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How To Build Links, Traffic & Conversions

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The advent of the internet gave travel companies a whole new avenue for exposure.

Where once you may have had to rely on outdated brochures, grainy photos, or (worst of all) Uncle Gary’s boring slide show about his trip to Bermuda, now anyone can create, curate, and share photos, videos, and stories from their vacation in seconds.

And while this is great for exposing people to lesser-known attractions and must-see destinations, it has also created massive competition for web traffic.

You can’t post yet another image of someone propping up the Leaning Tower of Pisa or recreating the cover of Abbey Road and expect to attract visitors.

To stand out in an over-saturated field, you need to find a way to separate your content from everyone else, drive traffic, and capture the eyeballs of your targets.

And ad-hoc blog posts just aren’t going to cut it. You need a content strategy.

Not sure what that is? Maybe you have a vague idea but no clue where to get started when it comes to creating one?

Or just want to brush up on the essentials and polish your existing content strategy? You’re in the right spot.

In this piece, we’ll dive deep into developing a content plan of attack for your travel business and equip you with the knowledge you need. Let’s get started.

How To Get Started

If this is your first time developing a content strategy, the task may seem overwhelming, and you may be unsure where to start.

Take a deep breath; creating a great travel content strategy is easier than you think.

The best place to get started is at the beginning. And that means assessing where you currently stand to make the right decisions about what to do next.

For example, if you’re a small site with no links, starting your content production focused on long posts that target highly competitive keywords probably isn’t the best approach.

Likewise, if you’re well-established and have a strong link profile, creating content purely for generating links might not be the best investment of your time.

To decide where your time is best spent, you should decide on your priority.

Do you want your content to attract new links? Or do you want to focus on driving traffic by ranking for phrases in Google?

If you’re a brand new site or have a small link profile, I recommend focusing on content for links first.

If you are well-established and already have a decent link profile, you can probably move straight into creating content for traffic.

So, how do we approach those two things?

Strategizing For Links

Google’s search algorithm values quality links to your site.

But what if you’ve just launched your website or been running it for a while, but you don’t have many incoming links? The answer is obvious: You need to acquire some links.

Once you’ve created content that accomplishes this, you can then develop the type of content that generates traffic.

These two things working in conjunction will give you a much better chance of ranking well and attracting traffic, but more on that later.

In the meantime, let’s look at some different approaches to creating content that attracts links to your site.

Make Them Refer To You

If there is one thing bloggers love, it’s statistics.

Creating pages on your site that cover key statistics relating to the travel industry is a great way to pick up links over time when journalists or bloggers are looking for sources to reference.

This might be a list of the key statistics relating to travel in Greece, a page based on family travel numbers, or a list of Southern California’s most popular tourist destinations.

If you have the stats, someone will need them.

This isn’t a quick win that will get you lots of links fast, but if you create enough of them, they can build a sterling link profile over time.

Don’t Forget Your Studies

A more immediate way to get links is by researching and creating studies highlighting new findings.

This is a classic PR play that gives you new material to pitch to journalists that can get you coverage and links on top-tier sites.

If it’s seen by the right people interested in your new findings, you can start seeing the links roll in almost immediately.

This can be done by small companies on a budget by combining existing datasets to create new results.

For example, this piece we created for a client was featured on Lonely Planet, the Independent, and various other top-tier publications.

Be A Resource

Note: This is not creating resource pages!

There are lots of quality resource pages out there that list the best articles on a certain topic. To get featured on them, you need a resource worth linking to.

Fortunately, you can create one and then pitch it!

There is no one approach for this, though using the quality of the pieces already on the page should be a good guide. This guide breaks down one process of creating one.

In travel, this could be things like pages linking to the best guides about destinations.

Opportunities can also lie in more niche areas like guides to accessible travel in a particular location. If it’s useful and linkable, it can serve as a resource, which means links.

Try Your Hand At Podcasting

Creating a quality podcast worth its salt takes time and effort, but by doing so, you’re creating a truly linkable asset.

A quality podcast, particularly in a unique niche, will help you stand out.

Not to mention the amount of content out there highlighting “the best podcasts for XYZ” offers a huge opportunity for picking up natural links.

Other benefits include:

  • Establishing yourself as a thought leader.
  • Connecting with influencers.
  • Establishing potential partnerships.

And so much more.

Roundup What’s Happening In Travel

An oldie but still one that can offer huge value if executed correctly is the roundup, a.k.a. “what’s happening in (blank)” posts.

