How To Do Free Keyword Research For SEO

by | May 16, 2023 | SEO

Keyword research is one of the most important parts of SEO. Without it, the chances of your website ranking for, and getting traffic from the search terms your customers are using is almost non-existent!

Luckily, conducting keyword research doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. By the end of this article, you’ll learn how to do keyword research for free and find the keywords that can really move the needle for your business!

If you prefer to watch rather than read to learn something new, I’ve also uploaded a tutorial on YouTube, check it out below!

What Is Keyword Research?

Before we dive right into the process itself, it’s important you have an understanding of what exactly keyword research is in the first place.

Simply put, keyword research is the process of finding out what your potential customers or target audience is searching for/typing into Google, and then delivering content from your website that matches the search intent.

For example, say you want to rank for a search query like “hockey skates.” well you wouldn’t stand a great chance at ranking for this term with a blog post.

screenshot of first page of google results for the search term "hockey skates"

As you can see in the picture above, when “hockey skates” is typed into Google, the top 3 results are all some type of e-commerce collection page or category page.

By studying the first page of Google, and understanding the search intent of a given keyword you want to rank for, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.

We now know that “hockey skates” is a commercial keyword and that Google will reward pages that searchers can click on and find hockey skates to buy.

On the flip side, a search query like “best hockey skates for ankle support” is more of an informational search term that would be best served by a blog post that goes in-depth at answering this question.

first page of google results for the search term "best hockey skates for ankle support"

This is super important to keep in mind as we get into the actual keyword research tutorial. It’s imperative you create the type of content that matches the search intent of any keyword you wish to rank for!

How To Do Keyword Research For Free

Free Keyword Research Tools

To begin, here is the list of tools we will use in this video:

Step 1 – The Idea Dump / Brain Dump of Keywords

To kick things off, open your spreadsheet app of choice, and start writing down any of the keywords that you think would matter to your business.

You know your business better than anyone, so this step should be quite intuitive, don’t overthink it!

Some tips for this step. Be sure to include every service you offer as well as the locations you serve (especially important for local businesses).

So let’s use an accountant as an example. A brain dump of ideas could look something like:

  • small business accountant in toronto
  • toronto tax planning
  • income tax filing toronto
  • corporate tax accountant in toronto

etc, etc. You get the idea. Come up with as comprehensive a list as you can for your business.

Step 2 – Taking These Keyword Ideas and Inputting Them into Google Keyword Planner

Once you finish your idea dump, the next step is to open up Google Keyword Planner and copy+paste your list into the tool.

From that list of only 4 keywords I submitted to keyword planner, it spit out a total of 22 keyword ideas. Now imagine how many ideas you’d get if you submit a list of 10 or more keywords!

From this page, you’ll be able to see some relevant data that comes from Google itself, so you know the numbers are going to be fairly accurate.

You’ll gain an understanding of the number of average monthly searches for a given keyword, the three-month change in searches, the competition level, and the amount of money other businesses are spending on Google ads for these keywords.

Step 3 – Exporting The List To Your Spreadsheet & Cleaning Up The Sheet

The next step is to download the entire list of keyword ideas into a csv file. Once you have the csv, you can upload it to either Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.

At this point, I would recommend cleaning up your spreadsheet and deleting some of the unnecessary columns.

The columns that I like to keep include:

  • Keyword
  • Avg. Monthly Searches
  • Three Month Change
  • Competition
  • Top of page bid (high range)

Once you’ve cleaned up the column headings, it’s time to work through the list of the keywords themselves. Depending on the amount of ideas you submitted, and the output keyword planner gave you, you may end up with a list of 50+ keywords.

There is a high probability you’ll have duplicates or even some ideas that aren’t relevant to your business, so make sure to clean up the keyword list!

For example, on my list of accounting keywords, one of the keyword ideas spit out by Google was “free tax clinic toronto.” If I were a Toronto-based accountant that did not offer any free services, then I would delete this row from my list.

Step 4 – Get Even More Ideas From Your Direct Competitors

A brain dump of keyword ideas is a great start, but we can enhance the list even further by figuring out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, and making more valuable pages than them!

To start, think of the keyword you’d most closely associate with your business. For this article, I’m going to stick with the accountant example, so the keyword will be “toronto accountant.”

Input this into Google. From this point, Google is going to show you a list of Toronto accountant websites that are worthy of ranking on the first page for a competitive and commercial keyword like toronto accountant.

Take the URL’s of the top 3-5 websites ranking at the top of Google, and do a competitor analysis using keyword planner.

From the discover new keywords tab, click on “start with website” instead of start with keywords, input the URL from one of your competitors, and get results.

From this point, follow the same steps as earlier. Download the keyword ideas, and upload them to the same spreadsheet as earlier in a new tab. You’ll want to clean this list the same way.

Now at a certain point, the keyword ideas being output are likely to be quite similar. So do a thorough job of cleaning the results so that you don’t have duplicates or irrelevant results.

I would recommend highlighting the best keywords, and then creating another seperate spreadsheet tab for your curated list of keywords!

But there you have it!

Based off a keyword idea dump you created by knowing your business, combined with analysing the keywords your competitors are ranking for, you should be able to build a fairly in-depth list of keywords you can begin injecting onto your website for more Google rankings.

This is one of my preferred methods for finding keywords for various service pages + locations.

Once you build out these service pages, the next step you can do to really support your service/”money pages” is to write amazing content that is valuable to your customers and readers.

The best way to achieve this is to answer their most pressing questions, and this is where we’ll utilize the next tool, SEO Minion.

Finding Informational Keywords To Write Blog Content For

To start, you’re going to want to download the seo minion extension for either chrome or firefox.

Once you’ve installed the extension, take one of your service keywords from earlier and put it into Google.

For example, one of the service keywords I got from the previous steps was “income tax preparation toronto” so I typed that into Google, ran a search and from here we’ll scroll down to the People Also Asked section (PAA).

The PAA is a rich snippet feature from Google that provides searchers with further information related to their query that they may be interested in. This is great for us, because we can get a ton of questions right from Google that people are asking about our service.

screenshot of the people also asked section on the first page of Google

In the screenshot above, you can see the PAA results from Google on the left, as well as the SEO Minion extension in action on the right.

You’ll notice 3 buttons on the tool

  1. The Download / Copy Button
  2. The Dropdown Button – We want to select PAA & as many levels of questions as you’re willing to wait for
  3. The Go Button

What will happen when you select go, is the tool will open 4 levels (as depicted in screenshot) of questions related to our search term, and download them all to a csv file.

Once the tool is finished, and the file has been downloaded, simply create another new tab on your keyword spreadsheet, and upload the csv.

You will now have all the keyword ideas and competitor keywords on your curated list, plus a ton of informational keywords you can answer with blog posts, courtesy of SEO Minion!

Conclusion

As you can see, finding keyword ideas that you can use for your businesses website doesn’t need to be complicated or cost you a dime!

Google Keyword Planner and SEO Minion are just two of my personal favourite tools for finding keywords, but there are plenty of free tools out there. Some other options you can check out include Answer The Public or Also Asked.

Once you have your list of keywords, it’s imperative to ask yourself what kind of pages on your website will you be creating for those keywords?

Service landing pages?

Blog posts?

Ecommerce collection/category pages?

etc

You need to get the search intent of the keyword right if you want to stand a chance of ranking for the keyword, let alone on the first page of Google!

From that point, if you create amazing content and do proper on-page seo (injecting your target keyword in the appropriate places) you have a good chance of bringing in high-quality traffic to your website that is ready to convert on your offer!