If you are looking for an easy, simple way to do keyword research, this post will take you through a step-by-step method of doing it quickly and for free.
1. Login to your Gmail account and open up Google’s keyword tool. In the search box at the top, “Find Keywords”, type in all of the different phrases you think someone might type into Google to find your business.
2. Now, go over to the left hand column under “Match Types” and click OFF the box that says “Broad” and click ON the box that says “exact”. Performing keyword research this way gives you a more accurate representation of how many people are actually typing in the phrases you are checking on.
3. Click “Search” and you’ll get your results. In the middle of the screen under “Search Terms” are the terms you entered. Below that under the heading “Keyword Ideas” are – you guessed it – the keyword ideas that Google feels are closely related to the search terms you put in.
4. In either area, click the heading “Local Monthly Searches” to sort your keywords in order of most traffic to least traffic. The numbers you see under this column are an APPROXIMATE number of times people are typing the associated keyword phrase into Google each month, for your selected country. If you’re in the United States, the default country is United States, you don’t have to change anything.
- The reason I highlight APPROXIMATE is because I have seen reports that Google’s estimates are generally high, nearly 2x or more what the actual numbers are. The evidence I have seen reports that Google’s estimates actually skew even worse as traffic counts get higher. So, for a keyword reporting 1,000 exact local searches, maybe the real number is between 500-600. But for a keyword reporting 100,000 exact local searches, maybe the real number is more like 25,000.
- What I can tell you for sure is that I am #1 for a keyword that is reported to get 3,600 exact local searches per month. Conservatively, the #1 spot in Google gets 30% of the traffic, so that would mean I should get 1,080 visits a month from that keyword. I am nowhere near this amount. Even if I assume that all of my Google Analytics “(not provided)” traffic PLUS the actual reported traffic is for that one keyword, I am getting at best 250 visitors per month. Working backward, 250 is 30% of 833. That’s a far cry from the monthly average of 3,600 reported by Google.
I digress. Let’s get back to the research.
5. The next thing to do is browse through the list of keywords and click the STAR button for every single keyword phrase that you think someone might type into Google to find you. Remember that the lower down the pages you get, the lower your potential traffic is going to be. I usually STAR between 20 – 100 keywords in this step. Use your intuition. If you need to go back to the top and enter in some new phrases that come to mind, go ahead. If you like the traffic counts, include those, too.
6. I don’t worry too much about competition at this point, but I will take a look at “Approximate CPC”. This column tells you exactly what you could expect to pay for a single “click” if you were to run a PPC campaign and actually buy the keyword. The higher the Approximate CPC, the more valuable it is. Look for a good blend of high traffic and high CPC value.
7. Next, click the “Download” button just above the middle section “Search Terms” and hit “Starred”. Then click “Download” and you’ll be prompted to save or open the data in Excel.
8. Now that you have your spreadsheet, you can also see the traffic counts for the prior 12 months. Notice an skews or trends that might indicate that you Average Monthly Local Traffic number is flawed. If everything looks pretty normal, you can just delete all of those columns.
9. Next, go download SEO Power Suite’s “Rank Tracker”. There is a free version you can use to check your website’s ranking for all of the keywords you just downloaded to see if you are ranking in the top 100 for any of them.
10. Record your rankings, along with the date, right in the spreadsheet, so you can check your progress as you begin optimizing your site, adding content, and building backlinks.
Obviously, this method does not take into account the strength of the competition, but for many niches, this is enough to get you started.
If you regularly add content to your site, this spreadsheet gives you a great guide towards which topics to write about, based on what people are searching for the most. Learn some basic on-page optimization, so that you can get each of your web pages dialed in. That way, they’ll stand the best chance of being found in organic searches.
You can check your rankings in Rank Tracker every week to see if anything is changing. The more you blog about what you do and provide great content, the more you’ll get found in a Google search.
If you need help along the way, I am happy to answer your questions for free with no strings attached.