What Is a Keyword Tool? (Podcast)

In this episode of Marketing Madness, John McDougall and John Maher talk about keyword tools. They explain how these tools work and why they’re important when writing a website. Then, they recommend free and paid keyword tools for listeners to try.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and this is Digital Marketing Madness. This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing agency in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Today, my guest is our president, John McDougall, and we’re doing a quick overview or tips on what is a keyword tool, and why do I need one for SEO? Welcome, John.

John McDougall: Hey, John.

What Is a Keyword Tool?

John Maher: Just the most basic question, of course, John, would just be, what is a keyword tool?

John McDougall: A keyword tool lets you see how many people search every month for individual keywords so you can select what you’re going to target.

Why Should I Use a Keyword Tool to Choose Keywords?

John Maher: And why do I need to use keyword tools in order to pick keywords from my website?

John McDougall: Because you want to not only pick what you’re going to target, but you need to make it effective. Because if you pick a keyword in the energy industry, we had a client that picked the word “cables.” Cables is ridiculously broad.

They’re not going to just rank for cables, but utility industry cables or something like that would be more likely. Or the word “solar,” would be too broad. “Solar panels” is really pretty aggressive. That’s a keyword that gets a lot of searches every month. But if you want to… depending on the quality of your website and how long you’ve been writing content and things like that, you might want to find out some keywords that get less searches per month, but they’re more realistic for you to rank for, like “solar panel,” “solar panel companies,” things like that.

So a keyword tool lets you find the right phrases that people actually search for every month, and then you have to dissect which ones you’re going to target.

Keyword Tools Help You See What People Search for

John Maher: Right. Cause you don’t want to just be guessing. Maybe you’re writing a page for your website, maybe you’re writing a blog post or something like that, and you don’t want to just go off the topic of whatever it is that you’re writing about and just say, “Oh, well, probably people search for this keyword, so I’ll just focus on that keyword.” You want to actually find out how many searches per month there are for that keyword in various variations of that.

John McDougall: Yeah, it’s actually surprising sometimes I think. Well, yeah, I’m trying to come up with the right phrase for my title tag or the headline of a blog post, and I phrase it a certain way, but I should check with the keyword research tool before I lock that into stone. And it’s like, “Oh, Jeez.” Yeah, oddly, people search a little differently than I thought, and this is going to be more effective if I shift it for the trends of how people are searching. And those trends change all the time.

In fact, there are millions of searches every day where people are searching Google for things that Google has never even seen before. Like right now there’s the whole thing going on in Ukraine, so the nuclear power plant issue. If you’re writing about news about energy, the phrases that people are using for that topic right now are different than they were a month ago. So it really helps to double check not only what historically have been good keywords, but what’s trending right now.

What Keyword Tools Do You Like to Use?

John Maher: Right. Okay. So what keyword tools do you generally like to use?

John McDougall: Well, I prefer SEMRush only because I use it across the board as more of like a full SEO suite of tools. Now at the level I’m using, it’s around 500 bucks a month. I mean, they have a hundred and something dollars a month version, but for a lot of people, that might not be doable. So I like that. There are all kinds of tools. Neil Patel has Ubersuggest. If you log in, if you have Google ads running, or if you create a Google ad account, you can use the Google Keyword Planner tool.

But one that I found recently, a free keyword tool that I like to recommend to people that don’t have the budget for an expensive one, is from AHREFS, which the spelling is A-H-R-E-F-S. We have used that for years as a link building tool, link analysis tool, but they do a good job of giving you a free keyword research tool. So again, it’s A as in apple, H-R-E-F-S, and it’s a free keyword research tool. If you just search Google for that, you’ll find it. When we post this, we can put a link up to it. I think that’s a good place to start. Link to AHREFS.

If you can afford the SEMRush toolset, that’s a great place to have a lot of things beyond just that keyword tool.

Using a Keyword Tool to Select Keywords

John Maher: Right. Why don’t you start with the AHREFS as an example, and tell us how you use a keyword tool in order to pick SEO keywords. Again, maybe you’re writing a page for your website, maybe you’re writing a blog post, what’s your process for using a tool like that to go and pick the right keywords?

John McDougall: Well, we could use an example of this podcast right here. So keyword research tools, the tool itself is just like searching Google. It has a search box, and you just throw in whatever phrase you want, and hit Go, and then it’s going to show you a list of all the related things that go with the keyword research tool.

And then on the right, it says KD for keyword difficulty. I would just say don’t worry about that for right now, that’s a more advanced SEO thing to think about. And then to the right of that letter where it says KD, keyword difficulty, it has the monthly search volume. That’s what mostly you’re concerned with if you just want to get started. So you say keyword research tools, and then up comes keyword research tools, free keyword research tools, blue, green, red, whatever flavors that it’s going to suggest to you.

And then on the right again, it’s the monthly search volume. So 3,400 or whatever people a month look for this way that you… keyword research tools, free keyword research tools, maybe it’s 30,000 a month. It’s going to show you all these varieties and then the monthly volume, and then you just have to decide, like I said, do you go after something super broad like keyword research tools or… The word cables would be too broad for that term, but say, keyword research tools might be more broad than we want for this topic. So I would say free keyword research tools. And then you see it has less searches a month potentially than keyword research tools, but maybe that fits this post better, and I have a better shot at it. So that’s a quick idea of how you use it.

Benefits of Using Longer Keywords

John Maher: The other thing to keep in mind, I think too, I is that by using a longer phrase like free keyword research tools, you’re targeting something that’s maybe a little bit more specific, it still gets some searches, you might be more likely to rank or something like that, but the other keyword, just keyword research tools, is also contained within that. So if you’re using free keyword research tools in your text throughout that blog post, for example, you are also using the phrase keyword research tools. So if both of those get a lot of searches by using the longer phrase, you’re actually covering both of them.

John McDougall: Yep. And then I could write a longer article or do a longer podcast, everything to know about keyword research tools inside and out, and every last detail, and then I could say… Link to this short podcast, just about the free keyword research tools. And by stringing those together, Google sees that you have a lot of content on that topic. Yeah, that’s roughly how you use it.

What About Competitors Keywords?

John Maher: What about competitors’ keywords? Can you find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, and then try to maybe target those same keywords?

John McDougall: Yes. I would use SEMRush for that. So we’re going to do another podcast shortly that’s on a deeper dive on competitive research. But that’s a great point. It’s a lot of work to go picking away at things. For example, I might want to put in “keyword research tools” and put in “SEO” and all these different terms, or I could just put in my top competitor’s URL, and up comes everything they’re ranking for, and that’s going to give me a bunch of ideas.

And I can look through that spreadsheet and look for whether it’s “keyword research tools” or “SEO’, or whatever my competitors are coming up with. So I don’t know that AHREFS gives that away for free. I think that they do that as well, but I think that’s part of their paid tool set. But definitely, as a way to get started with a free tool, I think that AHREFS is a good one. You bring up that great point of, why not make my whole keyword tool thing easier if I can…

I don’t have to even do the research, my competitors are already ranking for most of the keywords I want to rank for. Just put in their URL, but now you’re crossing over into that territory of a paid tool. So that’s part two, and we’ll have a podcast about that up soon as well.

Contact McDougall Interactive to Learn More

John Maher: All right. That’s really great information, John. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

John McDougall: All right. Good. Talk to you soon.

John Maher: And for more information about digital marketing, visit mcdougallinteractive.com, and please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes. Thanks for listening. I’m John Maher, and see you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.

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