SEO tools are a great way to help you find relevant keywords for your SEO campaign. These tools can help you determine which keywords are most popular, how many searches they get per month, and if they’re actually worth targeting.

But there are so many different SEO tools out there that it can be hard to decide which ones to use. And even if you do decide on one or two, there are still more variations of each tool that you can choose from!

To make things easier for you, we’ve created an infographic that highlights some of the best free keyword research tools available today. We’ll also show you how each tool works and why they are useful for your business or personal needs.

Seo Tools To Find Keywords

The best keyword research tool overall

Moz Keyword Explorer (Web)

A screenshot of Moz

Moz’s SEO platform offers several different tools designed for keyword research. While Moz doesn’t include as many data points as some of the other full-featured SEO tools (like SERP position history or the total number of keywords a competing result ranks for), we consider that a benefit. It makes for a less overwhelming user experience for those who aren’t professional search marketers, without skimping on the metrics you really want.

With the Keyword Planner tool, you can search any keyword you choose and see its monthly volume, difficulty, and organic clickthrough rate (CTR). Scroll down from there to see analysis of current results ranking for it and suggestions for similar keywords.

Here’s our favorite feature: Moz includes a “Priority” score that simplifies keyword research by giving you the bottom line on whether a keyword is worth chasing for you. Moz automatically calculates the score based on the keyword’s volume, organic CTR, and difficulty, along with your “My Score”—a metric you set yourself, designating how important a given keyword is to your business, based on your own expertise and knowledge of your business and industry.

Moz Pricing: Keyword research features are available for free for up to 10 queries per month; Moz Pro plans start at $99/month for 150 keyword queries per month

Ahrefs and SE Ranking are also popular SEO platforms with keyword research features comparable to Moz. While we tested all three, we found Moz to be the most user-friendly of the group. Moz also shares a few metrics (like organic clickthrough rate and their Priority score) that make it more valuable, particularly for people who aren’t professional SEOs. But the others are definitely worth a try to see if you prefer them—SE Ranking specifically has more affordable pricing.

The best keyword research tool for competitive keyword analysis

Semrush (Web)

Semrush screenshot

It’s the most expensive tool on our list, but if you’re looking for something more advanced, Semrush shares a ton of keyword data and makes it easy to dig into the details, like SERP features (featured snippet, reviews, site links, image pack, and so on) and granular analysis of current results.

Semrush offers a broad range of keyword research tools, too, from the standard traffic and search volume data to content-driven keyword research and competitive keyword gap analysis. 

That competitive keyword analysis is really what sets Semrush apart. With the Keyword Gap feature, you can enter your competitors’ websites and Semrush audits the keywords they rank for that you don’t—making it easy to find new opportunities.

As an added bonus, the SEO Content Template tool lets you optimize content as you write by grading your content in real-time for readability, originality, tone of voice, and SEO: it uses a handy bullseye graphic to help you strike the right balance. Plus, the tool visually checks off SEO recommendations (like using your target and related keywords and adding relevant links and images) as you go.

Semrush Pricing: Plans start at $119.95/month for up 3,000 results per day and 250 keyword metrics updates per month

The best keyword research tool for optimizing SEO for your entire website

Wincher (Web)

Wincher screenshot

Wincher is a great option if you’re looking to optimize your whole website, identifying keyword opportunities and tracking your ranking progress.

To start, you’ll enter your website domain. Once the data loads, click Keyword Research in the left-hand menu to see a whole list of Wincher’s keyword suggestions. These are keywords your website already ranks for, but you can filter by position to find keywords beyond the top 10—keywords you can optimize for to move up in the rankings. You can further prioritize your updates by filtering based on traffic or volume, competition, and cost per click (CPC).

Switch over to the Related keywords tab for more traditional research on specific keywords—whether or not you already rank for them. For any keyword, click on the three dots on the right-hand side of the relevant keyword and choose Add keywords to track your rise through the SERPs.

Wincher Pricing: Plans start at 29€/month for daily ranking updates and up to 10 websites

The best keyword research tool for SEO-driven content

RankIQ (Web)

RankIQ screenshot

RankIQ is built for content creators who aren’t SEO pros. Instead of showing you a whole list of granular metrics, the tool uses AI to analyze keyword data and serve up simplified, bottom-line recommendations for creating blog posts that rank.

To start, you can browse RankIQ’s targeted Keyword Library, filtering by blog niche (from beekeeping to business automation) to find keywords that are pre-vetted for high traffic potential and low competition.

