Keywords are the epicenter of SEO.
The internet is a content-driven universe and words and language are its main ingredient.
The brilliant thing about words is that they’re so info-rich, they communicate everything from thoughts to feelings to topics, sentiments, opinions, and more.
This has made keywords a primary SEO ranking factor since the dawn of Google and other search engines.
Researching keywords is crucially important for the SEO of any website, and they’re quite straightforward to get started with.
Of course, any keyword strategy requires the use of some tips, tricks, and perhaps most importantly, keyword tools.
Keywords are relatively simple to research and explore, so long as you know what you’re searching for and why.
There are also several key metrics to be aware of.
The first thing to be aware of is that there are two key ‘types’ of keywords, PPC and organic.
PPC (pay per click) are keywords you bid for. You bid for a keyword and pay each time a user clicks on that keyword – the cost per click (CPC). High competition keywords have higher bid prices.
An example would be ‘insurance’, which is ultra-competitive and could have bid prices in the $20 to $50 region – very expensive indeed!
Your bid helps you secure your ad for your targeted keywords in the SERPs.
PPC keywords are:
- Laser targeted and very precise or specific
- Instantaneous top-of-SERPs positioning once you secure your keywords
- Allows you to directly battle with competitors
- Can be cheap for niche keywords
- Usually expensive and difficult to maintain
Organic keyword targeting should be the primary focus for long-term, sustained SEO.
These types of keywords are unpaid – they’re nothing to do with Google AdWords.
Organic keyword targeting revolves around content creation. The idea is to home in on keywords that people use to obtain certain results and rank your page in the SERPs for those words/terms.
Keywords include everything from single words such as “tea” to long-tail keywords that involve phrases such as “How do you make Chai tea?”
Organic/SEO keywords are:
- Long-term solutions to ranking
- Help you create evergreen content
- Cheaper to use/manage than PPC
- More diverse with a greater selection
- Easier to get started with
Before we move onto the best keyword tools, let’s quickly review the key metrics you’ll need to bear in mind when conducting keyword research:
Important Keyword Metrics
The most important keyword metrics include search volume, search volume over time (trends), keyword difficulty (KD) and the commercial value of the keyword.
Sadly these rarley exist!
This means people are searching for these keywords but finding…well, relatively little as there are few pages competing in the SERPs for those keywords!
SearchEngineLand dubs these the “Holy Grail of SEO”.
Furthermore, you want to bear the purpose of the keyword in mind, as it will have to fit the content you embed it in.
There’s no point in using the keyword “buy Chai tea” to create content on making Chai tea – “how to make Chai tea” would be a much better option instead.
Similarly, if you’re selling Chai tea on the page you want to rank then targeting “how to make Chai tea” probably won’t work.
Without further ado, let’s look at the best keyword tools around, both paid and free!
The Best Paid Keyword Tools
Semrush is an SEO titan and they actually offer 6 powerful keyword tools in their full membership packages.
- Keyword Overview – For rapidly checking new keywords and assessing their viability
- Organic Research – Analyze competitor’s keywords and discover how others are using keywords in your niche
- Keyword Magic Tool – Super-easy keyword tool that lets you find semantically related keywords and search volume over time
- Keyword Gap – Compare your keyword profile with others to identify gaps you need to fill
- Keyword Manager – Manage keywords and view how well they perform in the SERPs
- Organic Insights – Analyse keyword traffic and discover more keyword opportunities
Semrush also includes a full PPC keywords research tool.
Semrush SEO tools are fully comprehensive and allow you to find and research keywords in granular detail.
Brainstorm new effective keywords for your content, check difficulty, search volume, search volume over time, CPC, and SERPs performance. Plan keyword targeting and compare your content to competitors to find a competitive edge.
From $119 for Pro membership. Ranges up to $449 for businesses.
