The 9 Best Keyword Research Tools to Find the Right Keywords for SEO

Let’s get right down to it: The key to successful SEO is concentrating on long-tail keywords.

Although these keywords get less traffic than more generic terms, they’re associated with more qualified traffic and users that are typically further down their path of intent.

The good news is that choosing the right long-tail keywords for your website pages is actually a fairly simple process — one that’s made all the more simple and quick when you use the right tools to perform your keyword research.

Download our free SEO template here to organize your keyword research into an actionable plan for your site. 

In this post, we’ll cover the nine best tools out there for performing keyword research for your website content. Before we get started though, let’s briefly go over two important things to consider as you do your research: relevance and (if applicable) location.

Keyword Relevance

Relevance is the most important factor to consider when choosing the right keywords for SEO. Why? Because the more specific you are, the better.

For instance, if you own a company that installs swimming pools, it’s likely that you’d attract more qualified prospects by targeting a keyword such as “fiberglass in-ground pool installation,” rather than “swimming pools.” That’s because there’s a good chance that someone searching for “fiberglass in-ground pool installation” is looking for information on installation or someone to perform the installation … and that could be you!

Sure, optimizing for “swimming pools” has its place. But there’s no doubt that this keyword will attract a much more generic audience that may not be looking for what you have to offer. Go for the relevant, long-tail keywords instead.

Location-Based Keywords

Another major factor to consider when optimizing for the right keywords is location-based searches. When looking for contractors and services in their specific area, search engine users will usually include their location in the search. So, “fiberglass in-ground pool installation” becomes “fiberglass in-ground pool installation in Boston, MA.”

If you operate in one geo-location, you may want to consider adding location-based keywords to all of your pages, since traffic from other locations isn’t going to be very much help to you. If your business operates in several geo-locations, it is also a wise choice to create a separate web page dedicated to each location so you can make sure your brand is present when people are searching for individual locations.

Now, how do you choose the right keywords for your business? We certainly don’t recommend guessing, for obvious reasons. Instead, there are many ways to research and find long-tail keywords that are right for your business.

Here are nine awesome free and paid keyword research tools you can use to quickly and easily identify strong long-tail keywords for your SEO campaign.

Free Keyword Research Tools

1) Google Keyword Planner

Google has a few tools that make it easy to conduct keyword research, and their free AdWords tool called Keyword Planner is a great place to start — especially if you use AdWords for some of your campaigns. (Note: You’ll need to set up an AdWords account to use Keyword Planner, but that doesn’t mean you have to create an ad.)

When you input one keyword, multiple keywords, or even your website address into Keyword Planner, Google will spit out a list of related keywords along with simple metrics to gauge how fierce the competition is around each one and how many searches it gets on both a global and local search level.

It’ll also show you historical statistics and information on how a list of keywords might perform — and it’ll create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together. Since it’s a free AdWords tool, it can also help you choose competitive bids and budgets to use with your AdWords campaigns.


Image Credit: Google

Unfortunately, when Google transitioned from Keyword Tool to Keyword Planner, they stripped out a lot of the more interesting functionality — but you can make up for it somewhat if you take the information you learn from Keyword Planner and use Google Trends to fill in some blanks.

Which brings me to the next tool …

2) Google Trends

Google Trends is another free tool from Google. It lets you enter multiple keywords and filter by location, search history, and category. Once you enter that information in, it’ll give you results that show how much web interest there is around a particular keyword, what caused the interest (e.g., press coverage), and where the traffic is coming from — along with similar keywords.

The best part about Google Trends is that it doesn’t just give you static keyword volume numbers like most keyword research tools. Instead, it generates colorful, interactive graphs that you can play with, download, and even embed on your website. It’ll also give you more dynamic insight into a keyword with information like relative popularity of a search term over time.

Interestingly, its data doesn’t include in repeated queries from a single user over a short period of time, which makes results cleaner. It also groups together searches that it infers to mean the same thing, like misspellings.

One way to use Google Trends? If you’re trying to decide between two keyword variations for your latest blog post title. Simply perform a quick comparison search in Google Trends to see which one is getting searched more often.


