Keyword research doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Use this free strategy to find the right keywords in just minutes, without any tools.
I just sat down at my desk with the blank screen staring back at me. I wasn’t sure what I should write about today. I started doing keyword research to find out what people want to read from a copywriter.
How do you find out what people want to read?
Some tools can help. Or you consult Google directly. In this article, you learn about my free keyword research technique you can use without any tools. It’s quick, easy, and guaranteed to work.
Why NOT to use a keyword research tool.
I pay $200 a month for SEMrush, and I use it almost every day. It’s the key to almost all my SEO work and a big part of my keyword research process.
But a paid tool doesn’t have to be a part of yours.
There are various (really good) reasons not to use any keyword research tools.
Keyword research tools aren’t accurate.
Looking at the volume according to SEMrush, it’s 90 searches per month.
In reality, there were 253 impressions in April.
This is a minor discrepancy. Especially long-tail keywords appear to have low search volume, but once you publish an article that ranks well, you get tons of traffic from it.
This happens because those SEO tools can’t access Google’s data. They can only estimate it. Here’s how SEMrush does it:
"For search engine rankings and keyword analytics, we use third-party data providers to collect Google’s actual search results pages for the 500 million most popular keywords. Then, we collect information about the websites that are listed in the top 100 positions. We study both organic search results as well as paid search results to give you a complete picture of any website’s visibility on Google."
SEMrush’s database is incredibly impressive. But it’s far from perfect.
There is a learning curve.
Before you can research a keyword, you need to learn how to use the tool properly. I went through several hours of training just to get the hang of it.
The free keyword research technique I’m about to show you doesn’t need any special skill.
Free keyword tools ain’t shit.
Please excuse the crude language. Too many people waste their time and effort on free keyword research tools.
If the biggest tools on the market can’t get accurate data, free tools are doing nothing but guesswork.
If they even find the keyword.
SEMrush showed a volume of 90 for just Switzerland. According to Ubersuggest, not a single soul in the United States is trying to improve their cold call opening line.
The results can give you anxiety.
A high percentage in the keyword difficulty column, a false reading on search volume, or a no-show for your favorite keyword is disheartening.
If you don’t know how these metrics work, they might do more harm than good.
Doing keyword research with a tool takes time.
I search for keywords in bulk, dig deep into the results, compile keyword lists, sort them by difficulty, volume, and length, export them, yadda yadda yadda.
It’s as good as an analysis can be, but it dramatically shortens your workday.
If you want to hit the ground running, try...
The free SEO keyword research strategy that doesn’t require any SEO tools.
Google makes for over 90% of all searches on the internet. It’s been like this forever, and it’s probably not changing anytime soon.
Lucky for us, Google tells us what people are searching.
The ABC technique.
Google’s goal is to help its users find answers. It uses its 3.5 billion searches per day to predict what you want to search for.
The more something gets searched, the higher it climbs in Google’s autosuggestions.
Start with your first search term and let Google come up with the ideas.
To get more suggestions, add all the letters from the alphabet behind your keyword, one by one.
Do the same by placing the letter in front of the search query.
People also ask.
Another way Google tells you what people want is the “People also ask” section. It’s crazy how little this technique gets used, given that Google hands us real search queries on a platinum platter.
Those are real questions real people ask. Often. Answer them better than the article that’s currently featured, and you take its place.
The last of Google’s treats is the related searches section. It’s at the bottom of the search results.
See that last one? Keyword research step-by-step? Guess what’s coming next.
How to do keyword research step by step (with example).
You know the techniques. Now, you’ll learn how to use them. I’ll take you step by step, from getting acquainted with your reader to searching for the right keywords. Work through it, and you’ll leave with a list of keywords you can start creating content for today.
Disclaimer: This is the most pragmatic keyword research method there is. It’s quick and dirty. I’ve used it to find many first-page ideas, but it’s nothing flashy and certainly nothing I’d add to a client presentation.
Who is your reader?
Every commercial writer needs to know who they’re writing for before they know what to write about.
While you’re typing up your article, you’ll be picturing a person sitting at the other side of a table in a dimly lit bar. That’s your ideal reader.
Flesh this ideal reader out as much as you can. Imagine their life, their goals, their desires, and their fears.
Keep them close to you. Anything you write, you write for them.
They’re your best imaginary friend.
Example of my ideal reader.
What does your ideal reader search for — Search query.
The search query is the word or phrase you put into Google’s search bar.
When you know your ideal reader inside out, you can imagine what they would search for to achieve their goals and avoid their fears.
Example of my ideal reader’s search query.
My ideal reader would want to publish the right blog posts. Blog posts that reach an audience. To learn how to discover topics worth writing about, she’d google “keyword research.”
What does your ideal reader really want — Search intent.
Most often, the search doesn’t represent the true goal. It’s just the starting point of a journey. There is more behind the search. That “more” is called search intent.
Once you know what your ideal reader is searching for, figure out what they really want to achieve.
Example of my ideal reader’s search intent.
If my ideal reader was looking to do keyword research, I assume she wants more than theoretical knowledge.
I assume she could use a guide of sorts. A guide that shows them how to do keyword research for free, step by step, perhaps?
ABC technique, people also ask, related searches.
Now you’re finished with the thought exercises. It’s time to open up Google. Start your research with the ABC technique.
When you find a keyword that you’d like to cover, add it to a spreadsheet.
Move on to the “people also ask” check and add the questions you’d like to cover to the same spreadsheet.
Scroll all down to the related searches. Add all related searches you’d like to cover to the spreadsheet.
Example of the keyword research process.
Going through a–e, I found some interesting keywords and added them to a spreadsheet titled “KW list—Keyword research.”
At f, I added “keyword research free” to the list
When I dug deeper into the “keyword research free” query, I found some more ideas. If you expand one of the questions via the little downward arrow, similar ones will pop up.
When I arrived at the “related searches” section, I found my golden horse. I thought I could help my ideal reader reach her goal best by targeting this particular keyword.
Rank the keywords in your spreadsheet.
You should have a big list of keywords staring back at you. Rank them from “I really want to write about that and would do an awesome job at it” to “If I have to, I’ll write it.” Delete the ones that don’t fit inside that spectrum.
Example of my keyword research spreadsheet.
There is just one column and I chuck all queries in it. Quick and dirty. No one but you are going to see this.
Once you’ve published an article on a query, mark it green on the spreadsheet. If you decide to ditch a query, delete it.
Gauge if you can create better content
Look at the top three results of your chosen search query. Can you provide more in-depth insight? A different approach? A unique spin?
If you can write something better than those three, go for it.
Example of the content I have to beat.
Those are big players, and they cover the topic extremely well. I needed a way to differentiate myself.
Those guides are going into detail about what keywords are, what tools you can use, and what hundreds of strategies there are. They are great if you want to become an expert.
My guide is for those who just want to get shit done. No digressions, no tools. And without spending a dime.
A guide is only as good as the person acting on it. If you read through this, start doing it. Find your keywords, write your first piece of content, and hit that publish button.
Example of the content I’ve created about that search query.
Well, you’re reading it right now.
That’s it. I’m out.