This allows you to connect with key people, and if you choose wisely, you may find people to include with press pages on their own sites.

Referencing them will often lead to links from the people who have been featured.

Loads of fantastic new travel content are being shared daily, so you should never be short of inspiration on what to include.

Once you’ve created enough posts for link building and picked up some momentum, it’s time to move on to your content for traffic.

Plan For More Traffic

Okay, we’ve got the strategy for generating links sorted. Now let’s move on to developing the type of content that will drive traffic.

When you reach this stage, following the process below should give you a good structure for creating content that succeeds in increasing your search visibility.

Audience Personas Are A Great Help

Audience personas get a bad rap, but if you keep it simple and use them correctly, they can help you devise a content strategy that reaches the right people.

They exist mainly to create a clear picture of who you’re targeting with your marketing.

This doesn’t have to mean all the bells and whistles of names, job descriptions, and hair colors. It can simply be a prompt to identify who might buy your product or be an amplifier for your business.

If you come up with a few personas with loose descriptions, you can use this to guide what content they want.

We’ve found this particularly useful in identifying our clients’ shoulder interests.

In other words, just because we’re marketing for travel companies doesn’t mean the audience is only interested in travel.

So, why not create content that caters to those shoulder interests, too? This lets you get in front of the audience and feed them into the travel element.

Keyword Research Pays Off

You’ve thought about who the audience is, and now it’s a case of identifying the things they search for the most. It’s time to dive into keyword research.

Follow a process like this to identify the phrases with the best volume, but don’t neglect the wider opportunities available.

You shouldn’t think about the top five or even 10 phrases you want to rank for.

Instead, you should consider all the phrases relevant to you and your product or service.

In travel, this funnel is huge because there are so many areas that people research before making a booking.

This might be the best time to visit a place, what to do in a location, or simply details about individual attractions.

You shouldn’t move on until you’re satisfied you’ve covered everything that could be involved in that journey.

Know What You Have

Once you’ve identified all the phrases relevant to you, it’s time to see if you’ve covered them already.

Perform a content audit and cross-reference the keyword research with your current rankings and identify content that needs to be created, improved, or updated.

Group Things Together

Once you know what content you already have and need to create, it’s time to start prioritizing what to work on first.

Focusing on topic clusters is a great way to do this because it will help you build out sections of the website which rank well more quickly.

You can do this by taking your keyword research and categorizing it into different topics.

Sometimes, multiple keywords can be targeted with one post, while others will be on the same topic but require a post of their own.

For example, you might have a post about “the best time to visit the Maldives,” but the keyword research also highlights that “The Maldives in November” also warrants a page in itself.

Once you’ve broken that down for all relevant phrases in your keyword research, you should create all the posts in one topic area first, rather than randomly picking posts across different topics.

This will create a good cluster for you and make all the content relevant, consistent, and well-supported. We’ll dive more into the writing process in just a bit.

You can then roll this out across different topic areas until you’ve covered all your key areas.

Build A Solid Content Structure

Once you know which pages you will create, it’s time to start creating them.

The first thing to consider is structure and making sure you use the best possible URLs and folder structure.

You don’t want to change this down the line, so ensuring it’s as optimized as possible the first time is key.

We usually use the main target phrase for the page as the URL slug.

Once you’ve created all the pages within a particular cluster, you also want to ensure they are linked together well. Ideally, this will be in a structured way rather than doing it ad-hoc in links within the content.

A table at the start or end of the posts that links to all other pages within that cluster clearly shows Google they all belong together.

Keep An Eye On On-Page Factors

Finally, it’s time for the writing itself.

Make sure you use the right structure and any particular keywords you’re targeting with the article.

We analyze the pages ranking on page one of search engine results for our target keyword and then pull together the header structure of those pieces to amalgamate into one ultimate post that covers everything.

Incorporate elements like a good header structure, external links, and a table of contents at the start for longer posts where necessary.

Create Content That Converts

Many people forget when creating a content strategy that the pages actually do the selling!

If you spend all your time and effort driving more people to your site with content but don’t update the text on key pages to help convert those visitors into customers, all your efforts were for naught.

Tell Them Who You Are

People who find you further down the marketing funnel might decide they’re interested in your offering and want to learn more.

Where do they go?

The About Us page, of course.

Make sure that when you’re putting all your efforts into writing content, you spend some time on your About page (including creating one if you haven’t already!).

Make sure it drives home all your key messages and feeds people one step closer to making a purchase.