3) Keyword

Keyword Tool is pretty rudimentary online keyword research tool, but if you’re just looking for a list of long-tail keyword suggestions related to one you already have in mind, then it can be useful. It’s also totally free — to use the most basic version, you don’t even need to create an account.

What Keyword Tool does is use Google Autocomplete to generate a list of relevant long-tail keywords suggestions. The search terms suggested by Google Autocomplete are based on a few different factors, like how often users were searching for a particular term in the past.


This type of suggestion tool can help you understand what people are searching for around your topics. For example, bloggers might use a tool like this to brainstorm blog post titles that’ll do well in search.

Again, all the free version does for you is generate other keyword suggestions in alphabetical order — it doesn’t tell you anything about search volume or cost-per-click (CPC). To get that information, you’ll have to upgrade to Keyword Tool Pro. The Pro version will also let you export the keywords and use them for content creation, search engine optimization, CPC/PPC, or other marketing activities.

Paid Keyword Research Tools

4) Term Explorer

Price: $34/mo. for Basic; $97/mo. for Pro; $499/mo. for Agency

Term Explorer offers probably the deepest research reports of any keyword research tool on the market. From one single seed term, you can get over 10,000 keyword variations.

Best of all, the tool does a great job of keeping the results as relevant as possible and pulling through lots of supporting metrics with them.

It’ll give you data for all the results on page one of search engine results pages (SERPs), including the number of results, link strength, trust score, and keyword difficulty. To help you get a handle on your competitors, you can use the tool to research domain age, page ranking, and links, as well as the word count, page rank, links, outbound links, and the number of keyword occurrences in title, URL, and headers for individual webpages. You can also export all this data into a CSV for your own analysis.


Image Credit: Term Explorer

Note: If you only plan on using it a few times a day, there is actually a free version of this tool that’ll do five tiny keyword jobs and five keyword analyses per day, with no queue priority.

5) Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool

Price: $99/mo. for Standard; $149/mo. for Medium; $249/mo. for Large; $599/mo. for Premium

The keyword difficulty tool from Moz is one of the most useful components of their paid suite. It’s a fantastic resource for analyzing the competitiveness of a keyword and for unearthing low-hanging fruit.

When you input a keyword into this tool, it’ll find the top 10 rankings for that keyword. Then, it’ll assign that keyword a “Difficulty Score” based on the pages that currently rank for that word. You can look at search volume data for your keywords, then pull up the SERP to see the top 10 results for each term.


Image Credit: Moz

Want to do some competitive keyword analysis? You can use the tool to see who else is ranking for your targeted keywords, along with information like each site’s page authority and the number of root domains linking to their page.

You can also export all this data into a CSV for your own analysis.

6) SEMrush

Price: $69.95/mo. for Pro; $149.95/mo. for Guru; $549.95/mo. for Business

SEMrush is a competitive research tool that lets you keep an eye on on your competitors’ keywords to find opportunities to bump them out for a top position in Google’s and Bing’s organic search results. You can compare a number of domains against one another to evaluate the competitive landscape, including their common keywords and positions in Google’s organic, paid, and shopping search results.

Position tracking is kind of like a sophisticated version of Google Trends, letting you see a keyword’s position in SERPs and analyze the history of rises and drops. Their colorful, visual charts are also super helpful for more quickly understanding trends and analyzing results.


Image Credit: SEMrush

7) Ahrefs

Price: $99/mo. for Lite; $179/mo. for Standard; $399/mo. for Advanced

Position Explorer is similar to SEMrush, but with some added bonuses — and a much more intuitive design.

For example, the Site Explorer part of the tool will let you find the URL rating and domain rating for any website you put in there, along with number of backlinks, number of referring domains, and social metrics for Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s also great for finding link targets: You can use it to get a quick analysis of a site, and you can also use its extensive index when you want to do a deeper dive.


Ahrefs’ user interface is a big plus. It’s not just black-and-white tables filled with numbers; instead, you’ll get colorful, interactive charts of things like number of indexed pages, internal and external backlinks, new vs. lost backlinks — all over time.


Image Credit: Ahrefs

Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, say that Ahrefs is his #1 go-to tool for backlink analysis: “I’ve tested over 25 link analysis tools and none come close to Ahref’s in terms of index size, freshness, and overall usability.”

