Top Keyword Research Tools

Adwords Keyword Tool

This tool was designed to be used with Google’s AdWords program, as a way for advertisers to discover the best keywords to target with their pay per click campaigns. You don’t have to use PPC to benefit from the keyword tool, but you can gain a lot from looking at the numbers you’ll find here.

When you first get to the site, you’ll have to enter a CAPTCHA code to see the results. That’s to help keep non-humans from wasting bandwidth. Just enter the letters you see and the pop-up screen will disappear, allowing you to access the page.

For simple keyword research, we’re only concerned with one section of this page. In the upper left corner you’ll see a box that says “Word or phrase.” That’s where you enter your keyword. Go ahead and do that now, then click “search.”

In the main part of the page, you should see a long list of related words and phrases appear, with columns of numbers accompanying them. Going back to our yarn shop example, if you entered “handdyed yarn” in the search box, you’ll now have a list of 100 potential keywords, including “hand dyed wool yarn,” “hand dyed silk yarn,” and “bulky weight yarn.” You’ll probably see a few you hadn’t even considered, but which might be good matches for your site, so go ahead and add them to your list.

The columns you see represent various kinds of data you can use when making keyword choices. The first column is labeled competition, and it shows you the number of advertisers who bid on that keyword in Google’s AdWords program. Unless you’re going to use PPC to drive traffic to your site, that probably doesn’t mean anything to you. However, it is a good indicator of the usefulness of a particular keyword, because advertisers don’t generally bid on poorly performing search terms.

The next column is Global Monthly Searches. This is the average number of times a specific term is searched in Google. The numbers are averaged across an entire year, so seasonal terms like Christmas cookie recipes probably don’t get searched much in July, even though the number is high.

If you look at the last column, Local Search Trends, you can easily tell if a keyword’s search numbers are spread throughout the year, or if there are spikes of activity. This will help you determine the best time to target specific keywords. For example, it doesn’t make much sense to fill a gardening blog with posts about planting tulips in May, when the keyword phrase “planting tulip bulbs” is searched most often in the fall.


Another popular choice of keyword research tools is Wordtracker. They offer both a paid and a free version, which you can find here: Wordtracker works with a different set of data than Google uses, so you’ll see very different numbers in terms of search volume. Also, Google’s numbers represent the average searches per month for a given term, while Wordtracker reports the number of searches in a year.

It’s also important to note that Wordtracker does not use Google as one of its data sources. Since Google represents about 70% of all searches performed on the Internet, that means Wordtracker’s numbers appear to be far lower than Google’s. Don’t be surprised when you see, for example, that “women’s clothing” is only searched 1,200 times per year. That’s not an exact number, and is really only useful when used in comparison with other keywords, as we’ll discuss later.
While the search volume reported by Wordtracker might not be spectacular, they do offer one feature that Google lacks – drill down.

Drill down gives you the ability to begin with a very broad keyword, like clothing, and refine it down to the narrowest possible long-tail keyword. Each term you search will return 100 related and more specific keywords. For example, if we search for clothing, one of the results is “plus size clothing.” Clicking on that phrase brings up a new list, beginning with “Catherine’s plus size clothing.” A click on that gives us “Catherine’s plus size women’s clothing.”

As we’ll see later, this is a very useful way of organizing keywords, and Wordtracker does all the work for you.

SEO Book

The folks at SEO Book offer a free keyword discovery tool for registered users. Registration is free, so there’s no risk, and you might find the information helpful.

SEO Book tells us not only what Wordtracker reports for search volume, but also what Google, Yahoo!, and Bing report as well.

For the big three search engines, the numbers are all daily searches, not monthly or yearly as Google and Wordtracker report.

SEO Book also gives you convenient one-click access to Google Trends and Google Insights for Search, which will tell you what the search trends are for a specific keyword (is it going up or decreasing?), where the searchers are from, what the top ten related search terms are, and even what they predict the search volumes will do in the future. If you’re targeting a hot topic, like the coolest toys for Christmas, this information can be very helpful, indeed.

Market Samurai

Market Samurai is perhaps the most popular of the paid keyword discovery tools. For a one-time fee (currently $147) you can download and make use of this powerful data discovery tool.

Market Samurai uses Google’s own keyword API to obtain its data, so you’ll see the same numbers here as you would if you used Google’s External Keyword Tool. However, where Market Samurai really shines is in the way it allows you to manipulate the data.

Rather than keeping a simple spreadsheet or notebook with all your keywords manually entered (we’ll touch on this later), Market Samurai does all the work for you. It allows you to organize keywords by group, eliminating those that obviously don’t fit with your marketing plan. You can also analyze keywords using Market Samurai’s proprietary features that claim to give you insight into the marketability and profitability of certain keywords.

While this information is interesting (if unproven), two things make Market Samurai a great tool for ongoing research: Competitive analysis and rank tracking.

In the SEO Competition module, Market Samurai will find and analyze the top ten search results for each of your keywords. You’ll be able to see at a glance how difficult it will be to climb the search results page based on the number of backlinks, the age of the domain, and how effectively keywords are used on the site. In short, you’ll be able to see on one screen whether you should include or exclude a keyword from your list.

Once you’ve decided on your keywords and built your site, Market Samurai helps keep you on track by monitoring your site’s rank for each of your chosen keywords. Not sure where to go next with your marketing campaign? Market Samurai will tell you at a glance that your page about “women’s plus size capris” is falling in the rankings, so you’ll know immediately it’s time to get the word out about that page.

Do those two things make Market Samurai worth the price? Only you can decide, but they do have a seven day free trial so you can check out all the tools they offer.

Pick One, and Stick With It

There are literally dozens of keyword research tools available, from the very simple to the powerfully complex, and from free to extremely expensive (some even have a high monthly fee).

The important thing is to choose one tool and use that one tool exclusively. Otherwise, the different
numbers you are presented with combined with the variety of options each has will only result in
keyword confusion. You’ll end up targeting keywords which won’t work for your business, and entirely missing others, just because one tool said something that opposed another.

Pick one tool, learn to use it, and use it exclusively. That’s the real key to effective keyword research.

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