How to Build a List of Seed Words for Better Keyword Research

Effective keyword research begins with seed words. Each seed word can turn up dozens of long tail keywords that you can rank for on Google.

In this article you'll learn how to use seed words to:

  • find keywords you can rank for
  • understand the topics and sub-topics that make up your niche
  • improve your website's topical authority

But first of all, what exactly are seed words?

build a list of seed words

1. What Are Seed Keywords?

Seed keywords are primary keywords, also known as ‘head keywords’ or ‘main keywords’.

They typically consist of just one or two words.

One characteristic of seed keywords is they have not been qualified by a modifier.

In the screen shot below Google Auto Suggest has added various modifiers to the seed keyword ‘copywriting’:

seed keywords

By contrast, long tail keywords are seed keywords plus a modifier.

You can also think of seed keywords as ‘focus topics’ – they are the main topics within a given niche.

For example, if your niche was weight loss, your seed keywords might be ‘recipes’, ‘diets’, ‘fitness’, and ‘lifestyle’.

If you run an online business, your seed keywords will usually be your website’s products and services.

A good way to start thinking about your seed keywords is to fill in the blanks in the following statement:

“My business is in the [XYZ] niche and I provide [ABC] products and services to clients trying to find solutions to [123]”.

2. Why Do You Need Seed Keywords?

Compiling a list of seed keywords is the first step in finding long tail keywords.

The latter are simply seed keywords that have been modified by the addition of one, two, or three additional words.

In the following example, Google Auto Suggest has created long tail keywords from the seed keyword ‘blogging’:

seed keywords

But more than that, seed keywords help you map out the territory occupied by your niche.

Why is this important?

Two reasons:

2.1 Understand the Geography of Your Niche

What’s the first thing explorers like Christopher Columbus and Captain James Cook did?

That's right - they drew maps.

Anyone wanting to explore and conquer a new territory needs a map. And the seed keywords within your niche provide you with that map.

If you don’t understand the territory of your niche, there could be whole areas of that niche that you’re ignoring, that you aren’t covering in your blog posts.

And that brings me to the second reason you need to understand your niche territory - topical authority.

But before I get on to that, there’s something I need to clarify.

Compiling a list of your seed words is not about imagining what your ideal niche would look like – it’s about putting together a list of keywords that other people in your niche are already writing about.

2.2 Increase Your Topical Authority

You may not have heard about topical authority.  But it’s something you’re likely to hear a lot about in the months ahead.

Until recently, links from other websites were the most important factor in building domain authority.

Backlinks have traditionally been the No.1 factor Google used in deciding how to rank a web page.

Why were backlinks so important?

Because unlike humans, search engines weren’t able to read and understand content.

So they relied on humans linking to content. The search engines reasoned like this:

The more incoming links a piece of content had, the more valuable and authoritative it must be.

But that’s all changing…

With the advent of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) and the Hummingbird algorithm (announced by Google in 2016), Google is now able to understand your content. Google can now assess how authoritative your content is without relying on backlinks as a measure of authority.

In short, topical authority is replacing backlinks as the factor that Google uses to rank pages in the results.

And Google can now determine topical authority for both individual pages and for your website as a whole.

3. How Do You Get Topical Authority?

One of the ways to increase your domain’s topical authority is to cover all the primary keywords or focus topics within your niche.

Through Latent Semantic Indexing (which is a fancy term for being able to understand context) Google now has a pretty good idea of what the main topics are in your niche.

Google will assign greater topical authority to a website that covers 80% of the topics within its niche than to a website that covers only 50% of the topics within its niche.

And that brings me back to seed words:

Your seed words will provide a map of the territory of your niche. And that map will show you if there are gaps in your content.

The fewer the gaps in your content, the better your site will rank for topical authority.

4. My Technique For Finding Seed Words

One of the problems with brainstorming seed words is that you’ll most likely end up with big gaps. There'll be whole areas of your niche that you're not covering.

Another method that people often recommend is using Uber Suggest.

But if you enter your main niche topic (e.g. content marketing, blogging, weight loss) into a keyword tool like UberSuggest, you’ll be given literally hundreds of long tail keywords. Not very helpful, when you're looking for 20 to 50 seed words.

So what's the solution?

Competitive analysis!

5. Extract 10 Keywords from 10 Blogs in Your Niche

Make a list of 10 prominent blogs within your niche.

In my case this list might contain the following blogs:

If you’ve been blogging within your niche for more than a few months you should be able to pull these blog names off the top of your head.