The Position Explorer part of the tool lets you find keyword opportunities where your competitors are ranking, while also giving you a ton of extra link metrics that help you determine keyword competitiveness. And the Content Explorer lets you browse through the most shared content for any topic.

8) Accuranker

Price: $19.95/mo. for Beginner; $29.95/mo. for Pro 300; $44.95/mo. for Pro 600; $74.95/mo. for Pro 1K

Accuranker is a keyword rank tracking tool with a key differentiator: It’s lightning fast while being extremely precise. So if you’re used to spending hours monitoring the rank progression of your keywords, this’ll end up saving you a ton of time.

Other advantages of this tool? It has built-in proxies to get a quick glance at whose ranking within the SERPs for any given keyword. If you plan to report keyword metrics to your manager or your team, you’ll like its scheduled weekly reports feature.


Image Credit: Accuranker

It’s also one of the best rank trackers out there that offers highly localized search engine rankings for your keywords. So if you’re marketing your business to an international audience, it’s a great tool for analyzing which pages are ranking in different countries.

Finally, it has integrations available with Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Social Monitoring, and YouTube so you can keep an eye on statistics and estimated search traffic for your keywords straight from your AccuRanker dashboard.

9) HubSpot’s Keywords Tool

Price: $200/mo. for Basic; $800/mo. for Pro; $2,400/mo. for Enterprise; (Free Trial Here)

HubSpot also has its very own Keywords Tool within the software. The Keywords Tool helps you research keywords, identify the best keywords for optimizing your site, and track results from each one. This tracking feature allows you to see which keywords are actually driving traffic and leads, so you can use this information to continue optimizing your keywords over time.

The tool will also show you how your competitors rank for specific keywords, and help you monitor and build high quality inbound links.

(HubSpot customers: You can access the Keyword Tool in HubSpot by clicking here or going to Reports > Keywords.)


Now that you know about all these great tools, get out there and start discovering your best keywords for SEO.

What tools and methods do you use to find long-tail keywords? Share your favorites with us in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2011 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.


Some Babies Are Just Easier Than Others

I got my good sleeper second. My oldest child, my first darling baby, did not reliably sleep through the night till he was well past 2. Since he is now an adult, I can skip right over all the questions of whether we could have trained him to self-soothe and stop calling for us in the night — we tried; we failed; we eventually gave up.

The good sleeper was a good sleeper right from the beginning. She followed the timeline in the books, slept longer and longer between feedings, till she was reliably giving us a real night while she was still an infant and she never looked back. Had we matured as parents, become less anxious, more willing to let her learn how to soothe herself? Were our lives calmer? Well, no. In fact, kind of the opposite. We just got dealt two very different babies.

I supervise pediatric residents as they learn to provide primary care, to offer guidance to parents as they struggle with all the complexities of baby and toddler sleep, eating, potty training, discipline and tantrums. All of the stuff that shapes your daily life with a small child, and I’m talking about an essentially healthy, normally developing small child. And the hardest thing to teach, especially to people who haven’t yet done any child-rearing, is how different those healthy, normal babies can be, right from the beginning.

So we review our sensible pediatric rubrics that deal with these questions, from establishing good sleep patterns to setting limits to encouraging a healthy varied diet. But sometimes it seems that these rubrics work best with the children and families who need them least.

Every child is a different assignment — and we can all pay lip service to that cheerfully enough. But the hard thing to believe is how different the assignments can be. Within the range of developmentally normal children, some parents have a much, much harder job than others: more drudge work, less gratification, more public shaming. It sometimes feels like the great undiscussed secret of pediatrics — and of parenting. Babies and children are different, assignments are different, and we spend a lot of time patting ourselves on the back — as parents and as pediatricians — when the easy babies and toddlers behave like themselves, and a lot of time agonizing and assigning blame when the more difficult kids run true to form.

We talk a lot about temperament in my line of work. We look at where a child — or an adult — falls along a set of axes. High activity to low activity. Adapts easily to adapts with difficulty. Intensity, mood, attention span. And while no one would argue that these are fixed and immutable traits, it’s also true that — again, as every parent and teacher knows all too well — you can’t possibly make child A into child B. You work with the temperament you’re given — it’s the assignment. And some assignments are harder than others.

