23 Free Keyword Research Tools To Dominate Your Market

Automotive Digital Advertising | Car Dealer PPC

automotive digital marketing

Effective keyword research is at the core of any successful paid search campaign. Especially if your goal is to produce ROI from your results. Without a solid plan in place, you’re throwing ad dollars into what I call a “money sucking fire pit”. A fire pit that burns your ad dollars with no regard to your investment. No one likes losing money or not getting a return from their investment, am I right? And usually (98% of the time) that’s exactly what I see when performing SEM audits and Discovery’s with new clients. With that said, I realize a certain percentage of you may never become a client of DRIVE—and that’s ok. But if this article helps even just a few of you to dominate your dealership’s PMA (or beyond), then…well, I will have succeeded.

The Top Free Keyword Research Tools

Google Keyword Planner– One of the first places I recommend starting your keyword research. Not only can you compile a list of keywords, but you can also gain competitive insights such as CPC and traffic volume. Enter a few broad keywords related to your business model (new cars, used cars, Makes, models, auto loans, etc) and let Google return new ideas for you. In many cases, you’ll be left with words you’d have never thought of on your own. Also use this to find a huge list of negative keywords to make your ads more relevant.

Search Term/Query Reports – You can find “Search Term Reports”, “Search Query Reports”, or “SQR Reports”, as many PPC specialists call it, if you have historical Adwords data. If you aren’t—or have never—advertised on Google Adwords, then this resource will not help you. It’s one of the most insightful reports within Adwords. It allows you to see the exact search terms that match to your Adwords match types (broad, modified broad, phrase, and exact match). If you do have an Adwords account, navigate to the ‘Keywords’ tab. You’ll then see a smaller tab that reads, “Details”. Left click that and it will reveal “Search Terms”. You can do this by campaign or by adgroup.

Google Trends – Want to know which car models are most popular in your area? Want to know which makes and models to focus on for Conquest campaigns? Google Trends is your go to tool to find the answer. You can also discover what the top rising searches are relevant to your entered keyword.

BingAds Keyword Search Tool – Basically the same tool as Adwords Keyword Planner, but you’ll find new keyword ideas because the data is from Bing (and Yahoo). You can’t perform due diligence keyword research without includinging Bing and Yahoo. As of December 2014, Bing and Yahoo search market share rose considerably, w/ 19.7% going to Bing and Yahoo w/ 11.8% (as reported by comScore). Therefore, this alliance comprises approximately 31.5% of all searches worldwide. Ensure you take a moment to see what data (keywords) you can find.

BingAds Intelligence – If you consider yourself a Microsoft Excel user, try the BingAds Intelligence Tool. It will allow you to quickly find seed keywords relevant to your business model and quickly expand on them in pure Excel fashion. It works with keyword lists up to 200,000 words. Most dealership’s keyword portfolio will never be this expansive, but it’s good to know it’s capable of handling large sets of data.

Your Own Analytics – If you have historical visitor data in your analytics account (Google Analytic’s most likely)—and you’ve been receiving steady and moderate traffic for a while—then you are potentially sitting on a goldmine of keywords. But didn’t Google stop passing organic keyword data into analytics accounts you ask? They did. Google started securing users search terms over an encrypted connection (SSL), which is great for privacy of users, but really sucks for us marketers. Even still, there have been workarounds. One such is by creating an advanced Google Analytics segment to examine which landing pages of your site the “not provided” results point to. You can see more on Avinash Kaushik’s blog.

Internal Site Search – What better way to start keyword research than by knowing exactly what your users are searching for on your own site? Gleaning insights from internal site search can be a goldmine. Especially if you have a search function on your website (Ex: Instant Search). By properly setting up internal site search in Google Analytics, you can start knowing exactly what users want after they get to your site. Or, how to correct issues if users can’t find what they want (UX Design issues)

Google Webmaster Tools – Since October 2011, Google has been encrypting search queries in an effort to “protect users privacy”. As previously stated, there are workarounds, albeit not 100% accurate. Insightful? Yes. However, in Google Webmaster Tools you can see exactly what keywords are getting impressions/clicks and even where these keywords rank in organic search.

Website Surveys – Although a simple suggestion, it could lead to discovering one, two, or more insights that help you gain a new competitive leg in your PMA. Your website users know best and it’s important to listen to them. It will allow you to analyze keywords and phrases that users are trying to find solutions for. One of the best research tools available.

