How To Find Keywords for SEO + 6 Free SEO Tools for Each Step
by Mike Khorev
SEO isn’t rocket science. But keyword research and other SEO practices are complicated. So instead, think of search engine optimization as a policy Google uses to get you to provide helpful and authentic content.
But it’s not as easy as taking the first seed keywords you see on a keyword tool. Unless you’re an established brand, algorithms only favor content that helps an audience solve a specific – this is called search intent.
Keyword research is the discovery of relevant keywords for your prospect’s search intent at different stages of the buyer journey. As a result, it boosts organic traffic and conversion. However, you only have a chance at success if you find the right keywords or copy your competitors if you’re starting fresh.
This article will show you how to find competitive and rewarding keywords for your business.
Refresher On How Keywords Work
Knowing the steps to find keywords without deeply understanding what they mean is like giving you fish instead of teaching you to fish. You may identify keywords in your niche but look for help when they fail to deliver results upon execution.
What’s A Keyword?
A keyword is a single word, word cluster, or phrase your target customer enters in the search engine to find information or quick solutions.
You must understand why she uses these keywords if you want to create content that ranks or sells, even if you’re not a soothsayer.
Searchers use keywords to:
- Find information about your business or
- Learn why ostriches can’t fly
- Find a product or service provider
- Compare prices
When you know how your target customer searches, it’s easier to plan a result-driven SEO strategy. Hence, you’ll build her trust and impress Google, which rewards you with traffic and inbound leads.
Understand this concept, and you won’t have to panic anytime Google releases its many algorithm updates. Ultimately, the SERP (search engine results page) favors websites with high domain authority, strong backlinks, and user-focused content.
Keywords fill the search engine’s workbook of your audience search queries, and ranking (showing up in the results) is your reward.
Keyword Research for Traffic, Leads, and Conversion
Keyword research means finding the key phrases your audience use to achieve a goal (solve a problem or shop) online. It starts with having an idea of who’s your target and generating a list of phrases with keyword tools.
Think of keyword research as getting to know what your prospect truly wants and how she finds it. If you head in hoping to target every related keyword, you’ll lose money and the trust of your audience.
Like listening to people, finding the right keywords involves understanding emotions and basic statistics. You’ll read the results of monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and traffic trend charts.
From your observations, you’d understand what she wants and how you can provide a solution. This may be the only way to drive conversions from your SEO strategy. Baiting algorithms, even if you succeed, is bad business unless you’re making money through your traffic numbers alone.
How to Find Keywords That Turn Visitors to Prospects and Customers
A keyword research tool shows you how often your customers search for a word, its difficulty, and traffic trends.
But that’s not all. Some tools can help you analyze keyword gaps and find related search terms.
If you have strong domain authority, research is relatively simple. You could target any keyword, create content, throw in backlinks, and rank on the first page.
However, that’s rarely the case for small businesses. So a growing website pulls out different strategies to find competitive keywords they can rank for. Here’s a breakdown of the process.
Step 1: Discover General Topic Ideas
Your first step towards finding rich keywords is to idealize general topics to identify your prospects. Not to worry if you don’t have an attic of ideas. Only a dozen phrases can help you generate thousands of keywords to map your strategy.
If you’re still short of relevant ideas, talk to your “front-line” (those who work with customers directly) workers for a quick brainstorming session.
For instance, if you’re a cleaning business owner, your general topic ideas can be as simple as “window cleaning” or “window cleaning services.”
Entering either of these seed keywords in a keyword generator will show an estimate of search volume (MSV) estimate and keyword difficulty (KD). And similar keywords you wouldn’t have thought of.
Tools To Find Keyword Ideas
A search listening tool, like Answer The Public, will give you hot topic ideas you can incorporate into your keyword research or list.
It shows a resourceful trend of questions and phrases your target customers use online. Then, it indicates their traffic volume with a color-coded map indicating “highly searched,” average search, and lowest searched terms.
The result needs to be more detailed, so you’d find detailed keyword info with tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, and KWFinder.
Searching for the same keyphrase, “window cleaning,” you’ll instantly see the attention to detail.
It generates the first 100 of a potential over 30,000 keywords on the free plan.
The keywords are ordered by search volume and difficulty (KD), with “window cleaning services near me” having: 27,000 MSV and a KD of 17, which means searchers are actively looking for window cleaning services in their area.
The second popular query is vague and difficult to rank. You need to find out if the searcher wants to learn the business or clean their windows DIY. That’s why it’s the most difficult keyword on the list.
Most tools can export the entire page into your spreadsheet or CRM software. This gives you a canvas to paint your SEO strategy by picking, clustering, and carefully analyzing phrases that’ll be effective for your campaign.
Hang on. Before you choose keywords, you need to understand your customer’s intent when entering these search queries to find more competitive keyphrases.
Step 2: Analyze Search Intent
Image from: Similar Web
If keyword research for a successful SEO strategy were a simple formulaic process, you wouldn’t be here, would you? You already know how to find short and long-tail keywords with a keyword research tool, and we’ll move ahead with search intent.
