10 Best Keyword Research Tools
This post was last updated on January, 29th 2021.
If you have ever designed a website, you probably have asked the question before, "What is SEO?" Even if you're still building your SEO knowledge you probably know that keywords are an important part of getting found online.
Adding specific keywords to your website’s content can help it show up on Google when someone searches for the specific key phrase. So, how do you go about finding the best ones? Well, a keyword or key phrase isn’t just something you pluck from your brain and run with. In order to find the best-suited keyword options to get your website found on search engines, research is required.
When it comes to how to do keyword research, you have more than a few options at your disposal. Since you’re trying to rank well on Google, it’s easy to assume you should use its own keyword research tools, and technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, other tools can provide some context for you to see the bigger picture.
Below, we’re going to show you 10 great keyword research tools you should definitely try when getting started with keyword research for your own DIY SEO strategy:
01. Google Keyword Planner
Let’s get the most obvious option out of the way first. Google’s own Keyword Planner provides a fairly easy to understand approach to keyword research. Simply type in the keyword or phrase you want information on, and boom: You’ll see the average monthly searches for your keyword, the competition of others using this keyword, and both the low to high “top of page” bid prices, giving you a range of how much you can expect to pay per bid if you decide to use Google Ads.
Technically speaking, it’s not hard to access the Google Keyword Planner, but you will need to create an Adwords account and provide credit or debit card information before you can access it. While you won’t have to actually pay for anything to use the planner, it’s a hurdle some people jump over only begrudgingly.
Changes to the planner have also made it less useful as a keyword planning tool - it no longer shows precise volumes for keywords, opting instead to show a range. This number can range between 1K- 10K on a single keyword. So it's not necessarily as accurate as it use to be.
However this aside, according to Ofir Buchsweiler, SEO Content Expert at Wix, it is an important keyword research tool for understanding how Google's algorithm looks at topics and related user intents. We could argue this is more important when choosing keywords than specific volumes so we're definitely not ready to write this tool of just yet.
Bottom line: This free option is for people who want a no-frills keyword research tool directly from Google itself.
Semrush is a favorite of many, thanks to its vast number of features it brings to its users. And if you’re looking for an all-in-one SEO platform, there’s a reason you’ll find this one at the top of many lists.
Whether you’re looking into standard or long-tail keyword research, or even the keywords most used by your competitors, Semrush has your back. With its Keyword Magic tool, you’ll be able to get over 2 million results and have them grouped together by topic. These are just a few of the several features this platform has on offer. It also includes traffic analytics, advertising research, and much, much more.
For Kyle Place, SEO Content Expert at Wix, Semrush is a go to because it shows the intent of the keyword, making it easy to get an overview of the keyword when exporting large data sets, especially into pivot tables.
i love how semrush shows the intent of the keyword which makes it to get an easy overview when you export large data sets, especially in a pivot table
Semrush is also great for making competitor analysis easy. Wether you want to delve in deep with its domain overview tool and get an idea of what other websites are ranking for and with what pages, or wether you want to use its keyword gap feature to compare what you are ranking for, compared to your competitors - including where you are ranking better or worse than them, and important keywords you may be missing out on.
But even a simple keyword overview search on Semrush will give you a lot of information on your competitors, if they're ranking for a keyword you plan to target. You can see if they're ranking for it, and if they are just how many backlinks that page has, as well the precise number and other keywords the page ranks for, and how much traffic it generates. These are all important for understanding your ability to rank, and what you can expect from ranking.
Let's use the example of the keyword 'create a website.' The number 1 ranking result is, https://www.wix.com/. It has 35.4K referring domains, 414.04K backlinks, 1.0M search traffic and 21.2K registered for the url. These metrics alone show how competitive this SERP and ranking here would be a tough task.
If you’re just looking for a keyword research tool, you’ll find it here and there are a number of free searches you can do with Semrush but a paid plan is the best option.
Bottom line: Semrush is best for those who want a full suite of SEO tools and don’t mind paying for it.
Another very popular tool for keyword research comes from Ahrefs, and it packs a punch in the features department.
The Ahrefs keyword tool not only offers a great feature set, but it’s also likely the easiest on the eyes. With great charts to visually show you the strength of your keyword, it’s definitely a little less intimidating than some of the other tools on this list. One of the primary insights is the Keyword difficulty, which can provide suggestions on how to best take advantage of it, like adding backlinks.
Ahrefs offers some flexibility for your research, specifically where your keyword is ranking. You’re able to search from a multitude of locations, whether it’s Google, YouTube, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, or Amazon.
For Kyle Place, SEO Content Expert at Wix, Ahrefs is a leader in the keyword research tool field with features such as its position history graph, SERP overview and traffic potential. You can see the historical data on a keyword, who else is ranking for it and the amount of traffic you could expect to generate once ranking for it.
From the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool we can glean a treasure trove of information about a keyword and how to target, but also how to build supporting content around it. Let's take the keyword 'start a blog,' searched for from the US.
