If there’s one place that many people turn to when they first get interested in SEO, it’s Google. While it may not have all of the features of the paid services out there, many of us find that using the Google Keyword Planner is a great place to get started as long as you know how to use it for the information you need.
It’s a handy tool, but it was originally designed with Adwords in mind. This means that you’re going to have to adapt a little bit to make sure you can get the most out of it when you’re researching keywords.
You’re going to need a Google Adwords account in order to use the Keyword Planner. It’s super easy to do, all you need to do is go here and fill out the required fields in order to get started. It’ll easily link with your Google account if you already have one.
You don’t need to run a campaign but the account does need to be fully active in order to take advantage of the tool.
After that you just have to login and click on the Tools prompt. Keyword Planner will be down on the list a little bit, click it and you’re ready to get going.
Taking Advantage of the Keyword Planner
There are three different tools that are present as soon as you get on the page.
- Searching for new keywords
- Checking volume data and trends
- Multiplying lists in order to get more keywords
Each of these has a use which is relevant to your keyword research.
Searching for New Keywords and Phrases
This is the best way to use the tool for most people. With a simple search you can start to look for new keywords, but keep in mind they’ll be closely related the phrase you search for.
You’re not going to be receiving a whole lot of new insight from this tool, is what I’m getting at. Instead you’ll be able to see the data for a wide range of closely related keywords and they’ll all be right there in an organized fashion.
You’ll be given a prompt with three different options:
- Your product or service
- Your landing page
- Your product category
Choose wisely when you’re picking which of these to go with. Exactly how useful the Keyword Planner is depends on your choices in this area.
Each of them is actually pretty useful.
- The “Your Product or Service” prompt is where you’ll enter a regular keyword. Try not to be too broad when you place a search term here, or you’re going to end up with things that are probably out of your league when it comes to ranking. Long tail keywords are your friend, as well as markets which are less competitive. Instead of entering “basketball” for instance, you might want to try “increasing vertical jump”, “three point shots”, and “trick dribbling.”
- “Your Landing Page” is mostly useful for those who are going to be running an AdWords campaign. You might still want to give it a shot, however, as the results may return something you haven’t thought of just yet.
- “Your Product Category” can give you access to internal directories. It may or may not be useful depending on your particular niche, but it’s always worth a shot if you can’t find anything with the first two categories.
You can also enter information into all three prompts just to see what happens. You’ll definitely be experimenting quite a bit before you get the hang of it.
Targeting is entered after your keywords. You’ll be able to make sure that you’re looking at the right market through using this part of the tool by choosing the language, country and search engine that you’re planning on hitting it big in.
The default is set to Google in English with the location being within the United States.
You can also set “negative keywords” which are those which you don’t want to advertise on. This is only applicable to those who are running an AdWords campaign, so if you’re doing keyword research then you can safely ignore that option.
You can also customize your search. For instance, if a keyword has a monthly volume of less than 3000 users and you don’t want to target anything which is that specific you can make sure that it’s filtered out.
It also allows you to set the “suggested bid” to a certain level. This metric is handy for showing the commercial value behind a keyword, so whether or not you choose to work with it is up to the type of page which you’re running.
Newbies might want to keep in mind that a low search volume doesn’t necessarily mean a completely useless keyword. Quite often targeting a broad range of low volume, low competition keywords within your niche can pay off much better than if you were to just start diving into high volume keywords which are harder to rank for by their very nature.
Once you’ve finished everything up, you can click “Get Ideas” and get to the resulting search results which will give you a list with metrics.
Search Volume Data and Trends
If you’ve already got a large list of keywords which you’re planning on targeting it’s time to break out the file and copy-and-paste.
You’ll be able to get the analytic data on all of the keywords you enter at the same time by doing this. If you’re not in the default market you may still need to set things up to make sure that you’re getting the right results but the targeting box is identical to searching for keywords.
Multiply Keyword Lists
Probably the least useful of the three tools is the final one. Don’t be afraid though, for sometimes you find a bit of gold in the mud. Keyword research is often like this, which means that it’s best to use everything at your disposal in order to make informed decisions.
You can enter lists of different keywords, you’ll need at least two. You can also add extra fields by clicking on the grey X on the right of the panel to get more results.
