Keyword research is one of the fundamentals of PPC. Keywords are the building blocks of nearly all search-based PPC campaigns. It’s one of the first tasks new PPC professionals learn – without good keyword research skills, one can’t build a good campaign.
There is a seemingly endless number of good keyword research tools out there. Some are free; some cost money. Some are more accurate than others.
But five free tools are often overlooked in the PPC keyword research process. These tools can help take your campaigns to the next level.
Google Trends isn’t a keyword research tool per se. It won’t give you thousands of keyword ideas on which to bid.
Instead, Google Trends provides data on search volume over time. It can tell you whether a keyword is gaining in popularity or falling out of favor among searchers.
Let’s look at an example: the term “Olympics.” Let’s say you’re in the travel business, and you have something to offer those who plan to attend the Games in London. You’re considering bidding on “Olympics” terms, but you want an idea of how much volume you might get.
This is where Google Trends comes in. While typical keyword research terms provide historical search volume data, Google Trends shows, well, how volume is trending – thereby helping predict future search volume. Here’s what the term “Olympics” looked like on July 25:
Not surprisingly, search volume skyrocketed over the last 4-5 weeks, as the Games drew closer. A detailed look at the graph reveals that search volume is 3-4 times what it was at the beginning of 2012.
As an advertiser, this means you can take the search volume estimate from your keyword tool and quadruple it.
It’s important to note that Google Trends works best for high-volume keywords; long-tail terms don’t have enough aggregate data to show trends.
Google Insights for Search
Google Insights for Search is like Google Trends on steroids. Not only does it provide trend data, it also shows top related search terms and rising searches:
Google Insights for Search essentially marries keyword research with trend data. Now you have the top keyword phrases related to your search term (“Olympics,” in this case), as well as rising searches: searches that have increased in volume recently.
This data can be used for keywords on which to bid – or, it can be used to research negative keywords that you might need to add to your account! If you’re promoting trips to London over the December holidays, for example, you’ll want to stay away from Olympic terms – and Google Insights can help you find those terms to negative out.
Google Contextual Tool
If you’ve been around search for a while, you might remember the Google Wonder Wheel: a fun tool that created visual maps of keyword sets and their relationship to one another. Not only was this a helpful tool for keyword research, it also assisted PPC managers in ad group creation – each keyword group in the Wonder Wheel could conceivably become an ad group in a PPC account.
Wonder Wheel went away about a year ago, but it’s been reincarnated as the Contextual Targeting Tool. I saw this link in my AdWords account, but its name led me to believe that it was a tool for the display network. Not so.
The Contextual Targeting Tool takes a single keyword, finds related terms, and groups them into ad groups. While not all of the keywords will be relevant, it’s now much easier to find those irrelevant terms and eliminate them.
For a detailed tutorial on using the Contextual Targeting Tool, check out this post.
Microsoft Ad Intelligence
By now you might be thinking that Google has a monopoly on cool and free keyword research tools. Not by a long shot! For a really different and insightful keyword research experience, download the free Microsoft Ad Intelligence tool. It’s an Excel plugin, so once you’ve installed it, it’ll be ready to use every time you open Excel.
This tool isn’t new, but it’s vastly improved over previous versions. Here’s a look at all the options the tool offers:
To use the tool, simply enter a keyword or group of keywords, select the cell(s), and then choose an option from the ribbon. Ad Intelligence will return your results as a new tab in the Excel spreadsheet, which is handy for uploading to your PPC accounts.
In fact, you can use the tool to directly post new keywords and ad groups to your adCenter account! How handy is that?
Facebook and LinkedIn
Social media channels probably aren’t the first things to come to mind when thinking about keyword research. But they can be incredibly useful for discovering what’s important to your target audience.
One quick and easy research trick is to log in to Facebook and/or LinkedIn and start typing your keyword into the search box. Even before you finish typing the word, you’ll start seeing a list of suggestions.
While the suggestions may not always translate into keywords, it gives you a great idea of what people are talking about and who the major players & stakeholders are. You can also get negative keyword ideas here. In the Olympics example, if the Paralympics are not relevant to you, then you’ll want to add that as a negative keyword.
You can use the same technique in the ads interface in both Facebook and LinkedIn:
From this list, Greek locations such as Olympia, Greece would be likely candidates for negative keywords.
The next time you need to do some keyword research, give one of these tools a whirl. What other free keyword research tools do you like?