4 Google Autocomplete Tricks For Finding Keywords (Hint: Use The _ Character To Have Google Complete The Phrase)

Google Autocomplete is still one of the best tools for finding keywords in SEO.

Most people are familiar with the simple “complete the phrase” method but there’s more to Google Autocomplete than that. You can use fill in the blanks, plurals, and different word ordering to get even more keyword ideas. This will help you accomplish your ultimate goal in this exercise – create a keyword list! Because that is basically your SEO strategy right there.


  • You must be signed in to your Google account
  • You must go to google.com (don’t type in the actual browser)
  • You must hide private results to prevent bias listings (see photo below)

Google Private Results

Here’s what to do. You may want to open a Google Doc and start creating a keyword list


1. Complete The Phrase

If you want Google to complete the last part of the phrase, start typing in a phrase and Google will complete it. Just remember, this works best when it’s the last part of the phrase you want Google to complete. You’ll want to use the “fill in the blank” method otherwise.

Google Autocomplete - Complete The Phrase


2. Fill In The Blank

You can use the underscore character “_” to have Google complete any part of the phrase. Instead of having Google complete only the last part, this can show you a better selection of keywords depending on what type of phrase it is. Assuming you offer different types of photography services in Chicago, this would a perfect way to find out which ones to target.

Google Autocomplete - Fill In The Blank


3. Plurals vs. Non-Plurals

Plurals often show different keywords than non-plurals. See how Chicago __ Photographer and Chicago __ Photographers show different results? This helps you find keywords you may have missed, for example fashion and boudoir were not included in the previous screenshot.

Google Autocomplete - Plurals


4. Different Word Ordering

Use the “fill in the blank” method only try changing the position of the underscore. Remember, you can use the underscore anywhere to get more keyword ideas. Oh look, “average cost of Chicago wedding photographer” … that would be a nice blog post!

Google Autocomplete - Word Ordering


Creating Your Keyword List

Hopefully you wrote down your keywords in a Google Doc or a similar program. Because like I said, the ultimate goal is to created an organized, well-researched keyword list so you can build out your website/blog with those phrases in mind. A keyword list can be created by writing down your different products/services/topics and listing keywords under each…

Keyword List

That’s all I got for now, short and sweet! If you have any questions on Google Autocomplete or keyword research, drop me a line in the comments section. I’m here to help!


Tom Signature



How To Create A Keyword List For SEO (Apple Example)

A keyword list is the blueprint for SEO like a sitemap is for your website.

It outlines the keyword-targeted content that goes on your site, your URL structure, and it’s even used during link building. And if it’s not done right (you don’t choose right keywords) you will spend tons of time trying to “reoptimize” content or you just won’t get results. I will show you how to create an organized, well-researched keyword list so you can develop your content and URLs around those phrases – and have a better chance of ranking on page 1.

Now let’s create your keyword list…


Start With Your Targeted Location


Small town – small towns have less people so there will be lower search volume. This means your keywords will be broad and you will likely have only 1 primary keyword in your list, which should be targeted on the homepage. Larger markets = more specific keywords.

Large city – in addition to including broad phrases in your list, you should also include more specific phrases – since there are more people in a city so the search volume is higher.

National – since you will have a larger pool of keywords to choose from, you need to research each keyword’s competition so you know which ones you can actually rank for.


1. Small Town (Choose Broad Keywords)

Local SEO Keywords

Go to google.com and use Google Autocomplete to learn what keywords people are searching. Type in your town name followed by any keywords describing what you offer. Try multiple variations (eg. lake bluff macbook…) to see if there are any others. However, chances are you will only have 1 primary keyword which will be targeted on the homepage.

If you want to target multiple towns, do the same thing in Google Autocomplete for each town to see it’s most popular phrases. Your keyword list should look something like this…

  • lake bluff apple repair (targeted on homepage)
  • lake forest apple repair (new location-targeted page)
  • highland park apple repair (new location-targeted page)


2. Large City (Choose Specific Keywords)

Use the same strategies described above only in addition to the broad phrases, also look for the more specific phrases that are more relevant to your specific products/services…

Keyword For Large Cities

Or use the “fill in the blank” method which gives you even more keyword ideas…

Google Autocomplete Fill In The Blank

Play with Google Autocomplete to find keywords for your different products/services…

Long-Tail Keywords

Write down ALL products/services you offer and learn keywords for each one…

Keyword List

Do the same thing for other Apple products. Each mini-list should include your different types of repair services, just like I did for the Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, Ipad 2, etc.


