Even in an era of the semantic web, keyword research is still important. But it’s not just about the specific keywords. We need research to understand our market and competitive landscape, we need research to help brainstorm the topic of our new blog post. The 22 keyword research tools I cover below will not only help determine keywords for your on page SEO, but help you assess your competition and may even help you validate a new idea. Most of the tools listed below are free, but I’ve included a few that are not.
In online marketing today, keeping a pulse on your market is essential.
Is demand increasing, decreasing or flat for your keyword over time? That’s where Google Trends comes in. Trends is also very helpful to determine whether your market has a seasonal aspect to it. For example, searches for “diet” reliably spike every January.
Want to find out what’s being discussed currently when it comes to your keyword? Here are three tools that will help you do just that.
Along with Google Keyword Planner (which is discussed below in a separate section) use these tools to build out a keyword list. Suggest keyword tools do just what they sound like, they suggest additional keywords based on an initial keyword that you type into the tool.
Google suggest is the feature where Google “suggests” and completes keywords as you type them into the search box. I often use Google suggest as a quick way to determine common keywords from a “stem” term. But Google suggest only gives you a few keywords and copy and paste is tough. However you can query the API in your browser, just replace “learn SEO” with your keyword (multiple word keywords separated by a “+”).
If that isn’t enough for you, check out the Goober Suggest Keyword Research Tool from RankTank which has created a Google doc that pulls in Google Suggest Data.
To get an even longer list of suggested keywords try out ubersuggest.org. It not only gives you the basic suggestions, but also gives you suggestions for each letter of the alphabet added to the end of your stem keyword.
Keywordtool.io is similar to Ubersuggest but also has a questions tab that is worth checking out. Also Keywordtool.io provides keyword suggestions for Bing and YouTube, it’s one of the few places you can research keywords for YouTube. Keywordtool.io will also provide search volume and other data if you buy a subscription.
Many marketers start with Google’s Keyword Planner, which is free to use but requires a Google account to access. The transformation of the Google Keyword Tool into the Google Keyword Planner was a boon to local SEO with new features allowing you to target a region, but also meant the loss of the broad and phrase match keywords, which made it a lot more difficult to “size” a keyword space. However Google Keyword Planner should still be an integral part of your research, here are some “ninja” tricks to get the most out of it.
Don’t limit your keyword research to just Keyword Planner, as it does not always show you all possible keywords. And check out this article for tips for squeezing the most possible out of Keyword Planner, I’ve had better luck using filters with the landing page feature than with keywords.
Long tail keywords are multi word keywords (at least 3 keywords) that typically have less search volume but are less competitive. At some point you need to dive deeper to uncover the long tail keywords for your niche. Here are two tools to help you specifically with your long tail keyword research.
If you are serious about doing comprehensive long tail keyword research, consider buying Long Tail Pro. Recommended by Pat Flynn and other top internet marketers, while you can definitely get your keyword research done with free tools, Long Tail Pro will save you time and make it easier to uncover opportunities.
Not many people know about Keyword Finder which provides not only long tail keywords, but volume and difficulty information. A good alternative if you don’t want to pay for a keyword tool, Keyword Finder also has paid plans.
Bing has a keyword tool that is worth checking out. Like with Google Keyword Planner, you’ll need to create an account and log in to use the tool. Yes, Google has the lion share of the search engine market, but if you are in a highly competitive space, it’s worth looking for keywords in tools that your competitors may not be using.
You’ll need to create a free account to access the SEOBook keyword Tool. This tool uses a custom database that pulls information from both Google and Bing and has a cool fuzzy matching feature that will help you find variants on your keyword.
To round out your list of keywords, use Internet Marketing Ninjas Search Combination Tool to generate a combined list of keywords from two seed lists.
This is really not a tool, but it’s important to include this step in your research process. As you identify interesting keywords, I recommend checking them out with Google searches. What comes up for your search can tell you volumes about intent and your market landscape. For example if you are seeing a lot of articles with free information and you are hoping to sell an online course, you might have an uphill battle on your hands unless you have a unique angle that makes your course compelling enough to spend money on.
Google’s Hummingbird update a few years ago was all about connecting the semantic dots. The algorithm update took Google from just knowing about “strings” to knowing about “things”. Get a semantic picture of your keyword with this tool: LSIgraph.com. You’ll get alternative words, authority names and sites associated with the topic and other contextual information that will help you shape your content strategy. Who knew there was a relationship between “vegan” and “kosher”?
Yes the animated figure is rather creepy. But if you type in a keyword into answerthepublic.com, it will generate a list of questions and prepositions (phrases created with the prepositions “for”, “to”, “with”). Very handy for generating topics for blog posts.
Here’s another source for keyword phrases that can be turned into articles and blog posts. Yahoo has added a suggest feature into Yahoo Answers, type in your keyword to see the suggestions that come from questions people have posted to Yahoo Answers. For many niches, Quora is worth a look too. Neil Patel has an excellent article on generating long tail keywords from Quora and Google Trends.
With the free plan you won’t get a lot of keywords from SEMRush, but that’s OK because for a given keyword you can still get a lot of info. SEMRush will give you related keywords, the variants for your keyword, as well as the top SERPs and Ads. My favorite feature is the Keyword Difficulty, you can type in up to 10 keywords to see which is the least competitive.
The SEO Competition feature of Market Samurai (affiliate link) is one of my favorites, for a given keyword it will look at the top ranking pages and assess the competitiveness of the pages on X factors. Lots of red means it’s going to be tough to crack the top 10.
While the advice on having a certain keyword density in your articles has largely been abandoned by SEOs, Google still pays attention to the frequency of words on your page. Enter your competitors URL into this keyword density tool to see what words are appearing on their page and at what frequency.
To get a list of the top keywords that your competitor is ranking for, enter the competing URL into SpyFu. SpyFu will also tell you the social stats for the URL you typed as well as a breakdown of the organic and paid traffic that URL is attracting.
Hat tip to these great resources that helped me put this guide together.
Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.