When it comes to SEO, keyword research is an integral part of strategy development. After all, you need to target the right keywords that will have the highest potential for driving traffic to your site.
Essentially, you cannot create meaningful, data-driven content without proper keyword research; nor can you optimize older content to perform if there's no target keyword!
This means researching terms that your target audience is searching for, so you can position your content in front of them during their buyers’ journey. What you want to rank for and what your audience actually wants are two different things.
Focusing on your audience and then using keyword data to hone in on those insights will make for more successful campaigns than if you were to focus on arbitrary keywords.
In order to conduct efficient keyword research, you’ll need a keyword research tool. Luckily, there are many keyword research tools on the market that allow you to do keyword research with ease – and they allow for scalability. However, each comes with its own price, capabilities, and limitations. We hope this list educates you on the best keyword research tools on the market so you can drive success for your organization.
After all, we think an informed buyer is the best kind of customer.
Before we jump into our list of the best keyword research tools, let’s go over a few things first …
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying which queries customers use to guide their search journey and lead them to relevant information.
Keyword research has a direct connection with content marketing – it is the first step in creating content that will appeal to your target audience. When you understand which keywords have a good demand (i.e. search volume) you can create content based on that keyword and its specific user intent.
Why is Keyword Research Important?
Keyword research allows you to discover keywords’ related to a certain topic and uncover their search demand, difficulty score, intent and more.
This information then lets you create content based on those target keywords, and get in front of your target audience with the content you know they’re searching for.
In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that, in today’s times, SEO=content and content=SEO. It’s for this reason that you need to discover the right keywords. Discovering and acting upon these content opportunities can, in turn, lead to increased search visibility and increased conversions.
You can’t create content on a whim and hope that it performs well – you need to create data-supported content that you know will perform properly for the right target audience.
Each day, there are four million never seen before keywords searched for on Google U.S. This means that people are coming up with different ways to ask the search engine questions, and it also further proves the point that a manual attempt at keyword research is not sustainable.
The Best Keyword Research Tools
The market is full of keyword research tools. However, we believe those listed below to be the most capable of getting the job done right.
Note: We do not list all features and capabilities of the following companies’ keyword research tools, only what we thought to be most important. A full list of features can be found on each company’s respective website.
Recommended Reading: Key Factors to Evaluate in Keyword Ranking and Research Tools
Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer operates on the largest third-party database of search queries in the world – it currently contains 7 billion keywords and is updated monthly.
Besides Google, data is also available for a variety of search engines, including Amazon, Bing, Baidu, and others. Keyword volumes for these other search engines are estimated based on insights from clickstream data.
The Keywords Explorer has a variety of abilities, including a keyword difficulty score that alerts you as to how hard it will be to rank organically for a target key term, a SERP overview and positions history, and keywords lists for segmentation.
All in all, the Keywords Explorer has data for 171 countries. In terms of cost, Ahrefs offers four packages that each have their own price point and number of keyword reports per day.
- Lite Package – $99 per month, 25 reports per day
- Standard Package – $179 per month, 100 reports per day
- Advanced Package – $399 per month, 200 reports per day
- Agency Package – $999 per month, 1,000 reports per day
Note: For all reports, whether you put a single keyword or a list of keywords (up to 10,000) into Keywords Explorer, it is counted as “one report.”
BrightEdge is an SEO platform, meaning they handle all-things SEO. With Brightedge, you can create your keyword portfolio, group the keywords into categories, and identify potential opportunities.
BrightEdge’s Data Cube – powered by their DataMind – allows you to discover new topics that you can tackle in your SEO strategy. When you enter a phrase into Data Cube, natural-language processing will show you a list of semantically-related topics that are related to your original keyword.
Data Cube also allows you to conduct keyword research with ease – filters allow you to narrow in on the terms that matter to you. Graphs also show overall trends of your SEO efforts, and you can compare those trends with your competitors’ performance.
Do note that BrightEdge offers no pricing information on their website, but you can learn more by requesting a demo.
Another SEO platform, Conductor allows you to find high-converting keywords with their Explorer feature. Explorer uses organic, social media, and demographic insights to bring you content ideas that will relate to your audience on a variety of channels.
The insights available also allow you to get to know your target audience – demographics like age, occupation, and location are all available. Find competitors’ strengths and weaknesses too by analyzing any site’s organic performance and see their gains and losses.
You can also get a glimpse into paid search – find search terms with a high CPC price and alter your strategy accordingly.
After you’ve completed your keyword research, Conductor makes it easy to turn your work into a content brief that can be shared with tasks managers (Asana, Trello, JIBRA).
