In this guide, we’re gonna take a look at a few of the keyword research tools out there and compare their features. But first, a quick overlook of the types of tools out there.
Traditional keyword research tools let you enter a "seed" keyword and they return a load of keywords. From there, several metrics are evaluated and the tool attempts to give you a rating indicating how difficult the keyword will be to rank for.
Competitor-based keyword research tools use reverse-engineering. They assess what keywords your competitors are already ranking for and evaluate if you could do better.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the tools themselves.
Google Keyword Planner
Google's own Keyword Planner is a great starting point for SEO. You can use it to generate keywords and phrases, both from seed keywords you enter and from competitor domains. The best part about it: It's completely free to use.
Where Keyword Planner falls short, however, is in generating metrics for organic SEO optimization. The tool is part of Google's Ads platform, so its intended use is for optimizing paid ad campaigns. It also fails to show exact details on keywords, such as search volume, offering a search volume range instead. While that's not a complete deal breaker, other tools like Ahrefs and KWFinder are capable of showing exact search volumes, as well as offering a difficulty ranking, so you can know whether or not you'd be wasting your time when targeting a particular keyword.
- It's free
- It's a Google tool, so its keyword generation is based off of Google's data and algorithms
- It doesn't give nearly as much detail as other tools
- It's Google Ads-focused, so it's not very useful in optimizing for organic keywords
Ahrefs is a suite of SEO tools that offers traditional and competitor-based keyword analysis. Its metrics are more backlink-focused.
When searching for keywords using Ahrefs, you choose which platform to generate keywords from, having options for Google, Bing, YouTube, and others. Its analysis consists of the usual metrics like keyword difficulty and search volume, but it also offers more advanced details like clicks and return rate.
Multiple platform selection. Some platforms don't show all metrics due to limited clickstream data.
This is due to the limitation of clickstream data from certain platforms. Being able to do platform-specific KW research for the likes of Amazon and YouTube, etc. is a welcome addition to the tool.
A nice feature of Ahrefs is that it offers actionable suggestions based on keyword difficulty. For example, if you select a keyword with a difficulty of 19, it suggests that you'll need backlinks from around 21 websites to rank in the first SERP for this keyword.
Return rate is a value that estimates how often people search for a particular keyword more than once. It's really only useful when comparing keywords to each other; if you're on the fence about which keyword to use, check this to see what the return rate is.
The clicks metric is a measure of the total number of clicks per month on the SERP by users.
Clicks per Search is another click metric that displays an average of how many different results users click after searching this keyword.
When searching for keywords, Ahrefs will give you an estimate on the traffic potential of an organic keyword. It calculates this by pulling the organic search traffic of the current number one ranking for that keyword.
As with other professional tools, Ahrefs has filters to help narrow down your keyword selection. You can filter by search volume, keyword difficulty, and so on.
Finally, for doing SERP analysis, Ahrefs has a SERP function to search by the keyword you're analysing, and you can see the current top ten results for that keyword.
For competitor-based analysis, Ahrefs offers what's called its Site Explorer Tool. Like other tools out there, you can search by domain and find the keywords they're ranking for. From here, you can use filters to find the keywords with the lowest competition.
Ahrefs is one of the more expensive SEO platforms out there. They claim to have the best tools available, but that's a difficult statement to quantify. To be sure, they do offer a very robust set of tools with relevant metrics and reliable data.
You can get a seven day trial for $7, after that, plans start at $99 per month.
- Limited free trial
- Reliable keyword difficulty metric
- Largest database of backlinks and keywords
- Greater accuracy by processing large amounts of clickstream data
- It’s expensive
KWFinder is a fully-featured keyword tool that offers both traditional keyword research and a newly-added competitor research.
KWFinder is a tool developed by Mangools and comes with their suite of other SEO tools.
KWFinder is a fully-featured keyword tool that offers both traditional keyword research and a newly-added competitor research. Logging in to the tool brings you to the initial search page where you can search for a seed keyword, or opt to search by domain if you want to do competitor analysis.
KWFinder offers a complete set of metrics for keyword analysis:
- Trend – The search volume trend over the last 12 months
- Search – The average monthly search volume over the last 12 months
- CPC – The average Cost Per Click in Google Ads
- PPC – The competition level of Pay Per Click campaigns in Google Ads
- KD – The keyword difficulty calculated from the Link Profile Strength of URLs ranking in the first SERP
On the right hand side, you'll see a more detailed look at metrics for the keyword you have selected, which includes a more detailed trend graph for search volumes.
Below that, you have the SERP overview, which offers a view of the SERP for the keyword you have selected, along with another set of metrics:
- URL – The link for the given site
- Domain Authority – A ranking score by Moz that predicts how well a domain will rank
- Page Authority – A ranking score by Moz that predicts how well a single page will rank
- Citation Flow – A metric developed by Majestic that predicts how influentional a URL is
- Trust Flow – A metric developed by Majestic focused on link quality
- Links – The number of external backlinks to the URL
- FB – The number of Facebook shares
- Link Profile Strength – The overall link profile strength, a metric developed by Mangools
- Estimated Visits per month – Calculated from the average monthly search volume
As you can see, the metrics offered by KWFinder are impressive, to say the least. And this overview doesn't even get into KWFinder's new Search by Domain feature–if you want to find out more about it, go here to read our guide on stealing your competitors keywords.
The rest of the Mangools Suite
KWFinder is one tool that's integrated with three others, and the subscription pricing covers all of them. They include:
SERPChecker, a Google SERP analysis tool. It offers nearly 50 metrics for SEO and social media, and helps you analyse your competition's strengths and weaknesses to help you rank higher.
SERPWatcher, a rank tracking tool. It's used to track keyword positions on a day-by-day basis.
LinkMiner, a backlink analysis tool. This tool is used to find links that are pointing to your site and provide metrics for each one. It's excellent for doing backlink and competitor research.
Mangools offers a limited free tier to get you started in the world of premium SEO tools. If you do decide to subscribe, the price starts at $49 per month, and if you go for a yearly plan, you can get a sizable discount at $349 per year.
- Free tier
- Affordable monthly subscription or discounted annual plans
- Excellent user interface and user experience
- Full suite of well-integrated tools
- The agency subscriptions can be a little expensive
This isn't an exhaustive list of keyword tools by any means–there are literally dozens of tools out there for SEO and keyword analysis. This is simply a look at a few of the better ones. Use this guide as a starting point in your research and then go with the one that best meets your needs.