5 Smart Ways To Do Keyword Research (Without Tools)

Last Updated on July 19, 2023 by Jordan Alexo

You’re here because you want to master the art of keyword research, right? But you’re probably thinking, “I need a bunch of fancy tools for that!”

Well, guess what? You don’t. 

In fact, you can start doing keyword research with just a spreadsheet. And using Google’s free resources. Like their auto-suggest, “people also ask” options and your competitor’s sites.

Sound fun? Then keep reading to learn five smart ways to do keyword research.

Key Takeaways

  1. Google Spreadsheet is Your Best Friend: Use a Google Spreadsheet to save all your keyword ideas.
  2. Google’s Got Your Back: Google’s Autosuggest, People Also Ask, and Google Trends provide valuable low-competition keyword ideas.
  3. Your Competitors are Your Secret Weapon: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Your competitors have already done a lot of the hard work for you. So, use it. Analyze their content, check their sitemap, and steal their keywords. Just play smart!
  4. Understanding The Main Search Terms: You must analyze the search results for a given keyword. Then see which main search terms are being used. So, don’t immediately write about the first keyword you find.
  5. Low-Competition Keywords are Gold: Don’t fear keywords with low search volume. Your blog posts can rank for hundreds of low-competition search terms. Meaning you’ll get more organic traffic than your main target keyword.

Do you have the tools you need to succeed as a blogger? No! Then learn about the top tools every blogger must have.

How To Do Keyword Research Without Paid Tools (5 Ways)

Let’s get the party started and see how you can do keyword research without any crazy tools. Mostly just using Google and your competition.

#1 Strategy – Google’s Autosuggest

Google’s Autosuggest is like that friend who finishes your sentences, but in this case, it’s finishing your search queries.

And it’s a goldmine for keyword research. So, here’s how to do it:

Type your main keyword into the search engine. For example, “SEO Tips.”

Google search "SEO Tips"

Then, go through the alphabet, one letter at a time, after your keyword. You’ll see a bunch of suggestions pop up. These are real searches that people are making.

using the alphabet to find other topic ideas
using the alphabet to find new keyword ideas

And don’t just stop at the alphabet. Use phrases like “how to,” “why,” and “best” before your keyword. You’ll discover great keyword phrases that you might not have thought of.

using "best" to find new search term ideas
using "how to" to find new keywords

Lets your main keyword is “breathing exercises,” typing “how to breathing exer” might bring up “how to breathing exercises” or “how to yoga at home.” Boom!

You’ve got yourself some long-tail keywords.


You want to consider your audience’s words when searching for your topic. What are they searching for? What are they searching for? What problems are they trying to solve?

The more you get into their heads, the better your keyword research will be.

And the best part? All this info is straight from Google, which handles over 3.5 billion daily searches. So, you know it’s legit.

#2 Strategy – Google’s People Also Ask

Have you ever noticed the “People Also Ask” box that pops up when you search for something on Google?

Yeah, that’s not just there to look pretty. See, you can find many keywords here to write full blog posts, subtopics, or as a FAQ section on articles.

Here’s how you use it: Type in your main keyword and check out the “People Also Ask” section.

people also ask questions

You’ll see a bunch of related questions that people are asking. These are not just random questions. Instead, these are the burning questions that your audience wants answers to.

But wait, there’s more. Click on one of these questions; like magic, more questions appear below. And it’s like a never-ending rabbit hole of keyword ideas.

people also ask for "how to seo tips"

Let’s say your main keyword is “vegan diet.” You might see questions like How healthy is a vegan diet?” or “What is the most common vegan diet?” Click on one of those, and you’ll get even more questions.

People also ask for Vegan Diet after clicking on some of the prior results

This strategy is all about understanding your audience’s pain points.

  • What are they struggling with?
  • What information are they seeking?

The more you can answer these questions, the more valuable your content will be.

And remember, these are questions that real people are asking.

Based on Moz’s study: the “People Also Ask” feature appears in about 43% of Google search results. So, that’s a lot of questions and potential keywords.

#3 Strategy – Google Trends

This tool shows you what’s hot right now… and what’s not. And here’s how to use Google Trends:

Select the country you want to check. In most cases, “United States.”

