Moz Keyword Explorer: A Look at How to do SEO Keyword Planning for Free (Or, Um, Blogging for Beginners!!)

No, I don’t work for or get paid by them or ANYTHING. I’m a small blogger with a new blog. I don’t have a budget for the fanciness. Though I’ve been blogging for literally decades, I still don’t have the knowledge and experience to be an informed consumer of SEO products. I do know how to do the research, though! This is one of a series of posts on how to use their free keyword planner effectively — and teach you (and me!)  more about effective SEO without tears — and without a budget.

I thought I’d give you a tutorial today (and in the days to follow)  on how to use the fabulous training-wheels-for-SEO site that Moz offers. I’ve looked at others, but what very few there are out there, for free, require experience and knowledge a small blogger is unlikely to have (without a degree in social media marketing with a computer science minor).

So, using this blog as an example, I thought I’d walk you through it. I went to the Keyword Explorer and put in the set of keywords I thought would provide me with the competitive edge I am looking for, in my case “beginning blogging.”   Here’s what I got.

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You can see here immediately that these terms “beginning blogging” are not popular with people who are searching!   Monthly volume on this combination of terms?   Really low!   This thing helpfully explains that I probably should be trying for “blogging for beginners” instead! 

Digging Deeper

Let’s look at these scores more closely.  When I click the little information or (i) button, in the first  graphic for MONTHLY VOLUME (above) which for my terms is 51-100 searches each month on average.  So it’s not “that” bad but not terrific either.  It barely makes their graph.  When you click that little blue i, you get this “tool tip” explanation that the volume ranges are searched for around this frequency each month.

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The monthly volume chart

By contrast, “blogging for beginners” gets 501-850 hits per month!  Wow, I’ve been doing it wrong.  Time to change my tags and categories!

The “Learn More” link leads you to a great explanation of what a good keyword monthly volume score would look like. 

Moz really knows how to explain things. They value informed consumers—and they go out of their way to inform consumers.   They provide interesting blog posts related to their explanation that include how their keyword planner compares to Google’s  and another post on Google’s Wordplanner “Dirty Little Secrets.

The next metric, Difficulty, is JUST AS IMPORTANT!  This is the score from 0 to 100 that estimates how difficult it will be to rank higher than the current competitors for space on that oh-so-important first page of search results.  You can see here that “beginning blogging” is going to have a bit of hard sledding.Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 1.06.51 PM  I want to get that score down to as low as possible (0-10 would be good!). But if the volume is too low to begin with, it might not be a race worth entering.  Here’s the bad-ass technical details in the Learn more link for difficulty.    The expert in this link explains that for a new site with no other serious ranking scores (like good backlinks), even a score of 20 or 30 would be quite challenging.

Organic CTR? and Priority?

This acronym stands for “click through rate” — that is, how often people click through to sites– because remember, they’re distracted by promoted materials and other things on that SERP (search engine return page).  Those ads and promoted sites are “artificial links.”

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Your blog site’s natural listing on that SERP would be an “organic link.”  This value is explained in detail in the Learn more link.   In a nutshell, this link explains that 64 out of 100 searchers who find a link on this first page are likely to click on my site. IF I CAN MAKE IT to that first page!   This metric is also called “keyword opportunity.”

Priority is a score from 0-100 that combines all the other metrics together.

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You want this score to be high!  Sadly, the keyword combination I chose? Not so good!  Or is it?  The Learn more link explains that “it depends.”


The writer of this article explains:


When you’re building KW lists, my view is that there’s no “good” or “bad” Priority scores, only relative scores. Priority should be used to help you determine which terms and phrases to target first — it’s like a cheat code to unlock the low hanging fruit. 

The writer discusses using keywords of 50-100 words! (oh my!).  We’ll dig into this  idea in more detail in future posts.  How to “operationalize” this factor still is not all that clear to me.  But never fear, dear reader, I am a research hound and I will find out the answer. For today,  this will get you (and me!) started in understanding SEO in a more “practical” way. 🙂 

What Lola wishes she looked like, but no, sadly.  Still, the spirit is there!




Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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