis - beautifully as:

…a systematic way to identify phrases that are ideal for your current SEO goals. 

I absolutely love this definition. 

First, it tells you what keyword analysis is, of course - a process of identifying the best keywords to target. 

But what I love about this definition is that it also hints at how you should approach the process. 

Look at the second part of that sentence. The definition clarifies that any keywords you choose should match your current SEO goals. 

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Your keywords should help you get closer to the business objectives you want to achieve. 

These objectives could be anything, of course. You may want to expand your search visibility to grow the MRR, for instance. In that case, you should focus more on BoFU keywords with strong commercial value. 

But suppose you’re only launching your SEO strategy (or have just launched the product itself). In that case, your first goal might be to establish your topical authority or build brand awareness, and so on, and your target keywords should reflect that.

Now, there’s more to the process than this, of course. So let’s go through some ways to analyze your keyword lists and figure out which phrases to focus on first. 

How to analyze long keyword lists and select the best phrases to target 

In practical terms, the process of analyzing keywords revolves around looking at different data points while keeping your SEO goals in mind.

Before I show you what those data points are, let me remind you of something: 

Nothing works in a vacuum in SEO. In most cases, metrics, data points, etc., are interconnected, and you need to evaluate them in relation to each other. 

Take search volume data, for example. It’s easy to focus just on keywords’ traffic potential when reviewing keyword lists. But those high-traffic phrases might be too competitive for you to target right now. Or they might not have the commercial value that you need to reach your goals. 

Keep that in mind when learning about those metrics. Later on in this guide, I’m even going to discuss using a bit of gut feeling in the process too. Because even though it may seem that our SEO decisions should be entirely data-driven, I think it’s also worth tapping into your product and business experience as a sort of last check before choosing keywords to target. 

But overall, here are the data points to use when analyzing keywords:

#1. Traffic potential (or, basically, the keyword’s search volume)

Search volume is an easy data point to access. Any SEO platform would deliver the keyword’s search visibility (although some might call this metric slightly differently - Volume, etc.)

An example of keyword list filtered by search volume data.

(An example of a keyword list filtered by Volume data.)

Here are some things to remember when you’re analyzing the search volume:

  • The keyword’s search volume doesn’t tell you how many people will visit your site from this particular keyword. It only suggests the number of monthly searches or the interest level in that phrase or topic each month. In other words, it’s nothing but an estimate. 
  • Even though the actual monthly search volume might be high, the traffic you receive from it might actually be low because of various SERP features that attract the users’ attention.
  • High-volume keywords are usually more generic and more competitive. Because of that, they might attract a more generic audience. 

So, use the search volume to get an idea of that interest level but don’t immediately discount keywords with low search volume. Sometimes these keywords might attract fewer visitors, but these might also be highly relevant to your product. 

#2. Competitiveness of a keyword (or Keyword Difficulty)

This is another metric you’ll find in practically every SEO platform these days. Here’s the same list as above but this time, filtered by Keyword Difficulty:

An example of keyword difficulty used during keyword analysis process.

This metric tells you roughly how hard it might be for you to rank for that phrase. 

But note that I said roughly

That’s because these tools evaluate keyword difficulty in general, not in the context of your site. 

In other words, both you and I will see the same keyword difficulty for a keyword (providing that we use the same platform to access that data, of course.) And that’s in spite of our sites being different, having different authority levels, and so on. 

In reality, however, your site might already be well-established in the niche and have tons of highly authoritative backlinks driving its authority up. As a result, it would be much easier for you to rank for that keyword than me. 

This is another important factor to keep in mind when evaluating the keyword’s competitiveness.  The actual keyword difficulty might be lower or higher, depending on how authoritative your site already is, how great your content is, and many other factors. 

But that said, Difficulty is still a good indicator to review when evaluating keywords. It can tell you, roughly how authoritative top-ranking pages for this keyword are. 

#3. Commercial potential 

Unlike the two previous metrics, this is a ridiculously simple data point to analyze. It focuses on the average CPC bid for the keyword. And the logic behind this is that if companies are willing to pay serious money for every click from that phrase, then it pretty much suggests that they’re also getting something in return from it. 

Data to help analyze keywords from a commercial point of view.

#4. Topic scope

Topic scope isn’t any metric you can find in SEO platforms. I’m not even sure if the term is the best way to describe what I mean by it. It’s just something I use when building SEO strategies for clients. 

And what I do is look at how many similar or closely related keywords there are (by that, I mean potential phrases that target the same user intent) in the topic I’m researching. I know that it sounds a bit cryptic so let me explain. 

Some keywords relate to information users search for often. They might not necessarily use the same phrase to do so, but they regularly google for this information. As a result, by targeting such a topic, you can capitalize not only on the primary topic but all the other ways that users search for this information. 

Here’s a quick example. This is a list of all keywords this particular page is ranking for. Note how many different ones there are. Some of these phrases are related to the main keyword very closely. But many other keywords also rank and attract traffic, even though they don’t seem as closely related to the primary target phrase. 


At the same time, there are also highly-specific keywords that a.) don’t have a large search volume, and b.) deliver so specific information that users use only that and several other keyword variations at most. 

Here’s one example. Note that my keyword research tool even struggles to find any associated phrases to this one.


Analyzing topic scope (a term I use to describe the overall reach of the keyword or topic) helps me assess the full potential or search interest around the phrase or topic. 

A quick explanation - When talking about relevant phrases, I don’t mean long tail keywords. These are absolutely important, of course, but when evaluating the topic scope, I’m more interested in other ways users look for information. By other I mean phrases that aren’t too closely related to the original topic but still deliver the same information. 

For example, the two phrases “Small business CRM” and “The best small business CRM” are closely related. One is basically a long-tail variation of the other. But when analyzing the topic score, I pay more attention to phrases like “customer management software” or “client relationship tool,” as well as any question-based phrases that target the same topic.

#4. Trends and seasonality

Trends and seasonality are important factors that can affect your choice of keywords.

You see, the interest in various keywords changes throughout the year. Take any queries relating to Black Friday, for example. Customers would be more likely to search for such information closer to the day. 

In fact, according to Google Trends, the interest in Amazon BF deals is practically at a zero level now but will start picking up around September, with the peak right before and during the event. 

Keyword trends and seasonality.

This is actually quite important information for an SEO. 

Seasonality helps you decide when to start working on particular keywords. For example, given how long it takes for G to rank a page fully, I might want to start working on any BF-related page around April or May to give myself plenty of time to have it rank well when the interest starts peaking.

#5. The gut feeling

I admit - This is probably a bit controversial thing to say in SEO. We should all make data-driven decisions, after all. But the truth is that all this data is meaningless unless you run it through your product, business, and market experience. 

Keyword data is amazing, sure, but when you match it with factors like your audience’s preferences then you can really dive into the true SEO potential. 

For example, if you know that a particular product feature (or customer pain point) attracts the most signups or conversions, then, naturally, you should be focusing first on keywords that relate to it. And that’s even if their metrics are not as good as what you see in other topics. 

So, once you’ve analyzed all the data, and picked a bunch of keywords, look at them with your own experience and knowledge in mind. And remember, the keywords you’re going to end up with after this analysis aren’t the only ones you will target. 

Keyword research and analysis is a continuous process. Once you’ve reached your current SEO goals, you do it again, and find phrases that will help you reach another milestone, and then another, and so on. 

Hope this helps.

About the Author

SEO consultant for SaaS - Pawel Grabowski

Pawel Grabowski is a freelance SEO consultant helping SaaS businesses get found online and connect with new customers with SEO and content.