You compete against many huge brands in travel, so you must get people to trust you immediately.

One way to do this is to include signals like which publications you’ve been recommended in, testimonials from existing customers, and links to review sites.

Something To Remember You By

Some people aren’t quite ready to enquire or buy right now.

How can you make sure these people see you again?

With content, of course!

Create downloadable assets that your audience will be interested in and ask for their email address in exchange for the content.

Once you have that email, you can nurture the relationship through activities like remarketing.

Creation Is Just A Start

Another important but often forgotten part of the content strategy process is reviewing, testing, and monitoring how it performs.

It’s possible to create something that performs well straight out of the box by following the processes above, but there will always be areas you can improve.

Identify these by:

  • Monitoring how well different pages are ranking.
  • Updating them to push them forward further.

Likewise, with conversion content, you can test different approaches and see what works best in converting visitors to the site.

You will reach a point in the production process where going back and updating older content may be more effective than simply rolling out more and more new pages.

This is especially true in travel, where destinations change, trends move, and up-to-date information is crucial.

Key Takeaways

As you can probably tell, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a content strategy.

Even though they’re both in the same industry, a tour company specializing in Southeast Asia’s content approach will be quite different from a Caribbean snorkeling guide company or even another tour company with a more general approach, for that matter.

Your content strategy will be as unique as your business.

One commonality among all successful content plans, regardless of industry, is their emphasis on addressing weaknesses and prioritizing accordingly.

Be honest with yourself and put in the work upfront. This will not only save you headaches down the road, but it will generate the kind of results you’re looking for.

And never forget: Your goal is to generate traffic and then convert it.

Keep that in mind, follow the tips listed here, and you’ll be sure to set your travel company up for digital success.

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Google’s Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

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Google's Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

John Mueller recently made strong statements against SEO companies that provide negative SEO and other agencies that provide link disavow services outside of the tool’s intended purpose, saying that they are “cashing in” on clients who don’t know better.

While many frequently say that Mueller and other Googlers are ambiguous, even on the topic of link disavows.

The fact however is that Mueller and other Googlers have consistently recommended against using the link disavow tool.

This may be the first time Mueller actually portrayed SEOs who liberally recommend link disavows in a negative light.

What Led to John Mueller’s Rebuke

The context of Mueller’s comments about negative SEO and link disavow companies started with a tweet by Ryan Jones (@RyanJones)

Ryan tweeted that he was shocked at how many SEOs regularly offer disavowing links.

He tweeted:

“I’m still shocked at how many seos regularly disavow links. Why? Unless you spammed them or have a manual action you’re probably doing more harm than good.”

The reason why Ryan is shocked is because Google has consistently recommended the tool for disavowing paid/spammy links that the sites (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

And yet, here we are, eleven years later, and SEOs are still misusing the tool for removing other kinds of tools.

Here’s the background information about that.

Link Disavow Tool

In the mid 2000’s there was a thriving open market for paid links prior to the Penguin Update in April 2012. The commerce in paid links was staggering.

I knew of one publisher with around fifty websites who received a $30,000 check every month for hosting paid links on his site.

Even though I advised my clients against it, some of them still purchased links because they saw everyone else was buying them and getting away with it.

The Penguin Update caused the link selling boom collapsed.

Thousands of websites lost rankings.

SEOs and affected websites strained under the burden of having to contact all the sites from which they purchased paid links to ask to have them removed.

So some in the SEO community asked Google for a more convenient way to disavow the links.

Months went by and after resisting the requests, Google relented and released a disavow tool.

Google cautioned from the very beginning to only use the tool for disavowing links that the site publishers (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

The first paragraph of Google’s October 2012 announcement of the link disavow tool leaves no doubt on when to use the tool:

“Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site.

If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on ‘unnatural links’ pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue.

If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”

The message couldn’t be clearer.

But at some point in time, link disavowing became a service applied to random and “spammy looking” links, which is not what the tool is for.

Link Disavow Takes Months To Work

There are many anecdotes about link disavows that helped sites regain rankings.

They aren’t lying, I know credible and honest people who have made this claim.

But here’s the thing, John Mueller has confirmed that the link disavow process takes months to work its way through Google’s algorithm.

Sometimes things happen that are not related, no correlation. It just looks that way.

John shared how long it takes for a link disavow to work in a Webmaster Hangout:

“With regards to this particular case, where you’re saying you submitted a disavow file and then the ranking dropped or the visibility dropped, especially a few days later, I would assume that that is not related.

