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5 Free Must-Have Keyword Research Tools – A 2013 Update

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Since 2009, many aspects of keyword research have changed for search marketers. But, it is still an extremely important factor in both SEO and paid search, and there are still free versions of keyword tools out there.

Of course, Google’s free keyword tool has always been the one that is top of mind. However, the recent switch to the Keyword Planner has left some users wondering if it might be worth looking for options. Although most of the functionality of the original keyword tool is still there, the need to use it from within a Google AdWords account, plus the inability to separate out search volume by desktop and laptop are just two aspects that not all users are happy with.

Other available tools for keyword research continue to range in level of sophistication. Some just spit out similar terms with no real analysis of their sources. Others mine many different data sets, provide reasoning behind their choices, and allow you to include parameters limiting (or expanding) the types of keywords it finds for you.

This article originally focused on five free keyword tools. Three of them are still functioning, helping online marketers with their keyword research. Let’s take a look at how they fit into the market today and check into a couple of other tools that are popular in 2013.

1.  SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool

SEOBook

Aaron Wall’s SEO Book site continues to be a popular spot, providing a number of free tools in addition to those for keyword research. It’s still powered by WordTracker (whose paid tool offers many more features and flexibility), and gives global information using a large variety of databases. Keep in mind, however, that the data is based on market share estimates for Google (70%), Yahoo (20%) and MSN (8%) and the use of WordTracker as a source may increase computational inaccuracies.

It’s still a great place to start, run by a long-time leader in the industry with a ton of experience behind him. You’ll need to create a free account to use the tools on the site (a relatively new practice to cut down on the number of scrapers trying to access the site).

2.  SpyFu

SpyFu

This is still a great tool for tapping into your competitor’s strategies, and it still has a 30-day free trial. With a large variety of possible angles from which to examine the competition, SpyFu remains one of the must-have tools in a search marketer’s bag of tricks. Although it only targets the US and UK, SpyFu allows unlimited keyword searches to help identify profitable choices and eliminate the bad.

One recent change is the addition of more SEO-related analysis, with advice and data related to a site’s organic ranking to help you sell your services and show how SEO is helping your clients not just in organic, but also in their paid search efforts.

3.  SiteVolume – no longer available

Renamed as TweetVolume, this tool now tracks keywords on Twitter traffic. At the moment, developers are revamping the tool, with no clear indication of an expected relaunch date. However, it’s clear that the intent is for this tool to stick with its social media focus. As such, it could be a useful addition for those looking for insight into that arena.

4.  Soovle

Soovle

Still running, Soovle now includes sites such as the Weather Channel, YouTube, and Netflix in its collection of searchable search engines. It’s still a very simple keyword tool, which could be exactly what you are looking for. Be sure to use the “saved suggestions” tool to get the most out of this tool. It’s also a nice source for research on content marketing initiatives.

5.  Nielsen BuzzMetrics BlogPulse – no longer available

The BlogPulse tool no longer exists, but of course, the gigantic Nielsen database and assorted tools related to all things digital remains a good resource for marketers.

Now for a couple of more offerings in free keyword tools that you can’t afford to miss out on.

6.  WordStream

WordStream

This tool is quite sophisticated for keyword research, claiming to offer eight times the results that Google’s tool does, with more than one trillion long tail keywords. Although you are limited to an initial 10 searches, followed by one search per day, WordStream also has three other free keyword tools – a niche keyword finder, a tool for grouping keywords, and a negative keyword tool. Having all of these in one handy spot, in combination with the size of the database, makes WordStream’s keyword research offerings well worth a look.

7.  Bing Keyword Research

Bing

For those interested in keyword research with an eye to ranking on Bing, their free keyword tool can be quite useful. Providing access to up to six months of historical data, it is limited to results from organic search, with no inclusion of paid search results. You will need to open up an account if you don’t already have one in order to access tool results.

8.  Ubersuggest

Billing itself as “Suggest on Steroids,” this free tool uses results from Google Suggest and other similar sources as its base. You can narrow results by language as well as a variety of verticals, like Shopping, Images, or News. What makes it unique is that it returns the top 10 results not only for your initial search term, but also the top results for each combination of your search term and words beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Here’s an example of a search run on the word “shoes:”

Ubersuggest

To learn more about the original five tools and what they offer, see the article below.

