Beginners Guide to Keyword Research
Google’s Keyword Planner Tool
The first stop for keyword research is the Keyword Planner tool which although primarily built for (and based on) Google Adwords advertisers, is great for all kinds of SEO research and is entirely free to use – you just need to register for an Adwords account but you don’t need to actually spend any money on ads.
To use it you first click Tools on the menu bar in your Adwords account and then click Keyword Planner. Next go to Search for new keyword and ad group ideas and then you can enter your initial keyword, for example “keyword research” or you can paste in a list of keywords.
Below that you will see two columns containing a number of options you can set – left column is Targeting and right column is Customize your search. Under Targeting you can select options such as United States for location and English for Language (modify these to your own preferences). Under Keyword options in the right column you can go with the defaults which includes Broad match or you can restrict it to Only show ideas closely related to my search terms. Under Keyword filters you can also narrow it down further to only show keywords which have more or less than a specified amount of monthly searches, advertising bid cost, competition and others, which helps you to get a list of keywords which are both valuable (because people are willing to pay for adverts), get enough monthly traffic to be worthwhile and have low competition.
Once you have selected all your options you will be shown the results which has two tabs – one for Ad group ideas and one for Keyword ideas. You can can select the Keyword ideas tab to see them all and you can also download them as a CSV for using in further research. All the options and filters you selected are shown in the left column and can be modified to get more (or less) keywords to suit. You can add new keywords in the search box at the top and repeat the process as often as you want until you have a nice long list of relevant keywords which match your specifications.
In an ideal world you would want to find keywords with masses of monthly searches, low or medium competition and high CPC values (Cost per Click in the Suggested bid column). High CPC generally means the keyword is valuable because companies must be making money if they are prepared to pay that much for a single click, otherwise they would be stupid, right? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.. 😉
On the other hand if you are actually looking to buy traffic then you’d want to find keywords that are high traffic, low competition and low CPC values, unless you have very deep pockets.
It is important to note that the competition shown here is based on advertising, not search results competition even though they may often be similar – use it as a rough guide only and make sure to research further using other tools or methods.
If you need more keywords you can do things like add synonyms which can be good for reaching more people with keywords you may not otherwise have thought of. You can also use Ubersuggest which is a free keyword finding tool that will give you a huge list of keywords which you can paste into the Google tool for further research. Another option is to use the keyword research tool provided by us.
A handy tip when looking for keywords to use for your SEO marketing is to include “buying keywords”. These are keywords which people use when they are more likely to be in the mood for buying something rather than just aimless browsing. For example such a term could be like this: “buy nike” or “where to buy nike” or “nike bargains” – “bargains” could be replaced with sale, discount, deals, offer, etc. You get the idea anyway – there are all sorts of variations that you can add to your keyword to make them “buying keywords” and they will really help with your conversions.
Further Keyword Research
Google (the actual search engine this time) provides some handy ways to narrow down your searches and the ones often useful for keyword research are “intitle” and “inurl” (or “allinurl” and “allintitle”) which can help give you an idea of how well optimized a page is, from an SEO perspective. To use these you simply prepend your keyword in the search box like so..
This will return all results which have your keyword in the title. You can also then do the same search for inurl to see how many results have your keyword in the url. You can also do both at the same time..
Using combinations of these search modifiers with your keyword you can get a rough idea of which keywords are worth targeting (low competition, few backlinks, no keyword in the title or url, etc) and which are going to be way too difficult – masses of backlinks, exact match domain (ie. keyword is the domain), authority sites dominating the top results etc. To easily get this data for each url shown in the search results you can install a free browser addon such as SEOQuake.
Make sure to search for the precise keyword/phrase you wish to target as well, without any of the ‘intitle’ or other modifiers (since real people would never use those!) and take note of the SEOQuake data for the top results. These will be the pages you really have to beat if you want to get on page #1 of the SERPs and so you should actually visit these top results. You need to see how good the content is, how many words in the article, when was it last updated, is it accurate and generally try to get a good idea of the quality. This will give you an idea of how much work you would have to do to get ahead of them or if it is even possible.
When you have found yourself a nice bunch of keywords from Google you can then plug them into a social research tool such as the one included in Womplify which will return all the most popular pages and articles for a keyword, ranked by the number of shares on each social network. This helps you find article topic/title ideas with a higher potential to attract social traffic since if it worked for others it could work for you, although in some cases it is because they simply have masses of money and/or authority already so take that into account!
Make a list of the most likely article candidates – those that you believe you could not only do but do better. Rework the titles to make it your own without losing the magic which attracted attention for the original article, then go to Google again and try searching for the titles you have created and shortlisted. You can then see what other sites and pages are coming out at the top of the search results and see how well they are optimized and how good the article or content really is.
Other Keyword Research Tools
You don’t have to do all this keyword research manually if you don’t want (although it is useful to know how to do it) as there are a number of good tools you can use, besides Keyword Planner, some free and others not so free. Here’s a few well known tools..
When using tools which provide data such as competition or difficulty it is often worth getting a second opinion before basing your marketing strategy on such data as they are not always 100% accurate. By using more than one research tool you can compare the results and so get a better idea of the accuracy and usefulness of the data for each keyword or phrase you plan to use.
The above methods and tools are not the only way to do it but should provide a good place to start from which you can easily adapt depending on your own requirements and the tools you have at your disposal.
What are your favourite keyword research tools and methods these days?