Blog SEO Basics: Keyword Research Tools
You already know that SEO matters, and that a lot of it is about choosing the right keywords—but how do you figure out what keywords you should be targeting with your blog content? Using keyword research.
This post provides a review of a number of tools to help you find some data about what your audience is searching so that you optimize your keyword strategy.
Why should I do keyword research?
One of the most important strategies for small businesses to get clients is to increase their web traffic and leads by getting found in search engines.
In a previous post, we explained that being found by search engines is all about putting up content on your website that matches what your audience is searching for. Keyword research helps us find out what our audience is searching for.
Keyword research tools can help you find out how many people are searching for a particular term, how competitive those terms are, and which of your competitors are already ranking for them. If lots of your competitors targeting a particular search term, you may not want to focus on that one. Many of these tools also recommend related terms that can help you broaden your list to find a niche that you will be able to rank for.
Ultimately, you're gathering data that can inform your strategy. So here are a few tools to help you get that data.
Because it is owned by the largest search engine in the world, Google's Keyword Planner used to be the go-to keyword research tool. It offers reliable keyword data based on the Google search engine. Many professional SEOs still use this tool exclusively.
The planner can show you search volumes for your branded keywords; i.e. how many people are searching directly for your brand. It also shows you what Google thinks your site is about which can give you insight about where you have targeting opportunities. By scanning competitors websites, you can also expand the list of keywords that you consider targeting. The data is also broken down by country, state/province, or even city.
While this tool used to be freely available, you are now required to start a paid ad campaign to have access to this tool. However, if you pause your ad campaign before you run it, you won't actually have to pay anything. Crisp Text has been able to start campaigns for as little as
Google trends is a free tool from google that provides you with data about what people are searching for around the world — what is trending.
Use it to get a sense about how popular a search term is or to get marketing ideas. You can also use it to get information about the popularity of search terms in the past. For example, it can tell you if people are more likely to search for "surfboards" or "surf boards". It also provides a list of related terms that can help you with your keyword list.
Google trends is a free tool.
Moz is recognized as one of the leaders in the SEO industry and their Moz Explorer tool is one of the best known keyword research tools.
It allows you to plug in your keyword and gives you a snapshot of the number of monthly search volume, a rating for how difficult it would be to rank for that search term, the click-through rate, and a rating for how you should prioritize the term. It provides search term suggestions, as well as a snapshot of what sites are currently ranking.
In our experience, their data on the U.S. is quite good, but not as good for other countries.
You can get 10 free queries per calendar month without signing up for anything. With a free trial, you get full access for 30 days. As of this writing, plans start at $79 per month.
Another of the industry leaders, Ahrefs helps you understand the rankings of your competitors and how much web organic and paid traffic they get from particular keywords.
Their keyword explorer provides information about how difficult a search term is to rank for as well as search volume, the number of clicks, and the cost per click. Their site explorer provides information on the backlinks that a page gets (backlinks are an important factor in search rankings) and also who they link to.
Ahrefs has a very comprehensive data set and supports over 170 countries (so if you're not in the U.S., no problem!). They also estimate search data from a number of search engines besides Google, including YouTube, Amazon, Bing, and Baidu.
Ahrefs is a paid service, but as of this writing you can get a 7-day trial for $7.
SEM Rus is another tool that helps you find keywords that you can target, analyze your competitors and optimize your Google Ad campaign.
The keyword analytics tool provides all your search term data. It gives you information about the search volume of a keyword and the number of results for that keyword. It also shows you how the search has trended over time as well as keyword suggestions
The domain overview tool can tell you about a specific website. It tells you what keywords a site is currently ranking for, an estimate of how much monthly traffic they get from search engines, and an estimate of what that traffic is worth (if it had been paid for in ad clicks). It also lists how each page ranks as well as how much traffic each page gets.
The cheapest plan is $99.95 per month, but they offer a free 7-day trial.
Wordtracker is another tool that provides you a list of suggestions for keywords as well as their search volume. It's easy to use and understand.
In our opinion, the suggested words are not always super relevant, which limits its utility a bit. Also, some of the data seems suspect (somehow the top ten searches with "Crisp Text" all had exactly 85 searches per month?). But we find it useful for one-off research.
The tool has 10 free queries. If you subscribe, you can unlock the tool and use it for free for 7 days. The cheapest paid plan is $27 per month.
Like the other tools, Ubersuggest provides an overview of the number of keywords a site ranks for, organic monthly traffic, and domain score. It also can check a keyword and provide search volume, difficulty in ranking for that term organically, difficulty in ranking for paid ads, and an estimated cost per click for ads.
We find that Ubersuggest's data outside the U.S. isn't great, although it does allow you to use the tool in 9 languages besides English.
Best of all? it's free to use. This is our recommended tool for those of you just getting started with keyword research.