Free Keyword Research Tool & A Simple Process For Getting Started

by Nick · 44 comments

in SEO

A Dead Simple Process for Starting Keyword Research [and a Free Tool]
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I’m a self-proclaimed keyword research junkie.

I spend hours every week auditing historical keyword data and running new queries to expand my targets and improve my focus on user intent.

I use a variety of tools including SerpIQ for SERP-level keyword competition, an internal tool that hits several external API’s to pull in related terms, and what used to be the Google keyword tool – and has since become keyword planner.

Whether it’s for some quick and dirty research or just to get the ball rolling, I still use G’s keyword tools a lot… (even keyword planner)

A Handy Little SEO Tip

This may be the simplest SEO tip you ever get, but I see so few people doing it and it has far reaching implications…

Input 1 (yes, only one) keyword at a time – and set to [exact] match only.

In keyword planner this means selecting “Search for keywords and ad group ideas”

typing in one (yes, just one) seed keyword – and clicking the blue button to “Get ideas.”

This will hit Google’s AdWords keyword data API, and render you initial results page (click to enlarge):

This is where it gets tricky – because there has been a few changes.

First, the default view is ‘Ad group ideas,” which is fine – you can export directly from here and it will simply give you an extra column in your CSV file, column A will be Ad Group instead of Keyword (which will now be in column B), but I prefer to toggle the tabs to “Keyword ideas.”

Make sure you click the new pencil icon – and set your match type to exact. Especially with the new interface, this is very easy to overlook! (click to enlarge)

This will maximize the total output and suggested variations, which tops out at just over 800 keywords per run.

One More Quick Tip

After you’ve finished your first run, export to CSV, and then sort in descending order by local monthly searches. You’re specifically looking for the most relevant keywords with the highest search volume.

Choose up to 10, and run each of them individually back through the keyword tool. Export the full results to CSV every time. Feel free not to stop at 10, if there is more keyword gold in there, for every good, relevant term – run it through the keyword tool.

Every time you are running a new keyword that is closely related to your core keyword you are expanding your list and picking up more and more related terms. There will be a lot of duplicates, but you will continue to get new keywords each time.

At this point you should have 11 files, and somewhere in the ball park of 8 to 9 thousand keywords, but that’s not convenient.

Cleaning Up Your Keywords with the Keyword Combiner

Now you’re faced with the task of either individually sorting and cleaning up all of these files or copying and pasting all of this data into one sheet, again, that’s not convenient.

So I built a small windows desktop app to do precisely this, I call it the keyword combiner, and you can download it for free by clicking the link below.

When you get there simply enter your email address, and set the price to ‘0’ and voila, all yours.

Go Download Keyword Combiner

Using the Keyword Combiner

I’ve tried to make this as simple as possible. Once installed click the ‘Run’ button on the pop-up window prompt and the keyword combiner should pop up on your screen:

SEO Nick Keyword Research Combiner SEO Tool

It is worth noting that I have been having some issue with the window re-sizing across different versions of Windows; if it renders short of full-width, just re-size it.

Now you want to make sure all of your .CSV files are in the same directory (folder), and that there is nothing else in there.

Click the top ‘Select’ button and choose your directory.

Next click the bottom ‘Select’ button and choose where you want to save the file and give it a name.

As is the case with the default exports from Google keyword tool, your first rows will all be headers, so make sure you select the checkbox for “First Lin is Header.”

Optionally: If you have data sets that are tab delineated versus CSV (which stands for comma separated values) you can also use this tool, just select the “Custom Delineator” checkbox and enter “\t” into the text field on the right.

Now you’re ready to Run. Click the button and watch the green progress bar shoot across the bottom of the window – I’ve run upwards of 100 files and it has never taken more than 5 seconds.

Output From the Keyword Combiner

Again, this is a super-simple tool – but very useful if you do a lot of keyword research with Google’s keyword tool or across multiple sheets and files, helping you quickly combine your mess of files into one clean file.

Combine Excel Files Into One File

This makes it far more manageable to go through the motions of sorting, filtering, and de-duping all of your keywords so you can begin to gather the rest of your data; DA, PA, # of links, LRD’s, etc.

If you like the tool, or found any of this helpful, please consider sharing this post :)

Thanks for reading.

About Nick
Nick is the VP of Digital Strategy at W.L. Snook & Associates, Co-Founder of I'm From The Future an ecommerce consultancy, and the author of this SEO Blog. Follow Nick on Google+.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruno Santos August 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Hi Nick!
Great post, and very useful tool !
Just a quick note regarding special characters :) I guess it will be only intended for EN

Keep up the good work


Nick August 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

Hey Bruno – Thanks a lot for checking it out; yeah no special character support yet.. this was really just the MVP to see if any one found it useful.

If people like it (and actually use it) I’m going to roll a java version (for Mac) and add in UTF-8 support.



Matthew Barby August 23, 2013 at 3:53 am

Awesome! Great tool, Nick. Will be testing this out over next week :)


Nick August 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

Thanks Matthew – Please let me know what you think!


Bradley Elliot January 22, 2015 at 1:33 am

I think no one beat Google Adwords, because its a best tool and its free.


Nick January 22, 2015 at 8:59 am

It is far, far from the best tool.

Spook SEO August 25, 2013 at 4:16 am

Hey Nick thanks for the keyword combiner. Can’t wait to take it for a spin later. Cheers!


Jam Hassan August 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I have faced this problem when I was working for a client it took my 2-3 hours to combine keywords data from exported CSV. Thanks for a nice post . I will reduce half of the time spent on kw research .


Nick August 25, 2013 at 5:21 pm

My pleasure Jam – Please let me know what you think of the tool and if there is any additional bits of functionality you would find useful.

