Free Keyword Research – Without the Ripoff Tools
by Malc on 15/08/2013
Here’s how you can get free keyword research – ignoring the paid for KW research tools which are, in the main, a waste of money.
Have you ever bought keyword research software and then gone round and round in circles wondering exactly what to do with it?
My Keyword Search Journey – Free Keyword Research is Best!
In fact, I’ve paid for just about every keyword research tool going. Keyword Discovery, Majestic SEO, NicheBot, Keyword Blueprint, Market Samurai, Micro Niche Finder and others.
Then, finally, I “got it”. And I realised that I didn’t need to pay any more.
I realised that every keyword search tool was trying to do a job which couldn’t be done by a machine. A human brain is required 😉 In other word: it needs judgement.
So I thought I’d create a training about my free keyword research method.
There are just three steps to my free keyword research approach. Watch the video and then you will be able to do it too.
I have edited the video really “tightly” – taking out the “umms” and pauses. So it is 100% keyword research content. Enjoy it, and do let me know what you think in the comments. Add in there any keyword research ideas of your own.
And never expect to use a keyword search tool again!
I’ve really enjoyed making this video – even though it took me a whole week! So if you like it then please, please share with your friends. Thanks.
Google Keyword Planner
Access this from Google Docs – by creating a spreadsheet. Google Sets works from any Google Docs spreadsheet.
Keyword Research Template
In this keyword research training I will show you:
1. How to do free keyword research – to produce a big list of possible keyword phrases to optimise your pages and posts for
2. How to pick out from this list of keywords the ones which are easiest to get into Google’s top ten
3. Why it is 100 times better to work this out for yourself – using two simple Google searches I will show you – rather than paying for keyword research tools which are, by comparison, second rate.
If you follow this process – which I always use – it will then be clear as day which keywords you should optimise your pages for.
Keyword research is the first step of making any web page popular in Google. If you don’t know how to do keyword research, you are relying on luck to rank in Google.
You can buy or subscribe to keyword research tools which sound as if they can do your keyword research work in a few clicks.
Well, did you hear the other story about Goldilocks and the three bears? Yeah – I’m afraid they’re fibbing.
Proper keyword research IS easy – but it DOES take a bit of research work – as well as a bit of common sense.
Follow the method I’ll and you’ll soon get a feel for it. Go through it 2 or 3 times and it will be second nature.
And what will you have?
You will have a list of keywords for your niche which you have hand-selected – and which will serve you well for years.
3-Step Free Keyword Research Method
My method, better than any single keyword research tool, involves three steps
1. Collect together “seed” keyword ideas. These are the big ideas, if you like – the starting points for the keyword phrases you are going rank for.
This can be called the “discovery” phase.
For example, if I own a camping website, “camping” is my first seed keyword. Others might include products I sell, such as: Rucksacks, Tents, Sleeping bags, and subjects related to my products which I intend to create articles about such as: Backpacking and Bivouacking.
Keep a careful note of all your seed keywords and add to them any time you think of additional ones. Ideas can come at any time – while you sleep, in the bath, on the bus – anywhere. Write them down.
When you revisit this project in 3 or 6 months, you will be pleased if you have been thorough.
2. Once you have done your first, thorough sweep of recording seed keywords, choose one of them to “work up”. In other words, you are going to use it as a basis to create some keyword phrases you hope to rank for.
Let’s take “tents”. You will make a list of all the keyword phrases related to tents which people are searching on.
Remember, if one “seed” doesn’t work out when you start researching it, you can always change it for another one.
3. Finally, you use the two special Google searches I mentioned. These will show you, quickly and clearly, which of these phrases are easiest to rank for
Now you can create some great, relevant content for each of those phrases and put it onto 1 or 2 of your website’s pages. Then optimise each page for the appropriate keyword and using standard “on-site SEO” methods.
These include having the phrase in the “Title” and “Meta Description” tags, in an H1 heading and H2 heading, in the first and last paragraph and scattered through the copy and, preferably, highlighted someone in the page in italic, bold and a hyperlink.
That should serve to tell Google: “Hey – this is what my page is about!”
So, step 1 is to brainstorm for “seed” keywords for the niche, or topic, in question.
So, you simply think: “what else would I like my site to rank for?”
- From your own imagination, or asking friends and colleagues,
- From Google Keywords Planner which, as well as giving ideas for keywords phrases, can also give ideas for seed keywords.
- Do a few Google searches – the sites in the top ten will give you ideas for other topics in the niche which could be seed keywords.
- Google Sets is sometimes very useful. It used to be a freestanding Google application but it’s now hidden away in Good Docs. Just put two words in a Google Docs spreadsheet, highlight the two words – with Shift Click – and Ctrl drag down the little square at the bottom right corner which appears when you hover over the cell. Voila – some extra possible seed keywords.
