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Before we start the blog, let me ask you a simple question “Why do we need tools to research keywords when we have google keyword planner. A tool which is available for free?” and though, the tool is free – it does not form the part of my list of Best free SEO keyword research tools in the year 2018.

Google keyword is a good keyword research tool to start with SEO process. In my last blog, i explained how google keyword planner works . The tool helps you with competitor keywords (when we mention competitor’s link in the landing page field).

Furthermore, the tool also helps us research a wide range of keywords based on different parameters.

Despite all its advantage, Google Keyword Planner has its shortcomings. Some of them being:

  1. The tool is not user-friendly. I have guys from our last training still figuring out an easier way to get their profile setup on Google Adword.
  2. At times, the long list of keywords provided by google keyword planner can confuse you or overwhelm you. Think of the times when google keyword planner threw a truckload full of keywords at you (700+).
  3. Google keyword planner does not give keyword difficulty. This one’s a deal breaker as without knowing the difficulty of a keyword you are shooting arrows in the dark.

Precisely speaking, google keyword planner is not intuitive.Best Free SEO Keyword Research Tools

And I am not a big-time fan of google keyword planner.

I would rather use a tool which can easily help me find SEO keywords for a website with correct parameters like keyword difficulty, competition for the keyword, volume, etc, than work with tools where I must use 2-3 tools in parallel to get the desired results.

For example, with google keyword planner I always use Google’s search bar to identify the keyword difficulty of a keyword.

I have to literally go back and forth in between google keyword planner and google search page to get the results for each keyword.

For a person who works as an SEO expert, the tool just takes the fun out of keyword research. Being an SEO expert, you might still persist with the old approach of iterating the same steps time and again to get your best keywords but think of someone who is learning SEO for their own business or learning SEO as a skill to add to their resume, the process is frustrating, to say the least.

I have used more than 50 keyword research tools to date (free and paid).

Based on my experience I am listing 3 best free SEO keyword research tools for 2018 you can use to grow your business (Did I mention free? I am sure the word “free” bought a smile to your face 🙂 . It always brings 🙂 to my face. Especially, when the word “free” is combined with words like lunches )

Before I start the list, here is a party spoiler for you. All the keyword research tools I mention in the list are run on a freemium model. Freemium means they let you play around with the tool and use the tool to find a limited list of keywords in a free model.

As soon as you plan to get a bigger list of relevant keywords you will be asked to pay. (“Pay” I am sure does not make you happy).

To keep yourself free from paying for the tools, here is what you can do – get your shortlisted keyword list from google keyword planner and then check the difficulty of the keyword and other important SEO Parameters using these tools.

Frankly speaking, you will not mind paying a little amount when you are ready to expand your keywords list.

3 Best Free Keyword Research Tools: 2018

  1. SEMRush
  2. Spyfu
  3. Rank Tracker

There are a others too but most of them have free trial versions, where you will be asked to type in your credit card number after a few days.

I am sure you guys are in no mood to do that today else why would you be reading the blog “the best free keyword tools to do keyword research | 2018” blog.

Before I start, I want you to take a deep breath and fasten your seat belt. This will be a long (yet interesting) blog.

Let’s get started:

  • SEMRush:

My preferred free keyword research tool for a long time was SEMRush (note: I have used their paid version too).

They provide you with some amazing data for the keyword you want to analyze. In fact, some of the information they provide is so easy to understand that you can easily use the tool as a layman.

The tool has an easy to use interface and can be used easily by anyone who is comfortable using Google keyword planner or for that matter, any keyword research Tool.

Here is how the keyword research tool works.

To start with the tool, visit website https://www.semrush.com/

SEMRush keyword research

Now enter the keyword in the search box in the center of the screen and select the country for which you want the data to be researched.

I selected India and searched for keyword “find a small business“.

SEMRush keyword

Click on start now and you get your analysis:

SEM Rush Dashboard

I am not going to do a complete tutorial of SEMRush here. I am planning to do a tutorial later. As of now, let me give you a brief of important analysis you can use from semrush:

Overview Tab:

  1. Phrase match keywords: Help you find more relevant keywords with reference to your seed keyword by suggesting keywords around the main phrase.
  2. Related keywords: A list of related keywords which are not entirely the same as the “seed keywords”. They are related or similar to the keywords you searched.(You will get the limited information here for a free trial).

iii. Organic search results: Top 100 results for the searched keyword

Phrase Match:


You will get a list of few keywords (phrased) with important parameters like keyword difficulty (KD), results, etc. You can use KD to decide the difficulty of the keyword. The parameter is important as it helps you select the shortlisted keyword based on the algorithm of the keyword research tool.

