Search Engine Optimization

Keyword Research Tools: Which one should you use?

By February 12, 2010 December 3rd, 2012 6 Comments

Keyword research is one of the most important steps for good SEO of your site.  First let’s start with understanding what keyword research is. Essentially keyword research is understanding which keywords you want to target (for each page in your site) and which search terms you want to be found for on search engines.For example if you are a php consultant in California you probably want to be found for the terms ‘php consultant’ and ‘php consultant California’.

So why use a keyword research tool in the first place? A keyword research tool will give you more information about the words you want to target and also ideas of which words you could target. So assuming you are a php consultant then the keyword tool will tell you how many times people search for the keyword you want to be found for. For example the term ‘php consultant’ gets 590 searches a month approximately. This way you don’t target terms which have very low search volumes.

Typically comparing numbers between keyword research tools is similar to comparing numbers between different analytics tools. There will always be a frustrating difference. When comparing different keyword tools, there is usually a minimum difference between numbers in the range of 10-30%.

For example, lets compare numbers for the keyword ‘buy domain‘ in three of the most popular keyword tools:

1. Google Search Based Keyword Tool shows monthly volume as 8200

2. Google Adwords External Keyword Tool shows a 6600 monthly volume for the same keyword.

3. Keyword Spy shows a monthly search volume of 135,000! This huge difference is probably because they are showing ‘broad search’ numbers as opposed to the exact search numbers.

So what should you do? Here are my recommendations:

  1. Use one tool and stick to it’s numbers:  There will always be a difference in numbers between tools because of the way they collect data, whether it’s a broad search or exact search. I wouldn’t recommend using two different tools and reconciling data between tools. The three tools metnioned above are pretty good and I personally mostly use the Google Search Based keyword tool  because it gives me valuable information about how competitive  a keyword is. Keyword Spy is useful to understand what keywords your competitors are bidding for in Adwords . Google Adwords tool is useful when you are out of ideas for keywords because of the number of suggestions it generates. The important thing is to never mix data from two tools and make inferences.
  2. Use keyword research data as data points relative to each other :For instance if the keyword ‘buy domain’  gets 8200 searches per month and another keyword ‘buy web domain’ gets 440, instead of focusing purely on the absolute numbers the takeaway should be that ‘buy domain’ gets approximately 20 times the search volume as  ‘buy web domain’
  3. Never make assumptions: Always tie in SEO with the numbers on your Analytics tool. You may rank for a competitive term on the first page of Google and assume (falsely) that it may be driving in lots of traffic. Check your analytics reports to see how much traffic it drives. More importantly create custom reports to find how many ‘Goal conversions’ resulted from that keyword search on your site. That is the metric you want to ultimately track to measure the true success of a keyword.

Lastly,  never be bogged down by the difference in numbers.Good luck with your keyword research!

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan is the founder and CEO of Pear Analytics and has helped hundreds of customers with their Internet marketing since 2003. He has spoken on various topics of SEO, Analytics and other marketing at conferences in New York, Chicago and Vancouver. Clients he has consulted include Sears, KMart, CareerBuilder and PEER 1 Hosting. Ryan currently teaches two Internet marketing classes at Trinity University in San Antonio.


  • vanessa schultz says:

    A good how to article about branding your Website

  • I won’t vouch for software very often except this new service is fantastic. It’s a key phrase tool that has a database of millions of key phrases showing the adwords traffic count per month together with the google competition count as well as other numbers.

    At a click of a button you will discover keyword phrases with traffic but no competition and I’ve used it already to get web pages and web sites to the top of the various search engines, even without backlinks.

    You can look at a video of it in use here –

  • Most companies do not guarantee 100% ranking because it is almost impossible. While they are building your SEO site, another competitor is building theirs, so there is never a 100% guarantee. When a company offers this look elsewhere.

    Ask them first what they use for keyword ranks? Once you have this you can do a search on the internet. If they do not have a high ranking due to their word choice chances are they are not a company you want building your SEO site.

  • Andy Moore says:

    I have to agree with the above comment. Although I’m ranked on the 1st page of Google for at least the 42 keywords I know about I frequently get calls from companies wanting to do SEO for me. They normally try to take me to their page by URL. I always ask them as I see as competition, what search terms I can enter into Google to find their site.

    Make sure before you enter into any agreement with anyone to do SEO for you make them show how they have done it for themselves.

    My favorite keyword tool is by far; <a href="; MarketSamurai It’s only been around a while but it really nicely integrates Keywords with SEO info.

    Enough from
    Computer Network Support

  • Anouther great article to read. keep it up. I have also RT the Article on twitter!!

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    thanks, appreciate the RT!

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