From Free-to-Premium: 10 Options for Tracking Keywords

You’ve probably already heard of keywords, but you might not have heard enough to know exactly how they work. Here’s the quick version in four bullet points:

●       People type words and phrases into Google while searching for things.

●       Google tracks which words they type and what kinds of websites people go to after typing their searches, using incredibly (and increasingly) complex and sophisticated algorithms.

●       Those algorithms pair specific websites with specific searches, which determines what order results show up in on the Google results page.

●       Understanding how that happens and how to get your page to pair with the searches your ideal clients use is your key to the most powerful free marketing available online.

Keywords are important for your small business’s website because they’re how users will find you. Google processes more than 40,000 search queries every second, which is around 3.5 billion searches per year. Simply put: A lot of people are looking for something online. In order to increase the likelihood of having your website visited in your industry’s keyword universe, you need to have high keyword rankings. Ideally, you should aim to be in the top five positions on Google, but being in the top 10 will keep you on Google’s first page, which garners the most traffic (or people coming to your website). In fact, 92 percent of all traffic comes from Google’s first page, with 33 percent clicking on the first organic (or, non-ad) link. This percentage decreases as your ranking decreases.

Knowing which keywords are trending and who’s competing with you for those hot searches can help you get these high position rankings over time. Organic marketing takes research, time and effort, and although it’s slow-going, it offers a high reward in the end. Of course, you don’t want to focus too much on lower search volume keywords (terms that not many people are ranking for), but you also don’t want to focus solely on extremely large search volume keywords. Having a healthy mixture of both takes a deep understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google, which can seem daunting for beginners. But don’t worry – these keyword tracking tools can help you start:


1. AdWords Keyword Tool is the granddaddy of free keyword tracking options, and the wizard behind the curtain for many other keyword products (which actually just access the AdWords tool, then report findings through a customized skin). Also known as Google Keyword Planner, it gives you a lot of options for your keyword research. You can include your product or service, your landing page, your product category, what regions you want to target and a date range. You can also search up to 800 specific keywords to see their estimated average monthly searches. This tool does require an AdWords account, which comes at no cost to you if you’re not using AdWords for paid search.

2. SEO Book offers a variety of for-pay memberships and training courses, but also offers a suite of SEO tools for both tracking keyword performance and analyzing how well your site pursues any keyword or key phrase you choose. With this tool, you can download CSV exports of the data, see roughly estimated daily search volumes for both Bing and Google, find various vertical community sites that are talking about your topic and what resources they’re mentioning and much, much more. You’ll need to create an account in order to access the tool, but creating an account is free!

3. Google Trends allows you to compare multiple keywords at a time, seeing which ones are rising or falling in popularity in your industry as well as across the world. Of course, you’ll probably stick to just the United States instead of worldwide, but if you’re looking to expand your market to other countries, this can help you reach that goal. Google Trends shows you how popular the keywords are performing in which states or countries the term is most popular in based on the timeframe you choose (from the past hour to a customizable timeframe). Google Trends also shows rising related topics and related searches, which can help you expand your keyword list.


4. Keyword Discovery analyzes keyword statistics based on ideas generated from search terms you enter, which can help you populate your website with the best matches for your goals. Features include keyword research, spelling mistake research, seasonal search trends, keyword density analysis and a domain researcher tool. With Keyword Discovery, you can optimize your website’s content while taking traffic away from your competitors. The free version gives the basic search and suggestion for up to 50 searches. For more searches plus deeper analysis, pricing begins at $49.95/month.

5. SEMRush offers tightly focused competition research by identifying the paid and organic keywords your competition is working in search. With SEMRush, you can run a technical SEO audit, see how your website is positioning for specific keywords, gather ideas for gaining more organic traffic through keyword utilization and can show you an analysis of your competitors. It also offers search by specific company or by specific keywords. SEMRush starts it pricing at $99.95/month.

6. Keyword Spy is the premium counterpart to Open Site Explorer, giving robust analysis of keyword use across a broad spectrum of search factors for any website you point it at. It shows you competitors and what keywords they’re using, builds a profitable list of keywords for your utilization and includes advanced searches in which you can see how well keywords are doing by domain, the keywords themselves, the destination URL and copy content in specific regions. If you’re in a highly competitive market, it’s almost always worth the monthly payments to get that edge. There is a free trial, and pricing begins at $89.95/month.

7. Long Tail Pro chases profitable niche keywords, which you can apply either by identifying the most effective niches for your business, or to find points to expand into. It’s not a great fit for all businesses, but offers indispensable information for niche marketers and some companies that serve hobbyists. Long Tail Pro offers a seven-day free trial with pricing beginning at $37/month, although as of now, they’re offering sales on these prices.

8. MOZ Keyword Explorer is a premium, subscription based tool from one of the premier names in search analysis. It breaks down the raw data for keywords, showing you both popularity and difficulty for entry. It also shows you 1,000 keyword suggestions, the opportunity and potential for you to rank highly for those keywords and other links where the keywords are mentioned. Moz offers a 30-day free trial and pricing begins at $99/month.

9. Research Central comes with Raven Tool’s premium membership package and compiles keyword tracking and domain data from multiple industry-leading sources. You can track your keyword rankings, click-through-rates and impressions (how many people are seeing but not clicking on your link when they search the keyword). You’re also able to research competitors, build links, monitor links and much more. Paired with the other tools available in the membership, it’s a good value at $99/month after a 30-day free trial.

10. Full-Service Digital Marketing is the Cadillac/BMW approach: hiring a full-service plan to handle your keyword strategy and implementation for you. Simply put, this means that there’s little-to-no keyword research on your end. You meet with your agency reps, tell them that you need and when you need it, and they provide the information and implementation data for you. They’re also able to conduct technical audits on your website and give recommendations on how to better optimize your pages for SEO and for targeted keywords. This option usually costs four or five figures per month, though businesses making this investment usually see returns in the >200% range. Still, that kind of investment isn’t appropriate for every business. $1,000+/month

Keyword research and tracking is a lot like plumbing or electricity for your home. If you already know how to do it, you’re fine going with the cheaper DIY route. If you’re unfamiliar, the damage you can do far outweighs the cost of bringing in the professional services. If you fall someplace in between, use a partial solution that best fits your needs. For the bottom two-thirds or so of that spectrum, you’ll have to shell out some money to develop a keyword strategy with real results.

Of course, if you’re a bit short for making that happen, consider taking out a small business loan and you can make up the cost with your increased Internet footprint. Don’t wait to expand your presence in one of the most cost-effective marketing options available. Of course, if you’re not ready to take out a loan, start with the free or cheaper options and slowly build up your presence!

 Author Bio: The Kabbage Team is here to not only provide the funding your small business may need, but also to help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Kabbage empowers small businesses through straightforward, flexible access to capital. We’ve extended more than $2 billion directly to small business owners and powered automated funding for other organizations all over the globe – all while maintaining a remarkably high laughter quotient.