Best SEO Keyword Tools
September 29, 2023
- SEO is a vital practice for ensuring that your web content tops search results.
- Understanding some SEO basics will keep your website relevant and engaging for users.
- A competitive keyword research tool will help you find keywords to beat the competition.
- Free and paid versions are available based on your unique needs.
This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
If you write anything on the web, your goal should be to get the highest traffic possible. The best way to accomplish that? SEO.
We’ve rounded up the best SEO keyword optimization tools on the market, with a rundown of their best features and pricing structures. We’ve reviewed free tools, browser extensions, and larger paid services to offer the best solutions for your needs and price point.
With these tools at your disposal, you can write engaging content and find the right keywords that reach your most ideal users. We’ve crawled the Internet to bring you the most useful SEO keyword research tools to aid you in your work.
SEO and Keyword Research
How to Practice Good SEO
By now, you’ve probably got the basics of SEO down - understanding what it is, and how it can benefit your websites and online content. You also know the value of having good keywords incorporated into your text as a strong SEO practice.
Search engine indexing through keywords is arguably the most popular element of good SEO. But if you’ve never used this kind of tool before, it can seem daunting.
First of all, you don’t have to pack every single variation of a given keyword into your text. This will make your content feel inauthentic, as if you’re deliberately trying to “game” your search rankings.
Try finding a few keywords that fit most naturally with your topic, and build them in with natural language. In addition to boosting your keyword count, you’ll also get a secondary SEO boost from that natural language rating.
Some Key SEO Terms to Understand
- Keyword - a word or phrase you include in your text that users enter in the search bar
- Organic clickthrough rate - how many people naturally search for and select your content
- Keyword difficulty - how hard it will be for search engines to index your keyword
- First page results - the results that will appear on the first page of a search
- Long tail keywords - longer phrases that users commonly search for
Is SEO the Same Thing as SEM?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” SEM stands for “search engine marketing.”
While both approaches use similar concepts, the main difference is that search engine marketing involves paid advertising and its related keywords, whereas SEO focuses on organic traffic.
Paid advertising is a legitimate way to guarantee that traffic arrives at your online content, but the quality of those users may not be the best, and they may not take the actions you want them to once they arrive on your site.
SEO increases - and improves the quality of - your organic search traffic, which are users that arrive at your online content based simply on search results alone.
How SEO Keyword Tools Can Help You
Whether you use a free keyword research tool or a paid keyword research tool, you will see immediate benefits from using them in developing your content.
SEO tools take out much of the hard work of finding the right keywords to use in your text. You could spend hours researching your topic and assembling a list of related keywords to include, but this is far too labor intensive for any writer.
A keyword research tool has done that hard work for you, and can show you the best keywords that align with your topic, page titles and headers, and more.
It will also suggest how often a keyword should be used in your text as well. Finding the right balance of keywords and natural text is both an art and a science, but hitting that sweet spot will bring you to the top of search rankings before long.
Should I Use Free Tools or Paid Tools?
If you’re just starting out using SEO, or if you don’t manage lots of online content, a free tool might be just right for you.
Free tools are obviously friendly to your budget, and can still provide powerful insights that can help you with your SEO efforts.
That being said, if you’re a serious writer and developer, you should definitely consider a paid tool. They provide much better insights and keyword data that will give you the edge over your competition.
Most keyword research tools do offer a free trial period, or a limited number of free searches. Try this for several tools to find the one that has the reporting, keyword features, data points, and recommendations that work best for you.
And don’t be afraid to use different keyword research tools over time. They are always releasing new features that may suit your needs as time goes on.
Best SEO Keyword Tools
Free SEO Keyword Tools
Some keyword research tools are offered for free for all users. The obvious benefit for tools like this is that it keeps costs down for writers and businesses who want a quick, cheap SEO solution.
The keyword data and interfaces on a free keyword research tool might not be as powerful, but the results themselves are still worthy enough to warrant serious consideration.