If we were doing the keyword research the good old way, we will spend at least 10 to 15 minutes finding the keyword difficulty of each keyword.

The tool does the job for you in a jiffy.

And the tool does not stop here. It also provides with data for # of results, search volume, etc. Now, that’s what you call “Icing on the Cake”.

Related keyword tab:

SEMRush keyword analysis

Same parameters are shown as the above tab, only with the difference that you get related keywords (limited information) here.

They have introduced a few new features like:

Keyword gap:

I love the feature. You enter your competitor’s domain name in the list and it gives you a list of keywords which are unique or common to the domain names.

SEMRush Keyword Gap

SEMRush keyword analysis

All the information I have provided above are from the free version of the tool.

You will love SEMRush tool for its simplicity and the useful information it provides (even in the free version).

If I was you (lets exchange roles for a second) doing keyword research for my website, I would:

  1. Get my keyword list from the google keyword planner and after completing my initial analysis through the good old method of shortlisting keywords and enter the keywords in SEMRush for further analysis.
  2. Then, I will check for keyword difficult of my seed keyword.
  3. I will further check if the suggested keywords around the seed keyword are like the keywords suggested by phrased keyword and similar keywords.
  4. Check Keyword difficulty of all the mentioned keywords
  5. And use the new feature “keyword gap” of tool to check for a few new keywords.

Again, the tool will only give you limited information for you to analyze. Make good use of the information you get from your free keyword research using SEMRush.

  • Spyfu:

Spyfu is a handy keyword research tool to spy on your competitors. When the same is used as a paid tool, the tool allows you to get every single information on the website you want to spy on.

Think of spyfu as a Mossad spy sent to Iran 🙂 (just kidding!)

Lets’ move ahead and use the spyfu to “spy” on our competitors.

To use Spyfu, you should first know who your competitor is and to do so, you visit Google (yes. Same google which is omnipresent on the internet). Once you are on Google.com, type your seed keyword.

For example, I am looking for competitors for my seed keyword small business consulting.

I know you are about to ask me “Hey. Wait! Weren’t you teaching us keyword research? What the hell is competitor research got to do with keyword research?”

Have patience, mate. I am going to explain to you the use of Spyfu by teaching you the oldest trick in the book.

So, the first result I get in the search result, when i search for small business consulting is www.passionforbusiness.com

Time to spy on passionforbusiness.com using Spyfy!

Focus on two sections of the report you will be provided with.

  1. Top keywords: the list provides you with the top ranking keywords of the website
  2. Shared keyword: the list gives you the shared keywords the websites share with its top keywords. Click on view more and you are taken to a page which gives you 4-5 keywords the competitors share.

The reports are out my friend. You know what your competitor is aiming for. You should figure out whether those keywords are near to what your business needs or should you be avoiding those keywords as so many established websites are already aiming for the same set of keywords.

If you do not want to go through the steps I mentioned above, you can quickly use the keyword research feature of spyfu (kill its spying capabilities) by directly accessing the link: https://www.spyfu.com/keyword/overview

Like semrush, you can enter the keyword and get relevant data.

Spyfu keyword research

You get a lot of useful data with reference to the keyword you are searching for.

Some of the relevant information being:

  • Monthly searches (local)
  • Monthly searches (global)
  • CTR- Cost Through Rate
  • Ranking difficulty (most important)
  • Profitable related keywords
  • Home pages in results (another important information which helps you in assessing the difficulty of a keyword).

Here is the explanation in spyfu’s language of the same:

spyfu keyword analysis

You can explore other options (submenu tabs) for example related keywords to get related keywords to the keyword you used for research.

And there are options like SERP Analysis, etc which might or might not be related to your research.

Overall, spyfu like all freemium keyword research tools gives you just the required information to get started with keyword research and like all of its freemium cousins, it provides limited information to help you get started with the keyword research.