Then visit each blog site and look at the titles of the 10 most recent blog posts.

Most bloggers know the importance of including keywords in their blog titles so each of these 10 blog titles should contain a keyword or keyword phrase.

These are the seed keywords you're looking for!

Extract these seed words from each of the 10 blog titles and note them down under the name of the blog.

Do this for each of the 10 blog sites that you identified for your niche.

When you’ve completed this exercise, you should have something that looks like this:

successful blogging - seed words
blog tyrant - seed words
blogging wizard - seed words
backlinko - seed words
smartblogger - seed keywords
problogger - seed keywords
copyblogger - seed words
jeff bullas - seed words
neil patel - seed words
income diary - seed words

6. Place these Seed  Keywords in a Mind Map

Now go to your favourite mind map software and enter these 100 seed keywords. I use Simple Mind, which is free. You can download it from here.

When you’ve finished, your mind map will look something like this:

seed keywords

7. Organise Your Seed Words By Topic

Now you need to sort the seed keywords into categories.

To do this, create 10 to 20 upper-level topics and start grouping your 100 focus topics under these 10 to 20 categories.

You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

mind map

This is the map of your niche territory.

8. Convert Your Mind Map into a Word document

Now export your mind map as a text file and then save the text file as a Word document.

You’ll now have a document containing about 100 seed keywords divided amongst 10 to 20 upper-level categories:

list of seed words

You can use this document in two ways:

  • Use the main categories to make sure there are no gaps in your content strategy. The topical authority of your website will depend on the degree to which you’ve covered all the main topics within your niche.
  • Use the seed keywords to find long tail keywords.

Conclusion

Compiling a comprehensive list of seed keywords for your niche is a vital part of your content strategy.

It will give you ideas for new blog post topics and help you research new long tail keywords.

But more importantly, having a comprehensive list of seed keywords will help you improve your topical authority by ensuring that there are no gaps in your content.

This post was most recently updated on May 26th, 2020

  • Hi Rob,

    Thank you for the very detailed reply.

    Thanks and Best Regards,
    Trung

  • Hi Rob,
    I have another question about your blog.

    Currently, what theme does your blog use?
    What plugins are you using for this blog?
    I am building a website in the field of baby,
    So which theme should I use accordingly?

    Best Regards,
    Jonhny Kat

    • Hi Trung,

      Sure, no problems. I use Magazine Pro (by Studio Press) on the Genesis Framework. The plugins I use are shown in this screenshot:

      My Plugins

      Best regards,
      Rob

  • Hi Rob,
    Thank you so much for your answer.
    It was really helpful to me
    Hopefully, in the process of building a blog, I will get help from you.

    Best Regards,
    Jonhny Kat

  • Hey Rob,
    I have read many posts on your blog.
    Really helpful, thank you for such quality posts
    I have a question for you
    I am newbie, I look forward to setting up a website.
    So, what articles do I need to read first? Please list the articles I need to learn to be able to create my website right from the first steps.

  • First, thanks for your helpful article. Especially for a newbie like me.
    I have a question, please reply to help me understand better
    I searched for the seed keyword in the first 10 topics of Successful Blogging blog but why not find the same 10 keywords like below in your article?
    1. Blog Design Tips
    2. Monetizing
    3.Blog Traffic From Instagram
    4. Branding Your Blog
    5. Finding the Right Domain
    6. Email Marketing
    7. Blog Post Ideas
    8. Writing Blog Posts
    9. Promoting Your Blog Post
    10. List Building

    If possible please carefully analyze the process of finding these 10 keywords.

    Best regards,

    • Hi Trung,

      Thanks for your question.

      I extracted those 10 seed words from blog post titles on successfulblogging.com.

      The process I used was to simply find 10 blog post titles on that website. I then identified the keyword in each title. Those keywords are the ‘seed words’ that I use to find long tail keywords.

      I’ve made a video about seed words that you may find helpful: https://vimeo.com/343404466/f75780c0cc

      Hope this answers your question.

      – Rob

  • Hey Rob,

    fantastic job answering each and every comment patiently. Not many do this.

    Quick question for you.

    Apart from blogs, whatever you have indicated holds true for websites too correct? I am reworking my website with extremely limited Digital marketing knowledge.

    Hoping you put me on the right track.

    • Hi Santosh,

      Thanks for your feedback and your question.

      Apart from blogs, whatever you have indicated holds true for websites too correct?