The art of SEO ranking recognizes that each keyword has an emotional search intent. And its science is analyzing the numbers and graphs the tools provide. It’s your responsibility to identify which it is to see improved results from your keyword research.
Four Types of Search Intent For A Result-Driven Keyword Search
Users often use search queries in broadly four categories, which you can also classify as search intent. They include:
1. Commercial Intent
Customers with commercial intent are searching for a product or service information but need more time to be ready to buy.
They’re interested in buying but want to scope the product’s compatibility for their needs and budget.
See the search results for the “best LG 42 inches Smart TV,” for instance.
The #1 content is from Rtings, a small tech review website, while the product makers, LG, rank #2. Hypothetically, they outranked the stronger authority websites like LG, Amazon, and Tech Radar because they helped the searcher with an informative review (plus a relevant Black Friday deal) of the 40-43″ LG televisions. In contrast, LG only provides a single product page.
She wants to shop her options for a “42-inch LG television, not have one shoved in her face. Plus, the Black Friday deal in the headline is time-sensitive and relevant for the season. The web crawlers and anyone randomly searching for that keyword have this intent. If she’s impressed, she’ll become a loyal fan of Rtings and maybe buy an appliance through their website as proof.
This is an overview of how search intent is the new keyword research.
The search result also displays an ad directed at customers who may be ready to swipe their cards. Hence…
2. Transactional keywords
When your prospects are ready to buy, what do you think they say? They use transactional intent keywords that indicate they’re prepared to purchase your product or service.
This nifty tool from SEO Review Tools generates transactional keywords. See some generated using window cleaning business as the product:
Your sales content would typically have these keywords for prospect to boost conversion.
Focus on targeting only one search intent. Using “how-to” or informational keywords when your content intends to sell is misleading. Trying to rank for different intentions increases the difficulty of ranking and reduces conversion chances.
3. Navigational keywords
These search queries are from users looking for a specific brand, website, or company location. Therefore, you may only need navigational intent keyword keywords if you’re a popular brand or local service provider.
However, most SEOs now use these finder keywords if they notice a rise in user search for your company. Field service companies significantly benefit from navigational intent.
4. Informational intent keywords
Forget a user funnel. Informational intent is likely what lands most users on your website for the first time. People turn to Google to try and solve problems that they’re aware only professionals can effectively handle. And end up hiring an expert after trying or seeing that it’s “too much” work.
The phrases they enter to find answers in the SERP are classified as informational intent keywords.
Once you understand your searcher’s intent, start your keyword selection in full force.
Recommended tool: Opentracker tracks website visitor search terms to help you make informed content and customer decisions.
Step 3: Sprinkle Related Search Terms
One of the easiest ways to find competitive keywords is finding related search terms to your target keywords. Gather some from the bottom of the search engine page, but you’d get the most out of a dedicated tool.
These search terms are questions Google thinks people who entered the keyword are likely to ask or have asked. Naturally, including them in your content will improve your search rankings and engagement. You only have to confirm that the phrases you include are also related to your searcher’s intent.
Cram any or the most searched terms on your keyword list and you’ll bring in a crowd. Instead target the odd, lower volume, but search-intent related search terms to generate a traffic of prospects.
In fact, you should organize your keywords by search intent. That way, your marketers, content creators, and execs are on the same page during strategy planning and execution.
Tools To Do It Yourself
Plenty of free tools can assist you with related search terms if you’re struggling with ideas. Some of them are AnswerThePublic, Windscribe, and Keywords Everywhere. The latter is a freemium browser plug-in and our recommendation for beginners.
It’s a browser extension that’s available for free – they only request your email to give you an API access key.
Once logged in, it displays the search volume, CPC, and a competition difficulty and “related keywords” for your target keyword through a google search.
A long-form keyword finder like Keywords Everywhere also works if you avoid going through heavy data. It won’t show you the MSV or KD like most keyword tools. You’ll have to subscribe to the paid version to view these metrics, which is also affordable at $10 a year for 10,000 credits, if you decide to upgrade.
Step 4: Utilize Short, Long-Tail, and Keyword Clusters
Depending on your domain authority, ranking on the first page is nearly impossible with seed keywords. Seed keywords are usually high MSV and KD phrases that your domain authority can’t compete with alone. Besides, they’re “too vague” to adequately capture your customers’ search intent. That’s terrible for SEO, conversion, and your online image.
On the other hand, long-tail keyphrases are more specific and less searched. But they increase your ranking and conversion chances because you’re targeting a niche. For instance, “basketball shoes for wide feet” are long-tail, whereas “basketball shoes” is a seed or short-tail keyword. With a quick Google search, you can see it’s almost impossible to rank for the seed keyword.
Remember how we said to segment your keywords for different search intent? SEOs and marketers call this keyword clustering. After exhaustive keyword research, you can organize them into groups using Spyfu, Wordstream, or SE Ranking. Alternatively, you can go the manual route with a spreadsheet. And once that’s done, you incorporate the clusters in your content.