- 6 organic keyword tools and one PPC
- Analyze keyword search volume and search volume over time
- Check keyword difficulty scores
- Analyze competitor’s keyword profiles
- Find content and keyword gaps
- Identify keywords deficient in your current content
- Local keyword research
- Everything you need for all types of keyword research
- Robust and easy-to-use interface
- Linked tools for optimal workflow
- Competitor analysis is particularly well-implemented
- Pricey for SEO beginners – but the investment makes a statement of intent!
KWFinder by Mangools is specifically designed for keyword research. That makes it nice and streamlined for the job, and cost-effective too.
You’ll be able to search and analyze keywords per location, including local keywords – great for small local businesses and services. All your usual metrics are in there and well-marked, including search volume, search volume over time, and difficulty.
Competitor analysis is also well-implemented, so you’ll be able to look up what keywords your competitors are ranking for/targeting. Once you know, you can go and beat their content!
KWFinder is great for PPC keywords too and you can easily compare PPC vs organic keywords to discover what you should and shouldn’t consider bidding for, which is excellent.
Starts at €29.90 per month for Basic, Premium is €39.90 and Agency is €79.90. The Basic version lets you look up 100 keywords every 24 hours which should suffice for the vast majority of smaller businesses or DIY SEOs.
- Full keyword metrics including difficulty, search volume, search volume over time, and CPC
- Excellent local keyword research tool
- Easily compare PPC and organic keywords
- Other metrics such as links (links that use that keyword) and term frequency (for analyzing the SERPs)
- Analyze the SERPs for different keywords
- Competitor analysis
- Streamlined for keyword research
- Excellent interface, very easy to use
- Local keyword research and competitor research both great
- Very hard to call any!
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Ahrefs is another top name in SEO and this in-depth keyword tool contains keywords from 171 countries, making it a go-to for international keyword research. It also allows you to research keywords for numerous platforms including other search engines such as Baidu and YouTube.
Brainstorming keywords is also super-easy and each keyword will display a ‘parent topic’ allowing you to move between more niche terms and words and broader topics or entities. You’ll also find questions relating to your keywords providing yet more content ideas and ways to rank.
SERPs analysis is also straightforward, so you’ll be able to drill down into what keywords make the SERPs tick and how well your competitors are targeting these.
PPC research is also fully comprehensive, analyzing the effectiveness of PPC keywords and their CPC over time.
Of course, all your standard keyword metrics are in there including search volume, search volume over time, CPC, difficulty, and many more.
It’s worth mentioning that Ahrefs includes a full suite of SEO tools and you’ll get access to all of their other coveted tools in the same membership (similar setup to Semrush).
Prices range from $99 for the Lite version with 175 keyword reports per week (plenty for most single sites). Standard is $179, Advanced is $399 and Agency is $999. Remember, you get access to the whole suite of cutting-edge Ahrefs tools.
- Colossal keyword database spanning 171 countries
- All your key metrics including search volume, search volume over time, difficulty, CPC, and more
- Excellent keyword suggestion tool with related questions
- SERPs analyzer
- Well-integrated competitor analysis for researching competitor’s keyword profiles
- Covers 10 different search engines
- Full suite of SEO tools
- Full suite of professional tools
- Exquisite keyword detail for both organic and PPC keywords
- Many countries covered for international research
- Not just centered around Google
- Similarly pricey to other full-suite SEO tools (such as Semrush)
Longtail Pro is oriented around longtail keywords with 3 or more words. These are amongst the most dynamic and easily-targetable keywords, making them the most likely candidates for high volume and low difficulty.
Longtail Pro helps you discover and analyze longtail keywords in superb detail. It’s essentially a robust keyword checking tool with all features for both organic and PPC keyword research.
Track volume over time, SERP performance, and spy on your competitors to find gaps in your content strategy.
The SERPs analyzer here is particularly good and is updated daily with keyword performance and ranking changes. It does also have other tools such as backlink analysis for checking backlinked keywords.
Longtail Pro also has an excellent suite of helper videos and tutorials to assist you in your keyword research journey. Overall, a superb program that is trusted by many SEOs and agencies worldwide.