We talk about “goodness of fit,” and certainly, it can be helpful to think about how one child’s temperament might be less problematic in another family — the high-energy child who is driving two somewhat sedentary, somewhat older parents crazy might be an easier assignment for two younger, more active parents.

I have had a mother explain to me why one twin was the angel child and the other the devil child. And then she started to cry. I have had a father ask me if I ever knew a couple to get divorced because their baby didn’t sleep through the night. And sure, some of those struggles reflect parental practices and habits and the way those children have been reared and how their parents reacted to earlier iterations of the behavior. But ask any parent who has brought up two children of wildly different temperaments — some of it is just the kid you get dealt.

As a pediatrician, I feel this in the exam room all the time — respect for parents who are coping good-naturedly with the cranky and the colicky. Sympathy for parents who break down when they describe public tantrums and the judgments passed by onlookers who assume that a crying baby must automatically reflect either a too-indulgent or a too-neglectful parent — or both at once.

There are children whose level of activity, or rigidity, or shyness, crosses over into the pathological, and will actually complicate their lives far beyond the variations of normal temperament. As a pediatrician, I want to start by making sure that nothing is really wrong — but when nothing is really wrong, I want to acknowledge that the job of rearing one healthy, normal child can be much more challenging than the job of rearing the one who came before — or who will come after.

My good sleeper was actually my challenging child. I’m telling you this with her full consent — like her brother, the bad sleeper, she’s now grown up. She was what we like to call a “spirited” child: unbelievably stubborn, ready to battle to the death over any small choice, and subject to periodic, and generally very public, melt-downs which I sometimes thought would get me arrested. And yes, now that she’s an adult, I can see that many of these same traits translate into determination, and strength of character. But looking back, I’m not sure any of us would have made it through, if we hadn’t been, at the very least, well rested.

Well, of course we would have made it through. As a pediatrician, you try to help and encourage; even the crankiest can be soothed; even the children most averse to new experiences can start to sample the world. Sooner or later, almost everyone accepts potty training, gives up the pacifier, sleeps through the night. And given a longer distance — years stretching into decades — most of us, parents and children, do find it possible to look back and smile.

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Meta Descriptions: The What, Why and How

Meta descriptions. Blegh; sounds complicated, right? Two years ago if someone would have asked me about a meta description I would have assumed they were trying to talk nerdy to me. It sounds like code, and something that is way over my head.


Meta descriptions, despite their stereotype, can be broken down in a fairly simple way. The more content I create and the further I dig into inbound marketing methodologies, the more I realize how important meta descriptions are, and how a powerful meta description can make or break. I’ve turned to the experts many times when it comes to understanding meta descriptions, and I’m here to share what I’ve learned. Check it:

First Things First: What is a Meta Description?

Experts at MOZ explain meta descriptions as “HTML attributes that provide concise explanations of the contents of web pages.” What? Let me break it down … You know when you Google something, and a list of results come up? A meta description is those couple sentences under the title that describe the search result. My friends at HubSpot describe a meta description as “the snippet of information below the link of a search result.”

Stay with me – here’s a screen shot:


Basically a meta description is what is ready to help the searcher decide whether or not to click the link to an article or web page. A meta description helps convince or persuade readers to choose your site. Oh, and the bolded words within a meta description help note which words (keywords, in fact) match those in the search query. Nothing too complicated, right?

Do I Really Need a Meta Description?

So now that we’re on the same page and you’re fully equipped with the knowledge of what a meta description is, let’s talk about whether or not you really need one. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel here – I turned to trusted experts and dug up some meta description gold.

