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November 1, 2010

Keyword Research using Google Products

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We all know keyword research is an important step in the search engine optimisation process.

There are more blog posts teaching us how to conduct keyword research than we can poke a chopstick at. While the majority may be helpful to a degree, many involve the use of tools that we have to fork out money for.

To be honest, effective keyword research can easily be carried out using a variety of free methods. In fact, some of the best tools out there cost nothing at all and come from the exact search engine we are trying to rank for: Google!

This blog post will outline how to use various Google products to their full extent in your next keyword research project.  This will be taking into account recent changes made to the products, especially the Google Keyword Tool.

The Google products covered in this post are:

  • Google Search Engine
  • Google Keyword Tool
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google Trends
  • Google Insights
  • YouTube Keyword Suggestion Tool

Google Search Engine

Even by just looking at what a search engine brings up when a search term is typed in, can be enormously beneficial for building up a list of relevant keywords.

The two areas where you can draw valuable keywords from are ‘suggested searches’ and ‘related searches’. When going through these keywords, select the ones that are relevant to your situation as not all will be applicable (e.g. location based keywords).

Suggested keywords

To see suggested searches, hop on to the Google search engine you are targeting. In this case, it will be Google Australia. The search engine will bring up the suggested keywords automatically in a drop down box without actually bringing up the search results. Take a screenshot and then record all relevant keywords down.

Related searches

To find the related search terms for a keyword bring up the search results for your search term (our term is ‘car gps’). Scroll to the bottom and you can see a list of searches related to ‘car gps’. Record all relevant keywords.

The Google Keyword Tool (under Google Adwords)

If any, the Keyword Tool from Google is the product that all real SEO practitioners should be aware of.  This is based on the newly revamped keyword tool, an improvement over the previous versions of 2010.

Some of the key benefits of the updated keyword tool include:

  • Flexible search options: Search any combination of keywords, website/URL, and category (where available) and receive a single set of results.
  • Easy Keyword Refinement: Filter results by word or keyword match type.
  • Negative keywords: Easily add keyword ideas as negatives right from your keyword list. Just click on a keyword and use the drop-down menu to select and save your negative keyword.
  • Advanced options: View statistics for mobile search and use data filters based on local searches, global search, ad share, and more.

Reasons to use the Keyword Tool

As this product uses Google’s own database, the results returned are quite accurate. This tool can assist in expanding your current keyword list.  It is also very useful in ensuring that the selected are the most appropriate, especially for key landing pages.

In my personal experience, there have been several occasions when I selected a keyword for a key landing page and the keyword I thought was the most suitable turned out to be a dud, as there was another keyword which is just as relevant but with much more search volume! However, the data is easily exportable to Excel which makes the information actionable.

The following section provides an explanation of the functionality of the Keyword Tool.

Search terms to use

Use core keywords that define the website and plug them individually into the Keyword Tool to expand your keyword list.

Advanced options

The Advanced options, which can be configured by clicking on the ‘Advanced options’ link circled in red, can assist in making the search results relevant. Why select the country of Canada if the target market was Australia? Remember to set the correct location and language that you are targeting.

In this example, the target country/language is Australia/English.

Another helpful feature within the Advanced options is the Filter keywords section, where there is an option to filter out keywords based on:

  • Local Monthly Searches
  • Global Monthly Searches
  • Competition
  • Estimated Avg. CPC
  • Search share

This is particularly helpful if you have criteria in mind for the keywords you want to gather i.e. only looking for high volume keywords for a key landing page.

Configuring Keyword results using the sidebar

The sidebar is useful for filtering the search results. The three sections shown here are used to filter the keywords by category or type of keyword, but the important setting is the Match Types. Make sure to set the correct match type before starting to key in search terms and exporting the search results. Otherwise, you may suddenly get confused as to why the search volume returned is so high; when in fact the match type was set on broad match (Broad match is the default match type).

As good as it seems, there are limitations on the Keyword Tool. Here is a summary list of limitations:

  • You can only pull up to 100 keywords if you are not logged into Google Adwords; 800 keywords if you are logged in
  • You may only enter a maximum of 100 search terms at any one time
  • Search volume is derived only from searches conducted on Google search engines (Google.com.au, Google.co.uk and so on)

Inaccuracies with the Google Keyword Tool

There have been talks that the Google Keyword Tool may not be accurate for search terms that do not hold any commercial value in Google’s eyes. Back in the SMX East 2010, during a presentation by Baris Gultekin, there were many questions posed to the Google panel around the features and limitations of the tool in that aspect. One major highlight that was confirmed by the Google panel was that searches that do not have commercial viability may not appear in the Google Keyword Tool, as the tool was designed in mind for Google Adwords users. This case in point was also raised in the 20th October SEM Synergy Radio show hosted by Bruce Clay.

One example that was pointed out back then was that a search term for “Facebook” yielded no search volume.

