4 Free Keyword Research Tools Video Marketers Should Be Using

As we reported on Sept. 4, 2014, the YouTube Ads Keyword Tool was disabled on September 1st. Google and YouTube now recommend using “the Display Planner in AdWords for AdWords for video keyword suggestions.” The sudden loss of one of YouTube’s keyword tools – which followed a similar loss last year of one of Google’s keyword tools – has produced the usual gnashing of teeth among those in the chattering classes. However, I’d like to request equal time for an opposing view: “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

We take a look back at YouTube's Keyword Tool and suggest 4 free alternatives.

YouTube Keyword Tool: Was it Really That Good Anyway?

YouTube’s Keyword Tool was introduced in November 2008 along with Promoted Videos, but you didn’t have to be an advertiser to use it. Initially, the keyword tool gave you three ways to build extensive, relevant keyword lists:

  • Descriptive words or phrases – You’d enter a few descriptive words or phrases (e.g. “green tea”).
  • YouTube video ID or URL – You’d type in a YouTube video’s ID or watch page URL (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LbNI9u8vOA).
  • Demographic (beta) – You’d choose the demographic you wished to target (e.g. male or female).

But, as I said in the second edition of my book, YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day, which was published in November 2011, I’d found that “many of the suggested keywords don’t appear to be relevant for organic YouTube optimization campaigns.”

To provide an example, I said, “enter ‘green tea’ and YouTube’s Keyword Tool says the term has a monthly search volume of 21,800 using broad match. But, the Keyword Tool also suggests that hot rod may be a relevant term. And I concluded, “I have the funny feeling that the engineers and developers who created YouTube’s Keyword Tool were playing the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game when they should have been working on their algorithm.” But wait, there’s more!

In December 2009, the Demographic option got rolled into YouTube’s Video Targeting Tool. But that tool went missing in February 2012. And then the YouTube video ID or URL option was disabled in August 2013. So, as of last week, the only option left was using descriptive words or phrases. So, don’t expect me to start rending my garments over the sudden loss of the YouTube Ads Keyword Tool. It wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed when it was introduced. And after some of the more powerful options kicked the bucket, I stopped using it.

4 Effective Keyword Tools Video Marketers Should Be Using

So, which keyword research tools should internet marketers and video content producers use now? Let me give you four options.

#1 YouTube’s Autocomplete Feature

When researching keywords, you might want to use the autocomplete suggestion drop-down menu on YouTube. Added in May 2008, this feature was designed to help YouTubers find the videos they are looking for more quickly. As you type in your search terms, a menu will appear with suggested results to choose from to help you more.

For example, type in funny in the YouTube search box and the autocomplete drop-down menu suggests: funny videos, funny pranks, funny vines, funny cats, funny cat videos, funny animals, funny fails, funny videos 2014, funny songs, and funny vines 2014.

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#2 Google Trends

Google Trends enables you to take popular search queries and explore traffic patterns over time ranges and locations. In March 2013, Google Trends added YouTube search data going back to 2008, making it another great tool to look at video trends. Visit Google Trends and enter up to five search terms separated by commas. Then, at the top of the page, click on “Web Search” and choose “YouTube Search.” You can click on “Worldwide” and select from a variety of countries. You can click on “2008 to present” and select other dates. You can also click on “All Categories” and select from a variety of categories.

For example, type in chevrolet, chevy and select “United States”, “Past 12 months”, “Autos & Vehicles”, and “YouTube Search”. As the chart below illustrates, there has been 8 times more YouTube search interest in chevy than chevrolet in the past year.

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 #3 YouTube Trends

Officially unveiled in December 2010, YouTube Trends is a set of tools designed to help you stay on top of the latest popular videos and trends on the world’s largest video site.YouTube Trends features algorithmically-generated feeds that highlight which topics and videos are trending right now. The site also offers a “top videos” module and a blog with more in-depth explorations of videos, trends, news, and cultural phenomena as seen through the lens of YouTube. YouTube also created a Trends Dashboard that lets you quickly explore what's popular in different cities in the U.S. and around the world, as well as within specific demographic groups.

For example, one of the most viewed videos in Boston, MA, Manchester, NH, on Saturday was Mutant Giant Spider Dog with 23,608,861 views. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that somebody, somewhere in New England is going to create a sequel or spoof that features a “Mutant Giant Spider Cat” and get a ton of views, too.

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If you haven't seen the Giant Spider Dog video then you're in for a treat (as long as you're not afraid of spiders. Or dogs):

The Display Planner in AdWords

Yes, I know that Google and YouTube now recommend using “the Display Planner in AdWords for AdWords for video keyword suggestions.” So, maybe we just need to suck it up and deal with it. Besides, the YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands, which Carla wrote about on April 1, 2014, explained pretty clearly why you needed to promote your content with paid media.

On Page 67, the Creator Playbook for Brands says, “Given the abundance of videos on the web, it’s risky to assume that your content will be organically discovered by a large audience. It is key to design a solid plan to promote your content and ensure it’s viewed by your target audience.”

It adds, “Virality plays a key role in building your audience on YouTube, but unless you already have millions of subscribers, you’ll need to seed your content when it launches. Indeed, when they don’t have an existing subscriber base or engaged social following, many brands use paid advertising on YouTube to ignite sharing and accelerate audience building.”

Okay, so this advice from YouTube is self-serving. But, there is a major benefit of advertising on YouTube: Earned impact. The Creator Playbook for Brands revealed five months ago that YouTube had “seen over 6,000 campaigns generate at least one earned view as a result of every two paid views.” And YouTube went on to reveal that “hundreds of campaigns get more than two earned views per paid view.” So, maybe, just maybe disabling the YouTube Ads Keyword Tool on September 1 isn’t a sign of the coming apocalypse.