Keyword research is an essential step you shouldn’t miss when sniping for content ideas.
Proper keyword research can get results much faster.
In this Ultimate Keyword Research guide, I give you 6 battle-tested methods to find untapped, low competition keywords, and they’re completely FREE!
Before we dive into these methods, we have a few bases to cover.
If you know the basics of keyword research, you can jump directly to the methods here.
Table of Contents
- What Is Keyword Research?
- Types Of Keywords For SEO
- Which Keyword Should You Target?
- 6 Free Keyword Research Methods That Kick Butt
- Validating Your Keywords
- How To Use Your Keywords?
Let’s dive in.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of finding words or phrases around which you’ll optimize your content.
Anything you type into a search engine (like Google) is a keyword. Finding the best keywords for your content is paramount for SEO.
Doing proper keyword research and choosing the right keyword result in better search engine visibility. You can rank faster and higher without waiting long periods.
On the contrary, choosing the wrong keyword can make ranking your blog post an uphill battle. Your wait can extend from a few months to even a few years. And worse, you may never get the search engine rankings you desire.
Is Keyword Research Still Important?
Millions of blog posts are published every day. Without proper keyword research, your content will disappear like a drop of water in the ocean.
Researching keywords is the first step before writing your content or finalizing a content topic. The keywords decide your competition, your monetization strategy, your outreach style, and also the length of your content.
If you’re not planning to do keyword research, you might as well plan to fail in the SEO game.
Types of Keywords for SEO
Keywords can be categorized based on the intent and on their length.
Based on Intent
There are three types of keywords based on intent.
These are keywords that people type into a search engine to navigate to a website or resource.
People know what they want, and they don’t have any interest or time to browse other search listings.
Examples of navigational keywords would be ‘ESPN website,’ ‘ABC Bank login page,’ Facebook, and Amazon.
When people type in these keywords, they usually get what they want in the first few positions. So competing for these keywords makes no sense.
Informational keywords are aimed at getting information about a particular subject.
Keywords like ‘how to start a blog,’ ‘best place for camping,’ and ‘list of items for making a cake’ are all excellent examples of informational keywords.
People typing these keywords are in need of information. You can expect them to browse the search results to get the information they need. In some cases, people are desperate enough to even go to page 2.
It is quite possible that the majority of searches online are informational. If you recall your last ten searches, you might find it to be true. I did.
Informational keywords bring in a truckload of traffic, which makes them great for websites that focus on advertising revenue. The more visitors your page gets, the more money you make.
Commercial keywords show buyer intent which makes them the most profitable, and also the most competitive of the three.
Keywords like ‘[product name] review,’ ‘[product name] best price,’ ‘[product name] coupon’ show excellent buyer intent.
You can be certain to a degree that anyone who searches these type of keywords wants to buy that particular product.
Keywords like ‘Best [product] for [use]’, ‘Top-rated [product]’, and ‘Product X vs Product Y’ are also excellent keywords with commercial intent.
If you’re an affiliate marketer who’s starting out, these are the keywords that’ll bring in the monies. Be warned that there is a ton of competition for commercial keywords.
Based on Length
Based on the length of the keyword phrase, we get the following types.
Short Tail Keywords
As the name suggests, these keywords are made of one or two words.
Keywords like ‘Insurance,’ ‘Bitcoin,’ ‘Dog Training,’ and ‘Weight loss,’ are examples of short tail keywords.
The searcher’s intent is a bit too vague when it comes to short tail keywords.
When someone is searching for ‘insurance,’ you are not sure if he wants to learn about life insurance or health insurance. So it becomes hard to please the reader without knowing what he or she wants.
Short tail keywords come with a lot of search volume. They also attract good CPC (cost per click) in paid advertising.
If you’re new and on a budget, you can avoid these keywords as they are super competitive.
Medium Tail Keywords
Medium tail keywords can have up to 4 words.
When compared to short tail keywords, it is easier to understand what people want.
Keywords like ‘Best insurance plans,’ and ‘Buy dog food online’ are good examples of medium tail keywords. You can also see the commercial intent in them as well.
Competition for medium tail keywords is a lot less. If you have the budget and patience, you can rank for a medium tail keyword with a good piece of content supported by proper off-page SEO.