Once you have a keyword in mind, you’ll create a report. There, you’ll see straightforward suggestions for word count, topics to cover, and how to write your title. Below that, RankIQ compiles content with the highest “content grade” to help you structure and inspire your content.

When you’re ready to build your outline and get writing, you can click over to the Content Optimizer tab. At the top, you’ll see the current grade and word count, along with the recommendations for each. Down the right-hand side, you’ll see topics to include. Once you cover them, you’ll see a green checkmark appear.

RankIQ Pricing: The Lite plan starts at $29/month for 8 monthly reports

The best keyword research tool for local SEO

GetKeywords (Web)


GetKeywords is a keyword research tool built to help with local SEO keywords. When you type in your target keyword, you can narrow results down to the country, state/province, or even city level.

You’ll see the top locations within each country or state you search in, as well as the breakdown of mobile and desktop traffic. If you’re a local business, this is super valuable because it allows you to avoid wasting time chasing keywords that no one nearby is searching for.

Scroll down to see related keywords grouped by search intent, including video searches, eCommerce, and question-based searches.

One of our favorite GetKeywords features is a little further down, where the tool tells you the average bounce rate and organic click rate for the SERP as a whole. That means you can decide right away if a given keyword is worth trying to rank for and set realistic goals.

GetKeywords Pricing: The free version includes unlimited keyword searches, filtering down to the city level, top devices and questions, and related keywords; paid plans start at $24/month and unlock additional keyword data like SEO difficulty and competitor keywords

The best keyword research tool for finding question-based SEO keywords

QuestionDB (Web)

QuestionDB screenshot

QuestionDB is among the leanest tools we tested. As the name suggests, you type a keyword or broader topic into the tool, and it brings up a list of related questions people ask online.

What’s unique about QuestionDB is the sourcing. While several tools will show you question-based keywords pulled from Google or Bing, QuestionDB scrapes questions from all across the web, including sites like Reddit, Quora, and Stack Exchange—which, of course, are a gold mine of questions.

For example, you might search for a topic like “keyword research.” QuestionDB will scrape the web to find common questions people are asking related to keyword research, enabling you to see how, why, and where people are talking about the topic. You can brainstorm content topics, see how people are talking about a topic outside the Google search bar, and get more context on how you should talk about the topic.

QuestionDB Pricing: Free for up to 50 results per search; Pro plan includes complete results (up to 800 per search) and unlimited searches for $10/month

The best keyword research tool for affiliate marketers

Jaaxy (Web)

Jaaxy screenshot

Jaaxy‘s keyword research tool is pretty straightforward: type in a keyword, topic, or URL, and the tool will give you a list of related and suggested keywords, along with basic stats on each (think average monthly search volume and traffic to page 1 results).

Jaaxy offers a unique Domains column, where you can see the .com, .net, and .org domain names related to each keyword that are available to buy. (Note: we weren’t able to test this feature during our trial.)

What stood out for us was that Jaaxy helps you find affiliate programs to join and feature on your site. Switch over to the Affiliate Programs tab, and enter your keyword to see a list of affiliate programs sourced from Commission Junction, Link Share, Digital River, and Click Bank. Jaaxy also shows you the listed commission and Alexa Rank for each program and associated product website.

Jaaxy Pricing: The first 30 searches are free on the limited Starter trial; paid plans start at $49/month

The best browser extension for lightweight SEO keyword research

Keyword Surfer (Chrome)

Keyword Surfer screenshot

Browser extensions offer a lightweight way to do keyword research without ever leaving the search engine results page. Keyword Surfer, a Google Chrome extension from Surfer SEO, is separate from the full SEO suite and offers a limited version of the platform for free.

Once you download and enable the extension, head to Google and search for your keyword the same way you’d do a normal Google search—you’ll see estimated search volume and CPC data populate in the search bar as you type. Hit enter to see the same info, plus the number of exact match keywords on the page for each SERP listing.

Related keywords and visualizations of the SERP data are on the right-hand side. Also on the right, you can click to open the Content Editor and start writing your content. You’ll see all the LSI (latent semantic indexing) terms you should include on the right—highlighted in red until you add them, then green.

If you opt for the full Surfer SEO app, you’ll also see an overall “Content Score” plus suggestions on how many headings, paragraphs, and images to include.

Keyword Surfer Pricing: The Chrome extension and limited content editor are free; paid plans of the full Surfer SEO suite start at $59/month for the full content editor (with 25 queries/month), SERP analyzer, and other SEO features

google keyword planner

This is the ultimate guide to using Google Keyword Planner.

