Three Free Keyword Research Tools

One of the hardest things to do in keyword research is to uncover related keywords. With that in mind, the tools I’m reviewing today all help identify related keywords that you may want to search in more detail.

These tools are not a substitute for detailed keyword research like I talked about in my first series of articles. Rather, they may help to either identify those keywords that are most important to your competitors, or help find obscure opportunities where there may be little search volume, but there is also little competition.

All of the tools I reviewed for this article are free to the public. Some have paid options, but I’ve only covered the free features.


This tool defaults to Google UK since it’s developed by a UK team, so if you’re using it in the US, you’ll have to change it to Google US. The nice thing is that it also has options for several other countries and returns results in language.

The free version of this tool does limit you to 100 keywords, so while it’s useful for high level ideas, it’s not a keyword research substitute.

Country Selector in Keyword Eye

Another nice feature is the ability to order the cloud visualization it returns – by Adwords competition or by search volume. Since the cloud already “orders” the data by showing high volume words in larger font, I generally choose to order by Adwords competition.

Here’s a screen shot of “backpacks” in Google DE ordered by ascending Adwords competition:

Cloud results for "backpacks" in Google DE

Cloud results for "backpacks" in Google DE

As you can see, this is an easy way to surface a lot of related keywords that don’t necessarily contain the word “backpack”. It’s also a better strategy for translation/localization on the cheap, since “deuter rucksack” is likely to be the most searched phrase.

It will save you from making a big mistake like using the literal translation of “to backpack”, which is “trampen”, or being too specific like “hiking backpack”, which is “wanderrucksack”.


Keyword Spy allows you to quite literally “spy” on keywords. It’s a great name.

There are several features of the free version of this tool, but the one I like the best is the Domain spy tool.

Just type any domain into the search box, make sure the radio button for “domains” is selected, and you can get reasonably accurate data on how much that site is spending in paid search, who their competitors are, what keywords they spend the most money on, and more:

Result for in KeywordSpy

Result for in KeywordSpy

Those tabs across the top work too, and while with a free trial, you can only get 10-20 results in each tab, the information is still really useful.

The “Ads” page for example shows you Geico’s top ad copies with some key information about them. You can even click on this little “KW” button to get more keywords that are in that ad group:

Plus, you can export any of the lists into Excel, CSV, or Google Spreadsheets. Bonus! Export capability is usually not offered in free products.

The competitors tab is also pretty neat; you can see both organic and paid competitors side by side:

Paid/Organic Competition in KeywordSpy for

Paid/Organic Competition in KeywordSpy for

The Top Lists page is mostly just fun info to know with no direct application, but one of these lists is the keywords with the largest cost per click change. This information, which is not readily available in other tools, can be quite useful in detecting trends as they are happening.

Notice that every one of these keywords is for a different industry/vertical, so you get a good cross-section. It’s worth checking back on occasionally.

But in terms of real world application, the Keyword Spy add on has got to be the best feature. Their website link doesn’t seem to work all that well, but I downloaded the add-on for Chrome, and basically what it does is allow you to open the domain report on any website where it’s applicable.

You can find out some interesting and useful information this way. For example, did you know that the most profitable keyword Facebook bids on (according to Keyword Spy’s calculation) is “advertise myspace”? Think of what you could learn about your competitors.


This tool is also a paid tool with a free option, but unlike other free options, I think this tool provides just enough data in its free application to be useful. One element that I like in SEMRush that I haven’t seen elsewhere is the metric for the number of results in Google. That’s this number for any given search:

Number of pages for "backpack" on

Number of pages for "backpack" on


The number of results is useful because it essentially shows you how big the competitive field is for a keyword. Instead of showing you just the number of competitors, or who wants to pay for it and how much, it shows you that there are (in this case) 145 million other pages that use this term in a way that Google feels may be relevant.

Here’s where you see this metric on SEMRush:

Another area that SEMRush provides something you just don’t see everywhere else is “related keywords”.

Staying with the example of “backpack”, you can see below that SEMRush points out a couple of important keywords that are not relevant to a site selling bags that you carry stuff in and sling over your shoulders:

Keywords related to "backpack", source: SEMRush

Keywords related to "backpack", source: SEMRush


These keywords all refer to an application named “backpack”, which was created by 37Signals and is a companion to BaseCamp, which is a project management system.

This is an important piece of information, and something I need to make sure I put in the negatives of my PPC campaign. Sure, I would find it eventually anyway if I’m optimizing my account well, but this way, I don’t have to pay for keywords like this up front.

So there are just a few free opportunities to get more keyword data. There are so many more I could cover, but after reviewing more than two dozen free keyword tools, these are my favorites. One other toolset that merits mention is the one from SEOBook, which is only partially keyword research, but between the tools and the browser extensions, will make your life so much easier.