Long Tail Keywords
When your keyword phrase is 5 words or more, you can call it a long tail keyword.
Long tail keywords are the easiest to rank as they have the least competition. The search volume for long tails keywords is also lower than the other two.
Some examples for long tail keywords are, ‘how to reset my router,’ ‘best places for scuba diving in the Maldives,’ ‘best dog food for dogs with a sensitive stomach,’ and ‘best laptops for students under $500.’
You can also see their intent here. The first two keywords have informational intent while the last two keywords have clear commercial intent.
When you focus on long tail keywords, you have a better chance to convert visitors into buyers. Higher conversion rate is one of the many factors why marketers concentrate on long tail keywords despite the low search volume.
Which Keyword Should You Target?
If you’re new to blogging, then I recommend going after long tail keywords.
If you plan to monetize your blog with ads, then long tail informational keywords will be a great fit.
Long tail commercial keywords are the way to go if you want to make money from affiliate marketing.
Regardless of the monetization strategy, you have in mind, long tail keywords are the best bet for new blogs as they are a lot easier to rank, and have higher conversion rates.
One issue with long tail keywords is that they have low search volumes. Though the search volume is low, the accurate user intent and higher conversion rate make up for it.
6 Free Keyword Research Methods That Kick Butt
So how do you find keywords for your content?
Before we get into that, I highly recommend installing a free Chrome extension called Keywords Everywhere.
Keywords Everywhere is probably the most useful tool when you’re researching keywords.
It gives you important metrics like search volume, CPC and the SEO competition for keywords. The best part is you can use the plugin in Google, Amazon, YouTube, and in a lot more places we’re going to discuss.
It is a must-have for anyone who needs keywords for his next blog post.
You can find it here.
After adding to Chrome, click the icon at the right top corner and select settings.
Once you reach the settings page, click the ‘GET FREE API’ link.
Enter your email address to get the API key. Come back to this page, fill the API, and hit validate.
You can now use Keywords Everywhere. You can mimic the settings in the image as they are pretty standard. One key feature here is the ‘highlight volume’ option. I’ve set it for greater than or equal to 200.
We’ll be using Keywords Everywhere coherently with other free tools.
Off to our first method.
The Dinosaur Method (Google Keyword Planner)
This is the oldest method to research keywords.
The good news is it still works. The Google Keyword Planner is great for finding seed keywords of a niche. So you’re looking for more seed keywords to drill into, this method is super useful.
All you need for this method is a free Google Ads account, and you can use the keyword planner tool.
If this is your first time using Google Ads, you’re going to spend some time navigating to find the keyword planner tool.
Once you log in for the first time, you’re going to be presented with a new campaign screen. Click the ‘Experienced with Google Ads?’ link to bypass creating a new campaign.
In the next page, click the ‘Create an account without a campaign’ link. You’ll then be asked to confirm your business information.
Once you’ve completed that step, you can explore your account.
At the top right you’ll find a tools option. Click it and switch your account to expert mode.
You can access the keyword planner tool from the tool dropdown itself.
Now that we’ve finally had access to the keyword planner tool let’s find some keywords.
Select the ‘Find new keywords’ options and enter some niche keywords you can think of.
Let’s take the Fishing niche for this example.
Type in a few seed keywords like fishing, how to fish, fishing tips, and fishing guide. You can add up to 10 seed keywords. So if you can, add 10 seed keywords and hit ‘Get Started.’
I’ve entered 4 keywords, and let’s see what Google tells us.
Google has found 2,630 keyword ideas for our 4 seed keywords. To get more keyword ideas, give the keyword planner all the 10 seed keywords.
However, there is a problem with this data. Google doesn’t give us the exact search volume of the keywords. They give ranges.
When they say there are about 10k to 100k monthly searches for the term ‘fishing gear,’ it’s not very useful.
This is where Keywords Everywhere comes in handy. Turn on the extension and refresh the page. Re-enter your seed keywords and hit ‘Get Started.’
Keyword Everywhere gives us the search volume, CPC and SEO competition for all the keywords Google has provided us. You no longer have to deal with ranges.
Browsing through these keywords can help us find keywords that are relevant to your niche or sub-niche.