Straight off, and all on the same page we can see that this keyword's US volume is 3.3K, global volume is 15K and its traffic potential if ranking first is 900. We also get its terms match and related questions - and this data shows us that 'how to start a blog' has a much higher volume for the US, 22K, and if we really want to go after traffic we should probably target this keyword as well as 'start a blog,' to maximize our organic potential.
We can also see the top ten pages ranking for this keyword, both letting us know what kind of content we would need to produce in order to rank, but it also gives us an idea of the intent for this keyword. If the first page is filled with blog posts ranking, so this is the type of page we should create to target it. If its mainly product pages which take you directly to opening a blog - so this is the type of page we should target the keyword with.
The same feature also gives us an idea of the keyword difficulty - a general feel of the competitiveness of the keyword in terms of our ability to rank with it.
"Ahrefs is the 'Swiss Knife' version of SEO tools when it comes to covering needs. Probably the best in the industry when it comes to internal/external links tools, accurate KW research (compared to competitors) with a solid content explorer along with an underrated rank tracker and side audit options that are a viable option for people who want a one stop shop to run their SEO efforts." Ido Shazkin, SEO Content Expert at Wix.
Ido acknowledges that "Ahrefs is not the most user friendly tool - but it meets the more savvy marketers needs when it comes to expanding features and discovering more practically & usable opportunities for research and growth (Calendar ranking, comparing titles to actual SERP etc...).It's also worth noting they have a very interesting blog worth following and their "how to" video's on using the platform are spot on."
Bottom line: Ahrefs offers an all-in-one SEO suite that isn’t free, but brings a lot to the table. It's also evolving all the time, with new features being added and improved
04. Google Trends
Google Trends can be fun to see what’s popular on the search engine, but it can also just as easily be used for your keyword research.
Simply type in your subject and you’ll be presented with a timeline, showing the popularity of your keyword. You can apply filters for location, time (default is 12 months), category, and search type. The latter allows you to filter between a standard web search, YouTube, news, image, or Google Shopping search.
Below the timeline, you’ll see a couple of charts that break down the popularity of your search term by subregions, which can be helpful for local SEO. Below that, you’ll see related topics and queries that may further help you optimize your keywords.
It's also useful for planning seasonal content, if that's useful for your business - and to understand what keywords trends when throughout the year. This is important for eCommerce stores, for example, looking to make the most out of holiday and seasonal shopping searches and trends.
The keyword 'christmas presents for men' searched for from the US, starts to increase in volume from the end of October, reaching a peak by mid December, at which point it dramatically drops and plateaus until October the following year. New content or refreshing legacy content targeting on this keyword should e done in time to reach the wave of the search trend, in order to maximize on its traffic potential.
Bottom line: Google Trends is 100% free and is great to get inspiration and optimization tips on keywords.
If you're looking for keyword research at the trend level, so G-Trendalyser is another great place to start. This free tool is great for understanding more about emerging rising trends pulled from Google trends, and is a great start if you're planning on targeting more trendy and topical keywords for maximum traffic potential. This might put you in direct competition with news sites but if that's your target, this is a good tool to use. This tool recommendation came to us directly from Crystal Carter, Head of SEO Communications at Wix.
It's super simple to use, simply add your keyword or trend, choose your relevant country and then decide if you want to see trends from the past hour, past four hours, past day, past 7 days, 30 days, 90 days or past 5 years. It's a great way to track trends also and to help you get better a spotting trend peaks and falls.
We added the keyword 'nft', from the US over the past 30 days. We found out that the top trends around this topic (by order of value) are: nft meaning, what is nft, gamestop nft, nft marketplace, nft art, what is an nft, nfts, nft price.
Our next step would be further research - what are the intent, volumes, traffic potential and competitiveness of these keywords? Could some of these be targeted with one article, perhaps 'What are nfts?' Could there be potential for other articles here targeting nft price, nft marketplaces and nft art separately.
06. Google.com Incognito
If you're looking to get started with keyword research and aren't sure where to begin, it can help to have an idea of what keywords you should be looking further into and which you should put aside.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to search for keywords you may already have in mind, realted to your site or business, in Google.com but in incognito mode. Searching in incognito means you aren't shown results based on your previous search history, online preferences and past actions or your cache. It gives you an unbiased look at the SERP and can show you what kind of website pages and content rank for a keyword (intent) and your competitors who are ranking for it.
Right click on Chrome and choose a New Incognito Window. Make sure you're on google and then search away.
Let's say I want to write a blog post targeting 'marketing strategies.' A quick incognito google search shows me that everything ranking for that keyword is a blog article, so the intent is informational and I should aim to create a blog article too. It also shows me who is already ranking for that specific term - and that my competition for ranking, the Shopify blog for example, is pretty tough. My blog article will need to be of the highest quality, meet the search intent incredibly well and ideally have strong, high value backlinks behind it.
Based on this I might then choose to take my marketing strategies keyword into another research tool and understand if there is something less competitive I could rank for first, as I build up my site's authority in this field.
