Whether you’re improving your website’s SEO, advertising on Google AdWords, or doing research for content marketing, keyword research tools can help you get the insights you need to succeed.
These five keyword research tools will help your business target the phrases and vocabulary that your customers are using online, which will maximise your chances of success.
In this blog, I will evaluate the popular keyword research tools, to save you time and effort finding the right ones for your needs.
What Makes a Good Keyword Research Tool?
A good keyword research tool needs to:
- Be easy to use.
- Generate new keyword ideas.
- Include statistics and metrics, such as the monthly search volume and competition score to see how competitive the phrase is.
- Allow you to export the data to excel for further use.
- Ideally, be free.
Google’s Keyword Planner
In 2016, Google restricted access to its Keyword planner for people running AdWords campaigns. However, Google still allowed them to have full access to their keyword data:
However, if you’re not running an AdWords campaign, the data you can now see is restricted. Google has replaced their average monthly search data with more generic and approximated data. In the example below, Google say there’s between 1K – 10K monthly searches for “blue jeans,” which is not very helpful. This is accompanied with a message telling you to set up an AdWords campaign.
Google’s Keyword Planner is still a great tool for those with access. The tool was built with Google AdWords account managers in mind, to help them develop successful campaigns.
If you have access to the tool, you will be able to see variations of keywords and explore new opportunities for your content and AdWords campaigns.
How to use Google’s Keyword Planner:
- Input your keyword and/or your landing page URL, and select a specific category, so the keyword planner returns results that fit your niche.
- The keyword planner will then show you Google’s own data on average monthly searches, the level of competition and the suggested bid for AdWords. These metrics allow you to identify the keywords that have a high volume of monthly searches, along with a low competition score. Targeting these terms will give your content the best chance of ranking well in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the keywords being used by your customers.
- Google also allows you to search keywords by city, unlike other tools. This is great for local SEO and for businesses that want to target a specific location.
- You can then export your findings to Excel.
Although the tool is tricky to use at first, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Its main advantage is that the data comes straight from Google, so it is arguably the most accurate and reliable set of data available. However, because access to the data is redistricted for those not running AdWords campaigns, I’ll discuss some alternative keyword tools.
Moz Keyword Explorer
In 2016, Moz launched their Keyword Explorer tool which provides keyword suggestions and SERP analysis. The free version is very limited but there is a free 30-day trial which you can try.
How to use Moz Keyword Explorer:
- Search one phrase at a time (if you use commas to look for multiple phrases the tool will see this as one phrase). It also helps to be specific when searching for phrases.
- Use the drop down “display keyword suggestions that” to find a range of varying results such as “provide results which are questions”. However, some of these options can provide very broad results which may be off topic. Below I searched for blue jeans but as the tool doesn’t allow you to add a landing page for context, it provided a wide range of results.
- Search also by ‘relevancy’, ‘volume’ and use the ‘search’ options to see further results.
- Tick the boxes for the keywords you would like to export.
One of the disadvantages of this keyword explorer is that it doesn’t always have the data available.
Below, I’ve searched for the keyword “blue tulips” and there was no volume data available.
This is concerning as this phrase isn’t that niche, and using Google’s keyword planner I can see that blue tulips receives 390 searches per month.
Overall, I’d say the Moz keyword explorer tool does look promising but it currently has a limited amount of keyword data and provides a wide range of results which are not context specific.
Übersuggest is a great tool if you want a large list of keyword suggestions.
To use it:
- Type in a keyword, then choose your location and the type of results you want (web, images, news etc) and you will get an alphabetical list of keyword ideas.
- Next to each suggestion is a plus button which allows you to see even more suggestions. This is great if you need keywords for new content ideas.
One of the downfalls of Übersuggest is that it doesn’t produce data metrics, such as search volume or the level of competition.
Nor does the tool allow you to export to CVS but you can easily copy the keywords by clicking ‘select all keywords’ and paste the list into.
I like to use Übersuggest in conjunction with Google’s Keyword Planner (or other tools which provide metrics) because it gives different keyword results. You can then easily put these into other Keyword Planners like Google’s or SEMrush (discussed later) to get volume and competition metrics. They also have a word cloud feature for visualising keywords.
KW Finder offers some very useful functions, including:
- A large number of keywords with the following metrics: search volume, the average Cost-Per-Click and the Pay-Per-Click competition score.
- An SEO difficulty score which indicates how hard it is to rank for the keyword in Google search results.
- An ‘Interest over time’ graph which shows the trend or popularity of the phrase over time, keeping your content up to date.
- The SERP for that keyword, including the number of Facebook likes and Tweets for each of the URLs listed.
- The free account (5 searches per 24 hours and 50 keywords per search) allows you to create keyword lists and export the data into Excel easily.
I like to use KW Finder when looking at trends and comparing the popularity of phrases. Being able to see the SERP is a great feature, as you can decide whether the phrase is relevant for your context.
The SEMrush keyword tool is good for gathering ideas for keyword research and for competitor research because it offers a breadth of information and data on any website (where available).
It has a number of advantages such as:
- It is easy to use – you simply type in a keyword.
- You can see the keywords and websites which rank for the phrase in the SERPs.
- It offers a wide number of metrics such as: search volume, competition, CPC, traffic statistics and trends.
- You can see which keywords your competitors are ranking for organically, and which paid keywords they are focusing on. This shows you which keywords are working best for them and is a particularly useful feature.
Although the free version of the tool can give good results, it struggles to consistently produce a large number of keyword results for every website. Its key advantage is the competitor analysis it allows.
All of these tools have their merits, but it’s important to use the right tool for your business needs. If you’re looking for new content ideas, use Ubersuggest for inspiration and compare different terms on KW Finder. To update your website’s on-page SEO using data straight from the source, I suggest using Google Keyword Planner, if you have access to it. To see how your competitors are succeeding, I recommend using SEMrush.
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