I’m going to show you a quick method to generate keyword ideas and analyse their difficulty using free tools. I’ll also reveal the exact formula KWFinder uses to calculate their keyword difficulty scores, and how you can replicate this for free!
Generating Keyword Lists
You’ll need a list of potential keywords to analyse. If you don’t have one, you can quickly create one by following this method.
1) Enter your seed keyword into the following tools.
Use these tools to generate keyword ideas, including long-tail keywords and LSI variants.
I personally use all of them to generate as many keyword ideas as possible.
- KeywordShitter (I’m looking for a developer to help with making this tool better. Please contact me if you can help.)
- Suggestion Keyword Finder (Level 3 Setting)
- Google Auto-Suggest Tool
- Google Keyword Planner
- AnswerThePublic (FAQ & Content Ideas)
- LSIGraph (LSIs & Synonyms)
2) Install Keywords Everywhere and obtain an API key. Click the extension’s icon and select “Import keywords”. Export the data to “CSV” and open it in Google Sheets. If you have Excel you can use that too.
3) Filter the list using the search volume limits you are happy with. I only target keywords with a minimum of 500 monthly searches. If this is for a local campaign, then you want to use the local search volume rather than global. To make the data easier to work with, delete all columns related to advertising, such as “CPC” and “Competition”.
Pro Tip: Even though we’re not using these keywords for an ad campaign, you can still use the Cost Per Click to filter the data for commercial intent. If people aren’t willing to pay to advertise for a keyword, it probably isn’t worth ranking for. I look for a minimum of $2 per click.
You will likely find many keywords with 0 search traffic. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the keyword actually has zero searches, but that it’s not searched regularly enough to be measured. I recommend saving these keywords in a separate file, as they can be used for LSIs, and the long-tail variants are often good suggestions for content you can create.
4) If you’re planning to use the keywords for advertising a product or service, remove any keywords that don’t show commercial intent. How do you know if a keyword shows commercial intent? The Consumer Purchase Cycle.
Here are the three main stages of the “Consumer Purchase Cycle”.
Informational Stage (Looking for more information about a type of product.)
- How to
- Best way to
- Ways to
- I need to
Preference Stage (Comparing products with the intent to buy soon.)
- Top 10
- Product Category e.g. “wordpress hosting”
Purchase Stage (Buying products now.)
Users searching for keywords containing phrases from the first two stages are probably not looking to buy, whereas users in the third stage are much more likely to make a purchase. Ultimately, whether or not a keyword shows commercial intent is up to you to decide.
This method of keyword research is extremely valuable as it gives you lots of pre-qualified keywords, as you already know how strong the site needs to be to rank, and what sort of content they’re using to achieve this.
Need more keyword ideas? Try these rarely-utilised places to find untapped hidden gems.
- Chapters and sub-chapters of books, magazines, and blogs.
- Menu items, categories, and tags on niche-relevant sites.
- Module, section, and lesson names in relevant courses, tutorials, and educational material.
- The most frequently asked questions on Q&A sites such as Quora.
- Topics, categories, and tags on Q&A sites.
- Sub-forums, categories, and tags on niche-relevant forums and groups.
- Departments and sub-departments used by online stores such as Amazon.
Keyword Competition Analysis
Keyword competition is the measure of how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword. The competition for a keyword can vary depending on how popular the keyword is and industry competition.
While true keyword competition should be measured against many factors, most popular keyword research tools such as KWFinder and KeywordRevealer offer “keyword difficulty” levels. This is a way of analysing keywords based on the number of referring domains to the ranking page.
Unfortunately, unless you have access to a paid tool, there is currently no way to mass check keyword difficulty. However, an SEO named Aleks has found the exact formula used by KWFinder, allowing us to create our own keyword difficulty tool.
Reverse Engineering The KWFinder Difficulty Formula
The formula is: Difficulty = (DA*0.25) + (PA*0.4) + (MR*10*0.22) + (MT*10*0.13)
Which breaks down to:
- Domain Authority – 25%
- Page Authority – 40%
- Moz Rank (multiplied by 10) – 22%
- Moz Trust (multiplied by 10) – 13%
Using this information, I have adjusted the formula to use only DA & PA: (PA * 0.6) + (DA * 0.4)
Why a 60/40 split? This is the formula Moz uses for their keyword difficulty scores.
Update: As Moz is no longer updating their Rank & Trust metrics, KWFinder has changed their formula to now use the Citation Flow and Trust Flow metrics by Majestic. I neglected to add these to the formula, here’s why:
- Moz Rank / Trust are not directly correlated with or similar to Majestic Citation / Trust. We can’t just replace these metrics without re-adjusting the formula.
- I’m not sure how or why the KWFinder team decided to combine the two metrics to give 35%, and honestly, I doubt they know either.
- Using DA/PA alone is more than enough to quickly compare your site to another. Adding more metrics just confuses the matter.
- The Majestic metrics are not freely available, and this tutorial is focused on performing research for free.
Free KWFinder Alternative
- After installing and enabling MozBar, search for your keyword on Google.
- At the very left of the bar, next to the Moz logo, is the “Export to CSV” option.
- Copy the DA/PA from the CSV into the Google Sheet I have made.
- If there is a 0 in the competition column, due to not filling in the DA/PA columns, delete the 0.
- Profit! You now have the average DA/PA and the difficulty score shown by KWFinder.
Note: KWFinder gets all of its “suggestions” and search volume data from Google Keyword Planner. I’ve already shown you how to mass check search volume with Keywords Everywhere, and many people would argue that the suggestions from GKP are useless (and even if you disagree, you can get them for free).