Ubersuggest – One of my favorite keyword discovery tools. Helps you find broad relevant keywords you can use as seed keywords to expand on, ability to discover keyword modifiers, and so much more. You can easily take half a day doing research with this tool to lay the groundwork for a ninja-like search omnipresence. It gets its data from Google keyword suggestion (and other providers) and works like this: Feed it a keyword and it adds a letter or digit in front of it. You can then add all relevant keywords into your “basket”. When done, extract into an Excel file. Manipulate it, add to it, or if you’re comfortable with what you have, add it to your campaigns instantly.

Keyword Tool.io – Very similar to Ubersuggest. You will benefit by using them both as they each have the potential to give you new keyword sets. On top of that Keyword Tool.io generates 750+ suggestions per keyword. That’s powerful.

Soovle – What if you want search data from other places than just Google, Bing, and Yahoo? Enter Soovle. Find search suggestion keywords from: Wikipedia, Answers.com, Youtube, and Amazon. Enter your seed keyword and Soovle will generate suggestions from each source. I especially love using this tool for negative keyword research.

Synonym – Not everyone uses the same words to search. Ex: You’ll want to not only bid on your keywords with the word “Buy” in the phrase, but possibly use the synonym “Purchase” as another keyword as well. Get creative and find as many synonyms as you can and combine them with your commercial intent keywords. Tip: Finding antonyms is also a negative keyword goldmine.

Keyword Tool Dominator – Another keyword auto suggestion tool that pulls data from: Google, Amazon, Bing, and Ebay. Discover long tail keyword opportunities to beef up your existing campaigns or to find new niche markets within your PMA. Free, but also has a paid version as well.

MergeWords – Not as much a keyword discovery tool as it is a word merger. Take a list of seed keywords and paste them into column 1. Take your keyword modifiers and paste them in column 2. Paste your remaining modifiers in column three if applicable. After clicking “Merge”, MergeWords compiles a huge list of merged keywords for you…which you can then immediately use in your Adwords account by applying a bulk match type. A favorite tool of our department.

Internet Marketing Ninjas – Similar to MergeWords, but lacks the many options that MergeWords has. It’s a decent alternative if you need to merge words.

KW Finder – A beautiful user interface combined with intuitive, competitive intelligence data. Enter your search term and sit back as KW Finder returns impressive CI results. Not only will it return a list of relevant keywords for you, but it also provides Google Trends data and SERP results (Pagerank, Trustflow, CitationFlow, etc). The free plans give you 5 searches per 24 hour period. They also have paid plans available.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider – Mostly used as a technical SEO tool, it can also come in handy to see which of your competitor’s keywords are most valuable to them. Just enter your competitor’s URL into SFSS and it will crawl the entire website and give you tons of useful metadata. Keyword metadata that is. And if your competitor’s are still using out of date SEO practices (i.e keyword meta keywords) and they probably are, then SFSS will give that information to you.

Thesaurus – Just as with the Synonym.com suggestion, you will also get invaluable information and suggestions from this source as well. Give it a try.

WordStream – Wordstream is one of the largest SEM agencies in the world. Highly knowledgeable and innovative in the search industry, they have a keyword tool that is worth mentioning. It’s even helped me discover a gold nugget or two in the many campaigns we launch for clients every day. Wouldn’t hurt to try it out.

WordTracker’s Scout – Another cool competitive intelligence tool that gives you easy access to KPM (keyword performance metrics) within your browsers. It’s a Google Chrome extension and when you’re on your target’s website, you can engage the extension and it will give you information such as: the meta keywords on the page (if applicable), includes WordTracker’s extensive database of search terms, and much more.

Keyword Discovery by Trellian – Although a bit outdated (user interface, design, and data), you can’t beat a free source of information. When you’ve exhausted your other sources, it doesn’t hurt to try Trellian.

Misspelled Keyword Generator – Take a list of your keywords, run them through this generator and, viola, you can add them as exact match versions in your search campaigns.

While you play with these new search tools, I’ll be working on my next post which is the top paid keyword research tools. So, keep your eyes open for that!

Do you currently use any of these free tools? Are there any free ones I missed? Let us hear your thoughts



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I am the owner and Chief Operations Officer of Drive Digital Group. My role is to oversee the operations of the company across all products & Services.

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Chris Burns

I am the owner and Chief Operations Officer of Drive Digital Group. My role is to oversee the operations of the company across all products & Services.

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