You can’t really have a great SEO strategy without keyword research. After all, keywords are a fundamental aspect of natural search whether you’re writing a blog post or a title tag. You can use a variety of different tools to do your keyword research, all of which come with their own pros and cons.
In this post, I’m going to focus on how you can use Google itself use to conduct free keyword research by going over how I use Google Keyword Planner, Google Search Results Pages (SERPs), and Google Trends.
1) Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is actually one of my favorite SEO tools to use. It’s technically meant for paid search, but it provides a lot of SEO value as well. I use it for two main purposes:
- To determine search volume and how competitive keywords are
- To get new suggestions and ideas for keywords
The only downside to Keyword Planner is that you need a Google Ads account (which requires a domain) in order to access it, so if you don’t have one, you may not be able to use it. However, it should be noted that you don’t have to pay for ads to access Keyword Planner. I’ve never spent a dime on PPC ads for my website but I still use Keyword Planner on a regular basis.
If you do have a Google Ads account, simply login to Keyword Planner and select either Discover new keywords or Get search volume and forecasts, plug in your keywords, and go.
The pros of using Keyword Planner for keyword research are:
- It can suggest new keywords and phrases for you to use
- It gives you an idea of the search volume and competitiveness of your keywords
- It can tell you which keywords aren’t worth using at all
- It’s made by Google, so if you’re targeting Google as a search engine, it’s a good place to start
- It can be set to different countries, languages, and regions
The cons of Keyword Planner for keyword research are:
- It’s built for PPC so not all of the information is relevant to SEO
- You need to have an Ads account to access it
- The search volume ranges can be large (for example, 100 – 1000 or 1000 – 10000)
- It doesn’t always suggest relevant alternative keywords
2) Google Search Results Pages
Google search results are constantly changing, so it can be hard to mention a specific feature that you like while keeping your content relevant. However, there are a few different ways to use search results to contribute to your keyword research.
Start by typing in your query and letting Google populate search results for that keyword. There are three main results to pay attention to:
- Competitor content
- People Also Ask boxes
- The suggested search terms at the bottom of the first page of the results
Google SERPs are some of the easiest and most straightforward ways to conduct basic keyword research. I always reference search results when doing any kind of keyword research, regardless of what it’s for.
The pros of Google SERPs for keyword research are:
- They’re easy to access and use
- They can give you relevant alternative keywords
- The additional search phrases and terms help you to plan out headers
- They’re a great way to find additional queries
- They show you who’s ranking and for what
- They can give you new ideas for microblogs and articles
The cons of Google SERPs for keyword research are:
- Results vary depending on what you search, your browser history, and your location
- They won’t give you any numbers
- They can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to use them to your advantage
3) Google Trends
Google Trends is another awesome tool that can help you during keyword research. While it doesn’t suggest new keywords, it can help you to sort through a keyword list, and it comes in especially handy when writing content for other countries or regions.
Google Trends works by letting you see which of your keywords are trending. I like to use it for alternate names because it shows me which are still in use versus those that are no longer popular. This makes it easier to keep content fresh and relevant while ensuring that I hit the most important keywords.
To use it, plug in the keywords you want to check on, chose the country you’re writing for, and select a timeframe.
The pros of Google Trends for keyword research are:
- It gives you a chance to hop on trending keywords
- It shows you which keywords are relevant and which aren’t
- You can use it for different countries
- It divides data by region, like state or province
- It has actual search volume
The cons of Google Trends for keyword research are:
- It doesn’t provide any context for trending queries
- It only provides basic numbers
- It doesn’t suggest additional terms or phrases