How To Do Free Keyword Research

If you’re starting from scratch with your free keyword research your aim should be to identify around 50 phrases, terms and words that potential customers/clients are typing into Google when they are looking for businesses like yours.

Why doing this is a vital task for your business

The phrases and terms that people type in to Google and other search engines are known in the marketing world as ‘keywords’.

What is a keyword anyway?

Slightly confusingly, single words can be classed as keywords, but so can phrases of any number of words put together.

Imagine a blog on ‘the most delicious omelette recipes’ (to take a random example). The word “omelettes” would be classed as a keyword for this blog, but so would “omelette recipes” and “delicious omelette recipes”.

Why keywords are the cornerstone of SEO (search engine optimisation)

Setting up your website to feature strongly for the keywords your potential customers are using is very important if you want your business to succeed online. This process is known as Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO.

Rival businesses are competing strongly to be recognised by Google as the number 1 ranked site for the main keywords in their niche.

What keywords should you be researching?

As an example of what sort of keywords you should be researching, let’s imagine that you’re an Antique Dealer working out of Boston.

The general rule of thumb with keywords is that single words are very competitive, but longer phrases are easier to get in the top 10 results in Google for.

If you want to be in Google’s top 10 results for the keyword ‘antique’ you would be up against every antique seller, antique collector, and museum in the world. Sure, if you managed it you would have a huge amount of web visitors. But the competition is so fierce it’s an almost impossible challenge for a new or smaller business.

Why longer phrases are the best place to start

However if you wanted to challenge for the longer keyword ‘antique dealer Boston’ you would only be competing against other antique dealers in Boston – a much easier proposition. Although you wouldn’t get nearly as many web visitors to your site, the people who did visit it would almost certainly be people from the Boston area who were looking for an antiques dealer (i.e. your ideal customer).  

Furthermore, if your antiques dealership specialised in Georgian furniture, you would probably be interested in ranking well for keywords like ‘Georgian furniture specialist’, ‘Georgian furniture dealer’ and ‘Georgian furniture Boston’.

These longer keywords are sometimes known in marketing jargon as ‘longtail’ keywords.

The trick with researching the best keywords for your site, especially for a new business, is using the 80/20 rule. 80% of your keywords should be several words long (3 or 4 words+), whilst 20% should be competitive, shorter, keywords (1 or 2 words). The longer keywords are the ‘quick wins’ that you can get your website ranking well for relatively quickly. The shorter ones will take an investment of time and effort to rank for. But if you do, the investment will pay off big time.

How to start your free keyword research

Make a spreadsheet or simple table with four columns titled keyword, search volume, difficulty and priority.

Open up a tool called Moz Keyword Explorer at

Moz is one of the leading Search Engine Optimisation companies in the world. Their Keyword Explorer is the best tool we know to find target keywords. The tool provides information on:

  • how many people search for a certain keyword
  • how difficult it would be for an average website to rank well for that keyword
  • the ‘priority’ that Moz thinks you should assign to the keyword. The higher the priority score, the more success Moz thinks you can get from it. When you’re building a list of keywords this will help you decide which keywords to have at the top of your list.
  • A list of related keywords

Now get started!

Enter your first keyword idea in the search box.

Before you hit enter make sure you have changed the location option (in the right hand side of the search box) to the country where your business trades. It’s set to the USA as a default, so it’s important to change it if you’re not a US business.

Make a note of the keyword you are about to search for in the ‘keyword’ column of your spreadsheet. Hit enter or click the blue magnifying glass button

You’ll get four scores across the top of the page.

  • Monthly volume (how many people are searching for this term every month). Record this figure in the ‘search volume’ column of your spreadsheet
  • Difficulty (how competitive this keyword is to rank for). Record this figure in the ‘difficulty’ column of your spreadsheet.
  • Opportunity (how likely it is that someone will click on the google result). Don’t worry about this figure
  • Priority (how much Moz recommends that you invest resources into ranking for this keyword). Record this figure in the ‘priority’ column of your spreadsheet. 

You can also then use the list of ‘keyword suggestions’ below to start a new search if they look like they might be relevant to your business.

Rinse and repeat until you have reached about 50-60 keywords.

The ideal keyword

The dream keyword to find in the course of your free keyword research is one that has a very high monthly volume, but very low difficulty. In reality the internet is so saturated that these dream keywords are very, very rare. But the closer you can get to that combination, the better.

But as stated above, try and build a list where the ‘difficulty’ level is as low as possible (anything level 20 or below is good), while still registering in something in the ‘monthly volume’ column (after all, there’s no point wasting time on keywords that no-one is searching for).

It’s free for a reason…

The only drawback to Moz Keyword Explorer is that you can only search for two keywords a day for free as they would like you to sign up for a paid account. But if you make this a daily 5 minute task, within a month you could have built a list of 60 keywords – more than enough for any smaller business to work with. Alternatively if you sign up for a no-strings-attached, and 100% free moz account, you get 30 searches for free (as long as you make them within a month of signing up).

I wish you the best of luck with your free keyword research.

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