How to do Keyword Research for Free

How to do Keyword Research for Free

Keyword research is critical to your success. Without it, you could spend countless hours and thousands of dollars creating content about topics that your target audience isn’t actually searching for.

It’s a common myth that the only way to properly conduct keyword research is to overspend on a variety of tools. Fortunately, it’s just that: a myth.

There are many ways to do keyword research for free, all with the idea of:

  • Choosing the best keywords, based on volume, industry, and competition
  • Learning what your competitors are doing, so that you can outperform them in the future
  • Pinpointing both primary and long tail keywords
  • Improving your search engine rankings, thus driving more organic traffic

If you’re ready to get started, here are five steps you can take to conduct keyword research for free.

1. Start with Google Keyword Planner

For many years, Google Keyword Planner has been the go-to tool among marketing professionals. And despite increasing competition, it’s still one of the best thanks to its ease of use, depth of information, and of course, name recognition.

Even though Google Keyword Planner has an advertising component—for those who want to use Google Ads - you can still use it as a plain-old keyword research tool.

When starting from scratch, use it to search for words and phrases related to your products and/or services. All it takes is one “seed” word to spit out hundreds upon hundreds of keyword ideas.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect to see:

Screen Shot 2018 12 20 at 11.51.57 AM

As you scour the results, you’re given the opportunity to conduct additional research on any keyword that piques your interest. Answer questions such as:

  • How often is a keyword searched for?
  • How have searches changed over time?
  • How competitive is the keyword?

The answers to these questions help you narrow your keyword list down to those that make the most sense.

For example, it doesn’t make sense to optimize the homepage of your website for a keyword that only receives a handful of searches every month.

Even if you stop here for the time being, Google Keyword Planner will give you a greater understanding of your industry and the keywords that give you the best chance of driving organic traffic.

2. Google Trends

Your industry can change as the days go by. Subsequently, these changes can (and probably will) impact your keyword selection.

Google Trends helps you understand what’s happening within your industry.

Upon entering a keyword, you’re presented with a variety of information that’s useful when conducting keyword research. This includes:

  • Breakdown by region, giving you a better idea of where your audience is located
  • Related queries, which helps you understand which keywords are hot at the present time
  • Access to web, image, and news data

Let’s take for example a celebrity news website. If you find yourself creating content around Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian, you can run a comparison report to focus on the three details above. For example, related queries will look something like this:

Screen Shot 2018 12 20 at 11.54.36 AM

Do any of these keywords make sense to target in an upcoming blog post?

You won’t use Google Trends to complete every bit of keyword research, but it’s an important tool for those who want to stay current with what their audience is searching for.

Don’t assume that the keywords that drive traffic today will do the same tomorrow. If you’re not adjusting your strategy over time, it could hold you back from reaching your full potential.

3. Visit Competing Website

Whether you’re starting from scratch or just want to get some more keyword ideas, analyzing your competitors is a great way find keywords to target for free.

Here are five questions to answer when analyzing a competitor’s web presence, with an eye toward keywords:

  • Which keywords are used in the title tag?
  • Which keywords are used in the meta description?
  • Which keywords are used in the meta keywords tag?
  • Which keywords are used in the H1, H2, and H3 tags?
  • Which keywords are targeted in the on-site content?

Look through some of the main pages of their site (such as product pages, or if it’s a content site, their blog posts).

Pay attention to the keywords they use in their title tags. What keywords do they include in their subheadings? Are there any topics in particular that they create a significant amount of content on?

Generally, a good sign that a company is targeting a specific keyword is if it appears in the title, URL and throughout the content of a page.

For example, if we take a look at this post from Bamboo HR, it’s clear that they’re targeting the keyword “HR conferences”

HR conferences

The term appears in the title, URL, and several of their subheadings. While it might take a little manual effort on your end, it’s one of the best ways to do keyword research for free.

4. Dig Deeper with SEMrush

Everything you’ve done to this point provides you with a solid base for pushing forward. Now, it’s time to step up your game with the help of SEMrush.

Simply put, SEMrush is designed to provide you with more keyword data and competitor analysis than any other tool (and that’s why it’s so popular). Best yet, you can sign up for a free account that allows you to run 10 searches without spending a dime.

Here are five steps for effectively using SEMrush:

  • Choose a primary keyword to begin your search (use one from the list you compiled with Google Keyword Planner)
  • Download both the “phrase match” and “related keywords”
  • Analyze the keywords with a focus on volume and competition
  • Review the organic search results to see which companies are currently ranking on pages one and two for the keyword
  • Run another search for the 5 to 10 best keywords

Here’s the area of the results page that deserves most your attention:

Screen Shot 2018 12 20 at 11.55.59 AM

This is the jumping off point for everything else you do on SEMrush. If you focus on these four areas of the search results, you can efficiently take the five steps above.

SEMrush is one of those tools that is so easy to use that you don’t truly understand its power until you get started. But once you run a search and realize what’s available to you, its true power will begin to shine through - and that’s when you’ll realize how much it can do for you in regards to keyword research.

5. Know Where You Stand

It’s good to take the four steps above as soon as possible, as it provides access to keyword data that will help you formulate a winning strategy.

But, there’s something else you need to know: you may already have a plan in place that’s working.

Before you make any changes or implement a new strategy, find out where you stand in regards to current keyword rankings.

For example, you can use Wincher to track your keyword rankings.

Here’s an example for Mailchimp.com:

Screen Shot 2018 12 20 at 11.32.15 AM

There’s a lot to see here:

  • The first column is the keyword you’re trying to rank for
  • The second column is the URL of the page that is ranking
  • The third column shows your position (the lower the number the better)
  • The fourth column shows change, giving you an idea of if your webpage is moving up or down in the rankings
  • The fifth column shows cost per click (CPC) for anyone interested in advertising
  • The sixth column is the monthly search volume

All of this information will help you make better decisions regarding keyword selection.

For example, if you already have a page ranking in the top spot for “free landing page,” there’s no need to target this keyword on another page.

Just the same, if you come to find that you’re ranking on the first page - but not the top spot - for a high volume keyword, you can focus more energy here with the idea of moving up and attracting more search engine traffic.

Sometimes, keyword research has just as much to do with your current rankings as it does uncovering new keywords.

You Don’t Always Have to Pay to do Keyword Research

So, there you have it. If you follow these steps, you can conduct keyword research for free. And not only is it free, but it’s also effective.

What process do you follow when conducting keyword research? Have you spent good money in the past, just to be disappointed with the results? Share your personal tips and experiences in the comment section below.