Want to know our top pick? The best keyword research tools for most are Semrush and Ahrefs.

Organic search is the number one source of web traffic, taking up a share of 53.3%. Hence, this is where your focus needs to be if you want to solve any traffic problem you might have. 

A good keyword research tool will help you uncover tons of terms that you can target to attract more visitors. It’ll help you assess where you stand in the rankings and you’ll be able to smash competitors with your SEO strategy

The Top 5 Best Keyword Research Tools

  • Semrush – Best for Competitor Analysis
  • Ahrefs – Best for SERP Analysis
  • WriterZen – Best Keyword Tool for Content Marketing
  • SEO PowerSuite – Best for Local Keyword Research
  • Mangools – Best for Generating Keyword Ideas

Take a look at our rundown of the best keyword research tools for different goals and SEO strategies:

Semrush – Best for Competitor Analysis

Semrush company logo

Analyzing competitor keywords is beneficial on several levels. First, you gain insight into the tactics of competitors. You can adopt similar tactics yourself in order to compete.

Furthermore, you see where the strengths and weaknesses in their SEO strategy lie, allowing you to find and close any keyword gaps. This refers to the keywords they may be missing on their site that you can use to gain an edge.

Semrush is an excellent tool for competitor analysis as it allows you a detailed look at the market and search landscape as a whole, along with information on specific competitors. Thus, you can use the tool to monitor your rankings and ensure no other brand moves ahead of you.

First, use Semrush’s Market Explorer tool to locate your biggest competitors. The platform will display these competitors on a handy quadrant graph for you, placing competitors into four categories including niche players, game changers, leaders, and established players.

Screenshot of Semrush's Growth Quadrant Widget
Semrush’s Growth Quadrant widget shows you who you’re competing with and their general market position, size, and growth rate.

Then, use the Keyword Gap tool to find keywords that you do and don’t share with competitors. You can perform an analysis of up to four competitors at the same time and it’ll highlight the best keyword opportunities for you to go after.

It’s features like these that make Semrush the best tool on the list for finding keywords that’ll actually make a difference to your site in terms of SEO.

Semrush has a free plan that allows for ten searches per day. This includes searches in the Keyword Magic, Keyword Gap, and Keyword Overview tools.

But if you want to carry out more searches, you’ll need to go for a paid plan which starts at $129.95 per month. You can also try Semrush for free for seven days.

Ahrefs – Best for SERP Analysis 

Ahrefs company logo

It’s vital that you look at certain keyword and SERP metrics to assess the viability of a keyword. In other words, what kind of an impact the keyword will have and whether it’s worth pursuing in the first place.

Ahrefs has been one of the most popular link-building tools for a while. Yet, it offers an extremely useful Keyword Explorer tool too. The kind of metrics and research you’re able to gain access to is unmatched.

For instance, its search volume data is perhaps the most accurate on the market. This is because Ahrefs uses clickstream data to update search volumes on a monthly basis.

Furthermore, Ahrefs is the only tool on the market that estimates the number of clicks a keyword receives. This is mighty useful for assessing the true impact of a keyword. Search volumes might be high for a keyword but it’s no use if nobody clicks on the results.

Ahrefs also shows other advanced metrics that you won’t see in any other tool, such as return rate and the percentage of paid clicks.

A screenshot of the Ahrefs landing page showcasing the content features.

Ahrefs’ paid plans start at $99 per month for personal use. It’s the only way to gain access to the Keyword Explorer tool among others such as the SEO Dashboard and Rank Tracker.

You can, however, access Ahrefs’ Webmaster Tools for free. These include Site Explorer and Site Audit which help you to maintain a healthy site plus monitor your keywords and backlinks.

WriterZen – Best Keyword Tool for Content Marketing

WriterZen company logo

SEO and content marketing go hand in hand. You can’t do one without the other. Content is vital for building up a catalog of long-tail and semantic keyword rankings to help you rank for the bigger terms over time.

WriterZen is a keyword research tool geared towards SEO content creation. For this purpose, its algorithm produces lists of related keywords along with search intent information. And it allows you to gather this info at scale.

One particularly interesting feature is the Golden Keyword Score. It uses a special formula to help you come up with the precise long-tail keyword you should use as a head keyword based on your choice of either ranking potential or potential value.

Screenshot of WriterZen products page with an image of their Golden Keyword Score filter
You can use the Golden Keyword Score filter to target the exact versions of long-tail keywords needed to rank on SERPs.

What’s more, the tool helps you generate keyword clusters via the Topic Discovery tool. In this instance, these are groups of keywords that produce similar search results and a similar ranking.

You’re then able to filter these results to figure out which topics should become pillar content on your site and which are subtopics. In other words, you develop a content strategy that covers topics comprehensively and increases rankings.

WriterZen’s packages start at $19 per month when you pay annually.

