Targeted Keyword Research (without Google’s Keyword Tool)

by Cody Ray Miller

Last updated on June 19th, 2018

Keywords are the most important components of any website. They play a critical role in search engine optimization (SEO)—getting your website ranked high in search results and found by human users.

Of course, since Google announced the demise of its Keyword Tool, it’s an even bigger challenge.

You can spend a lot of money hiring an SEO expert to perform keyword research and optimization for you, or you can read this article and learn how to become a keyword master yourself—for free. I’ll show you how to do it.

Demystifying Keywords

Keywords really aren’t as complex as you may think. In fact, any word can be a keyword. Keywords merely describe what you have to offer your target audience (your product or service).

Targeted Keyword Research is used to determine the specific things your target audience is looking for, and how they are looking for them.

I’ll show you how to do this.

Getting Started: Selecting Your Keywords

First, identify at least three words or short phrases that describe your website, service, or product. For example, if you run an SEO company in Atlanta you might select the following words:

  • SEO
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Atlanta

Remember to start general and broad. Short phrases are appropriate if necessary (as in the term “search engine optimization,” above), but keep it simple.

Refining Your Keywords

Next, you want to examine how people are searching for your specific keywords. I use a free tool from for this.


You’ll need to register before you can use the Keyword Suggestion Tool, but it really is 100% free. Once you are logged in you can find the tool under Tools > Keyword Research > SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool, or visit the following link: Keyword Suggestion Tool.

Enter your keyword(s) in the form field and click “Submit.”


The results show you what keywords or keyphrases are most frequently searched by human users on major search engines. For example, see the results below.


What does this information tell you?

In the far left column we see phrases similar to our initial search (“SEO Atlanta”) listed by popularity.

Next, we have the WordTracker count. (You can learn more about WordTracker on their website.)

Most importantly, you are able to see daily estimates of how frequently these phrases are being searched on all major search engines (not just Google).

So, we started by searching the keyphrase “SEO Atlanta,” but have discovered that this exact keyphrase is not very popular with human users in search engines.

Instead, we find that users who are looking for SEO services in Atlanta are using the phrase “Atlanta SEO company” five times more frequently than “SEO Atlanta.”

Therefore, you would want to target the phrase “Atlanta SEO company” rather than “SEO Atlanta” because more people are searching for the phrase “Atlanta SEO company.”

Considering Competition

In theory, if you were to perfectly optimize your website for the keyphrase “Atlanta SEO company,” you could get five times the amount of traffic received by optimizing for the phrase “SEO Atlanta.”

However, we have yet to consider competition, and competition must always be considered when performing keyword research.

Think of keyword competition as a counterweight to the strength of your keywords.

You are looking for the strongest overall keywords, but those may not necessarily be the keywords with the most searches.

Competition always limits your effectiveness.

Bottomline: you want to find keywords that have a large number of daily searches with very little competition.

Interpreting Google Data

For this next part we are going to use Google exclusively, but Yahoo! and Bing provide the same basic information.

Let’s check out our competition by searching for “Atlanta SEO Company” in Google.


As you can see, you currently have 3,630,000 competitors for these keywords. You’ll need to outrank nearly all of them in order to get on the first page of Google (which is where you want to be).

Now, consider the alternative keyphrase: “local SEO Atlanta.”


This keyphrase has nearly one-third less competition (by volume). And although it receives fewer searches than “Atlanta SEO Company,” it may be easier to get your site ranked high on Google using this keyphrase.

In general, the more competition you find for a particular keyphrase, the more difficult it will be to successfully land on the first page of search results.

Sort of.

I’ll explain.

Page Weight

You’ve probably heard of Google PageRank, a ranking system whereby Google assigns a kind of “weight” to individual webpages. This “weight” determines how well any given page will rank on Google.

For example, say you have a page that is ranked “8” by Google (this is very good!), that page will likely climb to the top of the search results ahead of pages ranked lower than 8 by Google.

In general, less competition (by volume) is better, but page weight needs to be considered also.

For example, it will be easier to rank high for a search term with a large volume of competition and a low competitive weight overall than for a search term with a low volume of competition and high competitive weight overall.

Putting It All Together

So, how do you put everything together in order to determine whether or not your website can be competitive for a particular keyword or phrase?

First, use a PageRank checker to determine the weight of your own page. Then compare your PageRank to the PageRank of the sites on the first page of Google. You want each page to be at the same rank or lower than your own.

Tip: PageRank applies to each individual page of a website, so make sure you check the PageRank of the “exact” page you’re curious about.

Once you have found several keywords that return results with similar ranks as your own, compare their search volumes. Finally, select the keyword or phrase with the lowest competitive volume.


Congratulations! You now have the tools to conquer keyword research for any niche and from every angle. There is certainly more to learn, but you have a solid foundation from which to work.

