Award-winning internet marketer, Matthew Woodward, shares his advice on why keyword research is so important and the best free and paid tools around:

Did you know anyone who comes to your site via a search engine is there because of the keywords they used?

Keywords are critical because they function like a bridge, connecting users and search engines to the websites they’re looking for.

That’s why, if you want to:

  • Boost traffic to your site
  • Increase sales
  • Grow your mailing list

…you need to undergo keyword research.

But to do keyword research effectively, you need to find data-driven keywords. Having actionable data can help you make smarter choices to improve your SERP rankings and revenue.

This is where keyword research tools come in. Below, I’ll share with you my favourite free and paid tools that can help you find the keywords and phrases that attract thousands of visitors to your site every month.

Let’s start!

Why You Need Keyword Research

Google may have hundreds of ranking factors, but keywords remain one of the primary aspects of SEO.

Here, I’ll show you the 4 best practices of how to find relevant keywords that can help you achieve your business goals.

1. Search Volume

Search volume is the first factor you need to consider because, if no one searches for that keyword, there’s no point in optimising for it!

To understand what the best volume for a keyword is, take a look at other high-traffic keywords. The benchmark will be useful as traffic volumes vary between niches. For example, in certain niches, the average high-traffic keyword has more than 10,000 searches, whereas 1,000 monthly searches are a lot for other niches.

2. Intent

When you’re optimising a page with a keyword, your goal is to acquire qualified traffic.

Ideally, you draw the attention of searches at the ‘Purchasing phase’ of the funnel. While there are fewer people at this stage, these people are ready to part with their cash.

They’d have a much higher conversion rate than people at the awareness or interest phase.

Here, you want to use words like:

  • Discount
  • Free shipping
  • Buy Now
  • Coupon
  • Deal

…because these people are looking for the best place to buy.

They generally want a good deal and would search around to view the deals available.

3. Relevance

Your keyword also needs to be relevant to your site. If you’re unsure of relevance, you can have a look at the top 10 search results. If these pages ranking in the top 10 organic spots are similar to yours, there’s a good chance it’s relevant!

4. Competition

Finally, you also need to pick keywords you can rank for.

For example:

  • If you decided to try and rank for the term “cheap laptops,” you’d have to fight against major companies like Amazon & Walmart.

You most likely don’t have that level of authority yet. So if you’re new and starting out, make sure you go for the long tail, lower competition keywords first!

Keyword Research Tools

Free Tools

If you’re on a tight budget, you can explore these free keyword research tools. They can help you develop a keyword research strategy in minutes without spending a cent!

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a highly underrated free SEO tool on the market.

You can extract four key pieces of information from Google Keyword Planner:

  • Keyword (by relevance): These keywords are sorted in order of how they relate to your initial keywords. They consist of a head, body, and long-tail keywords.
  • Average monthly searches: How many people are looking for this keyword per month. You can gain exact search volumes but you’ll need to take a few extra steps.
  • Competition: How many people you’re competing to buy ads for that keyword.
  • Bid Numbers: The range that advertisers pay per click.

Since Google Keyword Planner is a free tool, the biggest drawback is its inability to tell you how hard or easy it is to rank for a keyword.

Thankfully, you can get around this with my Intelligent Spreadsheet.

Matthew’s Intelligent Spreadsheet

I developed this spreadsheet to help you:

  • Craft an intelligent keyword strategy
  • Find the right target keyword that has low competition with high search volume
  • Calculate keyword intent
  • Analyse featured snippets

However, free tools have limitations:

1. Free tools take a lot of time: You’ll need to jump through multiple hoops to get ideas and the exact search volumes.

2. People use weird search terms: Often search terms aren’t logical. They’re often weirdly phrased and even almost illegible, making it hard to find good long-tail phrases with these tools.

3. You can’t conduct in-depth research: Paid tools give you a lot of options to find and discover new keywords in unique ways. You don’t get the same opportunities with free tools.

Paid Tools

Paid SEO Tools are a worthwhile investment if you’re planning on taking your SEO seriously!

Below are three top SEO tools that can help you identify long tail keywords for your website.

SEMrush

SEMRush is one of the most powerful SEO suites, starting at $99.95/month. To find keyword data, simply enter your target keywords into the search bar and hit search.

Under:

  • Phrase match keyword
  • Related keywords

…you can find all the keywords that either have the phrase you selected or elements of the keyword you entered respectively.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is one of my favourite tools and probably the best link tool on the market. Their plans start from $99/month.

To find keywords with Ahrefs, head to Keywords Explorer, and you’ll be taken to the keyword results page.

Under Keyword Ideas, you’ll find a large database of thousands of data-driven keywords.

LongTail Pro

Long Tail Pro is a fantastic tool to find long-tail niche keywords. While it doesn’t have as much data as Ahrefs and SEMRush, it’s great at showing you long-tail keywords that you can genuinely rank for. Long Tail Pro starts at $37/month.

To begin, add a new project. Then enter your domain.

Here, Long Tail Pro will present you with your Target Keyword Competitiveness (how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword).

Once you add seed keywords and hit retrieve, you’ll be given a long list of keywords and key metrics like:

  • Average KC
  • Volume
  • Bid
  • Words
  • Rank Value
  • Language
  • Location

Here’s how you can use premium keyword tools for free…or at a seriously discounted price!

Most tools come with a free or discounted trial.

I recommend you take advantage of these trials by:

  • Prepare a list of pages that need new keywords
  • Sign up for trial
  • Carry out your keyword research

This way, you are getting the benefits of a premium keyword tool for free or at a seriously discounted rate!

Wrapping It Up

Keyword research is vital in every SEO Strategy.

You need to find keywords that have the right:

  • Search volume
  • Intent
  • Relevance
  • Competition

…so you can rank at the top of the charts, boosting your traffic and sales!

But you can only find data-driven keywords with keyword research tools.

So if you’re on a tight budget you can explore the free tools first. But I also recommend you take advantage of the free or discounted trials that premium tools have to offer.

Try it today!

Matthew Woodward is an internet marketing and SEO super-nerd. He decided to channel this through his award-winning blog and frequently shares the latest hacks, guides and tutorials that any website owner can apply to their business.

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