Good keyword research = excellent visibility.
There’s no other way to put it.
The fundamentals of search engine optimization and digital marketing rely on useful keyword research. And, even if you’re on a tight budget, there are a lot of options that are so much better than Google Keyword Planner.
In this guide, we take a look at the top five free keyword research tools that you can start using today.
Table of Contents
Keyword Research: A Brief Overview
There are 3.5 billion searches done daily, and they all start with a search for a specific phrase or keyword. It’s by aligning your web properties around these terms that you can get good SEO and brand visibility.
Keyword research starts with a seed term, the general search term that your customers will use to look for your content, product, or brand.
From this seed keyword, you can derive various secondary keywords that are related to it.
There are a lot of tools that can help you pull alternate and related keywords.
Once you find out what keywords you’ll want to be aiming for, the next step is checking for volume. You won’t be able to rank for every single keyword, so it’s only logical to prioritize a few of them.
But that’s not all.
There are other metrics, too, such as CPC and other details dependent on the tool that you’re using.
This helps you determine what keywords you want to focus on to take your business to the next level.
We used to be able to do all of this with Google Keywords Planner until…
The Problem With Keyword Planner
Back in the day, Google Keyword Planner was the bomb when it came to checking out what keywords to start taking advantage of.
A growth hacker could quickly type in a keyword, get suggestions via “Keyword Ideas,” determine competition, and they would give you the exact number of average monthly searches.
However, this all changed.
Now Google Keyword Planner just gives you a ballpark figure. And, to make matters worse, the ranges they give you won’t provide any insight if you’ve got two keywords within the same scale.
Let’s say you’re torn between prioritizing keyword A and keyword B.
Keyword A has 80,000 searches, and Keyword B has 11,000 searches a month. There’s a high chance Keyword Planner is just going to display both with a search volume of “10K-100K”.
You could run the risk of putting all your resources into creating content for Keyword B when you could have been taking advantage of Keyword A.
A bad proposition for any growth hacker.
They say Google did this because they found out people were using the tool to align their organic rankings instead of what it was built for- planning ads.
Candidate 1: Keyword Surfer
One of the handiest keyword research tools available today is Keyword Surfer.
Keyword Surfer is a free extension that displays search volume as you type your keywords down on Google.
It’s pretty nifty if you want to do keyword research on the search engine itself.
Its settings are tucked away in its extension button, and it has a couple of display panels that integrate quietly into the right-hand pane of the search engine results page (SERP).
This tool is also useful if you’re the type that likes using Google’s autocomplete functionality to find out what Google decides are related keyword
Imagine automatically getting the keyword search volume along with suggested autocomplete keywords.
Once you type in the keyword, you’ll get the number of searches around the world (the number after the globe icon) and how many searches are being made in the country you’ve selected on the extension itself.
Once you scroll down on the SERP, you’ll automatically get a list of similar keywords and their search volume in the country you’ve preselected. You also get a similarity score percentage.
However, people say these numbers aren’t absolutely precise, but they do paint a good picture of search volume for related keywords. It’s also a free way to generate keyword volume compared to purchasing a paid tool.
Keyword Surfer comes with graphs to show a marketer how backlinks have been structured towards the keywords that you are using. It details how many quality backlinks have been built.
The second graph gives you a visual note of the estimated traffic.
These two visualizations are not absolutely essential for keyword research, but it is a great tool to have if you want to determine if your keywords pull enough weight to generate traffic.
We all know this.
In analyses done by search engine optimization experts, backlinks remain to be one of the best ways webmasters have gotten their websites to rank. So having this information readily available helps with the overall SEO effort.
As you scroll down the further, you’ll find the last pane to the right with related searches that correspond to your keyword. These associated searches form the secondary keywords that you can work with to generate content.
They come with their respective search volumes as well, so you know which keyword you should be prioritizing.
We like the Keyword Surfer extension because it adds keyword research functionality in our Google searches, it remains to be one of the few feature-rich extensions available today, and it’s free.
Sadly, there is no option to download the data you get from Keyword Surfer, and the number of similar and related keywords are limited. However, if you do want to expand your list, you can always rerun the searches.
Another issue is that there is no bulk tool for you to analyze keywords.
This isn’t necessarily an extension but more of a built-in tool.