Image: Keywords – Original Billboard Image from Shutterstock

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Whether you are doing search engine optimization, social media optimization, or running a pay-per-click campaign, the right keywords are the basis of any successful marketing effort. The two leaders in the field of keyword research have always been WordTracker and Keyword Discovery. Both are great tools and both are reasonably priced, especially if you’re serious about search marketing. However, for smaller businesses that are just getting their toes wet in the waters of online advertising, a free, bare-bones solution might be the answer. Here are five free keyword research tools I find to be useful.

1. SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool
A WordTracker-powered keyword research tool. The tool generates a list of related terms and provides links to keyword suggestion tools offered by major search engines. Provides search volume estimates from WordTracker, Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.

2. SpyFu
This tool analyzes your competitor’s paid search campaigns on Google AdWords and generates a list of both organic and paid keywords your competitor is using. As an added bonus, the tool also lists their organic and paid competitors, providing you with more domains to analyze.

3. SiteVolume
Not sure which keywords to use in your social media marketing campaigns? The SiteVolume tool gives you the ability to see how many times a specific keyword or a phrase has been mentioned on major social media sites, including Digg, MySpace, YouTube, and even Twitter.

4. Soovle
Nice little tool for keyword research. Searches all major search engines and other sites like Amazon.com and Answers.com and instantly provides related keyword suggestions. Also offers a list of today’s top keywords.

5. Nielsen BuzzMetrics’ BlogPulse
This tool searches millions of blogs, providing insights into what keywords and phrases are popular in the blogosphere. It also has handy charts showing keyword use trends over time.

About the Author

Andrey Milyan was the first editor-in-chief of Search Marketing Standard, the leading print publication covering the search marketing industry. He has been following and reporting on industry developments for over 10 years. Andrey now works in the paid search sector of a prominent search marketing agency.

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16 Comments

  1. Some awesome tools here, thanks for the post. Also, you mention that if someone is serious about search marketing they should use Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery and I'm interested in hearing why. I've used both in the past and have never really felt the results to be any better than what you can get from the Google Keyword Tool. Of course the numbers are all different, but in relation to each other are basically the same. I'm just interested in hearing how you use them. Thanks again for the post. Soovle and Sitevolume are interesting. Alex Juel’s last blog post..Google Image Labeler Is a Great Time Waster

  2. Mmmmmm! Whilst the SEO Book one is great I really think you missed the absolute best one out there - and it's free Respectfully David Saunders Plymouth UK

  3. This is the research tool I wouldn't be without http://tinyurl.com/keywordfinder

  4. Thanks for these great tools. Just thought I would also mention another great way to find related keywords when using the google keyword tool is to go down the left hand side of the page and click on wonderwheel- It will generate the related words that you can then research. cheers Sue

  5. Sama Rizvi

    Thank you so much for sharing these!!!

  6. For international keyword research I prefer using Google Adwords and the Search-based kw tool. These tools provide me with more accurate data then most other kw tools (paid and free). Ps. The link to SEO book kw tool is broken.

  7. Tony Barker

    Help - am getting 404 error message when clicking on SEO Book link in 1. Can you fix.

  8. Andrey Milyan

    Sorry about that, Tony. All fixed now.

  9. Another good keyword tool that I use is followtopia. For any search result if gives you the list of keywords for sites in the results. It can be good for coming up with secondary keywords. http://www.followtopia.com

  10. stumbled on your post. Great list!

  11. Great tools. Especially love the SEO Book free keyword suggestion tool. I've been personally looking into investing on WordTracker, but due to a slow last couple of months decided to wait. Thanks for providing such a valuable free tool!!!

  12. I use spyfu alot to sneak up on other competitors and add a backlink to the websites they have link on.

  13. Nice tips on keyword resource tools.I like you on stumble favourite.

  14. I use the traffic estimator from Google. But those tips are sure handy! thanks =)

  15. A great post, thanks for the list of tools. I sometimes get a little frustrated when checking 'free' software, only to find that you have to pay a fee after a certain time. I now have (which I paid for in full), software called 'Market Samurai' and although I'm only just starting using, the software is easy to use, the site has fantastic videos and you can hit the floor running. Well worth a look folks! Regards, John

  16. Rhea

    Soovle is a favourite of mine, along with Ubersuggest and KeywordSuggest, which works about the same way, getting suggestions out of search engines. In my efforts, I've found these tools pretty useful, and used them to find topics to write articles on, niches on Amazon and so on.