Our Top Free Keyword Research Tools for SEO

February 15, 2023
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Keyword research is a necessary jump-off point for any content strategy. It can be challenging to come up with a solid plan, especially if you are in an industry with many big names. If you do not research your keywords, you would end up writing irrelevant content. You might also target the same keywords as the large companies in your industry. Doing this will prevent you from differentiating yourself in your industry.

Most people would subscribe to a paid software tool or hire an SEO service provider. If you are not ready for that step, though, you can always try free keyword search tools. With enough time and effort, these software can help you put together a solid content plan. If you want to get ahead of your SEO for the coming year, check out these free keyword research tools.

Google Keyword Planner

A mainstay in keyword research, Google Keyword Planner is actually intended for advertisers. You can still use it for site optimization, though, especially if you are at the start of your planning. If you input seed keywords, you get the estimated number of monthly searches for each phrase. Keyword Planner also lets you see average search volumes in different locations. This feature is great if you are targeting different cities, states, or territories.

Aside from this, you can also reverse engineer a keyword list with this tool. All you need to do is include the URL of a website as a seed keyword. The list that the tool generates will include phrases that always come up for that domain. Furthermore, Keyword Planner gives you updated figures on the top of page bid for each phrase. This makes it easy to spot keywords that convert. If a phrase is receiving plenty of bids, it's a safe bet that it brings in results.

The Catch: Unless you are adept at GWP, you will not get anything other than estimates and ranges from it. It is possible for SEO pros to learn how to use GWP for their campaigns. It has a learning curve, though, and if you don't have the luxury of time, you're better off paying for services.

Google Trends

Combine Keyword Planner with Google Trends for a more effective strategy. Trends lays out the relative popularity of a phrase over time. This feature is valuable for people with long-term campaigns like search engine optimization. It also shows when people are likely to search for a phrase, helping you plan better.

For example, suppose people's interest in one of your products peaks before December. You could create a series of posts that introduce it and its lesser-known features. Then, you can time its release to coincide with the rise in interest. When you have the right keywords, Google Trends can help you create relevant articles.

The Catch: You would need to have the right keywords to make Trends work for you. Otherwise, you will be riding on the search volume for a keyword that does nothing for your business. Also, relying on Trends only will lead to content that does not serve your business in the long run. Beyond targeting concepts that are "in" at the moment, you need to write with longevity in mind.

Answer the Public

Answer the Public provides visualizations, helping you identify relationships among concepts. You can also switch to a list view if you prefer. ATP identifies questions, preposition-based phrases, and words related to your seed keyword.

For example, if you enter the phrase "SEO writing," a question it suggests is "What is SEO writing?" Phrases with prepositions include "SEO writing for beginners" and "SEO in writing articles." ATP pulls suggestions from Google autosuggest and Keyword Planner.

The Catch: ATP only lists keywords and questions. It does not tell you how challenging it would be to rank for these phrases, or how much advertisers spend on them. It is a great way to generate a ton of seed keywords to start, but you need a more powerful system for detailed research.


Another tool you can use for keyword research is QuestionDB. It generates queries based on a seed word or phrase you provide. QuestionDB gets its suggestions from questions people raise on Reddit. Often, people visit Reddit when they cannot find answers on Google. So when you use QuestionDB for prompts, you will produce unique, relevant content. The free version of this tool lets you generate ten results for each search, enough to start ideation.

Also, this tool lets you see the links to the Reddit thread where the question appears. If you browse the original post, you might find answers and ideas you can explore in your article. You might also find inspiration for future articles on the same topic.

The Catch: QuestionDB, like Answer the Public, is more for generating phrases. It provides interesting jump-off points for posts. For finding keywords that will help you rank, though, you would need to pair this tool with others.

Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Checker

If you have a primary keyword in mind, it is helpful to run it through Ahrefs' Keyword Difficulty Checker. It provides a score based on the top ten websites for the keyword you chose. The results show the number of backlinks to the sites, the traffic they get, and the number of keywords they have. Ahrefs also shows an estimate of the number of backlinks it will take to break into the top ten for this keyword.

This tool can help you identify which phrases will improve your content plan. When you use it with Ahrefs' other tools, or the software on this list, you'll get a solid list of priority keywords. Also, the Difficulty Checker has a 'People Also Ask' section. This could help you come up with new ideas for posts.

The Catch: To appreciate the capabilities of this tool, you need to sign up for a paid service. Ahrefs has a seven-day trial perfect for marketers or large teams. For people who want a done-for-you service, though, you need to look for an alternative.


Soovle lets you conduct a single search on different engines at once. The program suggests keywords from several sources, including Google, YouTube, and Bing. When you type your phrase in the bar, you'll see a list of suggestions from each site.

The results are variable; some keywords have no suggestions from certain sites. For example, searching "what is the best camera brand" will have zero Wikipedia results. It is because there are no articles about this phrase on the website. Given that, though, Soovle is still useful when looking at the popularity of some keywords.

The Catch: Besides not having results for some keywords, it has no data on keyword difficulty. If you are looking for something to help  a data-driven content plan, you have to pair this with another tool.

Paid versus Free Keyword Search Tools

There are other keyword research options available, some with more features than these. A paid search tool will always provide convenience. For example, it could have more data, or give users more insights on the information gathered. If your company needs to conduct detailed keyword research, go for the paid option.

 Marketers might go for paid tools because they capture how people search. Free tools focus on phrases that, while logical, don't capture speech patterns. Since technology is moving toward personalization and voice search, natural-sounding text becomes valuable. Also, free tools do not have options for diving deep into keywords. Keywords from parent phrases is valuable, especially for a series or longform article.

 When deciding whether you should get a paid or free option, consider the nature of your business. Does it help your business to have extensive keyword lists and backlink information? Will the gains you get be minimal, in exchange for a steep monthly payment? If you are a local business, you might not have a budget for a dedicated keyword tool, even if it could boost rankings. A done-for-you SEO plan would be a better option in your case.

Meanwhile, if you have go-to SEO persons in your team, a paid keyword search tool could be an advantage for you. For some people, the tradeoff is between researching keywords and time. You might be willing to put in the hours to do keyword research, but your other responsibilities are be in the way. In the end, your team's priorities and its day-to-day concerns should direct your choice.

In Conclusion

Keyword research should inform the content plan for your business. If you write about trending topics or anything you want, your posts will not sustain interest. You need to identify what people are looking for online and how they phrase their questions.

You can use free or paid tools for keyword research; each has pros and cons. For some people, the choice might not be between a free or paid keyword research tool. It could be better to choose between an all-in content writing service and a paid search tool. Whatever the case, if you ground your posts in proper search, you'll always find an audience for your words.

Get your new years' plans off on the right foot when you sign up with our SEO service. Ranked takes care of everything from on-page optimization to weekly content, along with our own keyword research tool! Reach out to us or activate your plan today!