August 13, 2015 | Sarah Danks

If you have a business website, then you know keywords are paramount to your online success. And not just ANY keywords.

But, which ones to use? How to incorporate them into your content? How do they work within the structure of your website — e.g., how to use keywords in your URLs?

And, of course, the precursor to all of that: How do I FIND the best keywords for my business?

Don’t fret. I’m here to tell you how to get started.

Getting Started With Keyword Research

First and foremost, you need to make a list of all your business’s service areas/products. Within each of those categories, jot down all the words and phrases you can think of that describe those areas. That’s your starting point.

Now, it’s time to see what keywords people actually searching for those very things are using. That’s not to say you don’t know how to choose words that describe your services; it’s just that so many people refer to things — and search online — differently.

I’m going to go over several tools/methods used to mine keyword data. I’ve organized them by whether they’re free, free-with-account or paid-subscription-only options.

Here are a few (totally) free keyword tools:

  • Keyword Tool
  • Google Trends
  • Autosuggest
  • Related to searches
  • Übersuggest
  • SpyFu
  • iSpionage
  • Wikipedia

These keyword tools are *mostly* free — i.e., they either require you to create an account in order to use them (so, the cost is time) or they’ve got a free, basic version but you have to pay to upgrade to full functionality:

  • Google Keyword Planner (previously Google Keyword Tool)
  • Bing Ads Keyword Research
  • SEMRush

And, last but certainly not least, here’s a list of paid tools for keyword research:

  • Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool
  • KW Finder Tool*
  • Buzzsumo*

It doesn’t matter what tools or methods you use to perform your keyword research — there’s no right or wrong way to do it…

…as long as it works for you.

So, let’s learn about some KW tools to move you forward!

Totally Free Keyword Tools

Keyword Tool

This generically — and aptly — named keyword tool (ba dum ching) is a meta tool that allows you to search Google, YouTube, Bing or even apps.


It works similarly to Google’s Keyword Tool in that you receive back a laundry list of related terms and you can save them to a document. Either copy all the returned keyword choices to your clipboard, or pick and choose which ones you want to save. When you’ve gone through the list and selected the phrases you like, simply click on “Copy”:


…and the chosen keywords will be copied to your clipboard. Then, open up a text or Exel document and hit control+p and your keyword list will paste in — easy-peasy!

Google Trends

Google trends not only gives you a keyword/phrase’s “popularity” over time (you can set whatever time frame you wish); it also gives you interest by geography, and related keywords.

Simply type a keyword into the search box, and go:


Not only THAT, but you can compare and contrast keywords with this free tool by adding additional phrases into the “Add terms” boxes:


This handy tool is great for knowing just how popular your keywords are among the searchers of Google.

Search Engines’ Autosuggest

We mainly use Google, but other search engines DO exist — or so I’m told. Anyway, a great way to quickly and easily see what a lot of other people are searching for is to merely start typing into a search engine’s search bar.

The only search engines worth mentioning are Bing, Google and Yahoo. I’m sure there are others that hang around but seriously — focus on the ones with the biggest market share.

Bing Autosuggest


Bing seems to be the only search engine of this short list that doesn’t (yet) offer up brands as an option within the autosuggestions.

Google Autosuggest


Google’s the only search engine — of the big three — that automatically begins to filter in results based on words typed into the search bar. With the other two, one must hit “return” or click the search button in order to see results.

What’s also interesting is that Google’s autosuggest has branched out to include not just related keywords people are searching for, but related brands/companies that people search for in relation to the keyword.

(insert “oooooooh” and “aaaaaaah” here)

Talk about semantic search. Semantics, you say?

I’m ALWAYS up for semantics!

Yahoo Autosuggest


Okay, fine. You can see in the above example that Yahoo’s pulled in a brand name in its autosuggestions — but unlike Google, this type of result doesn’t flood the autosuggest results.

Searches Related To / Also Try

In conjunction with the ever-popular autosuggest, we also like to look at the “searches related to” option. The only search engines worth mentioning here are Yahoo and Google, since Bing doesn’t do this, but if you head down to the bottom of the SERP (yes, I assure you, there IS a bottom to the page) you can check out the search engine’s other suggestions for your keyword:

Google: “Searches related to {keyword}” option


Here you can see that once again Google’s interested in suggesting brand names related to your search. While perhaps not relevant from a keyword perspective (unless you’re interested in bidding on your competitors’ names for PPC campaigns), it’s a good way to quickly farm a list of other websites to check out for additional terms.

Yahoo: “Also try” option


You have to figure: if the search engine’s suggesting something, it’s most likely because a lot of other people are searching for it.


The cool thing about this tool — other than the (nonexistent) pricetag — is that it offers you a type of “autosuggest” option for keywords beyond what you typed in…


…in alphabetical order. How many times have you sat there punching a portion of your keyword into the Google search bar and then switching up the letter at the end? This tool does all the work of trying variations of your keyword for you — as if you were using autosuggest — without you lifting a finger.

Pretty neat.


This is a free tool again based off competitive intelligence. Simply type in the domain of your competitor and get a lot of information (I plugged in our own domain for s&g)…


…but take this data with a whopping grain of salt. I was entertained by some of the information it spit back for our own site (most of which isn’t true).

Still, worth a shot since the price is right.


Now THIS competitive intelligence tool has some good data. It’s very focused on PPC stats, but that can be helpful even if you’re not doing paid search. Plus you can toggle between PPC competitors or SEO:


Search keywords or domains — the basic tool is free but there’s also a very robust, paid version.


