Keyword research forms the foundation of any SEO strategy. This is why using the best keyword research tool is so important.
There are many different keyword research tools out there, each providing unique data insights and use cases. How do you know which keyword research tools are worthwhile? How can you determine which one is more accurate than the other? What data must your keyword research tool produce?
We explore all of this in the guide below, where we break down seven of the best keyword research tools available. These tools include free and paid options, covering keyword research needs for all levels of SEO.
What Are Keyword Research Tools?
Keyword research tools are software platforms that help you discover and analyse keywords for SEO purposes.
When developing any content marketing or SEO strategy, it’s essential to find the keywords or phrases that people type into search engines. Not only this, but you need to understand the data behind these keywords, such as:
- Monthly search volume
- Potential traffic of the keyword
- Keyword difficulty
And more. Using the right keyword research tools reveals this information, which is necessary for guiding your content strategy.
Without keyword research tools, you wouldn’t know what keywords to target in your website content.
You also wouldn’t be able to discover valuable keyword opportunities or know how to optimise your web pages and blog posts for specific keywords. This would severely limit your SEO performance.
What To Look For In Keyword Research Tools
There are various keyword research strategies you can follow and many different types of keyword research tools you can use.
Some keyword research tools are far more advanced than others - offering more data and insights into each keyword. However, these tools are more expensive.
So, what features do you need for effective keyword research, and what should your keyword research tools include? Here are some of the primary considerations.
Keyword Data Accuracy
Most importantly, the keyword research tool should provide accurate and up-to-date keyword data. This should include data like search volume, competition, and keyword trends.
The more keyword data the tool offers, the better, as this will help you make more informed decisions about which keywords to use and what they can help you achieve.
Keyword research tools can involve many different elements. So, the platform you choose mustn’t be overly complicated.
A user-friendly interface makes navigating the tool easier, conducting keyword research, and interpreting the data. Look for tools with intuitive dashboards and clear instructions.
Excellent keyword research tools should offer various keyword suggestions for your niche or topic. It should also provide long-tail keywords and variations to help you diversify your content.
Instead of simply analysing data around single keywords, these tools should help guide your content strategy and provide additional keyword recommendations.
Search Volume And Competition Analysis
Ensure the tool provides search volume data for keywords and assesses keyword competition. This helps you identify high-value, low-competition keywords.
While many different pieces of data are attached to keyword research, this is one of the most critical metrics to understand.
Keyword Difficulty Score
You’ll also want to use a keyword research tool with a keyword difficulty metric. This assesses how hard it is to rank for specific keywords.
This score should consider factors like domain authority, backlinks, and on-page optimisation. It will analyse how “powerful” the top-ranking pages for a specific keyword are to give you a good idea of how likely your website can rank for that keyword.
A good tool should allow you to analyse your competitors’ keyword strategies. This includes identifying which keywords they rank for and their organic traffic sources.
“Spying” on your competitors is one of the most beneficial SEO strategies, so look for a keyword research tool that offers this functionality.
Historical data and trends can help you understand how keyword popularity has changed over time. This is crucial for seasonal campaigns and long-term SEO strategies.
Before committing to a keyword, it’s a good idea to review its history to help determine whether you think the keyword is an excellent long-term target.
Local SEO Capabilities
If you target specific geographic regions, ensure the tool can provide location-specific keyword data and trends. Ideally, this will involve setting your country and searching for keyword data within this region.
Local keyword research abilities will help you get more relevant and accurate keyword data for your target areas.
Other SEO Abilities
Keyword research is often just one function of more extensive SEO tools. When looking for a keyword research tool, always consider what other uses it could have.
For example, keyword research tools can also often analyse backlinks, perform SEO audits, help you optimise technical elements on your website, and so on. Some keyword research tools are also part of a greater content optimisation platform.
7 Best Keyword Research Tools You Can Use
Now that you know what you can use keyword research tools for, it’s time to find the right tool for your needs and budget.
To help you out, here are some of the best keyword research tools that you could use.
1. Google Keyword Planner
Let’s start with a free and simple keyword research tool from Google.
Google Keyword Planner is designed for Google Ads - helping you identify keywords you can use in your paid ad campaigns.
Beyond this intended use, you could also use Google Keyword Planner to guide your SEO and content strategy.
The platform provides keyword ideas, search volume data, and competition levels—everything you need for basic but effective keyword research.
The downside of using Google Keyword Planner is that it’s not as advanced as other paid SEO tools. You don’t get access to as much keyword data, and you can’t perform additional SEO functions - like seeing any domain scores or conducting competitor research.
However, the platform is easy to use and offers an excellent foundation for your content strategy. And, as it’s a tool provided by Google, all keyword data is entirely accurate and relevant to the search engine giant. Chances are, Google is the leading search engine you’re focused on for SEO, so this is important.
If you don’t have any budget and want to discover some keywords to target, this is an effective tool.
SEMrush is more than just a keyword research tool - it’s a robust SEO software solution.
You can do so much with SEMrush, like perform detailed competitor analysis, generate complete SEO reports for your website, and conduct thorough backlink research.
You can also use SEMrush to help guide other aspects of your digital marketing strategy - like paid advertising and social media. Of course, there’s also a powerful keyword research tool that forms part of the software.
SEMrush provides plenty of data on keywords. Beyond all the necessary information you’d want from keywords, you can also get insights into organic and paid search keywords, backlinks, and the strength of your competitor’s sites.
SEMrush is also helpful for discovering additional keyword recommendations and building a more complete content strategy for your website.
If you have a decent knowledge of SEO, then there’s a lot you can use SEMrush for. However, the platform is quite expensive - as you get so much functionality from it.