The Basic version is just $25 / month and allows for 800 keyword searches every 24 hours, easily enough for DIY SEOs and smaller sites. Even the Agency version is just $98 / month which is quite impressive for 6000 daily keyword lookups.
- Find huge lists of longtail keywords from head terms
- Analyze using all the familiar variables, e.g. search volume, search volume over time, difficulty, and CPC
- Competitor research to discover your competitor’s keyword strategies
- SERPs and backlink analyzers
- Well-regarded suite of tutorial videos
- Flexible, cost-effective pricing
- Full suite of tools for PPC and organic keywords
- Excellent set of tutorials and resources included
- Well-made SERPs analyzer
- Some may benefit from the extra SEO tools included in suites such as Semrush or Ahrefs
Keywords are everywhere! This browser plugin allows you to conduct keyword research from directly within the SERPs.
This semi-automatic, semi-manual approach to keyword research allows you to search queries and terms directly from within Google or other search engines.
Keywords Everywhere enables you to discover accurate keyword data and metrics as you use the internet – it certainly makes sense, allowing you to collect keywords on the go without heading into an SEO tool.
The tool pulls up keywords from related terms and People Also Searched For, and you’ll also be able to pull up keyword data and traffic for any page or site ranking in the top-20 SERPs.
All the main keyword metrics are covered in the tool including search volume, CPC and competition data. You can also analyze keyword trend data.
You can create lists of keywords for export and further analysis in more detailed keyword tools or Google Keyword Planner, etc.
An excellent holistic keyword tool, Keywords Everywhere is very good for surfing competitors sites and lifting keywords from their blog posts and articles.
This tool has a credit pricing system where 1 credit = 1 keyword. $10 will net you 100,000 credits, which is a fair quantity, though you may be surprised how quickly you get through them. From there, pricing is linear, e.g. $50 for 500,000, $100 for 100,000, etc.
- Browser plugin for Chrome and FireFox
- Generates longtail keywords and related phrases from SERPs data
- Keyword metrics include volume, trends, CPC, and difficulty
- Save keyword lists
- Export to Excel, CSV or PDF
- Conduct keyword research as you surf the net
- In-browser keyword metrics
- Easily save keywords for later research
- Cheap pricing structure
- Will need to combine with another tool for further analysis
Jaaxy does take a slightly leftfield approach to keyword research and it packs some innovative features for affiliate marketers. There’s also a nifty trend analysis tool that lets you find and track emerging trends, discovering how these are impacting search intent so you can remain current in your niche.
Jaaxy is perhaps on the obscure side, though some users will look through it and have a eureka moment – this could be the tool affiliate marketers and other niche web content creators are looking for.
For keyword research, the tools are fairly basic but all your core metrics are in there. There are caveats, e.g. difficulty is expressed as ‘SEO’.
There is an intriguing ‘Alphabet Soup’ tool for finding keywords with high buying intent, e.g. “Chai tea” could produce results like “Buy masala Chai Tea US” – a longtail keyword with strong buying intent.
The idea is to combine these high buying intent keywords with trending niche data – it makes sense on paper and could potentially be very profitable in the right hands.
The free trial here is unlimited time-wise but only lets you have 30 keyword searches. Pro at $49/mo lets you access more Alphabet Soup searches (which may be where its strengths lie).
- Decent keyword research tool
- Niche Alphabet Soup tool for finding high buy intent keywords
- SERPs analyzer
- Competitor analysis
- Find and research niches
- Niche set of tools for affiliates and niche marketers
- Interesting Alphabet Soup tool
- Competition and SERPs analysis
- Great commercial potential
- Potentially lacking or confusing in some fundamental areas
Working with major multinational brands such as Uber, L’Oreal, Shopify, and Deloitte, SerpStat is a professional all-in-one SEO software suite that delivers impeccable results across the board.
