How to do SEO keyword research for your blog or website, for free.
Keyword research is a process of determining which topics to write about in your blog or your website or for which keywords you should do SEO for. It just might be the most important part of the SEO, because you can write the best content and do the best SEO in the world, if you optimized a keyword that very few people search, you won’t get any significant traffic. Or on the other hand, if you select a keyword that is highly competitive and has first places occupied by some giant, popular websites, you most probably won’t have a chance to achieve top positions.
That’s why you need to be smart when selecting the best keywords for you. Back in the days, the keyword research use to be just opening the Google AdWords Keyword Planner and guessing which keywords are appropriate for you and using the keyword planner to determine the search volume. While this method is still used and even useful, we have a lot of new algorithms and programs and that’s why we need to update our keyword research strategies.
Best part of it? It’s very simple. Also the best part? It will majorly increase the results of your SEO efforts. Also the best part? It’s completely free. Ready? Let’s go!
Me personally, I am a big fan of using spreadsheets for the keyword research. They allow you to maintain a system, which is very important, as without it, the keyword research can get pretty chaotic.
I’ve prepared a starting keyword research spreadsheet, which you can download here for free:
*By downloading this file you also agree that I can send you my free e-newsletter from time to time. Don’t worry about spamming you, I will only send you an e-mail when I have some new interesting, relevant information to share!:)
The template that you can download here, and every other keyword research spreadsheet, should include at least next 5 columns:
- Search volume
- Competition level
- Current position
Brainstorm the keywords, that you think are the most appropriate for your page
The best way for me to explain this to you is by showing you a real example of how I do the optimization. The next blog post that I will write about is about the best plugins for SEO for WordPress, so this is the example that I am going to use, can’t get more real than that. On the following blog post, I will have a list and a description of the best WordPress SEO plugins.
Based on that, I assume that the most important keywords for me will probably be:
- Best WordPress SEO plugins 2017
- Best WordPress SEO plugins
- SEO WordPress 2017
- SEO plugins for WordPress
- SEO plugins for WordPress in 2017
- WordPress plugins
- Plugins for SEO WordPress
- WordPress SEO plugins
This is my starting or seed keyword list. I think these are the best keywords for me, but I have to determine the search volume of these keywords, what competition is there for these keywords and if there are any other, more appropriate keywords for me.I will use this list to find new and more accurate suggestions for other keywords by using various tools. I recommend having about 5-10 seed keywords, but this depends heavily on your specific topic and a website. So for the first group ideas, simply brainstorm the keywords that your page or post is about. And write them down into your spreadsheet.
Use online tools and search engines to find additional keyword ideas
Next step is going to Google – now beware, that you should be using the same language and local site of google when doing your keyword research, as your target market is using. For example, if I was optimizing the website for Germany, I would go on Google.de and use it in german language. That way, I would get more accurate suggestions.
For this case, I don’t have a specific market or country that I target so I will be using google.com domain in English language. Now we start googling our starting keywords.
As I start typing my keyword I already see suggestions in the search bar. I see that there are suggestions for the best plugin, not plugins so I will include the singular version of these keywords in my excel. You should copy as many of these keyword ideas to your spreadsheet as possible.
Google allows us another place to get more keyword ideas – at the bottom of the Search results page. Here I can see more keyword ideas, like “best free SEO plugin for WordPress” and so on.
I will test another keyword – SEO WordPress plugins and copy most relevant keywords into my spreadsheet. Do that for every one of your seed keywords and you will get a much bigger list of keyword ideas for your blogs.
BONUS TIP – Use keywordtool.io to speed up getting keyword ideas for your blog
keywordtool.io is a simple tool that I like to use to get a lot of additional ideas for my keywords. It’s extremely simple to use – enter the keyword, select the search engine and click on the search button and BAM – a bunch of new keyword ideas, immediately, for free! So go ahead and go through the list, copy relevant keywords to the spreadsheet and do that for every one of your seed keywords.
Another good idea is analyzing the competitor’s websites.
For example, I see that this article from sourcewp.com is ranking well for keywords that I want to target. I will visit their website and simply check what keywords they seem to be focusing on. I see for example this title: Top SEO Plugin for WordPress, so I will definitely consider this keyword. Once again, you should do this for many of good ranking competitors websites as possible.
Another great idea is to analyze forums, Q&A portals etc. For example on Quora – google quora, enter a search term, see the autosuggestions and most frequent questions.
Quora autosuggest will provide you with additional ideas by showing you what people search for.
After all these steps you should have a pretty big and quality list of keyword ideas.
The last step of putting together a list of keyword ideas is visiting good old Google Keyword Planner.
You need to have a Google AdWords active, so in case you don’t have it yet (you probably should 🙂 ), register for it and login with your username. The account is completely free. You can register for it here: https://adwords.google.com/home/.
Next, you log in to your account and click on Tools -> Keyword Planner.
If you want more keyword ideas, you should select the first option. Here you enter what your website is about, link your page, if you have it yet and select the category. Also make sure to set the correct targeting, depending on your goals and market. You will see a list of keywords ideas – go through the list and copy the best and most relevant ideas into your spreadsheet.