In fact, I’ve used the Google Keyword Planner (formerly known as Google Keyword Tool) to help grow my site’s organic traffic to 360,408 visits per month:

Backlinko – Organic traffic

And in this guide, I’ll show you how to get the most SEO value out of this awesome tool.

Step #1: Access Google Keyword Planner

Yes, Keyword Planner is a free tool.

But there’s a catch:

In order to use the Google Keyword Planner, you NEED to have a Google Ads account.

If you don’t have an Adwords account already, you can set one up in a few minutes:

AdWords – Register

(Just follow the prompts, enter some information about you and your business, and you’re in. Note: You don’t have to run an active campaign to use the Keyword Planner. But do need to at least set up a Google Adwords campaign.)

Next, log in to your Google Adwords account. Click on the wrench icon in the toolbar at the top of the page.

AdWords – Toolbar

Then, choose “Keyword Planner”:

AdWords – Menu

You’ll see two different tools within Keyword Planner: “Discover New Keywords” and “Get search volume and forecasts”.

Google Keyword Planner

When it comes to SEO-focused keyword research, these two tools are enough to generate thousands of potential keywords.

To be clear:

This tool is designed with PPC advertisers in mind. So there are a lot of features in the tool (like keyword bidding features) that won’t be useful if you’re using this tool to find keywords for SEO.

With that, it’s time for me to show you how to find SEO keywords using each of the tools built into the Google Keyword Planner.

Step #2: Choose Your Tool

There are two main tools inside of the GKP.

And now I’m going to show you how to use these two tools to help you create a massive list of keywords for your SEO campaigns.

1. Discover New Keywords

Like the name suggests, this tool is ideal for finding new keywords.

As you can see, the field above this tool says: “Enter products or services closely related to your business”.

Google Keyword Planner – Start with keywords – Description

Quick Note: The value you get from the Keyword Planner is largely based on the information that you enter here. So you want to be VERY strategic about what you enter into this field.

So to help you get the most out of this tool, I’ll break down each of the two main options.

Start With Keywords”: These words and phrases describe your business (for example, “weight loss” or “coffee”). This allows you to access Google’s internal database of keywords for different industries.

Pro Tip: You can enter multiple keywords into this field. Just put a comma after each keyword and press enter. For example, if you run an eCommerce site that sells cookies, you’d want to enter terms like “gluten free desserts” and “low carb cookies” here.

Google Keyword Planner – Multiple keywords

Start With a Website”: This is designed for Adwords users. But you can sometimes find a few solid keywords here using your site’s homepage… or an article from your site.

(More on that later.)

Once you’ve entered your information into one (or all three) of the fields, click “Get Results”.

Google Keyword Planner – Get started

Next, you’ll see the Keywords Results Page. I’ll show you how to use that part of the Keyword Planner later in the guide.

For now, let’s dive into the second tool in the GKP: search volume and forecasts.

2. Get search volume and forecasts for your keywords

This feature is only really useful if you already have a long list of keywords… and just want to check their search volume. In other words, this tool won’t help you generate new keyword ideas.

To use it, copy and paste a list of keywords into the search field, and hit “Get Started”.

Keyword Planner – Metrics search

You’ll also see the same Keywords Results Page you see when you use the “Find new keywords” tool.

The only difference is that a) you only get data on the keywords you entered and b) Google will predict how many clicks and impressions you’ll get from the keywords you entered:

Keyword Planner – Keywords forecasts

No matter which tool you ultimately used, you end up in the same place: The Keywords Result page.

And now it’s time for me to do a deep dive into how that page works… and how to get the most out of it.

Step #3: Filter and Sort the Results

Now it’s time to filter the list of keywords down to a smaller list of terms that are best for you.

Both the tools I just described will take you to the “Keywords Results Page”, which looks like this:

Google Keyword Planner – Basketball hoops

Here’s a breakdown of the page:

At the top of the page, you’ll notice four targeting options: Locations, Language, Search networks and Date range.

Google Keyword Planner – Options

Here’s what these four things mean:


This is the country (or countries) that you’re marketing to. Simple.


This is the language of the keywords you want to see information on.

“Locations” and “Language” are automatically set to target English-speaking people in the United States. If that’s your target audience (in most cases it will be), you can leave these options as-is.

But let’s say you’re based in Germany. You’d want to change the Location to “Germany” and choose “German” as the language.

“Search networks”

This is whether or not you want to advertise only on Google… or Google and their “search partners”. Search partner sites include other search engines and Google properties (like YouTube).