Cheers :)


auto glass colorado springs August 26, 2013 at 1:40 am

Very good site you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about here?

I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get comments from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!


Nick August 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Yup – is your best bet


Pramod August 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hi Nick !
This is a great tool .. I would try this out and let you know about my experiences with it . Thanks for sharing this tool with us !



Abhay Hendre August 26, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Thanks for the tool Nick!
I always use the [exact] option while looking at the local and global monthly searches for my keywords. It’s a simple thing but not many people use it. :)


Nick August 27, 2013 at 10:01 am

Hey Abhay – Yup, also I see a lot of people putting far too many keyword’s in at once and diluting the output.

Cheers! :)


Brendan November 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Exactly ( no pun intended! ) – the exact match figures have always definitely been the most accurate. Broad match is insanely inaccurate, but as you say, that’s what a lot of people have been using for so long.


Emre September 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

Wow great tool, this is best and easiest one to choose keywords. thanks a lot Nick. Regards…


perde September 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

thanks a lot!. googled how to choose keywords and found your great article. i did by the help of you.


Mögel September 5, 2013 at 8:43 am

Great article, as usual – this one caught my eye right away. Here’s to quality content. I agree with everything you’ve said – thanks very much for articulating it so well.


Payel Ghosh September 6, 2013 at 5:38 am

Quite helpful and interesting


Jackson Lo September 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Great post Nick. Your tool for combining the keyword spreadsheets is very nifty also!

With the new Keyword Planner, I noticed that changing the settings from broad to exact does not affect the avg. monthly searches value at all. It doesn’t in the interface, nor in the export. Any thoughts around here?

Google’s explanation is: “About the number: We calculate the 12-month average of the number of searches for this exact keyword based on the location and Search Network targeting settings that you’ve selected (not including your language setting).”

They did mention here … “exact keyword”.

I think one of the neatest features of the keyword planning is the ability to target by province (in Canada). Looking at the breakdown of one keyword across multiple provinces is a really interesting insight.


Nick September 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Hey Jackson –

Yes I know.. it’s definitely confusing as this setting used to drastically change the query volume, but now only affects click and coast estimates. I think it is still worth paying close attention to estimated clicks on with the exact setting, as I think this can be used as a barometer for engagement and to pre-qualify the intent of the term.

Yes! The specific geography, mobile OS, and also being able to zero in on different languages within a specific geographic region.

Thanks a lot for the comment – Cheers!


Jackson Lo September 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Haven’t looked close enough… will certainly do so. Thanks for the tip.

nur September 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm

This tools also recommend about local keywords too?


Julianne September 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Hello there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains. If you know of any please share. Cheers!


Ronald Dy September 20, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Great tutorial. It’s always nice to see images. That’s one thing I don’t see on most guides. I’ve been using the Google Adwords tool as I’m only starting out. Good to know there are more tools out there that do the trick.


Dylan October 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Big thanks for the keyword combiner. I do a lot of keyword research and although it’s a simple tool, it has helped me out quite a bit.


Spook SEO November 18, 2013 at 11:21 am

Tools have been very important to the way the SEO industry runs. They are just as precious as your ideas to make things work. Sometimes, you have to be very careful in choosing the one that will best fit your interests. There are others that will only take a lot of money from you.


Jeric December 3, 2013 at 4:53 am

This is my first time to know that tool! It would be really helpful for me. Thank you for sharing it, totally worth it that I came on this site. :D


angello December 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm

hi, i just want to ask a question, as a beginner, if i have to decide what tool to buy first (because of short budget) The Best Spinner or ScrapeBox, which one would you reccomend to buy first? which one would be more useful when starting from scratch a website? i know they are for different thinks and they make different tasks, but as a beginner, which one would be more useful?
Thanks for your support


Andrew Knight December 27, 2013 at 4:24 am

many type of tools used for find keyword.This tool is really very helpful to us this time.Thanks for Sharing it Mr Nick.


Laura Wolf January 1, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Great tips, just spent hours doing that, could have done it your way. This keyword method is the goldmine of SEO. Thank you for sharing.


KJ January 16, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Nick what’s up with the hash at the end of your URLs?

On this page:

Just curious.


Seo Castell January 31, 2014 at 6:55 am

SEO Castell serves its client with the latest marketing strategies that help achieve the Internet marketing goals. Website Optimization, SEM, SEO, SMO, Google +, Google Local, PPC Management, Brand Development are some of the key highlights of our work.


Mike Mangine February 11, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Very interesting article because keywords and seo go hand and hand.

I go on to find more information.


Sanojsen Seo March 18, 2014 at 8:41 am

great tool.. thanks dude., :D


Kumar March 22, 2014 at 6:58 am

I think, these types of blogs are really help for those people who want to know about keyword research tools


Ion Popescu March 31, 2014 at 8:00 am

Hello! Nick!
Great post, and very useful tool ! This keyword method is very good. Thanks.


Rotem May 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm

FYI – the link to the “combiner” gives a 404


Nick May 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Hey Rotem – Thanks for the heads up, I’ve fixed this.


ukash June 22, 2014 at 8:05 am

worked for me too. thanks…


Ryan Eagle August 20, 2014 at 8:49 am

Hey Nick, thank you for this post.


tro choi January 22, 2015 at 10:15 pm

Thanks for the tips. I am using google keywords with the google planner keywords tool. It seems to be working, but I’ve found that the keywords I am using aren’t as searched as I thought or people are just skimming over my link on the search results.


Üniversite Taban Puanlar? March 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Wow great tool, this is best and easiest one to choose keywords. thanks a lot Nick. Regards…


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