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How To Do A Free Keyword Research: A Beginner’s Guide

Two green frogs doing a keyword research on Google

Keyword research is crucial for successful SEO and digital strategy, especially for NGOs, cultural institutions, and eco-friendly startups. Why? Because a keyword strategy can help you improve your online presence and align content with your target audience’s specific queries. So, this guide will help you understand the keyword research process and how to apply it to organizations that aim to make a difference, cost-free! 

Start By Understanding Your Audience

The cornerstone of impactful keyword research for purpose-driven entities lies in a profound understanding of your audience. This step requires identifying the basic demographics and psychographics: the values, interests, and motivations that drive your audience

For instance, the audience for museums or NGOs might be driven by a quest for knowledge, cultural enrichment, or social change. On the other hand, green startups might engage an eco-conscious demographic passionate about sustainability. 

So, the first step is developing detailed audience personas. These would be in-depth profiles with their aspirations, challenges, and digital search behaviors. It is crucial to comprehend these elements when crafting an SEO strategy to meet their needs and interests.

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Aligning Keywords with Audience Interests

After a well-defined audience persona, you need to align your keywords with their core interests and values. This alignment is the essence of effective keyword research for entities with a purpose-driven mission. It involves hypothesizing what terms or phrases your audience might use in their online searches.

For a cultural institution, this could include terms related to historical events, art movements, or educational resources. However, for an NGO, keywords are related to social issues, advocacy, or community services. 

The process includes utilizing advanced keyword research tools to explore and analyze these terms and assess their relevance, search volume, and competition. The objective is to curate a list of keywords that drive traffic and resonate authentically with your audience’s interests and your organization’s mission.

Finding the Right Terms With Free Keyword Tools and Techniques

Finding the right keywords begins with leveraging SEO tools and techniques. This step is crucial in uncovering terms that align with your mission and your audience’s search habits. But the inconvenient side of keyword research tools is that they all cost money. For a nonprofit organization just starting with SEO and content strategy, a keyword research tool subscription may not be the budget-friendly solution.

Fortunately, several budget-friendly and even free tools can significantly enhance your SEO efforts. Google Analytics and Google Search Console are indispensable, offering deep insights into website traffic, user behavior, and search performance.

Screenshot of a free keyword research on Ahrefs SEO tool

Where To Start With Keyword Research?

As for specifically researching keywords, you can start with foundational tools like Ahrefs Keyword Generator or Ubersuggest. These platforms offer insights into search volumes, keyword relevance, and competition levels

Even though the free versions might give you limited results, they are a great start when learning how to do keyword research. 

After typing a desired query in Ahrefs Keyword Generator, you’ll get:

  • the first 100 keywords that match it, 
  • keyword difficulty (how hard it is to rank on a scale of 1-100), 
  • and keyword volume (an estimation of the average monthly number of searches for a keyword).

In addition, you’ll get 50 long-tail keywords and questions related to your query, that can help you plan your Google, Bing, Amazon, or Youtube content strategy.

Strategic Keyword Selection and Budget-Friendly SEO Tools for Nonprofits

When using these tools, it’s important to focus on keywords that are relevant to your content and resonate with your audience’s interests. 

Additionally, you can explore competitors’ websites to understand what keywords they are ranking for and use social media listening to gauge what topics your audience is discussing. The goal is to gather a diverse set of keywords that are both relevant to your mission and have the potential to drive meaningful traffic to your site.

Also, some platforms offer special discounts for nonprofits, such as Google for Nonprofits, which includes free access to Google Workspace and ad grants. These tools provide the necessary functionality to conduct effective SEO without overstretching limited budget

Screenshot of a free keyword research phase match on Ahrefs

Analyzing Keyword Potential

Search Volume and Competition

It’s essential to strike a balance between search volume and competition while selecting keywords for your SEO strategy. Search volume refers to how often a keyword is searched for in search engines, indicating its popularity.

However, high search volume often comes with high competition, making it challenging for new or smaller websites to rank for those keywords. On the other hand, keywords with lower search volumes may have less competition, offering a more attainable opportunity for visibility.

To assess this, use tools like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush. These tools provide data on search volumes and keyword difficulty (a measure of competition). For purpose-driven entities, the aim should be to find a balance – keywords that have a reasonable search volume but aren’t so competitive that ranking for them is unrealistic. This often leads to targeting more specific, niche keywords that are highly relevant to your audience.

Relevance and Intent

The relevance of a keyword to your organization’s mission and the user’s search intent is just as important as search volume and competition. Relevance ensures that the keyword aligns with your content and mission, attracting the right audience. User intent refers to what the searcher is looking for – information, a specific type of service, or perhaps a product.

