There are way too many choices when it comes to keyword research tools.

Free and paid options all have their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some of the best of 2018 along with some reasons you might or might not want to use them.

Don’t waste your time by trying to master all of them. Just pick one or two that meet your needs best and create a keyword research process that works for you.

Free Tools

Google Keyword Planner

This is the original.

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Google created this keyword planner to help advertisers choose keywords for their PPC campaigns. You can access the tool for free with a Google Adwords account, which you can sign up for on their website.

You can type in a keyword and the tool will generate variations and alternatives based on what people search for.

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The data comes directly from Google.

However, there are no bells and whistles. It is an older, bare-bones keyword generator.

If you’re primarily interested in generating keywords for Google Adwords PPC campaign this is the tool for you.


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Ubersuggest is a free keyword research tool from Neil Patel Digital.

It allows you to generate keywords for web, image, shopping, YouTube, and news.

The results it generates are sorted into keywords, CPC competition and search volume.

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You can search for keywords ideas, filter your results and screen for negative keywords and even export to a CSV file.

If you want to keep things simple, Ubersuggest never overcomplicates things.

Bulk Keyword Generator

Despite the name, this tool’s specialty isn’t generating a bulk load of keywords – it is generating specific keywords that help local businesses.

If you want to drive internet traffic to a physical location you can benefit from some easy, premade keyword templates.

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You start by selecting the type of business you own.

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There aren’t many templates to choose from but each includes different service types with their own keywords.

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Next, enter your location. Since this is a local business tool you will need to include the name of your town or city in your keywords.

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The tool will spit out hundreds of keyword variations you can use to drive traffic to your local business.

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The Bulk Keyword Generator isn’t fancy but it might be all a local business owner needs to generate a year’s worth of keywords.


Soovle is a completely free tool that helps you brainstorm new keywords by browsing the autocomplete results from a number of search engines – including Youtube, Amazon, Bing, and Wikipedia.

Rather than type your seed keyword into each of these search engines and record what comes up, you can survey the data in one (kind of crowded) screen.

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You can customize the interface by adding or removing search engines.

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You can also drag and drop the results you get into a “saved suggestions” box, which you can then print out or export as an email or text file.

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The user interface looks like it came from 2003 and it doesn’t provide you with any information you couldn’t collect on your own, but it could make brainstorming keywords a lot easier and less time-consuming.

Google Trends

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Interest in specific keywords will increase or decrease over time.

That’s why we have Google Trends – a free tool that tracks regional or worldwide search volumes for keywords across days, weeks, months and years.

If you want to know whether or not people are still crazy about CrossFit, or leggings, or fidget spinners – Google Trends can tell you.

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It will also show you where the interest is coming from nationally or globally so you can target the hottest markets.

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You don’t need to check every keyword you come up with, but in some cases, Google Trends can provide you with actionable information that will help your business.

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Seed Keywords

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Seed Keywords is a crowdsourced approach to keyword research.

Rather than use an algorithm to determine what people are typing into search engines, it helps you send a survey to your contacts so you can get a concrete answer.

First, you create a search scenario.

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For example, if you’re a florist you might write “You need a corsage for prom. What do you search for?”

Seed Keywords will give you a unique URL for a survey that you can send to friends and colleagues.

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Once you get enough replies, you can see which queries are most common.

This is a unique approach to keyword research but it won’t be ideal for everyone. If you want to use Seed Keywords to crowdsource keyword ideas, remember that:

  • You’re asking your contacts for something when you email them this survey. If you can, offer them something of value in return and remember to thank them for their help.
  • The results you get will not be universal – they will be specific to your contact list. For example, if all of your contacts are business people aged 30-45, you won’t have much insight into the search terms teenagers are using.
  • Your sample size might be comparatively small. If you send your survey to 100 contacts and only 10 of them reply, you’re basing your keyword research on very little information.

Affordable Tools ($9.99 – $29.99 per month)


$19.95/month Pro Plan

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HitTail claims to be the only keyword research tool that allows you to find new keywords based on the search terms that are already driving traffic to your website.

