A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about the practice of link building, and talked about how it was a time-tested SEO technique. But even before link building, there was keyword research - the oldest SEO strategy. Over the years, the search engines have gotten better and better at identifying keyword spam. But this hasn't made keyword research less relevant - if anything, it has only become more crucial to choose the right keywords, because you can effectively use fewer of them.
At the heart of keyword research is figuring out which words you should use to describe and categorize your business. To help you do this, here are three free keyword research tools that are easy to use and highly informative.
The first is the WordStream Free Keyword Suggestion Tool. To use it, simply enter a search term or phrase into the large text field provided, and click "Get Keyword Ideas". It will often return tens of thousands of related search phrases. The first 100 can be viewed onscreen; to see the rest, you'll have to submit your email address. But even the first 100 (which are the 100 most relevant) can be extremely helpful. For example, when I entered "books", it suggested searches such as "comic books", "fiction books", and "non-fiction books".
The second tool is the Wordtracker Keyword Suggestion Tool, and it works in much the same way as the WordStream tool. The key difference is that Wordtracker only offers 100 results for free, and requires you to pay for the rest. But I said above, 100 suggestions is a fantastic start. I like to use these two tools in conjunction to get new ideas and identify the very strongest key phrases (those that appear in both lists).
The third tool is from Google, and offers much more detailed information than the previous two. It's called Google Insights for Search, and where the first two sites can recommend related keywords, Google Insights offers detailed information about search frequency, location, and changes over time. For example, a search of "cupcakes" shows that searches for this keyword have sharply rose since 2004 in the US. By playing with the various filters, you can discern things such as, over the last year, Delaware is the US state that has shown the most search interest in "cupcakes" (relative to their other searches).
These facts may sound trivial, but if you're in the cupcake business, how could it hurt to keep your finger on the pulse of online searchers? Knowledge is power! Hopefully all three of these tools will put more power into your online marketing efforts.