You may not find laser-focused long tail keywords here, but we can get a ton of seed keywords which we can later use to find medium tail and long tail keywords.
The Accumulator Method
In this method, we are going to use several tools to accumulate more medium tail and long tail keywords by using our seed keywords as the base.
Google autocomplete is one of the best tools for accumulating long tail keywords.
Let’s take the fishing example. Let me type in one of the seed keywords we used, fishing tips.
Google provides a bunch of other keywords that people are searching for. This is data directly from the horse’s mouth.
You can also use Google autocomplete to get more keywords by adding relevant stop words to your seed keywords.
When you add ‘for’ to ‘fishing tips’ you get
By adding alphabets to the keyword, you get more suggestions. For example, you can try ‘fishing tips for a,’ ‘fishing tips for b,’ and so on.
Google also gives you a bunch of related keywords at the bottom of the page. You can check this spot for every keyword to find more related keywords.
Soovle is very much like Google autocomplete but on steroids.
You get autocomplete suggestions from Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Bing, Answers.com, YouTube, and Amazon.
With Keywords Everywhere with us, we can turn Soovle into a much better tool.
Try different combinations, and you’ll get some hidden gems.
Keyword Shitter is a bulk keyword tool, and it does what it says.
Type in some seed keywords, add any positive or negative filters is any, and hit, ‘Shit keywords.’
It can run for quite some time but will come with a ton of keywords ideas.
I just gave our initial 4 fishing seed keywords, and it came up with 4016 keywords. This is a lot more than what we got in the Google Keyword Planner.
If you go down, you can see all the keywords with their search volumes which makes it easier for you to filter them.
Yes, most of the keywords may not make sense. But if we have the eye for it, we can bag some untapped keywords.
Answer The Public
Answer The Public is another favorite tool of mine to get keyword ideas. The tool uses Google’s autocomplete and presents you keywords in different formats like
- Prepositions (appended to your keyword)
- Alphabetical (very handy)
The keywords are presented to you in two ways: Visualization and Data.
The visualization is great to look at and helps you to pinpoint keywords with ease.
The data, on the other side, is… just data.
If you’re not in the mood for a gorgeous user interface, you can just toggle to data mode instead.
While questions are great, you need to get to the ‘alphabeticals’ section for the full gravy.
KeywordTool.io is another excellent tool that makes use of Google autocomplete.
The process is pretty much the same. You type in a keyword, and it gives you all the autocomplete suggestions from Google.
You can also use suggestions from YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay, Play Store, Instagram, and Twitter.
Note: You’ll notice that most tools in the Accumulator method use Google’s autocomplete. While all these free tools are great, I suggest sticking with Soovle and Answer the Public (in tandem with Keywords Everywhere) to get the best results.
UberSuggest was a simple Google autocomplete scraper. In Feb 2017, Neil Patel bought UberSuggest and made it much better.
For a free tool, UberSuggest gives you a ton of information to play with.
Let’s start by entering our keyword. Let’s go with ‘fishing tips’ for example.
For the entered keyword, you get the search volume, SEO difficulty, paid difficulty and the cost per click.
SEO difficulty is a metric that tells us how difficult it is to rank a keyword. Here we have an SEO difficulty value of 24. The tool says that it is an easy keyword to rank, but I would take that with a grain of salt.
We’re here for more keyword ideas, so click ‘Keyword Ideas’ on the left.
We now have 91 keyword ideas from our seed keyword. Rinse and repeat for more closely related keywords.
With UberSuggest, you can also get your competitor’s best keywords. Type in your competitor’s URL and hit search. Click the top pages option under the ‘Traffic Analyzer’ section.
You can now see the top traffic pages for the site. Clicking the ‘view all’ button will give you the top keywords for that particular page.
You can repeat the same process for other top pages and get more keyword ideas.
The good thing about this method is that your competitor is getting traffic from these keywords, and you have the evidence to back it up.
You can also use the keywords options under the ‘Traffic analyzer’ section to get the keywords for which the site is ranking.
Reddit is a great place for discussion.
There are millions of people on Reddit who love talking about even the most obscure topics.
Search for fishing and you’re presented with a number of subreddits related to fishing.
