Most people use a keyword tool. External seems to be the most commonly used keyword tool, but I prefer to use internal keyword tools.
What’s the difference?
Your definition is probably different from mine. I think that an external keyword tool is a tool that uses information from someplace other than your website. For example, Google has an Adwords keyword tool. External is the name of the game when it comes to that tool. It’s not using information that you have access to when it suggests keyword phrases. It’s using information that Google has from its own data. (If someone who worked for Google were using it to decide what kind of content to create on Google, then it would be an internal keyword tool for that person.)
I think that an internal keyword tool is your server logs, or your analytics account. You’re using information from your own data about who visited your site and for what keyword phrases. I prefer to use my internal keyword tools for research, because I think they give me stronger clues about where the strengths of my particular site lie.
For example, I get traffic for the phrase “poker seo.” I can assume from that fact that I could get traffic for similar keyword phrases, and I like to play mad-libs with the keyword phrases that send me traffic. So for this particular phrase, I’d just brainstorm a list that replaces one word with another word and see what I come up with:
- gambling seo
- texas holdem seo
- casino seo
- poker search engine optimization
- gambling search engine optimization
- texas holdem search engine optimization
- casino search engine optimization
- poker link building
- poker keyword research
And so on. For me, this is a better way to generate a list of ideas than using the Google tool. A lot of times, I’ll find keyword phrases that show little or no estimated traffic in the Google keyword tool. But I get consistent traffic for those phrases. And sometimes I’ll find a supposedly huge keyword phrase using the Google Adwords tool that gets little or no traffic, even if I rank very high for the phrase.
Of course, some of those phrases will be winners, and some of them will be losers. And some of them will become new query spaces if I write about them often enough. (Few people were searching for the phrase “seo theory” until Michael Martinez started writing about the subject in his blog.)
I also use the results of both my external and internal keyword research to generate large lists of phrases in KeywordStrategy.org, which I’m having a complete love affair with right now. If you get a chance, take a look at my review of KeywordStrategy.org. It’s one of the most useful SEO programs I’ve ever found.