Guest post generously contributed by Matthew Capala, Founder and CEO of Alphametic.
Do you rely on Google’s Keyword Planner to research keywords for your website’s metadata and on-page content? So does your competition. In fact, your competition is probably a few steps ahead of you.
The best keywords to target at the outset are long-tail keywords, or what I like to call “Golden Nugget” keywords. Especially if your site doesn’t have high domain authority yet, it’s unrealistic to rank for commonly searched, competitive short-tail keywords like “SEO” or “curly hair.” You are much better off picking your battles by identifying low-cost, emerging keywords that often present untapped sales opportunities.
In the world of Google’s Rankbrain, A.I, voice search, Google’s Knowledge Graph, and modern search engine algorithms – traditional forms of keyword research just no longer apply. The modern digital landscape is underpinned by algorithms and indexed by robots forged to understand how humans think – from intention to semantics.
Anyone who’s dipped their toes into keyword research knows the common tools: Google Ads Keyword Planner, SEMrush Magic Tool, Google Search Console, Ahrefs, etc. These keyword research tools are highly effective and are used industry-wide. However, their popularity also means that your competitors are finding their keywords there too.
To find relevant keywords that your competitors haven’t discovered yet, you’re going to have to get creative with your keyword research process. Here are the five unconventional free keyword research tools that you can use to outrank your competition in 2020:
Keyword research is more than picking out words that people search for. In order to effectively optimize your content, you need to get to the heart of what your audience is thinking and talking about.
The good news? There are free, public discussion boards called forums where you can see exactly what your audience is talking about.
The first step is to search for a forum in your business’s industry (e.g. “curly hair forum”) on Google. Most forums have categories where you can niche down even further (e.g. “natural curly hair products”).
Next, find popular discussions with high rates of replies and comments. If people in your niche are engaged with that post, chances are they’re going to be searching for related solutions as well. This is a great opportunity for you to write a blog post answering their query.
Look into the popular discussions and pick out keywords that you think you can form content around. Then, plug those keywords into a tool like Google Ads Keyword Planner to see if they have any search volume.
Besides niche forums, you can also get keyword ideas from general discussion boards like Reddit and Quora.
Google Predictive Search
You’ve seen this before: you’re typing something in Google, and it starts to auto-complete your query.
Why does Google do this? First of all, it makes it easier for the searcher: instead of typing out the entire query, they can select an auto-filled search phrase from the dropdown. Secondly, it gives the searcher ideas on how to further narrow down their search, so that they can get the most relevant search results possible.
Google doesn’t pull these predictive search phrases from thin air. They’re based on popular searches and what Rank Brain predicts that users want to search when they start typing out a query.
You can use this as a way to come up with your own keywords; after all, SEO is about getting to the heart of what your users want and how to best help them find you.
Start by typing out a keyword related to your product or service. Take a look at the predictive search dropdown that follows, and see if you can pick out any relevant queries that you can incorporate into your keyword strategy.
Suggest tools scrape data from Google to give you relevant keyword suggestions. Below are the top suggest tools to get long-tail keyword and content ideas.
This tool shows you all the related searches at a massive scale. It organizes queries into question form (where, what, how), prepositions (to, for, can, with), and comparison phrases (vs, or, like). Based on the type of query, you can map out the long-tail keywords based on user intent (e.g. question phrases in FAQ sections and article content).
Neil Patel’s free suggest tool, UberSuggest, is an excellent tool for building deep keyword lists that can be implemented into your keyword mapping and keyword tracking strategy. It also has an international filter, making it a great tool for sourcing geotargeted keywords.
Keywordtool.io differs from other suggest tools in that it offers Bing and Amazon results, which is particularly useful for eCommerce businesses. It also offers advanced filtering capabilities, with the ability to include and exclude specific keywords.
Google Related Search
Similar to Google Predictive Search, Google Related Search gives users ideas for searches related to what they looked up. Google curates these based on related queries that other users have made. Related search helps you get to the bottom of user intent, allowing you to find relevant long-tail keywords and content ideas.
Google Trends identifies search trends over time, and is a great way to find long-tail keywords based on your product or service. Once you can find a trending search term, create content on it to rank for that term before your competitor does.
Google Trends also shows you which regions have high searchability for a specific term, so you can develop a local SEO strategy based on which keywords rank geographically.
The Bottom Line
Some of the best SEO strategies take an outside-the-box approach. With these unconventional keyword research techniques, you can get started finding long-tail keywords that will put you on the SERP and in front of customers’ eyes, and ahead of the competitors.
While small businesses and entrepreneurs may opt to pay for hiring a consultant and SEO agency, marketers who want a do-it-yourself guide can check out my “Keyword Research Like a Pro” book on Amazon, which is also offered as a training program on Udemy.
Do you know of any other unconventional keyword research tools or strategies? Feel free to share them in the comments or get in touch with me on social media.
Matthew Capala is a digital marketing strategist, speaker, author, and Founder/Managing Director of Alphametic. As a practitioner above all, he has spent the last 14 years delivering results to some of the most iconic brands in the world, leveraging the latest tools and strategies in SEO, SEM, content, social, and digital ads.
Want to get more awesome SEO advice like this from Matthew in person? Check out his session at several upcoming Digital Summit events — including Digital Summit LA, Tampa, Atlanta, and Portland.