So in particular with the disavow file, what happens is we take that file into account when we reprocess the links kind of pointing to your website.

And this is a process that happens incrementally over a period of time where I would expect it would have an effect over the course of… I don’t know… maybe three, four, five, six months …kind of step by step going in that direction.

So if you’re saying that you saw an effect within a couple of days and it was a really strong effect then I would assume that this effect is completely unrelated to the disavow file. …it sounds like you still haven’t figured out what might be causing this.”

John Mueller: Negative SEO and Link Disavow Companies are Making Stuff Up

Context is important to understand what was said.

So here’s the context for John Mueller’s remark.

An SEO responded to Ryan’s tweet about being shocked at how many SEOs regularly disavow links.

The person responding to Ryan tweeted that disavowing links was still important, that agencies provide negative SEO services to take down websites and that link disavow is a way to combat the negative links.

The SEO (SEOGuruJaipur) tweeted:

“Google still gives penalties for backlinks (for example, 14 Dec update, so disavowing links is still important.”

SEOGuruJaipur next began tweeting about negative SEO companies.

Negative SEO companies are those that will build spammy links to a client’s competitor in order to make the competitor’s rankings drop.

SEOGuruJaipur tweeted:

“There are so many agencies that provide services to down competitors; they create backlinks for competitors such as comments, bookmarking, directory, and article submission on low quality sites.”

SEOGuruJaipur continued discussing negative SEO link builders, saying that only high trust sites are immune to the negative SEO links.

He tweeted:

“Agencies know what kind of links hurt the website because they have been doing this for a long time.

It’s only hard to down for very trusted sites. Even some agencies provide a money back guarantee as well.

They will provide you examples as well with proper insights.”

John Mueller tweeted his response to the above tweets:

“That’s all made up & irrelevant.

These agencies (both those creating, and those disavowing) are just making stuff up, and cashing in from those who don’t know better.”

Then someone else joined the discussion:

Mueller tweeted a response:

“Don’t waste your time on it; do things that build up your site instead.”

Unambiguous Statement on Negative SEO and Link Disavow Services

A statement by John Mueller (or anyone) can appear to conflict with prior statements when taken out of context.

That’s why I not only placed his statements into their original context but also the history going back eleven years that is a part of that discussion.

It’s clear that John Mueller feels that those selling negative SEO services and those providing disavow services outside of the intended use are “making stuff up” and “cashing in” on clients who might not “know better.”

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

January 25, 2023, the day that Yandex—Russia’s search engine—was hacked. 

Its complete source code was leaked online. And, it might not be the first time we’ve seen hacking happen in this industry, but it is one of the most intriguing, groundbreaking events in years.

But Yandex isn’t Google, so why should we care? Here’s why we do: these two search engines are very similar in how they process technical elements of a website, and this leak just showed us the 1,922 ranking factors Yandex uses in its algorithm. 

Simply put, this information is something that we can use to our advantage to get more traffic from Google.

Yandex vs Google

As I said, a lot of these ranking factors are possibly quite similar to the signals that Google uses for search.

Yandex’s algorithm shows a RankBrain analog: MatrixNext. It also seems that they are using PageRank (almost the same way as Google does), and a lot of their text algorithms are the same. Interestingly, there are also a lot of ex-Googlers working in Yandex. 

So, reviewing these factors and understanding how they play into search rankings and traffic will provide some very useful insights into how search engines like Google work. No doubt, this new trove of information will greatly influence the SEO market in the months to come. 

That said, Yandex isn’t Google. The chances of Google having the exact same list of ranking factors is low — and Google may not even give that signal the same amount of weight that Yandex does. 

Still, it’s information that potentially will be useful for driving traffic, so make sure to take a look at them here (before it’s scrubbed from the internet forever).

An early analysis of ranking factors

Many of their ranking factors are as expected. These include:

  • Many link-related factors (e.g., age, relevancy, etc.).
  • Content relevance, age, and freshness.
  • Host reliability
  • End-user behavior signals.

Some sites also get preference (such as Wikipedia). FI_VISITS_FROM_WIKI even shows that sites that are referenced by Wikipedia get plus points. 

These are all things that we already know.

But something interesting: there were several factors that I and other SEOs found unusual, such as PageRank being the 17th highest weighted factor in Yandex, and the 19th highest weighted factor being query-document relevance (in other words, how close they match thematically). There’s also karma for likely spam hosts, based on Whois information.