3. National (Choose Specific Keywords + Competitive Research)

Since there are a larger pool of keywords to choose from, we have to narrow down the best ones by learning how competitive each keyword is relative to it’s search volume. This will leave you with only the keywords that have the best ranking opportunities. Otherwise you will spend time creating content that targets keywords you may never even rank for.

Step 1: Write down ALL your products/services

Step 2: Find very specific (long-tail) keywords for each product/service…

National Keywords

A keyword like “macbook pro laptop repair” is going to be very competitive since it’s a broad (national) phrase – and common sense tells us there’s going to be tons of websites trying to rank for this. But a keyword like “macbook pro water damage repair” is going to be less competitive since it’s more specific. These are the type of keywords you want to target.

While broad keywords have more search volume, the specific keywords like “macbook pro water damage repair” usually yield a better opportunity. You’re better off on page 1 for a keyword with 100 searches than on page 13 for a keyword with 10,000 searches.

Step 3: Assign keywords to each product/service

Step 4: Filter out keywords that are too competitive. To do this, search each keyword in Google and look at the results. These indicators will tell you whether it’s too competitive…

Keyword Competition

So instead of choosing “how to get out of debt” we would choose a more specific phrase….

Long-Tail Keywords

Just because a keyword is too competitive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include it in your keyword list. If a general page outlining all your “apple repair services” improves user experience, don’t worry about the competition. Create the page for your visitors.


See Competitor Keywords With HubShout WebGrader

You can run multiple websites through HubShout WebGrader to view their keywords…

Competitor Keyword List


Create Your Keyword List

Now that you know how to create a keyword list – go ahead and do it! Here’s some tips:

Similar Keywords – if two keywords mean the same thing (synonyms, plurals, phrases with different word ordering), only select the 1 most relevant keyword that best aligns with the product/service. This is because you should only target 1 primary keyword per page. Plus, Google’s Algorithm does a good job of analyzing user intent and “automatically” ranking websites for related phrases, so unless you know how to target secondary keywords which doesn’t even work that well, just select the 1 keyword that makes the most sense.

Homepage Keyword – should usually target the 1 main keyword you want to rank for.

Blog Post Keywords – use Google Autocomplete to find 1 keyword for each article you write. These should be non-promotional (eg. a “how to” article) and should also be long-tail. A good example would be “how to fix a macbook pro with a white screen.”


Organize Your URL Structure (Bonus Step)

The keywords you choose can affect your URL structure and the content that goes on your site. This is why it’s it’s a good idea to create keyword list before building your site…

Here’s what your URL structure might look like:

  • website.com/ (homepage)
  • website.com/macbook-pro/ (outlines your Macbook Pro services)
  • website.com/macbook-pro/water-damage-repair (specific service)

And here is a URL structure for location-specific keywords:

  • website.com/locations/chicago/macbook-pro-laptop-repair
  • website.com/locations/springfield/macbook-pro-laptop-repair
  • website.com/locations/miami/macbook-pro-laptop-repair


Questions? Comments? Drop Me A Line!

Once you’ve created your keyword list, you can start organizing your permalinks, add the content to your site, then optimize the content by using your keyword in the page title, SEO title, meta description, content body, etc. You’ve just done the hardest part of on-page SEO!

If you have questions on how to create a keyword list, drop me a line in the comments. I’m glad to help with whatever questions you have. I hope you enjoyed the article!


Tom Signature

Using Google Keyword Planner For SEO Keyword Research

Google Keyword Planner can be an awesome keyword research tool in SEO, even if it was designed for AdWords.

It gives you keyword suggestions, trends, filters to help narrow down your selection, and each keyword’s # of monthly searches which indicates competition in organic results.

But I still like to start my keyword research with Google Autocomplete since as you see in the photo, it can give you a very simple list of good keywords. THEN I move to Google Keyword Planner to find phrases which didn’t appear in Autocomplete. Using both tools allows you to create a more robust keyword list and prevents you from missing anything.

Google Autocomplete - Plurals

That’s my spiel on Autocomplete and you can read this article for more Google Autocomplete tricks like the “fill in the blank” trick. Now let’s dive into Google Keyword Planner. You will need to sign up for a Google AdWords account to use Keyword Planner.


