[tweetmeme]By Gloria Rand
Getting your website, blog or social media posts found online depends on implementing a successful search engine optimization strategy. And the first step in launching any SEO program starts with keyword research.
Once you come up with a list of words that you think people are using to search for your product or service, don’t just start writing copy with those words. What you think are effective words and what other people are actually using to search may be quite different. So it pays to double check your words with some online keyword tools. You may find some alternative keywords and long-tail search phrases that will be more effective in reaching your target audience online.
Here are a few of my favorite resources for keyword research:
Free Keyword Research Tools
1. Google AdWords
Even though Google AdWords is meant to be a resource for pay-per-click ads, you can still search for words that can be used to help your site rank organically. Simply type in a keyword or a URL of your own website or a competitor’s site, and Google will give you 100 related keywords and phrases to choose from. You can export all of these words into a CSV file. Or if the results include too many keywords or phrases that are not related to your query, choose the ones you do like, and select the “more like this” option to get additional words to choose from.
2. Wordtracker’s Keyword Suggestion Tool
Unlike Google AdWords, this search tool gives you only ten results for free. While Wordtracker is an excellent resource for long tail keywords, you have to pay to take full advantage of the service. Here is an example of the results Wordtracker provided for the phrase “business networking groups”:
You can sign up for a free seven day trial, which will give you 100 results for each query. After that, the service costs $69 a month and delivers up to 2,000 keywords per search. You can also measure the level of competition for any keyword in Wordtracker’s database and check KEI or the Keyword Effectiveness Index to hone in on words with high traffic and low competition.
3. KeywordDiscovery.com – As with Wordtracker, you’ll have to sign up for a free trial account to use Keyword Discovery’s service. The free version allows you to do 50 searches per day, but you only get 10 results each time. Those results include trends, but you can’t check domains.
When you click on “analyze,” Keyword Discovery gives you the percentage of searches that generated a click on one of the search results. if you subscribe for their basic plan at $69.95 a month, you get full access to all the keyword databases. You can do 1,500 searches per day. Up to 1,000 results will be displayed, including three domain research results.
4. SEOBook.com – Unlike Wordtracker & KeywordDiscovery, SEOBook.com provides a free account that lasts indefinitely. (I’ve been using it for over 2 years.) Their keyword results are powered by Wordtracker.com but this tool also delivers results from Google, Yahoo, Bing, Google Trends, Quintura, Compete, Keyword Discovery & Wordstream.
Of course, as with the other tools above, you get much more functionality if you sign up for SEOBook’s paid membership. This service is the most expensive by far at $300/month. But it includes over 100 training modules covering keyword research, pay per click marketing, site optimization; member only training videos; and much more. There’s no contract, and you can cancel at any time.
5. SEMRush.com – As a free keyword research tool, SEMRush is pretty robust. As a registered user, you will get more opportunities than unregistered, but you are limited to 10 results per request, 10 queries per day. The good news is that those results include ad volume, CPC (cost per click), competition of advertisers for that term, number of search results for that query on Google, and the volume of searches over the last 12 months.
You can also see a list of websites that delivered results for a particular search term. When you click on one of those sites, you’ll be able to see that site’s related keywords – giving you some new keyword possibilities to consider.
Another useful feature, especially if you write pay-per-click ads, is the ability to see which websites bought ads for the search term. You can even click on the Ad icon to see the copy with the search term in it:
In the interest of full disclosure, SEMRush allowed me to use their professional account for free for the last few weeks so that I could do a full test-drive of their capabilities. As someone who has been getting along with ten results at a time from Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery, and 100 more keywords from Google, I have to tell you that SEMRush has spoiled me.
Being able to access thousands of keywords at a time – not only from my search term, but to check those of competing websites has been terrific. Paying $69.95 a month for the ability to export up to 10,000 results per domain into a CSV or Excel file is a good deal, if you ask me. And the fact that you can perform up to 3,000 queries per day is another bonus. Plus, SEMRush doesn’t generate random keywords, unlike the other sites do. Instead, the company provides a statistical analysis of the occurrence of keywords in its results. And, a SEMRush spokesperson pointed out to me that theirs is the only tool to include valuable data relative to a keyword’s value/profitability – another good point in their favor.
Which keyword tool is your favorite? Please comment below!