How to Do Keyword Research for Free
You don’t need to be an SEO expert or have access to fancy paid software and tools to do keyword research. This article will show you how to use search engines, competitors’ websites and free keyword research tools. Let’s get to it.
Analyzing SERPs to research keywords
One of the most easily overlooked methods of researching keywords for SEO is analyzing search engine results pages (SERPs). Instead of immediately diving into data and tools – do a search and see what’s already showing up. Search keywords related to your brand name, industry, products, services, competitors etc. and check out the keywords used in top ranking titles (blue links in Google search results).
For example, two of the top 3 organic results on Google for “keyword research” have the keywords “free” and “tool(s)” in their title displayed on Google (screenshot below). The refinement buttons just below the search bar (which don’t always appear) also include these same keywords – a good indication that they should be included in content and meta data about keyword research.
Next use People also ask and Related searches (on Google, or your preferred search engine’s equivalent) to discover related topics and keywords. This process can provide countless ideas and insights since Google usually populates more questions each time you click on People also ask results.
Free Keyword Research Tools
Do paid SEO tools make keyword research easier? Absolutely. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some great free keyword research tools available. Sometimes the best keyword research tools are free. In other words, some of these tools can be great resources even with access paid subscriptions.
Some of my favorite free keyword research tools include:
- Google Ads Keyword Planner
- Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator
- Free Semrush account (10 keyword searches/day)
- Google Trends
- AnswerThePublic (3 free searches/day)
- KeywordTool.io (search volume data requires subscription)
Check out competitors
Checking out competitors use of keywords in meta data like title tags and meta descriptions can be helpful when doing keyword research. You can view the meta data for any publicly accessible web page by viewing its source code (CTRL+U on Windows Chrome or Option+Command+U on Mac Chrome & Safari). Once you’re viewing the source code of the page simply search for the <title> and/or <meta name=”description”> tags using the find function (CTRL+F or Command+F).
This is a great research strategy, but I always encourage clients to pursue original SEO strategies over mimicking competitors. Being aware of what competitors are doing in the search landscape is great, but never copy their strategies and tactics. Do you really want to be “the Bing to their Google?”
Use your own search query data
Sometimes the most helpful keyword data doesn’t come from an outside tool – it comes from data search engines provide you directly. That’s right, Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools are great keyword research tools. Most digital marketers use them for reporting, but analyzing search query data from these sources can be helpful in other ways.
Sometimes the keyword research insights in GSC come from the search queries that aren’t necessarily performing the best. Look for search queries that have low click-through-rates, but are still valuable and relevant to your website/business.
And by using Looker Studio for your SEO reporting, you can gain access to more search query data from Google beyond the 1,000 row limit in the UI. More often than not, there’s hidden gems to found in your own long-tail search query data. You just have to look.
Organizing your keywords
While performing your keyword research it’s best to organize your keyword ideas and related data (such as average monthly search volume or cost per click) into an Excel document (or another spreadsheet program). Breaking up your keywords into themes, categories or topics is also helpful. This can be done by using multiple tabs in Excel, adding a column for “keyword category” and sorting accordingly or color coding.
Once you have your keywords organized you can use them to prepare an SEO strategy, optimize your on-page SEO, inform content creation decisions and much more.
If you’re just getting started in your SEO journey don’t worry about giving up an arm and a leg on expensive SEO tools. You kick off your keyword research with next to nothing with these tips and tricks. Hopefully you found this article helpful even if you do have access to paid keyword research tools. And if you’re a small business owner, make sure to check out these SEO tips as well.