Other interesting factors are the average domain ranking across queries, percent of organic traffic, and the number of unique visitors.

You can also use this Yandex Search Ranking Factor Explorer, created by Rob Ousbey, to search through the various ranking factors.

The possible negative ranking factors:

Here’s my thoughts on Yandex’s factors that I found interesting: 

FI_ADV: -0.2509284637 — this factor means having tons of adverts scattered around your page and buying PPC can affect rankings. 

FI_DATER_AGE: -0.2074373667 — this one evaluates content age, and whether your article is more than 10 years old, or if there’s no determinable date. Date metadata is important. 

FI_COMM_LINKS_SEO_HOSTS: -0.1809636391 — this can be a negative factor if you have too much commercial anchor text, particularly if the proportion of such links goes above 50%. Pay attention to anchor text distribution. I’ve written a guide on how to effectively use anchor texts if you need some help on this. 

FI_RANK_ARTROZ — outdated, poorly written text will bring your rankings down. Go through your site and give your content a refresh. FI_WORD_COUNT also shows that the number of words matter, so avoid having low-content pages.

FI_URL_HAS_NO_DIGITS, FI_NUM_SLASHES, FI_FULL_URL_FRACTION — urls shouldn’t have digits, too many slashes (too much hierarchy), and of course contain your targeted keyword.

FI_NUM_LINKS_FROM_MP — always interlink your main pages (such as your homepage or landing pages) to any other important content you want to rank. Otherwise, it can hurt your content.

FI_HOPS — reduce the crawl depth for any pages that matter to you. No important pages should be more than a few clicks away from your homepage. I recommend keeping it to two clicks, at most. 

FI_IS_UNREACHABLE — likewise, avoid making any important page an orphan page. If it’s unreachable from your homepage, it’s as good as dead in the eyes of the search engine.

The possible positive ranking factors:

FI_IS_COM: +0.2762504972 — .com domains get a boost in rankings.

FI_YABAR_HOST_VISITORS — the more traffic you get, the more ranking power your site has. The strategy of targeting smaller, easier keywords first to build up an audience before targeting harder keywords can help you build traffic.

FI_BEAST_HOST_MEAN_POS — the average position of the host for keywords affects your overall ranking. This factor and the previous one clearly show that being smart with your keyword and content planning matters. If you need help with that, check out these 5 ways to build a solid SEO strategy.

FI_YABAR_HOST_SEARCH_TRAFFIC — this might look bad but shows that having other traffic sources (such as social media, direct search, and PPC) is good for your site. Yandex uses this to determine if a real site is being run, not just some spammy SEO project.

This one includes a whole host of CTR-related factors. 

CTR ranking factors from Yandex

It’s clear that having searchable and interesting titles that drive users to check your content out is something that positively affects your rankings.

Google is rewarding sites that help end a user’s search journey (as we know from the latest mobile search updates and even the Helpful Content update). Do what you can to answer the query early on in your article. The factor “FI_VISITORS_RETURN_MONTH_SHARE“ also shows that it helps to encourage users to return to your site for more information on the topics they’re interested in. Email marketing is a handy tool here.

FI_GOOD_RATIO and FI_MANY_BAD — the percentage of “good” and “bad” backlinks on your site. Getting your backlinks from high-quality websites with traffic is important for your rankings. The factor FI_LINK_AGE also shows that adding a link-building strategy to your SEO as early as possible can help with your rankings.

FI_SOCIAL_URL_IS_VERIFIED — that little blue check has actual benefits now. Links from verified accounts have more weight.

Key Takeaway

Yandex and Google, being so similar to each other in theory, means that this data leak is something we must pay attention to. 

Several of these factors may already be common knowledge amongst SEOs, but having them confirmed by another search engine enforces how important they are for your strategy.

These initial findings, and understanding what it might mean for your website, can help you identify what to improve, what to scrap, and what to focus on when it comes to your SEO strategy. 

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Top 7 SEO Keyword Research Tools For Agencies

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Top 7 SEO Keyword Research Tools For Agencies

All successful SEO campaigns rely on accurate, comprehensive data. And that process starts with the right keyword research tools.

