Given you have a good idea of where to start and are fairly confident you are speaking the same language as your client, jump start research by generating related keyphrases and long tail variants with the ever so easy to use Google Autocomplete. This tool makes predictions based on what you are typing that are a reflection of Google search activity.
In addition, you can dig into the paid side of search and find out what keywords your competitors are bidding on, and then leverage those keywords for your own organic benefit if you're not already doing so. Search Metrics does this as well, but I've found SEMRush to provide a greater range of keywords and they save more historical keyword data than Search Metrics.
I also want to emphasize that Microsoft Excel and Google Docs perhaps play an equal, if not more important role in keyword research than any of these tools, because at the end of the day, the mountain of data you end up with is of no use if you can’t perform calculations, sort, filter, present or store it in a way that’s best suits the task at hand. Head over to Distilled for a comprehensive Excel for SEOs guide. Alternatively, bug this guy—he’s the Sensei who trains Excel ninjas in the dark of the night.
"I've been doing keyword research for years, and I can tell you that dealing with hundreds of keywords and dozens of spreadsheets is enough to make anyone lose the will to live. Keyword Researcher is great because not only does it let you easily find keywords that people are actually searching for, but it has a clean and simple interface that makes it easy to keep track of what you've found. If I'm stuck and need some new ideas, I just fire it up and usually find several things to write about in a few minutes."
The Google Keyword Tool has a variety of helpful features meant to streamline the keyword research process. By entering terms or phrases into the search box, the Keyword Tool allows you to build extensive, relevant keyword lists from one simple interface. By default, the tool displays Advertising Competition, Global Monthly Searches, Local Monthly Searches, and Local Search Trends for each keyword. Additional options allow marketers to show the estimated Average Cost per Click, Ad share, and Search Share.
You can try DeepMiner. It is good for scrapping, rank position, generating long tails and keyword suggestions. You can export the data to document for later analytics. You can find popular keywords that people are searching for. 7 major engines are supported, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Amazon, YouTube, Ask, Bing. It supports multi-threading so it is very very fast scrapper. BTW you must use proxy list if you plan to scrap thousands and thousands of keywords.
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Mr. Dean I wanted to drop in and personally thank you for everything you do for us rookies in the online marketing field. I have learned so much from your lessons/guides/articles/videos you name it! I also been using Raven Tools and find it pretty helpful as well in regards to keyword research, what say you? Look forward to all your future posts! Also, it says a lot about you that you actually take the time and respond to the comments that users leave you in your articles, don’t really see that too often these days! All the best!
Use the Keyword Planner to flag any terms on your list that have way too little (or way too much) search volume, and don't help you maintain a healthy mix like we talked about above. But before you delete anything, check out their trend history and projections in Google Trends. You can see whether, say, some low-volume terms might actually be something you should invest in now -- and reap the benefits for later.
When you’re running the Rank Checker feature sometimes you see Google’s captchas pop up and which can be annoying. I have only experienced this on a computer with an old OS (Windows XP) though; I haven’t seen this on Windows 7 or Windows 10 machines. Again, if you close the software and reopen it after a few minutes, everything will be okay again. UPDATE: one of the latest updates fixed this issue.