So, if you’re after a complete SEO platform with advanced keyword research abilities, SEMrush is among the best. If you’re looking for a simple tool only to perform keyword research, you may want to consider other options.
Another heavyweight in SEO software, Ahrefs is one of the most comprehensive and advanced tools for keyword research.
The platform is a complete SEO powerhouse, known for its powerful backlink analysis abilities. You can also use Ahrefs to run comprehensive SEO audits of your website, stay up-to-date with your site’s SEO health score, research competitors and what keywords they’re ranking for, and more. Ahrefs also offers excellent keyword research capabilities.
You can use Ahrefs to discover detailed information about each keyword, including all the relevant metrics you need to know. You can also discover additional recommended keywords with each search, helping you find new opportunities for your content strategy.
Ahrefs is also an excellent tool for performing a keyword gap analysis - where you analyse multiple competitor sites compared to your website to discover keyword opportunities. This can be a highly valuable keyword research tactic.
Ahrefs provides a DR (Domain Rating) score to assess the SEO power of each website. This gives you a good idea of how well you can compete against specific sites and how likely you are to rank for keywords of a particular difficulty.
Overall, Ahrefs is a robust SEO and keyword research tool. Again, you’ll need some SEO knowledge to use the platform to its complete abilities. It’s only worth the investment if you use all of the SEO functions that Ahrefs offers.
4. Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz is another popular option when looking at SEO software and keyword research tools. Moz’s entire software suite includes an impressive range of tools that you can use to assist practically every element of your SEO strategy.
Moz Pro is an advanced SEO platform with a powerful keyword research tool. This gives you all the keyword data you need. Plus, you can use the platform to perform various other SEO tasks - like running an SEO audit and accessing a helpful page optimisation score with content suggestions to improve your rankings of each page.
However, we’re focused on Keyword Explorer - a free keyword research tool by Moz.
This is one of the best free keyword research tools out there. All you need to do is enter a URL or a seed keyword, and the tool pulls a vast amount of keyword data related to this. You can see all the essential metrics around your target keyword and discover additional related keywords. It’s one of the most comprehensive free keyword analysis tools available.
You can use the tool to find keywords in question format, filter keywords based on country, review SERP details for each keyword, perform competitive keyword analysis, and more. All keyword data can be easily exported.
If you’re looking for a tool to perform keyword research only, Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a good option. It may be worth looking into other Moz tools if you want to access additional SEO functions.
Ubersuggest by Neil Patel is a user-friendly tool that offers keyword ideas, content suggestions, and competitive analysis. It’s available in both free and paid versions.
This is not the most advanced keyword research tool, and it doesn’t give you much power to assist your broader SEO strategy. However, the tool is incredibly straightforward, so it’s ideal for anyone without in-depth SEO knowledge.
You can use Ubersuggest for free, although the free version is limited to only three searches per day. If you like what the tool offers, you can upgrade to the paid version for unlimited searches.
With Ubersuggest, all you do is search for your main keyword or content idea, and the tool recommends a long list of related keywords - complete with all the relevant keyword data you’d need. It’s an excellent tool for finding keyword ideas and understanding each keyword’s difficulty and search volume.
While it’s not the most technical keyword research tool available, the free version is helpful if you’re new to keyword research and want a feel for how it works.
6. Surfer SEO
Surfer is a slightly different type of keyword research tool than the others on this list.
Instead of being a complete SEO tool that fits into many technical elements of SEO (like SEMrush or Ahrefs), Surfer is focused more towards content optimisation. The platform is designed to help content writers research content ideas, plan content strategies, and write and enhance more SEO-friendly content.
Surfer includes various features, like a tool for content planning, a primary content optimisation tool, a handy content audit tool, and an AI writing platform. All of this streamlines any SEO content creation process.
Of course, there’s also a keyword research tool. This includes a main keyword research function and a handy browser extension.
You can use Surfer’s keyword extension to access keyword information directly in the SERPs. This is great for competitor research and discovering keyword data as you research your content ideas and niche.
The primary keyword research tool works like any other one, providing detailed data insights. You can search for your main keyword idea or add a URL, and the tool recommends related keywords and displays all of their data.
This is useful for creating a content strategy and using the same platform to optimise your content writing process. Surfer may not offer as many SEO features as other platforms. Still, if you’re purely focused on writing, planning, and optimising content, then it’s a platform worth considering.Check out our full Surfer SEO review for more insights and details.
Another straightforward, free keyword research tool. Wordstream is one of the best tools for starting your keyword research journey and understanding what keywords you can target.
Like Google Keyword Planner, the platform is designed with paid advertising in mind. This means you don’t get as many detailed SEO insights for keyword research. However, Wordstream is very simple to use and gives you all the information you need to guide your content strategy.
Type in a target keyword or content idea, and you get a list of recommended keywords, complete with the essential keyword data like search volume and difficulty. You can also access this information by adding a target URL.
Wordstream’s keyword research tool is not the most advanced, and you don’t get as much information to guide and optimise your broader content strategy. But if you’re looking for a simple and free platform for doing keyword research, then this tool is ideal.
As you can see, keyword research tools can vary significantly in their capabilities. You should choose a tool that provides the insights and data you need to implement your content strategy while being comfortable and easy to use. Many keyword research tools are easy to use but hard to master, so consider investing the time to understand how to use your chosen tool's complete feature set.Of course, you could also delegate keyword research to the experts to help ensure your keyword and content strategy is planned correctly. Place an order to see how Contentellect can develop your entire content strategy and creation process — helping your website's online discoverability.