      In general, that’s correct. Product pages can rank well for very specific product-related keywords (e.g. ‘excel training in Goa’ or ‘Canon EOS 200D Single Kit with EF-S’). Blog posts are good for targeting more general keywords. I see that you have a blog attached to your website, which is great. So you would be able to rank for both product pages and blog posts.

      I hope this answers your question.

      Best, Rob.

  • Hey Rob! thanks for sharing this highly useful blog post. I followed every step of it and ended up with more seedwords than i bargained for 🙂

    Except the mindmap software part. I skipped that for now -didn’t have the software. I’ve found a free and opensource mindmap software called freemap. i’ll try it out.

    I’ll arrange the keywords under my categories. Then use answerthepublic or soovle to get nice logtail keywords for each.

    Thanks for the tips.

    • Hey Nasiru,

      I’m so glad to hear that you used the technique and it worked for you. Awesome!

      By the way, the mind map software I mentioned in the article has a free version (fully functional).

      Answer The Public and Soovle are both great sources for LTKs.

      All the best 🙂
      Rob

  • Hello, I am a new user to your blog and I really find this article very helpful and Informative . Thank you for sharing such a wonderful Information.

    Your site seems really helpful and supportive for digital marketers.

  • Hello sir ! I am a new blogger but I have face many problems. I have a mobile and creat blog. it’s a very easy but no view in my site .How we can find the best way of keyword research?
    Your site and every articles is veryusefull .

    • Hi Rajendra,

      Thanks for your question.

      The best way to do keyword research is to find long tail keywords (keywords containing 3 or more words) with low competition. You need a keyword research tool that shows you (a) the Google Page #1 search results for that keyword and (b) the key metrics for each of the ranked pages. If there is a page in those results that has a domain authority (DA) close to your DA, then you have a good chance of ranking on Page #1 for that keyword.

      You may find these articles of mine useful:
      Using the KWFinder Tool To Get On Page #1
      How To Do Keyword Research with SEMrush – 2 Simple Techniques

      I hope this helps,
      Rob

  • Please explain what is topical relevancy. It’s not clear to me. Several times I have read the post. But this topical relevancy is not clear to me.

    • Hi Zahir,

      Topical relevancy, or topic relevance, is a metric used by search engines to measure how relevant the backlinks are that point to a given page.

      The use of topical relevance by search engines makes it difficult for ‘black hat’ operators to game search engine algorithms. This is because search engine algorithms expect to find backlinks from pages that are on the same topic as the page they point to. It’s difficult for ‘black hat’ operators to achieve this.

      In fact, the only way to ensure that the backlinks pointing to your page are topically relevant is if you are a genuine authority on that topic and people who also write on that topic are linking to your content.

      To clarify an important distinction: topical relevance refers to the relevance of backlinks whereas topical authority refers to the relevance of content itself.

      I hope this helps.

      Rob.

  • How mind map works it not clear to me,please write something about it . Your images are not working today. Please make them visible.

    • Hi Zahir,

      Thanks for your question.

      I’m sorry you weren’t able to see the images in my article. I just checked the article and it’s working fine at this end.

      I found a video on how to use the Simple Mind mind map software: How to Create Simple Mind Maps

      I hope it helps.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      regards, Rob.

  • Wow, Rob, this is a fantastic article. Thanks for taking the time to create and share it.
    Ramsey over at Blog Tyrant shared it on Twitter…so glad I clicked it!

    I’ve been lucky to have a great specialty niche and have built up great organic traffic the last decade for my websites (I’m a resume writer and LinkedIn profile writer). But things are constantly evolving, the algorithm and search engine gods never sleep – so nothing can be taken for granted in terms of reach, ranking and how the competition evolves.

    I’m more of a pantser and on the fly creator, and that formula has worked well for me (e.g. more instinctively knowing the content and keywords to use and getting a good rank and resonance to back me up). However, your very concrete data mining, mindmapping and transformation suggestions I’d never considered before –and I’ve never seen it explained quite this clearly and appealingly before.
    It seems extremely powerful!
    I will be adding it to my SEO to-do list (the kind of to-do lists that all pantsers maintain 🙂 )

    keep up the great work!

    • Hey Astrid, thanks so much for your feedback! And thanks to Ramsay for tweeting my article 🙂 I’m a bit of a mind map freak so I love mapping things out. But the main reason I wrote the post is there don’t seem to be any articles on systematically mapping out the seed words for a given niche. One thing I should point out is that in the example I’ve given, the niche is very broadly defined. For some people, each of those ‘focus topics’ would be a niche in itself (e.g. email marketing, SEO). I’m so glad the article was helpful 🙂

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