Keyword research doesn't begin and end with the AdWords Keyword tool or other Google products. There is more than Google's Insights for Search and Search Suggestions as well. Google's products dominate the search industry in many ways, but there are few tools more ubiquitous than the AdWords Keyword tool. Its data is incorporated in any number of SEO tools, including those offered by SEOmoz, Majestic SEO and Raventools.
As powerful as it is, Google's AdWords Keyword tool does have a few slight limitations. It is often greedy and suggests terms that may not match your intended market and it is light on longtail keyword phrases. While the first is easily accounted for, sometimes you need to reach a bit further into your toolkit to find those longtail terms you want to target. Fortunately there are more options than just Google when it comes to keyword research, and some of them even don't require that much more work.
Your Own Site Search
If you already have an established web presence, and your site is tracking internal site search, there are few better places to start. The data collected by site search usually reveals holes in your site's internal navigation, but it can also offer valuable clues to how your customers phrase their search queries and describe your products. Even though internal site search data provides a solid set of data on how your customers use search, it is only an incomplete picture.
Other Search Engines
Even if Google's products are off limits thanks to the nature of this blog post, Bing, Yahoo, Blekko and DuckDuckGo are not. While Bing and Yahoo provide their search suggestions in the most accessible manner, this data still exists on both Blekko and DuckDuckGo. Blekko also offers an SEO slashtag which while not immediately relevant to this post, is still worth having a look at.
While we are on the topic of other search engines, Bing's Webmaster tools also provides a Keyword Research tool for organic queries relating to the site listed. Microsoft's AdCentre provides keyword research tools as well.
Yet More Search Engines
There is more to search than traditional search engines. While Google may be the main way websites are found, there are other search tools dealing in completely different destinations. Both eBay and Amazon have search tools, and they both also provide suggestions. While the markets covered by these tools are predictably narrow, for the markets they cover they can be a valuable source of information.
Yahoo Questions And Quora
Both Yahoo Questions and Quora provide similar information: how people structure natural language queries. Most other social media will also provide similar information should you have the tools needed to collect and analyse it. For the search verticals covered by this user-generated information, the data you can collect through Yahoo Questions and Quora can be a good starting point for populating a PPC campaign. While the text provided as it is on the site might not immediately be usable, it is a good source of words and phrasing for constructing queries to target.
Building A Campaign From The Data
Not all the data gathered from the sources listed above will directly reflect search behaviour on the web. Some such as Site Search will provide a constrained set with a very specific use case, while others are limited by the range of possible results or their ability to collect a meaningful volume of data. On aggregate however, they do represent a decent amount of information and can be used to build a Search Marketing campaign.
Tools from word clouds to n-gram generators make it easy to analyse raw language data for word frequency, order and phrases. Others such as spreadsheets and Mergewords.com make it easier to construct the phrases needed for a campaign. There are more tools than just Google's AdWords Keyword tool, and a lot more data available for analysis, should you have the tools to do so.
Cheating Slightly With Uber Suggest
Just one last thing, although this is slightly cheating. Uber Suggest scrapes Google's Suggest and other similar tools for its data. Even though it does not completely fit in with the intent of this blog post, it does not actually use Google's AdWords Keyword tool. Uber Suggest certainly is another option worth looking at, and it too can be a valuable source of data.
(If you liked this you might enjoy 4 Steps to Doing Keyword Research For Existing Content)