Another great idea is to put in the landing page of your competitors in the landing page field and get suggestions based on competitor sites.
AWESOME – YOU’VE DONE THE HARD PART!
Now you have a list of (at least) 30+ relevant keywords that you can analyze and pick the best one out of them for your new page/post.
Get search volume and competition predictions
Staying on Google AdWords keyword planner, go back to the main page of keyword planner and select the fourth option – Enter or upload a list of keywords to get forecasts. Then do the following steps:
- Copy and paste all the keywords that you’ve gathered up till now.
- Again, select target location and language.
- In the date range section, select the time span that you want to have predictions for, I usually go with next 12 months.
- Click get forecasts.
Next is the performance forecast page. Here you need to do three things:
- In the “Enter a bid field” at the top, enter a big number, like 500 €.
- Click on the “Keyword” tab, select all keywords and click on Match types -> all -> Exact match. This will make sure you get the predictions for the exact keywords that you’ve entered, not for similar phrases.
- Click on the download your plan button in the top right corner, and choose these settings.
This will open your Google Spreadsheet with the number of monthly searches, competition level and suggested big for all of the entered keywords.
Those predictions won’t be 100% accurate all the time, but they should give you a good feel about which keywords are competitive and which now. Copy the search volume and competition columns into your spreadsheet. However, when copying the data, be careful, as Google Adwords sometimes changes the order of the keywords.
Now you have an extensive list of quality keywords, with search volume predictions and estimated competition level. This alone would be enough, but I advise you follow the next to steps for an even better idea of which keyword to select.
Get the current ranking for your keywords (optional)
We now have two rows missing in the spreadsheet – current position and notes. For the current position, If you don’t have too many keywords you can for now to this manually – open Google in incognito mode, make sure that you’re using the correct language settings, simply enter the keyword and see if your website ranks for it.
However, this is a very time-consuming process, so I suggest you to use some of the tools to do the work for you.
One of those tools is https://serps.com/tools/rank-checker/ – this one works great, but for just one keyword at a time, so if you have a significant amount of keywords (which you should, if you followed previous steps), I suggest this tool, that allows you to check for up to 10 keywords at once: https://www.serplab.co.uk/serp-check.php
There are also many other, paid tools that allow you keyword tracking, but that’s a whole another topic for a whole another blog post. But you can for “keyword ranking tracking tool” and you will get plenty of great suggestions. I love using SERPmojo (absolutely free) on my Android and moz.com on a desktop, but it is a bit expensive.
Anyways, check the rankings and import them into your spreadsheet.
Manually check the search engine results pages for top keywords and make notes (OPTIONAL)
The last column in the spreadsheet is notes – here you should write all the information about the current state of the results page for every keyword and additional notes, that will benefit you later on when optimizing your site.
For example, if you search for a certain keyword and see that 3 of 10 positions are occupied by a video, write a note to yourself that videos seem to be ranking well for this keyword and that it might be a good idea to create a video.
Another example, if the top spots for a certain keyword are occupied for example by a high authoritative, maybe government website or Wikipedia (or in my case, wordpress.org), it will most probably be very hard to take that spot and you should write that in the notes column.
Analyze the keywords and pick the best keywords for you
There it is, now you have a pretty comprehensive list of keyword ideas for you. Now, analyze the list and make sense out of it.
This is what I do with the list, to make sure I select the best keyword for me:
- I sort the list by the search volume and take a look at the keywords that have at least 100 – 1000 searches per month, preferably 1000 or more.
- I look at the competition level of those keywords and focus on those that have low competition level, but high search volume. In this case, the most appropriate for my case would be “WordPress plugins”, with the most searches and competition only at 0.08, but if I do a quick Google search for it, I see that the sites that rank for me are way too authoritative to beat them with a completely new blog right away so this wouldn’t be a smart choice. (That should be in my notes column).
- Unless you’re a very popular blog and a big online authority, you should focus on long-tail keywords, as they will be less competitive and easier to rank for. That’s what I did and chose “best free SEO plugins for WordPress” as the main keyword for my next blog post.
- Of course, always take into consideration the notes column and use your common sense to evaluate if this keyword makes the best sense for you to choose.
After picking the best keyword for you, make sure if it checks all the boxes it should check. What boxes? These boxes:
- Does it have a significant amount of search volume?
- Is the competition low enough – do you see other sites that have similar traffic and authority as your website, ranking for this keyword? If you only see Microsoft, Apple, Wikipedia and McDonalds for your query on the first page … well, good luck beating them.
- Does it accurately describe the content of your page/post that you’re optimizing it for? If not, it’s not the right keyword.
3 times yes? You got your keyword! 2 times yes? Think again!
Keyword research is a very big and extensive topic, so I suggest you to try as many methods as possible and you will be able to find out what works for you. However, this method is a very good, effective and tested method to build very quality lists of keywords for your website.
Hope this helps you achieve your goals! If you have any additional ideas to improve this method, please share them with me in the comments and let’s discuss them!