I recommend leaving this set to just “Google”.

“Date range”

Leaving this as the default “12 months” is usually fine.

The next important feature of the Keywords Results Page is called “Add Filter”:

Google Keyword Planner – Filters

This feature gives you a decent amount of filtering options. So let me quickly break down each of the options for you.

Keyword Text

Here’s where you can have the tool ONLY show you keywords that contain a certain word or phrase.

Why would you want to include certain keywords?

Let’s say that you just launched a new line of blue t-shirts. In that case, you’d want to make sure the keyword “blue t-shirt” appears in all of the keywords that the Keyword Planner suggests to you.

Keyword Planner – Filter text

Exclude Keywords in My Account

This excludes keywords that you’re already bidding on in Adwords.

Exclude Adult Ideas

Self-explanatory (I hope).

Avg. Monthly Searches

This is helpful for filtering out keywords with lots of search volume (after all, these terms tend to be really competitive). You may also want to filter out keywords that don’t get that many searches.

For example, let’s say that you get a big list of keyword ideas:

Keyword Planner – Keyword list

You can click on “Avg. Monthly Searches” to sort the results.

Keyword Planner – Keyword list, average

That way, you ONLY see keywords with lots of search volume.

You can also do the opposite. Click “Avg. Monthly Searches” again and you’ll get a list of low-volume terms:

Keyword Planner – Keyword list, average low


You can have the Google Keyword Planner only show you keywords with “Low”, “Medium” or “High” competition.

Keyword Planner – Filter – Competition

This feature trips a lot of people up.

Remember: the Google Keyword Planner is designed 100% for Google Ads… not SEO.

So the “Competition” score here ONLY refers to Adwords competition (not how competitive the keyword is to rank for in Google’s organic search results). So I recommend leaving this blank.

Ad Impression Share

Again, this setting only applies to Adwords. So for the sake of SEO, we can ignore this filter.

Top of Page Bid

This is how much you’d expect to pay for your ad to appear at the top of the page for that keyword.

(This used to be called “Cost Per Click” or “CPC”.)

Top of Page Bid is a proxy indicator of commercial intent. So if you only want to target keywords that potential buyers search for, you can set this to a certain dollar amount.

As you can see, there are two options “high range” and “low range”.

Keyword Planner – Filter – Top

I personally set the “low range” to a few dollars. That way, I can filter out keywords without any commercial intent.

Keyword Planner – Filter – Top low

Organic Impression Share

This is how often your site appears in the organic results for each keyword. (Note: to use this feature you’ll need to connect your Google Search Console Account to Google Adwords).

Organic Average Position

Where you rank (on average) for each keyword in Google organic. Again, you’ll need to connect to the GSC for this to work.

So that’s it for filtering.

The last feature of the Keywords Results Page to look out for is called “Broaden Your Search”.

This is a new feature that shows you keywords that are somewhat related to the terms you typed in.

For example, when you search for “Paleo Diet”, you get this list of suggestions:

Google Keyword Planner – Broaden your search

Step #4: Analyze the Keyword Ideas Section

Now that you’ve filtered the results down to keywords that are ideal for your business, let’s break down the terms that are left.

Specifically, I’m going to show you how to analyze the terms that show up in the “Keyword Ideas” section of the Keyword Planner.

Keyword Planner – Ideas

Here’s what each of the terms in this section means:

Keyword (by relevance): This is the list of keywords that Google considers most relevant to the keyword or URL you typed into it.

Avg. monthly searches: Pretty self-explanatory. However, keep in mind that this is a range… and not a super-accurate indicator of search volume.

(I’ll show you how to get more accurate search volume data in a minute.)

Pro Tip: Watch out for seasonal keywords. That’s because seasonal keywords (like “Halloween costumes”) may get 50,000 searches in October and 100 searches in May. But the GKP will say that the term gets “10,000 searches per month”, which is kind of misleading.

Competition: Like I mentioned earlier, “Competition” in the Google Keyword Planner has nothing to do with SEO. Instead, “Competition” is simply the number of advertisers that are bidding on that keyword. But it IS useful to see if a keyword has any commercial intent (after all, the more people bid on a keyword, the more potential there is for them to become a lead or customer).

Top of Page Bid: This is another great way to size keyword’s monetization potential. The higher bid here, the more lucrative the traffic tends to be.

Step #5: Choose a Keyword

Now that you know how to use all of the tools, features and options within the Google Keyword Planner, it’s time for the last step: finding awesome keywords that you can optimize your site’s content around.