You can also make use of Google's autofill in search to create new keyword ideas to then research further. A quick typing of 'marketing strategies' into google search sees e other keyword variations popping up - marketing strategies examples, marketing strategies for small business, marketing strategies to increase sales.
Bottom line: a Google search in Incognito is a great place to start if you're looking for basic keyword ideas to drive more detailed, actionable research.
07. Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz is a great resource for all things SEO, so it’s unsurprising that it also offers a fantastic keyword research tool.
Your standard set of features are present, such as keyword search volume, as well as the ability to generate and save keyword lists, but that’s not all. You can do a deep dive into long-tail keywords in question format, optimize your keywords for your international audiences, and advanced competitive keyword analytics. Those are just some of the features that you’ll get with the Moz Keyword Explorer.
While it’s probably not a complete deal-breaker, you’ll need to sign up for an account just to use the tool.
Bottom line: The SEO experts at Moz have created a fantastic free tool for keyword research that’s not intimidating to use.
08. Google Search Console
Google Search Console provides a wealth of information about the organic performance of your website and it can be very helpful for keyword research, just perhaps not in the way you’d expect.
The Search Console will only provide terms that you’re currently ranking for, so if you’re looking to research potential new keywords, then another tool may be better suited for your needs. However, seeing what phrases people are using to find you on Google can help further optimize and expand on what’s already there. You can do this by finding more search terms around topics you already rank well for.
Let's say you already rank well for 'create a website,' and you can see this in Google Search Console. You might then want to research other related terms, using some of the other keyword research tools mentioned in this piece, to build on that ranking and traffic momentum. Ideas such as 'create a business website,' or 'create a tourism website,' might be good terms to target.
You could even find that some key phrases could be performing better with a couple of on-page tweaks. To do this we recommend filtering your Google Search Console by Queries last 28 days and then by Position (remember this is an average for the time frame you've chosen) ordered from highest to lowest.
Work through your non-ranking queries - can you figure out why you're not ranking, and what you could do to turn it around. Better content? Improved on-page optimizations?
Google Search Console is also great for understanding how well you're ranking, and how much traffic you're generating for branded search terms. To do this choose New > Query > Queries Containing > Your business or brand name. This will show you the branded queries you rank for, with which page of your site and how well you rank, plus if they bring organic traffic and how much.
You can then also plug your branded queries into any of the keyword research tools mentioned in this article to understand if your competitors are targeting them, and potentially ranking higher for them - it happens. It's also a great branding exercise and to make sure you're represented with your most relevant pages for branded searches. Wether it's a product page or a blog article make sure the content that ranks best represents the strength and value of your brand.
Need some help getting off the ground with the Google Search Console? Check out our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.
Bottom line: The Google Search Console is a free tool that can help you get insights on your existing keywords and how to optimize them.
09. Keywords Everywhere (extension)
If you’re sick of spending a countless amount of time on individual keyword research tools, you can lighten your load with the Keywords Everywhere extension for Chrome and Firefox web browsers.
This freemium extension allows you to get useful information for keywords without needing to go to a dedicated site. A simple Google search will automatically yield related keywords to your search query as well as a “people also search for” section to the right of the search results. If you’re looking to mine more info on your search (and you probably are), then you’ll need to purchase credits to get details about search volume, CPC, and competition. These details will appear directly within the autocomplete box while searching and below the search bar after you’ve executed the search.
Bottom line: Keywords everywhere is a paid extension that takes a lot of the grunt work out of keyword research since it’s built-in into your browser after it’s added.
10. Also Asked
This is a great keyword research tool which you can use free for a set number of searches over a predefined period, or you can make use of their paid plans. Be warned this tool is highly addictive and useful, so if you're going to give it a try best to be prepared to add it to your SEO arsenal for good.
First of when you enter a keyword to research, you can choose your language and geo - our default is the US but we love that we could also look from pretty much anywhere else in the world. It also currently supports searches in 44 plus languages, so for localization teams and both local and international SEOs, it's an important tool to know.
The strength of Also Asked lies in how it represents the data - we love the visualization of the related search terms and questions from a keyword. It also breaks it down via a hierarchical graph which helps us understand the most important topics within an entity and which to prioritize with our keyword targeting and content.
By plugging in the keyword 'what is seo', from this tool we can understand that the next level of potential terms to target include: what is SEO and how it works, what is SEO in simple terms, what are the 4 types of SEO and what is meant by Google SEO. Any article writing about 'what is seo' should probably then address these potential target keywords, assuming more in-depth research into the intent behind them and their competitiveness checks out.
The never level of the chart then gives ideas for keywords that might work for new content creation ideas - how do you do SEO marketing, how much does SEO cost - which allow you to build authority around your SEO content.
Bottom line: great for understanding keywords as topics, and for building hierarchy between keywords within a subject. A good first step for new topic ideas, although you'll need other keyword research tools to understand the intent, potential traffic and competitiveness of a keyword.
Interested to learn more about SEO topics and techniques? Check out the Wix SEO Hub for the most updated and relevant content.
By Rebecca Tomasis
Organic Growth Expert