If you want your SEO and content marketing efforts to produce results this year, you need to source optimized keywords that your potential customers are searching for while shopping online. A whopping 93 percent of online searches begin with a search engine, and to drive some of that traffic your way, keyword research is a necessity.

45285942_sTo help you maximize your keyword research in 2016, check out the three hacks we’ve compiled, below:

Use the Best Free Tools

There are plenty of free SEO tools available that you can use to hack your keyword research process and maximize your results. The key is knowing which ones are effective.

Recently, a group of over 50 of the world’s leading SEO experts were polled on which free tools they found the most effective. Here are the three keyword research tools that were mentioned the most often:

  • SEMrush. This tool gives you a wide variety of competitive information, allowing you to see what keywords your competition uses, and where they’re leaving opportunities open for you.
  • Google Keyword Planner. If you want to check the potential for a particular keyword, this is your best bet. You can see exactly how a particular keyword performs, or even check the performance of your competition’s websites.
  • Keyword Tool.io. Once you’ve chosen your keywords, make sure to use this tool for hundreds of long-tail keyword suggestions.

Play Around with Google

Google offers plenty of great keyword tools, but their search engine can be just as useful for performing keyword research. Start typing in a keyword to see what Google automatically suggests. Take it a step further by using the Google Suggest wildcard functionality by adding an underscore at the beginning or end of your keyword or phrase. Google will then insert a list of relevant potential keywords it thinks you might be looking for that you can grab from.

Don’t Overlook Other Search Engines

There’s no question that Google has a stronghold on search traffic. In fact, as of the beginning of 2015, they held 93 percent of global keyword search traffic, and in the United States alone held 83 percent.

This is an enormous number, but if you’re targeting an American audience, you don’t want to focus solely on Google, as doing so leaves almost 20 percent of your audience out in the cold. Make sure to take the time to poke around on Bing and Yahoo, working to attract their audience, too. You’re likely to be rewarded for your efforts, as non-Google SEO is much less competitive and you should find it much easier to rank organically.

What are you doing to maximize your marketing in 2016? Let us know below!