Google Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner is a free Google Ads tool, so you’ll need a Google Ads account, but it’s a great tool for keyword research, whether you’re new or a veteran.
First and foremost, Google Keyword Planner helps you find targeted keywords so you can create a new campaign, or enhance an existing one. Google offers a variety of filters, including text, search volume, bid price, and more to ensure you select the right keywords for your campaign.
It can also show you historical statistics and traffic forecasts. This information can be great for determining which keywords to focus on, and what performance they may drive.
Since Keyword Planner is a Google Ads tool, it’s really focused around paid search. Because of this, it can help you select competitive bids and budgets for your campaigns.
Recommended Reading: What Are the Best SEO Platforms?
Google Trends may not be as in-depth as the other keyword research we’ve seen, but Google Trends does present some key use cases, like identifying seasonal trends.
With Google Trends, you can see a keyword’s interest over time, which is great for discovering seasonality and planning your content strategy around the rises and falls. You can also see interest in a topic by subregion, interest over time, as well as related topics and related queries.
As a free option, Google Trends is a powerful little tool for seeing trending searches around the world.
(Google Trends for the search term “Oscars”)
KeywordTool.io offers a free and paid version, and it goes without saying that there are some major differences between the two.
The free version of Keyword Tool offers 750+ long-tail keyword suggestions for each search term you enter. The process is fueled by search engines’ autocomplete, which are the suggested queries that show up in the search bar as you type. Plus, there’s no need to make an account – simply type in a keyword, the preferred language, and go.
The paid version of Keyword Tool can show you, on average, twice as many results, as well as search volume, trends, CPC, and the number of advertisers currently bidding on those key terms. The image below is a glimpse at the Pro version, which has a greatly different interface than the free version.
- Pro Basic – $89 per month, 7,000 keywords per day
- Pro Plus – $99 per month, 35,000 keywords per day
- Pro Business – $199 per month, 70,000 keywords per day
(Image source — Pro Version)
Powered by Mangools, KWFinder presents you with keywords that have a low SEO difficulty score and a high search volume. Or, you can do some research into the competition. Enter their domain or URL and you’re presented with the keywords that they rank for.
KWFinder allows you to pull historical search volumes and see long-term trends to create content based on seasonality. All of your keyword research can be location specific – you’re able to choose from more than 50,000 locations.
According to KWFinder, they have 1.6 billion keywords (that is growing by about 20 million keywords every month), and about 100 million competitor keywords are checked monthly.
- Mangools Basic – $49 per month, 100 keyword lookups per 24 hours
- Mangools Premium – $69 per month, 500 keyword lookups per 24 hours
- Mangools Agency – $129 per month, 1,200 keyword lookups per 24 hours
Recommended Reading: Top 10 Free SEO Tools and Why You Should Use Them
Long Tail Pro
With Long Tail Pro, you enter a seed word and receive up to 400 long-tail keywords.To narrow down the selection, filter results by CPC, search volume, etc.
Long Tail Pro allows for 200 manual keyword entries at a time.
Keyword and competitor analysis are also computed for 13 metrics. To get an idea of keyword difficulty, a 0-100 score is given so you can get a precise idea of how hard it will be to rank for a certain keyword.
A built-in rank tracker is included to gauge the success of your keyword research and subsequent campaigns. The SEO tool will update your rankings for each keyword on a daily basis.
- Monthly Starter – $37 per month, 800 keyword lookups per 24 hours
- Monthly Pro – $67 per month, 2,500 keyword lookups per 24 hours
- Monthly Agency – $147 per month, 6,000 keyword lookups per 24 hours
No data in the Moz database is older than two weeks old – including their English keywords and their SERP data. This database allows you to find suggestions and keyword opportunities that can help you face your competitors.
When you conduct your keyword research, organize the process with customizable lists that you can add to, prioritize, and compare.
Different metrics allow you to further prioritize keywords. Sort by search volume estimates (95% accuracy), add weight to a keyword’s importance, and estimate CTRs with difficulty metrics.
- Standard – $99 per month, 150 keyword queries per month
- Medium – $170 per month, 5,000 keyword queries per month
- Large – $249 per month, 15,000 keyword queries per month
- Premium – $599 per month, 30,000 keyword queries per month
Recommended Reading: What Are the Best Site Audit and Crawler Tools?
Within the Searchmetrics suite is the Research Cloud, a data set available on-demand for up to 30 countries (plus unlimited research). Use it to understand the search landscape to improve your overall online site performance.