Yes, I know. I never thought I’d say it, but Wikipedia is actually a good source of information…

…in relation to what I’m talking about here, which is keywords.

While the articles are created by anyone with time on their hands from anywhere in the world, that means the content within the definitions is written by real people — people who use various keywords to describe something. So use Wikipedia to get an idea of offshoot keywords, different wording, etc.


Should Wikipedia be your go-to for keyword research? No. It’s just another (free) way to get ideas when you’re looking to create a list of keywords for your brand.

Other (Somewhat) Free Keyword Tools

Google’s Keyword Planner

This keyword research tool is free, but it comes with an obligation: you need to set up an AdWords account in order to use it. Not just an email and password, mind you — you have to go through the entire setup process as if you were going to launch a PPC campaign.

I already wrote about this as one of the SEM tools we regularly use, and it’s still the main way we search for — and find — relevant keywords. Regardless of whether we need phrases for a client’s website or for campaign-specific landing pages, we turn to the Keyword Planner first.

If you’re not interested in pay-per-click, you still need an AdWords account to access the Keyword Planner.

Once you’re logged in, you simply click on Tools and then Keyword Planner:


Once inside, simply click on “Search for new keywords using phrase, website or category,” put in some words/phrases related to your business (you can either type in one phrase, or separate multiple phrases/words with commas), and then “Get ideas:”

You’ll get moved to a page where you can choose between “Ad group ideas” or “Keyword ideas.” Depending on how you like to organize, you can choose either; we go right to “Keyword ideas” and then organize them later by ad groups ourselves.


The Google Keyword planner not only gives you related keywords to what you searched for, it also tells you data (to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt!) for paid search. Of course, this might not apply to you if you’re merely looking to write your website content, but it’s good to  know nonetheless.

Now, to choose the keywords you want and export them to an Exel doc (or wherever you want to save them) you click on the “arrows” to add them to My Keyword Ideas:


Once you’ve gathered all the keywords you want, you then click on the first button to the right of the “Review forecasts” button — the clipboard button. This will bring up all your chosen keywords into a clipboard. You can then select all, copy and paste into whatever document you want to save.


And voilà — you have a keyword list!

So that’s the most formal way we perform keyword research…

…but there are other, easier ways to gather this information.

Bing Ads’ Keyword Research

Technically you don’t need to have a Bing Ads account in order to access Bing’s keyword tool — you can log in simply with a Microsoft login. That being said, once you get into the Bing Ads UI it’s geared towards PPC clients.

The setup is such that you search keywords in regards to a particular PPC account. You can then add keywords directly into a specific ad group:


Or you can simply choose which keywords you want to save and export them:


While quite easy to use, these last two tools aren’t ideal for everyone — especially those not interested in PPC-specific keyword data. But, other than the time needed to create an account, they ARE free…

…unlike these other keyword tools.

Not to say that having to pay for something is bad; it’s just something to be aware of before committing to.

Paid Keyword Research Tools


You need to pay to get the most out of this one, but even the free, basic version is a good resource — mostly for competitive intelligence, but they give some keyword information as well.


In order to use their keyword research tool, you need to sign up for a free account. Listed above is general information on competitive intelligence — available to anyone, albeit a bit light on overall data.

What I really like about this tool is you get a lot of data squished into one screen:

  • Organic vs paid search
  • Keywords by device
  • Backlinks
  • Paid search data
  • and more!

Pricing for SEMRush starts at $69.95 per month, but you can see more of their pricing here.

Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool

This tool is available only to (paying) Moz Pro subscribers, but if you want to monitor keywords and how they’re performing on search engines in the moment, then this is your tool. You can also check how your competitors are doing in the SERPs.

In today’s world of the ever-popular content marketing, this handy tool can be very helpful in knowing what content is resonating with an audience.

Pricing for this tool — actually, for the Moz Pro subscription that allows you access to the tool — starts at $99.00 per month.

Learn more about Moz pricing.

KW Finder Tool

So, yes, this keyword tool does have a free version, but again you’re limited in the number of searches you can perform in a day. Once again, I consider this to be a paid tool in order to use it with any regularity.


Pay for the full version to receive much more functionality — and be able to use it more than five times a day.

There are two paid plans available that offer different packages:

  1. $29.00 / month gets you 100 searches a day and 200 keywords per search
  2. $49.00 / month gets you 500 searches a day and 800 keywords per search

Learn more about KW Finder pricing.


Mainly this tool focuses on social trends and shared content — but it still can give you an idea of the type of content that’s popular (and the keywords within said content). It does have a free option — though you have to register for an account — but since you’re only able to perform four searches per day, I consider it basically a paid tool.


The paid version offers more robust results, export-ability, backlink analysis, etc.

Pricing for Buzzsumo starts at $99.00 per month, with various plan options you can see here.

Which Keyword Tool Will You Choose?

Any marketing tool you use — whether it’s free or you pay for it — should work towards a greater good, namely: saving you time and/or money.

I’ve shown you a myriad of options for keyword research — but it’s by no means a comprehensive list. Which option(s) you choose lies entirely with you. Depending on your business needs, you could use several (like we do). Or, you might find one is sufficient.

Whatever you decide works best for your needs, there’s no right or wrong way to perform keyword research…

…but remember the bottom line: it needs to move your business forward!






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