Are you a marketer or business owner who struggles with defining an SEO strategy? Do you want to learn more about the keyword research tools that the pros are using? If you want results when optimizing your clients’ content online then you have come to the right place.
We have compiled a list of the most popular keyword research tools and tips from 34 SEO experts. These search marketing experts range from major influencers to everyday industry professionals experienced in content optimization. So which keyword research tool(s) are best for your business? We will help you decide.
Basic Free Keyword Research Tools
Answer The Public
Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of the visuals, you can quickly download the keyword search data to a CSV.
Search for a topic or keyword and you’ll get:
- Questions searched on Google related to the keyword/topic
- Prepositions on Google with the keyword
- Keyword comparison searches (and, vs., like, or)
- Alphabetically organized searches
- Related searches
In terms of topic navigation and researching, Answer The Public is one of the most widely used free tools online. However, on its own, Answer The Public lacks insightful search data so it is best to pair this application with another. Keywords Everywhere is a great browser add-on to give you search volume, CPC, and competitive data. With Answer The Public and Keywords Everywhere a user is able to combine two free keyword research tools to make a pairing that delivers great results.
Why Use Answer the Public Over Other Tools?
If you’re in the brainstorming phase of content creation, then this tool will point you in the right direction. Answer The Public was the most widely recommended free tool in our outreach for keyword research tools as suggested by SEO professionals. If you are going to add Answer the Public to your SEO toolkit, be sure to add Keywords Everywhere as well. With both tools, a user can not only gather content ideas and suggestions but also get the data to back up their keyword research.
What are the Professionals Saying About Answer The Public?
Provide useful answers to them and you’re almost certain to start getting traffic to your website. Answer the public is a free tool, and whilst it may be short of some of the in-depth data that SEMRush provides, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Answer The Public streamlines the entire process. Pop a topic in and answer the public pulls a list of every possible question asked about that topic. If you’ve got a tool like KeywordsEverywhere installed you’ll even be able to see the search volume.
Google Keyword Planner
Since the information is coming straight from the source, many marketers verify keyword search data from other applications directly within GKP. The main use for keyword research within Google’s Keyword Planner is to access the average monthly search data. Keyword research within this tool can examine keywords based on broad match, exact match, and phrase match. If you use this tool for SEO purposes, be sure to set the dropdown to ‘exact match’ so that Google pulls information to match the keyword(s) you are researching.
In recent years, and even recent weeks, people have questioned the validity of keyword search volume within Keyword Planner. Moz’s SEO mastermind, Rand Fishkin, recently posted one of his infamous whiteboard Friday videos to explain the matter. He does a good job at explaining the benefits of GKP for advertisers but also emphasizes that search volume statistics are not as valuable to organic-focused marketers.
Why Use Google Keyword Planner Over Other Tools?
The main benefit of using Google Keyword Planner is that the information is pulled directly from the source. With other keyword research planners or tools, the information is often scraped from Google. When using GKP, users must consider the different ways that Google calculates its search volume for advertisers, including broad ranges and conflated keywords. If you’re an advertiser who uses Adwords and wants to gather data from an easily-accessed source then GKP is a viable option.
What are the Professionals Saying About Google Keyword Planner?
If you’ve got a keyword idea or theme for a new piece of content, type the word into Ubersuggest and the tool will provide numerous relevant search terms. The data can be easily sorted into highest search volume, lowest competition, or if you’re interested in CPC Ubersuggest also pulls Google’s data. Similar to Google’s Keyword Planner, although CPC is more useful to people looking to advertise on Google, the data still helps keyword researchers understand where money is being spent by other businesses.
Why Use Ubersuggest Over Other Tools?
Ubersuggest is a fantastic option for agencies that want to do SEO work but have smaller SEO budgets, or no budget at all. The tool is still completely free and will provide enough information to understand basic keyword data. The big difference between Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest is that long tail keywords are shown within the Ubersuggest dashboard. Long tail keywords essentially search terms that are more than 2-3 words. For a free keyword research tool that displays data for long search phrases and terms, this is your best option.
What are the Professionals Saying About Ubersuggest?
Why Use LSIGraph Over Other Tools?