To evaluate the effectiveness of your SEO strategy, ask whether the keyword reflects the content and services you offer. Does it align with your mission and values? For example, a museum focusing on natural history might find keywords related to “prehistoric exhibitions” more relevant than generic “museum” keywords.

Next, consider the intent behind the keyword – is someone searching this term looking for information, to make a donation, to volunteer, or to purchase something? Understanding this will help you create content that meets your audience’s needs and drives your desired outcomes.

A black board with chalk written "Why""Who""When""What""Where"and "How" as indicators of user intent in crafting keyword research strategy

Implementing Keywords in Your Content

Effectively incorporating keywords into your content is a delicate art that balances SEO optimization with natural, engaging writing. The key is to integrate keywords in a way that feels organic and enhances the reader’s experience.

So, start by ensuring that your primary keyword appears in crucial places like the title, headings, and the first paragraph of your content. Still, avoid overstuffing your text with keywords, as this can detract from readability and even incur search engine penalties.

Use variations of your primary keyword throughout the content to maintain a natural flow. This helps with SEO and keeps the content engaging for the reader. 

Additionally, consider the context in which the keyword is used. It should always be relevant to the topic at hand and add value to the discussion. For example, in a blog post for a green startup, a keyword like “sustainable practices” should be woven into discussions relevant to sustainability in business, not forced into unrelated sections. For more actionable tips and valuable insights check out our guide to SEO and marketing strategies for green startups

Long-Tail vs. Short-Tail Keywords

Understanding the distinction between long-tail and short-tail keywords is crucial in crafting an effective SEO strategy

Short-tail keywords are broad, often consisting of one or two words, like “museum” or “sustainable fashion.” While they have high search volumes, they also come with high competition and often lower conversion rates. In contrast, long-tail keywords are more specific phrases, such as “children’s art history museum” or “organic cotton women’s apparel.” These keywords typically have lower search volumes but are less competitive and more targeted, often leading to higher conversion rates. 

For niche audiences that purpose-driven entities cater to, long-tail keywords are particularly beneficial. They allow you to target specific aspects of your mission and audience, ensuring that the traffic driven to your site is more aligned with your organizational goals and more likely to engage meaningfully with your content.

Word cloud of a museum related queries

Balancing SEO and Authenticity

While SEO is crucial for digital visibility, it should never compromise the authenticity of your content or mission. Your audience, especially in the realm of purpose-driven entities, values transparency and genuine communication. Ensure that your content first and foremost serves your mission and speaks to your audience’s values and needs.

The ultimate goal of SEO is not to attract any audience, but the right audience – one that resonates with your mission and is likely to engage with your content meaningfully. This means creating content that is both optimized for search engines and deeply aligned with your organization’s values and goals. 

Tracking Keyword Performance

Monitoring the performance of your chosen keywords is very important for understanding the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. This ongoing process involves tracking how well your keywords are ranking in search engine results and how they are driving traffic to your site. 

Here is how to do it:

Utilize Google Analytics and Google Search Console for insights:

  • Identify which keywords are attracting visitors.
  • Analyze visitor duration and their actions on the site.


Have Regular Review Intervals:

  • Set monthly or quarterly reviews for keyword performance.
  • Monitor trends in search rankings and website traffic.


Key Metrics to Focus On:

  • Observe changes in bounce rate.
  • Evaluate conversion rates linked to specific keywords.
  • Assess content relevance and engagement based on these metrics.
Woman typing queries in Google search bar

Adapting Your Keyword Strategy

The digital content and trends are constantly evolving, and so should your keyword strategy, including considerations for seasonal SEO. As search patterns can fluctuate with seasons or specific events, it’s vital to adapt your strategy accordingly.

Based on the performance data you gather, be prepared to make adjustments. This could mean refining your existing keywords, targeting new keywords, or even revising your content to better align with what your audience is searching for.

For example, if certain keywords are not performing as expected, investigate why. Is it due to high competition, changes in search trends, seasonal shift or a misalignment with user intent? Use these insights to refine your approach, experimenting with different keywords or content strategies to find what works best for your organization.

Final Thoughts

As an SEO consultant with a passion for supporting purpose-driven organizations, I am here to assist you on this journey. Whether you need help refining your keyword strategy, understanding analytics, or crafting content that resonates with your audience while optimizing for search engines, my expertise is at your disposal. Together, we can ensure that your SEO efforts are not only successful but also deeply aligned with your values and mission.

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