The short answer to “Do I need a Meta Description?” is yes. The long answer? Yes, and here’s why…

1) Increase Click Through Rates & Improve Visits from Organic Search

The percentage of clicks consistently drops off as you go further down the page, because a more relevant result is, logically, usually at the top of search engine results. So, if your result is far down at the bottom (or not even on the first page of results), you’re already working shorthanded. This makes having a detailed, relevant, and eye-catching meta description that much more important. In short, the better your meta description, the more likely it is you’ll have good click through rates from organic search. – via HubSpot

2) Give the Right People the Right Information at the Right Time

Google uses meta descriptions to return results when searchers use advanced search operators to match meta tag content, as well as to pull preview snippets on search result pages, but it’s important to note that meta descriptions do not to influence Google’s ranking algorithms for normal web search. – via MOZ

3) Increase Visits from Social

Social sharing sites like Facebook commonly use a page’s description tag when the page is shared on their sites. Without the meta description tag, social sharing sites may just use the first text they can find. Depending on the first text on your page, this might not create a good user experience for users encountering your content via social sharing. – via MOZ

4) Use it to “Sell” Your Content

Although the Meta description itself doesn’t affect the ranking of a given web page, the side effects of a well crafted one can – well written meta description have been proven to increase click through rate, and in some instances time spent on the web page, and these metric DO play a part in the algorithmic rankings. – via Hallam

What Makes a Meta Description “Powerful”?

For every blog, web page, and piece of copy we write, we follow the best practice of creating a corresponding meta description. Now that you know why (see above) – here’s the how:

1) Write Compelling Content

Write a short sentence previewing the content or telling the searcher why they should read your post. Give them a clear benefit of clicking through and reading your post, if necessary. This is your chance to sell them on what you have to offer — informative, valuable content. – via HubSpot

2) Use 1-2 Keywords

The title tag and the meta description tags should include keywords relevant to the content of the web page they describe. This helps Search Engines understand what the page is about and index your web pages accordingly for relevant keywords or keyword phrases … The meta description tag should ideally target a unique keyword for each web page. Avoid keyword spamming and have each keyword only appear once. – via seoWorks

3) Aim for 155 Characters

Google actually doesn’t measure by characters – it measures by pixels. That is, it’ll cut off a meta description after a certain width. The reason we say 155 characters is to give marketers a benchmark to abide by. – via HubSpot

4) Avoid Keyword Duplication

It’s sometimes helpful to have a few descriptive terms in the title, but there’s no reason to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times. A meta description like “Foobar, foo bar, foobars, foo bars” doesn’t help the user, and this kind of keyword stuffing can make your results look spammy to Google and to users. – via Google Support

5) Eliminate Non-Alphanumeric Characters

Search engines identify alphanumeric characters, like hyphens, plus signs and quotation marks as HTML code and as such may not use the description as you intend it to be used. It is best to stick to plain text when it comes to meta description tags … Any time quotes are used in a meta description, Google cuts off the description. To prevent meta descriptions from being cut off, it’s best to remove all non-alphanumeric characters from meta descriptions. – via MOZ

To sum up the makings of a truly powerful meta descriptions, I’ll leave the final words to Google:

“Use quality descriptions. Finally, make sure your descriptions are truly descriptive. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it’s easy to let this content slide. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s search results, and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.”

The Exception

As I get older – and wiser, of course – I find there is an exception to every rule. Meta descriptions are no different. There are instances where a meta description isn’t necessarily crucial. However, as I’ve noted above, conventional logic agrees that it use generally wiser to write a good meta description for any given page. Here’s the “but”, via MOZ …

If the page is targeting long-tail traffic (three or more keywords) it can sometimes be wiser to let the engines extract the relevant text, themselves. The reason is simple: when engines pull, they always display the keywords and surrounding phrases that the user has searched for. If a webmaster forces a meta description, they can detract from the relevance the engines make naturally.

It sounds tricky, but it’s pretty simple. If you have a page that lists several articles (think a blog or newsletter archive, or something like “your cart” if you’re ecommerce), it might be OK to forego the meta description. When in doubt, spend time writing an engaging sentence or two, and feel confident the right people will find the right information from you, at the right time.


Trump Rewrites Campaign Cash Rules

Presidential candidates and their super PAC allies have spent more than $682 million, but big money hasn’t carried the day.

The candidates for president and their big-money allies have spent more than $682 million through the end of January, according to federal disclosures.

But money hasn’t bought success.

There’s one area where Donald Trump is badly trailing the field — spending ― and that makes his resounding wins in South Carolina and New Hampshire all the more frustrating to his Republicans he’s trouncing and worrisome to the party leaders trying to block him from winning the nomination.

