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Barrie Smith

The Top 3 Tools I Depend on for Keyword Research

Barrie Smith

When I get a new client, or even when I have a current client that I am looking to explore with new terms, keyword research is an essential part of our marketing plan.

Brand building is also an essential part for any marketing campaign.  One method to increase visibility on the web is to rank at the top of Google (or for my competitors, near the top and just below me).  Thus, receiving all that exposure for people searching for the keywords you rank number one for.  Or above the fold at least.

Finding the right keywords to rank for is an important skill to any digital marketer like me.  So here are the tools I use to find keywords to target:

1. Google Analytics

Provided the client has installed Google Analytics (for free) on their website ahead of my starting on their campaign, I can gather a large list of keywords that are sending traffic to their website as well as other important information such as which ones are converting.

All of these keywords can be exported into a spreadsheet to make life much easier (Microsoft Excel is one of my favourite applications, and is my most-used), like so:


From here, I can add new columns to the data I already have.  The website’s position in Google, the page that is ranking, and a column for exact monthly searches; data provided for Google’s Keyword Tool (more on that later).


By this time I have made the spreadsheet look all fancy and the data is starting to take shape.

After working out what positions they are currently in and seeing where there is room for improving certain keywords, I’d also like to expand on the current list.  After all, there are a few terms in that list that are providing less than 1,000 monthly searches.

There’s nothing wrong with that because some of them convert very well, and all targeted traffic is good.  But I’m being paid to drive more than a % of 280 searches per month that the ninth term in that list is offering.

And that’s where the Google Keyword Tool comes in…

2. Google Keyword Tool

Having already used this tool to find out the monthly searches, the Google Keyword Tool is great for expanding our original list of keywords.

“Ferry to France” was the top keyword in our spreadsheet, so I enter this keyword into the tool to find similar search terms:


As you can see, this is a campaign I worked on earlier, as “ferries to France” and “cheap ferry to France” are two terms that stand out in this new list, but we’re already ranking for them.  “Cheap ferries to France” has appeared in the results too, with 2,900 monthly searches that could boost our traffic.

I add these keywords to the original spreadsheet, along with the monthly searches and I find out (manually) where the website is ranking in Google for each of these terms.

Whilst searching for each of these keywords in Google to see where they rank, I am building a picture of who this client’s biggest competitors are – the ones that are appearing at number 1, or at least in the top 3 positions, and the ones that are appearing on a number of occasions for all of these keywords.

These can be noted down in a spreadsheet or a Notepad file and then we can take a look at all of their rankings. That leads me on to the next tool.

3. SEMRush

Travelsupermarket.com/c/ferry/, ferrysavers.co.uk and ferrycheap.com are the three websites I picked out from searching for the keywords. I decide that the top result, travelsupermarket.com, wasn’t related closely enough – they’re going to appear for money-related keywords and not ferry keywords.  So, I enter the other two into SEMRush individually.


By scrolling through all of these keywords I can pick out ones that I feel may be related.  Does my client offer “ferry to Jersey”?  Yes.  Add to list.  Does my client offer “ferry to Calais”?  Yes – why aren’t we ranking for this? Etc., etc.

SEMRush gives me a lot more data than just keywords and their search volumes.  It pulls in data from Google, such as how competitive Google judges these terms to be, PPC traffic bids, etc.  But in this instance, I am using it for researching keywords.  And now I have a lot more to add to the target list.

There are many tools out there you can use, some free, some paid.  Combining the three I have showed you will allow you to find new keywords and expand your list greatly, as good as any other combination of tools out there.  I am happy to pay $69 a month for SEMRush as it’s a lot more powerful than just keyword research.  But that’s a blog for another day.

Author bio:
Barrie Smith is an SEO consultant for Receptional Ltd. His last article for SEMrush was “Protecting Yourself From the Penguin."

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