It’s best to use single words, rather than phrases, for this part of the process. For most people it’s just going to return some gibberish, but for e-commerce pages with a wide range of products it can be a godsend.
The results which are returned are going to be a combination of all of the different keywords that are present along with the relevant data.
Reading Your Data
Reading the data is the part which is most confusing to the average newbie. It gets especially confusing for those of us who weren’t aware that the Keyword Planner really wasn’t made for simple keyword research.
Basically, some of the data is going to be highly relevant to pretty much everyone and some of it is pretty much useless for those of us who aren’t running AdWords campaigns.
On the left side of the page are a list of options that will allow you to modify the results. Both the targeting and filter panels are present, which allows for a surprising amount of different results if you really want to get going.
If you’re drowning in keywords with a low search volume, for instance, then you can modify the results to make sure that you only get those in the range you want.
Search volume is the most relevant metric for most people looking to do SEO. It shows how many searches happen for the keyword and it’s a great first indicator of a keyword’s viability.
You’ll also have two separate tabs, “keyword ideas” and “ad group ideas.” Remember that more data is always better, and make sure to check the latter as often it can give you ideas that you just might not have found before hand.
Breaking Down the Metrics
The metrics are the confusing part of the equation for most people, but with a little bit of guidance they’re readily understood by pretty much anyone:
- Average monthly searches shows the volume of people searching for the keyword in each month. It’s pretty self-explanatory and the main metric most of us will be looking at.
- Competition gives a rough idea of how many people are paying for advertising on a keyword. It’s not perfect but it will give you a good idea of how hard you’re going to have to try to rank high for the keyword in question.
- Suggested Bid might not mean much to those of us who just want to find hot keywords, but it’s a good indication of whether or not there’s some serious commercial potential behind the keyword in question.
So, keep all of that in mind and I’ll show you how to pick the keywords that your page needs.
Choosing Your Keywords
This is really what separates the mediocre from the great in the SEO world. There’s a lot of artistry and intuition which plays into it but most people can learn the basics and get off to a good start.
Keyword selection is what this is all about. Good keywords, good content, and good off-page SEO is how you make sure that you can rank.
Search volume is the most obvious metric to look at. The more eyes on the page the better, particularly if you’re looking to monetize the page in question. Your conversion rate can suck, but if you’re getting tens of thousands of hits you can still turn a profit.
It’s also the only part of this which is easy to take care of with quantitative data.
You’ll also need to parse the commercial potential of the keyword. Part art and part science, it’s vital that you learn how to do this.
The scientific part of it is laid out pretty clearly in the metrics. Both competition and the suggested bid will figure into your decisions but general marketing knowledge will lead you to intuitively find those which are highly profitable.
Higher competition and higher bids usually means that someone, somewhere is making a good amount of money working with those keywords. It may also be harder to rank, but in the end all of that will rely on your own SEO skill in other areas.
You’ll also want to figure out the organic SEO competition. Meaning, how hard it’s going to be to rank on Google overall. This is going to take some digging in order to figure out, and the actual process is outside of the scope of this article.
Sooner or later you’re going to need to trust your gut. Don’t worry if you fumble a couple of times, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Most of us have quite a few duds before we finally learn the ropes.
Breaking it All Down
Using the Google Keyword Planner is one of the best investments of time you can make until you’re willing to risk some money on more expensive tools. It’s a great place to start, however, and many find themselves using it on occasion even when they do have expensive tools at their disposal.
It’s certainly not the end-all, be-all of keyword research but it’s free and easily accessible.
Like many parts of Search Engine Optimization how useful it is to you will depend on your own knowledge and skill.
The more practice you get in, the better you’ll be.
Give it a shot, even if you’re not quite ready to launch your own project yet. You’d be surprised at what you can learn with a free and simple tool and a little bit of time.
You never know, you might just stumble across one of those rare unicorn keywords that can take a site right to the top. You might find you have a knack for this that astounds you. Or you might just find out that it’s time to get serious about the planning you’ve been doing.
At the very least, you’ll be learning a new tool and be able to ensure that you can use it in the future. That valuable experience is worth a lot more than any article on the subject.