7 Indispensable--and Free--Keyword Tools Take your social media strategy to the next level by using it to improve your products and services.

By Marshall Sponder

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most entrepreneurs and small businesses depend on search engine traffic, but are they leveraging search engines as well as they can? Entrepreneurs are beginning to use social media as a lens to find new products and services or innovate and add features to existing products. Social media can be an entrepreneur's resource for ideas by listening in on amazing personal discussions from the target market the entrepreneur wants to reach and then go develop products for.

For instance, potential customers of high-quality shoes might tweet, or post to Facebook or Friendfeed about the features and benefits they want in shoes, or they might tweet about shoes with an ultra-thin insole that is also increasingly shock resistant to make them even more comfortable. As an entrepreneur looking around for a new product to create, you can use that information to research a "super-thin cushioned insole," find out if anyone is working on such an insole and then attempt to partner with whomever is developing or creating that super-thin cushioned insole.

However, if you're starting a new business, you might not have the money to spend on Radian6 , so here are seven free tools entrepreneurs can use to research new products and services.

  1. Use social media search tools to refine a marketing message that isn't communicating optimally. Take TweetScan --first come up with terms you care about, then make RSS Feeds out of them and subscribe using Google Reader and regularly scan results to see if you've found anything interesting. Look to twitter users who have recently used the terms you're searching on--and that might be the beginning of forming an "influencer list" for your business.
  2. Twitter Search can be used to notify you of events happening nearby that you can leverage for your entrepreneurial efforts, such as meetups or tweetups that happen within a 20 mile radius--often this is the best way to find out about meetings that you might not know about otherwise.
  3. Use AdGooRoo's free business intelligence search tool to find out top keywords and top advertisers. Using AdGooRoo to find keywords and advertisers for "comfortable shoes" yielded additional keywords to feed into Twitter Search and TweetScan as well of a list of competitors that can be studied to improve your business offerings.
  4. Use Microsoft's AdLabs Commercial Intent tool to check the viability that your concept is seen as having commercial value based on the words your using to describe your idea--if not, change your words. For example, "Ultra-Thin Insoles" is considered to have a 68 percent commercial value while "Comfortable Shoes" is considered by the tool to have a 96 percent commercial value. Finding the right way to describe what you're looking for will help you find it faster and cheaper, and help you monetize your offerings once your products or services are ready.
  5. Use Yahoo! Buzz to improve your marketing copy once you settle on keywords to use to describe what your business offers. Using Yahoo! Buzz will help you see how others are currently portraying the same things you want to develop or sell.
  6. Use Quantcast Marketer to find related terms to the products and services you want to develop and sell, as well as pick up demographic information on who your potential customers might be; the Quantcast Marketer program is free to use and all you have to do is sign up for an account.
  7. Use WordStream Free Keyword Tool to supercharge the SEO content of your marketing materials. WordStream Free Keyword Tool has a continuously updated database of more than a billion of the world's most popular keywords, aggregating more than a trillion unique searches; once you settle on the right way to describe your new business offering or service, use the right words that drive the most traffic to your startup.

Layering the seven free keyword tools in this article will help your startup take off--before you have to start worrying that it might run out of runway.

Marshall Sponder is a senior web analyst for a large IT services company based in the Northeast and an artist who maintains Now-SEO, his own search engine marketing consultancy with B2B and B2C clients.

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