Keywords are the most critical and important parts of SEO. The foundation of SEO is your keyword research.

After that, other parts come into play such as on-page optimization, writing SEO-friendly texts, good UX, content that matches the user intent and a few other ranking factors.

Once you've got all of this done, you can start expecting organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing.

Companies invest thousands of dollars in keyword research to create such targeted content.

The keywords you choose to focus your digital marketing efforts on are critical to the success of your website's organic rankings.

Choosing the right keywords isn't always easy or intuitive, and you need a lot of data to know if a particular keyword will work for you.

Fortunately, there are many tools available that can help you figure out which search terms work best for your overall online strategy. There are generally two types of keyword research tools:
  • Basic keyword research: Use a 'seed' keyword to find similar profitable keywords
  • Competition-based keyword research: Find proven keywords that help other websites drive traffic.
Personally, I find competition-based research more effective, because the goal of your research is to find profitable keywords. What could be more profitable than something that already works for someone else?

All you need to do next is create a page focused on that profitable keyword, to reap the benefits of your own keyword research.

Most of these best keyword research tools for seo are paid and some are free to use. Fortunately, there is often a free trial available to find out if the tool is for you.

1. SE Ranking (14 Days Free Trial)

SE Ranking is without a doubt one of the better SEO tools on the market
. Previously it was mainly a rank tracker, but recently the number of functions has expanded considerably. That definitely benefits the tool!

In addition to tracking your rankings, you can now conduct audits, check the quality of backlinks, and even take a look at competitors' SEO efforts.

In addition, you can find new ideas based on seed keywords to optimize your own content. Once you have found some interesting keywords, you can enter them again as a new seed keyword to get even more inspiration.

You can therefore conduct both ways of keyword research within this tool: on the basis of competitors and via seed keywords.

Competitive Keyword Research with SE Ranking

Enter a URL or domain name and you get instant access to information about your competitor's paid promotions and organic strategy.

Here you can see all your competitors:
  1. The estimated amount of visitors
  2. Which keywords lead traffic to the website + stats of these keywords
  3. Costs for their paid campaigns
You can also evaluate competitors' backlink profiles. This includes the number of backlinks they have and their quality. This gives you inspiration where you could also obtain new backlinks yourself.

The competitor research feature is incredibly advanced and also allows you to track your competitor's most profitable ads and paid keywords.

Compared to the established names, SE Ranking offers similar tooling, but at a fraction of the price. The tool comes at flexible pricing, making it attractive for both the sole proprietor and a fully staffed internet agency. 

You can calculate your price based on the things you need on their pricing page .

You can already use SE Ranking from $31.17 per month. For that price, for example, you can request a competing domain 100 times a day to see their keywords. That is enough for many to do keyword research on a regular basis.

In addition, the free trial period is quite long. You can use SE Ranking completely free of charge for 2 weeks in the trial period, and they require no payment details in advance. So plenty of time to see if it's useful to you!


2. KWFinder (10 Days Free Trial)

KWFinder is a good option if you are looking for a tool that is completely dedicated to just Keyword Research.

KWFinder is part of the Mangools SEO Suite, which includes several standalone tools, all focused on SEO. Their other tools do different specific things. They are relatively new to the market but are one of the fastest growing SEO tool companies.

KWFinder helps you find keywords that help you get highly targeted traffic. Using the question-based keyword research option, you can quickly find long-tail keywords related to problem solving. That kind of content always ranks well in Google.

For all keywords you will see the following data in KWFinder:
  1. Ranking of your competitor
  2. Average keyword search volume
  3. Estimated amount of traffic your competitor will get from that keyword
  4. CPC and competition for advertising, an indicator of what a keyword is potentially delivering to your competitors
  5. Keyword difficulty score (keyword difficulty)

New Feature: See What Competitors Rank For

Researching competitor keywords is one of the best ways to boost your organic findability. By learning what keywords your competitor is using, you can find out which keywords are driving a lot of traffic to their websites.

You can then create optimized, high-quality content around those topics. Content that provides more complete information, or serves the visitor better than your competitor's content. This will help you rank better for keywords that already work well for another company.

KWFinder has functionality to see what your competitors are doing in Google. Just enter their domain or a specific page URL and KWFinder will show you the best keywords they rank for.