1 – Related Search Query

Now type in your keyword and see what is trending in popularity. Usually, you may find some fantastic new products to promote. And possibly they won’t have a huge competition yet.

For example, “AI tools” because I’m seeking fresh artificial intelligence tools to review.

Google Trends

Play around with the “Top” option (meaning the most popular topics) and “Rising” (topics that are gaining popularity). And click the arrows until you see something that catches your interest.

Google Trends "Related Queries" showing the other queries

2 – Related Topics

Also, another trick is to check “Related Topics” and just click on them to find more keyword ideas.

Google Trends "Related Topic"

Just play around on Google Trends. Search through the “Related Queries” to find more keyword ideas. Then check other “Related Topics” and repeat the same process.

This strategy is a powerful way to find new products you can review or create content about. And most likely before a tidal wave of competition does the same.

#4 Strategy – Get Keywords From Your Competitors

Are you feeling lazy? Then why do all the work when your competitors already have done some of it for you?

And that’s what this strategy is all about. Instead of seeing them as enemies, see them as… keyword suppliers.

So, let’s see how you can do this:

Google search a niche-related keyword and looks for a website with a domain authority score similar to yours. Meaning if your site has 31 DR, then you want another between 20-40 DR.

Not sure how to see this? No worries. Just install the Ahrefs toolbar (free), create an account, and log in.

Using these tools, you can see the domain authority score whenever you visit a website.

For my example, I’ll check “blogging tips.” Now I scroll through the list of web pages and check a few sites in the search results.

Google search "blogging tips"

I quickly check their DR score and see it is similar to mine. Now, it’s time to play detective.

check website domain rating. You want to find a DR similar to your site.

Analyze their content and look for keywords they are targeting. How do you do this? Check their sitemap. Just type in “sitedomainname . com/post-sitemap.xml or sitemap_index.xml or sitemap.xml” to access their sitemap.

sitemap where you can see the keywords from your competitors

Go through the list and grab any content ideas that sound interesting. You can easily find relevant keywords to build your site’s topical authority.


Your competitors have already done a lot of the hard work for you. They’ve figured out which keywords work and which ones don’t. So, why not take advantage of that?

I admit (I’m a cheater) most of my keywords were found using this strategy.

#5 Strategy – Google-Related Searches

Last but not least, let’s talk about Google Related Searches. This is like the bonus round of keyword research. It’s where you find those hidden gems you might have missed otherwise.

Here’s how you do it.

Enter your keyword into Google and scroll down to the bottom of the search results page. There, you’ll find a section called “Related searches.” These are keywords that are, you guessed it, related to your main keyword.

For example, if your keyword is “blogging tips,” you might see related searches like “20 actionable blogging tips for beginners,” or “blog writing tips.” These are all potential keywords that you can target.

related keywords section

Google Related Searches is all about expanding your keyword list. It’s like a brainstorming session with Google. And the best part? These are keywords that people are actually searching for.

Also, click on one of these “related search” keywords to dig deeper into the search results. Next, scroll down to find more related keywords and pick your winners.

second related searches

A study by Ahrefs: 92.42% of all keywords get ten monthly searches or fewer.

This means there are many low-competition keywords out there just waiting to be found. And Google Related Searches are a great way to find them.

Slaying The Traffic Myths

Before we jump into the next section, let’s play myth boosters for a second. You might think:

 “Jordan, but I analyze these keywords on Google Keyword tool, and their search volume is really low.”

Well, here’s the pickle…

Myth 1 – Those tools Aren’t 100% Accurate

Those tools give you an average estimate of search volume based on historical data. So, recent search terms might not have enough data. For instance, a new product still fresh out of the box will probably show zero search volume.

And once those tools start picking up data, it may already be too late for you to write a review. Because your competition got in the game and ranked those keywords before you.

Myth 2 – Blog Posts Rank For Hundreds of Keywords

Yes, you want to target a main keyword. But if you do a nice job incorporating secondary keywords throughout your blog post content, your post can rank for hundreds of keywords.

So just because your main search term shows ten or fewer monthly searches – that doesn’t mean your blog post won’t get traffic.

In fact, as your blog post ages, it starts ranking for more search terms. And eventually, it may be like you opened a floodgate of organic traffic.

