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How to Build a Keyword Seed List

Keyword research remains one of the most high value SEO activities to kick off an SEO campaign.

Formulating a seed list – what you’ll need:

  • Access to client, and client team where relevant / possible

  • A comfy meeting space

  • A couple of hours uninterrupted peace and quiet

  • Tea

  • Cake (of course, no surprises there)

If you are a keen bean, you might want to do some reading before-hand.  Read this short section on keyphrase research in the SEOMoz beginners guide.

Guides to writing a seed list often stop short at ‘write down a list of phrases you think people would use to search for your products and services’. The better the keyphrase seed list, the greater the opportunity to generate a comprehensive keyphrase portfolio.


Your client will know their market place 10 times better than you (hopefully!) and by spending this time with them you’ll get a much better feel for their products, services and the types of clients and buyers they are hoping to attract via search.

Without further ado – here are the areas I explore, and questions I pose during these sessions.

Your starter for 10

  • Consider your target audiences, what sort of words and phrases might each of these use when searching for the products and services that you offer? Ideally you’ll have some persona research to hand and this activity usually generates many 1-3 word phrases.

  • Taking the list above, are there any synonyms to add? Are there any ‘slang’ words, colloquialisms, or vernacular that complements this set? ZEITGEIST ALERT: Are there any ‘buzz’ words that are newer words that a searcher might use when looking for the products or services that you offer?

  • List all of the brand terms, as well as products (within reason – stick to top levels if there are literally gazillions)

  • List any high profile company names, or staff members

  • Take a look at the website, again if the site is large, concentrate on top level pages. Take a look at each page in turn; which set of search queries this page targeting? Consider: ‘This page would meet the needs of searchers looking for ______’, filling in the blanks.

  • Consider the niche industry websites (for example, if you offer camping and caravanning you might look at the Camping and Caravanning Site website) and the key consumer sites for your industry (for example if you offer climbing equipment looking at What types of words and phrases do they use when discussing and commenting on your area of interest?

  • Finish with tea and cake

Now these bits below you can crack on with without the client.​

Once you have delved into the recesses of their brains you can follow the steps below…

  • Take a look at a couple of key competitor websites, repeat the above

  •  Look at your search console data – which search queries are garnering impressions and clicks?  Which of these are relevant to the products and services you offer? Are there any further synonyms we can add based on these?  

  • Google Ads data – if they have run ads then mine that search query treasure now! 

  • Tools – access to Moz?  Ahrefs? SEMRush?  Fill yer boots with their keyword tools.

By this point you should have a hefty list of potential keyphrases.

That about wraps it up.  From here you head off with your robust and hearty keyphrase seed list intact and ready for further exploration.  You’ve built the start of a good working relationship with the client, you have demonstrated an understanding and interest in what it is that they do and the people that they exist to service.  And you’ve eaten cake.  Win win

NB This is an updated version of a piece of content that was originally posted back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (2011) on State Of Digital.

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