According to a POLITICO analysis of reports filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission, through the end of January the campaign of the billionaire real estate showman had spent a total of $24 million. That’s less than half as much as the rivals who finished in a distant second-place tie behind him in South Carolina, Marco Rubio (whose campaign and super PAC and non-profit allies have spent $76 million) and Ted Cruz ($60 million), the analysis found.

Early in the presidential nominating process, Trump and his anti-establishment counterpart on the other side of the aisle Bernie Sanders are completely upending conventional thinking about campaign financing in the big money era sparked by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

Neither man has the support of a dedicated super PAC like those buoying their rivals, and both have essentially declared war on the deepest pocketed donors in their respective parties. Instead, they have pioneered alternative means to power their campaigns ― albeit utilizing vastly different models ― and have shocked the political establishment with their success.

Trump has reached into his own pocket to loan or donate $17.8 million to his once-quixotic campaign, accounting for most of the $26 million it has brought in, though it continues to accept a trickle of donations that totaled $941,000 in January.

He has shelled out $7.6 million on an advertising campaign that he joked was probably a waste of money, given how well he was doing without spending money. But his finance reports show a campaign that relies more on splashy rallies that drive television coverage than on ground organizing. It has spent $2.1 million on events and $1.4 million on his now iconic “Make America Great Again” hats, versus $2.4 million on payroll and field organizing.

Sanders has built a more conventional campaign infrastructure. His campaign, which powered him to a runaway win in this month’s New Hampshire primary, spent $82 million through the end of last month, including January payments of $13.9 million for media, $6.9 million for digital ads and consulting, and $4.4 million for payroll. His overall spending is second only to the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, whose campaign and super PAC allies have combined to spend $101 million, according to POLITICO’s analysis.

But the ways in which Sanders and Clinton are raising their cash couldn’t be more different.

A staggering 70 percent of Sanders’ campaign’s money comes has come from donations of $200 or less, most of which are delivered online or in response to emails and text messages devised by a sophisticated digital operation that is breaking new ground in low-dollar fundraising. Just 1 percent of his donors have reached the $2,700 contribution limit, according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC filings, meaning that the campaign can continue turning to them for cash again and again.

On the flip side, less than 17 percent of the $130 million Clinton has raised this cycle has come from small donors, while about half has come from maxed out donors. That puts Clinton, a longtime darling of the party’s biggest donors, under pressure to expand her small-donor base, lest Sanders continue to outraise her, like he did in January.

Soon after the Associated Press declared Clinton the winner of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, her campaign texted supporters urging them “to say you’re with Hillary” by donating $1. “Together, we can win the nomination, but only if we all pitch in.”

Her campaign finished January with a healthy $33 million in the bank, though it also reported owing $1.1 million in debt, including $377,000 to a charter airplane service, $218,000 to her ad buyer and $117,000 to the firm of her pollster Joel Benenson. And the former Secretary of State also donated $100,000 of in-kind payroll, benefits and computer equipment to her campaign, bringing her total self-funding to $468,000 for the cycle.

But perhaps the best example of the limitations of big money comes from Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. He suspended his campaign for the GOP nomination on Saturday night after placing a distant fourth in South Carolina, despite a campaign and a super PAC that combined to spend $125 million through the end of last month.

Rival fundraisers immediately began making appeals to Bush’s major donors. But several of them expressed leeriness about stroking more big checks, given the utter failure of Bush’s deep-pocketed apparatus to build popular support for Bush.

“I’ve got to reassess my understanding of the process, and how it’s worked this time. It has worked so much differently than it has before,” said Fred Zeidman, a Houston private equity investor who donated to Bush’s super PAC and campaign, and also raised money for the campaign. “I still don’t fully understand the successes of the non-traditional candidates on both sides. There is a new paradigm, and I think we’ve got to wait until this whole thing is over ― until after the election ― and see where this took us.”

Women in the Workplace: 10 Smart Ways to Shatter the Glass Ceiling

When I was in the fourth grade, one of my teachers encouraged me to audition for a children’s news program that would provide a “young perspective” on current events and happenings around the city.