I have used their paid research before. The information they provide in their paid keyword research tool is very useful for a lot of SEO activities.

I find Spyfu a good tool for spying on competitor’s backlinks & keyword research.

It does qualify to be a decent keyword research tool ( the paid version).

  • Rank Tracker:

Rank Tracker is a part of a group of SEO tools provided by the company SEOPowersuite. The tools can be downloaded by accessing the weblink link-assistant.com .

I am a paid user of their SEO Tools and might be a little biased while writing their review.

Before I start with the features they provide, you should know that all tools provided by them are desktop based solutions and will consume your CPU memory while running (this might slow down your computers at times).

You might want to upgrade your machine before you use the tool. (this tool ain’t for the faint-hearted Machines).

You can download their free version from the link: https://www.seopowersuite.com/rank-tracker/ .

Since you will use their free version, you will not be allowed to save the data.

It would be more of a fresh start for you every time you use their tool which I think is not a deal breaker as none of the freemium tools in keyword research space allow you to save the data.

Most importantly, the tool isn’t very difficult to use.

All you need is your Google AdWords account set up in the tool as the tool pulls most of the information from Adwords and spice it up with a lot of relevant information like searches, keyword difficulty, competitor research, etc to give you a good analysis of the keywords you can target.

The biggest advantage of the free version of Rank Tracker is their generosity in not limiting the data they provide you.

As you would have noticed by now, semrush – spyfu limit the information they provide you.

This keyword research tool provides you with every single information you need for your keyword research which is a good thing.

Once you start the tool, you should directly click on keyword research option:

rank tracker keyword research

Click on suggest keywords:

keyword ranktracker

The tool asks you to select one of the above options.

What each option does is explained quite well under each option.

I usually stick to the first 3 options.

(Note: you will need to connect your Google Adwords account for the keyword research tool to work glitch free).

research keywords using seopowersuite

Once you click on next notice the left bottom tasks section. The section provides you with information on the % of task completion.

At present, the task with the tool is to provide you keywords around the seed keyword small business consulting.

Once the keyword research is completed, you will see a list of keywords divided by groups.

keyword suggestions

The ones you think are irrelevant to your research (low KEI), move them to target keyword module and check SEO-PPC data (option on top menu ribbon) and check the searches, estimated traffic, keyword difficulty of the keyword.

And you have your list.

keyword result ranktracker

One of the problems with the tool is that at times, it takes its own sweet time to do the job and if your machine is a primitive beast, you can kiss goodbye to keyword research using the Rank Tracker.

Time to upgrade and then use Rank Tracker.

Easy. Right?

Well. It’s quite simple. When a non-techie guy like me (I am a computer engineer who takes a lot of pride in calling himself a non-techie as technology and I have never been too fond of each other. We struggle like USA and North Korea to be at convening peace).

Before I end, here are few more tools to provide you some basic help with keyword research (free….Wheeeee)

  •   Google’s tools (keyword planner, trends): I have already done a tutorial on keyword planner you can anytime refer the same to research keywords. Google trend is a  tool to help you find the trending keywords or check how a keyword has trended in last few weeks/months.
  •   UberSuggest: Ubersuggest provides you suggestions around the seed keyword entered by you. Ubersuggest is a good tool if you are short of ideas to prepare your keyword list (which is an important part of keyword research).

We struggle at times to prepare an initial list to start our keyword research and I don’t blame you if you are short of ideas.

The keyword research tool also lets you search the keyword in Google trend to check the tending keyword in Google trends. One major shortcoming of the tool is that it does not give you any other information other than suggestions. i.e, you don’t get searches, competition, difficulty, competitor, etc. So it’s a very basic tool which you can use when you are short of ideas.

So it’s a very basic keyword research tool which you can use when you are short of ideas.

Here I am done with the blog. I hope you guys find the information useful.

Till I write next (which won’t be very long)

Ciao, khuda hafiz, Shubh Ratri, Au revoir and goodbye!


Learner at The Sharp Brain
Jasmeet is one of the brains behind The Sharp Brain. Although, not the sharpest brain amongst the team he gets to lead the team because of the "founder" designation next to his surname.

He shares his startup experiences at http://lessonsatstartup.com
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