By accessing your Google Search Console data, HitTail can analyze the traffic you get already to generate new keywords that are highly relevant to your audience.

If you want a keyword research tool that will plug in and give you personalized suggestions based on your website and your traffic, HitTail is a powerful and affordable option.


$19.99/month Plan A

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SERPstat is a sophisticated tool that can give you a ton of information.

It goes beyond keyword research as an “all in one” SEO platform, providing you with all of the data you need to rise in the search rankings.

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SERPstat has everything you need to collect, generate, evaluate and compare keywords, along with other tools to check on-page SEO, audit backlinks and compare domain authorities.

A lot of these features are common in much higher priced premium tools, but it’s rare to find a tool that can do so much for such an affordable price.

If you are looking for a tool with a ton of options and you’re okay with learning to use a complex dashboard, SERPstat might be for you.


$29.90/month Mangools Basic Plan

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KWFinder has a free version you can check out before you sign up for a plan, but some of the best features are reserved for paying users.

The plans limit you to a certain number of searches every 24 hours.

With KWFinder you can search for keywords, autocomplete results, and questions.

The dashboard is easy to read and includes a ton of information, including the level of competition for keywords and monthly search volume over time.

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It’s also easy to save and export your keyword lists to a CSV file.

KWFinder includes everything you need for in-depth keyword research and some additional bells and whistles. For small and medium-sized businesses it is likely to be all you need.

Premium Tools ($30.99 – $999.99)

Term Explorer

$34/month Basic Plan

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Term Explorer boasts that it generates more keywords than any other tool – up to 90,000 search terms per export.

It generates new keywords based on seed keywords you enter and makes it easy to filter out any words or phrases that are skewing your results.

The number of keyword searches you can perform is limited by your pricing plan.

Long Tail Pro

$37/month Starter Plan

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Long Tail Pro calls itself “the best keyword research tool.”

It might have some stake to that claim.

It has a loyal following among internet marketers, including Neil Patel and Pat Flynn, and it delivers the goods when it comes to SEO data.

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Long Tail Pro is faster than some of the other web-based keyword tools which tend to lag as they process massive amounts of data.

It offers the same high-level features as other premium keyword generators, including competitor analysis so you can steal valuable keywords.

Long Tail Pro also gets top points for usability. It has a great interface and even a beginner can get the hang of using it without a huge time investment.


$33/month Basic Plan

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SpyFu is all about stealing keywords and SEO strategies from your biggest competitors.

It allows you to collect an astonishing amount of data on what is working for other people so that you can make those keywords work for you.

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With SpyFu you can find out which keywords your competitors rank for and see all of the backlinks they are using to outrank you.

You can also see which keywords they have been targeting in Google Adwords – and the history of campaigns they have run in the past.

The basic plan doesn’t have some of the top level features, but all plans include unlimited searches and downloads.

If you’re in a tough market it’s a no-brainer to invest in a keyword research tool that shows you what is working for your competitors.


$99/month Pro Membership

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SEMrush is a great choice for marketers who are ready to double down on keyword research and SEO reporting.

This suite of tools has everything you can find in other tools and more, all assembled in one place.

You can collect keyword and SEO data from your competitors, including PPC keywords. You can generate up to 2 million new keyword ideas and evaluate them. You can even manage projects with your keywords in real time.

SEMrush also includes a ton of other features including an on-site SEO checker, a backlink audit tool, social media posting and a brand monitoring tool.

As an all-in-one SEO tool, it includes a lot of features and makes it easier to manage complex projects with great tracking and reporting.

Which Keyword Tool is Right For Me?

It all depends on your business needs.

If you are a blogger you can probably get away with using the free tools that are available to help your brainstorm keyword ideas.

If you are a company in a competitive market trying to find an edge in SEO it is worth investing in some more powerful tools.

It’s also a matter of personal preference. Choose a tool that you like to use!

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