5-Minute Crash Course on Basic DIY SEO [+ 5 tools to find keywords and 4 tips on how to use them]

If you’re like most people who don’t work in digital marketing, your understanding of SEO is most likely as follows:

  • You probably know it’s important for driving leads to your website

  • You’re also probably peripherally aware that SEO uses keywords in your online content to help search engines connect you to relevant searches

Beyond that, you probably have more questions than answers, such as:

  • What does all this terminology mean?

  • How do I go about finding the right SEO keywords to use?

  • Once I have my SEO keywords, how do I use them effectively in my content?

If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Trying to keep up with the latest search engine algorithms and SEO best practices might as well be a part time job.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a well-trained and highly skilled expert to find relevant keywords, incorporate them into your content, and boost your SEO. Basic DIY SEO can still help improve your search engine ranking.

A quick overview of SEO keyword jargon

Before we dive into the tools, there are a few terms to keep in mind:

  • Search volume – This term simply refers to the volume of searches for a particular keyword in a given timeframe. Generally, the higher the search volume, the better, because it means the keyword is searched frequently.

  • Competition – This is a measure of how hard it will be to rank for a particular keyword based on how popular the keyword is and how many competitors are already using it.

  • Interest over time – Keyword search volume can fluctuate over time (think Christmas gift searches in July), so this term will usually come with a graph showing you when a keyword has been more and less popular.

  • Short-tail keywords – Also known as generic keywords or seed keywords, these are usually three words or less and are very broad (think “coworking”). This makes them highly searched but also very competitive. Generally, this would be your primary keyword.

  • Longtail keywords – Somewhat the opposite of short-tail keywords (as you may have picked up), these are significantly longer and more specific (think “the best coworking spaces near me”).

  • LSI keywords – Latent Semantic Indexing keywords are effectively the synonyms of your main keyword. They’re keywords Google sees as semantically related to a topic (think “shared office space” or “communal offices”) without your main keyword being directly referenced.

5 free tools you can use to find SEO keywords for your blog articles

Unless you’re an expert, SEO can be complicated. But if you’re looking for some basic free tools to help you find the right keywords to use, you’re in luck.

Here are five of my favorites.

1. Google Keyword Planner

This free Google Ads tool makes it easy to find keywords to use in your content. It allows you to search either by key term or by website. Having multiple starting points makes it even simpler to find keywords that are relevant to your business.

It also gives you easily digestible keyword recommendations, average monthly searches, and competition for each. Just remember, these numbers are approximations meant to give you a guideline on keyword popularity, not real-time search volumes.

2. Keyword Surfer

This browser plugin transforms your search engine into an SEO-focused dashboard. Once you’ve set it up, it’ll show you keyword ideas based on your Google search as well as search volume for similarity, traffic, and more. Keyword Surfer also lets you toggle between countries so you can get specific keyword data if you’re working in international markets.

As with most SEO tools, this one is a freemium model that allows you to upgrade for enhanced functionality. But I’ve found the free version to be a great source of information.

3. Google’s search recommendations

Given that Google basically writes the rules on SEO, it makes sense that you’d want to use its built-in tools for keyword research.

Every time you search on Google, it’ll automatically give you recommendations on related keywords and topics. You’ll see these recommendations populating as you type in the search bar but can also see additional information way down at the bottom of the page.

While it’s not scientific, it can help you pull keywords that are frequently searched and point you in the right direction when writing content.

4. Keywordtool.io

It looks simple but it’s a powerhouse of insight. Keywordtool.io uses the Google Autocomplete we just discussed to generate hundreds of relevant longtail keywords (more on this in the next section). The free version of this tool can generate up to 750 descriptive and specific keywords in a matter of seconds.

5. Ahrefs Keyword Generator

This awesome free tools pulls the top 100 keyword ideas for any topic or phrase from its database of more than 10 billion keywords across 170+ countries. It also allows you to toggle between countries and shows you the estimated search volume and “keyword difficulty score” for each.

If you’re looking to invest a little bit more heavily into your SEO, I’d also recommend a tool like Hike SEO or Moz. These are super comprehensive tools that offer free trials, but you’ll have to sign up for a paid plan from there.

4 tips for incorporating keywords into your content

Once you’ve found your keywords, you need to figure out how to incorporate them into your content.

As a generality, this takes some creativity and finesse.

Here are some tips to follow when writing SEO-optimized content.

1. Make sure you include keywords in the right place

There are some key places where you need to add keywords in order to maximize SEO benefits. This includes your:

  • Header

  • Subhead

  • The first paragraph of your content

  • Throughout the body (we’ll touch on how much you need to do this in a moment)

  • Alt-tags on images

  • META description

2. Always write for readers and optimize for SEO

There’s a push-pull dynamic between SEO and content writing.

That’s because keywords (especially longtail keywords) aren’t always easy to fit into your content in a way that feels natural. People don’t necessarily type them in a way you would speak or read them.

Some SEO experts may disagree on this but, in my opinion, the key is to write for your readers and optimize for SEO. Always think about readability first and foremost.


Because, as I’ve said before and will say again, while you want to get picked up by search engines, they will never be your members. People will.

Write great content first and then incorporate your keywords where they fit naturally.

3. Avoid keyword stuffing

As an extension of writing for readers and optimizing for SEO, another reason for moderation is to avoid keywords stuffing. This can include:

  • Unnecessarily repeating keywords or phrases

  • Adding keywords that are out of context for the content

  • Inserting blocks of the same keywords

  • Using keywords that are irrelevant to the topic of your content

What once worked for driving SEO has now become obsolete as search engines become more sophisticated. Today, keyword stuffing can actually kill your SEO by way of a search penalty.

The solution?

Try to maintain a keyword density of between 1% and 3% (formula: # of words in your content ÷ the # of times a keyword appears). While there’s no set best practice, this seems to be the sweet spot.

4. Incorporate different types of keywords

As a generality, your best bet is to use a combination of the keyword types listed in the beginning of this article.

Use your seed keyword as your primary keyword. Then, utilize long-tail keywords to hone in on the specific nature of your content. Finally, incorporate LSI keywords for variety to help minimize redundancy in your writing.

SEO strategies are complex, in-depth, and can be quite costly. They are absolutely worthwhile, and I would highly recommend investing in one. But if you’re not in a position where you feel comfortable investing in a full-blown strategy, you can still use the fundamentals of SEO on your own using these tools and tips.

If you need support in creating SEO-optimized content, get in touch to find out how I can help with cost-efficient and results-driven support.


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