For a long time, I’ve been recommending to people the Google Keyword Tool to help with keyword research for search engine optimization. It’s free, easy to use, has data straight from the horses mouth, and as of last week is GONE. It happens. In this world of digital marketing, trends and tools and tactics all come and go, so it’s no surprise that Google would throw a monkey wrench in the status quo. So what are we supposed to do now? Fear not, Google hasn’t cut us off completely, and it’s not the only keyword research tool out there.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
This is the new version of the old keyword research tool. There are a few more bells and whistles, but it essentially works the same as ever. The major change here is that you actually need an AdWords account to access it. “But I don’t want to run an AdWords campaign!” You don’t need to run any campaigns, you just need an account.
You can set up an account at http://adwords.google.com with the same login info you use for Gmail, or use another email address if you’d prefer. Once in, instead of setting up a campaign, click the Tools and Analysis button in the navigation bar and select Keyword Planner from the drop down menu. The Keyword Planner can help you find new search keywords or ad group ideas, estimate the performance of an existing list, or expand your list by mixing keyword lists together. In the past we’ve always talked about finding new keywords, so we’ll cover how to do that with this new keyword research tool.
How to Use AdWords Keyword Planner for Keyword Research
Start by selecting “Search for keyword and ad group ideas”, enter in a keyword you think is as descriptive as possible for your product or service, add in your website into the “Your landing page” field, and click the “Get ideas” button at the bottom. You’ll notice I skipped over the product or service category, targeting, and customization sections. These can be interesting and are worth playing with later, but for now, focus on these basic fields.
On the next page you’ll have two tabs of results to choose from, “Ad group ideas” and “Keyword ideas”. Even if you’re doing this research for AdWords, I suggest only using the keyword ideas tab, as the other is just the same terms grouped together in a way that Google thinks makes sense.
The keyword ideas tab will show you all the keywords you searched for from the beginning, their respective stats, along with a list of other keyword ideas for you to choose from. Just like the old Google keyword tool, you’ll be able to see the monthly search volume for all of the keyword ideas. As always, look for keywords with high search volume that are relevant to your business. Once you have a list you like, you can even go back to the first step and use them as a starting point for more keyword ideas.
Alternative Keyword Research Tools
Wordtracker is a long time favorite keyword research tool for many search engine optimization professionals. It has some great recommendation tools, calculates KEI for you, and helps organize multiple projects. Wordtracker is also a paid service, unlike the Google keyword tool, and unless you’re an search engine optimization professional the $69 per month fee is excessive for your needs. The good news is that Wordtracker has a free tool right on the home page that will provide you a limited number of keyword ideas and their respective search volumes just like you used to get with the Google keyword tool- all you need to get started building your keyword list.
I’ve mentioned SEMRush in the past as a great tool for competitive intelligence, but it’s also a darn good keyword research tool to boot. Without paying for a subscription, you can get a pretty good number of keyword ideas and a surprising amount of volume and competition data for each. From the home page, simply type in a keyword and see what it turns up for you. You’ll get volume and competition numbers, similar terms, related terms, competing sites, and a lot of other stuff you never got in the Google keyword tool, all in one place!
Play around with it and see what you think. If you can’t get enough or are doing search engine optimization for others, SEMRush is also $69 per month. If you’re just doing research for your own business, stick with the free version.
There are many more keyword tools out there, but these are two of my personal favorites. As you work on search engine optimization for your site or others, it’s important to find the tool you feel most comfortable with. For many, that was the old Google keyword tool, and it still can be if you’re willing to create an AdWords login. Don’t let that stop you from exploring other tools though. In the search for great keywords, there are a ton of great options out there and you should take the time to find your favorite one.
Have a keyword tool you love? Tell us about it in the comments!