SEO PowerSuite – Best for Local Keyword Research

SEO Powersuite company logo

Local businesses may make assumptions about the kind of search terms that local people use. This is a mistake. If you do this, you may miss out on keywords that you can target to acquire more customers.

For example, you might currently be targeting the term “landscaping Chicago”. Yet, local people might actually be searching for terms, such as “hedging Chicago” or “lawn maintenance Chicago”. You don’t want to miss out on those customers and that’s why finding the highest-volume local keywords is important.

What’s good about SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker is you can use it to hone in on local keywords according to the region, country, or town. You can track rankings for your local area, other local areas you wish to target, and even multiple locations at once.

Screenshot of SEO PowerSuite's rank tracker tool

SEO PowerSuite has an excellent free package that includes unlimited keyword tracking and access to its four main tools – Rank Tracker, Website Auditor, SEO SpyGlass, and LinkAssistant. 

Paid plans start at $99 for the year and offer unlimited access to further features such as the number of pages you can crawl as part of an SEO audit.

Mangools – Best for Generating Keyword Ideas

Mangools company logo

The whole point of a keyword research tool is, of course, to generate keyword ideas. But the issue lies in the fact that most tools generate reams upon reams of data that can be difficult to sort through to find the very best keyword ideas for your site.

This is where Mangools can help. The tool is renowned for its simplicity. By only featuring the most vital metrics, it makes it easy to pick out the keywords that are easiest to rank for—those with a high search volume and low difficulty. Mangools boasts accurate data for both of these metrics, too, by the way.

Screenshot of Mangools KWFinder website page that shows how you can find keywords that you can easily rank for

The simplicity makes it easy for any SEO newbie to generate solid keyword ideas. But there are advanced settings you can bring in if you’re a more seasoned SEO. For example, you can perform local keyword searches, discover historical search volumes, and find out what’s trending. 

Plans start at $19.90 with an annual discount. And you can take a 10-day free trial.

How to Find the Best Keyword Research Tool for You

Most keyword research tools will have a similar set of features—keyword lists, useful filters, metric analytics, and the like. Thus, when choosing a tool you have to find what makes a particular tool stand out and or in which areas they specialize.

Then figure out which tool matches the elements that are important for your brand, what you hope to achieve, and the strategies you follow. For instance, if you needed a tool to help you one-up strong competitors then you’d go with Semrush. But if you needed a tool for your small local business then you might choose SEO PowerSuite, and so on.

Nevertheless, here are a couple of the must-haves when it comes to keyword research tools:

Rich & Accurate Data 

Naturally, you need a keyword research tool with not only an abundance of data but also regularly updated, accurate data. This is because there’s no point chasing keywords that your audience no longer uses.

This data should at least include the basic metrics that’ll help you assess the value and impact of a keyword. These are aspects such as search volume and level of competition. You may also wish to look for more advanced metrics, e.g. click stream data as in the case of Ahrefs.

The data you find should also be more precise than what you can find via a free tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner. 

Google’s Keyword Planner is a free platform that gives you broad estimates for search volume for example “1k-10k” and “10k-100k”. 

Screenshot of Google's Keyword Planner tool

In this instance, it would be easy to over or underestimate the value of a keyword. And it’s difficult to compare these keywords when they all have a search volume with the same wide parameters.

Reliable Data Sources

Similar to the above, for the keywords and related metrics to be of any use to you, they need to be from a reliable source. The best tools have their own powerful algorithms and crawlers that gather data.

Ahrefs, for instance, isn’t affiliated with any outside source, such as Alexa or Google. It has its own database of search queries powered by clickstream data which is in fact the largest in the world.

Semrush does use third-party sources to collect SERP information from Google. But it uses its own algorithm and proprietary methods to carefully sort, analyze, and present the data.

Helpful Tips and Suggestions

One of the main reasons you add any tool to your repertoire is that it improves the efficiency of a process. In other words, it takes a chunk of the hard work and does it for you.

This is true of keyword research tools. You want a tool that provides clear and helpful suggestions. These might be keyword suggestions or strategy suggestions that take away the guesswork and burden of decision-making.

This is precisely what Semrush does with its Keyword Gap analysis tool for instance. Here you can see a clear and simple list of keyword opportunities to go after:

Screenshot of Semrush website page showing how you can choose keyword types, including keywords for organic, paid search, and PLA.

Essentially, it allows you to take action right away.

WriterZen does something similar in the way it provides you with topic clusters. It essentially gives you a list of potential blog post titles that’ll help you rank. 

The Top Keyword Research Tools in Summary

The best keyword research tools generate keyword ideas that will have an impact on your site’s rankings. They comprise individual features that power different SEO strategies from local SEO to SEO content to competitor analysis.

Our top picks, Semrush and Ahrefs, stand out for their highly advanced and unique features as well as the sheer breadth of available data. Though, there are other tools available that may be more suited to your end goal.