Looking for the simplest and quickest way how to do keyword research for free? I got you covered! This guide will give you an intro lesson on how to do keyword research for free. If you are a small business owner or company with a limited budget this should help you determine quality keywords to target without spending anything but your time.
Introduction: What’s the Point and What’s the Structure of This Article
There are a lot of articles out there around keyword research. A lot of them point you to tools that require a subscription or mostly freemium tools, which is fine. But if your goal is to do keyword research for free, and I mean 100% free, then these strategies are going to leave you staring at an upgrade screen disappointed. And no one wants to be left staring at a computer screen disappointed!
My goal for this amazing how-to article is to teach you how to do keyword research for free. Will we use some of these freemium tools? Yes. Will we be faced with an upgrade screen? Sure. But we’ll get what we need to get the job done.
One thing to note is that this specific article will mostly focus on free keyword research using free Google tools. There will be other freemium and free tools included for more in depth keyword ideas. In future articles I will discuss other tools that can be used. But, for beginners, sometimes going right to the root of the search engine motherland is the best (and easiest) way to get started.
The Free (and Freemium) Keyword Research Tools We Will Use
Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is Google’s free keyword research tool that shows 1. keywords and search volumes for each, and 2. related/group keywords. Sometimes the keyword planner gets crap because the monthly search volumes are broad number ranges (unless you have actually done campaigns in Google Ads). For now, the tool serves its purpose. I mean, come on, it’s completely free.
The Google Keyword Planner is housed within Google Ads. Signing up for a Google Ads account is 100% free. You can sign up on Google Ads.
When you create an account you will notice they make you go through a questionnaire during the sign-up process. Don’t get scared off by this. You are not obligated to pay anything until you are ready to.
How you get to the Keyword Planner is different depending on if you have run campaigns in expert mode or just through smart campaigns. Click the appropriate link below to get a quick guide for how to access Google Keyword Planner for each scenario:
- How to Access Google Keyword Planner in expert mode
- How to Access Google Keyword Planner with a new account or in smart campaigns mode
Google Search (aka Google.com Itself)
This one is pretty straight-forward. This is Google search itself. We’ll discuss how to use this to find long-tail keywords and related keywords, phrases and topics below.
Answerthepublic.com and Usetopic.com’s People Also Ask
Although there are other similar tools, Answerthepublic.com and Usetopic.com’s People Also Ask are two great tools that you can use in combination with the Google Keyword Planner. Their purpose? They can be used to find long-tail keywords, especially questions like how do I, where can I, what is, etc.
Answerthepublic.com is a freemium tool, meaning you can use it’s basic function for a limited amount of searches per day.
Usetopic.com’s People Also Ask tool is free, or at least I have not yet encountered any limitations on it. They do have other content production tools which do cost money.
How to Do Keyword Research For Free Using Google Search, Google Keyword Planner and the Long-Tail Keyword Tools
This is it. The bread and butter of the article. This is what you have been waiting for. Okay, here we go!
The Starting Topics: AKA The Internal Brainstorm List
You should really come up with a list of keywords, topics, questions, etc. that you believe your target audience is searching for. Everything for keyword research, whether it is going to be used for SEO or PPC involves what people are searching for. You as a business should know something, at the least a little bit, about your business. You should, hopefully, also know a little bit about your target market. Put this knowledge to use.
If you are a service business, come up with a list of topics, words and questions that your customers are searching for that relate to your service. The same with if your business sells physical products, prepares and serves food, etc. Whatever your business is come up with some focus keywords that resonate with your target audience.
Brainstorm this list with your employees. If you have some really good customers ask them for their feedback.
You want to create a list of starting keywords that is as comprehensive as possible. As long as they are relevant to your business and customers they are worth exploring in the next step.
Go to Keyword Planner. Use Your Internal List to Quantify and Expand Your Keyword List
Here’s the moment of truth. How well do you know your customers!?!? Just kidding! But this is a good way to determine which keywords have any meaningful search volume and which don’t.
- Set the location you want to use for your keyword search volumes. If you are a local business, set the local area that makes sense. If you are a national or international business you can set the location to United States as well as other countries.
- Choose “start with keywords”
- Start entering your keywords.
- One of the limitations of Google Keyword Planner is that you can only enter 10 keywords at a time. The only way to get through your list is to enter 10 at a time.
