Today, we’re looking at the best free keyword research tools and how to use them to power your keyword research. And before I forget, we’re giving away free Ahrefs accounts to not one….but three of our followrs. Stay tuned.
Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors, and dominate your niche. Now, there are certain stigmas around the word “free?” And to a certain extent, they’re true.
With free keyword research tools, you may not get the “top-notch” features that come with premium tools, but you can get quite a bit of value when using the tools together and correctly.
So today, I’m going to show you how each of these keyword research tools work and then I’ll show you how you can use them in tandem for a solid keyword research process that won’t cost you a penny.
Make sure to read this whole article, so you can get the full deets on the contest and seeing some parts in the article can increase your chances of winning. You’ll see. Let’s dive in.
Google correlate finds queries with a similar pattern to a target data series. So if I type in “lose weight,” then you can see that people are also interested in exercises, fattening, they want to lose specifically 20 lbs, build muscle, lose belly fat, and the list goes on.
So the main pro with Google Correlate is that you can find subtopics, which will help you maximize coverage on the topic and possibly get more organic keyword rankings.
Plus, you can find hidden gems in here since the results are relational and not necessarily bound by phrase match or keyword matching like many premium tools do.
The two major cons of this tool is that there are no search metrics that accompany these keywords.and second, you’ll often find keywords that apparently have a high correlation like this one, but make absolutely no sense.
This tool mines Google auto suggest keywords based on a seed keyword.So if I type in “lose weight,” then it’ll start mining data.
The main pro of this tool is that you can generate thousands of related and long tail keywords. They also have nice positive and negative filters you can use to narrow down your list.
For example, if I wanted to find modifier keywords, then I could enter in best, top, and 2018, which narrows down our results quite nicely. There are a couple major cons to this tool.
First, it can take quite a long time to find keywords that are actually meaningful. And the very obvious con is that there are no search metrics which can take a while to batch process in another tool. But this can be solved with
Keywords Everywhere is a Google Chrome browser extension that adds an inline view of search metrics on popular websites.
You’ll need to install the extension, sign up for a free account, and then enter your API key into the settings. Now, when you go to any of these sites, you’ll get instant keyword metrics.
So if I go to Google search and type in a keyword phrase, then you’ll see the various metrics right beside your target search query as well as the auto suggestions.
You’ll also see related keywords and other keywords that people search for on the right side of the search results page.
The obvious pro is that you get all of the search metrics for free considering Google Keyword Planner started restricting that data from users who aren’t advertising on Adwords.
So that is awesome! But there is one very serious issue. As far as I know, they source their data through Google Keyword Planner alone. The thing is that Keyword Planner uses “buckets” to group keywords.
Russ Jones gave a good example of this in one of his blog posts. He said: “When a keyword returns a traffic volume of 201,000, it isn’t because the keyword was actually visited that many times, but just that it was closer to 201,000 than the next biggest bucket of 246,000.” Let me show you an example.
If you look at the keyword results for “chicken soup ingredients”, you’ll see that it has a search volume of 2,900.
And if you look at the singular form of this, “chicken soup ingredient,” you’ll see that it returns the exact same result, when you and I both know that that isn’t true.
Now, compare that with Ahrefs’ toolbar which shows you that the plural has around 1,000 monthly searches, while the singular has only 10 monthly searches.
So that’s a major con in my books since we won’t know if we can fully trust the data that we’re getting. But in all fairness, even as an Adwords user, you would see similar results.
Search engine auto suggest
I’m not talking about Google. There are numerous other search engines that you and I use every single day like Amazon, Pinterest, YouTube and the list goes on.
So if you’re in a niche business like making homemade cards, then you might head over to Etsy and type in something like “cards.” And as the autosuggest populates, you can see all sorts of great keyword ideas like cards box with nearly 15,000 monthly searches, cards for boyfriend with 2,900 monthly searches and so on.
But remember, these search volumes beside the keyword are based on Google searches, and not Etsy or whatever website you’re looking at.
Suggestions from niche sites like this will likely produce better results than just using Google where the keyword “cards” can also be related to a game, bakeries or even finance like credit cards.
Using Google Trends, you can see the past and present popularity of a keyword or topic. For example, if I search for “selfie stick,” you’ll see that the trend seems pretty stable over the past 12 months.
And Keywords Everywhere shows that it has a monthly search volume of over 200,000 monthly searches! But is that really so? Remember, search volumes from Google Keyword Planner are rounded annual averages based on those buckets of keywords.
So, if we change the Trends view to the past 5 years, you’ll see that they were incredibly popular for about half a year in 2015. And then it spiked again, and again, and again. But as each spike happened, you’ll see that they were related to seasonality since most happened around Christmas time.
But after each spike, the popularity continued to decrease. And if you look at the search query in Keywords Explorer tool, you’ll see that it has a monthly search volume of 54,000 searches, and you can see the same trend in search volume as it continues to decline.
What’s even crazier is that if you scroll down to the SERP overview, you’ll see that the top pages only get around 7,000 visitors from organic search, which is around 13% of the search volume.
So a solid pro to Google Trends is that you can do market research on a niche, product, or topic and get an understanding if it’s worth your time and effort to pursue.
