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The Best Free Tools for Keyword Research

I recently watched a YouTube tutorial on keywords and online ads—some of these guys are really smart, and I’m always up for learning something new–but the guy who was doing this tutorial hadn’t done any research on his keywords. He just used his company name and tacked on a few words to make up each keyword phrase. Unbelievable. This guy was completely missing the most important part of doing PPC campaigns: KEYWORDS! 

So now of course I was curious, and I researched his keywords to see how they ranked, and not surprisingly, they all fell in the “Low”, range, which means that no one is even searching for the terms he’s using! There were no costs associated with his keywords because no one is searching for them. He totally missed what is the most fundamental part of PPC/online advertising. 

What is keyword research?

Online advertising is an auction. You’re bidding on words/phrases. In some ways, it’s an equalizer—you can bid against the big guys where your bid is as good as anyone else’s. But doing comprehensive keyword research to understand what words/phrases you can afford to bid on is critical to your campaign’s success. 

Keyword research:

  • Is the process of finding and analyzing search terms for online optimization (SEO)
  • It can identify the popularity of queries and their ranking difficulty—which translates to their cost per click (CPC) and the bids’ affordability for you. 
  • It helps identify the keywords for which your audience is searching. 

How to do keyword research for Google ads

Keywords have evolved. Keyword research tells you what topics people care about and how those topics rank with your audience. The operative term here is topics—by researching keywords that are getting a high volume of searches per month, you can identify and sort your content into topics that you want to write about. These topics will then dictate which keywords you target. It’s the intent behind those keywords, and whether or not a piece of content satisfies the intent.

How do I do my own keyword research?

Make a list of important, relevant topics that are indigenous to your business. Ideally, you will have five-ten information buckets of topics. If you’re a blogger, your blog’s categories should directly translate to your topics and are a great place to start. Fill those buckets with related keywords and keyword phrases. Get creative. Do some googling to find related words. Or use the thesaurus in MSWord to get started thinking about this.

You’ll want to plug your keywords into a keyword tool to narrow down your list. There is a range of proprietary tools on the market that come with a pricetag. You’ll see references to Semrush, Moz and Ahrefs, for instance. All are very good products that do a lot in the SEO space. 

How to use Google Keyword Planner

I use Google’s Keyword Planner. I really like that it’s free, and Google owns the search space, so it makes sense to use their free tools. Enter your keywords/phrases into the search field in Google’s Keyword Planner, and you’ll get a results screen that shows a wide range of data—the number of monthly searches for that term, competition, and pricing for the keywords and phrases you’re considering.

I start by sorting on the Competition column. You want High search volume results—maybe Medium. Forget Low—if no one’s searching for that keyword, why bother? Look at the next two columns to the right and you’ll see projected prices for words at the top of the page and the prices at the low end of the page. Forget about the low end—they’re meaningless. You’re interested in the high-end prices. Time for a big reality check. You’ll find that people are paying a lot of money for a chance to be on page one of a google search—and that, of course, is the holy grail, our true north. Page 1 of a search.

The best way to do keyword research

Identify your budget and decide how much you’re willing to pay when someone clicks on your ad. Look at the top of column prices and eliminate those words that are way too costly—you’re going to find that it’s a lot of these, so you’ll have to get creative about identifying your keywords and building your ad. Keep drilling down to find new words and new combinations of words that are a fit for your business. Continue to work the keyword planner until you find a group of keywords/phrases that are a good fit for your ad marketing goals and fall within your budget. 

Pay attention to the phrases that Google planner spits back at you while you’re doing keyword research. Learn from them. Some of these keywords provide industry insights of which you may not have been aware. Use these and/or combine them with other words and do another search. For each keyword/phrase, look at the competition and top-page cost. Continue this process of identifying potential keywords and running this test. Copy the words/phrases that meet your specs—relevance and affordability–so that you can use them in your campaign. 

Keyword research can be time-consuming and frustrating

This is just an example of how the results screens pick up words and come back with results—often irrelevant ones. I was looking for keywords for one of my clients who owns a small storage/moving business. His business is entirely rental. People use his services on a short-term rental basis only. Google keyword planner kept throwing back phrases about moving and storage containers for sale. What? This gives you an idea of how Google works—it recognizes a relationship between rent and sale and “sale” words show up on the result screen. Keep trying new word combinations, stay diligent until you identify enough words to create your campaign.

Try to include a mix of short terms and long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords, or longer phrases, will have a lower monthly search volume. While they may have lower search volume, they also will have more qualified responses. More words narrow the qualifications—and the quality of your responses. These are the people who are at the bottom of the sales funnel, ready to buy.

Keyword research can be confusing, but it’s the most important part of your online advertising (PPC) campaign. Getting this right is essential. Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing specialists.