How To See What People Are Mainly Searching?

With these keywords, you don’t want to jump immediately and start burning the midnight oil writing content.

No, wait, your horses. Before anything, you want to see if people are specifically searching for these keywords.

So, how can you do this? Easy, you can type in your keyword into Google. Next, check the meta titles of the blog posts that appear in the search results.

  • Do these titles have your keyword?

If “no,” perhaps people use another similar search term to find that information.

For example, “What is the best replacement for Ahrefs?” and are my results:

see what is the main keyword people are using to search for that content

With a glance, I see that “best Ahrefs alternatives” is the main focus of the search results.

Google has got smarter over the years. They understand that when someone searches for “what is the best replacement for Ahrefs,” they seek information on alternatives.

So, in this case, that would be the main keyword to target.

How To Analyze Competition?

Well, you don’t want to spend time writing content to stay then buried under competition, right? So, this is where you see what you’re up against.

For this, type your keyword into Google with “allintitle:” before it, like this: allintitle: “your keyword.” This will show you all the pages with your exact keyword in their title.

For example, if your keyword is “vegan protein powder,” you would type allintitle: “vegan protein powder.” You’ll see many results pop up. This is your competition.

check the number of results. Must be below 1000 results.

Now, I like to keep this number below about 1000 search results. Anything above that may indicate everyone and their mom and cat is writing about that topic.

And you don’t want to compete against moms, and cats, do you?


Write content around keywords below 1,000 search results so you can have a fighting chance.

Anything else, especially with a new website, maybe too competitive. Or take ages to rank on the front page and get traffic. Of course, if you already have a reputable site, then you target more competitive terms.

Last Thoughts

Let’s do a quick recap. We discussed how you can start keyword research with just a Google Spreadsheet. No fancy tools are needed. Just you, your spreadsheet, and a little bit of creativity.

Then, we went into five killer strategies for finding keywords:

  1. Google’s Autosuggest, where you can uncover popular keyword phrases straight from the horse’s mouth.
  2. Google’s “People Also Ask” is a treasure of keyword ideas based on actual questions people ask.
  3. Google Trends shows you the popularity of specific keywords over time.
  4. Getting keywords from your competitors, because why do all the hard work when someone else has already done it for you?
  5. Google Related Searches is the bonus round of keyword research where you can find those hidden gems.

We also analyzed Google’s search results and discussed seeing what people are mainly searching for. And lastly, how to see their competition so your content doesn’t get buried underneath countless other pages.

Alright, that’s it for now. Go out there and start finding those keywords. If you have any other awesome strategy, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about it.

Psss… wait! Discover the top books that every successful blogger needs to have on their bookshelf.

Questions? We Have Answers.

Get answers to a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions.

Oh, you bet! Google Keyword Planner is absolutely free. All you need is a Google Ads account, and voila, you got yourself a world of keyword insights.

Now, this isn’t to say you’ll have to start ad campaigns. You can just use the account to access the tool.

But remember, the data it provides can be a little skewed towards advertisers, so consider mixing it up with some other tools too.

Keywords, my friends, aren’t all the same. You’ve got four main types:

  • “Informational Keywords“: These are used when folks are looking to learn something. They’re just gathering info and not ready to buy yet. Keywords might include “how to,” “what is, “or “best ways to.”
  • Navigational Keywords“: These are used when people know where they wanna go. It could be a brand name or a specific website. For instance, typing “Neil Patel Blog” into Google is a navigational search.
  • Transactional Keywords”: Ah, the moneymakers! These are used when folks are ready to pull out their credit cards. They might include words like “buy,” “coupon,” “price,” or “discount.”
  • Commercial Investigation Keywords“: These are a bit of a mix. People use them when they’re considering a purchase but still comparing their options. They might include “best”, “top”, “review”, or “compare.”

Google keywords? Oh, they’re still a thing. Google hasn’t completely done away with them, though the algorithm has gotten smarter. It’s not just about keyword stuffing anymore – Google’s way past that. It’s about the context, relevance, and overall quality of your content.

Just remember, it’s about understanding the intent behind those keywords rather than just sprinkling them everywhere. Use them wisely, naturally, and focus on the user’s needs, and you’ll keep Google happy.

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