This is tricky.

Why? There are LOTS of factors that go into choosing a keyword. And it’s more art than science.

That said, I learn best from examples. So I’m going to help you choose a keyword from your list by walking you through a quick example.

(For this example I’m going to be using the “Discover new keywords” tool because this is the best way to uncover new keywords in the Google Keyword Planner.)

Google Keyword Planner – Discover new keywords

First, you want to think of a keyword that’s somewhat broad…but also describes your product, service or content idea.

For example, let’s say that you run an eCommerce site that sells organic food.

If you wanted to write a blog post about the health benefits of organic coffee, you wouldn’t want to use the keyword “coffee” (too broad) or “health benefits of organic coffee” (too narrow).

But a keyword like “organic coffee” would work GREAT.

So pop that keyword into the field and click “Get Started”.

Google Keyword Planner – "organic coffee"

And take a look at the keywords that come up:

Keyword Planner – Organic coffee results

So: how do you know which keywords to choose?

There are dozens of different factors to look at. But, in general, I like to choose keywords based on 3 main criteria:

Search Volume: Very straightforward. The higher the average search volume, the more traffic that keyword can send you.

Commercial Intent: In general, the higher the competition and suggested bid, the easier it will be to convert that traffic into paying customers when they land on your website.

Organic SEO Competition: Like commercial intent, evaluating a keyword’s competition in Google’s organic search results takes some more digging. You need to look at the websites that are ranking on the first page… and figure out how hard it’ll be to outrank them. This guide to SEO keyword competition covers everything you need to know.

Bonus Step #1: Get Exact Keyword Search Volume Data

The Google Keyword Planner will only show you exact search volume data if you’re running an active Adwords campaign. Otherwise, you see a range, like this:

Keyword Planner – Range

To be honest, the range is actually fine by me. Keyword volume tends to fluctuate anyway. So even the “exact” average monthly search volume that you used to see in the GKP was a rough estimate anyway.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with choosing keywords based on search volume ranges.

That said, there’s a nifty trick you can use to get exact search volume out of the GKP… without needing to run ads in a Google Adwords account.

Here’s how to do it…

First, find a keyword in the list of suggestions that you want to target:

Keyword Planner – Target keyword

Then click “add to plan”:

Keyword Planner – Add to plan

Next, in the right-hand sidebar of the page, click “Plan overview”:

Keyword Planner – Plan overview

And look at the number of “impressions” you’d get if you bid on that term:

Keyword Planner – Impressions

That number is how many people search for that keyword every month.

(In this case, 2.1k searches per month.)

And just like that, you now have accurate search volume data for your keyword. Nice!

Bonus Step #2: The GKP Hack

As you saw, the Google Keyword Planner is pretty cool.

That said, the Google keyword tool has two major flaws…

Flaw #1: It only gives you keywords ideas that are VERY closely related to what you type in.

For example, let’s say your business sells organic food for pets.

So you type “organic dog food” into the tool. Here’s what you get:

Keyword Planner – Organic dog food

As you can see, these are VERY close variations of “organic dog food”, like:

  • “natural dog food”
  • “dog food brands”
  • “dog food”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a fancy tool to come up with a keyword like “dog food”.

And it’s the same story for most keywords. The GKP is good at coming up with long tail versions of your keyword. But it’s not great at generating outside-the-box keyword ideas.

Flaw #2: You get the same set of keywords everyone else does.

Needless to say, the Google Keyword Planner is an insanely popular keyword tool.

This means: the keywords that you find in the GKP tend to be SUPER competitive.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way around both of those frustrating issues: The GKP Hack.

Here’s how it works:

First, head over to the Discover New Keywords area of the GKP. Then hit “Start With a Website”.

Google Keyword Planner – Start with website

But instead of entering a keyword, you enter a URL from another website in your niche.

For example, instead of entering “organic dog food” into the field, let’s use PetSmart’s dog food category page.

Google Keyword Planner – Start with website – PetSmart


You get a laundry list of keywords that most of your competitors will NEVER see.

Keyword Planner – PetSmart results

It gets better…

There are LOTS of other pages that you can use for the GKP Hack, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Press releases
  • Conference agendas
  • Bio pages of influencers in your industry
  • News stories
  • Podcast transcripts

Basically: any page that has text on it is fair game for this technique.

I hope you enjoyed my guide to the Google Keyword Planner.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Do you use the Keyword Planner to help you come up with keyword ideas?

Or do you mostly stick to other keyword research tools (like SEMRush)?

Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.


Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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