Embedded into your browser for quick keyword searches
Shows keyword volume
Switch out geographical focus easily
Unlock more features using the paid option
Graphs to show “some” backlink analysis
Limited keyword research features
No bulk export, import, or research functions.
Great for on the spot searches
Candidate 2: Google Trends + Google Search Console
If you’re looking for a more “Google” approach to handling keyword research, then you can use Google Search Console and Google Trends to do your keyword research. You don’t exactly have to use them in conjunction with each other, but they make for a pretty potent powerhouse duo.
- a) Google Trends
One of the best-kept secrets of the content marketing world is Google Trends. What the Google service does is to identify current trends and display interest on a particular topic over a given time.
Here’s why it matters.
90.46 percent of all searches are done on Google, and if you want to produce content that matters, it’s best that you consult actual company data on what’s trending to find out what interests people. Google Trends tells you exactly how much interest people have over a particular keyword.
Another great thing about it is that you can bind it to a specific timeframe, geographical locale, and it hosts other features that you can explore to come up with keywords and look for content topics.
It has an inbuilt explore feature that you can access by hitting the submenu on the upper left side. This will bring you to a clean, intuitive interface where you can type in your query.
As you’ll see, it will immediately give you suggestions on the keyword that you are trying to explore. It might not be much, but it will provide you with a quick picture of what Google is relating your keyword to.
We usually pick out the keyword as a search term, but you can also check to explore the search as a topic, for instance.
There are options for you to filter your search, depending on the geographical locale that you are trying to target. There’s also an option for you to limit the search to a specific time period, ranging from the last hour to custom parameters.
There are categories to choose from, and there’s an option to pick what Google platform you want to base the search on, e.g., YouTube, Image Search, etc.
The graph shows the popularity of the keyword. On the Y-axis, you’ll find the 0-100 range with 100 representing the peak popularity of the search term.
The issue with this graph is that it does not give you the search volume of the keyword, but it does show its popularity.
But, the best part is its compare feature.
It might not be able to show you the actual volumes, but it can help give you an idea of two different keywords. If you want to compare two competing keywords, it can give you a good idea of how one has been trending over the other.
Of course, it makes sense to pick one that’s ranking or trending higher than the other.
An example is if you want to compare the buzz between two different products, such as phones that have been released on different years.
If you scroll down, Google provides you a visual of what countries are interested in your product.
Finally, we get to related topics and related queries.
Related topics give you an idea of what other issues are complementary to your keyword, and related queries can be used as secondary keywords.
This immediately gives you the lowdown of what Google is relating to what you are searching for.
Google Trends is excellent if you’re looking for what Google considers trends that are related to each other. It’s great for content marketers who need a quick idea of what they should be focusing their efforts on.
You can download this data on spreadsheet form, so it’s easily integrated with the rest of your keyword research.
This is useful for growth hackers who are reliant on spreadsheets to organize their data – it also helps with keyword grouping.
A lot of marketers used to use a similar service called Google Correlate to find related keywords, but it’s shutting down on December 15, 2019, because not a lot of people are using it.
- b) Google Search Console
Google Search Console is another great tool to use because it also harnesses the company’s data on keywords that are being searched for. As long as you have a website, you probably already have access to Google Search Console.
It’s got an intuitive interface, and it provides data a ton of data. You get everything from average click-through rates (CTR), impressions, total clicks, and average position.
That’s not all.
People have praised its performance report, which gives you a visual representation of what is being searched along with pertinent details that aid you in forming an opinion on a keyword.
It has one flaw.
You can only check out the keywords you’re ranking for, but this is a good thing.
Growth marketers can now capitalize on the keywords they are already ranking for and use it as a guide to finding more keywords.
Go to the menu of Google Search Console and click on “Performance.” Here you’ll find your total number of clicks, impressions, average CTR, and the average position of your keywords.
You’ll find that visualized performance report here where you can track “Total Clicks” and “Total Impressions.” It gives you your website performance at a glance.
As usual, you’ll get the option to adjust the timeframe that you’re looking at, making it helpful at isolating specific periods.
That’s great if you want to check out marketing campaigns and the like. (Remember that you can use Google Search Console with Google Analytics to pack a more powerful punch.)
Now, we get to the juicy part of Google Search Console, which is where you can see what you’re ranking for.
If you click on queries, you’ll get a downloadable list of keywords that you are already ranking for, plus their clicks and their numbers of impressions.