Sure, you can get away with collecting keyword data manually on your own. But while you may be saving the cost of a premium tool, manual keyword research costs you in ot

her ways:

  • Efficiency. Doing keyword research manually is time intensive. How much is an hour of your time worth?
  • Comprehensiveness. Historical and comprehensive data isn’t easy to get on your own. It’s too easy to miss out on vital information that will make your SEO strategy a success.
  • Competition. Keyword research tools allow you to understand not only what users are searching for but also what your competition focuses on. You can quickly identify gaps and find the best path to profitability and success.
  • Knowledge. Long-time SEO experts can craft their own keyword strategies with a careful analysis of the SERPs, but that requires years of practice, trial, and costly errors. Not everyone has that experience. And not everyone has made enough mistakes to avoid the pitfalls.

A good SEO keyword research tool eliminates much of the guesswork. Here are seven well-known and time-tested tools for SEO that will get you well on the way to dominating your market.

1. Google Keyword Planner

Screenshot from Google Keyword Planner, January 2023

Cost: Free.

Google Keyword Planner is a classic favorite.

It’s free, but because the information comes directly from the search engine, it’s reliable and trustworthy. It’s also flexible, allowing you to:

  • Identify new keywords.
  • Find related keywords.
  • Estimate the number of searches for each variation.
  • Estimate competition levels.

The tool is easy to access and available as a web application and via API, and it costs nothing; it just requires a Google Ads account.

You must also be aware of a few things when using this tool.

First, these are estimates based on historical data. That means if trends change, it won’t necessarily be reflected here.

Google Keyword Planner also can’t tell you much about the SERP itself, such as what features you can capitalize on and how the feature converts.

Because it’s part of Google Ads, PPC experience can help you gain more insights. You’ll find trends broadly across a demographic or granular level, like a city, region, or major city.

Google Keyword Planner also tends to combine data for similar keywords. So, if you want to know if [keyword near me] is better than [keywords near me], you’ll need a different tool.

Lastly, the tool uses broad definitions of words like “competition,” which doesn’t tell you who is ranking for the term, how much they’re investing to hold that ranking, or how likely you are to unseat them from their coveted top 10 rankings.

That being said, it’s an excellent tool if you just want to get a quick look or fresh ideas, if you’d like to use an API and create your own tools, or simply prefer to do the other tasks yourself.

2. Keyword.io

Cost: Free, $29 per month, and $49 per month.

If Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t quite enough, but you’re on a tight budget, Keyword.io may be the alternative you need. It also has different features.

Keyword.io uses autocomplete APIs to pull basic data for several sites and search engines, including Google, Amazon, eBay, Bing, Wikipedia, Alibaba, YouTube, Yandex, Fiverr, and Fotolia. This is perfect for niche clients and meeting specific needs.

It also has a Question/Intent Generator, an interactive topic explorer, and a topical overview tool.

In its user interface (UI), you’ll find an easy-to-use filter system and a chart that includes the competition, search volume, CPC, and a few other details about your chosen keywords.

It does have some limits, however.

You can run up to 20,000 keywords per seed with a limit of 100 requests per day (five per minute) or 1,000 requests per day (10 per minute) on its paid plans.

Its API access, related keywords tool, Google Ad data, and other features are also limited to paid accounts.

3. Semrush

Semrush's keyword toolScreenshot from Semrush

Cost: $119.95 to $449.95 per month.

In its digital marketing suite, Semrush offers a collection of six keyword tools and four competitive analysis tools with a database of more than 21 billion keywords.

You can get a full overview of the keywords you’re watching, including paid and organic search volume, intent, competition, CPC, historical data, SERP analysis, and more.

You’ll get related keywords and questions, as well as a ton of guidance, ideas, and suggestions from the Semrush Magic, Position Tracking, and Organic Traffic Insights tools.

The Keyword Planner, however, is where much of the magic happens.

The organic competitor tab makes it easy to spot content and keyword gaps. Expand them and develop clusters that will help you grab traffic and conversions.

You can also see long-tail keyword data and other data to see what Page 1 holds regarding competition, difficulty, and opportunities at a broad or hyperlocal level.

The full suite of tools is a huge benefit. Teams can collaborate, share insights, and plan.

The seamless integration allows you to integrate your data, meaning teams can easily collaborate, share insights, and strategize.

And when you’re done, it can track everything you need for a successful digital marketing strategy.

Some of the tools they offer include:

  • On-page SEO tools.
  • Competitive analysis suite.
  • Log file analysis.
  • Site auditing.
  • Content marketing tools.
  • Marketing analysis.
  • Paid advertising tools.
  • Local SEO tools.
  • Rank tracking.
  • Social media management.
  • Link-building tools.
  • Amazon marketing tools.
  • Website monetization tools.

Semrush’s best features when it comes to keyword research are its historical information and PPC metrics.

