Updated: Apr 18, 2022
In this article, I walk you through some easy ways that you can do keyword research for free. You will learn more about what keywords are, why you need to be doing keyword research, and what free tools you can use for valuable keyword support.
What are keywords?
Google (and other search engines) are always working to improve your search results so that you get the best answer to your question. After all, that’s why you type your questions into Google because you want an answer to your question and you want it quick.
Google uses the words that you type into the search bar to determine the best way to answer your question. The common phrases, questions, and words that people are typing into Google (or other search engines) are keywords.
Keyword research is all about reverse engineering this process. It is about asking “What would my ideal audience or customer be searching in Google and how can I pop up on top?”
Why do I need to be doing keyword research?
If you are creating any kind of content for your business (such as blog posts, website, webinars, social media, or YouTube videos) then you need to be doing keyword research.
If you aren’t doing keyword research how do you know exactly what words, phrases, and questions your target audience is looking for? And if you don’t know what they are looking for, how can you create valuable content? You might think you know, but keyword research helps you know for sure.
With keyword research, you can create a list of phrases that you know people are searching for and then use that list to build valuable content for your readers. Keyword research also helps you rank better when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When you start incorporating common keywords into your website, blog, YouTube channel, etc. you will have a better chance of gaining organic traffic.
Paid vs. free keyword research
While there is a lot you can get for free when it comes to keyword research, I do want to point out that paid keyword research tools are the only way you are going to get your hands on the numbers when it comes to keyword research.
Some of the numbers I am referring to include:
Search difficulty (or how competitive a keyword is going to be to rank for organically)
Paid difficulty (or how competitive a keyword is going to be in paid search)
Cost per click (or the average cost you would pay per click for a keyword)
Search volume (how many searches on average that keyword gets a month)
You aren’t going to get a full picture of a keyword in your free keyword research without eventually having to pay for a keyword planner. While some free tools give you a little bit of that data or give you the option to get a free trial for some of their paid services, eventually you are going to have to pay.
If you are doing a significant amount of keyword research a paid tool is going to be worth the investment. In this article, I will not be discussing paid keyword research tools but know that they are available to you if you are interested.
However, there is still a lot of great information you can get for free, without a paid keyword planner. This is especially helpful if you are just getting started or you need some new content ideas for your business and you don’t have the dollars to spend on an expensive keyword planner.
Free keyword research tools
Let’s first start by doing some consumer research. A good place to look for keywords and content ideas on what is going to resonate the most with your audience is to listen to your audience:
Your businesses’ common customer service questions: The best place to know what questions your target audience has is to look at the questions they are asking you or your customer service team. What questions do you or your customer service team get asked all the time? Turn these questions into content that is going to be super helpful for your audience.
Review websites: What questions, words, or phrases are being used to describe your product or service on review sites? Not only can a review website help improve your overall business model, but they can also offer a content opportunity. Here is direct feedback, questions, concerns, your audience has and is writing about. This is the kind of stuff you should look at when you are scratching your head trying to think of content that is going to resonate and provide value for your audience.
After you take the time to listen to your customers, there are other great websites you can use to get a pulse check in your industry and to hear directly from people who might be in your target audience. These websites are free to use and are great ways to get both keyword and content ideas:
Amazon: Even if you aren’t selling anything on Amazon, this website could still be helpful for you. Check out customer questions and feedback on products in your industry. Use these to get a good sense of what people are looking for and what questions they have when it comes to your industry or topic area.
Quora: This is a forum for posting and asking questions. By following the topic areas your business covers you can see what questions people are asking. Use these questions to build out your content ideas.
Reddit: This site is great not just for taking down hedge funds with GameStop stock but also for keyword and content research. Search the topic you want to write about and read through comments in relevant communities to get a sense of what people are talking about and the language or keywords they are using.
Facebook and LinkedIn groups: Join and follow groups of topics that you are hoping to write about. Not only can you get a sense of what questions people are asking, but also the language they are using. This is the language you should be using throughout your marketing materials to sound credible and to appeal to your audience as someone they can trust.
Industry-specific discussion groups: Seek out and find different forums for your industry. These resources are great for diving into the mind of your ideal consumer, getting on top of trends in your industry, and ensuring you are capturing the language and keywords that people are frequently using.
Free keyword generators
Next let’s talk about some free tools that are going to give you a sense of specific keywords you should be using in your content:
Wikipedia: Wikipedia is an open-collaborative online encyclopedia meaning people who know a lot about a certain topic write the pages for that topic. This means that the words that are being used on a particular Wikipedia topic page are keywords that are relevant and frequently searched.
Keyword Guru: As I mentioned, you’re not going to know what the search volume is for these keywords or how competitive they will be to rank for. But, this tool helps give you a sense of keywords people are searching for within a particular topic you’ve identified that you want to write about.
Soovle: Like Keyword Guru, this tool searches not only Google but other search engines for popular keywords that relate to the keyword you type into their search bar. This might give you a sense of what people are using to search out that topic.
Keywordfinder.io: The free version of this tool will show you keyword ideas, but not anything else. However, what I like about this tool is that you can enter up to 5 keyword ideas at once so that you can see a full list of ideal keywords based on a few of your suggestions as opposed to typing them in one by one.