A subreddit is sort of like a chatroom that is dedicated to a particular topic.
Inside the subreddit, you can find people talking about the different aspects of fishing. Spend some time and see if you can get some untapped keyword ideas.
You can also get a good idea about the language your niche speaks. It can be handy when working on your blog’s content.
Quora is a question and answer site. It is, probably, the biggest Q & A site right now (R.I.P. Yahoo! Answers).
Millions of people visit Quora to ask and answer questions. Lucky for us, some of those questions can lead us to more keywords.
You can start by opening an account on Quora. It’s free.
It asks you to choose at least 10 topics to proceed further. Choose topics that are closely related to your niche and continue.
Once you go to your feed, you can see questions that are closely related to the topics you chose.
Once you get into a question, you can find several related questions on the side.
From these related questions, you can get some surprisingly good keywords.
From the example above, we get the following keywords.
- How to improve my content writing
- How to write the perfect cover letter
- Improve content writing
- Improve my English writing skills
- And more
You can also search your seed keyword and find questions that are relevant to your niche.
Get into these questions and find more keyword ideas from the related questions. Rinse and repeat with other questions to find more keyword ideas.
Forums are great for finding super specific niche keywords.
If you can find an active forum for your niche, you can see what people are talking about daily. This is also a smart way to keep informed about what’s hot in your niche.
You can find forums in your niche using the following search strings.
- keyword+”powered by vbulletin”
- keyword+”powered by phpBB”
Another advantage with forums is that you can get a taste of the language the niche speaks. This is great if you’re new to the niche. It can help you write content that appeals to your audience the right way.
Validating Your Keywords
At this point, you should have a spreadsheet full of keywords.
How to know which keywords to use? Are all the keywords worth pursuing?
Before you start writing content, you need to validate your keywords. Not all of them are good enough. This weeding process is essential so that you don’t waste time with useless keywords.
At the end of this process, you are going to end up with fewer keywords that are worth going after.
Every blog post on the web wants to reach page one for its keyword.
Page one can bring you tons of traffic. But reaching the coveted page one on Google has gotten more competitive over the years.
It’s because of this competition, people are mainly targeting long tail keywords over the medium tail and short tail ones.
Can your content make it to page one?
To know that, let’s analyze the first page of Google.
To do that, we need a free Chrome extension called the MOZ bar. You can get it here. Register for a free account to use this extension.
MOZ bar shows us the PA (page authority), links pointing to a page, and the DA (domain authority) of the result.
For a keyword to be feasible, you want to find at least three results with
- PA less than or equal to 30
- Links less than or equal to 30
- Keyword phrase not in the title
- Keyword phrase not in the URL
Let’s take the keyword, ‘Camping tips.’
You can see that only one result has a PA of 30 or less. Most of the results are strong and it’s hard to overthrow them.
Let’s take another keyword, ‘Camping tips for toddlers.’
This is a much better keyword.
You have three results with PA under 30 and with 30 or fewer links.
You can’t find the keyword phrase in either the title or in the URL.
If you wrote content around this keyword, there is a good chance it can reach page one.
This is not a scientific method. But it is way better than going in blind.
You want your keywords to have some search volume.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is spending hours, or even days, writing content for a keyword that does not get any searches.
To avoid that, you need to set a search volume filter.
For me, if a keyword has more than 500 searches a month, it is good to go. If you have a long tail keyword, I’ll lower that number to 200.
But that’s a very low number?
Yes. It is.
But Google is getting a lot smarter these days.
If you manage to rank for a keyword, you probably are going to rank for a ton of closely related keywords.
Since you’re targeting long tail keywords, you should be getting excellent conversion rates. So need to worry about the meager search volumes.
First Page Results
A few years back, the first page of Google would be very simple. Ten results and a few ads.
But now, you not only have to compete with the results on page one but also with Google itself.
The first page of Google is filled with featured snippets and a ton of ads.
With the inclusion of a featured snippet, the click-through rate of the organic search results has gone down.
If there are no featured snippets on the first page, the very first search listing gets approximately 30% of the total search volume. But with a featured snippet in the page, that number goes down to about 20%.
And you also have more ads on the first page than ever before.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t target a keyword just because there are featured snippets. If there is enough volume and if you can get a piece of it, you should go for it.