- Google Trends – which gives great information visually about the relative searches for different seed keywords. Here’s the search volume for camping, rucksacks, backpacking, sleeping bags and tents – and camping is the clear winner. If I knock off “camping” you get a whole different view again. This can be useful.
- A synonyms dictionary.
Think laterally all the time: for example, who goes camping?
- Hill walkers!
Those are whole new seed keywords. Note them down for adding to your list whenever you think of them.
This is an essential part of the “How To” of keyword research.
Now, taking my first seed keyword I will need to find some promising keyword phrases.
For example, “camping” might produce:
- Camping holidays
- Camping accessories
- Camping sites
- Camping supplies
and so on.
For this you need some sort of software that tells you what people are actually searching on.
Google’s Keyword Search Tool – Keyword Planner
As a starting point, we can use the tool keyword search tool Google created to try and sell Adwords: Google Keyword Planner.
Let’s get something clear about keyword research software.
- Firstly, the figures showing the number of searches a keyword gets – in any tool – are not actually true: they are estimates. Their value lies only in comparing one with the other – which just means it’s probably better to rank for one with a higher number of searches shown other things being equal.
- The competition figures – in other words how many competitors are ranked well for the term – are only slightly useful – I will show you a MUCH better method of working this out.
- With this method, you can ignore most of the complicated figures tools give telling you how easy it is to rank. They are much more complex than necessary – and they don’t work.
I completely ignore them.
Is Google Planner perfect as a keyword search tool?
It cuts off the longer keyword phrases – the “long tail” – and cuts out questions that people are asking – which would be useful to know.
But it’s free, and it’s a good start.
This is how you use Google Planner to expand your seed keyword and identify some related search phrases which people are searching on.
If you haven’t got a Google account, then create one.
Log into your free Adwords account to use the Google Planner.
Hide My Ass
If you are outside the US, and want to do searches for the US market (mine are usually all like this, and I am in the UK), you’d do well to get Hide My Ass. This utility enable you to pretend to Google that you are in the US, even if you aren’t. This is how to do keyword research ten times more easily when you are outside the US.
The alternative – using Firefox Google Shortcuts addon is more hassle, and you can easily mess up and get the wrong search results. With Hide My Ass you sign on for your keyword research session, and stay logged in as an American for as long as you like. Magic.
Once in Google Planner, click on “Search for keyword and ad group ideas”
Type in your first seed keyword. I usually leave: “all locations” selected. If you only want keywords for a localised area, change this setting.
As I said, ignore the “competition” figure. It means nothing – unless you are an Adwords advertiser.
Click Get Ideas
You can have a quick look at the list if you want, but I usually just export it to an Excel spreadsheet.
I create an extra column on the far left to mark keyword phrases I think might be useful.
Now I sort by the estimated search volume, then I go down the list, marking off useful keywords.
If I start to get plenty of potential keywords I’ll stop – else I’ll go right through the list.
Now I’ll highlight every row with data in it, and sort the list to bring all the “x’s” to the top.
These are my potential keywords for that seed keyword. With these, I can start my research. Copy them, ready to paste into a new spreadsheet.
To start with I open a new document in my spreadsheet programme – I use Excel. It will have three worksheets.
The first worksheet tab I name My Keywords, the second I name after my first seed KW, and the third I name Research.
Each seed KW I research will have it’s own new tab, but I use the My Keywords and Research tabs for all the seed KW.
Now I can paste the keywords I copied in the previous step into the second worksheet. Leave just the “search count” in for reference.
You can download this Excel template in the resources section.
The key for my own “keyword research tool” is to identify a KW which gets a fair amount of traffic, but which is relatively easy to rank for in Google Top Ten.
How to identify whether it’s relatively easy to rank for in Google?
You simply run two special Google searches for each potential keyword phrase to test if anyone else has successfully tried ranking for it. Then you compare the results of these two searches.
If 7 or more out of the 2 x top 10 results are the same then move on.
However, if only 2 or 3 of the top ten results are shared by the two different searches – you have just identified a keyword phrases you should be able to rank for.
Work your way through the list of potential keyword phrases, one by one, doing the two searches for each, and identify the ones with the highest search volume which have the smallest overlap.
Having exhausted all the variations of one seed keyword phrase you move on to the next seed keyword. So you might start with your seed: ”camping supplies”, and check:
– camping supplies stores
– camping supplies store
– tent camping supplies
Then move on to your next seed, maybe: “popup tents”. [You’ll probably want to create a new worksheet for this new seed KW.]
Those Two Essential Google Searches
What are the two searches which give you a clue that someone has tried to rank for a certain keyword phrase?
These are the key to how to do keyword research using this method.
The Google search:
…checks to see if someone has that phrase in the page’s title. It’s presence shows someone may be trying to rank for that term.
This is the title tag on Google’s results page – and the keyword searched for is made bold.
