Keyword research tools are a dime a dozen, ranging in cost from free to a hefty monthly premium. Knowing what separates paid applications and programs from free ones and understanding how the differences between these SEO tools can individually help your business achieve a complete understanding of current and rising trends can help set you apart from the competition.
However, it’s also important to separate the forest from the trees. Tools are tools, and you likely won’t need a dozen of them solely for keyword research. Here are some of our top recommendations for getting different things done.
Does Keyword Research Still Matter?
Despite changes in the way SEO works over the decades, one thing remains true: keywords are important. Search engines are largely text-based, and keywords are one of the simplest ways to scan text for contextual relevance and help bring users relevant results.
Ignoring keyword research is a common SEO mistake that will cost you rankings, traffic, and customers over time.
However, keywords aren’t everything. Keyword research must remain a part of your complete SEO campaign, page experience, quality writing, video content, product optimization, and more.
It’s one thing to intuit keywords – if you’re in the business of selling pool products, you’ll have a general awareness of what your customers are looking for, and what kind of keywords you should include – but it’s another to gather, analyze, and use actionable data to reach efficient conclusions that can help drive your SEO efforts, turn traffic into leads, leads into sales, and wring much greater ROI out of your marketing efforts.
Keyword research tools help you identify and take advantage of growing trends, find holes in your competitor’s strategy to pull untapped traffic, and differentiate between useful and useless data.
You need to understand what your competitors are doing in order to rise above them.
- Eric Sachs, CEO
SEMrush often shares the top spot in most lists for the most effective search engine optimization tool. It also carries a relatively hefty price tag.
More than just a keyword research tool, SEMrush offers a long list of features – but perhaps its greatest selling point is the lengths it will go through to provide you with detailed data on what keywords your competition is falling behind on, identifying clear gaps you could take advantage of for maximum gain. Furthermore, SEMrush provides analysis on long-tail keywords and semantically relevant keywords as well. It’s a lot of data, so it helps to sift through it with a veteran.
SEMrush costs $99/month for the Pro suite, and $399/month for the Business suite. The first 10 uses are free for all visitors.
Google Keyword Planner
While SEMrush is a heavy-duty SEO suite, Google Keyword Planner is a straightforward and beginner-friendly keyword research tool. This is Google’s classic SEO tool and comes for free with your login at Google Ads.
However, it may no longer be quite as precise as it used to be – merging search volumes for similar, yet not exactly the same search terms – and misses a lot of critical analysis features present in more expensive keyword research tools. However, it is still a good tool for getting a basic idea of the keyword volume and most popular keywords in a given local or regional industry.
Google Keyword Planner is free.
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is another all-purpose SEO tool with a useful keyword generator, matched only in the sheer volume of results with SEMrush.
The main difference between the two is the price point. Smaller agencies and businesses with needs that outstrip the feature list of the Lite suite might not be able to stomach the $999 a month cost per account. This means only one user can access Ahrefs at a time if an entire company is sharing the login.
In addition to a host of keyword research tools, Keyword Explorer conjures a long list of relevant data points for every query, including total search volume, clicks, volume distribution, keyword difficulty, parent topics, SERP, volume-difficulty distribution, and more. Ahrefs also offers a free keyword generator.
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer costs $99/month for the Lite suite and $999/month for the Agency suite.
Offered for free by industry giant Neil Patel, Ubersuggest is a useful and recommended keyword research tool that provides you with a general overview of the top 100 queries related to your keyword, estimated visits, backlinks, domain scores, and social shares. This can help you gauge the difficulty of ranking for any given keyword, and it also comes with alternative keyword suggestions.
Ubersuggest is free.
Moz Keyword Explorer
The third in our line of premium recommendations, Moz Keyword Explorer is not usually touted as being quite as expansive as SEMrush or Ahrefs (with a much lower volume of keyword suggestions per query), but may be easier to use due to its simplified UI and user-friendliness. Moz is also an industry name, offering a host of free resources to beginners in the field of SEO, as well as relevant industry findings and research data for long-standing experts.
Moz Keyword Explorer costs 99$/month for the Standard package, and $599/month for the Premium package.
More of a content mine than a keyword research tool, Google Trends helps you discover and understand the relevance of given keywords in comparison to one another, as well as adjacent keywords, and commonly searched keyword combinations.
It is an insight by Google itself into any given keyword, helping you gauge not just total short-term interest, but long-term trends, and how keywords rise and fall in popularity relative to specific dates (and potential world or local events).
If you want to get ahead, check Google Trends for seasonal content ideas.
- Eric Sachs, CEO
Google updates Google Trends’ main page with frequently relevant and seasonal topics of discussion – checking it out during Christmas will net you insights on what kind of gift ideas people are looking up the most, and better understand local as well as regional and international shopping trends, for example.
To an SEO marketer, Google Trends’ most valuable assets are the “related topics” and “related queries” sections. These queries and topics can be sorted by rising popularity and relative top popularity.
Google Trends is free.
While most of these keyword research tools specialize in identifying valuable keywords and providing you with the data to reject or consider different keyword combinations, AnswerThePublic is a tool built by the aforementioned Ubersuggest to research adjacent trends and discover topics of conversation and generate content ideas, more than it is a tool about keywords. As the website itself explains, AnswerThePublic helps marketers discover what questions people are asking about any given topic of choice.
It’s incredibly easy to use and doesn’t require an account or any kind of financial commitment – simply input your topic of choice and watch AnswerThePublic determine what questions and related ideas people tend to search from relevant datasets.
Furthermore, rather than using lists, AnswerThePublic neatly organizes adjacent questions and potential topics of discussion through different adverbs, such as what, who, why, when, which, where, will, as well as are, can, and how. These visually pleasing results can be downloaded in a .csv format.
AnswerThePublic is free.
Organizing Your Research Results
Gathering data is one thing and acting on it is another. Each of these tools serves a different purpose and using them efficiently can mean the difference between doing competitive analysis and wasting your time.
An experienced SEO firm can help you identify what toolkit best serves your business and industry – and help you dominate the competition.