So, you're a part of a company, and that company has a website. That means you’re probably familiar with the fact that your website needs to be properly optimized in order to rank well on search engines so your customers can find you. Because no one searches for answers to their questions in a library anymore. (Remember card catalogs? Boy, have we come far.)
Even if you don't know much about SEO, you've probably at least heard what the first step in getting your site search-engine-optimized is—keyword research.
Keyword research is the process of investigating and choosing keywords and phrases that relate to your business, product, or service that your customers will likely be searching for. There are several ways to do this, and if you’re brave enough to try it on your own, there are some resources that can help. We rounded up eight of the best keyword research tools—a few that we use here at Nectafy and some that are new to us—to help you DIYers make the keyword research process a little easier.
Some of our favorites:
Google Keyword Tool is a free tool within Google Adwords that allows you to find the exact phrasing that people are using when they type searches into Google. It will also give you related ideas to look through along with their search volume. You can see how popular certain phrases were in the past and how well they might perform in the future, and it can also help you choose competitive bids and budgets to use within your paid campaigns.
One thing we like about Keyword Tool is its option to multiply keyword lists to get new ideas. It saves you the time of manually combining keywords by taking two or three of your separate keyword lists and combing them to get a whole new list of words. (And we like that it’s free, of course!)
HubSpot isn’t just a keyword tool—it’s an “all-in-one” inbound marketing software that can also help you with your keyword research with the keyword tool included. You can give HubSpot the terms and phrases you want to rank for, and they’ll give you a difficulty score that can help you decide if you'll be able to rank for that particular phrase. You can track your progress for a given keyword over time, and get tips on how to rank higher in the next month. There’s a free trial of HubSpot, and if you decide you like it, you can choose from a basic, pro, or enterprise paid plan (prices vary among plans).
What we like about HubSpot is that it contains everything you need right in one software program. And if you’re going to do inbound marketing, it makes sense to have all your tools in one place. We use HubSpot on a daily basis—it’s a great tool that, to us, is well worth the money.
Google (Straight up!)
Yes, you read that right. We use plain old Google to figure out our competition. Before we use a keyword phrase, we’ll put it into the Google search bar to see who shows up on the first page. If it’s full of Fortune 500 companies and known brands, we know that it might be hard to rank for those particular words. By actually searching our keywords before we use them, we’re able to gauge our ability to rank on any given topic.
Why do we like this? Because doing a quick Google search is fast, easy, and free. Since Google is the number one search engine in the world, that’s obviously where we want to rank the highest. So it’s only natural to use it as a keyword research tool!
New tools to try:
Keyword Tool is a free online research tool that uses Google Autocomplete to generate hundreds of relevant keywords. To generate keyword suggestions, Keyword Tool prepends and appends the term that you specify with different letters and numbers. It allows you to choose a specific Google domain (they support 192 of them) and language combination. It generates over 750 keywords in the language of your choice, and you can export them for content creation, SEO, or PPC.
What’s great about Keyword Tool is that, for one thing, it’s completely free. And not just free for a trial period—free for however long you want to use it. Another cool thing about it is that it supports 83 languages, so if you’re looking for keywords in languages other than English, your generated keywords will be relevant to the country you’re creating content for.
SEOBook released what they call the SEO Toolbar, a free toolbar to download for your web browser that generates marketing data as you surf the web. There are several features in the toolbar, including Google page rank, link information, directory information, and site age. As you’re looking at websites, this data is pulled in for the particular site you’re on, and you can view that data by clicking any of the feature buttons in the toolbar. There is also an “advanced information” button that allows you to view a lot of SEO related details, including site background information, site links, page links, directory listings, traffic estimates, and social media information.
What’s cool about this toolbar is that it’s a unique alternative to finding SEO information, and it’s quick and easy. It essentially brings the information to you, and it’s a free download, so there’s no cost to use it. There is a downside, however—as of now, it’s only available for use on the FireFox web browser, so if you want to give the toolbar a try, you’ll have to use FireFox.
Keyword Eye is a suite of visual keyword, content, and competitor research tools to help with your PPC and organic campaigns. You can use it to find out what keywords your competitors are using, as well as analyze on-site keyword trends within the content of top ranking pages. It includes other features as well, like keyword suggestion, content analysis, question finder, and link analysis.
There is a free version of Keyword Eye, as well as a paid “Pro” plan. Unlike a lot of keyword research sites that have paid plans, the free version of Keyword Eye never runs out, so you aren’t required to subscribe to a paid plan after a certain period of time. But if you do want to take advantage of the benefits in the paid version, their monthly rate is significantly lower than competing sites (around $20/month compared to an average $80-$100).
As you might suspect, Keyword Spy allows you to “spy” on your competitors performance, hence the name “Keyword Spy”. (Clever, right?) You can find out what keywords your competitors are using, including their organic, paid search, and affiliate keywords. You can also get daily database updates and perform real-time tracking of your own keyword performance.
The idea of getting to “spy” on your competitors is pretty cool, if you ask me. There’s a free version of Keyword Spy (although they call it a free “trial”, which is kind of misleading since it’s a lifetime version), which includes several useful features. If you want more in-depth features, there are also paid packages, the lowest starting at $89.95 per month.
Wordtracker helps you find high-performing, profitable keywords that help you write search-engine-optimized copy for your company’s website pages. They’re different from other tools in that they help you find the keywords that your customers are searching when they are ready to buy. They also help you target “long-tail” keyword phrases—the longer keyword phrases that are specific to what your website is selling and what people are looking for—which are different from the more basic, primary words that are heavily searched.
You do have to pay for Wordtracker—subscriptions start at $69 a month. And while free programs are great (seriously, who wants to spend money when they don’t have to?), there is something to be said about paying for great data that you just can’t get with free tools. If your budget allows, spending money on a subscription to a site like Wordtracker would probably be worth it in the end.
Choose the best keyword research tool for you.
Whether you’re looking for a simple, free tool, or an in-depth paid subscription, there is something out there that will help with your keyword research. Remember that paying a little money for more accurate data can be worth it, but do your research before you decide to shell out the dough. Free trials are a great way to decide if a service is worth the money, and you can always cancel if you don’t like the product. Hopefully this list of sites helps you find the best keyword research tools for you!