In short, LSIGraph is not extremely valuable to SEO professionals and marketers on its own. However, as a free tool, it can help marketers understand the topics related to their focus and target a broader set of keywords. LSIGraph is a great place to go for a quick search of related keywords to sprinkle in while creating content.
What are the Professionals Saying About LSIGraph?
Freemium Fundamental Keyword Research Tools
In terms of keyword research simply type the keyword or topic that you’re interested in and KWfinder does the rest. KWfinder quickly spits out metrics for the desired keyword and from a high level, a user will be able to understand how difficult ranking will be. So what can KWfinder tell you about the keyword entered?
- Trend Results: Trend of the search term over the last 12 months
- Search Volume (12 months)
- CPC & PPC Difficulty (for advertisers mostly)
- SEO Difficulty: This score is unique to the KWfinder platform, taking information from platform data and Moz metrics to form a predicted difficulty in ranking for the keyword. One of the most accurate keyword difficulty metrics among all tools in the industry!
Many professionals mention that the most useful, or helpful, piece of the KWfinder platform is the SERP preview. The SERP checker shows the first page of Google, including all of the websites who currently rank for the desired keyword. By showing things like domain authority, page authority, citation flow, trust flow, and other Moz metrics a user is able to understand if their website can or can’t rank ahead of. Essentially, this feature is most useful to show someone the possibility or impossibility of ranking their website on Google’s first page.
Why Use KWfinder Over Other Tools?
In terms of pricing, KWfinder likely offers the greatest value to users. Top end keyword research tools and SEO platforms - like SEMrush & Ahrefs - are going to cost substantially more. KWfinder does a fantastic job of providing a quick solution when researching keywords and its dashboard is extremely simple to use for beginners. KWfinder does, however, rely on data from outside sources like Moz, which means Moz Pro users can access a lot of the information already.
In terms of SERP analysis, this is the most easily digestible tool on the market. KWfinder’s SERPChecker spells out who is on top of organic search and spells out an action plan to outrank competitors websites. If you’re looking for the best value on a keyword tool, and want the basics, this is likely the tool that most suits your needs.
What are the Professionals Saying About KWfinder?
My favourite feature is the SERP preview - click on any given keyword and the current SERP for that term is displayed within the tool, along with loads of great metrics about each ranking page such as Moz DA/PA and an estimated number of visits that site receives. It gives a fantastic overview of the competition for a search term and lets you evaluate very quickly whether a keyword is worth the effort of optimization or not. There’s a free version which is limited to five keyword searches per day, but you can pay for many more.
The user is able to go beyond the conventional questions being asked on search engines like Google and dig into what is being asked across sites like Reddit, Amazon Q&A, and Quora. In terms of the ideation process, this tool is helpful in determining the direction of a piece of content before you start writing. The Question Analyzer gives users an idea of what people want to know or need to know and how you can deliver content to match customers needs.
Why Use Question Analyzer Over Other Tools?
Not your conventional keyword research tool, the Question Analyzer offers a different perspective in terms of targeting questions instead of specific keywords. Some tools offer similar long-tail research insights that include questions, but the Question Analyzer is unique in that its search goes beyond Google. Buzzsumo finds where questions are being asked all over the web including sites like Reddit and Quora. Marketers can not only optimize their content for organic search but also to provide answers to various threads across the web as an additional promotion tactic. This is definitely not a stand-alone SEO tool, but in combination with other keyword research tools can be very valuable.
What are the Professionals Saying About Buzzsumo’s Question Analyzer?
Premium Keyword Research Tools
Despite offering various features, we look to focus on the keyword tools that SEMrush boasts. In terms of keyword research, SEMrush is able to help marketers target keywords for both SEO and PPC; keyword volume and cost-per-click (CPC) are provided in the dashboard. In addition, SEMrush offers phrase matching, related keyword suggestions, and insights into long-tail keywords to match your business’s specific keyword needs.
When you enter a keyword into the SEMrush search it will bring up the keyword overview page. A variety of reports are shown on the keyword overview page and each report allows you to click further for more information, what they call a snapshot. Another great competitive feature of the platform is the Domain vs. Domain dashboard, which compares up to five competitor domains at once. This allows the user to see who is outperforming who and can be very valuable in vertical-specific business or local businesses in the same industry.