You can deep dive into campaigns and keywords to unlock the secrets of the SERPs and provide agency or in-house teams with priceless information they don’t usually access.

4. Moz Keyword Explorer

Keyword Research Tool From MozScreenshot from Moz, January 2023

Cost: Free for 10 queries per month. $99-$599 per month.

With a database of more than 500 million keywords, Moz Keyword Explorer may be a great option if you’re looking to build a strategy rather than get a quick view of the data for a few keywords.

Moz has long been a leader in the SEO space.

Constantly updating and improving its Keyword Explorer Tool and its other core services, Moz keeps up with the trends and is well known for providing SEO professionals with the latest tools. And it has done so for more than a decade.

Like the Google Keyword Tool, Moz’s keyword planning tool provides information on the difficulty and monthly search volume for terms. It also lets you drill down geographically.

When you start, you’ll find the Keyword Overview, which provides monthly search volumes, ranking difficulty, organic click-through opportunities, and an estimated priority level.

You can also:

  • Find new relevant keywords you should be targeting but aren’t.
  • Learn how your site performs for keywords.
  • Find areas where you can improve your SEO (including quick wins and larger investments).
  • Prioritize keywords for efficient strategy creation.
  • Top SERP analysis and features.
  • Competitor analysis.
  • Organic click-through rates.

Unlike the Google Keyword Tool, however, Moz supplies you with data beyond the basics. Think of it like keyword research and SERP analysis.

Moz does tend to have fewer keyword suggestions. And like Google’s Keyword Planner, it provides range estimates for search data rather than a specific number.

However, the database is updated frequently, so you can feel confident that you’re keeping up with the constant change in consumer search habits and rankings.

Plus, it’s easy to use, so teams can quickly take care of marketing tasks like finding opportunities, tracking performance, identifying problem areas, and gathering page-level details.

Moz also offers several other tools to help you get your site on track and ahead of the competition, but we really like it for its keyword research and flexibility.

5. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Cost: $99-$999 per month.

If I had to describe Ahrefs in one word, it would be power.

Enter a word into the search box, and you’re presented with multiple panels that can tell you everything you want to know about that keyword.

Total search volume, clicks, difficulty, the SERP features, and even a volume-difficulty distribution. And while it may look like a lot, all the information is well-organized and clearly presented.

Ahrefs provides terms in a parent-child topic format, providing the terms with context, so you can easily learn more about the terms, such as intent, while identifying overlap and keeping it all easy to find and understand.

These topics appear when you search for a related term, including the term’s ranking on the SERP, SERP result type, first-page ranking difficulty scores, and a snapshot of the user-delivered SERP. You can stay broad or narrow it all down by city or language.

Ahrefs can get a bit expensive. Agencies may find it difficult to scale if they prefer several user or client accounts, but it’s still one of the best and most reliable keyword research tools on the market.

What I really like about Ahrefs is that it’s thorough. It has one of the largest databases of all the tools available (19.2 billion keywords, 10 search engines, and 242 countries at the time of writing), and it’s regularly updated.

It makes international SEO strategies a breeze and includes data for everything from Google and Bing to YouTube and Amazon.

Plus, they clearly explain their metrics and database. And that level of transparency means trust.

Other tools in the suite include:

  • Site Explorer.
  • Site auditing.
  • Rank tracking.
  • Content Explorer.

6. SERanking

SERanking's Keyword Research ToolScreenshot from SERanking, November 2022.

Cost: $23.52-$239 per month, depending on the ranking check and payment frequency.

SERanking shines as a keyword research tool within an all-around SEO toolkit. SERanking helps you keep costs down while offering features that allow agencies to meet clients’ unique needs.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you log in is its intuitive user interface. But this tool isn’t just another pretty online tool.

Its database is robust.

SERanking’s U.S. database includes 887 million keywords, 327 million U.S. domains, and 3 trillion indexed backlinks. And this doesn’t include its expansive European and Asian databases.

The overview page provides a solid look at the data, which includes search volume, the CPC, and a difficulty score.

SERanking also provides lists of related and low-volume keywords if you need inspiration or suggestions, as well as long-tail keyword suggestions with information about SERP features, competition levels, search volume, and other details you need to know to identify new opportunities.

Of course, identifying keywords is only the start of the mystery. How do you turn keywords into conversions? SERanking provides keyword tools that help you answer this question.

You can find out who the competition is in the organic results and see who is buying search ads, as well as details like estimated traffic levels and copies of the ads they’re using.

