The Best Free PPC Keyword Research Tools

One of the main advantages of PPC over other methods of online advertising (I’m looking at you, SEO) is that it’s pretty easy to get ad visibility on relevant keywords, providing that you’re willing to pay for it. Of course, this leads to PPC beginners tending to get a little overzealous with their keyword lists as they assume that the sky’s the limit with keywords in an ad group. I’ve seen the same scenario too many times: one campaign, one ad group, one bajillion keywords.

Needless to say, this is a pretty poor strategy if you really want to get results with a pay per click campaign. Sure, you’ll get a lot of traffic to your site, but think of how many of those clicks are totally unfocused. Do you really want to pay for someone to visit your site on a really general keyword that may or may not be relevant to your business?

A little initial keyword research can go a long way in saving headaches (and cost!) further along down the road. Fortunately, there are plenty of free resources out there on the internet to help you get great ideas for your PPC account. Here are just a few:

The SEO Book Keyword Research Tool is a great start for any serious keyword research. It’s a very convenient aggregator of keyword research. Not only does it give you estimated traffic for Google, Yahoo and MSN for each suggested keyword, but it also links to more detailed data from several other free tools. Highly recommended.

Google has some pretty great keyword research tools as well. If I just need some quick keyword data, the first place I go to is the Google Keyword Tool. It’s a good way to estimate what your budgets and bids should be, since it gives pretty reliable data on what your average cost per click will be to get top positions in Google. You can also get info on advertiser competition, approximate historical search volume, and the month when the highest search volume for that particular keyword was recorded. Don’t forget that you can even search by match type – there’s a drop-down menu on the upper right of the results. I use this a lot to get negative keyword ideas for accounts, since your able to analyze results by broad, phrase, exact, and negative match types.

For a wider view of keyword data, consult Google Trends and Google Insights for Search. The tools are pretty similar, but Insights for Search allows for a little better segmentation of data, and is great for determining regional or seasonal interest in keywords. Use these to anticipate when your search volume will peak, or explain why you’ve been seeing lows in search volume. This will help you better prepare for yearly budget expenditures, or look for specific geographical areas where you should be targeting more aggressively.

To get a look at what your competitors are up to, I recommend Spy Fu. It has a subscription service, but most often I find that I can get all the information I need out of the free option. If you analyze keywords, you can see which competitors are bidding on them. If you analyze URLs, you can see which keywords your competitors are placing ads on. It’s incredibly helpful to analzye the competitive field before you enter into a serious PPC campaign, and this is a great tool to get you that information.

Next week, we’ll talk about the best keyword research tool you’re not using: landing pages.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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One Response to The Best Free PPC Keyword Research Tools

  1. You mention the adwords keyword tool … google’s sktool is great for keyword research also