The Keyword Magic tool is still fairly new, and not everyone uses it within their everyday use of the platform. In specific, the keyword magic tool works wonders for long-tail research. Like mentioned by professionals below, if a business is looking for more specific queries, this tool can provide a lot of insight.
There are a TON of tools on the dashboard that may not be directly relevant to keyword research but are extremely useful when it comes to search marketing. SEO professionals everywhere use SEMrush, and it’s no surprise as the robust platform offers a wide array of solutions while continuously diversifying its product offerings.
Why Use SEMrush Over Other Tools?
SEMrush is going to offer the user a complete set of tools for all things SEO, including advanced keyword analytics and research features. As noted by industry experts, SEMrush is often the preferred tool for SEO professionals due to its clean UI and seamless usability, especially for SEO beginners. If you’re looking for a paid solution that offers a one-stop for advanced insights, then SEMrush may be a solution for your search marketing needs.
What are the Professionals Saying About SEMrush?
Simply plug in a URL and take advantage of the utterly comprehensive keyword tracking (positioning, difficulty to rank for, as well as volume and percentage of traffic driven to your website through the keyword), site auditing, competitor comparison, page analytics and more. The site even provides handy organic traffic and backlink tracking tools, although Ahrefs provides the superior experience if your priority is backlink checking.
I use SEMrush because it’s an all-rounder; it provides keywords, positions, and volumes where your website ranks. I can paste in a domain and it generates relevant keywords relative to that particular domain and shows which keywords it's already ranking for. You can then create and build content around these keywords to improve your position on Google. Google AdWords is also a great keyword tool, although it is mainly based on keywords, meaning it isn’t as extensive as SEMrush.
Keyword stuffing is out of the question though; Google is too intelligent to let this common practice slide and although SEO is crucial to content, overusing keywords makes for clunky, unclear content, which the reader will recognize has only been created for SEO purposes.
- Granular Search Demand: The Organic Search Positions report provides search demand information at a keyword level; this is superior to Google Keyword Planner which now combines demand for similar terms into a very broad range with makes accurate targeting difficult.
- Competitor Data: Offering a large database, SEMRush gives access to competitor ranking data which makes the creation of a content gap analysis easy. If you’re unfamiliar, a content gap analysis compares sets of ranking keywords between a target site and its competitors to identify opportunities & “low hanging fruit.” The identification and targeting of keyword themes with the opportunity to improve content performance.
- Historic Performance: The toolset contains data that give users the ability to track performance from both broad or granular perspectives. Whether exporting a graph covering “Total Ranking Keywords” to tracking trends on a per keyword basis, SEMRush offers a lot of flexibility for both agency and in-house users alike.
In closing, we’ve found SEMRush to be incredibly useful when optimizing content. It offers a level of functionality that compares well to that of enterprise level-tools like Conductor and BrightEdge at a fraction of the cost. It’s definitely a go-to keyword research tool for us.
My favorite filter to use, especially with the rapid importance of voice search and having content on your website that answers questions, is the Questions filter. By using the Questions filter SEMrush will identify and only display keywords that are asking a question.
A paid SEMRush account allows for extensive keyword analysis of every single keyword you rank for and the estimated search volume/month of each and their change over time along with many other features.
“If you look at the big picture, Ahrefs is a data company. We collect data, we process data, we store data and, finally, we build all sorts of tools that let you use our data in your marketing.”
In terms of keyword research, Ahrefs is regarded as having one of the most accurate and largest keyword databases. Within the platform, a user is able to access various keyword instruments including keyword difficulty projections, search volume, parent topics, keyword ideas, and a keyword generator. Ahrefs growing database has allowed their keyword research tool to become one of the strongest on the market, while continuously providing more accurate insights. Lastly, with the new addition of organic clicks, users can access metrics that show how many people click on a link after a search is made on Google.
Ahrefs keyword solution is split into two different areas or focuses: conventional and competitive based. The conventional tool is going to do a lot of the basic keyword analysis including search volume, difficulty or related keywords. The competitive side of the keyword research digs into SERP analysis allowing users to stack their content against their competitors. With this side, a user can put together a game plan to outrank competition and jump to the first page of Google.