This allows you to see what’s working, gain insights into the users searching for those terms, and generate new ideas to try.

SERanking offers agency features, such as white labeling, report builders, lead generator, and other features you’ll find helpful.

However, one of the features agencies might find most helpful in keyword research is SERanking’s bulk keyword analysis, which lets you run thousands of keywords and download full reports for all the terms that matter.

Other tools in the SERanking Suite include:

  • Keyword Rank Tracker.
  • Keyword Grouper.
  • Keyword Suggestions and Search Volume Checker.
  • Index Status checker.
  • Backlink Checker.
  • Backlink monitoring.
  • Competitive research tool.
  • Website auditing tool.
  • On-page SEO Checker.
  • Page Changes Monitor.
  • Social media analytics.
  • Traffic analysis.

SERanking is more affordable than some of the other tools out there, but it does come at a cost.

It isn’t as robust as some of its competitors and doesn’t get as granular in the same way, but it still provides the features and data you need to create a successful SEO strategy.

And with its flexible pricing, this tool is well worth considering.

7. BrightEdge Data Cube

Cost: Custom pricing model.

If you’re looking for an AI-powered digital marketing tool suite that includes a quality research tool, BrightEdge may be the right option for you.

Unlike other tools that focus on supplying you with data and ways to analyze that data, BrightEdge looks to do much of the time-consuming analysis for you.

Among its search, content, social, local, and mobile solutions, you’ll find Data Cube – an AI-backed content and keyword tool that uses natural language processing to find related topics and keywords.

You’ll also encounter DataMind, an AI that helps you find search trends, changes in consumer behaviors, and important competitor movements you need to know about.

The two together make it quick and easy to perform keyword research, build out topics, create content strategies, and strengthen your SEO plans.

Once you enter a topic or broad keyword, the tool will provide you with relevant keywords, the search volume, competition levels, keyword value, it’s universal listing, and the number of words in the phrase.

Filter the results by a custom set of criteria to narrow the list down and get the necessary information.

Once you have a list, select the ones you want to keep and download them or use them with BrightEdge’s other tools to create full strategies and gain more insights.

This could include competitor analysis, analyzing SERP features, intent, or other tasks.

For agencies that provide local SEO, BrightEdge also offers HyperLocal, which helps you find and track keywords and keyword performance at the local level.

When you’re done, give the Opportunity Forecasting and tracking tools a try to monitor your progress and provide clients with the information they care about.

Perhaps the nicest feature for agencies is its Storybuilder – a reporting tool that allows you to create rich client reports that provide clients with targeted overviews and the data they’re most interested in.

If this sounds like the right tool for you, the company gives demos, but there are a few things you should consider.

First, it only updates once per month. And while the company keeps its pricing close to the chest, this digital marketing tool suite is a significant investment. It may not be the best choice if keyword research is the only thing you need.

Secondly, while the tools are highly sophisticated and refined, there is a learning curve to get started.

You’ll also discover that there are limits on features like keyword tracking, and it can be time-consuming to set up, with some adjustments requiring technical support.

Lastly, BrightEdge’s keyword research tool doesn’t let you get too far into the weeds and doesn’t include PPC traffic.

That aside, agencies and larger brands will find that it scales easily, has a beautifully designed UI, and makes you look great to clients.

The Best Agency SEO Keyword Research Tools

This list only contains seven of the many tools available today to help you get your keyword research done to an expert degree.

But no matter how many of the tools we share with you or which ones, it’s important to understand that none are flawless.

Each tool has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, so selecting a platform is very much dependent on the types of clients that you typically work with and personal preference.

In reality, you’ll likely find that you prefer to work between a few tools to accomplish everything you’d like.

Google Keyword Planner and Keyword.io are top choices when you want a quick look at the data, or you’d like to export the data to work on elsewhere. You may even want to use this data with the other tools mentioned in this chapter.

Ahrefs, Moz, Semrush, and BrightEdge are far more robust and are better suited to agency SEO tasks.

While not free (although they offer free plans or a trial period except BrightEdge), they allow you to really dig into the search space, ultimately resulting in higher traffic, more conversions, and stronger SEO strategies. These benefits require more time and often come with a learning curve.

By far, the most important keyword research tool you have access to is you.

Keyword research is more than simply choosing the keywords with the biggest search volume or the phrase with the lowest Cost Per Click (CPC).

It’s your expertise, experience, knowledge, and insights that transform data into digital marketing you can be proud of.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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