- Create an expanded master list: you will probably notice that Google takes your keywords and also returns related terms in the results. These are useful as keywords you didn’t come up with yourself. You can download the keywords, search volumes, and competition level for each keyword. My recommendation is to open up an Excel worksheet. You will use this as your master Excel sheet. For each group of 10 keywords you enter into Keyword Planner download the data that Google spits out and paste it into your master Excel sheet. You can do this over until you get through your list. You will end up with duplicates. Dump all the data into one Excel sheet and then delete the duplicates in Excel. You will end up with one list of unique keywords.
- Go back up to step 2 but select “Start with a Website”: enter the website url’s of relevant competitors that rank above you for the highest volume, most relevant keywords in the Google Search results. Ideally you want to use the top 5+ competitors for each search term you want to rank for.
- Google will spit back keywords that the competitor’s URL is using. These will give you an indication of what keywords your top ranking competitors are targeting to drive traffic to their websites.
- Use the process in step 4 to once again expand your master list.
What to do once you have your high-level keyword list
From this process you should have a solid master list of keywords to target for your home page and high level pages (things like services, categories, product categories, etc.). This is great for high level (and high competition) keywords. You should strategically use these high volume keywords for your main, high-level pages, categories, etc.
But these keywords are tough to rank for, to put it lightly. So how do you find keywords to drive traffic to your site and have a better chance to rank? You need to use your high-level keywords to find long-tail keywords.
Finding Long-Tail Keywords
A very simple definition of a long-tail keyword is a keyword that is long. Over simplified I am sure, but at its heart it is true.
For example, a high-level keyword is “keyword research”. A long-tail keyword derived from the high-level keyword is the very topic of this post, “how to do keyword research for free.”
In order to find long-tail keywords you will take your high-level keyword list from the process above and use a tool like Answerthepublic.com and People Also Ask.
Within Answerthepublic.com you want to use very, very high level keywords that are 1-3 words in total. Make sure you select your location and language. Make these searches count as you only get a few free searches each day. See the screen shots below for an example.
Once you hit the search button you will get a wealth of long-tail keyword phrases. These include questions, prepositions, comparisons, related terms. See below for a screen shot of what the “question” results look like from Answerthepublic.com’s tool.
You can also download a csv file of the results.
Using the People Also Ask tool is a similar result. I actually find People Also Ask to return different (also include related search terms as well) and more results for most queries.
In turn, I would recommend using both of these long-tail keyword tools in combination.
Find Additional Long-Tail Keywords and Related Keywords By Using Google Search Itself
For any of your keywords you can pop them into Google search. In the search results you can utilize three useful areas for keyword research purposes (not including search intent, which we’ll discuss in further articles).
Use the Google suggests tool: start typing a keyword into the Google search box. What happens? Google suggests keywords based on what you type. One strategy is to keep typing words to get longer and longer keyword phrases. Add these to your list.
Make sure you check the volume (see the last step below) before spending hours on a page or post about a keyword no one is actually searching for. See below.
Use Google’s People also asked: in the search results you will find a section called “People also asked”. Here Google will give you questions that users searched for that are related to the topic you searched for. One trick is to click on the down arrows for the relevant ones. This will expand the list with more questions. You can use these as sub-topics on your page or post, additional pages/posts, as well as FAQs to boost your page/post’s SEO value.
Use Google’s Related Searches tool: if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the search results you will see a section called “Searches related to” whatever your keyword is. These are related searches that people are performing that are related to your search query. Once again you can use these as sub-topics on your page or post, additional pages/posts, as well as FAQs to boost your page/post’s SEO value. Check out the screenshot below for an example for my query “how to do keyword research for free”.
Use Keyword Planner Again to Determine the Search Volume of Your Long-Tail Keywords
Once you have a list of long-tail keywords you can go back to Google Keyword Planner to determine their volume. This is an important step to make sure you are not focusing solely on long-tail keywords that have zero monthly searches. In other words, make sure they will produce SOME traffic.
Use the same process we discussed earlier to build your master Excel sheet.
That’s it. This is a fairly straight-forward method for doing keyword research for free (without spending a cent).
You should be able to use this method to build quite an extensive list of high-level keywords and long-tail keywords for your site, blog, paid campaigns, etc.
Also, if you want to share your tips, tricks or feedback for performing free keyword research then please leave a comment. As always, if you found this helpful please share it!