If you are doing any kind of content marketing today, then chances are you have looked around for the best keyword research tools already. There are plenty to choose from, each with their pros and cons.
For me, I always tend to lean towards simplicity. Sure, there are ultra-powerful tools available that can give you an insane amount of keyword research insight. But do you have the time to learn it? If it is too complicated, will you use often?
Solopreneurs and small businesses do not have robust marketing departments. With this in mind, I am going to share with you the best keyword research tools for those who want to get the most information that they can, with the least amount of effort.
SpyFu is a great keyword research tool for paid advertising.
I was first introduced to SpyFu at a conference back in 2017. For me, it checks a lot of boxes because it makes quick research possible in an easy-to-understand way.
The UI won’t win any awards, but it is intuitive after about 20 minutes of playing around in the program (which you can do for free). There is the ability to dig deeper into the keywords if you’d like, too. So if you are one to geek-out on analytics, you can still do so with SpyFu. Actually, you have to because a lot of the good data isn’t available in a top-level dashboard (requiring you to click on a keyword to get its profile).
I like to use this program to spy on my competition (as the name would imply). Specifically, you can see if they are running any paid ads and how those ads are performing. This is where SpyFu shines in my opinion. It also will suggest keywords for you to bid on for your paid ads based on your industry and competition. To date, I have yet to see a tool that handles paid advertising research as effective as SpyFu.
Ubersuggest is the best free keyword research tool.
I get it, not everyone wants to pay for doing keyword research. If you just want to get high-level (yet actionable) information without needing to create an account or give your credit card information, then Ubersuggest is a solid option
It has a ways to go, but what is nice about Ubersuggest is that it keeps improving. I am impressed with the amount of investment going into this software, especially considering that you don’t have to pay for any of their more advance plans. That may change in the future as these free tools tend to get stripped down over time to force people into a paid plan. But for now, it’s still pretty good.
If you do decide to go paid, then Ubersuggest is actually pretty highly rated (which hasn’t always been the case). If anything, it is a good way to get practice with a keyword research tool if you are new to it.
Answer The Public is a keyword tool focused on the questions that people ask.
Another free tool for your toolbox. Answer The Public is owned by the same folks behind Ubersuggest.
I have used this site now and again for getting content ideas. What I like most about it is that it focuses on questions people ask in Google. If you write an article with effective SEO, then you can be the one giving them the answer!
You get several free searches per day, so no need to create an account or sign-up for paid plans. Honestly, it’s the most high-level tool out there. You can get good ideas, but it won’t give you any actionable insights about your market.
That said, you might not need this tool at all if you use something like Ubersuggest since they have a feature that focuses on questions. That said, it is free, so it is worth experimenting with if you have not used it in the past.
KWFinder is a great beginner to intermediate research tool.
As I have alluded to a few times now, I am a sucker for simplicity. The tools I have discussed so far all offer useful data in a simple manner. KWFinder by Mangools is probably the best of the bunch.
You get a lot of good information in the top-level dashboards, and it is color coded in a way that makes it easy to skim. Perfect if you are short on time and trying to find insights quickly.
KWFinder is the best keyword research tool for solopreneurs and small businesses who do not have anyone 100% dedicated to their content marketing strategy. Even if you do, this tool will get them pretty far. In most cases, you don’t need to worry about deep keyword metrics. KWFinder still gives you 80% of the benefit of a tool like Ahrefs with 20% of the functionality.
What I don’t really like about KWFinder is that it will blur out a lot of data depending on which plan you are on. I find this a little annoying, but not necessarily a dealbreaker.
Google Keyword Planner is always a solid, free option.
All the tools mentioned so far have one thing in common: they all use Google’s API for keyword data. So, why not go directly to the source?
The biggest complaint I have for the Google Keyword Planner is that it is not, in any way, beginner-friendly. This is in large part because it is bundled in with their ad platform. It definitely takes time to understand how to use the program, and even then, you will only be using a fraction of it. Especially if you are not using paid ads for any purpose.
But, if you are running paid ads, or want to one day, then it is pretty convenient to have all your keyword research and data in the same place as where you run your ads. It is a little less work than if you were using another platform.
My recommendation is to hop into Google Keyword Planner at some point just to get an idea of how things look at the source. Chances are you will choose another tool, but it never hurts to be familiar with Google.
Double-check using two or three keyword research tools so you don’t waste your time.
The reality is that all these keyword tools are doing their best to guess at keyword difficulty. They each have their own algorithms and theory that drive the scores that you see. Because of this, I recommend that you cross-reference your keywords with at least two of these programs.
By way of example, I was doing some research for the GapScout blog, and came across an interesting discrepancy for the difficulty of a keyword. I checked it across four different software tools:
- KWFinder: 63
- SpyFu: 96
- Ahrefs: 72
- Ubbersuggest: 15
In this example, Ubbersuggest’s score is an outlier. Had I just been using Ubbersuggest, then I would have wasted my time with that particular keyword because clearly it was more competitive.
It is for this reason that I typically prefer checking with KWFinder and SpyFu. Ahrefs and SEMRush are both tools worth considering. In fact, these are widely considered the best keyword research tools available. We triple-check keywords with Ahrefs for this blog as well, but I didn’t include it in this list because the ultimate goal was simplicity.
Take action with your data. Otherwise, it is worth nothing.
Even the best keyword research tools won’t help you if you don’t take action on the data that they give you.
Software is really great, but it is only a tool. It presents data, and that’s it. You have to connect the dots on the data that you get. What really matters is the actions you take, not the software you use.
So whether you use the most expensive tool, or the cheapest, it doesn’t matter unless you take action on the newly found insights. It is easy, even fun, to play around with software. It is harder to interpret what it gives you and to make decisions based on it.
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