Keywordtool.io: Like Keywordfinder, this tool is only going to show you a list of keywords and not any of the data without an upgraded plan. However, also a helpful free resource for keyword ideas.
Wordtracker: This tool gives you up to ten free searches so it’s not 100% free but those ten searches give you access to real hard data like search volume, historical trends of that keyword, competition, and more. So use them wisely!
Keyword Generator: This tool gives you up to 150 keyword ideas per search. For the first ten keywords in your search, they will show you how difficult that keyword could be to rank for. Plus it also gives you some numbers around search volume, which you don’t get as often in a free tool!
Keyword Sheeter: This tool generates a full downloadable CSV report of keyword ideas for you after you type in a keyword or topic. It doesn’t show you any data outside of that but if you are looking for a long list of keyword ideas this is a great place to go.
The Reddit Keyword Research Tool– This one is a hit or miss for me. I don’t use this tool very often but it can be a helpful resource. This tool pulls keyword ideas from Reddit to give you an idea of popular search phrases on that platform.
Higher Visibility Bulk Keyword Generator: This tool is great for finding local keywords for your specific business. By entering your business type and city, it will generate local keywords for your industry that potential customers might use to find you. This is great if you are a local business looking to capture local search results. If you aren’t looking for local keywords or local topics this might not be the right tool to use for you. They also don’t offer a whole lot of industry options either.
AnswerThePublic: Aside from this very creepy but also enticing man staring at you, AnswerThePublic is a great tool that offers free keyword suggestions up to a point, so eventually you do have to pay. But what I like about this tool is it pulls together a whole visualized report for you of potential longtail keywords or questions that people are searching for that relate to the keyword you typed in.
QuestionDB: This tool will break down your topic idea into questions. This could be a helpful exercise if you are looking to write content that answers popular questions within a particular topic area.
Some tools are extensions, meaning you can download them for free to Google Chrome (and other browsers depending on the tool) for use whenever you search for things on Google:
Keywords Everywhere: You can install this add-on on either Chrome or Firefox. The best part is that Keywords Everywhere shows you monthly search volume, Cost Per Click (CPC), and competition data of keywords on multiple websites. Plus it’s an extension, so it’s built right into your search engine.
Keyword Surfer: 100% free extension that allows you to see search volumes directly in your Google search results. Once you type your target phrase and press enter, you’ll uncover search volumes, keywords suggestions, related terms, visibility metrics, and on-page data.
Wordtracker Scout– Wordtracker also comes in extension form! This tool gives you keyword ideas from any webpage. By entering a website and clicking this extension you get a word map of keyword ideas. So this tool could be great to use on your competitors, for example, to get a sense of what keywords they are ranking for. This is of course something you can do in a paid tool, but this extension offers a little bit of a glimpse at this for free.
Google keyword search tools
There are a lot more tools you can use but those are some of my favorites. Now let’s talk about how Google can help you. Google also wants your website to rank because they win when they provide the highest quality answers to your questions. And of course, the highest quality answer to your target audience’s question is going to be your content!
Google Keyword Planner: This is a great targeted keyword planner for your business that, if you have a Google ad account, you can get targeted keyword suggestions for free.
Google Search Console: Search Console tools and reports help you measure your site's Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results.
Google Trends: Want to get a sense of what’s trending? Google offers this free tool that allows you to better understand what people are searching for and how interest in that topic has trended over time.
Google: Google itself is going to give you an idea of keywords that people are searching for. When you type a topic area in Google, check out the “people also ask” and “searches related to” sections of your search page. These are potential keywords that you could be using.
What do you do with your keywords once you’ve researched them?
Once you’ve identified keywords using the free tools above, you can use these to help choose topics that you should write content about (such as blog posts, web pages, video content, webinars, landing pages, etc.).
After all, people are searching for and want answers to these topics or questions. You could position you or your company as the resource they need to get the answer to those questions. If your content is high quality and answers the question, you will have a greater chance of ranking in a Google search result for that keyword.
Include your keywords anywhere that Google can capture them and use as part of their algorithm to know exactly what your content is all about. This means you should include your keywords (where it makes sense) in the title tags, meta description, H1, or H2 headers of your website, blog, etc. If you are uploading a video to YouTube, for example, include your keywords in your title, description of your video, and the tags for that video.
Notice I mentioned that you should include keywords where it makes sense. This means that you should not be stuffing keywords for the sake of stuffing keywords into your content. This makes your writing sound odd and forced. Include keywords where it makes sense but don’t feel like you need to go overboard.
After all, the best way to boost your SEO ranking is to provide value. When you provide value, you get people on your site and they stay on your site. And you can’t do that if you stuff your content with keywords that make it hard to read.
So to summarize, keyword research helps you know exactly what your target audience is looking for. This gives you a leg up on what kind of content you should be focusing on and it helps you rank for words people are searching for in Google. While you might need a paid keyword research tool for long-term success, these are great solutions for free keyword ideas that will boost your content creation process.
What keyword tools did I miss that you love? Drop them in the comments below and let me know!