This data paints a good picture of how a keyword is faring. Say you have a lot of impressions but only get a few clicks, its probably excellent time for you to switch out what details you’re displaying on Google Search, i.e., your title tags and meta descriptions.
It makes your pages more “clickable.”
By analyzing this data, you can start working on getting related keywords using what you’re already ranking for. This is helpful if you’re working to make the most of your current rankings.
Use Google Search Console to check out what keywords you’re already ranking for and then work on expanding those keywords using Google Trends.
You’ll find that you have a powerhouse combination than using their sibling Google Keyword Planner.
Great for exploring keywords
Harnesses Google’s data
Good visual representation of data
Hard to determine real keyword volume
The reliance on two tools makes things confusing
Google’s Search Console is not precisely designed for keyword research
Candidate 3: Wordtracker
Getting keyword volume is essential to prioritize your optimization and content. However, it’s almost always available only to paid tools or those that require you to sign up before you can use essential functions.
If you want to do an initial keyword search with all the bells and whistles of a paid tool, you can always opt for Wordtracker.
Wordtracker is a keyword research tool that offers you 12 free keyword tool searches without you having to sign up.
If you need a couple more free searches, they offer a 7-day free trial that you can always cancel once you’re done doing what you’re doing. The free version gives you 50 free keywords right off the bat.
Word tracker allows you to use your seed keyword to build similar and related keywords. You can use the tool to create lists for Google, Amazon, YouTube, or eBay, four of the highly sought-after markets.
Once you pick out what you need, you can then pick the geographical locale you want to do research for.
There are also options to include or exclude specific keywords from the analysis so that you can focus on your particular search.
The actionable way to use this feature is to grab all the keywords that you already have data for and throw them into the exclude list so that you can generate a new keyword list.
However, this will require a paid subscription since it’ll use more keywords.
There are filters which you can set to limit the results, a lot of SEO specialists opt not to include keywords with no search volume.
However, there is still some benefit to add them for keyword density purposes or to use as synonyms when you don’t want to overload content with the same keyword.
And, there’s more.
The competition field shows data about organic competitions, and IAAT stands for “in anchor and title.” The latter is useful to determine if other SEOs are using the keyword as part of their on-page optimization strategy.
It even comes with little graphs to show keyword volume searches over a 12-month period.
To save keyword lists, one will need to get a subscription with them. This proves to be a useful tool for non-intensive keyword research with all the features.
Full feature set like other keyword tools
Keyword suggestions at bulk
Keyword volumes and other statistics displayed
You need to pay to unlock the useful features
A limited number of keywords
Candidate 4: Answer The Public
Looking to generate longtail and related keywords?
Answer The Public is a tool that generates keywords with other modifiers appended to your keywords.
Longtail keywords are a powerful way to rank for specific phrases that users are looking for. The reason that growth hackers like them are due to the fact that there is less competition for more specific topics.
Take, for example, generic searches such as “iPhone” and “iPhone 11 256 GB Space Gray”, you know from the onset that more people will be searching for the former because it is broader in nature.
Specific keywords can give any marketer leverage in saturated markets, especially for popular broad form keywords.
The interface is relatively simple to use, input the keywords you want to generate long-tail keywords for, and it presents its results in visual form.
- Questions – generates keywords in question form using: who, what, when, how, why, and other forms. These are important because there is a trend of search that is centered on real questions being asked by people.
- Prepositions – appends prepositions to your keywords to generate other suggestions.
- Comparisons – significant to check out what it suggests your term is being compared to. For example, “growth hacking” might be paired up with “digital marketing” in searches, or some people might append the word “versus” in between.
- Alphabetical – this is a powerful feature that checks out keyword suggestions based on putting a letter next to the phrase being examined. It allows you to go through a ton of keywords at a time.
- Related – pertains to keywords that are related to the keyword that you are doing research for.
You can turn the visuals off and just have the results in the list form.
If you want to crunch the data, you can even download the results into CSV form so that you can start sifting, sorting, and grouping them for your search engine optimization needs.
We like Answer The People because it saves a growth hacker time messing around with Google’s autocomplete feature and generates a seed list of various keywords.
But, as always, there’s a catch to all of this.
The keywords might not always be related to the topic, but it’s faster to use the tool than instead of inputting terms manually. It might also be utilizing some of Google’s tools when generating data.