It’s important to note, there’s definitely something to be said for paying for great data. I’ve previously had the benefit of subscriptions to SpyFu, Wordtracker, Adgooroo,, and KeywordDiscovery, and I wouldn’t hesitate a minute to buy those again if my budget allowed.

What’s your favorite tool? Are there other features of the ones I covered that you couldn’t live without? Tell me in the comments!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: PPC | How To: SEM | How To: SEO | Keywords & Content | SEM Tools: Keyword Research | SEM Tools: PPC


About The Author: is the President of an online marketing consulting company offering SEO, PPC, and Web Design services. She's been in search since 2000 and focuses on long term strategies, intuitive user experience and successful customer acquisition. She occasionally offers her personal insights on her blog, JLH Marketing.

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  • Vi

     Jenny, thanks for sharing these tools.

  • ChrisKoszo

    I’ve been a big supporter of Market Samurai as well as Raven Tools for a while. And I still love and use them.

    Market Samurai I believe is a one-time $99 fee, and is great for keyword research and organization, as well as for checking competition difficulty (enter a search phrase, and see the stats instantly for each listing on the first page of the SERPS with link counts (Majestic), domain age, PR, keywords in title, URL stc. Great way to find gaping big holes in some niches. It doesn’t really do anything that you can’t do manually, but it does everything so fast that it’s a godsend if you’re researching lots of keywords and working on many sites at once.

    Raven Tools is also great, but they come in at $99/month. It however has SEMrush data, Majestic link data, and a whole slew of other features and 3rd party data access included that make it well worth the cost and can allow you to not have to pay for these services separately, for the most part.

  • DaveNosker

    Thanks much Jenny! My biggest interest has always been getting those golden long tail keywords. The very first one that you listed (keywordeye) is one I never heard of and will give it a try. thanks again for a useful article! :)

  • Ravi Akella

    keywordeye is definitely a good one but I was not pleased with keywordspy and semrush due to the irrelevant stuff i get when I do a research. Although both say that they update on a regular basis, you find a lot of irrelevant or generic keywords(which include stop words), which may not be effective for your campaigns

  • Rajesh Magar

    Thanks Jenny.
    As you said “there’s definitely something to be said for paying for great data” and yes I am totally agree with that too.But I having one big question in mind from long time about these third party tools that, as we all know Google is search engine where visitor type their query (Keyword) and G is also continually recording all those keyword details. So it’s natural for G to give keyword searches details which we accessing from “Google Keyword Suggestion Tool”, Right!So what’s the methodology or technology these other third party tools like wordtracker, spyfu and all are using to get these details what people been searching for and what they are typing.Thought?

  • Csilla Incze

    Thanks for the great list Jenny :) We, at Webs9, have been using WordTracker to do this part of SEO, and uptil now it has been working pretty well for us :)

  • jennyhalasz

    Thanks for the info on raventools and market samurai. Maybe next month I should do reviews on one time fee tools. Anyone from those companies want to give me a license?

  • jennyhalasz

    You make a good point… No matter what tool you use, it’s very important to manually check the list. Even google’s keyword tool often returns irrelevant results.

  • jennyhalasz

    The methodology of each tool varies, and they all have flaws. You can usually find out how they get their data by looking up their FAQ. But as I cautioned in the Google review, you should never make major business decisions based on reported search frequencies.

  • jennyhalasz

    WordTracker is a great tool, but its price tag puts it out of reach of most small businesses.

  • orwell72

    You could also have a look at the new SEOlytics Starter they released in June during SMX Advanced. The Starter is free to use and you can check a reference keyword panel of 1.000.000 keywords for eg. US. You just enter any domain you want and they give you all rankings for that domain from within that panel. Some neat KPIs in addition as well.

  • srikanthGottimukkala

    Thanks alot Jenny

  • srikanthGottimukkala

    Sharing for these Tools

  • jameyatsmeiens

    Jenny, thanks for sharing these useful tools. I only use to analyse the keyword, these tools is really helpful for me.

  • yonowillis

    I am new to SEO and found it really confusing as there are many ways to go about. Thanks for this useful article and I am willing to find such stuffs ahead. 

  • Sannel

    thanks jenny ,i use google adwords all the time, as i do not find good tools to analy the keywords so thank you again

  • Nicholas Prieve

    Great post, I will be sharing this with my students! Thank you

  • Justin Deaville


    Thanks for the post. I completely agree that it’s worth investing in good data; the time you save with good keyword research software easily pays for the cost of the subscription.

    One tool you haven’t mentioned is Wordtracker’s Keywords tool.

    We (I work for Wordtracker) updated the Related Keywords feature earlier in the year. You now get up to 300 related keywords for every search. We find the keywords on the sites that feature at the top of Google’s searches. So, you get a sense of the terms that your competition is targeting.

    I hope that’s useful.

    CEO, Wordtracker

  • GrayHatWorld

    have you ever tried keyword scout?

  • Tommy Tan

    Ah, thanks for these free tool recommendations. Never heard of them. Should try them out in the near future. :)


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