The Research Suite also allows you to get an inside look at competitors at the domain, category, and URL level. Discover keywords with opportunity that you’re not currently targeting, and prioritize your action plan.
That’s how Searchmetrics markets the Research Cloud – it allows you to research, compare, identify, and prioritize.
- Research Cloud National – 89€ per month, 1 country
- Research Cloud International – 159€, 6 countries
- Suite (three versions) – No price listed, 30 countries
Enter a seed keyword and receive 2+ million keyword ideas for that term. Then, filter down the results to find the keywords that will be most beneficial to you. Filter by search volume, keyword difficulty, CPC, and more.
SEMrush will also suggest keyword groups based on the search topic so you can segment your keywords in meaningful ways.
Once you’ve found the right keywords, save them in SEMrush’s Keyword Analyzer. According to SEMrush, you can send up to 1,000 keywords to the Keyword Analyzer.
Users can also create target keyword lists (up to 50) which allow you to organize your processes.
- Pro – $99.95 per month, for freelancers
- Guru – $199.95 per month, for growing marketing agencies
- Business – $399.95, for agencies and businesses with a high web presence
seoClarity is an SEO platform, so we cover the entire SEO life-cycle. Of course, this includes keyword research, so we couldn’t keep ourselves off the list!
Discover search volume for keywords directly from Google's Keyword Planner, and execute topic research with semantically-related keyword research instead of just string match with Topic Explorer.
Plus, you can easily conduct keyword research based on the specific industry you work in – the keywords in our database are sorted into one of 3,000 work industry categories. All of this data can be visualized and sorted in a variety of ways.
(Use Topic Explorer to discover keywords related to specific industries.)
Add in Search Analytics data to reverse Google’s “term not provided” to pinpoint relevant keywords and your keyword research is complete! Our proprietary analysis, machine learning, and AI reveals great insights into seasonality, semantically related topics that include content gaps and ideas.
We operate the world’s largest competitive data set, meaning more mobile ranking visibility than any other keyword database. Try our Research Grid for free and get five free queries per day – after registration, 10 free queries per day.
With the Research Grid, you can access the entire search landscape, all to reveal content opportunities, win Google’s Answer Box, understand global performance for 90+ countries, and plenty more. And, we are the only SEO platform to include Baidu keyword research with 5+ million terms.
Because seoClarity covers everything imaginable when it comes to SEO – all without artificial limits, here’s the pricing:
- Starts at $750 per month for 5,000 daily keyword tracking, keyword research, and content analysis and optimization. Our Essentials package is offered at 50% off the first month, too!
(Topic Explorer view showing the search volume trend for the query “things to do in Chicago” by month.)
Serpstat lets you find out which keywords your competitors are using for both organic and paid efforts so you can increase your own search visibility. Since all keywords are not equal, use the platform to determine the value of the keywords based on different KPIs and metrics, like search volume, CPC, number of search results, etc.
To get an idea of overall trends, Serpstat presents you with keyword trends for the past year. Plus, monitor the SERP and see which new pages are beginning to appear for your keywords.
All of their keyword research is available in all major languages that are spoken in the countries in their database. The Serpstat database now sits at 5.62 billion keywords, and 922 million keywords in SERPs.
- Lite – $69 per month
- Standard – $149 per month
- Advanced – $299 per month
- Enterprise – $499 per month
Spyfu offers unlimited searches plus multiple metrics to help you understand the keyword research journey. You’re given access to all metrics for both SEO and PPC, plus a screenshot of every SERP to visually confirm the results.
Generate keyword ideas and use custom filters to narrow down the results. The tool’s ability to generate questions also shows you what people are searching for, so you can create content around that topic. In fact, Spyfu claims to be “better than Google at suggesting profitable keywords.”
Spyfu also allows you to analyze the rise and fall of competitors’ rankings history, so you can analyze the reason of what caused a competitor to lose their positioning.
- Basic – $39 per month
- Professional – $39 for the first month, $78 per month afterward
- Team – $299 per month
Keyword research is at the forefront of SEO, especially when in today’s world SEO and content go hand-in-hand. Having the right data to act on can impact your entire content strategy, and can be the difference between ranking on page one, or not ranking at all.
But as you’ve seen, there are multiple keyword research tools on the market with a variety of abilities all set at different price points. When researching the tool that’s right for you, keep in mind the quality of the tool’s dataset, what industry the dataset covers, and which countries and languages it includes.
While we can’t tell you which is the best keyword research tool – different organizations have different needs, after all – this list should help you narrow down your selection.