And then there’s pricing. Free forever, free (but not really), paid (but a ripoff), paid but more than you need.
So which keyword research tool is right for you? In this post, I share the 18 best keyword research tools for different goals, levels of experience, and budgets. For each one, I’ll provide
- Who and what it’s best suited for.
- Something that makes it different from the others in the list.
- The real, no-nonsense price.
Let’s get into it.
The best free keyword research tools for PPC
There are plenty of keyword research platforms out there designed for both SEO and PPC (which I’ll get to in a bit), but these are the best tools to use for your PPC keyword research.
1. WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool
A free tool that comes with strategic advice? Sold!
- Good for: Easy and headache-free PPC keyword research.
- Unique feature: Popular keywords database for 60 verticals, with strategic advice.
- Price: Free for the first 25 results, free for the rest of the results via email.
With WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool, enter a keyword or URL and you’ll get a list of relevant keyword suggestions, including related and long-tail variations, along with search volume, competition, and CPC. You can also filter by location (for over 23 countries), or industry (by 24 different verticals). The tool will provide the top 25 keywords right away. To get the full list, just enter your email address and you’ll get it sent to you for free.
We’ve also used our keyword research to create a database of the most popular keywords for 60 different verticals. Head to our Popular Keywords page, click on your vertical, and you’ll get the top 25 keywords for that vertical. This is great for identifying seed keywords and starting points for your campaigns.
Even better, scroll down on the Popular Keywords page to get tips on using high-volume keywords, and on the specific vertical pages to get tips for marketing in that space.
2. Google Keyword Planner
For information straight outta the horse’s mouth.
- Good for: Intermediate to advanced PPC keyword research and account insights.
- Unique feature: Bidding data and advanced attribute filtering.
- Price: Free with an active Google Ads account.
With Google’s Keyword Planner, enter one or more keywords into the search box and you will see the following data for the keywords you entered as well as related keywords: average monthly searches, 30-day search trends, three month and year over year change, and competition (low, medium, high).
The refine keywords tool, which has been in beta since 2020, helps you to filter by specific attributes related to the keywords. For example, if you had keywords related to dry skin, you could refine by skin type, symptom, condition, branded vs non branded terms, and more.
You’ll also see what advertisers have historically paid for that keyword’s top of page bid. If you’re actively advertising, you’ll also see your ad impression share for that keyword as well as whether that keyword is in your account.
3. Microsoft Advertising Intelligence Keyword Planner Tool
^ Quite a mouthful—and an appropriate preview for what’s next.
- Good for: Advanced keyword research for cross-channel marketing.
- Unique feature: Robust list organization and keyword research templates.
- Price: Free with a Microsoft Ads account.
The Microsoft Keyword Planner Tool offers a free Excel plugin where you can paste in a list of keywords and get a monster list of keyword recommendations—with volume, clicks, searches, CPC, bid estimates, match type, and [lots of] other metrics.
Now there’s a lot going on here, but there are a number of ways to organize and filter through the data. Here are four ways to do so:
- In the traffic view, organize by device (not match type) to get a duplicate-free list.
- Filter by age group and gender to identify keywords that are (and aren’t) right for your audience.
- Paste in a list of URLs to get keyword suggestions and then check the device and keyword match type used for those keywords.
- Find related keywords other advertisers are bidding on and see if it’s feasible for you to compete.
You can also plug the list of new keywords you come up with into the Google Keyword Planner and see what you come up with. You’d be surprised at how low-volume keywords on Bing are higher on Google, and vice versa! PPC expert Joe Martinez covers how to use the Microsoft keyword research tool here.
4. The search terms report (Google & Bing)
You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
- Good for: Search ad campaign optimization and (light) negative keyword research.
- Unique feature: Information tied directly to your account.
- Price: Free for active advertising campaigns.
The search terms reports in Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising show you the actual queries that have triggered your ads to show and get clicked on. It can help you to identify your top-performing keywords, new keywords to add to your list, and negative keywords too. With this information, you can make granular adjustments to improve your CTR, Quality Scores, and ROI.
Unfortunately, starting in September 2020, this report (for both Google and Microsoft) became restricted to show only terms of a certain volume (for privacy reasons), making it slightly less useful for finding negative keywords as it once was. Alas, it’s the only thing we have. And at least Google has added new data to the report to include queries that pulled in an impression—regardless of whether the ad got a click.
The search terms report is a free feature available for active Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising accounts.
The best keyword research tools for content ideation
You should always be maintaining your keyword lists for search advertising, but you’re somewhat limited in how much you can step outside the box or branch out. For your organic content, on the other hand, the sky’s the limit! Here are some of the best keyword research tools to use for blog and social media post ideation.