This essentially makes KWFinder obsolete, unless you want to mass check keyword difficulty scores. However, I still recommend the Mangools tool suite for beginners and people on a budget. It is one of the best collections of SEO tools available, being both cheap and extremely easy to use.
The Problem With Keyword Difficulty Scores
As I mentioned earlier, keyword difficulty formulas rely on the number of referring domains, in the form of 3rd party metrics such as Moz DA/PA or Majestic Trust Flow.
This is problematic as Moz isn’t known to have the best data on backlinks, and Majestic isn’t much better, yet both of these services only consider backlinks in their calculations. This also makes it easy to manipulate these 3rd party metrics, and in turn, the keyword difficulty scores. I have already shown how easy it is to manipulate Moz DA/PA.
Another problem is that these keyword competition formulas completely ignore other factors, such as social signals and on-page SEO. While backlinks have by far the biggest influence on rankings, Google is known to use over 200+ rankings signals, meaning you should still check the content and on-page optimisation of competing sites on the first few pages of Google results.
If you find that in general the on-page SEO is poor, the content lacks depth or multimedia, or results from weak pages appear (among other things), this is a sign that you will be able to rank for this keyword.
Weak pages to look out for include: Quora, Yahoo Answers, Facebook Groups, Q&A sites, PDFs, article directories, press releases, and even Web 2.0s. These types of pages are often easy to outrank.
Keyword difficulty scores are good for quickly checking which keywords are massively out of your league, but should not be the only metric you consider, as you can still rank even when the average DA/PA are higher than that of your site. There is no substitute for manual analysis by a human.
Keyword Opportunity Score
A slightly better metric for comparing multiple keywords is priority or opportunity score.
Unfortunately, Moz is the only tool that provides such a metric, and I’m not 100% sure how they calculate their priority scores.
Fortunately, we can create our own version using this formula:
Opportunity = Search Volume * (1 – 0.XX) * 0.YY
- XX = Keyword Difficulty
- YY = Organic CTR (You can use either Moz or Ahrefs to find this, otherwise just leave it out.)
- Search Volume = 4400
- Keyword Difficulty = 62
- Organic CTR = 88
4400 * (1 – 0.66) * 0.88 = 1471.36
And without CTR:
4400 * (1 – 0.66) = 1672
A higher opportunity score is better.
Remember, if you use CTR in the calculation for one keyword, you’ll have to use it for all the others you want to compare. Try using this to compare keywords, and see if you prefer it to the keyword difficulty metrics.
Keyword Search Trends
Let’s say we’re creating a blog post on marketing. We’ve narrowed our search down to 4 potential keywords: “internet marketing”, “digital marketing”, “online marketing”, and “web marketing”. But which one should we use?
Well, if you’d have asked this question ten years ago, the answer would have undoubtedly been “internet marketing”. But today, that term isn’t even the second most popular, and its number of searches continues to drop.
But how do we know all this? By using Google Trends!
As you can see, “digital marketing” is clearly the winner in terms of search volume, and its popularity continues to grow. “Online marketing” is a surprisingly popular term, but its search volume appears to be dropping, along with the other two less-popular terms. We would never have known this without using Google Trends, and would have likely chosen the wrong keyword to target.
We can also use this tool to check the “seasonality” of a keyword. For example, the term “Christmas gifts” is extremely popular in November and December, but has practically no search volume any other time of year. While that should be obvious for this example, it’s still useful to know. Some keywords are surprisingly very seasonal, such as “baby gifts” and “wedding checklist”.
And finally, Google Trends shows geographic differences between search queries, which is extremely important if you’re targeting local terms or a local audience. You can view a breakdown of differences between countries, sub-regions, metro areas, and cities.
Keyword Profit Analysis
The most important question you should be asking when doing keyword research is:
“How much is the keyword worth?”
And today I will show you how to quickly find the answer.
I have chosen an example keyword to analyse for this post.
- Keyword: “Best Wilderness Survival Knife”
- Global Monthly Searches: 480
- Competition: Low
The number one spot on Google gets around 30-50% of traffic. For this example, we’ll assume the CTR (Click-Through Rate) is 40%.
Monthly Traffic = 480 * 0.4 = 192
Our keyword will generate 192 monthly visitors, but how many of these will convert into sales?
Let’s assume the conversion rate of our site is 5%. (Remember to use your own conversion rate!)
Monthly Sales = 192 * 0.05 = 9.6
We will make around 10 sales a month, but how much money do we make per sale?
For the items I am promoting, the affiliate commission is 20% and the most popular item costs $80.
Profit Per Sale = $80 * 0.2 = $16
The final step is to calculate how much money we will make per month.
Profit Per Month = $16 * 9.6 = $153.60
Annual Profit = $153.60 * 12 = $1843.20
This item will give me a nice profit of just under $2000. I suggest using only high-quality SEO services if you plan to keep the affiliate site running for multiple years. Take the time to build some foundational links and Web 2.0s, and then buy a few high-quality PBN links and you should start to see results.
A high competition keyword will likely cost more to rank, which is why you should begin with low competition keywords. It’s much easier to rank for multiple low competition keywords than it is to rank for one high competition keyword, and the combined monthly traffic will often be higher too.
This method is by no means exhaustive, and there are plenty of other great keyword research tutorials available on the web. Here are a few of my personal favourites:
- Miles Beckler’s Keyword Research Playlist
- Brian Dean’s Definitive Guide to Keyword Research for SEO
- Ahrefs’ Guide to Keyword Research
- Ahrefs Academy Keyword Research Series
These resources will turn you into a keyword research ninja.
As I mentioned, this is just my quick method, so if you have your own keyword research method, then continue using it. Don’t make the mistake of over-analysing keywords. Spend more time producing great content and you will get results.
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