How to Use Google Search Console for Keyword Research

Published: Aug 28, 2020
Last Updated:
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Google Search Console (GSC) is often overlooked by SEOs and content marketers as a tool for keyword research—but that’s a big mistake. GSC offers not only a treasure trove of insight about the current and historic performance of your website, but also ideas for keyword optimization and new content.

Specifically, using Google Search Console, you can find out how to better optimize your existing content and identify new SEO keyword opportunities. Below, we discuss both use cases in more depth.

Optimize Existing Content

Content writers often create content designed to target specific keywords—only to find out later that a blog post has either:

  1. failed to rank for those terms, or
  2. started ranking for something unexpected.

Using Google Search Console, you can find out what exactly your content is ranking for—and then make adjustments in your content strategy accordingly.

Unlike other SEO tools, Google Search Console displays the exact search queries users are typing into Google, regardless of how infrequently these terms are searched. This is particularly helpful for revealing lengthy, question-based searches and other long-tail keywords.

This also means you can identify which terms are the most successful in generating clicks to your website. Armed with this information, it’ll be easier to identify how a page can be optimized for certain keywords.

When Your Content Ranks for Its Desired Keywords

Google Search Console reveals where your pages are ranking for specific keywords. For example, our blog post “6 Cause Marketing Campaigns to Inspire for 2019” ranks for the following keywords:

Using this information, we can determine whether our targeting efforts have been successful—plus, where there is room for improvement. GSC’s data can even reveal additional optimization opportunities for other phrases.

This optimization strategy focuses on identifying search terms for which your content has a realistic chance of gaining a higher rank.

For example, if the data shows that you’ve got a page sitting between positions 3 and 10 for a relevant keyword, it means your content is already appearing on the first page of Google’s search results for that particular keyword. It should thus be easier to climb the ranks from there by implementing targeted optimization.

Examples of such optimization techniques include:

  • Adding the exact match keywords to your title tag
  • Using the exact match keywords in headings where relevant
  • Increasing the prominence of that keyword topic earlier in your content

When Your Content Doesn’t Rank for Its Target Keywords

If you find that your content isn’t ranking for its target keywords, you’ve got two options:

  1. You can either focus your efforts on better optimizing it for its original target keyword, or
  2. You can consider finding new keywords to adjust your content for.

A common reason why quality content fails to rank is that their focus keywords are too competitive.  You can find out if this is the case by searching for the keyword and checking to see if the top spots are dominated by well-known websites.

Look out for niche long-tail keywords that you can optimize your content for instead. For example:

In the screenshot above, instead of targeting “cause marketing 2019”, we focus more on “cause-related marketing examples 2019”—which incidentally receives more searches.

Optimizing Current Content for New Keywords

Besides determining whether your content ranks for the keywords it was intended for, Google Search Console can also reveal other unanticipated keywords your content also ranks for. However, you’ll need to decide how relevant these new keywords are to your content.

If your content is ranking for new relevant (but unexpected) keywords, consider further optimization to target these keywords. That might be by creating new sections in your content to address these new keyword phrases.

On the other hand, if these new keywords aren’t particularly relevant to a piece of content, use them instead to brainstorm new content.

Identify New SEO Opportunities

Google Search Console may reveal new, unexpected keywords your content ranks for. Sometimes, your content may not rank highly for these other keywords, and the keywords are not so relevant that you’d want to re-optimize your content to target them.

In this case, you may want to create new content to target these new keywords. As long as they’re relevant to your target audience, creating new pieces that are designed to meet the needs of a searcher’s intent will benefit your overall SEO strategy.

For example, we can see that our blog, “6 Cause Marketing Campaigns to Inspire for 2019” is ranking for the term “best global marketing campaigns”. Because this term does not necessarily apply to what is being discussed in the blog, it could warrant its own new piece of content.

When a new idea like this is born, further keyword research will be required. This is necessary to identify other, similar terms that could be worth including in your content. You can use keyword tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to do this or, for further keyword inspiration, search the term in Google and look at the “People also ask” and “Searches related to” information at the bottom of the search results.

Google related searches example
Here's an example of related searches for the keyword phrase "subscription boxes". This helpful info always appears at the bottom of Google's search results.

Just be sure to choose the right keywords for your site—that is, the most relevant phrases that your target audience is using.

How to Identify the “Right” Keywords to Target

Unfortunately, finding which keywords are suitable for a new piece of content can be tedious. You’ll need to plow through the list of obtained queries on Google Search Console and assess them on a case-by-case basis.

For our blog post about cause marketing, this phrase needs to be added as a search filter so that all the relevant queries will appear:

You need to analyze all the queries that have generated interest in your content. Chances are most of the unexpectedly ranking keywords won’t have resulted in clicks because your content doesn’t directly answer the searcher’s intent. They may, however, have led to higher impressions.

As you can see with our results below, there are several potential keywords that we could use as a basis for new content. These include “best marketing campaign 2019” or “best global marketing campaigns 2019,” for example.

If you have many keywords to choose from, it may be difficult deciding where to focus your efforts. Here’s a tip: consider which areas of your site you most want to promote.

For example, there may be a specific product or service page you wish to push. If Google Search Console suggests any keywords that relate to these pages, that’s a great place to start.

Of course, you’ll also need to check that these keywords are not overly competitive. You can check this by seeing what appears on the first page of search engine page results when you search for the term. If Google Search Console indicates any question keywords, these might be easier to obtain when it comes to developing a new piece of content and getting it to rank well.

One final note to remember: Low impressions do not necessarily mean low search volume.

Do not disregard those queries generated by Google Search Console that have a low impression rate for your existing content. They could still bring in plenty of traffic if you decide to create and optimize a new piece of content.


Understanding how to research keywords is a crucial part of improving your website’s SEO, because without strategic keyword targeting (and of course, quality content), your web pages will never be found. Free tools like Google Search Console provide a wealth of keyword research data and make a perfect starting point for getting this research underway.

About the Author

Adam heads the team at MRS Digital, a leading SEO agency in Hampshire, UK. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Adam ensures that MRS is at the forefront of search marketing by using the latest SEO techniques and technology.

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