Tools to Do It Yourself
Find longtail keywords you can easily rank for and those of your competition with Keywords Everywhere or Keyword Planner.
This is a simple Google google search on Keywords Everywhere’s free plan.
Using Google Keyword Planner
Keyword Planner is an excellent tool for comprehensive keyword research. It’s the mothership from Google that generates short and long-tail keywords. It’ll show you the volume and keyword difficulty as well for free.
While free, you need a Google Ad account to use Keyword planner. So even if you don’t spend money, you still have to enter your payment information and pause the campaign.
Step 5: Benchmark A Top Competitor’s Keyword Strategy
Even if you don’t “steal” from your competitors (you should), it’s important to know what keywords they’re ranking for and where they’re slacking off.
It gives you a benchmark to compare your keyword list. For example, you can tell when you must work twice as hard to produce results. And if you spot keyword gaps from your analysis that they’re not optimizing, it’s your cue to take advantage.
Another way to learn from your organic search competitors is to copy what they do and improve on it. Note that this is different from copying their target keywords. For example, if a close competitor (a site with comparable domain authority) ranks in a snippet position, you can outrank them by copying their format.
If your competitor uses a short description to enter the zero position, as seen below, you understand brevity is the assignment. While it’s not guaranteed to beat Digital Marketing Institute due to its strong DA, it can boost your chances of entering page 1.
Tools To Do It Yourself
Find keywords you can easily rank for and those of your competition with this tool.
Analyze Competitor Keywords With SEMRush Keyword Gap Tool
SEMRush is a powerful, all-in-one SEO tool with a keyword gap analysis tool that compares your keywords with your competitors.
It provides a side-by-side comparison of up to 5 competitors. With this comparison, you can effortlessly spot missing and overly competitive keywords in your list.
The SEMRush keyword tool has a free trial, but it can be pricey to subscribe after expiry. However, it’s an all-in-one tool for research, gap analysis, and many more, so you’ll be getting your money’s worth if you go with them.
Benefits of Finding The Right Keywords For Your Business
Internet searchers use keywords to learn, buy, or interact with your business.
Bottom line: customers will only find your brand’s inspiring story if you speak to them using words they (or search engines) understand. That’s why keyword research is vital for small and corporate businesses.
1. Boosts Conversion Rate
How do keywords boost conversion rate??
Take a business generating hundreds of thousands in organic traffic, for instance, but struggles to reach a dozen in conversions. The most likely causal factor is that they’re targeting a general keyword (even if it’s long-tail) that doesn’t resonate with their audience.
In such a case, the business needs to target ultra-specific industry keywords. Premium keyword tools can instantly generate dozens or hundreds of them.
Finding the right keyword for conversion requires understanding who your customers are to discover modern or trending content that connects with them.
2. Increased Page Views
Page views are the fruits of your existing social and organic web traffic engagements. And these two metrics rely on keywords to give your business a measurable and targeted marketing strategy.
Social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube now favor creators with the best content and keywords in their search engines. Think of how you find unknown creators when you search for keywords like “moving out of parent’s house” on Youtube.
Ultimately, relevant keywords maximize discoverability, hence, social and organic page views.
3. Attract Prospects Without Chasing
Trying to bait algorithms, even if possible, is a wasteful SEO strategy unless you have a monetized website, which is rarely the case for a business.
Meanwhile, keyword research generates phrases your prospects use to find solutions (your business), not a crowd. For instance, “wood chipper” is a higher search volume than “how to split a log with a wood chipper.” But the latter is more likely to bring a prospect to your website than someone searching for a “wood chipper” to satisfy his curiosity.
She will click your inbound links and visit your home page, which is a beneficial user behavior on your website. Within a few months, she could order an entry-level log splitter because your content advised her against buying an expensive log chipper.
4. Keep Up With Profitable Trends
Keyword research helps you keep up with beneficial trends for your business.
Take a men’s grooming website that sells black hair products, for example. The store owner may notice a durag fashion trend on and offline. And conduct keyword research to find informational and transaction key phrases they can use to create content.
It may include how-to topics like “how to tie a durag” and “the best durags to buy for caucasian or curly hair.” And go commercial with key phrases like the “price of silk durags,” “best hair kits to get 360 waves.”
Staying on trends brings in a new category of leads and increased conversions during that period. The best part is they’ll remain loyal if your general content suits them afterward.
Understanding The Keyword Research
Keyword research is not a fancy use of tools to find phrases. Instead, it’s strategic and emotional research of your customer’s interests and pain points.
Once you understand the importance of analyzing search intent before research, your SEO campaign becomes purposeful and targeted.
The keywords will lay a solid foundation for your online marketing or branding campaign’s success. So if you want to build a digital footprint, you need the right mix of competitive short and targeted long-tail keywords.
And finally, perform keyword research consistently when results show traffic, leads, and conversions. SEO never stops!