Effective keyword research is essential for creating effective Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and content marketing campaigns. Without knowing what specific keywords to target, and why, you’ll be spending a lot of time guessing and hoping for the best instead of making smart, data-driven decisions.
Seed Keywords & Long-Tail Keywords
If you’ve created your customer avatar, you should have a good idea of some short, high-volume seed keywords to get you started. While it’s tempting to start targeting for these seed keywords that get a lot of monthly searches, it’s been proven time and time again that it’s far more effective to go for long-tail keywords. You should use these seed keywords to generate potential long-tail keywords to target instead.
For example, if you sell gear for cyclists, good long-tail keywords could be “mountain bike helmets for women,” “men’s road bike helmets,” etc. Though you’d want to check their search volumes and estimated Cost-Per-Click (CPC) prices. Or, if you’re working on content marketing, you’ll want to check their search volumes and ranking difficulty.
Great Tools for Effective Keyword Research
There are a number of great keyword research tools on the market. The Google Keyword Planner has long been a favorite among online marketers, but it went through a pretty big change last year that left many searching for alternatives. Basically, it stopped showing accurate numbers for keywords and started showing large ranges of potential search volume. So instead of a keyword showing a search volume of 1,700, it might show 1,000-5,000 searches/mo. One way to get more accurate data is to spend more on your ad campaigns in AdWords, but that’s not a feasible option if you’re just getting started. There are a few other workarounds, but they can be a hassle and there’s no guarantee they’ll continue working, so it’s a good idea to use other tools to carry out effective keyword research.
So what is the best keyword research tool? The short answer is: there is no “best.” Each tool has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some are better for helping you find keywords that you might not have thought of. Some are better as a keyword analyzer so you can dig deep with analysis. There are some great free tools and some great paid tools, so let’s take a look at a few of each.
Best Free Keyword Research Tools
Keyword.io is a great tool to pull auto-suggest keywords from Google, YouTube, Bing, Ebay, and more. There’s a paid version that offers some extra features, but a free account should be good enough to get you started–especially if you use a few other tools listed below in conjunction.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public
Best Paid Keyword Research Tools
Long Tail Pro – LTP is a great keyword tool that I’ve turned to for many years–long before it became a cloud-based service.
Keysearch – Keysearch is relatively new on the scene, only a few years old, but it’s quickly won me over with powerful features that make keyword research fun and painless.
Keyword Researcher Pro – This is the only desktop-based tool I use, and it offers several powerful features that should make it a staple in anyone’s toolbox.
3 Steps to Conduct Effective Keyword Research:
I normally use a mix of 3 keyword research tools (not counting competitor spy tools). First I use one tool to come up with ideas by doing some keyword generation in one and doing some basic keyword competition checking (how difficult they *may* be to rank for). I like to think of it as a keyword generator.
Then I run these keywords through another keyword checker tool to see what difficulty score it comes up with, which I compare to the difficulty ratings the first tool gave me.
Finally, I organize all the keywords with a desktop-based piece of keyword research software so that I can plan and organize content and keyword phrases for different pages and posts on the site.
The first tool I start with is Keysearch.co. It’s not free, but the price is great and it lets you quickly pull a wealth of keyword data, including search volume (which Google Keyword Planner doesn’t show). It has its own keyword difficulty algorithm that spits out a score you can reference.
After I generate keywords and filter it down to relevant choices, I run this list of remaining keywords through another cloud-based app called Longtail Pro. This tool gives you another keyword difficulty score, so you can compare the two scores and see if any are showing as easier to rank for. If both tools report low competition, I take that as a good sign (but not a definitive sign – more on that in a bit).
Finally, I export all the promising keywords and import them into Keyword Researcher Pro, which is a very useful keyword organizer that makes it easy to keep track of a keyword and content plan. It’s also a great keyword suggestion tool that scrapes from a number of sources, including Google Suggest, Google Related, Amazon & YouTube.
I will be creating a mini-course that shows the workflow from start to finish so you can have a solid set of keywords for content marketing and PPC campaigns in just an hour or two. For now, the above workflow outlines the steps. If you try out any of the tools I mentioned, they all have great training videos that can show you the ins and outs of each tool in the meantime.
If you utilize any keyword tool that measures difficulty (i.e. difficulty to rank for the keyword) it’s important to take their ratings with a grain of salt. These algorithms are based on incomplete databases that don’t come near the data set Google works with.
Of course, even after you believe you have a solid list of keywords to target, you’ll want to track how well they’re performing. Not all keywords are created equal. Some keywords have information intent. Some have buyer intent. Keywords with buyer intent are great for PPC and content marketing campaigns. Keywords with information intent can be great to target for content marketing, but they likely won’t work as well for paid traffic, unless you’re simply looking to build a list with a squeeze page that offers more information after sign-up. Users search for different keywords while they’re in different phases, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you create your campaigns and target your landing pages and offers accordingly.
Hopefully before you implement either content marketing or paid marketing, you have a solid tracking system in place to see where visitors are coming from and how they respond to the pages they land on. If you don’t be sure to check out Setting Up Google Analytics & the Facebook Pixel.