Shortly after I’d started to prepare for the audition, my parents got a call from one of the producers. As it turns out, they were actually looking for two boys to co-host the program, however, they’d still consider me for the field reporter role.

That’s when I remember my dad saying, “Katie, if you want the hosting job, go get it. Tell them why you want it and show them you deserve it. Don’t just take third place because that’s what on the table.”

So I completed my audition, making it clear that I wanted to be considered as a co-host. In the end, the producers decided to have three young men and two young women rotate the hosting duties. I was one of them.

Why am I sharing this story about my short tenure hosting on public television in Vancouver?

Well, while the gig didn’t turn out to be a smashing success, it was my first ever exposure to the fact that the world is full of impressions about the types of people who “should” or “could” inherit certain roles. And in the spirit of International Women’s Day, it serves as a great reminder for women of all ages and in all places that glass ceilings are meant to be broken.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the 10 tips below. From harnessing vulnerability to learning how to rebound, these strategies can be used to help you defy the odds and advance yourself both personally and professionally.

10 Smart Ways to Shatter the Glass Ceiling

1) Do great things before you’re ready.

The desire to feel certain that we’ll do a great job before we sign up for a task is a common characteristic that can end up holding women back when it comes to the workplace. On one hand, this is noble. However, on the other hand, it means we can be easily left behind — not as a result of aptitude, but rather attitude.

For wisdom on this topic, I look to the great philosopher Amy Poehler, who wrote:

Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that — that’s what life is.”

So if you’ve been waiting to raise your hand, to ask for that promotion, to offer to lead a project, or to pitch your idea, don’t wait longer. The most remarkable people in the world don’t wait until the stars align to tackle things that scare them, so don’t be afraid of the deep end. Dive in.

2) Stop treating vulnerability like a weakness.

Early in my career, I associated success with perfection. “Never let them see you sweat,” was a constant refrain in my head. As was Steve Martin’s epic quote: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

The honest truth is that great entrepreneurs and great leaders guide teams that occasionally stumble and fail. Your success as a leader is more defined by your response to those failures than their very existence. To that end, I think women and men can benefit significantly from following Brené Brown’s advice:

Believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect.”

Check your infallibility at the door and embrace imperfection in pursuit of excellence, not in spite of it. (Check out this post for even more awesome advice from Brené Brown.)

3) Believe there is enough sun for everyone.

Narrow views of company diversity and inclusion protocols suggest that there is a finite amount of power and achievement in the world, and that efforts to expand opportunities for women come at the expense of men. In fact, research shows that teams with more women perform better and that companies with more diverse composition deliver higher returns.

With this in mind, take a look at this quote from actress Tracee Ellis Ross that I keep on my wall:

I cheer for people. I was raised to believe there is enough sunlight for everyone.”

The sooner we eliminate the notion that power is a limited resource, the faster we’ll create room for more diverse voices at the table — and for more women on board.

4) Check your assumptions at the door.

It’s sad to say in 2016, but our female engineers are still regularly bypassed for technical questions at external recruiting events. Not to mention, nearly every woman I have ever worked with in a leadership position has been mistaken for an assistant at some point in her tenure.

Everyone has unconscious biases they bring to work, and it can be challenging to alter them. However, instead of denying them, it’s important that we consider how we can learn from these sources of unconscious bias and identify improvements as they relate to gender.

Maybe it’s in the job descriptions you write, the candidates you choose to interview, or the assumptions you make about people at networking events. All of us have room for improvement, so take a hard look at one area that needs work and invest some time and energy to actively address it each week.

5) Set the bar high.

When I ask many young women what they want to achieve, they often mention an incremental next step to their current role. This is a stark contrast to young men, who typically share a stretch goal for a top job or leadership position. For this (and many other reasons), HubSpot is running a program specifically focused on educating and empowering women to consider board leadership roles, as well as encouraging companies to identify and engage with female board members.

Regardless of how you choose to do this at your company, within your family, or on your team, share examples of women leading the way in the biggest ways possible. Doing so not only stretches women’s ambition and imagination, but it also encourages both men and women to think differently about what executive leadership looks, sounds, and behaves like.

