If you want to capture the attention of people who are interested in the products and services you have to offer, then you need to find out what keywords they’re searching for and add them to your content.
But to do that you’ll need to conduct keyword research, and no one wants to spend money analyzing keywords that won’t drive results. Luckily, you don’t have to. With the nine free keyword research tools discussed here, you can get valuable keyword insights without spending a dime.
- WordStream Free Keyword Tool
- Moz’s Keyword Explorer
- Ahrefs’ Keyword Generator
- SEO Scout’s Scout Suggest
- Keyword Planner
- Google Trends
- Google’s Keyword Planner
1. WordStream Free Keyword Tool
First founded in 2007 by Larry Kim (who is now the CEO of MobileMonkey), WordStream is a Boston-based online advertising company that focuses on paid search and social media.
But WordStream doesn’t just offer paid software and consulting services—it also provides a robust suite of free tools designed to help users evaluate their digital marketing performance. One of those is their Free Keyword Tool which, as its name suggests, is a no-cost keyword research tool.
The tool works for both Google and Bing (a handy bonus if you’re working on improving your Bing SEO), and features options to see keyword suggestions based on a specific URL, industry or location:
Type in the keyword of your choice (we chose SEO), set your desired parameters and click the find my keywords button to instantly see a list of 25 suggested keywords. You’ll also be shown the search volume, cost per click (CPC) and competition for each keyword on both Google and Bing:
Want to see more than 25 keywords? Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay—just click the orange email all my keywords button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Once you enter and submit your email address, you’ll receive a link to download an Excel file of all the tool’s suggested keywords.
Ours contained 501 keywords, arrived almost immediately and required no additional sign-up steps:
2. Moz’s Keyword Explorer
For those of us looking to conduct some truly in-depth keyword research without breaking the bank, Keyword Explorer is undoubtedly the most convenient. (You’ll get to make 10 queries per month with the free version, so be sure to choose them wisely.)
Keyword Explorer allows users to search for a keyword, root domain, subdomain or exact page, as well as to filter results by location:
Once you’ve entered your chosen keyword and picked a location, click analyze to see a variety of helpful metrics including monthly search volume, difficulty, organic click-through rate (CTR) and more:
To see an extensive list of suggested keywords, click see all suggestions at the bottom of the Keyword Suggestions box. On the subsequent page, you’ll be able to customize your results using several filters:
Or if you want to see which pages are currently ranking for your chosen keyword, instead click see full analysis at the bottom of the SERP Analysis box. This will display a detailed breakdown of the first page of Google’s results:
3. Ahrefs’ Keyword Generator
Dmitry Gerasimenko founded Ahrefs in 2011, but his work on document search engines began much earlier. Perhaps that explains why Ahrefs’ index is so impressively exhaustive—it updates its catalog of backlinks every 15 minutes and processes up to eight billion pages per day.
But we’re not here to talk about Ahrefs’ backlink index. Instead, we’re here to discuss one of its many free SEO tools, Keyword Generator.
To use it, select the platform you’d like to view keywords for (Google, Bing, YouTube or Amazon), enter your keyword and choose your preferred region:
Hit the find keywords button and you’ll promptly see a list of 100 keyword ideas. This list will include metrics such as each keyword’s difficulty and volume, as well as the last time they were updated in Ahrefs’ index:
You can also click the questions tab to see 50 questions people are asking about your chosen keyword:
If you’d like to see more than 100 keyword suggestions (or 50 questions), you’ll need to pay a small fee for a seven-day trial.
4. SEO Scout’s Scout Suggest
SEO Scout is a relatively young UK-based SaaS company that was founded in 2019 by Jonny Platt. Its products include tools for researching keywords, topics and entities, split testing page copy, tracking Google rankings, identifying missing keyword opportunities and addressing keyword cannibalization issues.
The company also offers a generous selection of free tools such as Scout Suggest. This keyword suggestion tool allows you to customize results by language and location, and also gives you the ability to choose whether you want to see phrases, questions, research and more:
After entering your preferred keyword or phrase, click start to see the tool’s suggestions (we received more than 250 recommendations for the phrase schema markup):
Notice that at the top of your results, you’re able to organize the tool’s suggestions by categories, groups or a text list. Under the categories tab, you’re also able to sort by phrases, questions, comparisons, research and alphabetical order:
5. Keyword Planner
Not to be confused with Google’s product of the same name (more on that below), Keyword Planner is a keyword research tool that uses autocomplete application programming interfaces (APIs) to generate and provide data about long-tail keywords.