For my next article I’m thinking about discussing PageRank in greater detail. What strategies or advice would you like to see in my next post?



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Cody Ray Miller

Cody Ray Miller is a young entrepreneur and the founder of Freedom Online Team, an internet business making money online. He also provides free MLM training to networkers.


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  1. Anonymous says:
    February 12, 2016 at 3:56 am

    We are so depended on Google for everything. This article is a nice guide for peaople who can not using google keyword tool. thanks for share

  2. Rahul Dubey says:
    September 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Hey Miller, Great to read search article.

    It’s not just a blog post…it’s something which can make a diference between creating a blog and creating a profitable blog. Though I had been searching for any such tool for last few month which not only provides keyword suggestion but also deatail analysis of total search volumes and CPC, but was anable to find any …. obviously all of those tools were for premium users. Finally my search is over and now I have got one for free. It’s all due to your this blog post. So really thanks for great work.

    However any more such tool if you know, please share with me.

  3. Mozie says:
    August 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Very nice article Neil. Definately going to head over to Wordtracker and check out the tool, looks good, maybe even going to write about it. With regards to “Putting It All Together”, you can do most of that with one click with Long Tail Pro Platinum. It saves me tons of time everyday.

    • Neil Patel says:
      August 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Mozie, glad we could help. Looking forward to hearing more from you 🙂

  4. Jack says:
    May 29, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Great Post. This is very useful for those who want to do a keyword research specially without using google’s keyword tool.

    • neil says:
      May 29, 2014 at 9:05 am

      Jack, glad you found it helpful. I think using all the resources at your disposal is vital for the best results 🙂

  5. Stephan says:
    April 22, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I have one confusion about google keyword tool, while reseaerching keyword search volume and competition which category should we choose for accurate prediction of traffic ?

    • neil says:
      April 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Stephen, I would narrow it down to geographic location to get the most accurate results.

  6. Brad K says:
    April 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I recently wrote about the process I have used for years when doing keyword research. focuses on showing small business owners how to get started with keyword research. Your list seems good, but you do not talk about limiting factors that must be considered when putting together a list.

  7. gaurav says:
    April 6, 2014 at 12:49 am

    The title should be “beginner’s method to find the right keywords”.. It’s basic information!

  8. Markus says:
    March 9, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Great post! Thanks for that. A great tool I personally use is SECockpit, which helps me to save a lot of time in keyword research. It also is able to find a lot of niche keywords.

  9. jackth says:
    February 3, 2014 at 12:06 am

    This is great to me.

  10. Lyndon says:
    December 5, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Just a quick “drive by” …
    You mention ‘Interpreting Google Data’ – and make the same generalised mistake many have (for many years).

    For starters, that “about” figure is completely useless in most cases (G have been saying that for years). It’s a wild estimate and can (does) vary as you go through the paginated results.

    Further – that figure includes “all matches” – so those that match all the words, variants of those words, partial matches (just some of those words), variant partial matches … etc.

    If you want a little more accuracy or idea of competition for a specific phrase – you use quotes. Be a tad more professional – use search operators.
    atlanta seo company = About 2,350,000 results >> Page 21 of about 2,750,000
    “atlanta seo company” = About 2,050,000 results >> Page 21 of about 2,050,000
    intitle:atlanta seo company = About 30,000 results >> Page 21 of about 30,500
    intitle:”atlanta seo company” = About 14,600 results >> Page 14 of 134 results
    allintitle:atlanta seo company = About 2,260 results >> Page 21 of about 2,220 results

    Those numbers show a stark difference in cometition level and targeting (not to mention showing just how inaccurate G’s “about” figure really is)

    Finally – this only gives you an insight (generalised) on volume of competition. Little indication of Level/Strength of competition, nor of search volume. At best, it’s a quick glance at the opposition through a foggy spy-glass … nothing I’d want to base a campaign on.

    • December 7, 2013 at 8:55 am

      Hmmm. This may be worth fleshing out for the blog.

  11. Wiktor says:
    November 9, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Hello, Nice article, Keyword Planner is rather tool for ad campaign planning, try Metrics11, it is really interesting tool to find out about keyword niche opportunities in Google organic results.

  12. Bhavik Vyas says:
    October 18, 2013 at 12:18 am

    As with all Google changes this will take some getting used to. I’m not certain the data set is right yet for keyword numbers. However, they fact that Google have implemented such an update means there will be more to come for keyword discovery.

  13. Yassin Madwin says:
    October 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I use semrush for keywords research it’s even better than google’s. it reveals exactly where your comeptition is ranking and where the money is rolling and that is the kind of information you like to have.

  14. Misha says:
    October 16, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Usually professionals don’t rely on Google Keyword tool. They use other tools as you mentioned. Google keyword tool gives very rough data. I like your post as it is very descriptive. I also follow the same steps for keyword refining.

    • October 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Misha. Happy keywording!

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