Keyword research should be the basis of any online marketing campaign. The simple goal of keyword research is to find out what your target audience is searching and what it will take to actually rank for those keywords and phrases. Without knowing what keywords you should be targeting, how will you effectively optimize your website, target phrases for link building, or know what content to develop for your audience? The following is the first of a three part series to help you set up a spreadsheet for your keyword research and discover the best keywords / phrases for both your main website’s search engine optimization and topics for content development. The next posts in the series will cover what data will help you choose the best keywords to target and additional resources you can use to learn more about keyword research.

Spreadsheet Set Up

The first thing you will want to do is set up a spreadsheet to record your data within. I have set up a basic spreadsheet that you can access at http://bit.ly/kwrgoogledoc. This document has columns for data using all tools mentioned in the first two parts of this series. You can add or delete columns as you wish in order to match your keyword research needs. The columns included are as follows.

  • Keyword
  • GAKT – Competition (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • GAKT – Global Monthly Searches (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • GAKT – Local Monthly Searches (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • GAKT – Approximate CPC (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • SEOmoz KA – Difficulty (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 1 (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 1 DA (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 1 RDLRD (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 2 (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 2 DA (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 2 RDLRD (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 3 (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 3 DA (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)
  • SEOmoz KA – Competitor 3 RDLRD (SEOmoz Keyword Analysis)

In this post, we’ll cover filling up the columns with keyword and Google AdWords Keyword Tool data. In the following post, we’ll look at how to narrow down those keywords using the SEOmoz Keyword Analysis tool (or some alternative methods if you are not a Pro member).
Saving the Google Docs Version
If you are signed into your Google account, simply use the File > Save option to save it to your documents and start filling it in with your information.
Downloading Excel and Open Office Versions
If you don’t have Google Docs, or would prefer to save it on your local machine, go to the Google Docs version and use the File > Download As to save it as your desired file type. I’d suggest Excel for best possible functionality.

Keyword Discovery

The first phase of keyword research involves coming up with new keyword ideas. Sometimes this is the most difficult part of the process as many people unfamiliar with keyword competition will select very broad words to target such as pizza, hotel, or Los Angeles. Others will pick obscure phrases that no one will likely search such as SEO/Link Building/Social Media (yes, I’ve seen people trying to similarly over-punctuated phrases). So the first thing you will need to do is find suitable, related phrases for their business.
You can always start with some simple brainstorming. Look at what the main focuses are on the website and jotting down keywords. I would suggest doing so within Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet application. Then, whenever you are ready to expand on those ideas, continue on to some great keyword tools.

Keyword Discovery Tools

The following are a great collection of free and premium tools that will help you discover new keywords related to your website or business.
SEMrush
Your next option is to check out the keywords competitors are using. One great tool for this is SEMrush. Simply enter a domain to see the top organic and ads keywords the website is getting traffic from.
Keyword Research SEMrush Keyword Ideas
If you are not a PRO member (which costs $79.95 per month), you can only see the first ten keywords under organic keywords or ads keywords by clicking on the Full Report link under each.
Keyword Research SEMrush Adwords
This is a great way to go if you are absolute uncertain what keywords you or your client should be targeting. It can definitely point you in the right direction.
Google Search Suggestions
Once you have some basic ideas to start with, you can expand upon them by using the freely available suggested search. Simply visit Google.com and start typing in a keyword in the search box. You will then see ten phrases related to your keyword pop up below as more targeted, suggested searches.
keyword research google suggested search
You can continue typing to get more detailed suggestions. As you can see, this will help you with long-tail and, in some cases, even local keyword phrases.
keyword research google suggested search expanded
Be sure if you are working with a local client that you change your Google settings to reflect results from their location as Google will assume you are looking in your location. This is when it is important to be signed out of your Google account for non-personalized recommendations. To change your location for local keyword suggestions, go to your search settings and add a city / state as your default location. Just be sure to change it back before doing some local searches for your own personal needs.
Alternative Search Suggestions
Looking for alternative suggested search boxes? The following search engines have similar suggested search options that appear below the search box when you start typing in keywords. Depending on your keyword, each search engine will offer different suggestions.

Most people stick with Google as that is the main search engine to target, but it still doesn’t hurt to get additional keyword ideas from elsewhere.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
The next tool up is the commonly referenced Google AdWords Keyword Tool. If you have a Google account and, better yet, an AdWords account, I would suggest signing in to those once you arrive on the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to get better results. To give you an idea, I searched for social media when I was not logged into my account and received 100 keyword ideas. I searched for it again when logged in and received 800.
google adwords keyword tool
My suggestion is if you are looking for keywords just for your static website and not interested in the cost per click pricing (CPC), go with the results without logging into Google AdWords. If you are interested in the CPC pricing and also getting keyword ideas to help with content development, go with the results while logged into Google AdWords.
Here is what each of the columns displayed in the Google AdWords Keyword Tool will tell you about each of the keyword ideas displayed.

  • Competition – “The Competition column gives you a sense of how many advertisers are bidding for a particular keyword. This data can help you determine how competitive the ad placement is.”
  • Global Monthly Searches – “The approximate 12-month average of user queries for the keyword on Google search.”
  • Local Monthly Searches – “If you specified a country or language for your search, this is the approximate 12-month average number of user queries for the keyword for those countries and languages.”
  • Approximate CPC – “This is the approximate cost-per-click you might pay if you were to bid on the keyword. The CPC is averaged over all the ad positions.”

You can learn more about the search traffic statistics shown in this tool in Google AdWords Help.
You can also select specific Match Types in the left side of the screen to further narrow down your information. This will change the traffic volume for Global and Local Monthly Searches based on the approximation of traffic that a keyword gets on Google based on the following types.

  • Broad – The sum of the search volumes for the keyword idea, related grammatical forms, synonyms and related words. If you were doing PPC and targeted the broad match for social media, ads would show with any searches including social or media. Organic results would include the same.
  • [Exact] The search volume for that keyword idea. If you were doing PPC and targeted the exact match for social media, ads would only show if someone typed in social media but not any other variation of that phrase.
  • “Phrase” – The sum of the search volumes for all terms that include that whole phrase. If you were doing PPC and targeted the phrase match for pizza dough, ads would show for anyone who typed in social media, with or without additional keywords such as social media marketing or about social media. Organic results would include only results including the exact phrase social media.

You can learn more about match types in AdWords Help. You can also see the difference in data based on the three match types using the phrase social media in order of broad, “phrase”, and [exact].

google adwords keyword tool match type data comparison
And if you were to use these match types in a search, you would get 419 million results for a broad match search for social media and only 304 million results for a phrase match search for “social media”.

Going back to the generic term social media, you might want to remove certain words from the keyword ideas. For example, you may not want to target anything about social media jobs, so you could add the word job under Exclude terms in the left side of the screen.
To export this data, use the Download button and export to your preferred format. You can then copy the data from the exported spreadsheet to your keyword research spreadsheet. You can also get this data for the keyword ideas you generated using SEMrush and suggested search by copying and pasting those keywords into the Word or phrase box and checking the box to only show ideas closely related to my search terms. Then export the data for those keywords and phrases by checking the boxes next to them under the Search Terms section.

At this point, you probably have a lot of great keyword ideas. In the next post, I will cover how to use the SEOmoz Keyword Analysis Tool (or an alternative method to get the same information if you are not a Pro member) to get additional data and then narrow down your keywords to the ones that you should most likely focus upon for your online marketing strategy.

Next Up: Part II – Analyzing and Choosing the Best Keywords

Click here to read the second post in this series.