6) Learn how to rebound.

I’ve been lucky to have some really great moments in my career. But then again, I’ve also had some rough stretches. These instances range from a particularly challenging dynamic with an old boss to some really harsh feedback from a senior executive.

Most of the successful leaders I know can share war stories of career moments gone amuck, and yet when you’re in the eye of the storm, you feel like you’re the only one who has ever botched something so poorly.

If you’re feeling lost or in the middle of a challenging career stretch, my suggestion is to solicit perspective from someone you trust. The goal is to objectively identify where the biggest holes are — whether they are team flaws, plan flaws, or personal flaws — and develop a plan to address them. People often ignore inflection points while waiting for career boiling points. However, I think learning to take a hit and come back swinging builds not only your resilience, but your respect in an organization, too.

7) Build a network you can learn from.

The old expression that “your network is your net worth” is cliché, but studies show that individuals with large open networks succeed at a much higher rate than those with smaller, more closed networks.

While our busy schedules can make it difficult to find time to attend networking events, there’s no doubt that these opportunities are worth penciling in. When you consider that having a diverse and well-connected extended network can not just help you grow your brand, but also your business, your reach, and your potential opportunities down the line, these events become much easier to prioritize.

Having trouble getting started? Approach your next networking event with a goal of building ten net new connections that you can learn something from in the next six months. Doing so will keep you focused on your personal growth while expanding your horizons.

(Check out this article for my best advice on how to network like a pro.)

8) Show your work.

Because women are more likely to be humble when it comes to accomplishments, we often deprioritize sharing exhibits of our work externally. For example, if you’re a designer, when was the last time you updated your personal portfolio online? If you’re in marketing, when was the last time you published a blog post on your own experience or insights? It’s likely that these things have taken a backseat to other team priorities.

To combat this, block out a half hour each month to update your LinkedIn profile, post to Medium to share your own perspectives, or create and publish something you truly love. Doing so will make it easier to surface career opportunities and help you position yourself as a force to be reckoned with — both within and outside your organization.

9) Practice giving and receiving feedback.

Giving and receiving tough feedback can be a real hurdle to growth, both as a manager and as an individual contributor. However, the sooner you master digesting constructive feedback and giving it out to your teammates, the faster you’ll grow personally and professionally.

Kim Scott describes candor in feedback more effectively than anyone I’ve seen, so spend time thinking about how you can optimize your own feedback channels and systems to maximize learning and collaboration and minimize drama and politics. Doing so will help you grow as a leader and get you much more comfortable delivering tough news, difficult feedback, and authoritative coaching, all of which are critical to senior leadership positions.

(Check out this episode of The Growth Show for more insight from Kim Scott.)

10) Forget about “having it all.”

Many women I know strive for personal and professional success, amazing friendships, fulfilling relationships, close-knit families, rapidly growing career tracks, and of course an Oprah-like closet to boot. However, the concept is dangerous, not just for its elusiveness, but because it’s also one of the many reasons that women often waste time tearing down each other instead of building one another up.

When you’re convinced perfection is the primary goal, you become overly focused on elements of it that you’re missing. Instead of focusing on perfection, strive for growth on the things that matter most to you. What matters most to you may change over time, and that’s just fine. You must spend less time focusing on getting into a specific lane or fitting someone else’s framework and more time investing in what feels authentic to you in terms of your goals and growth.

Women in the Workplace

I always advise women to rely on two senses when it comes to gender equality in the workplace: a sense of confidence and a sense of humor.

Confidence is imperative for knowing that you can and should resist people’s stereotypes of what you are capable of doing, and actively solicit people who help you question the status quo in that regard (thanks Mom and Dad!).

Humor is imperative for not letting those incidents where someone underestimates you get you down and make you bitter. So assume best intention, take things in stride, and create a network of people who help you stay positive — even when you’re underestimated or passed over.

Although the glass ceiling still exists — particularly in executive leadership roles — there are a lot more holes in it than ever before. One of the reasons I’m so energized by millennial women is that I truly believe this generation has the ability to continue the great work the generation before us did with regard to access and impact. I look forward to seeing some serious dents in the coming years based on your contributions.

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