Bear in mind that Reddit is the Walmart of web forums…
- Good for: Content creators and social media managers looking for topic ideas.
- Unique feature: Reddit keyword mining.
- Price: Free
Keyworddit searches through Reddit posts, titles, and comments to find keywords and provide you with their search volume. If you’re unfamiliar, Reddit is a massive online community where people can join groups (called subreddits) for just about anything. Some subreddits are massive, like r/funny while others can be pretty niche like r/businessowners.
With this tool, you can’t enter in a specific term; instead, you choose a subreddit and the tool will pull keywords from posts and comments in that subreddit.
This can be helpful for getting blog post and social media ideas for your niche market, forming audience personas, or getting keyword ideas to feed into other tools in this list. If you click on the context button, it will show you Google search results for that keyword within that subreddit. You can also export the list.
Keyworddit is free with no catches.
6. Soovle (free)
Be prepared to time travel back to the 90s—but also to get new ideas.
- Good for: Initial brainstorming for new keywords.
- Unique feature: See queries for nine different platforms in one view (+90’s nostalgia).
- Price: Free
With Soovle, enter a term into the box and it will show you the most popular queries for that term across 16 different search engines, including Google, Bing, YouTube, Amazon, eBay, Buy.com, Overstock.com, Walmart, and more.
You can customize the tool to show you only the search engines you want, drag queries into a saved suggestions box, and click on any one query to be brought to the SERP for that platform.
While it doesn’t provide volume, competition, or cost data, it’s great for coming up with content ideas as well as understanding intent in some cases. Like who knew that YouTubers look for lawn mower sounds for sleep?
Head to “secrets” (haha) on the top right to get some more info on how to use the tool.
Soovle is free, through and through.
Trippy video background…questions for days…it’s a mind-bender.
- Good for: Finding question keywords, targeting People Also Ask in the SERP.
- Unique feature: Keyword visualization
- Price: Free at three searches a day, paid starts at $99/mo.
With AnswerThePublic, type in a phrase or term and it will show you the questions people are asking related to your entry. You won’t get any volume or click data, but you will get some cool visuals.
You can see this type of visual (or a list view) for:
- Questions: who, what, where, when, why, which, can, and ho
- Comparisons: vs, or, and
- More: which, are, will, can, like.
I personally find it to be hard to digest the information, even in the list view. Luckily, you can export the data to CSV.
AnswerThePublic is free for only three queries per day. The paid version starts at $99 and offers more features like monitoring and alerts, customized viewing, data comparison over time, and folders.
“Why are tennis shoes called tennis shoes and not just shoes or something.”
- Good for: Finding blog topic and social media post ideas.
- Unique feature: Over 32 million questions in its database.
- Price: Free for 50 results per query, paid starts at $10/mo.
With QuestionDB, enter a broad keyword into the box and you’ll get queries from question websites like Quora and Reddit. It will show you related topics mentioned in the questions and also give you the option to strip the queries down to keywords only.
If you click “Show source link”, you can see where it came from and see the question thread in that source.
The free QuestionDB account allows 50 results per query with the option to upgrade to $10/month for unlimited searches, full results, and API access.
The best free keyword research tools for SEO
While the above tools are good for finding topic ideas, they don’t offer the data you need if you’re looking to create targeted SEO content, including blog posts, product pages, your homepage, and more.
9. Google Search Console
For reading your readers’ minds.
- Good for: Optimizing existing SEO content and finding spinoff content ideas.
- Unique feature: The most accurate and real-time reporting on organic.
- Price: Free for anyone with a website.
Keyword research is just one of the many ways to use Google Search Console for SEO. Head to “Search results” in the left-hand pane and you’ll see the top queries that are leading your site to appear in the SERP, with clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and position for each.
You can then filter by URL where you can first see how effective your keyword targeting is. From there, you can plug the other queries into a keyword research tool to see whether you should incorporate them into your post. For example, here are the top queries for our post on how to do keyword research for SEO and PPC:
This report told me to incorporate “easy keyword research” into the post.
You can also find queries for which your page is not performing well and which might be keywords to target with a separate post.
Hence why we wrote the post you’re reading now.
Google Search Console is free for anyone with a website.
10. Google Trends
For when you want to know “is that a thing?”
- Good for: Identifying the evergreen value of a keyword.
- Unique feature: Real-time data and search history all the way back to 2004.
- Price: Free
With Google Trends, you can identify recent and popular keywords that don’t yet show volume in keyword research tools because they haven’t been around long enough.