The most significant advantage and disadvantage of this tool are that it just its job a little too well. It’s absolutely perfect for generating permutations of searches for a keyword, but that’s all it does.
It does not provide anything else apart from that.
Absolutely free to use
Useful for exploring keywords
A lot of keywords
It has to be used with another tool to determine keyword volumes
The feature set is concentrated on displaying keyword suggestions based on autocompletes
We don’t know if it relies on Google’s data or not
Candidate 5: Ubersuggest – app.neilpatel.com
A powerful all-in-one SEO tool that’s been making waves is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. It was already a free keyword research tool before it was acquired in 2017, but since its acquisition, it’s gotten a lot of upgrades to make it even more powerful.
The platform is robust enough to do both keyword research and some SEO work. If you don’t mind seeing the legendary guru come up with tips in the tool, then it’s a great alternative to paid tools.
You start by inputting the keyword that you want more information on, then picking out what country and language you wish to bind that search too.
It will automatically draw out the search volume of the keyword, it’s perceived SEO, and paid campaign difficulty, and they also stuck in the Cost Per Click (CPC).
The CPC rate is an excellent addition because it also helps you understand how people (and Google) value the keyword you’re trying to rank for.
You’ll notice that keywords related to high revenue niches will cost more to rank for. Higher CPC rates are also indicative of keywords that are competitive – since Google requires you to pay a premium to gets for that keyword.
As you scroll down, you’ll find a visual representation of the volume of the keyword you’ve been analyzing over time.
They’ll give you almost a year worth of data, which is enough for a growth marketer to check out the trend.
Right under the graph, you have a list of keyword ideas that you can use alongside your keyword.
They give you an extensive list of metrics such as CPC, paid difficulty, SEO difficulty, and, most importantly, the volume of searches. It even comes with a little graph to visualize trends over time.
If you click “View All Keyword Ideas,” it will expand your list of searches.
You’ll get a longer list of keyword ideas, all organized with the fields mentioned earlier.
It doesn’t just give you keyword suggestions; it also lists down related keywords, questions, keywords suggestions using prepositions, and comparisons with other relevant keywords.
The tool comes with a filter option, but you can only access that when you log in with your Google account.
Sign in, and you can download all these results onto a CSV file.
If you were to click on any of the keywords being displayed, it would show you the top 100 websites ranking for that particular keyword.
It’s also got the estimated visits on the website, the number of inbound links going to the site, the domain score, and even the number of social shares.
You can also throw these into any spreadsheet because it also has an option to export the results to CSV.
The free tools also include an option for you to explore content ideas that are related to your keyword.
Why is this helpful?
A lot of growth hackers know their keywords, but getting fresh content ideas consistently can be an exhausting task.
We like the content tool because it can help you figure out what other marketers are writing about using a particular keyword. This can also lead to additional keywords for you to look at.
It seems as if it extracts this data by looking at the page titles of the articles. There are a lot of ways to filter this data. It’s got estimated visits, backlinks and even gives you a look at social signals from Pinterest and Facebook.
This is one of the most feature-rich free tools that we’ve seen in a long time.
You know this tool means business because instead of getting you to pay for anything to view the other keywords, all they’ll ask you to do is sign in with your Google account.
For growth hackers with limited budgets, this is a great way to stop “accidentally” getting charged by “free trials.”
You could use it with a different Google account, though.
It’s free, except for additional features where you have to sign up with your Google account
A number of powerful features even without the sign-up
Content ideas tool helps in generating new ideas
Rich feature set for general SEO tasks
Provides a lot of statistics on the research being conducted
Binds to Google account (you can deny it the option to do so)
Free Keyword Research Tools Takeaways
There is no universal tool for everyone to get the same powerful keyword research options.
Keyword research is an art as much as it is a science, there are some tools that are favored more than others, and some are based on personal preference.
Another issue is that they’re free.
This might prove to be a problem, as some tools won’t have full functionality unless you pay or sign up. Free tools are usually limited because their developers aren’t adequately compensated.
But remember this.
Growth hackers don’t just stick to one tool; they usually leverage multiple ones in order to generate the best results.
Keyword research is the foundation for optimizing your rankings online. There is no excuse for you not to give it all you’ve got. Use everything in the arsenal and develop your own creative style of keyword research.
It’s one of the best investments that you can ever make. Go ahead and use one of our free keyword research tools today!
Read More: Hacks to Grow Your Online Marketplace