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Google Keyword Tool: Best Practices

This SEO blog article concentrates on using the free Google Keyword Tool to identify target key phrases for a web site. While the Google Keyword Tool is geared towards use with an AdWords campaign, it is also relevant for general keyword research.

Get started with your keyword research by writing out any and all possible target key phrases that apply to the web site. If you are working on behalf of a client (i.e. you do not own the web site in question) then have a conversation with a knowledgeable person affiliated with the web site and get some feedback regarding potential target keywords.

Using the Google Keyword Tool

Now that you have first draft of your target key phrases navigate to the Google Keyword Tool. Once there make sure you login to your Google Account. This allows for related key phrases to be returned by your search.

(Note : if you are not satisfied with your initial list you can use the “Website” option to see what keywords are popular at a competitor’s site.)

Enter Keyword into Tool

The next step is to enter all of your key phrases into the “Word or phrase” textbox. I recommend adding as many alternatives as you can think of such as: singular and plural versions of keywords; regional alternatives like “Canada” and “Canadian”, etc.

Keyword Targeting Options

Make sure that you:

  • Apply any Location, Language and Device targeting options that apply to your client or business via “Advanced Options and Filters”.
  • Do not check the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” checkbox the first time around. This will allow for a wide range of alternative keyword ideas to be returned.
  • Check the “Phrase” match type along the left-hand side. This will show phrase matches whereby the given phrase is part of a user’s search query (Google places a heavy emphasis on exact and partial phrase match when returning search results).

Then click on the “Search” button. Google will return metrics on your entered key phrases, and will also return information on suggested keywords that you did not specify.

Google Keyword Tool Results

The returned metrics are as follows (you can hide/show columns via the “Columns” button):

  • Competition: an indication of how competitive a key phrases is.
  • Global Monthly Searches: how many global searches are performed for the given key phrase.
  • Local Monthly Searches: this value will be for a specific country if you selected a country as a targeting option. Note that if you target multiple countries or target “All Countries” then the global value will be returned for this column.

Points to Note

  • Keep an eye on the level of competition. New web sites (or web sites that have poor rankings) will not get instant top rankings for competitive keyword phrases.
  • Long-tail terms (3 or more words in the target key phrase) are not a bad thing; they are actually a great way to go after quick traffic, especially for new web sites or poorly ranking web sites with relatively few back links.

Download and Review

You can repeatedly run new searches, adding new key phrases as you go.

Once you are satisfied with the results you can download the target keyword list by clicking on the “Download” button. A common format is “CSV for Excel”.

If you are working on behalf of a client send this downloaded list to the client for review, and get their feedback.

Another great practice is to take the most important target keywords that you’ve identified and then check them using Google Insights for Search to see if there are seasonal trends, upward or downward trends with time, etc. There is follow-up SEO blog article about using Google Insights for Search coming shortly!

2 Responses to “Google Keyword Tool: Best Practices

  1. Thanks for the article. This will help me out with my web site!

  2. Great keyword tool review, gives a very detailed description of the inner workings.

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