The previous two keyword research tools I covered were extremely powerful for finding keywords and checking their competitiveness on a large scale. They allow you to accomplish in hours what would amount to days or weeks of checking by hand.
But you don’t need industrial strength tools to find good keywords. Even if you can easily afford $50 one-time cost for Keyword Tool Dominator, or $33 per month for Niche Refinery, I would recommend holding off on spending the money until you get familiar with running individual keyword searches with free tools. Even now, with the power tools at my disposal, I still use the (mostly) free research tools I’m about to recommend, since they’re often faster when I need to get information on a single keyword. Let’s have a look at them.
Before going further, I want to stress that the tools I’m showcasing here and in Part 1 aren’t “tips” I’ve compiled to fill a list; they’re the tools I actually use on a daily basis.
SEO for Firefox and SEO Quake
SEO for Firefox and SEO Quake add a wealth of infomation under each Google search result, such as the PageRank, the number of links to the page, the number of links to the page’s entire domain, the Alexa Rank, the number of links from various social sites (Twitter, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg), the last cache date, and a host of other metrics.
I have most of these parameters disabled. For my methods, I’m only interested in the PageRank, the number of links to the page (called “L” in SEO Quake, “Y! Page Links” in SEO for Firefox), and the number of links to the site (“LD” in SEOQ, “Y! Links” in SEOFF). As mentioned in my coverage of Niche Refinery in Part 1, the objective is to check the competitiveness of each keyword by assessing the PageRanks of top four results in Google.
While Niche Refinery allows you check PRs for entire keyword lists (i.e., the PR for the top four results of each keyword in the list) as a batch process, don’t underestimate your ability to do this analysis by hand. Before using Niche Refinery, I could check 200-300 keywords per hour using SEOFF alone. You could probably outsource the process on Elance or Amazon Mechanical Turk for a very low cost—perhaps between $0.01 and $0.02 per keyword.
I prefer SEO for Firefox’s less cluttered information layout, but the extension is as limited to Firefox as the name implies. SEO Quake is available for FF, IE, Chrome and Safari.
The Google AdWords Keyword Tool
The Google Keyword Tool makes up for its many limitations by its sheer speed for simple queries. Suppose I wanted to write a blog post on the top 10 must-have browser extensions, but recognize that “extensions” are sometimes referred to as “plugins” or “plug-ins”. The “correct” terminology matters less than identifying which variant gets the most search traffic.
In the Keyword Tool, I can put all three keywords—”browser extensions”, “browser plug-ins” and “browser plugins”—into the “Word or phrase” field and compare them in about five seconds. The winner, “browser plug-ins”, not only get 3.5x the search traffic of “browser extensions”, but has a CPC of $1.57 compared to the latter’s $0.05, which is significant if you’re monetizing your blog with AdSense. Even if you’re not keen on letting keywords dictate the content you write, you should at least be aware of what people are typing into search engines to find your article’s topic.
As you enter your search into Google, you see a short list of “suggestions” that you can select to autocomplete the query. These are actually weighted in descending order by search frequency. If you highlight one of these suggestions without pressing Enter, Google will offer more suggestions if they have any significant search volume. Google search suggestions are a great way to find long tail keywords. They’re also a great way to infer the search intent behind the primary keyword.
So if I enter “brad pitt”, the first suggestion is “brad pitt movies”, then “brad pitt workout”, then “brad pitt and angelina jolie” (please excuse the frivolous examples!). I had no idea there was a “Brad Pitt Workout”, nor that it would be a more popular search than “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie”. If I highlight “brad pitt workout”, the top results are “brad pitt workout for fight club”, “brad pitt workout troy” and “brad pitt workout routine”. The latter keyword might be useful in an AdWords campaign for an exercise information product, if highly relevant.
The biggest limitation to using Google suggestions is that only 10 suggestions are displayed at most. This is were Promediacorp’s Suggester tool shines. It gives you the complete list of top level long tail searches (the “Top Terms” in the left sidebar), as well lower-volume searches (the “Extended Google Suggest List”). You can click on any of the Top Terms to expand the long tails.
Suggester isn’t perfect. As of now, there’s no way to view suggestions before the keyword. In Google, you can enter a search, position the cursor to the left of it, and hit the spacebar to see what words people are putting in front of the keyword: e.g. “angelina jolie and brad pitt” and “how tall is brad pitt”. You can also add a space between two keywords in Google to see if there are any keyword-rich conjunctions or predicates: e.g. “brad pitt cheating on angelina jolie” and “brad pitt quotes about angelina jolie” show up when adding a space between the two actors’ names. Since the vast majority of Google suggestions happen after the keyword, Suggester gets the job done most of the time.
A favorite keyword research tool of many professional internet marketers, Market Samurai slices and dices. Market Samurai is a suite of modules for just about every aspect of internet marketing: Keyword Research, SEO Competition, Monetization, Rank Tracker, and more. All modules are fully functional during the 12-day trial period, after which you’ll have to drop US $149 to access them. Fortunately, one module is an exception—Keyword Research, which remains unlocked after the trial. It’s very likely that the Keyword Research module is the only one you’ll ever need on a regular basis—it’s the one I use 90% of the time, even though I’ve paid for the full version.
While I’ve advocated looking at the PageRank of the top search results for doing competitive analysis, the fact remains that most internet marketers still evaluate keyword competition by counting (a) the number of pages indexed in Google and (b) the number of index pages with the keyword in the title tag. A high ratio between the two factors would suggest that the keyword in question has relatively low competition. This is based on the idea that if the vast majority of search results contain the keyword in the title tag, then the keyword is probably being professional targeted by SEOs, since they would be certain to include the keyword in the title tag.
Market Samurai can check for a huge number of SEO factors, but the most relevant in this context are SEOT, SEOC and SEOTC. SEOT stands for SEO Traffic, meaning how many visits a page ranked #1 in Google for a particular keyword would receive: 42% of the total search volume. SEOC stands for SEO Competition, referring to how many pages are index by Google for the keyword. SEOTC stands for SEO Title Competition, referring to the number of indexed pages containing the keyword in the title tag.
The idea is to scan through a list of analyzed results in Market Samurai to find the ones that have a relatively high SEOT, a low SEOC and an even lower SEOTC. The program’s “Golden Rules” preset provides a set of criteria for you: e.g. an SEOT of 80, and an SEOC of 30,000. With the SEOC set so low (many keywords have an SEOC over six figures), the SEOTC is less important. Keywords under this threshold are accessible with a modest amount of link building.
There are a ton of good research tools out there, but I tend to add new ones to my toolkit very conservatively. I spend most of my time using the tools, not looking for others. But if you any any to recommend, or know if any new ways to get more out of the one that have been mentioned here, let me know in the comments.