A con is that since Google Trends is based on popularity among all keywords and all topics, you won’t really know anything about search volume or how much organic traffic this term can generate for you.
In my opinion, this tool is indispensable, so use trend data to get an understanding of whether your keywords and topics are worth targeting over the long haul. But you’ll would need to pair it with a keyword research tool that provides accurate metrics to get a full scope. And the final tool is a fan favorite.
And that’s Answer the Public. Just type in a seed keyword, run the search, and you’ll see that it has hundreds of questions, prepositions, comparisons, and more. If we go to the questions section, and switch to the data view, you can see the search volumes since we have the Keywords Everywhere extension installed.
So a solid pro is that you can find some nice long-tail keyword phrases here. And it’s a great way to get keyword ideas if you wanted to create an FAQ section on your site to get traffic from potentially low competition keywords.
As for cons, the data is actually quite limited. You might think that 170 or so questions seems like a lot. But compare that to Ahrefs questions keywords report.
We found over 93,000 questions for the same seed keyword and have some awesome filters that you can pair them with. For example, we can set this to a maximum keyword difficulty score of zero and show only keywords that have at least 50 searches per month.
And now we’re down to a little bit more queries than Answer the Public tool showed. But we know that these are easy to rank for keywords in the ultra competitive weight loss nice.
Now, when you’re doing keyword research, you don’t need to use all of these tools. So, let me show you a simple workflow you can follow. For our example, let’s say that I sell homemade cards.
With Keywords Everywhere extension installed, I’ll go to Google and search for my topic. And if you look to the right for “people also search for”, you can see that a better keyword phrase might be “handmade cards,” since the search volume is higher and the meaning is pretty much the same, right? From here, you can look for a common theme in Google’s search results to understand search intent. And it looks like people searching for this are mostly looking for handmade card ideas.
go to Google trends and type in the keyword phrase so you know that the topic isn’t or hasn’t faded completely. And I’ll set the date to the past 5 years to get a better representation of the topic over time.
It looks a little volatile, but this is likely due to seasonality since the big spikes normally come around Christmas and Valentines day. So the idea seems good so far, so I’ll go to Answer the Public and type in my topic idea.
And it doesn’t look like there are any questions, but there are 60 or so prepositions. So I’ll click “data” for the list view and we can see search volumes and CPC data because of the Keywords Everywhere extension. Here, you can see “for boyfriend,” “for teachers,” and “for birthday” seem to all get searches every month.
So an idea that comes to mind is that we can create a post of handmade card ideas with different sections like “for your boyfriend” or “for your girlfriend”, or “for birthdays” so people can quickly filter through the section that they want to read through. From here, I’d probably write up my post, do some further on-page SEO, and promote the heck out of it. Seems pretty solid, right?
there are a few big problems and questions left unanswered.
#1. The idea seems great, but we don’t know if Google wants to see one page or numerous pages on these topics. Meaning, we don’t know if they’re 100% related to a searcher’s intent.
#2. We don’t know what it will take to rank high for our target keyword or whether we can rank at all. And
#3. We don’t know whether people will actually click through to the pages on the search engine results page, right.
And if people don’t click, then you don’t get any traffic. The tools lack depth and having multiple pieces to a crazy puzzle like keyword research makes it challenging to assemble the pieces together.
Now, I know this is a article about free keyword tools, but that also means I need to show you the downsides compared to paid tools like Keywords Explorer.
If I type in a seed keyword like handmade cards, you can see a more recent search volume because we use Clickstream to update and refine our search volume data every single week.
Plus you’ll see the trend data right below. Another big part is that we show the number of clicks that actually happen on the search results page broken down by the percentage of clicks that go to paid vs. organic results.
And if we scroll down to the top 10 SERP overview, you can see all of the top ranking pages and how much organic traffic that they get each month.
If you look at the “top keyword” column for this search query, you can see that the ranking pages seem to rank for very different keywords, which tells me that the search intent for something like this may be somewhat unclear.
Scrolling up a bit, you can see the SERP history graph which shows that this term is actually highly volatile, which further proves that search intent for this keyword is unclear.
The results are jumping in and out of the top 10, so it may be an indication that Google doesn’t quite know which pages best serve the intention of the searchers.
So we could have potentially targeted a topic where it would be difficult to predict whether we could rank and actually retain the spot.
If we modify the search a bit and go as generic as writing “cards” in our search, then we can head on over to the phrase match report to find awesome keyword ideas fast.
But as expected, you’ll see a lot of irrelevant topics like cards against humanity, business cards, and house of cards.
We can laser in on relevant topics by using the “include” feature and type in handmade, homemade, and other spelling variations separated by commas.
Then I’ll click on this dropdown to show any of these keywords. And right away, you can see a bunch of good stuff here.
The cool thing is that you can see that the word, “handmade,” isn’t always the most frequently searched keyword.
Now this, would be a solid list of a keyword ideas that should fill up your content schedule for months or maybe even years.
So while all of these free keyword research tools are great for quick overviews and tasks, they tend to lack a lot of features that give you the full scope on a topic or keyword. When you’re just starting out, free keyword research tools are fine to use.
But as your website and business grow, you’re disadvantaging yourself because there are just so many more things you can do with premium tools.