So how does Keyword Planner compare to Google’s keyword tool? According to Keyword Planner themselves, it has two benefits Google lacks. Specifically, it allows you to:
- see different keywords than those generated by Google; and
- use the tool without creating an account.
To use Keyword Planner, simply choose your region, enter up to five keywords separated by commas and click the magnifying glass button. You can also select your preferred search level—the higher the level, the more keywords will be generated and the longer the search will take:
When we used a level one search to research three separate keywords, Keyword Planner returned a whopping 2,413 suggestions—that’s over 240 pages. The only catch is that you’ll need to sign up for a Keywords Everywhere API key if you also want to see each keyword’s monthly volume, Google Ads CPC, Google Ads competition and overall trend:
6. Google Trends
The search giant might not have designed Google Trends to be a keyword research tool, but for many SEO professionals that’s exactly what it is.
Unlike the keyword research tools we’ve discussed so far, Google Trends doesn’t actually suggest keywords for you to target. Instead, it reveals Google users’ previous and current interest in your chosen search term or topic.
For instance, here we can see that interest in the Google algorithm is the highest it’s been in the last 12 months:
Scroll down and you’ll also see interest by subregion (in this case, U.S. states), as well as a small selection of related topics and queries:
So while Google Trends won’t provide you with an exhaustive list of potential keywords, it will give you valuable insights about a keyword or topic you already know you want to target.
One of the best ways to determine the keywords you should be focusing on is to examine the types of questions that search engine users are asking. AnswerThePublic, a tool developed by the team behind CoverageBook, will let you do just that for free.
There’s no need to sign up for an email list or create an account—simply enter a topic, brand or product, choose your region and language and click search:
You’ll then be greeted with a clear visualization of the questions people are asking about your search term:
Scroll down and you’ll see more visualizations of relevant prepositions, comparisons, alphabeticals and related queries.
If visual representations aren’t your thing, just click the data tab at the top of any graph to see its contents as a group of lists instead:
Founded in the late 1990s by brothers Mike and Andy Mindel, the London-based company Wordtracker has been around for as long as Google.
Although Wordtracker offers many paid SEO-related products, it may be best known for its free keyword tool.
To start using it, enter a seed keyword or phrase and click start:
On your results page you’ll see a list of 50 keywords and their corresponding data, as well as the option to choose your preferred search engine and change your region:
After using up your limited number of free searches (as you can see in the screenshot above, we have 11 remaining), you’ll be able to unlock unlimited searches by signing up for a seven-day free trial. After that, the most basic Wordtracker membership plan will cost $27 per month.
While this is pushing the limits of the definition of a free keyword research tool, we think it’s worth including. That’s because Wordtracker boasts a number of features and capabilities that Google’s Keyword Planner doesn’t, such as:
- actual (i.e. not grouped) keywords;
- actual (i.e. not banded) results;
- competitor metrics;
- search engine results page (SERP) comparisons;
- live chat customer service;
- related and lateral search;
- Amazon and YouTube keywords; and
- negative keyword search.
So if you’re looking for a keyword research tool that has all those features, Wordtracker’s free version is sure to please in the short-term and its paid version may also be an ideal long-term solution too.
9. Google’s Keyword Planner
We would be remiss if we didn’t include Google’s own Keyword Planner tool.
As a tool provided by the search giant itself, it’s a given that the insights you glean from Google’s Keyword Planner will be accurate and reliable. There is one major caveat, though: To start using Keyword Planner, you’ll need to create a Google Ads account. And to do that, you’ll need to provide an email address and business website.
Once you’ve set up a Google Ads account, you’ll be ready to go.
Like many of the other tools we’ve looked at so far, Google’s Keyword Planner suggests new keywords and provides valuable data about each one. What makes it unique is that it will also give you bid estimates for each keyword, and can even be used to create a fully-fledged plan.
In Google’s example, we can see that a plan includes the expected number of conversions, overall cost, CPC, conversion rate and more:
You might have to jump through a few hoops to use it, but Google’s Keyword Planner is an undeniably powerful tool for SEO practitioners who are running or planning on running a Google Ads campaign.
Free Keyword Research Is Worth Its Weight in Gold
All the tools we’ve covered might cost nothing to use, but the information they can reveal has concrete value.
After all, keyword research forms the foundation of a well-informed SEO strategy. So if you want to better understand your audience, generate more conversions and reach the people who will be the most receptive to your message, use these free keyword research tools to pave the way.
Shutterstock / May 2021
Screenshots by author / May 2021
Google / May 2019