View SERP Competitors by Keyword

If you select a keyword in the left column, you will see on the right who else is in the Top 10 at that moment. This can help you track down new competitors per subject.

You can in turn enter those domains into KWFinder to find more keywords that might be of interest to you.

KWFinder offers both free and paid plans. To be honest, you can't do much with the free variant, you quickly run into limits.

For most users, the basic plan Mangools Basic is sufficient. It is currently $29.90 per month. View the current pricing here .

A more expensive subscription gives you higher limits and the possibility to be logged in with several people at the same time. That can then be interesting for agencies and larger companies.

The nice thing about this is that you can use all the tools within the Mangools Suite. So you get a lot of extras.

To test the effectiveness of this keyword research tool, try the 10-day free trial first!


3. Semrush (7 Days Free Trial)

Semrush is not a typical keyword research tool; it has become a true SEO tool suite that can do so much more than just search for keywords. It allows you to conduct research in several ways, for example:

  • Find New Keywords Using a Seed Keyword
  • Find keywords that drive traffic to your competitors
  • Keyword 'gap' analysis
A simple but great option is the ability to find keywords based on a URL. All you have to do is enter a URL - like your competitor's URL - and Semrush will show you all the keywords that the website ranks for , and with which page.

Besides just the keyword data, you can also see the monthly search volume, Keyword Difficulty and the CPC for advertising.

To calculate the Keyword Difficulty , Semrush takes into account the authority of the domains displayed on the results page. It then estimates how difficult it would be for a new website to outperform current competitors on the SERP.

Keyword Suggestions is another useful feature of Semrush, where it lists “Keyword Variations” and “Related Keywords”. This will help you discover more search terms that you could target but otherwise might have missed.

This makes it easier for you to find short-tail and long-tail keywords on which you can optimize and beat your competitors.

You can get in-depth keyword data such as:
  1. Average search volume
  2. The rankings of your competitors
  3. Amount of traffic your competitors get from the keyword
  4. Keyword difficulty score (keyword difficulty)
  5. Search engine reports
  6. Cost per click in advertising, a good indicator of what a keyword is potentially delivering to your competitors
  7. and many other details you need to conduct a thorough keyword research.

You also have the option to sort the entire keyword list based on keyword difficulty score. This helps in finding the low competition keywords. With one click you can add them to the keyword manager to export them to Excel.

Semrush also Offers Features such as:
  1. Keyword manager: Allows you to add and save search terms in a list. You can then periodically view the updated data. Think, for example, of rankings that change. It helps to better manage the keywords you want to optimize your website for.
  2. Keyword difficulty tool: To check the keyword difficulty score. How difficult is it to rank for a particular keyword?
  3. Backlink Analysis: It recommends the exact websites you need to get a backlink from in order to rank #1 in Google search results. This looks at websites from which your SERP competitors have also received links.

Semrush is one of the most used best keyword research tools for seo worldwide due to its extensive possibilities.

Try all the features of Semrush now for 7 days with a completely free trial!


4. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer Tool

Ahrefs is one of the most popular keyword tools out there. What I like about this tool is the extensive detail. Ahrefs uses so-called 'clickstream data' to also show you approximately how many clicks you will get from the search engine.

This is very helpful after the integration of the knowledge graphs and featured snippets, because many keywords can have huge traffic, but they hardly get any clicks from the search engine. The reason for this is that they get answers directly from the Google search result. So there are no more actual clicks involved.

Another thing that makes Ahrefs Keyword research tool stand out is the fine UI & the amount of data they provide. There are many more features offered by Ahrefs such as Backlink analysis and SEO site audit to name a few.

You can use the ' Keyword Generator ' to generate ideas for Google, Bing, YouTube and a few other search engines like Amazon's. So Ahrefs can also be used for your product data, titles and product descriptions on the Amazon marketplace. The free version gives you 100 results, instead of all.

You can also create a list of keywords to target directly from the Ahrefs dashboard. This means you don't have to use Excel, which can save you a lot of time.


