The 8 Best Keyword Research Tools (Almost All Free!)
Doing great keyword research is like being a fisherman. Reeling in the big profits takes knowledge, a Speedo, and a thermos.
Whether you like it or not, keyword research is at the core of pay-per-click marketing and SEO practices. If you aren’t bidding or using the right keywords, short- or long-tail, then you could be selling yourself short on your potential success.
And wouldn’t you rather reel in a big whale shark instead of a few sardines? (You can obviously tell I don’t know my fish very well.)
See, doing good keyword research is like being a seasoned fisherman, casting his net at the right place, at the right time. So whether you’re looking to patch up the holes in your current keyword selection net, or expand the size of it, consider this article a potential algal bloom of profits.
By now you should know that the AdWords Keyword Tool is no longer available – Google has folded the tool into Keyword Planner, a combination of the old keyword tool and the Traffic Estimator. Now, you need an Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) account to get keyword suggestions from Google. But Google is far from the only keyword game in town.
In this article, we’ll look at my nine favorite keyword research tools, plus some fancy tricks you can use to get a wooden peg leg up on your competition. Some are free, and some are not (but well worth the money).
So without further ado, let’s take you from being like this guy...
To this guy.
1. WordStream’s Keyword Tool (free)
The WordStream keyword tool allows you to target certain niches (groups of related keywords), gives you further suggestions, and also allows you to group them based off of a common theme for easy ad group launches.
This keyword research tool gives you 30 searches for free, after that you’ll have to sign up for their WordStream Advisor to use it additionally.
Hidden bonus? You get a free 7-day trial on top of the 30 free searches you already did!
2. Soovle (free)
If you have multiple channels you wish to do keyword research for and want to sound like an idiot explaining the pronunciation of this tool to your watercooler buddies, then Soovle is a perfect fit.
Soovle allows you to explore the most typed in keywords on multiple search engines based on the keyword root you give it. It even includes Amazon and eBay.
Not only is it a great keyword research tool to use, but it’s also a great brainstormer as you can slowly start typing in your ideas and allow it to auto-generate its own ideas.
I would’ve never thought to call a bounce house an inflatable castle, but now I do :)
3. Ubersuggest (free)
Meet the keyword research tool on steroids, Ubersuggest.
Ubersuggest takes any keyword you give it and immediately gives you an almost unlimited list of alphabetized and numerical keyword variations of your original keyword.
You can even take it further by adding “bounce house ab, ac, ad” to uncover more keywords that you could potentially bid on or use for SEO purposes.
4. Serpstat ($19)
Serpstat is an all-in-one SEO platform, and keyword research is one of its functions. This tool has some unique features that can help you optimize your website and get ahead of your competitors’ sites as well.
Unlike similar tools, Serpstat is a page-oriented platform for in-depth competitive analysis. You can find competitors and define missing keywords for a single URL or even entire domains. You can also view historical position data for a range of pages organized by phrase, as well as see which pages have dropped in rank and their rank distribution as a percentage, which is very handy if you want to compare data from two different time periods or observe changes over time based on algorithm updates and other factors.
Serpstat also allows you to view search questions and suggestions. This data is based on real search queries, meaning you can use this feature to come up with fresh ideas for creating traffic-driving content that people are actually searching for.
Serpstat has a unique "tree-view" algorithm. You can use it to check your pages’ positions, improve the ones that are just behind the first page, and gain more traffic.
This tool has advanced filtering options that allow you to set your own custom parameters and get exactly what you’re looking for. Although Serpstat is primarily intended for SEO, you can research PPC keywords using the tool and content marketers may find the search questions feature quite helpful, making it a solid, cost-effective all-rounder.
5. Search Term/Query Reports (free-ish)
Now even though you won’t be expanding your keyword net by using search query report mining, you’ll at least be improving your Google Ads or Bing Ads account by patching up holes.
One common thing I notice in PPC accounts is the lack of attention and detail in which the account owner or previous agency allows one or a couple of keywords to be the “catch all” for everything. A common example would be to have the keyword +bounce +house or “bounce house” and leave it at that.
The only problem is that you can’t possibly laser-target every ad to the search query, and your landing page will definitely not be as targeted as it could be either. Not even dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) would help, because who wants to click on an ad with the headline of just “Bounce House”? Let’s just say it gets tricky, and you’re a little lazy if that’s all you do.
The search term/query report is a PPC report that shows you what search terms have actually triggered your ads based on the current keywords you’re bidding on. So it won’t expand your reach since your ads are already showing for those terms, but it will help you improve your quality scores and granularity within your account.
Here’s how to access the search term report in Google Ads:
Here’s how to access the search query report in Bing Ads:
6. Google Keyword Planner (free)
Duuuhhh...of course this is on the list.
The Google Keyword Planner is sometimes regarded as the alpha and omega of keyword research tools. You must have an AdWords account to access it, and that doesn’t mean you have to pay anything to use it, it’s still free.
The Google Keyword Planner will show you some pretty neat stats like average monthly searches, competition level (high, medium, or low), the average cost per click, and more.
It doesn’t give you exact keyword suggestions but it actually takes it a step further and suggests more synonyms and variations than many other tools available.
Is it accurate? Sort of. I always tell people to take the suggested keyword stats with a grain of salt.
Here’s how to find it. Log in in to your Google Ads account and go to the Tools and Analysis tab:
Here are some of the keyword results:
You can find more great tips for using Keyword Planner here.
7. Competitor Source Code (free)
This might not be the best and most fruitful keyword research tool but it allows you to see what meta keywords your competitors could be using to try to rank organically.
Since I use Google Chrome as my browser, it’s super simple to right-click on a site and select “View Page Source.”
After that, all you have to do is locate the keywords and read what they’ve got. That’s it!
Two caveats for this method:
- Your competitors might not be using the best keywords
- Your competitors might not have meta keywords enabled (since Google doesn’t include meta keyword data in its search algorithm anymore)
8. Google Ads Display Planner (free)
Google Ads' Display Planner tool isn't solely a keyword tool, but it does offer a great deal of functionality that could be invaluable to marketers of all stripes.
The Display Planner tool replaced the YouTube Keyword Tool in 2014, and can be accessed from the Tools section of your Google Ads account. Although it's a little more involved than entering a keyword into the YouTube Keyword Tool, the Display Planner offers some great functionality for making the most of Display campaigns, including keyword-driven video ad campaigns on YouTube. The Display Planner also offers precious insights into the demographics and interests of your audiences, allowing you to create highly tailored Display campaigns.
Happy fishing! :)