The keyword research tool is perhaps the most important component in a search marketer’s arsenal. Keyword research tools help us understand how our customers search, what content they want to engage with, and what products they want to buy.
I’ll look today at keyword research tools in general. Google’s Keyword Planner is the most popular because it’s free and available to anyone with an AdWords account. But there are many other options. The major search marketing tool suites like Searchmetrics, BrightEdge, and WordStream all offer keyword research tools embedded in their software.
Before you choose a keyword tool, investigate the source of the tool’s data. No single keyword research tool gives an accurate picture of every search on every search engine.
Google Keyword Planner includes only searches on Google, not the other engines, and its data is rounded to the nearest ten or hundred. Bing’s keyword tool is the same, though its data is not rounded. Other tools get their data from panels or proprietary algorithms that mash several data sources together to arrive at an estimated number of searches.
Getting the Most from Keyword Research Tools
Regardless of which one you use, here are some common tips to getting the most out of your SEO keyword tool.
- GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. Planning is tedious and it’s easy to just slap some keywords in the tool and call it done, but I promise you will discover more keywords and more relevant keywords if you take the time to do some keyword research planning.
- Word Order. SEO keyword tools are nothing more than pieces of software with varying levels of sophistication around synonymous ideas and phrasings. This goes back to planning again, but as you look over the suggestions your keyword tool returns, look out for phrasings that may be missing. For example, if you only enter “blue rollerball pen refills,” your keyword research tool may not reverse the phrasing to give you “blue refills for rollerball pens.” Sometimes the tool won’t even give you plural versions of a keyword if you enter in only singular versions. Always look at what the tool isn’t giving you as well as what it is.
- Volume. The number of keywords you enter can have an impact on the number of keyword suggestions you receive from the keyword tool. Entering 5 similar keywords will likely return different suggested keywords than entering 50. Which is better? That depends entirely on how many keywords you have to input and how deep you want to go with your keyword research. If you have 5,000 keywords to input, entering 5 at a time means 1,000 transactions with your keyword tool. Entering 200 at a time takes only 25 transactions. If you have a large volume of keywords to research, I’d opt for 200 at a time. After you export the keywords, you can always do a second wave of keyword research on areas that look especially promising, or that your first wave of research didn’t cover fully.
- Similarity. Paste keywords into the tool in groups of similar words. For example, paste in keywords related to a single product, product type, or color. The similarity between those keywords helps the tool return more relevant suggestions, which means you’ll have to spend less time cleansing the data you export from the tool.
- Experiment. If you’re not getting the results you think you should, try different settings. For example, many keyword research tools have settings that allow you to broaden and narrow the scope of relevance. If you’re getting a lot of irrelevant keywords, choose the option to return only keywords that are strictly relevant to the words you input. And if you’re not getting enough suggestions from the keyword research tool, choose the option to broaden the relevance.
- Aggregate. Keyword research is an ongoing process. You will never be done because new questions and topics to research will come up as you’re optimizing content and as you share this data with other members of your marketing team. Keep adding the data you collect to a single master keyword research spreadsheet.
For the next installment of this “SEO 101″ series, see “Part 5: Google Keyword Planner.”