You probably should avoid keywords if they have very low search volume and if the first page is bombarded with featured snippets and ads.
Cost Per Click (CPC)
Cost per click, as the name suggests, is the amount of money an advertiser is willing to pay per click.
While this is not directly useful to bloggers and affiliate marketers, higher CPC confirms the commercial intent of the keyword.
For example, ‘best lawn mower for small garden’ has a CPC of $1.20 while ‘lawn mower’ has a CPC of $0.69.
You can clearly see that ‘best lawn mower for small garden’ has the most commercial intent of the two. You can also write better, user-focused content that converts for the former keyword.
The ‘lawn mower’ keyword is just vague. Good luck writing content around that keyword.
If you’re running a blog that is monetized through ads, then you should take CPC into account as it could bring some extra money to the table.
You don’t want your keyword to have a downtrend over the years.
Seasonal keywords are fine, but if people are losing interest for your keyword over time, then it might be best not to pursue it.
For example, let’s take the keyword ‘fidget spinner.’ They were very famous for a short period, but people have entirely lost interest in them now.
You want to shoot for a keyword that has sustained people’s interest over time. Like ‘personal finance.’
Knowing the trends can help you avoid writing content for a keyword that is getting searched 100 times only in the month of December.
Type of Keyword
We’ve already seen the different types of keywords.
If you have short tail keywords in your list, you can keep them aside. Unless you have a big budget, you are not going to rank for short tail keywords.
If you have navigational keywords in your list, you can also strike them off as people searching for those keywords have only one thing in mind.
For a new site, you are better off going for a long tail keyword as your primary keyword. You can add the medium tail and short tail keywords inside your content to make more relevant to the topic.
How to Use Your Keywords
Now that you have a spreadsheet full of validated keywords, here are a few tips to help you use them.
Placing Your Keywords
Your keywords should appear in certain areas for better on-page optimization.
Title. You must have your keyword in your post title.
URL. This used to be a bigger factor, but having your keyword in the URL does help a bit.
First 100 words. You want your keyword in the first 100 words of your blog post. This sends a signal to Google about what the page is really about.
Last 100 words. For the same reasons, including your keyword towards the end can be beneficial for SEO.
Subheadings. Having your keywords in your subheadings can send a message to Google. It can be H2, H3, H4 or even H5. Just be sure to include your keyword at least once in your subheadings.
Image Alt Tags. Your images have an alt tag where you can describe the image. You should include the keyword in the alt tag of your images on your page.
It can be a handful to remember. I recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin. It checks all these points and lets you know if you have missed anything. Pretty handy.
Use Keyword Clusters
When you’re new to blogging, it is easy to target one keyword per post.
Instead of focusing your blog post around one keyword, you can make the blog post about a number of related keywords.
Keyword clusters are a great way to make your blog post more relevant to the topic.
You can form keyword clusters for any keyword.
For example, let’s take the keyword ‘t shirt design ideas.’
You can form a cluster for this keyword using the keywords below.
- how to design a t-shirt
- t shirt design template
- Printable t shirt design template
- t shirt ideas for boys
- t shirt ideas for girls
- how to design a shirt in photoshop
- t shirt design ideas pinterest
- Simple t shirt design ideas
- Creative t shirt design ideas
- t shirt design ideas for colleges
- t shirt design ideas for schools
- and more
You can make clusters like this and use them in your blog post to show Google that your content is comprehensive about the topic.
Using keyword clusters also increases the number of terms you can rank for which is a nice added benefit.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
A few years back, to reach page 1, you need to fill your blog post with your keyword multiple times. And with a little off-page SEO, you would jump straight to page 1.
But that doesn’t work anymore.
In fact, it can prevent your page from ranking well on Google.
Keyword density is still a factor when it comes to ranking your page. I recommend keeping it between 0.5% to 1%.
If you can only bring up your keyword once or twice when writing naturally for your readers, then be it.
Instead of repeating the same keyword in your content, you can use synonyms or LSI keywords to make your content more attractive to Google.
It’s Your Turn
That brings this keyword research for SEO guide to its end.
I hope you found the blog post useful. Let me know if I missed anything.
If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them. Please comment them below.