Ahrefs is a paid solution, so it is not as accessible to beginner search marketers who are looking for something basic. However, the tool itself is extremely user-friendly, so beginners will benefit from using Ahrefs if they have the budget to afford its offerings. Anyone familiar with SEO or keyword optimization will express that Ahrefs is well worth the price tag.
Why Use Ahrefs Over Other Tools?
Ahrefs provides the most information-rich enterprise solution to search marketers. By this, we mean that Ahrefs sets the standard for other keyword platforms in terms of data accuracy and keyword data precision. Ahrefs is an amazing research tool for content writers and strategists looking to optimize a website’s organic performance. Not to mention, the backlink tool alone is worth the price you pay in order to access the Ahrefs platform. If you’re looking for an enterprise solution with extreme accuracy, big data, and a platform trusted by many marketers then this is the best solution for you.
What are the Professionals Saying About Ahrefs?
Where Keyword Planner will give you some idea of how difficult a keyword is to rank, the Ahrefs tool provides you a precise estimate of how many links you'll likely need to outrank the top spots to help you determine how competitive it is.
As Google has gotten smarter, it is more important for me to understand keyword phrases instead of individual keywords. Ahrefs can group keywords together and provide a top-level view of key phrases. I can drill down into specific keywords, and Ahrefs provides comprehensive lists of similar keywords and keyphrases.
Another functionality that should be used in any worthwhile keyword research is the fluctuation in ranking on the SERP. Once you know which keywords are driving traffic and what the website ranks for, it's much easier to determine your rank potential and the tactics needed to move up the SERPs.
With people being so busy and looking for more efficient ways to carry out tasks, having a more comprehensive tool saves you money -- so might be worth the monthly cost.
I also think that their keyword difficulty metric is one of the most directionally accurate options available in any keyword tool. Couple that with frequent updates, a powerful indexing engine, and fairly accurate search volume numbers and you've got pretty much the ultimate keyword research tool.
How to Use Multiple Keyword Research Tools
When looking at an SEO stack, the best suggestion is to combine a paid tool’s offerings with the insights from various free tools. Ultimately, the paid tool is going to give you most of the keyword research that you need but various keyword tools can help with ideation and verification of data. If you’re looking for a keyword research stack, look at combining solutions that are good for different areas of keyword research. We break down the keyword research stack into 5 areas:
- Best Tool for Content Ideation - This is initial keyword research when you are looking for ideas or topics to focus your content on. Based off of our research and various experts suggestions, Answer The Public is a great starting point while in the ideation process.
- Best FREE Keyword Database - Where is the best place to access simple data that is accurate? Ubersuggest. Until recent years, people would have thought Google Keyword Planner is the go-to tool for basic keyword data. However, the validity of keyword data has been questioned by search experts across the SEO space. Simply put, when you’re looking for the FREE accurate keyword search volume try Ubersuggest.
- Best Keyword Difficulty Tool - Keyword difficulty projections make it easy for search marketers to understand how likely or reasonable it is to rank content on Google’s first page. The three tools that project the most accurate or realistic results are KWfinder and Ahrefs.
- Best SERP Analysis Tool - SERP analysis is an important part of keyword research as it stacks the top results on search and compares them. In order to rank, SEO experts must have a familiarity with the websites of the types of websites that are currently ranking and strategize to outrank the various sites. Ahrefs and KWfinder both provide SERP analysis that outperforms the other tools offerings.
- Best SEO platform - This is based off of the entire platform offerings, not exclusively keyword research. For search marketers looking for robust tools that offer SEO insight for more than just keywords, Ahrefs and SEMrush are tools that industry professionals cannot live without.
Most search marketers do not just rely on one tool for all of their keyword research. However, there are many all-in-one tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs that will handle a vast majority of keyword research.
In order to really understand what works for your business, and to determine your business’s preferences, it is best to try out multiple tools. Even the advanced tools that have paid membership or subscriptions offer free trials, which help users gain comfortability within a platform before forking out the cash.
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