The Google search:
…checks for pages which have backlinks containing that exact phrase linking to them. If so, then again it’s a pretty sure sign that someone has been trying to rank for that term.
Now you compare the two lists and count the overlapping urls. The fewer, the beter.
Practical Results – Without a Paid Keyword Research Tool
Now let’s see this in action.
Now, open two browsers windows to Google, one for each of the two searches. I will be using Firefox, but you can use any browser.
In the first browser’s Google search box type: allintitle:””
In the second type:
Copy the first keyword phrase you want to research and paste it between the quotation marks in each search. Press return to start the search. You should now have ten results on each page.
Open each result in a separate tab. In Firefox you ctrl click each one.
Now you need to get each of the 2 x ten resulting urls in an Excel spreadsheet next to each other so you can compare.
The easy way? Firefox addon Copy URLs Expert.
Hover over any tab, right click, Copy URLs Expert/Tabs in this window.
Now, like magic, you click in the correct Excel cell on the Research tab – next to a cell containing your keyword phrase – click paste and 11 URLs appear vertically listed in separate cells. You can delete the top one – It’s your Google results page url.
Now the second search is pasted in.
Now the final piece of the puzzle. We compare the results in the two top tens.
Add Pretty Colours (To See the Results More Easily)
What I do is colour the “duplicates” red, and the “uniques” green.
Now I got back to the worksheet for that seed KW, and enter the “duplicate count” number
If the number is 1, 2 or 3 I am really happy.
If it’s 4 I think I have a chance. More than that – not so happy.
Keeping a record of all results means I can check exactly what I did 2, 3 or even 6 months later.
Also (called me “detailed” LOL) but I also hyperlink the keyword on the summary worksheet to the comparison on that worksheet.
When you do it yourself I think you’ll see why this could be useful.
It’s pretty easy to do that on Excel:
On your research tab…
…Note the row number of the keyword phrase
Now, Hyperlink the Results
Then return to the summary tab, right click on the keyword and hover over, and click, “Hyperlink”
Click Place in this document
Select your comparison worksheet from the list (“Research”?) and put the row number you remembered in the field above.
So, to repeat, I say that if there are only 1, 2 or 3 duplicates, it’s fairly easy to rank for. I colour that green.
If there are 4, 5 or 6 duplicates it’s tougher: I colour that orange.
Then, guess what colour I do 7-10 duplicates? Yes – red 🙂
I find this visual reminder very helpful when scanning the list – now when reviewing it in the future. It’s easy to apply in Microsoft Excel using “conditional formatting”.
Let’s look at that with Excel 2010. With “conditional formatting” you can simply say: “If the number in this cell is between 1 and 3, format it in such-and-such a way”.
First choose a cell you want the formatting to apply to.
Then, on the home tab, click the dropdown on “conditional formatting” and choose “Between”.
Type in two appropriate numbers and either select a colour preset or choose custom and select your own choice of text colour, background colour, and so on.
So, now you know how to do it. Progress through your list of keywords, filling in your form as you go.
Hopefully you will find some with a fair volume of searches with only 1, 2 or 3 duplicate: or at worst, a 4.
Low Quality of Results
A final point to bear in mind: “low quality” of results.
After you have carried out your “how to do keyword research” method, you may have an overlap of 5, 6, or 7 results, say, but 2 or 3 or more of those results are from YouTube or other video upload site, an article directory, or from a forum; this make it easier for you to rank.
This is partly because it looks like Google is scratching around to find results: and also because you could create a YouTube video yourself, or possibly join the forum yourself and “drop a link” to your post from it – and so make it easier to get yourself into the top ten for that term.
Now You Are Armed – With a Great Keyword Research Method
So there you have it! Go out, burn some midnight oil, and research your keywords you KNOW you have a chance of ranking for.
Then you will have a great list of keywords which can genuinely rank.
Keyword research software is occasionally useful for this or that: but don’t use it to cut too many corners. It’s really not that intelligent and you have to judge your keyword results using common sense. And machines ain’t got that yet!
Good keyword research takes work, common sense and two good Google searches.
Now you know how to do it!
Good luck searching for those golden keywords.
Boost Your Results
Now you know how to do keyword research for free: turbocharge your efforts by adding to the mix this fantastic, low-cost keyword research software to the mix. It’s a simple, yet powerful, piece of kit called Super Suggester.
The thing is, you can use Google Keywords Planner for keyword research but they do filter out about 90% of the results – to stop you reverse engineering their results! So that does limit its usefulness.
Super Suggester deals with this by harvesting all the results Google offers in “Google Sugggest” – you know, when they guess what you want to search for as you type in a search box.
Read my post here about how Super Suggester works then I recommend you combine it with the method on this page. It’s what I do!
Keyword research is a vital skill for every marketer: free keyword research is even better! Go through my method a few times and you will truly be ahead of the crowd. Let me know what you think in the comments below.