Google Keyword Planner
The biggest selling point for Google Keyword Planner is that Google itself runs the service, which means it returns the best data for the world’s largest search engine.
However, the user interface is not the most intuitive, and many of the results are intended for use with Google Ads. Paid advertising does not influence SEO in the same ways, although they can work together.
Google Keyword Planner is a free keyword tool for all users, but you must have a Google Ads account in order to use it.
Google Trends is another Google tool that can help with SEO optimization. It shows trend lines for certain keywords over time, along with traffic sources and likely reasons for changes in interest.
You can also use Google Trends to choose between two versions of a keyword to see which will be most effective. This tool also groups together similar search terms in its results to account for user errors like misspellings.
Keyword Tool.io is a simple plugin that does not offer as many features as a paid service.
What it does offer is an autocomplete feature similar to Google autocomplete that shows the most likely long tail keywords that will appear when users enter your chosen search term. This can help you anticipate what they are likely to search for, and tailor your content accordingly.
Keyword Tool.io is a free tool, but additional data points such as search volume and cost-per-click analysis are only available through Keyword Tool Pro, which is a separate paid service.
Soovle is not the most robust free keyword tool available, and does not compare keyword and search engine results on your chosen keywords.
What it does offer is a way to find keywords you can use based on your search terms. You can also save your suggestions and export them as a .csv file for later use and reference.
There are a couple of keyword research tools that are available exclusively as browser extensions. These tools offer quick and easy SEO optimization while you write.
Tools like this are often part of a larger paid subscription that is packaged with other tools, but offer the convenience of in-browser optimization rather than requiring a separate account on another website.
Keyword Surfer is not a standalone website, but an extension for the Google Chrome web browser. It is created and operated by SurferSEO.
A free online generator will help you create optimized outlines for your content, as well as a list of suggested keywords for your article.
Keyword Surfer is a free extension. However, the full SurferSEO suite is a paid service which begins at $49 per month.
Paid Subscription Tools
Paid subscription tools will always provide the best results. Most of these keyword research tools include a cleaner user interface, better data visualization, and more powerful data for your keyword searches.
They will also give more background into the historical performance of your keywords, and allow you to compare your site’s performance with that of your competitors.
Most paid keyword research tools will offer a limited trial period for free, but most users will end up needing an upgrade to the paid editions to gain access to features like unlimited searches, backlink analysis, keyword variations, and more.
Moz Keyword Explorer
Two major selling points for Moz are the priority score and organic clickthrough rate.
The priority score tells you how popular a given keyword is that month, and recommends relevant keyword suggestions to use based on your content.
The organic clickthrough rate, which shows how likely a user will be to click through to your content based on the use of that keyword.
Moz Keyword Explorer does offer a limited free version of its service. Paid versions begin at $99 per month.
QuestionDB is the perfect keyword research tool if you want your content to anticipate the questions that users search for.
When you enter a term, QuestionDB shows the kind of questions likely to be asked relative to that term. It also mines websites like Reddit and Quora, whose traffic and user base is largely made up of people asking questions.
QuestionDB offers a free version for up to 50 search results per month. Paid plans allow for 500 search results per month at $15 per month.
Jaaxy is a simple, straightforward tool that gets straight to the results. Simply enter your desired term, and the results appear.
Additionally, Jaaxy focuses on affiliate marketing, allowing you to find the right keywords to drive the right services to include on your website.
Jaaxy has a limited free plan that includes 30 searches. Paid plans begin at $49 per month.
AnswerThePublic displays its keyword results in an appealing visualized format, showing the organic viability of certain keywords as they relate to answers for questions users search for.
This intuitive display is great for beginners, since its results are also based on Google search bar autocomplete features. This helps you focus your results on the largest search engines out there.
AnswerThePublic allows for a limited number of free searches, but regular bloggers will need to upgrade to a paid plan starting at $99 per month.
UberSuggest shows you the top Google trends for your chosen keyword, and shows suggested topics or keywords related to your content.
