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Using free tools to create a basic SEO keyword report

29th October 2015

Key points:

  • Understand the workflow for keyword planning using Ahrefs, Alexa Ranking, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster, MozBar, SemRush and SpyFu.
  • Investigate the keywords that people use to find your website and those of your competitors.
  • Prioritise your list based on a trade-off between volume and competition.

Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion in the number of tools available to PR professionals, this lead Ketchum's Stephen Waddington to lead a PR Stack project. Over the next couple of week's we'll be exclusively publishing 4 of the most useful tools.

#1 Investigate existing keywords (30 minutes)
Access your organisation's Google Analytics account. Make sure it's connected to your Google Webmaster account.

This spreadsheet shows you what Google Search terms are sending people to your website. Hundreds of them. In priority order (look at the ‘Landing Pages’ too to see which work best).

#2 Build your own list of keywords (60 minutes)
Contact your client/colleagues (suppliers/stakeholders too). Ask them what they think people would type into Google to find your organisation.

You'll have your own thoughts. Make a list.

#3 Investigate competitors (60 minutes)
Now for a first look at your competitors:

Gold dust. Particularly the keywords, if available. These are often the phrases your competitor thinks will get people to their site. You're getting inside their minds: mining their intent. 

#4 Explore your competitors' keywords (60 minutes)
Use Ahrefs (Positions Explorer) and SpyFu freemium tools to find the search queries driving the most traffic to your competitors' sites.

You're looking for the top five organic keywords. Run your own site too.

Repeat the same process for SemRush. It reveals the top 10 organic keywords. Click on ‘Organic Research’ in the left hand column then ‘View full report’ before grabbing.

#5 Use Google Keyword Planner (90 minutes)
Set up a Google Adwords account and get all of your keyword phrases into the Keyword Planner.

I prefer to look for 'closely related' terms too. This way you get all the phrases from your lists but generate some extra nuggets you won't have thought of (often with complete data).

Set a bid, and a budget, and download your plan.

Then, delete the spreadsheet columns you don't need.

Leave yourself with: ‘Keyword’, ‘Average Monthly Searches’, ‘Competition’, and ‘Suggested Bid’.

#6 Keyword volume vs competition (30 minutes)
Everyone likes a magic formula. This one's from Larry Kim at WordStream.

“...You want to go after keywords with some volume, because they’ll have a better return in terms of traffic. But you don’t necessarily want to go after the most competitive keywords, because you’re less likely to be able to rank for them. You’re looking for a sweet spot.

"Take the number of monthly searches for the keyword, multiply that by the suggested bid, then divide it by the competition level on that keyword.”

#7 Refining your keyword list (90 minutes)
Remember that Google built Keyword Planner to help people buy adverts not affect its organic search results.

While Larry's formula is useful, you must consider the following:

Bonus tip: Sometimes you need to throw the keyword report out of the window and think out of the box.

I've had three separate pieces of business by ranking first for ‘£5k digital scotland voucher’. This search term would never have shown up on any keyword report. 

The key here is to write for your customers and know what they want. I wrote an engaging blog post to alert my SME customers that there was free money to spend on digital marketing (the implication being on someone like me).

This also shows that even with the lowest DA of all sites on Google’s first page for this search term, my post comes out top. Why: it’s engaging, well SEO’d, and I got in there first.

At the end of this step you want:

#8 Write well
If you spend time doing a keyword report don't leave it lying in a cupboard. Whether you're writing a page for a website or penning a blog post, use your keyword phrase:

Above all else write well or no-one's going to read your content. 

About David Sawyer
David owns Glasgow-based Zude PR. He helps businesses and organisations to use SEO, media relations, content marketing and social media marketing. To sell their product/cause to the right people.

Visit PRstack for more information and to learn about the 250+ digital and social media PR tools and 48 how-to guides that the community has written. The education initiative is the brainchild of Ketchum's Stephen Waddington and Prezly's Frederik Vincx.

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