You can also use it to make sure a keyword that has solid volume in a keyword research tool is worth targeting. For example, “google goggles” has a search volume of 14K. But the Google Trends report shows dwindling interest:
If you were unfamiliar with Google products, this report would lead you to find out that Google Goggles is no longer! Not worth targeting if you want a post with long-term value.
On the flip side, you can identify keywords that have low volume and competition but are growing in popularity. You can then target and rank for those keywords now to accumulate traffic, backlinks, and authority ahead of time.
Google Trends is free for all, through and through.
The best multi-purpose keyword research tools for SEO—low budget
You’ll notice that the above tools are meant for those who have solid SEO skills and additional tools at their disposal. The tools in this section are meant to serve multiple purposes in one tool and are great for business owners or SEO beginners who don’t have an advanced SEO strategy or a large budget.
11. Free version of Semrush
Sort of like lawn seats…
- Good for: Light SEO work for beginner to intermediate experience levels.
- Unique feature: Assistance with writing SEO content.
- Price: Free
I’ll cover the full version of this tool later on, but the free version of Semrush provides your basic keyword data like volume, difficulty, and CPC. It offers 10 queries per day, one project where you can track 10 keywords and audit 100 pages of your site, one SEO Content Template, one on-page SEO Checker Campaign, and one use of the SEO Writing Assistant.
This is probably the most decent free version of a premium keyword research tool out there.
“Google autocomplete is a window into the soul of our society.” – Someone on the web.
- Good for: Finding long-tail keywords for SEO and PPC.
- Unique feature: Suggestions for eight different platforms.
- Price: Free with no numerical data, paid starts at $69/month with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Keyword Tool uses Google autocomplete (which uses search behavior and data) to generate long-tail keyword suggestions for any term. Google autocomplete typically only gives you about five suggestions, but this tool shows you the hundreds of suggestions available. It will prepend and append the term with words and prepositions, and you can find suggestions specific to Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay, Play Store, Instagram (Instagram SEO is a thing!), and Twitter.
The free version of Keyword Tool allows you to sort out questions and prepositions and filter to include and exclude specific words within results (a maximum of five exclusions). The paid version (starting at $69/month) provides the full list of suggestions, data like search volume, cost per click, competition, and trends, as well as competitive analysis capabilities.
AI is not just for the big companies or experts anymore.
- Good for: Business owners and beginners in content marketing—with tech savvy.
- Unique feature: Uses AI to generate SEO content outlines.
- Price: Starts at $29/month with five-day free trial and seven-day money-back guarantee.
Growthbar provides the standard information you can expect from an SEO platform: keyword suggestions with monthly search volume, cost per click, difficulty scores, rank tracking, and site analyses with domain authority, keywords, backlinks, and even Facebook and Google Ads. Platform subscribers get a free chrome extension that provides this data as you search.
The best part about Growthbar is that it will also create content outlines for you, including keywords to target, title, introduction, headings, word counts, images, links, and more. AI in marketing is a wonderful thing!
There isn’t a free version of Growthbar. Pricing starts at $29/month with a five-day free trial and seven-day money-back guarantee.
14. KWFinder by Mangools
For suggestions on getting suggestions…
- Good for: Intermediate SEO for small teams on a budget.
- Unique feature: Doesn’t just append or prepend to provide keyword suggestions.
- Price: Free at five searches/day, paid starts at $29/month with free 10-day trial.
Aside from great copywriting on their website, KWFinder‘s easy-to-use interface provides all of your keyword/SEO platform basics: suggestions, long-tail variations, volume, cost per click, competition, SERP analysis, and site analysis. You can search by keyword or domain as well as location.
A nice feature of KWFinder is that its keyword suggestions aren’t just the term you typed in with words appended or prepended to it.
The free version of KWFinder allows five lookups per 24 hours, with 25 related and 10 competitor keywords per lookup. The paid version starts at $29/month.
- Good for: Intermediate SEO, PPC, and competitive analysis.
- Unique feature: Shows a competitors graph as well as ad examples for a keyword.
- Price: Free for 10 requests per day, paid starts at $55.
Serpstat teeters on the edge of both premium and budget-friendly keyword research tools. The biggest focus of this tool is competitive analysis. You can compare your site to a competitors and get a report on the top competing sites for any keyword. You’ll see how many keywords each site is targeting with organic content and paid ads, how many keywords they have in common with your site, and even examples of ads for that keyword.
The reports are separate for paid vs organic. Another cool feature is a visualization of your competitiors.
Serpstat is free for 10 requests per day, and the paid version starts at $55/mo.
For a streamlined SEO with a side of hand-holding.
- Good for: Intermediate SEO and content marketers.
- Unique feature: SEO difficulty score, social shares, content ideas.
- Price: Free version is very limited (one site, three keywords per day), paid starts at $29/month with free seven-day trial available.