You can sign in using your Google account, and it is also available as a Chrome extension.
Ahrefs is one of the most effective keyword research tools available on the market.
It tells you the given keyword difficulty score, as well as what terms arrive on the first page of Google search results. It also returns the number of backlinks needed to increase the visibility of your keyword.
Long Tail Pro
Long Tail Pro also centers its service around first-page results, and shows how your keyword stacks up against the competition.
Its name plays off the concept of long tail keywords, which are longer phrases instead of shorter terms.
Long tail Pro is available as a paid service, with plans starting at $297 per year.
Term Explorer boasts the most in-depth results for your keyword searches, with some results generating over 10,000 related keywords in a keyword list.
It does help you make sense of the sheer volume, though; it narrows down the results based on the number of results for that term, the average page length, and average number of occurrences for that term.
Term Explorer is a paid service that begins at $34 per month for most users. However, for those who only want to search occasionally, there is also a free version.
Semrush is one of the most inclusive and powerful keyword research tools available for SEO keyword optimization. It allows you to directly search your competition to help you get the edge over other sites.
It shows supporting data on your search terms like current Google trends and popularity, and other terms you should consider based on what competitors are using.
GrowthBar is great for writers and marketers who want quick results and don’t need volumes of research on their keywords.
It also automatically generates an outline for you to help you write more quickly. Competitor data is also part of keyword results, including social media advertising spends.
After a brief trial period with its free version, GrowthBar reverts to a paid service that begins at $29 per month.
Accuranker is far and away one of the fastest tools on the market. It gives you the right reports on your keywords’ performance at a glance, which you can export at regular intervals.
It also integrates seamlessly with other tools offered by Google, such as Analytics, Search Console, and YouTube, which helps you optimize for the greatest amount of web traffic in the shortest amount of time.
While HubSpot is primarily known as a social media marketing tool, it does offer SEO optimization features within its suite.
If you’re already using Hubspot for your social media accounts, you can access this feature by entering the “Content” and “Strategy” sections to help you boost your content and presence.
Serpstat cuts right to the chase, focusing on the top Google trends for your keyword.
It also analyzes how relevant your web content is, showing you how you can best drive traffic to your website. It does this by combining results for suggested short keyword with long tail keywords.
Serpstat is available as a paid service, beginning at $69 per month.
SEO PowerSuite provides industry-standard keyword research tools with scalable service.
If you only need to check your site occasionally, you can access a limited version of the service; or you can easily upgrade to paid editions that will provide more robust data and intelligence for your keywords. Optimization can also focus on mobile and social traffic as well.
SEO PowerSuite is available in a limited capacity as a free service, but the full suite of tools requires a paid subscription. Paid plans begin at $299 per year.
KWFinder is a keyword research tool that is becoming more and more popular in recent years.
One of its hallmarks is that its results focus on low difficulty keywords. If you want to bring in the most traffic possible, easy keywords are the way to go, and KWFinder will help you get there. It also offers returns in a wide variety of languages as well.
KWFinder as a standalone tool is available for free, but only for a limited number of searches. Its subscription tiers are based on your anticipated workload, beginning at $29 per month.
Majestic is a simple toolkit that is perfect for writers or businesses that are just starting to build their online presence.
It helps content writers find a particular keyword that is easy to focus on, and its dashboard shows how trustworthy your site is in search rankings.
Majestic provides three searches for free, then requires a paid subscription beginning at $99 per month.
SpyFu touts itself as the best solution for “spying” on the competition.
However, this keyword research tool is limited in that it provide data based on monthly search volume. The data is powerful, and allows you to compare your performance with competitors on your chosen keywords, but if you’re looking for real-time data, you might want to look elsewhere.
SpyFu is only available as a paid subscription, starting at $33 per month.
About THE AUTHOR
After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts and spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient at running our own campaigns and we share our knowledge with you.Learn more about SparrowBoost