The Keyword Research tool delves into profitable and relevant keywords associated with your niche or topic. There’s a significant focus on long-tail keywords and SerpStat is very capable of delivering useful lists of long-tail keywords to incorporate into your content.
All of your usual keyword stats and metrics are represented including search volume, competition, CPC, average clicks, and volume throughout time.
Measuring on-page SEO reveals keyword and content gaps and competitive intelligence can be carried out to identify the keywords your competitors are ranking for but you aren’t.
By all accounts, SerpStat is a powerful SEO suite of more than 20 tools that link keyword tracking and research into many other SEO tools. It’s an advanced and upcoming SEO suite that is already trusted by global brands.
Pricing starts at $69 for the Lite version, aimed at small businesses, individual users, and freelancers. It allows for 4,000 keyword queries a day. From there, the Standard package represents a significant jump to $149 and enables logins from 3 users. The Advanced and Enterprise packages cost $299 and $499 respectively.
- Find profitable and relevant keywords
- Locate long-tail keyword phrases
- Analyze keyword variables such as CPC, volume, and competition
- Full suite of SEO tools
- International and local keyword tracking
- Discover keyword gaps
- Trusted selection of deep SEO tools
- International and local keyword tracking
- Track keyword performance in the SERPs
- Excellent competitive intelligence tools
- Potentially steep pricing
Moz Keyword Explorer
The Moz SEO suite is incredibly popular and has proved its worth for businesses of every shape and size. The Keyword Explorer is a powerful tool that covers everything from organic and paid keyword research to keyword analysis, competitor keyword analysis, and predictive keyword metrics.
The Keyword Explorer is adept at finding long-tail and question-based keywords and phrases. Keywords can be searched by country, region, or locality. Keyword difficulty, volume, and organic click-through rates are all easily measurable from within the tool.
With the SERPs analyzer, you can view how keywords perform in the SERPs, and competitor keyword analysis helps you identify keyword gaps and suggestions.
Moz’s selection of SEO tools covers all the key bases including rank tracking, site audit, and reporting.
Moz Pro starts from $99 for the Standard package that allows you to track 300 keyword rankings and generate 5 keyword lists with 100 keywords per list, which is plenty for individual users and small businesses. The Medium, Large and Premium packages are priced at $149, $249, and $599 respectively.
- National and local keyword tracking
- Analyze keyword metrics such as volume, difficulty, CPC, and more
- Track keyword performance in the SERPs
- Conduct competitive research to identify keywords your competitors are ranking for
- Discover long-tail and question-based keywords
- Full suite of SEO tools
- Standard version is pretty comprehensive
- Covers multiple search engines
- Get the MozBar SEO plugin for Chrome
- Excellent long-tail and question keyword suggestions
- Steep pricing for some
The Best Free Keyword Tools
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is an SEO lynchpin and provides you with an excellent way to analyze the keywords you’re ranking for and what queries users search to find your site.
Most of this is done by inspecting URLs from your site and then heading to the Queries tab. This will show you a breakdown of the queries people use to reach your site.
When you link Google Search Console to Google Analytics, you’ll be able to delve into the search behavior of people that search for relevant queries to your site.
Under the Audience tab, you’ll also find Interests and Affinity Categories, which provide a report of what your site users tend to search for and interact with online.
- Free interlinked Google tools
- Research keywords relating to your site
- Find user queries
- Investigate search behavior and related topics
Google Keyword Planner
In many respects, Google Keyword Planner is your classic keyword, but it is oriented around Google Ads (PPC advertising).
Once you input your head terms, you’ll be provided with a list of related terms which are all broken down with volume forecasts, CPC, and impressions. You can also find keywords for product categories that Google has collated.
There is plenty of organic research potential here and you’ll be able to check out Organic Impression Share and Average Organic Position as well as Competition.
Overall, Keyword Planner combines with other free Google tools to provide impressive research capabilities. You do somewhat miss the ability to contextualize keyword performance in the SERPs, and competitive analysis isn’t really possible in the same way as it is in other paid SEO suites.
