The world of search engine optimization revolves around keywords. Website operators looking to optimize their project for major search engines must find out how to get their search terms on the coveted top spots in the search engine results pages. To put it another way, on-page optimization can’t take place without first conducting keyword research. In the first part of our series, we introduce...Keyword research – part 1: first steps
In the part 1 of our three-part digital guide to keyword research, we looked at the basics of keyword analysis. In part 2, we’ll provide an overview of the best keyword research tools. Having conducted your initial brainstorming session and subsequent marketing analysis, you should have a set of keywords in place to use on your website. The tools we’ll introduce in part 2 are in place to help you optimize this keyword set and refine it with further search terms. Optimizing your keywords is crucial to ensure that your corresponding target group finds you through search engines, like Google. Since the keyword research tools covered in this article differ in terms of their functions, it’s important to use a combination of them to achieve success.
Using keyword research tools
Many people wonder what the point of keyword research optimization is: ‘I don’t have time, why can’t I just use the keywords from my brainstorming session?’ But while it might mean a little more work, these specialized tools are the best way to determine:
- The relevance of your keywords
- The competition surrounding your keywords
- Your keywords‘ search volumes
- The financial potential of your chosen terms
- And all other relevant queries you may have
The amount of data that keyword research tools and services are able to access is usually much higher than the quantity that individual firms have at their disposal. Since the search terms selected in the first step of keyword research are usually dictated by personal experiences and associations, it makes sense to check their relevance by using this data. The corresponding tools can perform this check automatically in a very short space of time.
Many programs also offer a function to help you find word combinations for building long-tail keywords. This makes searching for suitable keywords much simpler.
Google’s keyword research tools
When looking at the topic of search engine optimization, you’d probably assume that the main focus here is on improving search engine results on the most popular search engine of all: Google. Given that Google’s market share in the US has remained constant at around 63%, despite the rise in popularity of Microsoft Bing, you’d be quite right: Google’s market dominance makes it foolish to ignore when it comes to keyword research. It’s worth pointing out that the search queries and search algorithms of Google’s competitors are also very similar, insomuch that optimization for Google searches has proven to have a positive effect on rankings in other search engine results pages, too.
As a result of Google’s significance in the search engine market, it’s recommended to use the search engine giant’s own programs for keyword research. These tools are free and great for creating keyword sets.
Google Keyword Planner
As part of the ad display program, Google AdWords, the Google Keyword Planner is primarily a tool for generating search terms for display ads that are to appear in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). But this tool isn’t just useful for SEA campaigns; it can be used in keyword research for SEO measures too. All you need to use the tool is a Google AdWords account.Google’s Keyword Planner offers users data on keywords and combinations relating to the quality and potential of search terms. For example, you can use the program to search for keywords on particular topics and then immediately see how often these terms are searched for and how competitive they are. The tool provides data about current trends too, as it allows you to view detailed search volume development over the past two years. The initial search volume value displayed comprises an average calculated over the last 12 months, incorporating seasonal fluctuations as well. Additional functions include targeted search volume results for individual countries, languages, or devices, and the option to download results as a CSV file.
- Keyword finder for new terms
- Keyword combination builder
- Search volume results for keywords
- Analysis of competition
Google Suggest, also known as Google Autocomplete, is an extension of the search engine, which all Google users will likely already be familiar with. As you type in a search term, Google Suggest delivers automatic suggestions to complete your search. These suggestions are based on the search activities of all users as well as users of Google-indexed websites. They are sorted according to popularity.
Since users tend not to search for single terms, usually preferring longer search term combinations or questions, Google Suggest is a very useful tool for mid-tail and long-tail keyword research. To avoid the chore of typing up every result, you can use other tools that perform the same function, like Hypersuggest or the slightly more complex Übersuggest. These web services offer users the chance to select and download all of the applicable results for use.
- Generate new mid-tail and long-tail keywords
Another free keyword research tool from Google is Google Trends. The program doesn’t just show the top searches from the last 24 hours; it offers information on search engine entries dating right back to the start of 2004. It’s possible to search for worldwide results or to select a region, and to compare the results of several different terms. Unlike the Keyword Planner, Google Trends doesn’t give absolute figures, instead offering results in relation to total searches.
The vast amount of data available allows Google Trends to offer an impressive and comprehensive overview of how often keywords have been searched for over any period of time between 2004 and the present day. Seasonal trends can also be uncovered in the same way. Lastly, the web service offers a list of most popular topics and search terms for every keyword.
- Keyword performance testing
- Information on regional and worldwide search trends over time
Other free keyword research tools
While Google does offer an array of handy keyword research tools, there are other options out there for web providers. The following additional tools are useful for supporting you in the completion of your keyword set. Several of these programs do so through an entirely different approach than that of Google’s.
If you want to create mid-tail and long-tail keywords (like word combinations with transactional search terms), there’s an abundance of possible variations to choose from. In order to avoid needing to write these out manually, we recommend using the web tool mergewords. Simply enter your keyword combination elements into the three text fields available and click ‘Merge!’ to see every possible combination.
- Generating keyword variants and combinations
Amazon Keyword Tool
If it’s keywords for e-commerce that you’re after, then you shouldn’t limit your keyword research to search engine sources. For online shop operators, search behavior on Amazon–the most successful online shopping platform in America–is of particular interest. SEO tool creator SISTRIX has built a keyword database for Amazon, containing several million Amazon searches. Every keyword entry listed features typical combinations and the average sale price as well as the average number of reviews for the product type that lies behind the keyword in question. In this way, you can identify common terms and find out which products are less sought after. You can check up to 25 keywords a day without registering.
- Generating keywords for e-commerce
- Information about the financial potential of keywords
- Market analysis
Of course, there are alternatives to the keyword research tools mentioned above, some of which charge a fee for their services. But most of these offer a range of functions that goes far beyond actual keyword research and usually covers all aspects of search engine optimization. The costs for these services are typically rather high as a result, making them only worth considering for very large web projects. Examples of these SEO programs include SEOlytics, SISTRIX Toolbox, and SEO Diver.
Keyword research tools: free and very useful
Comprehensive keyword research is a complex thing; the number of possible keyword combinations is very large and creating keyword sets is very time consuming. Keyword research tools help to simplify this task and minimize your workload. These tools can help you to optimize and structure your keyword set, deliver helpful alternative keyword suggestions, and often won’t cost you a dime. If you’re yet to try any keyword research tools, you should try out a few of the ones we’ve listed above. You’ll quickly see just how positive an impact they can have on the quality of your search terms. Once you’ve found the right tools, your next step is to develop the right keyword strategy. Follow on to part 3 of our keyword research series to find out how to choose the perfect strategy for you.
About the author
Andre Alpar’s entrepreneurial career in online marketing began in 1998, during his degree in economics and computer science at the TU in Darmstadt, Germany. After founding several companies, he was in charge of strategic online marketing advice in a managerial role at Rocket Internet. Alongside his professional career, Mr. Alpar has acted as a Business Angel for over 40 internet startups, while he was also responsible for initiating the online marketing conferences OMCap, PPC Masters as well as Content Marketing Masters. His current role is CEO of the 170-person search and content marketing agency Performics in Berlin. Performics has over 2200 employees globally and is considered a major player in performance marketing.