1. Start With A Broad Keyword

Google Keyword Planner Search

Broad phrases give you a larger number of keyword suggestions. Then hit “Get Ideas”…

Google Keyword Planner Interface

This pretty much sums up the gist of it.

Whatever keyword you search you will see it’s # of monthly searches. Then look below to find more keyword suggestions, so for example, since “Chicago Newborn Photographer” did not show up in Autocomplete but does show in Keyword Planner – I can now add it to my keyword list. You want to scroll the entire list to make sure you’re not missing any good phrases.


Use Filters To Narrow Down Your Selection

Once you’re done scrolling through the list, play with the filters to see if you can find other keywords you missed. I like to use the “include” filter


Use the filters to target geographic locations, include or exclude certain words, and specify a range of monthly searches (see next step to learn how many monthly searches your site should have). Go ahead and click “Get Ideas” and review the results. If you don’t see a lot of keywords you can always try tweaking the filters or starting with an even broader phrase.

Google Keyword Planner Search


2. Learn How Many Searches Your Keywords Should Have

The higher your domain authority, the more monthly searches your keywords can have. You can check your domain authority by running your site through Open Site Explorer.

Domain Authority - Open Site Explorer

Now see this chart I borrowed from Orbit Media’s keyword research guide

Using domain authority to research keywords in Google Keyword Tool


4. Ignore The Competition And CPC Column

Unlike Autocomplete, Keyword Planner also tells you a debatably accurate number of monthly searches for each phrase. And depending on the website’s domain authority (it’s ability to rank for competitive phrases) it clues you in on what keywords can be eliminated since they have too many monthly searches, indicating higher competition. These are the tips I will cover in my tutorial.

These are for AdWords, not SEO. While they can be used as an indicator on whether a keyword is too competitive, it definitely is NOT the best indicator in SEO.

Better keyword competition indicators in SEO are:

  • # of monthly searches
  • Whether Google’s search results include authority websites (eg. Amazon)
  • Whether Google’s search results include content that covers the topic extensively
  • Your website’s domain authority (higher authority = better chance of ranking)

5. Don’t Choose The Same Keyword Twice

6. Create Your Keyword List


2. Find Keywords People are Searching in Google

Now that you know how competitive your keywords should be, go to Google Keyword Tool and type in a broad phrase where it says “word or phrase.”

Before you hit “search” and look through the list, here’s a few things to consider when choosing keywords:

  • Each page on your website should only target 1 primary keyword
  • Always picture yourself as the searcher and think about what information they might be looking for
  • The content on a page should directly reflect it’s primary keyword, and vice versa
  • If a page’s content does not reflect a keyword, add a new page to your site or chose a new keyword
  • Pages can target multiple keywords if the keywords are similar enough
  • Your keywords can include a geographic location (eg. Chicago Patent Attorney)


Now hit search! When looking through the list, make sure you’re looking at the “Keyword ideas” tab and not “Ad group ideas (beta).”


3. Use Keyword Filters

It’s time to narrow down the results using the filters in Google Keyword Tool. Obviously the point is to setup filters that only show you the most relevant search terms according to your criteria.

Start by setting up a filter to only show keywords within your competition as described in step 1. To do this, click “Advanced Options and Filters” just above the search button on the main page. Create a filter that looks like this (follow the chart in step 1 to see what number you should put in):

how to use Google keyword tool filters

There are other filters too. If you want to include or exclude specific words in your search term, you’ll see this section on the left of your screen in Google Keyword Tool. And now that you know how to use Google Keyword Tool, let’s take a look further into your competition.


4. Know Your Competition in Google

Just by searching a keyword in Google, you find out more about your competition. If larger websites like Amazon.com rank in the top results, you probably want to chose a different keyword. This is especially true if a large website is clearly targeting that keyword. A good indication of this is if that website uses an exact keyword match in their title tag:


how to research keywords in google

There’s no way I want to compete with these guys!


5. Finalize 1 Keyword Per Page

Yes, just one. That’s why it’s called your targeted keyword. Consider adding new pages and blog posts to your website if you want to target more.

Having a website with only a few pages also limits the amount of SEO you can do. This is because a website with 10 pages doesn’t have a lot of content in the eyes of search engines. It basically says you’re not providing your audience with enough useful information. That’s what a blog is good for.

Once you’ve finalized a few terms in Google Keyword Tool, try using them throughout your website.


If you enjoyed my article, please share it with a friend who might like it too. I would really appreciate that.


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