- Plan keywords for ad campaigns
- All your usual keyword metrics
- Search by product category
- Ideal for CPC
Google Trends is a keyword research tool you can use immediately without any sort of sign-up or integration process.
It allows you to analyze the trends of what people are searching for online, and that of course extends to the keywords they’re searching.
Google Trends is particularly powerful for identifying how search interest changes over time. By typing in keywords related to your niche, you’ll see how their search volume has changed throughout time as broken down by nation, region, or locality.
The Related Topics and Related Queries tabs are very useful for providing additional keyword and topic ideas.
The strength of Google Trends is that it’s hard-linked to what people are searching for right now, but also in the past.
- Find search queries by area
- Analyze searches throughout time
- Find related topics
- Find related queries
Surfer SEO Keyword Surfer Extension
This awesome tool lets you conduct keyword research whilst you surf the web, which is actually a very intuitive way to go about it
You can use it when manually researching your niche or competitors. When you search a query in Google, the tool will display monthly search volume, keywords suggestions, visibility metrics, and related searches all from the plugin interface.
This allows you to quickly build a list of analyzable keywords as you toy around with different search queries.
The tool also displays location and site traffic metrics as well as CPC.
- Free browser plugin
- Conduct keyword research from within the SERPs
- Breakdown of site traffic and CPC
- Create keyword lists for export and further analysis
Answer the Public
The majority of search queries are indeed queries or questions.
Answer the Public harnesses this fundamental search characteristic and enables you to discover the questions that people are asking in relation to a keyword or phrase.
It’s very easy to use and will break down your query into questions by question or preposition, e.g. how, what, where, why, can, where, and what?
Finding questions surrounding your niche provides you with long-tail keywords for further analysis. This is an excellent tool for researching ‘how to’ types of content or any other content that answers the public.
- Provides breakdowns of questions and related terms
- Excellent graphical interface
- Find long-tail keywords and phrases for further research
- Discover comparison terms
Looking for instant, no-fuss, no-frills keyword ideas? Soovle provides a breakdown of top keywords by search engine/platform. YouTube, Amazon, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia, and eBay are all represented.
Soovle is brilliant for providing keyword ideas with different intent. For example, you can see if keywords align between different search engines, allowing you to formulate a content strategy that takes into account Google search queries as well as eBay or Amazon buying intent.
- Raw keyword generator by search engine/platform
- Covers social media, Amazon and eBay
Keyword Sheeter takes your terms and spews out a massive list of related terms.
It’s a solid tool for providing a bulk of keywords for further analysis. You can also use the tool to buy different reports on your generated list, e.g. on search volume, CPC, and difficulty.
Overall, though, the best use of this tool is to generate a raw list of related terms for any given keyword.
- Provides near-endless free keywords
The aptly named Keyword Tool allows you to search for a limited number of keywords for free.
You can research keywords for Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay, Play Store, Instagram, and Twitter, which is very useful.
The resulting list will be very similar to what Keyword Sheeter and Soovle provide and you’ll have to pay to view search volume, CPC, trend, and competition. You can also sort by questions and prepositions.
Another quality tool for finding a list of keyword starting points for further research.
- Find related keywords and terms
- Discover related questions
- Lots of search engines/platforms represented
Similar in some respects to Answer the Public, Question DB provides a list of questions related to an input keyword. It does also display a list of standardly related keywords.
It will display 50 results for free and you can also discover topics related to your keyword.
- Find questions and related terms
- Up to 50 free results
The SEO software market is hardly lacking for competition and choosing the right tools can be a tricky one!
Big brand tools from Moz, Semrush, and Ahrefs will rarely let you down, but many of the lesser-known suites and tools are also awesome.
There are some nice innovations here, like KWFinder’s feature that lets you compare organic keywords to PPC keywords to research whether or not it’s worth bidding.
It’s hard to go wrong as the standards are just so high, and even free SEO tools provide powerful starting points and can get your first pieces of content off the ground with minimal to no cost.