Similar to the content ideation tools above, Ubersuggest allows you to filter keyword suggestions by comparison, question, and preposition variations. And similar to the premium tools below, it offers the core keyword, SERP, and site analysis data as well as project creation.
One thing that differentiates Ubersuggest is it’s helpful annotations, like “The average web page that rans in the top 10 for this keyword has X backlinks and a domain score of X”. Another is it’s Content ideas feature, which shows you pages performing well for that keyword as well as their Facebook and Pinterest shares.
The free version is VERY limited (read: useless), but the paid version starts at $29/month with options for coaching and a seven-day free trial. Also, the free Ubersuggest chrome extension—which provides keyword data as you search on Google, YouTube, and Amazon—is quite useful.
The best all-in-one keyword research tools (premium)
These are hummers of keyword research. The all-in-one platforms, best for teams, experts and consultants in PPC, SEO, or content marketing, and/or large businesses and agencies. But it can’t hurt to explore the free trial versions. Here is the information they all share:
- Keyword analysis: volume, competition, cost, interest trends, often separated by organic vs paid, and more.
- SERP analysis: top-ranking pages for a keyword, including their domain rating, referring domains, backlinks, traffic, keywords, rank tracking, rich snippets, and more.
- Keyword gaps: keywords your competitors are ranking for that you are not.
- Site analyses: for your and competitors’ sites.
- SEO audits: complete technical and content SEO audits for your site.
- Integration with apps, plugins, CRMs, and reporting tools.
“Semrush is like a lighthouse as I surf through the Ocean of Websites.” -Someone on the web
- Good for: Advanced SEO and PPC for experts, agencies, and large businesses.
- Unique feature: Content marketing toolkit, social media marketing, shows intent of keywords.
- Price: Free version is pretty useful, paid starts at $119.95/mo with a seven-day free trial.
Semrush is often referred to as the gold standard for premium keyword research platforms (although ahrefs is catching up!). It offers over 40 tools and reports to help you with not only keyword research, but also content marketing, social media management, local seo, listing management, marketing analysis, PR, and more.
“Ahrefs is like a bloodhound with content research.” -Someone on the web
- Good for: Advanced SEO, link building, and click data.
- Unique feature: Unmatched backlink index, unique click metrics, and Return Rate.
- Price: No free version, seven-dollar seven-day trial, paid starts at $99/mo.
Ahrefs actually started as a backlink analysis tool, so it’s no surprise that with the largest backlink index in the world, it is the best tool out there for link building. For any link, you can find out when it went live, whether it’s do-follow or no-follow, its anchor text, and more. You can also check a site’s ranking history for any keyword, automate internal linking, analyze and monitor outbound links, see which links are bringing in the most traffic to any site, and find link opportunites and backlink prospects
One of it’s distinguishing features is unique click metrics. For any keyword, you can learn how many searches result in clicks, the average number of clicks per search, the click distribution between paid and organic results, and how often people search the same keyword in 30 days (Return Rate (RR)).
Ahrefs does not have a free version, but you can try a $7 one-week free trial, and the paid version starts at $99/month.
19. Moz Keyword Explorer
“Moz is like the mac daddy of SEO.” – Someone on the web
- Good for: Beginner to intermediate SEOs and PPCers who don’t need the bells and whistles..
- Unique feature: Organic CTR and Priority Score.
- Price: Free for 10 searches/mo, paid starts at $99/mo.
Moz (the company) is one of the leading resources for SEO. It is the originator of Domain Authority, Whiteboard Fridays, and has a free Chrome extension that provides Page and Domain Authority for any page.
It’s tool, the Moz Keyword Explorer, offers your basic keyword data along with rank tracking, site audits, and page optimization reports. It provides a Priority Score to help you identify whether a keyword is worth targeting, based on that keyword’s data and your “My Score”— a score you give on how relevant the keyword is to your business.
However, it lacks quite a few of the functionalities offered by Semrush or ahrefs, like SERP position history or the number of keywords a ranking result ranks for. The platform hasn’t been updated much since Rand Fishkin left the company in 2018. Nevertheless, it is a good platform to use if you’re looking for a less overwhelming and more intuitive platform.
Moz Keyword Explorer is free for 10 searches per month, and the paid version starts at $99.
The best keyword research tools [recap]
And that wraps up the 18 best keyword research tools, for any level, any purpose, and any business. I hope you found it helpful! Here’s the full list:
- WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool
- Google Keyword Planner
- Microsoft Advertising Intelligence
- Bing and Google search terms report
- Google Search Console
- Google Trends
- Semrush (free version)
- Growth Bar
- Moz Keyword Explorer
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