5. Google Keyword Planner (Free)

The Google Keyword Planner tool is one of the most widely used and popular keyword research tools out there. The reason it is so popular is that this tool is free and integrates directly with Google Ads (AdWords). The Keyword Planner is a good basic tool for the early stages of website SEO. To use this tool, all you need to do is have a Google Ads account (which you can create for free).

Features: The biggest advantage of the Google Keyword Planner is the information it provides about Google (the largest search engine).

Limitations: In some ways, that's also a limitation. If you want to know how your website or a certain keyword is doing in other search engines, you will not be the wiser.

Price: Free to use. However, if you want to see more detailed search volumes, as in my screenshot, you will need to have a certain minimum monthly advertising fee in your account. How much exactly is nowhere to be found. So there is a good chance that you will get a range of monthly search volume, such as 100 – 1k or 1k – 10k instead of the more specific data.

This is my favorite free tool, but if you need more detailed and competitive analysis I would recommend going for one of the more advanced tools also mentioned in this article.


6. Keyword Shitter (Free)

I am very excited about the Keyword Shitter. Despite its quirky name and (ahem..) functional design, it serves a purpose that I think you'll find useful too.

Keyword Shitter is useful for quickly finding all auto-complete combinations of keywords that Google suggests.

You can enter a keyword idea and click on “Start job”. The tool will look for long tail searches for you based on your input. He goes all wild and starts spewing keywords. This is done on the basis of suggestions from Google itself, such as with “people also searched for…” and auto-complete from the search bar.

You will see that you will get a lot of suggestions. Precisely because it returns such an abundance of keyword suggestions, which often also contain irrelevant ones, you prefer to filter this.

In terms of filtering, you can specify negative words to exclude certain terms. Or positive words to only see suggestions that contain a certain word. As you type in filters, you will see the tool delete its suggestions in real time.

Keyword Shitter doesn't return you search volumes, just ideas. Lots of ideas. So you remain dependent on another tool to find out if and how much is being searched for.

Here's a trick I use: I copy all of this and then go to the Google Keyword Planner to get the search volume. From there, you can export the keywords to a spreadsheet to further explore, filter, and remove unnecessary suggestions.


7. Answer the Public (Free)

For anyone looking for a free keyword research tool, Answer the Public is a good place to start. This keyword tool lets you find long tail keywords based on 'seed keywords'.

You can see keywords in different formats, such as:
  • To ask
  • Prepositions
  • Comparisons (… vs…)

The free plan allows you to search for 3 keywords per day, which is decent for a free option. You also have an option to select the country and language for your searches.

What it does lack is the search volume. If that's not very important to you, “Answer The Public” might be for you. You can enter the results of this tool in another keyword tool to find out the search volumes.


[Bonus Tip] 8. Keyword Surfer Chrome Extension (Free)

Keyword Surfer is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to see the search volume and CPC of a keyword directly on the SERP page. This is a free keyword research chrome extension provided by SurferSEO, which is an SEO content optimization tool.

It lets you take advantage of the auto-complete feature of Google Search to discover new searches. Being able to quickly see the monthly traffic volumes and related keyword data in the SERP makes it easier to compile the list of potential keywords for your project.

For planning your content marketing efforts, this free tool can complement other tools that have more features.

This extension also shows more keyword ideas based on your search, allowing you to discover even more profitable keywords.


My Recommendations

Best bang for your buck: Surely SE Ranking . Lots of functionality for the lowest starting price. And the limits that the cheapest plan imposes on you are already very generous. If you need more, you don't immediately pay a lot extra. In my opinion the best choice of the list !

Most Complete Tool: I'm Going For Semrush . It costs a bit, but the size of the database and the detail of the data you can dig into is really good. Semrush is neck and neck with Ahrefs, but Semrush is my personal preference.

Best Free Tool: Here I would say that a combination of Keyword Shitter and Google Keyword Planner works well. Get ideas with the Shitter and copy them to the Keyword Planner to quickly get a detailed list of keywords.

I wouldn't recommend using all of the above tools at once. Instead, stick with one or two Keyword Research Tools and get used to those systems.

If you've been using the Google Keyword Planner for a while, you'll have a good foundation to get started with one of the paid and professional tools listed here. Take a look at some of these tools and decide for yourself which one best fits your way of working and your online strategy.

Are you already using any of the keyword research tools from the list above? How is your experience so far? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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