Picture referenced from http://www.aimclearblog.com/2010/10/07/r-i-p-google-keyword-tool-long-live-seo/

Naturally, we did some searching on the same term just a few days and this is what we noticed:

The Keyword Tool appears to display 1.12 billion searches for the term ‘Facebook’ across all countries and on broad match. To be even more thorough, we conducted searches on words that have absolutely no commercial significance, such as “sphere” and “square” and the words do seem to show the significant search volume. This is different to what has reported on other blogs and sites. In conclusion, it’s best to just know that the tool may not be 100% accurate and use it with a grain of salt.

Traffic Estimator Function (For Estimating Seed Keyword Search Volume)

Google Keyword Tool may be great at helping expand your keyword list, but have you ever wanted to just find the search volume for a particular set of keywords and not have Google return up to 800 other suggested keywords?

As the Keyword Tool has an issue with returning search volume for a set list of keywords we recommend that you use the rarely mentioned Traffic Estimator feature. This featured can be accessed by just selecting the Traffic Estimator link at the top left hand corner highlighted in the red circle.

It works just like the Keyword Tool but the ‘Advanced options’ is much more limited, only allowing you to edit the location and languages.

We’ve also compared the search volume returned by Traffic Estimator to the data from the Keyword Tool and as suspected they are exactly the same.

The limitations with the Traffic Estimator tool are:

  • You can pull search volume for up to 2,500 keywords at one time
  • The exported data does not provide you trending global monthly search volume

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is great for aiding in keyword research. Pull out relevant keywords that are driving traffic to your site, paid or organic. Use the filter functions to remove all brand term keywords as they will skew your research (as you are more likely to rank for brand terms). Also filter any keywords that were mispelt.

Export the top 100, top 500, or however many keywords you desire, and then add them to your keyword list.  Apart from the addition to the keyword list, keywords gathered from Google Analytics can indicate whether the keywords you are currently ranking for on your site are the most effective for the market (e.g. should you rank for laptop or notebook?).

Google Webmaster Tools

Search Queries Section

The Search Queries section is the most important section in Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) for keyword research. Login to your GWT account (or register for one if you don’t have one yet), go to the Search Queries section and then you can download all the search queries along with relevant metrics such as impressions and click. This information is similar to the keywords given by Google Analytics in that it provides users with keywords that are already ranked for.

Keywords Section

The Keywords section brings up the most commonly used words on the site. While this may be helpful, some of the words will not be useful so keep in mind to filter many of the keywords before adding to your keyword list.

Google Trends

Google Trends can provide you with valuable information on keywords that are searched for based on a website. Go to the Google Trends homepage, scroll to the bottom and select Trends for websites.  Enter your own website and any relevant websites (e.g. competitors) and it will give you a list of keywords that visitors have also searched for. Filter out the irrelevant keywords and add them to your list.

Google Insight

Google Insight is a product that can be used for both keyword research and for identifying trending keyword topics.

Why should I use Google Insight?

Google Insight can be used to effectively determine the trending keywords for the seed keyword that is entered. There are many ways to use Insight, so the following guideline is only a general recommendation focused on conducting keyword research; adjust the way you use Insight based on your own circumstances.

General Filter Settings

  • Select Web Search (which is the default setting) in the first filter. We aren’t looking for images, news or products; we want actual searches in Google.
  • Configure the geographical setting based on your target market (Australia). Do not worry too much about sub-regions unless you are targeting a particular area
  • Set the historical data range to ‘Last 12 months’. You probably don’t want to go much further back as it you may start to pick up older trending topics which may not be that important.

What you can do now is enter search terms that are relevant to your SEO project and you will able to see the Top Searches and Rising Searches.  A good suggestion could be to record all Top and Rising search terms and add them to a keyword list.

YouTube Keyword Suggestion Tool

Another hidden gem that is a great source for keyword ideas, especially if you are optimising for a YouTube channel is the YouTube Keyword Suggestion Tool. This tool was included in this post as YouTube is owned by Google.

You can search using the three different methods: by words, phrases, a particular video ID or by demographic. The first option, using words or phrases, is the more popular feature but you may find that gathering keywords by video or demographic is more useful.

You may find that compared to the Keyword Tool it is quite difficult to find quality keywords from YouTube because of the way people search on the YouTube site is quite different to how a user searches on a normal search engine.

That wraps up the spill on how to use Google products for keyword research. If you are using any other Google product for keyword research or are using the products listed in this blog a different, we would love to hear your experiences with utilising Google products for keyword research.





2 responses to “Keyword Research using Google Products”

  1. Damon writes:

    Great information. I especially liked the simplistic and often overlooked “suggested search”. One free Google tool that was left out though was that of Google’s AdWords Editor. A great way to mass sort keywords in an Excel fashion.

  2. How to increase strength writes:

    I do say your judgement could not have been expressed in a more thought provoking way. I commend you on the rigorousness of this post. Thanks



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