These days, prospective customers aren't flipping through the yellow pages of telephone books or wandering down Main Street to window-shop. They're seeking out businesses just like every other modern person: they're using search engines.
Of course, no matter what you search for, Google and all search engines will produce potentially hundreds of pages that contain the string of words you've entered. To marketing professionals, these search terms are known as "keywords."
The more expertly you are able to integrate both short and long-tail keywords into the content on a website, the higher the search engine matrix will rank you.
Wondering which are the best keywords to use? It's simple: using the best keyword research tool websites is often free, easy, and valuable to maximizing the reach of your work. There are many different tools for keyword research, and everyone has their favorites.
You get what you pay for, which is important to remember if you want a free keyword research tool. SEMRush has a plan for freelancers that costs $99.95 a month. It can be worth it if you focus your marketing work on analyzing your competitors’ keywords and improving the search engine rankings of your clients.
This is an easy tool that offers keyword research in a number of ways. Search sites for their keywords, understand the difficulty of each phrase or word, and review real-time rankings in a handy list. Use the Keyword Magic Tool to determine how often certain keywords are searched, and then analyze the keywords for the top picks.
There are plenty of metrics for tracking success and creating measurable objectives. You’re even able to track your search engine optimization on the go—just download the SEMRush app.
Not all keywords are created the same. Using long-tail keywords, which are short phrases that are used in search engines, offers less competition and better conversation rates.
By including and focusing on exactly what your potential customers want, you're effectively personalizing your copy. LongTailPro is a long-tail keyword research tool specifically designed to increase your web traffic in this way.
This tool, with costs starting at $25 per month for annual billing, offers keyword suggestions from seed words, analyzes the competition, and helps you understand the value of your SEO ranking. For beginners, it also offers tutorial videos and lessons to help you become a digital marketing pro in no time.
3. Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner isn't fancy, but it allows digital marketers to go straight to the source. It's one of the best free keyword research tools because the data comes directly from Google itself. It's part of the Google Ads platform, and you can access it through the "Advanced Campaigns" tab on the main ads page.
Within this part of the site, you can do more than just search new keywords for the services and products you plan to advertise. Because it is a part of Google Ads, you can receive bid estimates to better determine your budget and reach.
It's worth using, if only as a complementary system to more advanced tools.
<div class="tip">Want to dive deeper into this useful tool from Google? Check out our guide on how to use Google's Keyword planner.</div>
In digital marketing, you rarely have to reinvent the wheel. It's a more strategic use of time to instead analyze your competition and determine what they're doing right.
For a competitive keyword research tool, consider SpyFu. With the basic plan, which costs $33 a month if you bill annually, you can receive unlimited search results and data exports on all the competition.
SpyFu allows you to input a domain and track every place your competitors have been on Google, including every keyword they've purchased through Google Ads, and their organic ranking for the last 13 years. It helps you learn from their mistakes as well: you'll see what worked and what didn't. You'll also see their social media presence, which you can use to craft your own competitive strategy.
5. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Sign up for the seven-day trial for $7 to explore the benefits of Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, a favorite among seasoned marketers. It's a powerful tool, scanning five billion webpages every day to log more than 150 million keywords in the United States. Ahrefs also works well in an additional 150 counties.
You're able to see the exact keywords of competing domains in nearly real time, making it easy to analyze content and plan a digital strategy. It also provides both short and long-tail keyword suggestions and many other tools, including backlink and website authority checks.
For the uninitiated, SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. One goal of digital marketing is to rank high on a SERP based on specific keywords. Part of the challenge of this work is the ever-changing matrix used by Google, Bing, and other engines. That's why a comprehensive SEO tool like Serpstat can be so effective.
The "lite" plan costs $69 a month, granting you 4,000 queries a day, 10,000 results per report, and help with missing keywords. You're able to analyze up to 500 backlinks a day, audit 150,000 pages of websites, and test keywords for effectiveness within text. With the features of this robust tool, you'll have a bird's eye view of how to improve your site's ranking.
Keywords can be tricky to integrate seamlessly into content, so a keyword research tool that only offers high-difficulty keywords isn't helpful. KWFinder not only helps you find hidden long-tail keywords used by your competition, but it can also provide an accurate ranking of keyword difficulty through an organized, easy-to-share design.
KWFinder offers a free 10-day trial, and subscriptions start at $29.90 a month. While the basic plan is somewhat limited, this tool stands out for finding keywords in any target language and having filters that help you effectively refine your keyword suggestions.
8. Keyword Tool.io
Keyword Tool.io positions itself as a free alternative to Google Keywords, and that's a win for beginning marketers. This straightforward tool is easy to use and can generate more than 750 long-tail keywords every time you search with a seed word. Its method? Google Autocomplete. That's the same way that most of your potential customers find what they're looking for, too.
There is a paid option, which for $69 a month will produce double the keyword suggestions. But even the free version offers analysis for all the search engines, including Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, and the App Store.
Plus, you're able to link with social media through keyword analysis for Instagram and Twitter.
9. Answer the Public
What is the best keyword research tool? Chances are you may have typed in this exact question when searching for this guide. That's exactly the kind of data Answer the Public provides.
To use it, simply type in a seed word and watch it produce relevant questions in a sharable format. This free tool is an ideal accompaniment to other keyword tools for helping brainstorm blog ideas. It lets you better understand what's going on in the heads of your target audience, which is exactly what any seasoned digital marketer wants.
<div class="tip">Not all keyword research tools are available for free. If you have a budget, check out these free SEO tools.</div>
If you're looking to integrate influencer marketing into campaigns, Buzzsumo is a great resource. With plans starting at $79 a month billed annually, it can help facilitate content creation as well as search what your target influencers have already shared.
By using keywords as your metric rather than, say, the number of likes on their posts, you'll get a better idea of an influencer's reach in your specific niche.
This keyword research tool also monitors the competition, including brand mentions and updates within your industry, making it simple to stay up-to-date with relevant blogs on important events. You'll know what people are going to search before they even start. The dashboard, filled with KPIs, helps you track results and stay dynamic.
11. Google Trends
Finally, if budget is an issue, you can always turn to Google Trends, a free resource from Google that makes it easy to analyze search data.
Using Google Trends, you can:
- find out about interest in a particular topic over time
- identify new trending topics and stories as well as related queries
- discover where certain topics are most searched
While Google Trends' search data doesn't get as granular as paid tools—for instance, it doesn't provide a specific number for a topic's search volume—it offers rich insight about popular search queries and emerging topics. And since its data comes from Google itself, Google Trends offers even more up-to-date clues for keyword research.
The Bottom Line
Search engine optimization through keywords is a mix of science and art. The science is unraveling the dynamic nature of organic ranking, as Google and the other big search tools change their methodologies.
The art is getting inside the heads of your target audience to understand what languages they are using to find the products, services, and brands you wish to share.
Anyone who relies on their own point of view, use of language, or personal habits to determine people’s behavior is missing out on a wide swath of potential customers. This is why tools are so vital to digital marketing. Still, no one tool is going to be accurate every time, and tools that are excellent one year may be useless the next.
Even for beginners, it's best to utilize more than one tool when creating a content strategy. Don't be afraid to explore the different features and user interface platforms for these different keyword research tools, especially ones that offer an inexpensive trial period or free options. It's likely that you'll find benefits from a few.
When you have what you need, you can create an individualized toolbox that helps you or your clients get the reach they seek.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Suzanne Wentley.